Union rules... 
Saturday, May 5, 2007, 02:35 AM
The crew, I found, were universally tolerant of the fact that this was the first time I'd been involved in anything related to the trade, and they made do, with a typically stoic Britishness, whenever they asked "do we have a blatantly-obviously-needed-thing?" and I said that the thought of a blatantly-obviously-needed-thing had never even occurred to me. Then I'd apologise, and go off to find one. Admittedly, I never thought to ask them if they knew offhand where I might find a structural surveyor at 1am on a Sunday morning in the middle of a field, to inspect the beam we'd be hanging someone off.

They could have been shits about it: I'm sure they could've whipped out some union rule that said there must be teaspoons. They didn't.

And I think I understand what unions are for, now. Union rules are there to let the little man (the rigger or the gaffer or whomever) stand up to asshole bosses and say "no" when they need to, and still expect to get paid. If they are being expected to do stuff that is above and beyond what they are being paid for, or they aren't being given what was agreed, then they shouldn't be forced into it. That includes not being treated with common decency.

So there are certain things which simply should not have been doable, which were done anyway. Fergle asked if a certain lighting arrangement could be done, which would allow them to do certain shot in a particularly nice way. "Sorry mate: union rules". But some time later I walked past one of the crew, on his break, coffee beside him, tinkering with a screwdriver inside the equipment in question. He saw me watching him and grinned: "Don't tell the Union".

He explained that Fergle had respected his opinion on the matter, and had taken the loss of the shot without argument, as one professional accepting another's decision. So, he'd decided to do it anyway, as a gift: union members are not servants of the rules, the rules are a tool for the members to use, if they want.

To save them getting in trouble with the union, I'll keep my word, and not tell on the specific crew member. And even once the episode's out, I'm not going to tell you which specific shot it made possible. But it is a kinda nice shot. Then again, all the lighting's great, so you'll hopefully never spot it.

Though, it may not even make the final cut: there may be continuity issues, with shots filmed before the equipment worked, and afterwards. So the gift may end up on the cutting room floor. Or in this digital age, I should say it may end up in the bit-bucket.

MaxTrivia: The film was the one of the first films shot in the UK with the new Arriflex D-20 digital camera and as we understand, the first indie film anywhere to use it. Manipulating things in post may have been somewhat easier to do if we'd been able to record straight to a hard drive, but at the time there weren't any drives available for the D-20 that were big enough to capture the footage. So our hand was forced; we had to shoot on HDCAM SR tapes instead.

Though it's not my field, editing is done on a reduced-quality digitisation of the masters, called the "offline". The offline has the exact same timings as the master, so once the editing is done, the changes can be applied to the full-quality masters, to get the finished product.

So, to give an inkling of the size we'd have needed for filming, the offline is currently about a hundred gigs, after about two week's editing it, and they haven't finished yet.

MaxTrivia: The best moments are always off camera. While warming themselves against the space-heater as the set was being readied for another shot, Max and Volpé started throwing their lines at eachother in alternative accents: menacing "Goodfellas" accents, mincing camp accents, and so forth. It was hilarious, perfectly done, and is lost to all but our memories.

MaxJuicyTidbit: And also the most likely part of this post to get censored: I was speaking in earlier poses about some of the future episodes being made. When talking about one of those, the director just used the phrase "many huge explosions". Ooh yeah. I really like where his mind is at.

Dewi Morgan,
Associate Producer.
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I cannot disclose that type of information... 
Saturday, April 28, 2007, 02:48 PM
Here's today's juicy MaxNews, right up front! Work has begun on the second episode. Actually, it's the first, though it will be the second to be released. So, since they're being released out-of-order, à la Star Wars, work has begun on the second which is really the first, and hence precedes the first, which is really the third. But that sounds Lukian in its obfuscation, so I'll just say that we're planning on shooting and releasing the episodes in the order 3, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. Obviously that might change, and probably will: but that's the plan. The idea being that we get the ones that can stand alone shot first, so that even if we don't complete it, nothing will be wasted.

Episode one, of course, has to set the scene, which means we establish Payne as a detective in the NYPD. Because you didn't know that, right? One of the resources we expected to be a ton of help with all this was the NYPD press office. After all, probably hundreds of movies a week are shot involving the NYPD, so they'll have all that info at their fingertips, right? They'll probably even have an info-pack for film-makers.

No. Their job appears to be to BLOCK any and all media and press queries dead.

They have a standard response to any query. Luke called them up to ask about the numbers on the officers' lapels the other day. Almost certainly these are precinct numbers, but we wanted to be sure - no "fixing it in post". Also, though most precincts have numbers, Max' precinct is listed, even on the official NYPD website as "Midtown North". The precinct list goes "17th, Midtown North, 19th". We're pretty sure that means that the officers in his precinct would have an 18 on their lapels... but what if they have "MN" or something instead?

So Luke rang up. "Hi, I'm the producer of a movie filming in the UK: I'm just calling to verify that the numbers on your official uniform are the precinct numbers."

He was transferred around from department to department until he lost count, and none of them were able to help. Finally, he got through to one department who's job it was to deal with such queries.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I'm afraid I cannot disclose that type of information."

"But... the information's clearly in the public domain. I could just walk into the street in that precinct and look at the collar of the next policeman I saw! How could it be sensitive information?"

"Again, I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm afraid I cannot disclose that type of information."

"Do I SOUND like a terrorist to you?"

"I'm sorry, Sir. I'm afraid I..."

So, if there are any real NYPD buffs out there, or members of the force, it'd be great to hear from you about the things that the media always gets wrong, and which annoy you. Sure, Max Payne's world is an unrealistic, comic-book world, where most cops are bent cops and a policeman with serious problems (emotional trauma, anger management, excessive prescription drug use to name but few) can shoot countless hundreds of baddies and still return to work. But that's no reason to get the small details wrong.

If there's specific stuff (like the 555- thing for phone numbers) that the NYPD would like us to get deliberately wrong, we'd love to be told so that we can Do The Right Thing... but their press office refuses to even tell us any of that. Which seems a teensy bit insane, but there we go.

If any expert in that field wants to help us out there, we'd appreciate it. We're not terrorists, I swear.

We've put a lot of effort into getting these little things right. Like sidearms: we've established that although the NYPD did once have an official handgun (Beretta M9, I believe?), it's now the responsibility of the individual officers to purchase and maintain their own equipment and weaponry and they get a reasonable amount of leeway in that. So we selected the weapons of the officers to best reflect their personality and their role in the story.

We couldn't find any description of how badge numbers were allocated by the NYPD, but it appears the numbers are recycled: they seem simply too short (4 digits or fewer) to be eternally unique per policeman. Even if they're only unique within that precinct or badge-type, 10,000 possibilities is just too few, and a google image search shows many active officers with numbers in the low end of the range. So again, we've given the characters badge numbers that represent their role in the story, other than Max, who keeps his own badge number from the game: 8349, I think.

In radical contrast, the Remedy team, and everyone involved in the original game, have been surprisingly awesome and helpful. Seriously lots and LOTS of them. Do check out the credits when we release, because the amount of help and support and encouragement we've had has blown me away. This was the exact opposite of the case with the NYPD: we were expecting to get no help whatsoever from anyone involved with the game, since after all we're rather stepping on their toes here.

MaxTrivia: in researching for the film, we asked the game crew whether the badge number 8349 had any particular significance. In fact, the badge image used in the game had been taken straight from a stock photography archive, and the numbers meant nothing to them. Well, now they do: they're his badge number, so if you see someone catching "flight 8349", you'll know it's a reference.

MaxTrivia: The stock photo used as Max' badge in the game was a Patrolman badge, when he should have had a Detective badge. While, in-game, this was small enough that it didn't matter, it'd be sufficiently obvious in the film that we've had to change that, and give him the right badge. This is one of the few cases where we have allowed a real-life fact to override what was established as canon in the game, and it took a fair bit of discussion.

In the end it came down to: which will maintain immersion for more people? We decided that almost no players would have noticed the badge shape and associated it with Payne (the badge image in the game was so small that we'd spent some time deciphering the numbers). Those few players that had noticed the badge shape would probably not have a problem with the fact that he might own more than one badge or have a different style badge at another time. But any US police officers watching would have immersion ruined by seeing a Detective using the a Patrolman's badge: it would be an obvious blooper to them, and would mar the film.

MaxNews: The rough cut of the first 18-minute episode is in the director's hands, and he IM'd me to say "The cut, even as rough as it is, looks pretty fuckin' awesome."

So the race between that and the trailer is definitely on.

Dewi Morgan,
Associate Producer.
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Fix it in post... 
Monday, April 23, 2007, 11:06 PM
Well, I've been pressured into writing here, apparently it's "my responsibility as associate producer" or somesuch. And I try hard to be a good assprod, so I'll be trying to slip you all as many hard facts and juicy tidbits past the censors as I can. Don't expect spoilers, they wouldn't let me do that, but I should at least be able to give you some numbers, names, status updates and random trivia. The idea is that I post every day or two until the "something long awaited and very cool" gets here. Yes, we want it faster, too. No, I can't make it happen faster, it's like a pizza delivery: it'll come when it comes.

Back when the project was little more than some informal handshake-agreements and a twinkle in our eyes, I started hearing a phrase: "fix it in post".

That worried me. When I was a child, my family moved to Greece, where my father worked in the building trade. Explaining why the walls on the island had not one straight edge or rightangle, he said that the people laying the foundations left it to the bricklayers to straighten things up; the bricklayers left it to the plasterers; and the plasterers left it to the painters. Nobody accepted that stuff was their problem.

So... what if we got Max' badge number or design wrong, only to discover the correct way later? "Fix it in post". What if we used a clearly non-American prop without realising? "Fix it in post." What if... "Fix it in post."

Even though it was usually used tongue-in-cheek, the speaker knowing that the thing being discussed would be a right bugger to fix in post, we all argued strenuously against such a seductive idea. Even joking about it might let that idea stick. There's no earthly way the film could be perfect, but clearly, the less we have to fix, the closer it will be in the end.

The others felt the same: if we want to get close to perfection, we have to aim for it, not aim for 80% of perfect, then hope to paint over the cracks at the end.

So every detail is as right as we can make it; badges, coins, electrical fittings... it's a lot more of a big deal here in the UK where everything is so subtly-different, and the temptation is to just use UK electrical fittings and hide them, use UK coins out of focus, and so on. But no.

We had to consider things like... does the US have a standard handedness for the hot and cold taps? They drive on the other side of the road, and have clearly different makes of car, so any shot of a vehicle, a road, a sign (not only do roadsigns look different, they face the other way!), or even a rack-n-pinion steering system was a problem. Fortunately, in this episode, only the last was even close to being an issue.

Every single item on set had to be checked over. That rusty can of screws being used for colour: does it have a metric thread? A piece of electrical equipment displayed the British Standards Institute kitemark - something so ubiquitous to us that we only just caught it. Even if we used hidden switches, the actors would have to be careful that their habitual motions wouldn't reveal their Britishness: because British light-switches work the other way up.

Any visible labels had to be checked for clearly British makes, or for British spelling. A can of "varnish" would be OK... but not a can of "Ronseal Varnish", nor a can of "wood colouring".

Given it was somewhat of an outside shoot in the countryside, we had to ask ourselves, about every plant in shot - "is this a plant that would be unlikely to be seen in this area of the US at this time of year? And if it would be seen, should it be flowering or budding or whatever, rather than what it's doing now?" This was fun because none of us really knows anything about plants. But some viewers will.

I overheard a conversation:

"What's that?"

"Um... grass?"

"But is it AMERICAN grass?"

"I dunno. It's green and pointy. What does American grass look like?"

"It's got seeds on. Does American grass do that this time of year? Is it acting American enough?"

"Well, if you're worried, I can make it a little tiny stetson to wear. And we can get it some voice training..."

I am not sure how they decided to deal with the grass in the end - I don't think it was ever even in shot.

MaxTrivia: there were some props that we just couldn't get in time. Over here, there is a common perception that US-sized beer bottles are dinky little things for girly-men, but all we could do was go around the local bars and ask for their empties: the bottles you may see in the floor in some shots may therefore be slightly the wrong size. They also caused us any number of headaches in continuity as they kept getting kicked and rolling about, so they're probably a good thing to watch for continuity bloopers, if you're into that.

Dewi Morgan,
Associate Producer.
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A few updates... 
Sunday, March 25, 2007, 11:49 PM
Evenin' troops,

First off, the poster on the front page now reads "2007"... This is because we're not in the year 2006 anymore, and in case anyone wasn't paying attention, we sort of missed that estimated release date anyway.

Secondly, something long awaited and very cool is coming your way soon...


Fergle "Larry David" Gibson,
Writer & Director.

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I'm no Vista... 
Monday, February 12, 2007, 05:44 PM
...I'm not even a Service Pack. At best, I might be described as a Critical Security Update for Internet Explorer.

Mac users, you are excused for not having a clue what I am on about - I'm just impressed that you can even read this!

(that was a 'Mac-users-are-stupid' joke - oh well, at least there's only 2 of them to get offended...)

Now of course, all of my PC compadres will clued up as to what I'm on about - I'm talking about Updates of course! I was comparing the updates I have for you to Windows updates. Ok, ok, you can stop laughing now.

My leeches, your comments are mighty scornful. With each one I read, a tear falls from my eye onto my thumb. I am then forced to flick it off my thumb, using a standard 'clicking' technique, which as we all learned from Bono & Bob, causes an African child to die. So please, for the sake of the children, stop posting comments that make me cry!

So you want an update? Here's one - nothing. Independent films take time, because they run into trials and tribbles. We might have a trailer out for you soon, but I can't guarantee anything yet. What I can guarantee you is that it will be released, quicker than Duke Nukem, but it will take time - in the mean of which, though, if you find yourself getting chafed, click this link, print out and remember that good things come to those who wait...

Yours disappointed to learn that Cameron Diaz in fact has no breasts,
Luke "Jeff Garlin" Morgan-Rowe
Producer what thinks that Papua New Guinea is an island shaped a bit like a dinosaur.

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