Saturday, August 31, 2013

'Bottom of the Seventh'

Bottom of the 7th

Wow, here we are, August of 2013. I'm at bat in the bottom of my seventh year as a filmmaker. And it's been 15 months since my last confession (blog). Life in the film business has been challenging and very exciting, yet slow and ever-changing. 


Since May of 2012, I've done a lot but was really ready to do a lot more. But, in a nut shell, I've released my sixth film (my second documentary called 'Dhivaan's Dream' in May 21, 2012. I finished the final, final draft on my three year writing spree for my feature screenplay, 'Carseat & Stationwagon'. I was hired to be the Production Manager for the International Academy of Film & Television. And was hired again as a Camera Op for Season Two of 'Miracles & Meals' Jewish Cooking Show; designed my own website for Darktooth Films; officially started my company, Darktooth Films, LLC; spent a week in Miami filming for the Medical Tourism Association; and presently working with a couple musicians filming music videos as I continue to always study, shoot and barely sleep...and try and keep up with the digital filmmaking world. I may not be hitting much lately but I'm swinging a lot and still surviving as a filmmaker; and that's the goal. Keep swinging, keep pushing, keep believing while keeping the faith alive. If there's a will, there's a way and that way will be made!

LATEST FILM PROJECT

'Dhivaan's Dream' Released May 21, 2013
'Dhivaan's Dream' was my second documentary film. It's a very moving story about a 12-year old boy (turned 13 during filming) from South Africa named Dhivaan Salig, who has Aspergers Syndrome and wants to become a film director/writer. The chemistry between this young boy and myself was just 'magical'. It was about a 15 month project that started the first day of film school for Dhivaan when I began tutoring him at the the Palm Beach Film School. Our passions collided and our friendship ignited and I have become great friends with the entire Salig family. Dhivvan is now a student at the G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. This documentary was officially accepted into the 2012 RED SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL in Ft. Lauderdale in which it won an audience appreciation award. It was also officially selected at the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival and the 2013 TCIFF.  

FEATURE STALLED FOR NOW

Later, somewhere in the first quarter of 2013, I was able to produce a final, final draft of my feature screenplay, 'Carseat & Stationwagon'. It turned into a three year writing spree which I think was a good thing. I did have to put the filming of this feature script aside as the funding was extremely difficult. More and more speed bumps occurred as I got closer and closer from development to pre-production (locations, permits, insurance, personal schedules), I couldn't envision the film anymore and new I had to stop the progress and regroup later. Things like this do happen (more so in Hollywood) and I learn to embrace them as there must be a universe reason for it. It's not for a lack of effort, that's for sure. I truly believe this quote that I use all the time; and that is, 'Films are made when they're meant to be made'. And in my case, it'll be another time for my first feature film to be up and running again.  

As I loved developing the character of 'Stationwagon', and really miss the opportunity to perform as an actor in my film as Clint Kelwood, I must say that, depending on the time frame it'll take to get funding and re-cast the film, I may step down to direct only. If I know one thing in this business, is that things are meant to be just the way they happen, so, we'll see if I either take on the challenge of directing and acting or just direct...or neither. I just want my screenplay made into a movie as it is just a simple little story; BUT, it's my personal 'next level' of filmmaking I'd like to achieve in it's due time. 

I do apologize sincerely to all the actors I had cast in the film and the partial crew that I had been working with as they have dedicated a lot of time and effort in helping me try and get this film started. This biz ain't easy.

Jack Mendes of JVM Video Production
FILMMAKING GIGS

It was also great to work with good friend Jack Mendes of JVM Video Productions as we filmed two dance gigs this year for 'The Classic Elements' and 'The Wonders' dance teams in Port Saint Lucie, FL. 


Students from IAFT
The best part of these last 15 months have been working at the International Academy of Film and Television in Hollywood, FL. I was back in action working with new and upcoming film students. Wow, I was  loving the creativity coming out of the students at this school. I worked as the production manager from September 2012 to May 2013. The energy and passion I had while working with these students gave me a natural high that I can't explain. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am no longer at IAFT, but, the students and I tore it up while we were there and we all so far, still keep in touch.  


With Jason Land at the Carseat & Stationwagon Auditions

I am still working as a freelance cameraman and gaffer, grip, boom operator and such. And continue to  work with Darin Perron of Digital Motion Studios. This is our second season with the series, 'Miracles & Meals'. Last season, it was the number one cooking show on the network. Miracles & Meals with Joanne Caras is a very special kind of cooking show where Joanne and her husband, Harvey Caras, tell emotional Holocaust survival stories and cook special Jewish food dishes right from their kitchen in Port Saint Lucie, FL. The show is on Monday nights at 9:00pm on JLTV and is seen in many countries worldwide. The show is produced by Digital Motion Studios, Stuart, FL. The cool part is eating an amazing dinner after filming. 


For the show, I work Camera 'B' as well as Gaffer/Grip work. In October 2012, I worked with a Canon XL-H1a for a corporate convention held at The Ritz in Palm Beach (really Lantana, FL) where I worked for Jim Sutherland Media out of Atlanta, GA. Then in November 2012, it was MTA time again; this time in Miami. The Medical Tourism Association convention which is a crazy week of run and gun filming of several interviews and speakers with tons of 'B' roll. It's a great gig and this year we'll be in Las Vegas. 

The Medical Tourism Association is an awesome annually event. All the
film production is produced by Darin Perron of Digital Motion Studios.


ADVICE FROM MEL

I have been very blessed to being able to work in the industry of which I have an amazing passion for but it hasn't been easy as many freelancers (and my family will tell you). And there's one comment I want to pass along to my students and to anyone that is cringing to get out of there 'day-job' to jump full time into film and that is to look at your own personal situation from your financial status to your family status and create a plan that will either put you on the fast pace to be in the film business or put you on a slow pace in this business; whichever one works best for your life at the moment. And know this, (and I've said this before) if you're not a risk taker and don't know how to discipline and make sacrifices for yourself to achieve your goals, then the time may not be right for you to do such a thing. 

MEL on location for Miracles & Meals Summer 2013
So, it is very important to remember this, especially  during the downtime of this so called film life, is to not lose your focus; you must "envision it, believe it, feel it, taste it, see it, be it" because if you don't have that running through your mind a few times everyday, this film life can chew you up and spit you out faster than the pace it took to get you here. Already know that you're successful in this 'film life' (or any career choice for that matter), and roll with the punches. Being broke don't mean you're broken. Listen, I've lived on both spectrums of life. I've been rich with a high paying job and a sweet retirement which I worked extremely hard for and deserved but, unfortunately, I was an internal  robot with many voids in my life. But I've also been poor with not knowing when my next gig or my next paycheck will be. However, somehow I've found internal happiness with myself which probably comes with the positive humble attitude I live with everyday; and I do believe and have faith that my voids are being filled as we speak. I've worked too damn hard for them not too. 

MEL in Lake Worth working the JIB for a scene in the music video, 'Bad Luck' by TooSmooth August 2013

And the old saying my dad used to always say, 'if it was easy, everyone would be doing it'. I always know that if I work hard enough with anything I wanted to do and wanted it bad enough, somehow it will begin to unfold before my eyes. 


TooSmooth with MEL on location in WPB
So when things look grim and very weak financially, then endure it, respect it, love it. If you want too, laugh at it, like I do. Work your life's budget around it but never lose site of the passion that got you there in the first place and soon enough you will be running camera's, setting up lights, doing production assistant (P.A.) work, directing a film, writing a script that someone wants to buy or shoot. 

MUSIC VIDEOS

I kept a vision of mine to eventually do more music videos for other artists besides myself.  And next thing you know from some great contacts, I have done just that. I've already finished one for a Rap Artist named TooSmooth with his song, 'Bad Luck' and now I am in pre-production with another artist, Bobby Gugliuzza ('Bobby G') for his original song, 'Mustard Seed'. And, I don't know exactly how all them stars line up in the universe but it's been a back-burner goal of mine to somehow get in the studio to record an original song of mine called, 'Kick Up Your Zero' and bam, the song is complete and ready for a music video of it's own. 


Amanda Sofia, MEL, Joe Sofia in SofaSound Studios

With Brian Biesiadecki in studio
The song was recorded at SofaSound Studios in Port Saint Lucie, FL by producer/musician Joe Sofia with  Brian Biesiadecki on the drums and singer/songwriter Amanda Sofia on background vocals. After I played the acoustic and electric rhythm tracks and recorded the vocals, Joe added the bass, keyboard (strings, French Horns) and lead guitar. Musician/composer Johnny Sofia mastered the mix and added some flavor of his own with intro strings and timpani drums. The single will be released in September 2013 through internet streaming. 

Joe Sofia in SofaSound Studio
Last but not least, as this blog is getting way too long like my debut one, I thought I'd mention that it looks like I might be strapping on my ol' '85 Alvarez Yari Acoustic guitar to attempt to get back out in the public to perform some classic songs to generate some funds and get back to one of my all time passions... performing music. I have not officially performed as a musician in public since 2007 when I was the guitar player for Godwired. Sometimes I've always thought my music love was a curse and not a gift. But when you find your passion, it really is a special gift you must endure because you can't just go in your brain and remove the computer chip to eliminate it (as I believe I've tried several times). When you're blessed in life to have two passions that actually intermix with each other, well, now, that's just God saying, it's yours for the taking....now go shine! Peace, -MEL

MEL in recording studio. Filming on Clematis Street. Setting up for a road scene for a music video. Summer 2013.




Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writer/Director Michael Eldon Lobsinger

Writer/Director Michael Eldon Lobsinger  


first time blogger

Hi everyone. Welcome to my first blog. I've decided to try and reach out to more of my fans (and hopefully new fans) of 'Darktooth Films' by beginning a blog such as this. This one's gonna be a long one I'm sure, being it's my first.  So, if you're not a reader like me, you may not make it to the end, which is okay.

The main purpose of my blogs will be geared more towards sharing my mid-life career-change experiences, challenges, struggles and achievements and share many things I've learned. I'm hoping to help others here that may be wanting to live their passion as I am doing now, regardless of what chapter they're on in their life.

discipline and sacrifice

For the longest time, I've been asked by several fans and a lot of students of mine about how I've managed to completely drop a 25-year career and achieve my goals, knowledge and experience in filmmaking in a very short period of time. Well, I have two words for that...discipline and sacrifice! 

Hand held work on pick up shots for 'Miss Fyer'

And, if you're already a filmmaker, you know that this type of career path is very difficult but fulfilling. It's a passion...and it ain't easy by no means. We just love it and were made for it. So we do it.

And this is surely not a rags to riches story...it's more like a rags to starving artist story right now, with a big dose of happiness tossed in.  Again, my underlying goal here is for me to help, guide, assist, teach and/or add my 2 cents to any other new filmmaker or wanna be filmmaker out there that is feeling the same way I did before making this crazy, awesome, leap of faith. I've been a filmmaker for only five years now and this first blog will be more of a personal one about the goals I've achieved as a filmmaker from day one to now.

I'm gonna need to give you a little backstory. So, from Heath Ledger's award winning character as 'The Joker' (Batman Begins 2005):

'Here....we....GO!'

study, shoot, sleep...rinse & repeat

I enrolled and began classes at the Palm Beach Film School on February 12, 2007.  I was 46. When I met the director of the school, Jim York, I remember saying to myself and envisioning it, that someday, I'll be teaching/working at this school here after I'm done. I could feel it. And I kept that vision with me all the time.

I saved up enough (well, not enough, but some) funds to quit my high salary 'dead-end' job after 25 years. I left if all behind on September 8, 2007, and I never looked back. Why? Because I didn't want an opportunity (called 'desperate money') to be calling me back to a job that made me feel desperately dead inside.

I'd much rather learn how to write, shoot, direct and edit a short film in which I did. My debut short film, 'Miss Fyer' was completed by the beginning of that September. I was told to 'keep it simple' when it came to writing the script and I did; one location, two characters, 12-page script! The extra 'fun-stress' (as I call it), was when I decided to act in my film - which I'm very proud of but highly don't recommend it for first time filmmakers. 

Debut Short Film by Director Michael Eldon Lobsinger
I graduated from the Palm Beach Film School when my film premiered on my 47th birthday, September 25, 2007.  I considered myself a writer/director for the first time. 

I've spent countless hours on many other film shoots...all for free. Anything I could get my hands on from grip to gaffer to standing around observing...I was there! And continued my studies online at least six to seven hours a day/night. STUDY, SHOOT, SLEEP...rinse, repeat. Not necessarily in that order. After writing many goals down of what I wanted to achieve, several came true quite quickly.
Richard Arnold, Dan Stiles & MEL for Golf Channel

I was soon hired by NEP, a huge company out of Pittsburgh to work as a Cameraman Assistant and a Utility Crewman for The Golf Channel in October 2007 for the Ginn sur Mer Classic in Port Saint Lucie. I was still very green for this type of big production but I didn't care. I was finally making green while I was on the green!


On November 4, 2007, Jim York hired me to be a Line Producer at the school that I just graduated from. Wow, now I can put all my efforts into helping other students learn the craft of filmmaking and hopefully inspire them as much as I've been inspired over the past few months and make a little money at it. 

Later in November, 'Miss Fyer' won two awards at the Rochester International Short Film Festival in Missouri; Best Audio and Best Female Performer (Carole Wood). That came with a $200 prize for the director in which I humbly accepted.
Line Producer Michael Eldon Lobsinger with student Julio Coutinho, 2009

But now that I'm a line producer, I had to step up my game even more being that I would be the one that students would be looking up to. More pressure, meant much more studying, more research, more learning and more sacrifices. I loved it all and dove right in. As my funds were dwindling down fast, I had to really buckle down even more, (no dating, no dinner outings, no a/c in the house and no heat/or drying laundry; other things like no subscription magazines, no pest control, no clothes shopping and I mostly ate cereal, grill cheese and PB&J sandwiches and was just loving life.


At times I even thought to myself, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' cause, man was I rolling fast, working periodically on 14 to 19 hour day film shoots (that's being kind); mostly from West Palm Beach to South Miami, Cooper City and even Belle Glade, FL. And I live way out of the way in Port Saint Lucie, FL. My longest film shoot was 26 hours down in Hollywood, Florida. But hey, my was passion screaming loud and I was earning the respect in this business. 

Actor C. Todd Vittum and MEL (Commercial)
With many compliments during my on-set filmmaking/teachings, I was always uncomfortable when asked how long I've been doing this. When you've only been in the film business for less than a year and you're out on location teaching students everything about basic filmmaking (confidently), and being able to inspire them as they achieve their own passion, it was quite exciting but difficult to spit the answer out. Of course some students and a lot of actors thought I was doing this all my life which was a huge compliment I'd always take.


But that's the energy, knowledge and enthusiasm I wanted to bring to the table. What was more important to me than anything was to gain the respect from the students and other teachers to let them know and see that I was a thousand percent into making them as excited to make a film as I was and still am.

Darin Perron of DMS
What I was really trying to do is cram 10 years of film business into three being that I found my passion really late in life. About this same time, I decided to call a former classmate of mine, Darin Perron. His company, Digital Motion Studios (DMS) specializes in filming commercials and marketing videos and I asked if he needed any help. He brought me on as a freelance cameraman and soundman. A little more work, yes! Not only did I do some assistant camera work but also acted in a couple paid commercials. Things were falling into place for me slowly but surely.
First Music Video Directed By MEL



For the production of my second film, I chose to do a music video for the song, 'Falling' written by Aerik Nagel, the lead guitarist for the band former band, Godwired, in which I was the guitarist. I like the fact that the project was another step or two up for me and not too big for me to handle; a two page shotlist and treatment of the storyline; five characters (musicians), three locations and lots of 'B' roll. I had 14-one hour long DV tapes to edit for a 7 minute long music video which included an intro. I might have went overboard on the 'B' roll footage. The music video premiered in April of 2008. I was very pleased when my second film was complete! It got some wonderful rave reviews at private screenings and via internet streaming.

Next was the opportunity to work for The Medical Tourism Association which promotes health care overseas. MTA, being a huge client of DMS, Darin was hired to produce and direct promos for the company which in turn, he hired me to be one of his cameramen for the filming of interviews and conventions they have yearly. So, I did some traveling to Mexico (2008), L.A. (2009 & 2010) and Chicago (2011). Now I felt like a filmmaker at work and was building my portfolio very well.

Filming in Mexico for M.T.A.
After a while, I became the  only LP for all the students at both the Palm Beach and Miami Film Schools (2008) and soon I logged in being on over 150 film locations. It was now time to write another screenplay and direct again. So, after a bit of a writing block, and after writing for 10 months and finishing several drafts, 'Interfearence' was filmed and release October 2009. It was a 5 day shoot which took 8 months to film. I took on more characters since I was now experienced and knew what to expect on set. (Four locations, six characters, 24 page script).


'Interfearence' - Florida's Choice Award at the TCIFF 2009
I know what you're thinking. It took 8 months to film a five day shoot? Welcome to filmmaking with volunteers and no budget and working with other people's schedules. I accomplished it though and ended up playing the main role after unsuccessfully not being able to cast anyone (again). Some things are just meant to be. I was actually very happy with the outcome.

The film went on to win Florida's Choice Award at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival in 2010. This was the third film where Darin Perron was my DP. 

Other experiences for me included filming Horse Training Shows for a few companies. I've been to Ocala, Wellington and West Palm Beach, FL for clinics and filmed interviews and horse riders from all over. That's what's great about this business, you just never know where you'll end up and what you'll be filming. 

Let me tell you, if you're in need of some camera experience in trying to follow moving objects and maintaining focus and keeping a steady frame, filming horse riders is the perfect solution for any green camera op.

Jim Brandon Equestrian Ranch
It really trains your eye and hand coordination in moving the camera and keeping the appropriate shot continuously.

In 2010, more freelance work came around when another one of my students, David J. Cowan, Sr. of Palm Beach Video wanted an experience cameraman for web videos, depositions and other marketing videos.
David J. Cowan Sr. of Palm Beach Vide0




I had a goal of being on at least 200 film shoot locations by February 12, 2010, three years later after I sat down for the first time in class. Well, I ended up with 205 under my belt ranging from student films, commercials, infomercials, music videos and even documentaries. 

I was now in progress with my fourth film, a musical documentary, 'Birth of a Band' (2010).
 
Jim York and our client, singer/composer Tommy Mitchell, trusted me as a producer, director and editor as I  followed and filmed the behind the scenes of 12 talented musicians that all came together for one live concert. I needed good camera op's so I brought on board professional cameramen who were actually the ones that taught me a lot in this business just a few years back, my teachers, Matt Miller and Steve Devlin. Also on board were, two other awesome camera op's, David J. Cowan, Sr. and Zac Rakszawski. The project took over a year to complete and the film premiered in December of 2010.

Co-Winner for Best Documentary at TCIFF (2011)
In April of 2011, the film was the Co-Winner for Best Documentary at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival.

Now, as all this was feeling very good to me, I thought by now my 'three year plan' would have kicked in being I thought I would be able to make some sort of living by now, but that has not happened yet. I was sinking badly with my financial duties and was asking myself, 'go back to my old life?' NO! Not an option! Some work was available and even if it wasn't there, payment-wise, I took it anyway, again  just  for more experience.

Once the documentary was complete, I was overjoyed by knowing I finished another huge challenge. Now is was time to relax some but I knew still that I wasn't capable of doing that. By now, being that my three year plan has now turned into a 5 year plan, I just knew I had to accept it and keep on making films.


Within a month, I was all ready to take on another project, my fifth film. But since 'Birth' was my biggest project to date, I decided to lay low and collaborate with a very good friend of mine for my next film.

Amanda Sofia & Dylan Fernandez
Director Jack Mendes of JVM Productions and myself listened to a song called 'Buried Traces' that was written by Amanda Sofia (formerly of Godwired) and we both were blown away by it. Jack and I decided to co-direct and co-edit a music video for her. So, for almost a year with difficulty in finding time to shoot, deciding on the story concept and dealing with scheduling conflicts, we finally completed the video. It was released via internet streaming on August 30, 2011.

Co-directors MEL & Jack Mendes
  
Co-Directed by MEL and Jack Mendes
So, there you have it, five films in film years and I've been on over 350 or so film shoot locations now (I've stopped counting) and have been a cameraman for several in-state and out of state projects.

I've won awards for three of my films. But I've always taught my students to not concentrate on the 'award thing' and just to make films they're passionate about.

I believe, seriously, that films should be made because of personal interests and to never think about winning awards. I felt the same when I was coaching my daughters softball team. I'd tell them 'it ain't about winning at your level right now, it's all about about learning the discipline and earning the respect' along with the game'. 

MEL at TCIFF (2011)
And I have earned respect in this business as a filmmaker and only wish to earn more. I'll never know enough about it as it just continues to move forward vastly, but that's the beauty of it.

It may seem like a boasting blog here but let me be clear again; I'm blogging only to build up my fan-base to inspire others and mostly because, I know there is someone out there that is at a dead end street somewhere. And that person may want to change it for the better (whether to become a filmmaker, firefighter, carpenter or whatever). And I am one to tell you that if it's your passion, it can be done.

My oldest student was 72 and he said to me, 'I just wanna make a movie before I die; it's something I've always wanted to do'. It surely ain't easy and I don't want to mislead or say that following your passion is easy, cause it's not. It will take a lot of those two words I said before: 'discipline and sacrifice' plus a severe amount of positive attitude and a smile on your face to let others know you're just fine. 

Jack Mendes of JVM Production
Hey, I'm still broke but my spirits are richer than ever and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life. And that's what makes it worth it.

If you can get to a point in your life where you feel that every day is a Friday...then, my friend, you've made it, in my opinion.

I have always been a firm believer that money comes from extreme hard efforts. And it will. Of course this damn economy surely didn't help matters for me. It hit hard at the same time I quit my day job. Did it stop me. NO! I followed my gut!

I just kept going and will continue to keep going 100mph in this film life until I can feel like I can't go anymore.


And hopefully, I can be rocking it like my idol, Clint Eastwood and still be making films when I'm 82. The legend is 82 today, May 31, 2012, and was filming in Georgia just a few months ago.

next blog about latest film

Just so happened, two years ago, on May 31, 2010, (on Clint's 80th birthday), I began taking napkin notes on a new idea for my first feature screenplay. Finally, I felt I was ready for the writing adventure.


One of my idols, Clint Eastwood

And what a writing adventure it was! But during this time, I was able to complete my sixth film, another documentary about a young boy with Asperger Syndrome. More about all this coming soon on my next 'shorter' blog. So, anyway, it would make my day, (since you read this blog up to this point), if you'd could jot down any comments or questions. 

So, as I close out this blog out, finally...I'll quote a little catch phrase from the Academy Award Winner, Legend, Clint Eastwood from his Dirty Harry days as Harry Callihan (Sudden Impact, 1983):

'Go Ahead, Make My Day!'

I hope I've made yours, Peace out... -MEL

D.P. Michael Eldon Lobsinger with Director Michael Chasin on set of Chasin's Award Winning short film,  'Death & Life'.  Filmed at The Miami Film School. My longest film shoot to date, 26 hours. With Actress Jane Irelan and Director Jo Ellen Hoffman (on Sound)