Tag Archives: Peter Bogdanovich

Behind the Title: AlphaDogs colorist Sean Stack

NAME: Sean Stack

COMPANY: Burbank’s AlphaDogs

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We are a post production facility focused on online finishing, including color correction and audio mixing. We also have graphic artists and complete duplication, format conversion and tape output capabilities.

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the most surprising thing to the layman would be how much control I can have over the image and what that means for the production.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Primarily, I work in DaVinci Resolve for color grading, and we have both Mac and PC systems capable of the same work. I also color correct in Avid Symphony. The choice of system is guided by the requirements of the project.

For example, if I am working on a documentary or feature I would most likely be using Resolve to re-link and conform the sequence to the camera source files for grading, allowing access to the full quality and resolution of the source file. In the event I am finishing an unscripted reality-style television series, the sequence in Avid would be upres’d to a high-resolution format (such as DNxHD175) and graded using the Avid Symphony color correction tools.

Sunset Strip

‘Sunset Strip’ is just one of many projects Sean Stack has worked on.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Nearly every project I work on has additional work other than color correction. It ranges — some are simple edit tasks that are required to create delivery files, such as adding the final audio mix stems and exporting them with picture in the correct layout following the delivery specifications.

For a more complicated project I may be exporting DPX image sequences from Resolve of pre-graded scenes that will go to graphic artists for visual effects work. Then, once the VFX are complete, I will be cutting the final effect shots back into the final graded sequence. I’ve never been asked to do a hula dance and I am thankful for that, however I have been asked for my critical review of the project and that can be very tricky terrain to tread on. I always try to find something in every project that I like, because filmmakers need emotional support.

ARE YOU BEING ASKED TO DO MINOR VFX WORK TOO?
I do a ton of minor VFX work. My favorite fix is when you can just push-in to remove a problem, such as a boom mic dropping into the frame. Arguably, that instance may not be VFX but if you are talking about painting it out and I fix it, then it’s fixed. Minor perhaps, but I just saved the client major time and money. Other minor VFX work may include stabilizing shots, blurring objects and compositing several images together. A compositing example for a recent project involved adding footage inside a cell phone that was making a FaceTime call and also adding computer desktop images to laptop screens that were not powered up.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
When the clients and I get on the same wavelength and we are seeing the color working the same way. It means I get it and I can go forward with confidence, and once that trust is built the project will sail.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Unlocking the cut. Do everything to avoid unlocking the cut once you are in color and sound mix.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Good question. Making ice cream or maybe a landscape designer.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION? HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I’ve always wanted to be part of filmmaking and spent some years acting in professional non-equity theatre before discovering editing was what really made me happy.

Tom Petty

‘Running Down a Dream’

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most well-known project may be the Tom Petty documentary called Running Down a Dream, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Other projects of note would be Sunset Strip, a documentary on the history of the famous boulevard in Los Angeles.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I would have to say a documentary called Dying to Know about Timothy Leary and Ram Das. I’m proud of the work on that film because the filmmakers set a very high bar for me to achieve, and I feel like I met the expectation, and in some cases, exceeded it. In that feature length documentary, there was nearly every possible video format used, from archival film transfers of a Congressional inquiry to standard definition video captured in the early 1980s. The director has a fantastic eye for color and the producer is a talented photographer, so the color grading was highly scrutinized by experienced people, and that pushed me into learning new solutions.

Timothy Leary

‘Dying to Know’

This was one of the few projects where every stone was turned over to get the best out of every shot — if it meant going to the Teranex to convert footage to the proper frame-rate then it was done. There was a long interview section where camera A was an analog video format, Betacam, and footage from camera B was Digi Beta, so the sources looked very different. I was able to balance the sources to look very similar and the distraction of varied formats was removed. Do average viewers notice? I have to say, subconsciously they probably do, and there’s a value added to a program when there’s no distraction from the story. Editing, color correction, VFX and even audio mix should not be something the viewer is thinking about or even aware of, so my best work probably goes completely unnoticed and that’s the best possible scenario for the audience. Enjoy the show.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
I first try to find it within the project and footage I’m working on. I get on board with the story and, if the director has ideas, listen to those as well. If that still doesn’t get me involved, I might look at some clips from movies that have a similar feel to what I’m working on. Then I choose some music to listen to and usually stick with the genre through the project to keep my head in that space.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Graphics tablet, external video scopes and fast Internet.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram and Facebook, but really only for personal stuff. I have a LinkedIn account as well but I’m not very active. I’m not suggesting this is the wisest choice. I also have listings on IMDB, of course.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I golf and work on restoring my vintage VW bus, then go camping or hit the beach and just relax.

The A-List: Peter Bogdanovich on directing ‘She’s Funny That Way’

By Iain Blair

The legendary director/writer/producer/actor/author and film historian Peter Bogdanovich hit Hollywood like a tornado when his 1971 masterpiece, The Last Picture Show, scored eight Oscar nominations, winning two of those golden boys. He followed that up with more hits, including What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon. The latter won the Oscar for then 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal.

Since those heady days, Bogdanovich has had his ups and downs, and he’s largely spent most of the last 15 years working in TV, both behind and in front of the camera — he was a regular on The Sopranos and also directed an episode. Now he’s back with a new film, She’s Funny That Way, a screwball comedy about the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production, starring an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans and Imogen Poots.

Peter Bogdanovich and writer Iain Blair during their recent meeting in LA.

Peter Bogdanovich and writer Iain Blair during their recent meeting in Hollywood.

I met with the director — whose films include Mask, Texasville and Noises Off… — recently in Hollywood to talk about making the film, the challenges of posting it, and his take on cinema today.

The film was co-produced by some real heavyweights, including Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and in addition to the A-list cast, you also got cameos from Quentin Tarantino, Tatum O’Neal and Joanna Lumley. Did you just call them up?
Wes and Noah are good friends and helped me get this made, and with Quentin I called him. But he’s the most impossible person to reach on the phone, and I usually leave many messages before he finally calls back, but this time he just picked up the phone, said “yes” immediately and that he’d love to be in a Peter Bogdanovich film.

You shot and posted in New York?
Yes. We had a great time shooting it in New York. And while I like post and all the editing, I think my favorite part of the whole filmmaking process is the shoot itself and working with all the actors. I don’t like preproduction, and in post you can get into problems — you disagree with the producer or you don’t see eye-to-eye with the editor and you have arguments. So it can be very frustrating sometimes.

Was the post on this frustrating?
(Laughs) No, not as bad as some films I’ve done! We did all the post work at Harbor Picture Company in downtown New York. They’ve worked on a lot of great movies, like The Hundred-Foot Journey, as well as TV shows like Game of Thrones, and they did all the sound editorial, ADR and mixing as well as the DI. They did a great job. Robert Hein was our supervising sound editor. [Bobby Johanson was the ADR mixer and the ADR recordist was Mike Rivera.] For the DI they worked with the DP Yaron Orbach, as it was pretty straightforward. [Joe Gawler was the main colorist, with additional help from Roman Hankewycz. They both used DaVinci Resolve.]

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You used two editors on the film: Pax Wassermann, who has cut a lot of documentaries, including “Knuckleball!, and Nick Moore, who cut Notting Hill, About a Boy and Along Came Polly. Tell us about that relationship and how it worked?
Well, Pax was in New York and then we hired Nick when we came out to LA to finish the film, so they didn’t work together at all. Pax was there while we were shooting and did virtually the whole picture. So we had that cut, and we felt it needed a bit more work, and I was coming out to LA, so it just made sense to get another editor then, and we made some changes and shifted stuff around.

I quite enjoy the editing, but I shoot my films so they’ll cut a certain way. So the only thing that’s really left to argue about is what scenes should be in or out. Sometimes you win the fight, other times someone has a better point.

Did you get into fights this time in post?
Not with the editors. The producers disagreed a little bit, but it all worked out okay in the end. It’s just a natural part of the process.

There are a few visual effects shots in the film. What was involved?
There aren’t many… mainly those super-impositions at the start when Imogen’s talking about Tracy and Hepburn, and Bogart and Bacall. They were all done by The Molecule, which is based in New York and LA. Luke DiTommaso was the VFX supervisor. I’m not that big on VFX work, but they did a great job. [The Molecule provided around 15 shots. Effects created include set alterations, such as sign replacements, speed ramps, split screens and one shot where they connected a guy’s fist to someone’s face. The mostly used Nuke and Mocha Pro.]

You’ve been doing this a long time. What are the biggest changes in post — and movies in general — that you’ve seen since you started?
I figured out I’ve been in showbiz for 60 years, since 1955, and digital has been the biggest change. That’s made post – and shooting – so much easier, and faster, so I’m a fan. Digital editing systems were a true revolution.

I’m not a fan of all the superhero comic book movies they make now. They bore the shit out of me! If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, but Hollywood’s always been, “monkey see, money do.” Remember when Jim Cameron made Titanic? Everyone said it would be a disaster, with this huge budget of $150 million. “What’s he doing? He’s crazy! Out of his fucking mind!” Now, that’s Hollywood’s solution to everything — spend $150 million on some cartoon superhero. That’s why I don’t go to the movies much anymore. There’s so few I want to see, which is a bit sad.

Check out the trailer for She’s Funny That Way:

Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.