Cast & Crew Profile: Sonia Lowe

Todays cast and crew profile is a pretty exciting one! But before we dive in, I have to say that when I first met Sonia I was a little nervous. She had way more experience then I did, she had been working on commercial sets and big budget productions. So when she agreed to work as a script supervisor for a zero budget short film I was shooting, I jumped at the chance to have her on board!

She's the definition of what you would want from a producer or really anyone on your set for that matter. You'll see what I mean when you read some of her answers. Needless to say working with Sonia really helped me step up my game as a Director and Producer. It's because of people like her, people who already have some success under their belt and are willing to work with someone who is still getting their feet wet that I was able to grow from that short film experience. So without delay, here are Sonia's answers followed by a word of advice for those looking to break into the media world. Thank you Sonia for taking the time to share with us!

Name: Sonia Lowe
Country: Canada
Position: Producer
What got you into the film world? It evolved from my background as a magazine editor for print media. In short, I was approached to write a tribute book about Michael Jackson shortly after he passed away. 

Media exposure from the book led to broadcast content creation for television segments on Good Morning America, Oprah, Dateline NBC. etc This opened the door to subsequent opportunities freelancing as a Field Producer, interviewing celebrities and creating content for major brands like SyFy Channel, entertainment Tonight, USA Network, Dreamworks Ent. Which eventually led to my working as a Distribution Executive and Executive Producer for Independent feature Films, where I continue to hone my skills today. 

Who is your film icon? Quentin Tarantino - he's a genius. 

What makes a good film? High concept, believable performances, punchy dialogue, killer soundtrack....and  a director who understands the art of subtext & visual story telling. 


Who is your favourite character of all time? I have many so I'll name one from a film I saw recently: Jackie Brown

As far as powerful female characters go, she has a rare balance of intelligence, strength and  sensual energy which transcended atypical female roles in cinema. 

Not only is Tarantino a master of designing memorable and complex characters but he is also skillful at casting. Choosing Pam Grier as Jackie Brown because she exudes the essence of the character Tarantino aimed to capture, is why her performance felt authentic. 

Favourite animated movie and why? The little Mermaid because it reminds me of my childhood and ongoing fixation with the ocean. Not to mention....mermaids. Enough said. 

Also a big fan of Finding Nemo - it's an exceptional film with incredible dialogue. And again, takes place in the ocean...where mermaids live. 

And honorable mention for a foreign animated  film called Illusionist - because it's an absolute masterpiece. 


A tip for the next generation? Filmmaking is one of the biggest challenges and toughest industries to succeed in, but if you love this art form then stay strong, roll with the punches, stay flexible and don't ever quit --- few careers are as rewarding, in my opinion. Don't just learn your craft, master it. And if you're not prepared to have your heart broken, at least once, then the entertainment business is not for you. 

 

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Happy February!

Where to begin? I've been a bad friend and haven't posted in a while! There's no excuse really, I apologize.  

 

Now that we've taken care of that let's get back to it! With the Academy Awards (AKA The Oscars) fast approaching I always find myself wondering how I've never heard of a good chunk of these films. Does this make me a bad film maker? I hope not... I think it has more to do with the media and marketing for most of those films.

I guess I'll answer my own question in a way and talk it out. I wouldn't say people are bad or not film savvy for not seeing these great films. To be honest, unless you know where to look most of them aren't plastered all over the city like the next 50 shades movie. They're the films that are shown in art houses and at festivals- and that's the key right there. Festivals. tiff, Canes, Sundance, etc. This is where the buzz for these unseen films begins. It could start slow with an award or two however it could also cause a huge splash getting critics raving and the chat rooms flowing with praise.

Winning various awards at some of the most prestigious festivals will get you noticed by the big dogs. But let's get back to the main point- why haven't I heard of these films? Well some of them may not have the Transformers or Lord of the Rings budgets to pay for Super Bowl air time. Instead they've taken their limited budget and put it into festival entries (There not free ya know!) in hopes of following the above pattern which may get them some more cinema space and hopefully their name out in the world to shoot a new film with a bigger budget and more freedom. (That's my goal anyways)

There we have it. Want to see interesting films before they hit The Oscar nomination list? Take a trip down to your local film festival and give some a watch! You won't know exactly which ones will make it big but part of the fun of movies and festivals is the journey, the art and experiencing new things.

From here I promise to be a better friend and write more and would love to hear your ideas on what to talk about next!

 

James

 

How Do You Do It?

For real! How do you do it? What do you do after you've shot your promo video?

Great question! I may or may not have been asked this a few times this week so let's talk about that.

You've shot your video- hey that's awesome! Great job! Now comes the next part, editing. For some it's where all the magic happens, for others it's something that have to do because they can't afford an editor to do it. Either way if you want to take on the process yourself it may be a daunting task.

1st - first I upload all my favourite clips into my editing software. I know what ones are my favourite because I log them as we shoot to make this segment easier and less painful. Check mark.

2nd - I match my clips to the storyboard I out together for the client during the pre-production stage (see how it's all coming together?)

3rd - If it's going to have a custom audio track (which I love to have made for all my clients to make their work unique!) and a voiceover I remove all the audio tracks attached to the video and lay down a filler track of something I like. (note: do NOT edit your track to the beat of this tune or you'll have to redo it later. For me it's more to keep things fun and interesting during the process) 

4th - I start cutting down my clips to the appropriate length and add in my B-roll. Keeping the finished length in mind until the custom audio is complete.

5th - I lay down my custom track, make some adjustments to the cuts to match or not match the audio depending on what the client has specified. Add in some filters and let the final piece buffer away!

6th - Share with the client, make some changes based on criticisms, bask in the compliments, and take some time to see what you did right and what you could improve on later.

7th - Now you rock, relax and go enjoy the rest of your day!

I hope this has helped someone and gives you a bit more insight into how we're doing things here at SevenSeas Productions. 

Cheers!

James

So You Want To Shoot Your First Film

Well, congrats on that! 

Now the hard work begins. But where do you start? 

Well where's your script? Don't have one? That's where we will start and I'll try to keep this as organized as possible. 

1- Get your script. Write it yourself or get a writer on board who can bring your ideas to life or who may already have a script ready to shoot. This is the starting point for all the steps to follow. Choose or write your script carefully, write what you know and keep your future budget in mind. So maybe leave out the massive War of The Worlds alien invasion or the Game of Thrones battle scenes. Period pieces will cost you big time when it comes to your budget.

2- Pre-Production! Time to put in work! The more you spend quality time in pre-pro the better your shoot will be and the smoother the entire process with be. So what's involved with pre-production you may ask? This stage is where you'll secure your funding (if any!), you'll find and scout your locations, bring on your cast and crew, break down your script for shooting, put together your story boards and sort out what you're going to do when your film is done. (festivals, releases, youtube, vimeo etc)

Oh, and of course you're going to make sure all your contracts are good to go. There's a number of good programs out there that can really help with this overwhelming portion of being an independent film maker. Now let's be honest, this part...pre-production...is the main reason most films don't get made. So push through and get it done and you'll be that much farther ahead then the masses. 

3- Lights, Camera, ACTION! It's time to shoot! YAY! This is where the magic comes to life. This is where you'll shoot with your cast and crew and you'll find out it takes multiple takes and a bunch of angles to get everything just right. Don't believe me? Watch a 5 min clip from your favourite movie and there's a good chance you'll see just how many angles they actually use. Each angle has multiple takes, lighting set ups. camera set-ups, make-up and hair touch ups and don't forget to scrutinize your continuity logs! 

Once you've called it a wrap on your shoot that's it right? WRONG! Now comes post.

4- Post-Production! Now you have hours of footage, so what do you do with it? Edit. Be ruthless and know you have to get your film down to a set time (some festivals require a certain time length) But what to cut? If it doesn't move the story forward or add to the overall film drop it. you may love the 10 minute tracking shot down the back graffiti filled alley but does it do anything for the story? Probably not. 

In post you'll also edit your audio, do any additional voice recordings, add your sound effects then move on to colour correction and find out if you need any pick-up shots or retakes. Then, well then I think your film is done. You probably won't and you could probably go on tweaking it forever but at some point you need to know when to release your creation into the world and take some feedback with an open mind and open heart and get going on your next project!

Ok, so I tried to keep this as concise as possible so don't go crazy with these guidelines but if you'd like to discuss more we would love to hear from you! The more people create, the more creative people will be. Happy Shooting and feel free to leave any comments or feedback below. (see what I did there?)

James

SevenSeas Productions

Where'd it all begin?

The title says it all, where'd it all begin? 

My love for film and video really goes back to high school where I took every art or media class available. Our school didn't have the best of equipment so I learned to do all my editing on old VHS tapes and a VHS editing deck. No computers, no final cut, no iPhones. We had VHS camera's and our editing deck, that's all! So I fell in love with the hands on experience of making videos. It was hard, the videos were horrible but it sparked the dream of making movies. 

From there my next step was the Toronto Film School, which I credit my amazing wife (dating at the time) for pushing me to follow my dreams and take action to make them a reality. I did and I loved every aspect of it! I took advantage of the opportunities in front of me and dove in with excitement. It was during school that I realized if I wanted to make it in the video world I'd have to take matters into my own hands. From there SevenSeas Productions was born. 

I'll keep this first post short and minus all the heavy details - I think that's a good place to start. Stay tuned for more posts where we'll get specific on certain subjects, gear reviews and fun stuff along this awesome journey!

Cheers for now!

James