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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Who is this Jor-El guy anyway?

I have a confession to make: I don’t know much about superheroes. I know I know. I’m a terrible Captain Amazing. It’s not that I don’t like superheroes and the stories they inhabit, I just haven’t really exposed myself enough to have anything more than a surface knowledge of them.

Most likely my vast unknowledge (my own word) of heroic men, women, beasts, and aliens stems from the fact that I didn’t read many comic-books growing up, and I was raised in an age where movies featuring superheroes just weren’t commonplace. Sure there was Superman and its sequels, and Tim Burton got me all interested in Batman (and Kim Basinger – huminahuminahumina), but those two are the superhero stalwarts, and known by people ages 0 to 100 through cultural osmosis, if anything. Also, the films never encouraged me to go back and open up the panel filled pages on which they were based, so I never absorbed the characters mythology, other than what Burton and Richard Donner told me. Back then I didn’t know Jor-El from Joe Chill, and to this day I still don’t know anything other than the former is Superman’s pops and the other killed Bruce Wayne’s parents – in at least the most widely accepted story of Batman’s origins.

It’s not that I had anything *against* comic-books, really, it’s just that, while I was growing up, any form of entertainment that didn’t move at twenty-four frames per second in front of my eyes didn’t really interest me. I had zero appreciation for the intricate artwork of comic-books because the action was chopped into individual frames, with each movement frozen in a time and place I felt too disconnected from. When I read a book, I could imagine every single little detail in my head. Movies were the exact opposite, showing me how someone else imagined something and leaving little for my mind to run with. Comic-books, to me, were like some sort of limbo: the artist was telling me what to see, but my mind couldn’t create the movement and fill in the gaps between panels.

That is, of course, not a problem now, and for the past few years I’ve been trying to catch up at least some of the major comics I’ve missed throughout the years. I re-read Watchmen every year now, completed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Hush, and The Killing Joke recently, and have taken a look at some X:Men series as well. While I don’t ever expect to scratch anything more than the surface when it comes to these stories (I’m just too much of a movie guy, and I’m always thinking of what movie I could be watching while reading), I do hope to one day have a well rounded foundation when it comes to the myths surrounding the world’s favorite superheroes.

So now, Super Blogged Up readers, I’m going to ask you to help me out. I need some recommendations on what to read, why to read it, and how you think it’ll inform/improve my performance as Captain Amazing. I pretty much want you to write about superheroes and what they mean to you. Start anywhere, end anywhere, just make sure your prose is less than a thousand words and it’s spell/grammar checked.

Then, email it to us at superknockedup@yahoo.com

We’ll choose our favorite write-ups and, every other week for the next few weeks or so, post them here at Super Blogged Up. So get writing, and stay Super!

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Battle to the Death!

Last week Mark entertained you with his account of our photo shoot from an actor’s perspective (yup, that Mark is one entertaining guy!).  This week I’ll look at it from a director’s perspective (because, um, I’m the director).

I decided to do some promotional pictures with my two lead actors – the lovely and talented Natalie Bain and the not quite as lovely but also very talented Mark Pezzula – because from everything I’ve heard, it’s important to have pics up of your actors.  For some reason, I guess people like looking at attractive actors and actresses.  I don’t understand why they wouldn’t rather look at geeky pictures of me in my Superman shirt :)

A photo shoot is definitely different from a film shoot.  On a film shoot, as the director, I’m in charge.  Now of course filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and I’ve learned how important it is to listen to the advice of my cast and crew.  But at the end of the day, I’m the one running the show.

On a photo shoot, very often the photographer is the one in charge.  He’s more or less the Director and the Director of Photography (what we call the cinematographer on a film shoot).  So you can see the possible dilemma.  Two people on the set who are both used to being in charge.  One who likes to plan everything out (me).  The other who likes to plan nothing and proceed in a more chaotic fashion (my photographer).  An epic battle to the death was in store!

Okay, not really.  But that sounds cool.  I enlisted my photographer friend Russ to take the pictures, because he’s really good, and, well, he said he’d do it for free.  We chatted beforehand working out how we’d handle the shoot where we weren’t stepping on each other’s toes.  Basically, we agreed I would give direction to the actors and make sure I got what I wanted.  But I also would give Russ time to do his thing and try different ideas, since he has a lot more experience in still photo shoots than I do.

Sounded great in theory.  Of course, in actual application, things often work out a little differently.  Actually, directing my actors for the photo shoot is something I struggled with.  I’m comfortable directing actors in a scene where I know who the characters are and where we are in the story.  But a photo shoot with absolutely no context of story or characters was something very new for me.  How would I get what I needed out of my actors?

I decided the best way to approach it was the same way I do a film shoot.  For each shot, I put it in some context of the Super Knocked Up story.  So the actors were playing their characters in the story just like they would normally do.  The only difference was there was no dialogue, and we were taking still photos rather than recording video.

That way I was able to direct like a normally do.  And in a way both I and my actors were comfortable and familiar with.

Of course, the tricky thing was when Russ would tell the actors something that was totally opposite of what I had told them.  Like if I had placed them in a part of the story where something really good just happened and they were happy and then Russ shouts out, “Okay, now look really sad.”  Which obviously made no sense to Mark and Natalie.  Russ was going through techniques he uses with models to get a nice smile.  But from an actor perspective it didn’t really work.

I discovered that model shoots are very different than shooting a film with actors.  Russ was focused on body positioning and expressions.  While I was focused on getting the actors into character – what the character was feeling, what they wanted.

So there were a couple of small hiccups.  But overall everything went really well.  Russ and I deferred to each other at the appropriate times and respected what each of us was good at.  And we both learned how the other works.  Most importantly, we got some great shots!  Which we’ll be posting on our Facebook page soon :)  So keep a look out for those!

Thanks for reading!  And Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the U.S.  I’ll be eating plenty of pumpkin pie :)  Yum!  For those outside the states, happy any other Thursday!

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Strike a Pose!

Go on. Do it. Now hold it. Now smile. Pick up your co-star. Drop her. NO DON’T REALLY DROP HER! Close your lips. Smile. With your eyes. Smile with your eyes. Smilewithyoureyes. Smilewithyoureyessmilewithyoureyes – teethteethteethteethteeth! Now change clothes. Nuh-uh, not that outfit. Yep, that one’s fine.

The above is just a taste of what you would have experienced had you accompanied Jeff, Natalie, photographer Russ, and I to our Super Knocked Up photo shoot on Saturday. In addition to the strange exchanges above, you would also have witnessed Natalie and I choking each other out, fighting with pillows, swinging around a tree, and jumping up and down like crackheads who just scored some quality powder (which I think Natalie actually did). Such is life on the set of a photo shoot, which is much different and (at least for me) much more difficult than a film shoot.

Jeff had asked Natalie (Darkstar) and I (Captain Amazing) to set aside some time in order to take promotional shots for the web series. We, of course, agreed. Especially since he asked us to shoot the photos at a very beautiful park/recreational center in Colonie, New York – The Crossings. Thankfully it was a sun-shiny November day – so sun-shiny that, as I had packed only sweaters (November is supposed to be chilly dammit!), I was sweating profusely by the end of our day there. And we hadn’t even shot the pillow fight yet!

The photographer we were working with, a gentlemen named Russ (Jeff told me he didn’t know the guy’s last name, as he was “only the photographer” and “not important”), was very good in getting Natalie and I to pose the way he (and Jeff) wanted us to for the shots. My biggest hurdle while working the still photography shoot was to not look at the camera or Jeff while Russ shot the photos. Jeff would give a certain bit of direction and I would break character to look at him, at which point he would yell “I TOLD YOU NOT TO LOOK AT ME”, and then proceed to kick dirt in my face while Natalie and Russ pointed and laughed. By the end of the shoot I looked like I had just got done playing baseball with The Sandlot kids.

After that embarrassing episode, it was time for the second part of the shoot back at my secret lair. I blindfolded my three companions, so they would not know the way to my swingin’ bachelor pad, and off we went. Besides my butler, maid, and last night’s one-night-stand all trying to ruin the photo shoot by jumping in front of the camera at odd times, this half went surprisingly smooth as well. A pillow fight between Natalie and I was caught on camera (pics will be up soon), and I now know never to trust my co-star ever again, as she pulled the old “wait, you hit me in the face and my nose is bleeding – JUST KIDDING” fake-out during the fluffy battle. It was quite the fun time – ’til she decided to go all Homie the Clown and sock me in the face over and over and over. I’ll get you back, Natalie. I DON’T PLAY DAT!

All in all, I think we got some pretty sweet photos that I think ya’ll will enjoy. If you don’t, well, I’ll sick Natalie on Jeff and Russ with a pillow.

- Mark

Director’s Note: Oh that Mark is such a funny guy :) To set the record straight, I didn’t yell at him. I did, however, kick dirt in his face.

Tune in to our blog next week where I’ll give my perspective on the photo shoot and the challenge in doing a shoot where there’s two people (me and my photographer) who are used to being in charge :)

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Can We Call My Character Captain Stringbean?

We’ve told you stories about stapling belts to asses, comic-cons, how to make a superhero costume, and how difficult stunt-work is. Now it’s time to tell you about the first day of shooting Super Knocked Up.

But before I dive into that, let me talk a little bit about confidence. Here’s the little bit: when you’re an actor, you need to have it. Plain and simple. And that’s something I’ve had to learn, because when Jeff first asked me to be in Super Knocked Up, I didn’t have it. Instead of being grateful to Jeff for offering me a role in his very first webseries, I was too busy trying to tell him that I think we should rename my character from Captain Amazing to Captain Stringbean. I was too focused on the physical discrepancies between myself and what I imagined a superhero to be, instead of narrowing in on why Jeff chose me in the first place: he thinks I’m a darn good actor. (Actually, he told me he thinks I’m the greatest actor he’s every met, but he doesn’t want all his other actors to know that he thinks that. So shhhh). The point is if you’re an actor/actress who lands a job, have trust in the creators, and realize you’re there for a reason. Not just because you slept with the director. Which I didn’t. I swear. Not for this job.

Now, onto shooting.

Our adorable and intelligent director (that’s what you wanted me to write, right Jeff?) scheduled the first episode to be shot in the offices of a construction building, turning one room into the physician’s office, where Captain Amazing and Dark Star await the outcome of a pregnancy test.  In the interest of keeping Super Blogged Up a spoiler-free zone, I won’t tell you the outcome of the test (although if your detective skills are honed enough, you should be able to deduce the results. Hint: the answer is in the title).

To give the impression our two warring warriors are in a doctor’s office, the production team hung a curtain on one side of the room, plopped a fake plant in one corner,  draped a desk Jocelyn and I were sitting on with a white sheet, and set up a table complete with stethoscope and other assorted doctor-related paraphernalia. It wasn’t much, but it didn’t need to be. The design set the tone for the scene, location (obviously), and allowed for the director of photography (or “DF”, as costume designer and actress Justine Mackey referred to him as), Justin Maine, to light the set to allow for the an efficient turn around time for camera set-ups.

The first half of the shoot, ranging from approximately 6pm to 10pm (not including an hour and a half of cast prep-time before hand) covered the first half of the scene, in which CA and DS spar with words and insults. Since I never flub a line (and Jeff decided to dub Jocelyn’s dialogue at a later date because she flubs ALL of hers), it all went fairly smoothly, barring the expected technical difficulties (and the occasional cougar that breaks into set and eats the sound guy) that come with shooting in general.

After a lunch break (pizza, wings, and whatever parts of the sound guy that were left over the cougar didn’t finish. Y.U.M.) we got down to shooting the second half of the scene – the gritty, Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum) inspired battle between our two beloved characters. I detailed the fight here, and while rehearsing was a painstaking process in and of itself, actually performing the stunts on camera presented its own set of difficulties. The least of which was my tendency to toss Jocelyn off of my back so hard she’d smash through the wall and land on her bum outside of the building (how do you think the cougar got in?). We’d end up spending at least a half an hour having to patch up the wall every single time. It was a nightmare. I may not *look* like Captain Amazing, but I most definitely have every single one of his powers.

Although the fight took quite a long time to film (I didn’t leave set until 4:00am the next morning), it was a cathartic and satisfying experience. When you work that hard on something, it’s a great feeling when it all comes together.

Making the first episode of Super Knocked Up was a crazy, tough, wonderful, funny, and memorabIe experience. THANK GOD IT’S OVER! I NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER THOUGHT IT WOULD EN – whoops. Sorry Jeff.

In all honesty, I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed shooting it.

Images after the jump.

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Um, is it important if the lead actress shows up?

So it’s the first day of shooting and I have no idea if my lead actress is going to show up.  Awesome right?  Not so much.

Jocelynn had gotten very sick a couple of days before the shoot.  We actually had to cancel the final rehearsal, because for some reason Mark didn’t want her puking all over him.  But Mark and Jocelynn had kicked ass in the other rehearsals, so I was confident they’d nail it on the shoot.

The morning of the shoot, I’m running around trying to get last minute costume accessories (see a previous blog post to read all about that fun time).  And I’m also getting nothing but voice-mail when I try to call Jocelynn to make sure she’s okay to film.  But I stay calm.  I focus on the work I need to do to get ready for the shoot.  And tell myself everything will work out.

I get to the set.  Still no word from Jocelynn.  Okay, don’t freak out.  It’s all good.  The only person I tell this to is my producer Michalina.  I let the rest of the crew go about their business setting up.  There’s no reason to stress them out or have them start to worry.  And I really hope I don’t have to tell them that they drove all the way here to set up the equipment for nothing.

It’s about a half-hour until Mark and Jocelynn’s call time (for those not in the film know-how, that’s when the actors are supposed to arrive on set).  Okay, now it’s really getting too close for comfort.  I call Justine who’s doing the costumes and is best friends with Jocelynn.  She answers.  I pray she’s going to tell me she’s heard from Jocelynn.  And…

She says Jocelynn’s right next to her and is about to walk out the door with Mark to drive to the set.  Thank God!  I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  The shoot’s still on.  Yes!

Jocelynn had forgotten that her phone was off, which is why I couldn’t get a hold of her.  She was still sick, but she did an amazing job of toughing it out on set and delivered a great performance!  I was super-happy :)

The point of this story is that one thing I’ve learned as a director is that you need to always remain calm and have faith that things will work out (okay, that’s two things).  Freaking the hell out is not going to help anyone or the project.  It also will not inspire confidence in your crew.  As the director, you set the tone for the set.  If you’re calm and confident, your crew will be too.  Also, have faith that there’s always a way to fix whatever goes wrong on a set.  And believe me, if you talk to any filmmaker, they can give you a laundry list of all the crazy things that do go wrong.  It may be really hard to have that faith or believe there actually is a possible way to get out of the mess you’re in, but trust me, there is.

And the one I described above is nothing.  As filmmakers we have to find a way through some crazy shit.  But when I see my film in a movie theater or on TV or on the internet, I know it’s all worthwhile.

And I still wish Jocelynn had puked on Mark :)

Images after the jump.

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