Production Day 4: Van Jensen Interview

Mark Johnson started the morning with a run of downtown Atlanta and through Olympic Park.  Shawn and I each started the morning with a shower and a breakfast bar.  Then, we all headed to Van Jensen's house. Unloading at Van's the night before made checking out a breeze.

The drive from the hotel to Van's house didn't take very long and Shawn successfully navigated us there without any issues.

When we arrived at Van's shed office, we realized that it was smaller than we planned for, at about 10x8 plus furnishings.  It seems that each space we film is smaller than the last, which meant this was a second appearance of the 28mm instead of the 50mm lens.  It took us about 1.5 to 2 hours to set up.  We were hoping for 1 hour.  We spent time picking an angle and corner to film from and then had to properly light the spot, using Shawn as a stand in.  Once we had the interior lighting figured out, we noticed a hot spot on the wall coming in through the east side window.  Mark and I were able to block it out using some black sheeting, boom poles, and gaffer tape.  The trick to blocking out the light from the window was to set the sheet, but to pull it back far enough so that it wouldn't be seen in the window during the shot.

Mark set the key light in a tight spot

Once the set was blocked out and Van got situated, we made a few minor adjustments to the height of the camera so Van's eye-line with me would look natural.  For this shoot, I brought my drum throne along so that I wouldn't have to slouch too much or find a small box to sit on.  It didn't quite get low enough.  I may need to invest in or build an apple crate.

This day of filming presented the most technical errors so far.  Swapping batteries became an issue, as did cellphones, and having to reset the sheet every hour or so to fight the sun.  Also, I dropped my clip board while Van was responding to a question.  I need to be more mindful of that, unfortunately, my leg kept falling asleep.


Yesterday, with Laura, and today with Van, Mark noticed, after shooting a few questions, that there were background objects that lined up perfectly to slash with the subject's head in the shot.  We removed them, but we need to be more mindful of things like that before we start rolling.

Van had a limitation of filming to wrap before 3:00.  We went a little over, but we were able to film all of the interview questions for each episode.  Shawn asked a great question at the end and it got me thinking that I really should have had a better set of questions specifically pertaining to the individual.  I think I did okay with that for Joey Weiser, but I slacked a little on Laura and Van.  I plan on asking a few more questions of the subjects while filming b-roll and coverage later.

Van's dog was with us during the day, but did not make any appearances during the interview session.  Mark was able to grab some shots of him for b-roll.  We planned to film some shots of Van walking through a park and playing basketball, but we did not have the time.  Making a list of shots for day two.

After filming Shawn, Mark, and I had Thai food in Little Five Points and then spent a limited amount of time at Criminal Records.  We'll definitely be scheduling more time for Criminal Records for the next trip.  That is a wrap for the day.  Mark headed to Savannah and Shawn and I headed for cake and tea at Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party.

Production Day 3: Laura Martin Interview

A new day.  A new Shoot.  Shawn sets the marker for Laura Martin

Early start for us to head down to Atlanta, GA.  Mark is a morning person and is therefore way ahead of Shawn and I.  We arrive at Laura Martin's house at 11:00 AM.  Laura's office is a little smaller than Joey's work-space, so after wrestling with the 50mm lens that we planned to use on all of the interview footage, we decided that it would be best to shoot with the 35mm.  This definitely changed the coverage of the room, but so far I stand by it being the right call.  We'll see what comes of it in post production.

Corky looks on as Adam sets up and smiles aT the rIdiculousness of it all

Laura has three cats and they all wanted to be included in the film.  Our first day of production, Joey's cat Eddie really got to Mark's allergies.  This time we came prepared with allergy medicine and it did the trick.

This shoot went way smoother than the first day.  I think we have learned a lot already and are working well together as a team.  I discovered, while setting up, that I did not have my lapel mic.  I have no idea where it is.  Possibly, Joey Weiser is still wearing it.  Thankfully, Mark had one in his bag.

Laura was wearing a t-shirt, which would normally be an issue, however I want to make sure the interviewee is comfortable and feeling like themselves, I adjusted my mic technique and worked with it.  She was also wearing a necklace, which is a no-no, but it added character to the shot, so I kept it.  There was a little rustling from the shirt and necklace, but I think I can work with it.  Laura asked if she could continue to work while we filmed her and of course I said that that would be okay.  She was also kind enough to let us cheat her desk and computer a few inches toward the wall.  It took us about an hour to setup, and once I worked up the nerve to hit record, things went very smoothly.

I made a few adjustments to the Q and A format.  Instead of cutting between each question, we only cut between each episode.  Each episode took us about 20 minutes to get through.  After episode 2, we took a quick lunch break to eat Subway foot-longs that Laura's husband, Randy, ran out to pick up for us.  I know I chose very specific people for this project, but I am still very grateful for how accommodating everyone is being.

After interviewing for the next 3 episodes completed, we picked up some footage of Laura working on Walt Simonson's Ragnarok.  Watching through other documentaries, I am noticing a need for b-roll coverage.  I want to avoid having a talking heads documentary.  I'll have to scrounge through the interview footage and make notes on possible coverage.

Mark catching some b-roll of Laura coloring Ragnarok

During shooting of b-roll, I reached out to a few other local artists to see if they were available to take 15 or so minutes to talk about Laura's work.  It turns out that a 30 minute heads up that a film crew is coming to your house is not enough.  However, they were interested in contributing, so I'll have to plan better for our second trip to Atlanta and get them scheduled.

While leaving Laura's house, I reached out to Van Jensen about dropping our equipment and a car off at his place, so we wouldn't have to lug it up to our hotel room for the night.  He was okay with that, so we made our way to Van's.  The journey took a little longer than it should have due to Atlanta traffic and an issue with the GPS.  (I'll do a whole 'nother blog post one day about how I hate Atlanta roads.)

After we unloaded at Van's, we headed to The "original" Flying Biscuit Cafe for dinner.  Deliciousness was had by all.

Our journey to our hotel, a little over 5 miles away, took us about 45 minutes.  We checked in, and called it an early night for an early rise tomorrow.

Production Day 2: Prepping and Rescheduling

Provisions for the 2-day filming session in Atlanta, GA

Provisions for the 2-day filming session in Atlanta, GA

With day one down, I quickly moved in to lock down interview days with the rest of the cast.  We were able to sync our schedules up with Laura Martin first for Thursday, February 9.  That put us down in Atlanta for a day.  I checked with Mark to see if he would be down with staying the night in Atlanta and he was good with it.  That meant I could reach out to Van Jensen to hopefully lock him in for Friday.  As luck would have it, he was available until 3:00 on Friday, so we would need to start early.  This is great for Mark since he is a morning person and we went a little late for him with Joey.

Van normally goes to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I reached out to the gym to see if we could film him in the morning, but they politely responded that they do not allow filming in the gym.  I feel like that will cause us to miss out on some good b-roll, but Van said it would be okay if we arrived before he leaves for the gym to setup while he is working out.

I was able to get with Sanford Greene at Charlotte Mini-Con to discuss scheduling some interview time with him.  Sanford is super busy and I hope to convey that in the documentary.  We discussed that Sanford would not have much time to film until March, but that he would make it work for us.  I've considered replacing Sanford in the documentary because of scheduling difficulties, but honestly, I don't want to, so hopefully the stars will align before it really starts to affect my planned release date.  I'm already pushing it back one event to assure it is the best I can make it.  I don't want to compromise on this.

Hourly comic strip by Andy Runton

Hourly comic strip by Andy Runton

Andy Runton has become as elusive as Sanford.  There a lot of difficulties that come with documenting Andy's life.  His dogs are rescue and are very temperamental, so we will not be able to setup crew on location.  Andy has agreed to travel to Greenville and film his interview and to assist us with picking up b-roll showing off his life by filming it himself.  I worry a little that this will negatively impact the cinematography, but I feel that it will most directly convey the story and that is what is most important.  Andy was scheduled to come up February 3, so that we could film with him on Friday and Saturday, but he had to take one of his doggies to an unscheduled trip to the veterinarian, which led to him canceling the trip.  Mark was not able to schedule that weekend anyway, since he would be out of town, however Micah Taylor agreed to step in for him.  I love working with Micah and I know he would have done a great job, but it may be best that we reschedule for a day that Mark can be available anyway.

All that said means that we have Laura and Van scheduled for later this week.  I have arranged for a hotel room at the Sheraton about 5 miles from Van's house.  The plan is to spend Thursday with Laura, move equipment to Van's for the night, crash in a nearby hotel, and then get an early start at Van's in the morning.  Here's to hoping that it goes as smoothly as that.

Production Day 1: Joey Weiser Interview

We have completed our first day of shooting.  This production is now official.  We have release forms signed and everything.

Sunday, January 15 at 11:30 am (30 minutes later than scheduled), Director of Photography, Mark Johnson (Filmscape), Shawn Daughhetee, and I arrived at Joey Weiser's house in Athens, GA to film a day of interviews.  The schedule also called for filming the recording of a podcast that he works on, a walk in a park, and a gathering with Joey's closest friends.  Three out of four ain't bad.

Shawn plays the role of AC2, slating Joey Weiser for his next line of questioning

Setup took us over 1.5 hours to get the lighting the way that we wanted as well as an angle that we were happy with.  After that, we made a few adjustments to the scene; moved a picture here, placed an ink bottle there to give the shot a little more character.

I decided to mic Joey with both an overhead shotgun mic and a lav.  I haven't been using a lot of the lav lately since I have been doing more fictional narrative and I don't trust myself to effectively hide the lav while keeping it useful. however I convinced myself that this is an interview, so it will be okay.

Adam makes final adjustments to the audio levels.

Interviewing was broken into episodes and then sets of questions and sub-questions.  It was a long barrage on Joey lasting about four hours, followed by a small break where we filmed Joey leading a short podcast recording of Toho Yaro.  Due to going over time and Joey having the podcast recording scheduled already, we had to cut filming Joey hanging out at a park he enjoys going to.  We also postponed the last episode of question to after the podcast and a break for dinner. This involved marking the position of the lights and cameras to be returned to the original setup.

Mark shows Adam a ghost image comparison between the two setup.

After the wrap was called on the final set of interview filming, we headed over to Drew Weing and Eleanor Davis' house catch some footage of Joey hanging out with friends and to grab a few interviews from Joey's friends about his work, how they met, and general questions about comic life in Athens.

Joey Weiser with Drew Weing in the background.

Filming footage with friends wrapped at about 9:30 pm, we headed back to Joey's to pack up the rest of our equipment and we headed back to Greenville, SC.  We arrived home around 11:30 pm.

Director of Photgraphy:  Mark Johnson (Filmscape)

Producer, Assistant Director, Second Assistant Camera, Script Supervisor:  Shawn Daughhetee

Producer, Director, Sound Mixer:  Adam Daughhetee

Interviewee, Cartoonist:  Joey Weiser

Cat:  Eddie

Pre-Production Day 0: Panic at Applebee's

So maybe not panic, but can you believe that I'm actually starting production on this documentary?  I'm a little stressed about the things I'm always stressed about with things like this.  Will I do a good job?  Do I have a worthwhile vision?  Will anyone be interested?  Will it all come together?  I mean, will it?  I've never done anything of this scale before. But essentially, it is a series of podcast interviews.  I've done that a hundred times.  Heck, that is where I got the idea from.

Actually, so the idea for this gradually came over time.  I've been wanting to do a long-form narrative for quite a while now, but nothing really clicked.  A couple of years ago, I started planning a documentary on the conventioning life of a mini-comics creator.  I'd reached out to a few creators who were interested and I was going to film them over the year at different conventions to kind of show the wear and tear of the year.  I shot the first day with one of the creators, but quickly realized the logistics were out of my capabilities, mostly the travel.  But, I've got a good interview with J Chris Campbell at Charlotte Mini-Con that I may post one day.

J Chris Campbell at Charlotte Mini-Con

J Chris Campbell at Charlotte Mini-Con

The premise for this documentary came to me a few months ago while at dinner with Shawn Daughhetee, Andy Runton, and Rich Tommaso.  I love talking process and business and business process and Andy and Rich don't disappoint.  Both of them are in very interesting points in their careers.  I've had similar conversations with these guys before, but something just clicked with me, everyone says that when you make a film that you should make what you love, so I'm making a film about the everyday life of a comic book creator.

When it came to choosing subjects for what I like to consider the first season, I, of course, reached out to Andy and Rich first.  Andy was game, though with an interesting angle that we will cover when we get there, but Rich wasn't sure he would have the time because he was getting so busy, which is what I was really hoping to capture in his story, but I understand.  For the rest of the characters, I decided a total of five felt right, I made a huge list of people I would love to work with.  The list was then narrowed down into, what I hope is a diverse group of comic creators who will each bring a unique story:  Laura Martin, Sanford Greene, Van Jensen, Joey Weiser, and of course Andy Runton.

2017-01-19 22.30.15.jpg

I plan to break the documentary into a series of episodic topics.  Each topic will include all creators involved answering interview questions as well as more in-depth examples of their processes and activities.

At this point, it was time to assemble my team, which really came down to one other person, Director of Photography, Mark Johnson.  I've worked with Mark a couple of times now, most notably on the short film, I wrote and directed with Josh Dean, These Fingers.  Mark works as a freelance cinematographer under the production company, Filmscape.  He shoots videos for the local YMCA and the Greenville Hospital System.

Shawn also volunteered to assist in the project.  I don't think she knows what she got herself into.

Tomorrow we start filming Joey Weiser in Athens, GA.