Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Previously on the Mental Records blog: Team 7 Minutes Late had escaped from the evil clutches of the sun, completing their filming with mere moments to spare. Now, with the clock ticking, our heroes wage a battle of epic proportions against a slew of footage, in an effort to beat the clock. Will they produce a funny film before time runs out!?


Yeah, so Sunday didn't start out as slam-bang as that. I leisurely arrived at the Bowmans around 9AM, refreshed, with a 12 pack of Dew on hand, and prepared to finalize the editing with Scott. We had until 7:30PM that evening, and we had a lot to accomplish.

Keith and Jason were off-site, sprinkling their computer wizardry on our handful of FX shots.

A sickly Nicholas (with the assistance of his band, The Map and the Territory) worked from home on our score, the aptly titled tune, 'Hobo Picnic.'

Scott and I began working on the remainder of the rough cut. The film was in a good place, with only a few tricky scenes to edit in their entirety. A good portion of the film was cut together, though, so we were feeling pretty good. Silly us.

Chris arrived, using his extreme allergic reaction to cats as an excuse to sit on the back patio, in the glorious sun-dappled day, to compile our paperwork.

I'd like to say that there were strong disagreements and verbal battles as far as the editing is concerned, but it all went pretty smoothly. As the day wore on, though, we found ourselves glancing at the clock more frequently. Communication with Keith and Jason was tricky, but when we received the first of our FX shots - Dave holding out the sandwich in slo-mo - and proceeded to laugh riotously, we knew we were on the right track.

Morning became afternoon.

Lunch was pretzels and soda. There was no time to waste. Our post-production supervisor, the adorable Jack, was on our ass, eager for the damn film to be finished.

Jason worked tirelessly on the shot of Dave passing through Sam, finally nailing it and then driving his hog over to the Bowmans to assist with sound.

Keith continued to finish the remainder of the shots, completing our title card and end credits.

Nick, the trooper that he is, arrived with a CD of finished music.

TJ, our talented cinematographer, swooped in to sit with Scott for the color correction process.

By four o'clock, after picture had been locked and effects shots added, I found myself bouncing from person to person. Had we crossed our 'T's? Check. Dotted our...lowercase 'i's? Check.

Were we on time? No, dammit.

Six o'clock was nearing. We had told ourselves that six was our stop time, the time we would pull the plug on post and burn our final film. Well, we were just starting sound downstairs (Jason working feverishly on a second laptop), our color correction was not quite finished, and we had not rendered out a final file.


Finally, Jason rushed upstairs with our final sound track. Scott imported it, making sure it synched up.


This is always the time when I get extremely, and justifibly, anxious. With Love Me For My Mind, this was the time we found we had exported the incorrect timeline, thus making our film 7 minutes late. Hell, even with Open House, we did not anticipate the export time, and it almost cost us. But Scott assured me he had run the tests, and knew the export time.

So he converted it to standard definition (I know, ugh! More on this in a second) and set up a Quicktime data file to burn.

Jason revved up his hog, ready to Evil Knievel his ass to the drop-off point, if necessary. He had the paperwork in one hand, his helmet in the other (see, remember kids, wear a helmet), and all he needed was a DVD from Scott.


The disc ejected, and Jason shot out of the Bowman's like a bat out of Hades.

That was when we noticed something.

In the transition to standard definition from high definition, the FX shots were, well, affected. Some of them grew stuttery - not jarringly so, but enough to notice. Which brings me to one problem with the whole experience...

I know this is a competition where anyone can participate. I love that fact. Creativity can come from anywhere. And for those teams who are not as experienced with cameras and editing equipment, submitting a film in standard definition is not only the preferred choice, but the only choice. But the festival only accepts standard definition projects, a fact that is detrimental to teams who are experienced, and who have taken the time and expense to shoot their film in high definition. To not offer an alternative is frustrating, considering that each team pays to join, then pays to make their film (and rent equipment, in most cases), and then pays to come see their film screen. So the fact that the film on the big screen is not entirely representative of the hard work and effort displayed by a particular team is depressing.

Okay, okay, rant over. Stepping down from the soapbox.

We prepped a second version, a back-up version of our film, on DV tape. Jason was to wait until the last possible moment to submit, in an effort to correct our stuttery FX shots with a different entry.

I started my car. Set the GPS. Knew where I was going and when I would arrive.

Then saw Scott with his head on his desk.

Apparently, the DV transfer was creating black frames between certain edits, so he pulled the plug. We would only submit one copy. The stuttery copy.

Jason called from the drop-off point. We were in.

The film was submitted at 7:23PM.


I kid you not.

And that, my friends, is the long-winded behind the scenes story about the making of...

FINAL THOUGHTS: The film screened well. We got laughs in the right places. It was a strong entry. Sadly, though, it did not win the 'Audience Award' for its night, and was not asked to screen as part of the 'Best Of Minneapolis.' Oh well. There were some strong films this year. Do I think ours is as good or possibly better than some I have seen? Yes. Of course, I'm biased. We did receive a nomination for both 'Best Director' and 'Best Editing', so we have that going for us. Did the 48 Hour Film Festival showrunners inform us of our nominations? Nope. We learned that after the fact. The experience has made us a little disillusioned toward the whole process, and we have decided that in the end, we just need to make a film on our own terms, without having to cram a stilted line of dialogue into the film, or have our sound guy driving so fast that, were his motorcycle equipped with a flux capacitor, he'd be playing Johnny Be Goode at the 'Enchantment Under the Sea' dance.

Thanks to the entire cast and crew. It was a pleasure to work with all of you, and I'd gladly do it again. Whether or not you feel the same way remains to be seen.

And thanks to you, Occasional Reader, for indulging me. I will now return to my regularly scheduled blogging.

*If you haven't seen 'Ghost Beef Sandwich,' I will post the film as soon as I can.*

Monday, June 29, 2009


Saturday we were greeted by sunshine. Thank God. In previous years, the weather for the 48 was often rainy or uncertain. Chirping birds and cloudless skies were something different and new. And very welcome, considering half of our film took place outdoors.

As the crew assembled at 7AM, I stared at the giant orb in the sky and knew already that it was going to be our greatest enemy. As crew were assigned their various corners of the Bowman home, joyfully sipping their coffee, I pictured us at the end of the day, frantically cursing and hurrying to get shots.

We started our day inside (another fact that left me a little nervous). After picking out Rich's suit - an inspired, striped outfit that happily reminded me of Al Calavicci from Quantum Leap) - and Sam's lime sherbet polo, we prepared to shoot the kitchen scene with Emily.

The scene went well, and is probably the funniest in the flick. Emily, the true sport that she was, had Sam and his bagel breath moaning in her ear and kept a straight face...most of the time. Though I'm pretty sure Sam was the one who broke character first.

* Side note: Let's take a minute to revel at the glory of Sam's mustache. Sure, we had to add a little color to it to make it pop on camera, but boy, ain't that a pretty sight?

Sorry, back to it. Next up was Charlie Gerber and the run-through. They always say, never work with kids or animals. I don't see why not. Charlie nailed it. He yipped loudly at the perfect moment, and hit his mark every time. We followed Charlie's professional performance by using fishing line to yank a picture frame off an end table, taking hunks of the Bowman's living room wall with us each take. Whoops.

Visitors arrived. Jen, Alex, Liz, and Gwyn stopped by for a little glimpse into our craziness, and offered a little bit of sanity in return. Of course, Alex just slept through the whole thing.

Lunch was creeping up on us, the sun reaching its highest point, and beginning its evil afternoon descent. It was around this time that Chris Gerber approached me with this fact:

"Brandon, the neighbors are setting up a tent out front. And they just brought out seven big bags of ice."

Perfect. A birthday party outside, right next to our exterior action. A quick glance outside confirmed this, as well as showing the active neighbor zipping around on his riding lawn mower. I thought back to the peaceful, early morning, with its perfect light and quiet atmosphere. Sigh...

The last scene before lunch was the one I affectionately refer to as "The Ellipse Scene." It was the only scene not written out in the script, noted only by three lonely dots. This was the bit that sent Sam over the edge, the act that forces him to throw his hands up at Rich and tell him off. So what did we come up with? Why, pushing a little girl down the steps! It was a nice bit, lacking a little in the coherency department (the fact that the steps are not perfectly noticeable in the scene is a sticking point), but it got the job done.

And it got us to lunch.

And outside.


I like to think that I'm a pretty easy going guy to work with, but every so often I put my foot down and become quite adamant about a particular aspect of the film. Once, it was about punching a cow (another story for another post), but with this film, it was about the sandwich. Sure, we had stuff to make a sandwich, but this was our prop. This sandwich had to be big. It had to be loaded. It had to be so thick that it could kill a man.

So we made a grocery run, and concocted the heartiest dagwood we could. As the sandwich was being constructed, our sandwich 'expert' Kevin Schnabel (the patient and talented Dave Tufford) was being gussied up in his smock and hat, and a makeshift white background was being built in the Bowman garage.

The sun was getting lower. And we still had to shoot all of our exterior shots. Crap.

After nailing the slo-mo flashback shot, we moved outside, to Sam and Rich's exit and Dave's entrance. It was here that we shot our first effects shot, Dave walking through Sam. In order to accomplish this feat, we locked down the camera, shot a plate of Sam reacting to Dave walking through him, then shot Dave walking past the camera and into the house. Easy as pie. Let the FX boys worry about it in post.

We hustled into the street, loading up the dolly for the walking shots of Sam and Rich. The guys were exhausted at this point, but were troopers. The sun beat down on them as they walked the mean streets of Fridley.

It was around this time that our buddy Todd arrived, right when we needed a vehicle to pass through a frightened Sam. Again, we locked down our camera, shot Sam stumbling into the street and screaming like a girl, followed by Todd blazing past in his mini-van. Perfect!

Two hours of daylight and two park scenes to go.

We rushed to a nearby park, quickly spreading out Sam's picnic blanket and uncorking a bottle of crisp Pinot Grigio. The sun was getting close to the horizon, and we were chasing the light. I recalled the image from that morning, of us cursing and screaming as the light disappeared. We weren't there yet, but we were close.

We shot Sam and Rich meeting, and shot the locked-off plate of Sam laying on the blanket dead, followed by his rising up and meeting his AAO for the first time.

With this in the can, we wrapped Rich. Phew! Almost there.

Sam proceeded to give us a mountain of footage of him preparing eating and choking on the fat roast beef sandwich. Delicious!

Last up was our credit shot. Chris Gerber, dressed as a hobo, sat next to Sam's corpse on the blanket. He had himself a nice little picnic, swigging straight from the bottle and munching on the rest of the 'Ghost Beef Sandwich!'

At 8:45PM, with the sun slipping behind the trees, we yelled out triumphantly, "That's a wrap!"

Celebratory beer and pizza followed at the Bowmans. The rough cut was already coming together nicely (nearly three minutes were already complete), but we had a long road ahead of us.

For a moment, though, it felt good.

To be concluded,

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Friday night's festivities began suddenly. Before our motley gang of film fiends had even convened at MCAD (the usual location for our 48 Hour Brain Trust, a place where harsh lights, a room with no windows, and a giant white board keeps us focused and not distracted by shiny objects), our film genre had been picked from the Sorting Hat.

"Musical or Western," Keith told me.

"You gotta be kidding me," I answered.

Okay, so I'm getting ahead of myself. First, for those unfamiliar, I should explain exactly what the 48 Hour Film Project is, and how the weekend works. On Friday night, a team member from each of the eighty-some teams draws a genre out of a hat. Then, three particular film elements are given, items that every team must incorporate into their film in some way, shape, or form. You then proceed to conceive, write, shoot, and edit a short film no longer than seven minutes long.

The items this year were:
Character: Kevin or Kathleen Schnabel (profession, Expert)
Prop: A sandwich
Line of Dialogue: "I hope they decide soon."

You see, this was the third time our team had participated in the competition. The first year, our science fiction gem Love Me For My Mind was turned in to the judges late. Seven minutes late, to be exact. I know. Tell me about it.

The next year, we changed our team name to 7 Minutes Late (the chip on our shoulder was mighty hefty), and we drew the genre 'Ghost Movie.' The end product that time was the film Open House, about a realtor selling a home that just happens to be occupied by the former owner's ghost. The film took home a couple of awards, which felt good. If you haven't seen the flick, here it is. If you wanna give it a look see, I'll wait for you. I've got time...

All right, welcome back. Hope you liked the film. So where was I? Oh yeah, we were arriving at MCAD with news that we were either going to take 'Musical/Western' as our genre, or we were going to discard it and take the 'Wild Card' option. It's risky, because once you ditch your original genre, you must take the 'Wild Card' option they give you. We all agreed that even though we would love to create a musical, or a Gary Cooper style stand-off, time was not on our side for either. The smart choice was to spin the wheel and take our chances with 'Wild Card.'

So, with Jason (our team's representative at the kick off) on the phone, we found out which genre we would have.

Keith heard it announced over the phone. We all stared at him as he incredulously said, "It's 'Ghost Movie,' isn't it?"

Yep. It was. 'Ghost Movie.' AGAIN!

What are the odds?! No seriously, I want someone to figure them out.

The next few hours were spent throwing out ideas and seeing which had any merit, and which ones were not worth pursuing. Our first idea? One word.

Sequel. Open House 2: Open Wider

We had many of the same actors, including our three leads. It seemed plausible. Until we started to realize that most of the humor would be entirely reliant on the fact that the viewer would have had to have seen Open House to know what the dickens is going on.

So, sequel was out. What else?

We entertained many ideas, from a haunted sandwich to ghost cops (this one even had a theme song: "Ghost cops! They're cops and they're ghosts!"). By midnight, our brains were fried, our ideas were thin, and our nerves were on edge. We were running on soda, Doritos, and pretzels.

And that was when inspiration struck.

And so, after cracking open fresh cans of caffeine, we scribbled down notes, plot points, and funny dialogue until the white board was filled. We called actors, we organized locations (the beauty was that much of our film would take place in or around producer Scott Bowman's home. The fact that Scott was editing the flick there as well was gravy), and I flipped open the laptop and starting writing the script.

Around 2AM, we transferred the camera and lighting gear to Scott's garage. Our group dispersed, and from Scott's basement, he and I put the finishing touches on the script.

I laid my head down on the couch around 4:30AM, and to the sounds of birds beginning to chirp outside, I rested until just before our 7AM call time.

To be continued,

Thursday, June 18, 2009


So, I want to dig into the experience of making this year's 48 Hour Film Project film, Ghost Beef Sandwich. Right now, though, I unfortunately only have a moment to share the down and dirty details.

I will let you all know when the film premieres:

Monday, June 22nd
Riverview Theater

From each screening of 12 films, one film is chosen by the audience as the 'Audience Award.' These films, and a select few others, move on the Best of Minneapolis screening later in the week. So it's important to drum up as much support as possible for your film.

Find out more about the festival by clicking HERE, and directions to the theater by clicking HERE.



Greetings! When you hear the term 'lake cabin', most of you conjure images of a relaxing respite, where a cold beer and a good book are both relished on the end of a sun-drenched dock. Sounds pretty spectacular, eh? (well, unless the book is 'The DaVinci Code' or a Danielle Steele gem).

For me, the term 'lake cabin' also inspires another image. I picture a dozen sweaty, exhausted crew members working (basically) around the clock to create a gripping, intense flick. I picture actors dabbled with fake blood, an over-turned car in the pouring rain, and a man named Johnny Whynot (seriously. That was his name) toothlessly grinning and saying, "I'll flip that car for ya. Jus' get me a helmet."

The final product of this gruelling filmmaking experience is, of course, Dawning, Gregg Holtgrewe's flick about a fractured family taken hostage by a crazed man at their lake cabin, a man who insists that something is out there. Something that's coming for them.

Dawning has received a large amount of praise, and was most recently featured at Scotland's Dead by Dawn 2009 Film Festival.

This Friday, June 19th, at 8:00PM, Dawning premieres right here in Minneapolis, as part of the annual Solstice Film Festival. If you're interested in a new twist on a tired genre, come check it out.

The film is screening at the Suburban World Theater in Uptown Minneapolis.

Here's the trailer, to entice you...

New Dawning Trailer - Gregg and Tyler Cut from Gregg Holtgrewe on Vimeo.

Until next time,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Hard to believe that it's been three years since the gates of Blackweir were assembled on rural Wisconsin farmland, since truckloads of Styrofoam were transformed into faux-stone, and since a small and dedicated crew of (mostly) film newbies spent beautiful summer days in the sweltering heat of a tin warehouse with cottages on wheels, grotesque orcs, and a whole lot of dirt.

Filming Midnight Chronicles was a surreal and amazing experience. I was fortunate enough to work alongside some very good friends, and yeah, the days were long, but when you're laughing most of the time, it doesn't matter that it's 3AM and you're still inhaling 'atmosphere.'

Well, the fruits of Fantasy Flight Games' labors are finally paying off. Monday marked the international release of Midnight Chronicles. The film is now available in both France and the United Kingdom.

The near future will certainly bring with it a US and Canadian release, so hopefully soon, I'll be able to post more information regarding that. Until then, you'll have to settle with me re-posting the trailer for the flick.


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Some kids start with Dr. Seuss. Some with Mother Goose. In his nearly three weeks of life, Alex has been enjoying a variety of different books. Here are just a few of the things we've been reading.

We started with a little bit of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

We were then introduced to such super-villains as The Chameleon, Electro, and Man-Wolf with The Essential Amazing Spider-Man Volume 9 (thanks, Uncle Brent!).

Here we are practicing our various accents whilst enjoying a little Jack of Fables.

And finally, we cracked open the pages of Anthony Neil Smith's book Hogdoggin'. Alex is a big Steel God fan.

What other adventures will we take? Who knows. Tonight we read a couple of chapters of Kiss Me Deadly by Mickey Spillaine. Alex was riveted.

Until next time,