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Old December 21st, 2011, 03:03 AM   #1
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Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Hello All!

Good to be back and active on DVinfo again! Forgive my two year hiatus and Wall of Shame status the last project or two -- I've been spending the time touring with my show in a bunch of new venues, from cruise ships to colleges!

Now that I have a [tiny] bit of downtime, I've been eager to get back to shooting some short films. James, the guy at the end, and Andy, the walking billboard, are returning familiar faces. Everyone else is new to the team. I collaborated with two new writers to my group this time (who will hopefully become regular players), and we decided to have some satirical fun and make a few jabs at some of the recent political and TV debacles. American media and politics have become so bastardized, so similar, so intertwined with each other, and that ridiculousness was the inspiration for, "American Fairytales Do Come True".

We start in a writer's room, late night, with two head writers and a handful of interns -- pretty typical Hollywood fare. With low ratings and recent TV mishaps, the writers have to flush out an idea for a show that will boost ratings (and fulfill their ultimate goal). Their idea? "Staged reality".


For those who didn't pick up on some of the jokes and/or follow American media, here are a couple vids that may help:

Now is the time for action! - YouTube
Embarrassing Catastrophic Moment for Rick Perry- Forgets What He Wants To Say At Presidential Debate - YouTube
And just because it's one of my favorite scenes and he was our governor: it's not a tumor - YouTube

Behind the scenes, we transformed the lobby area of a small music school into the writer's room. The exterior shot was in front of an actual church, shot with barely enough light, but we made it for the most part. I didn't have my beloved XL2 with me this time, but I did have a few new toys to play with:

For sound, we recorded three channels using a Tascam DR-40 and a ME66/K6 boom. Getting consistent sound was a bit difficult in this room -- it came out a bit echo-ey, and I've been spoiled with the XL2's xlr capability and ease of use. The 'walk-and-talk' -- a throwback to Aaron Sorkin's love for steadicam shots -- also made it difficult to place lighting in such an enclosed space. We clipped a couple of shoplights and a couple of softboxes on shelves and the ceiling - you might catch a softbox during the walk-and-talk.

I've been wanting to try out a DSLR for video for a while now, so I got my hands on a T3i for most of the shots. I decided to use the HF S200 for the steadicam shots because using a camcorder was easier to hold a wide, moving focus in such an enclosed space. I'm sure some of you can relate when I say that matching up the colors between the two cameras was also quite a challenge!

This story also had some complicated dialogue (again, a throwback to Sorkin), and much more compared to my previous projects. Again, I wanted to try something new, and story was no exception.

In the end, I figured, "Hey, it's a DV Challenge, so let's try out some new toys, new ideas, and figure out some new challenges. We had had a lot of fun doing it, we learned a lot from it, and I look forward to learning even more from all of your feedback!
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Old December 21st, 2011, 05:07 AM   #2
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Nice work!

I don't actually have a TV anymore so I missed some of the cultural references (I'm only vaguely aware of who the Kardashians are from Yahoo! headline links that I never click).....

Solid camerawork and audio work. Very good tracking shots as you walk around the table.

Nicely edited and a great sense of comic timing.

I spy an 'homage' to the Wayne's World Movie (the product placement guy).

Interested to know how you got releases for the music featured (like the Averi track)?

It would be cool if you ran some more episodes of this; the characters have a lot of life in them!
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Old December 21st, 2011, 06:31 AM   #3
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Hi Joseph,

this really made me laugh. The innocent, cheerful enthusiasm the characters had for the dark path they were plotting was hilarious, and reminded me of a series we have over here called "Absolute Power." Some great comic timing too and a wonderfully done punchline. Many thanks for the links, which allowed a popular culture luddite like myself to properly appreciate the piece in context!

Henry
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Old December 21st, 2011, 09:10 AM   #4
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Joseph,

It is really great to have you back in the DV challenge! As usual, you have your crew of interesting people, and completely believable acting performances. I got most of the cultural references without explanation, and really think you nailed the Herman Cain, "slow smile." Love the girl's deadpan, "what are you doing?" Funny and enjoyable to watch. NIce technical work, didn't notice any audio issues, and the camera movements were interesting. Did catch the reflection of soft boxes in the glass, but whose to say writers don't use soft boxes for inspiration? Easier to write when you feel like you are on location.

However, your show is going to have a lot of competition. "Staged Reality," is pretty much mainstream these days on TV.

PS. How do you do all the magic tricks on your demo reel? My sons were fascinated with the replicated live birds. I told Ben you probably used After Effects, but he told me to get serious.

Dick
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Old December 21st, 2011, 03:34 PM   #5
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

My cultural references are too few to get full understanding of your project. Technically, the video is outstanding. The camerawork, lightening and audio are all excellent.
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Old December 21st, 2011, 10:01 PM   #6
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Glad to have you back! I thought this was an excellent piece, but what it was really lacking was product placement. Thankfully I live in the US so I know what the cultural references were about. I found myself laughing out loud in several places.

Nice work.
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 01:46 AM   #7
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Very funny, Joseph! Because I've followed the political scene very closely this year those gags hit their target first time through. As if I wasn't impressed enough with the well-written and well-delivered dialogue, your continuous "walk with me" take from 1:07-1:48 wowed me even more. Then when you stopped and delivered your Herman Cain slow smile with the blinds directly behind you I just cracked up. Was that intentional or a funny coincidence? And if intentional, how many takes to end up in that very spot?

This episode was technically sound and more involved than meets the eye, all because the dialogue is so engaging. During your last monologue, about the time I was starting to think, "Come on guys, do a slow camera push," you did it!

For me, the weakest parts involved the product placement guy. Those segments brought me right out of the story and made me feel uneasy, for some reason. But maybe that's just me. And Joseph, dear...I could have gone all day without the F-bomb at the end. Yeah, I'm old. :)

But you, young man, are a great actor. I realize you perform in front of a live audience for a living, but this piece required a lot of memorization that you delivered with ease. I'd love to see you in a big-league film.
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 03:46 AM   #8
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

Hi Joseph,

I agree with Finn-Erik, technically great, and a few parts I didn't get. It doesn't matter so much for the overall understanding of the film.
You made a great film! Well done!
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Old December 23rd, 2011, 04:20 AM   #9
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Re: Feedback: American Fairytales Do Come True, by Joseph Tran

I am relieved to see that there are others who did not understand the content here – I don’t follow news out of the USA that closely and definitely not on TV.

I agree with what has been said here about the camera work and lighting etc.

I really admire you people who work with actors – that is something I doubt I could ever do.
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