9 years ago, on 9-19-99, The Krone Experiment movie project was launched. In honor of this anniversary, the first edition DVD of the best microbudget indie ever made will be on sale for the next 19 weeks. Now instead of $18.99, it's just $9.99! Take advantage of this sale while it lasts — at the end of January 2009, this sale price will disappear down a microscopic black hole, never to be seen again.
This week brings us the sad news that John A. Wheeler, physicist and inventor of the term "black hole", is dead at age 96.
There is always a lot of confusion as to whether there is any relation between John Archibald Wheeler and the John Craig and John Robinson Wheelers of The Krone Experiment. And it turns out, no, it is just one of those coincidences, although it does feel like there is a spiritual and intellectual fatherhood connecting the scientist who invented black holes and the scientist who wrote a novel (and then a movie) about black holes.
He will be missed.
We're not specifically in the news, but enough people have been sending me links to this New York Times article that I have to mention it here as well. Apparently, CERN is about to do some particle collision experiments that have some scientists worried will produce a miniature black hole that will get loose and start to eat the Earth.
Where would they get such an idea... Says the Times:
"The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots," said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group.
That's exactly what we've been saying for years!
Posting updates last week about Tom Weirich and company (see below) prompted a nice email from Al Ebbers. Al plays the irascible Harvey Leems -- one of our favorite characters from the movie -- and is featured in the current trailer, locking horns with Runyan (Ben Pascoe). Al reports that, in a curious coincidence, the university Ben Pascoe is currently attending is his old Alma Mater, Ohio University in Athens. It's a small world.
"I finished my acting career last summer with a decent role in an industrial for TXDoT to work on marketing my new novel, Dangerous Past. It's about a pilot who is being stalked by unknown assailants who must arrange his death to look like a suicide or an accident before a specific deadline."
Interested readers can buy Al's book online from Barnes&Noble, Amazon, and his own website, silverhawkbooks.com. Congratulations on the novel, Al.
I got a nice email from our lead actor Tom Weirich a couple of days ago. Tom says he still maintains his passion for acting, pursuing an occasional independent film project now and then, but that lately he has been immersing himself in learning the saxophone. (I think Tom wanted to give a plug to his teacher, Austin jazz musician Jake Lampe, so I'll do so.) "Between the sax and driving the Texas backroads in search of the perfect cheeseburger [I've] been staying busy and enjoying the scenery," writes Tom. Always good to hear from him.
Over the holidays, I got a very silly e-holiday greeting card from Darbi Worley, who made a bunch of homemade comic videos with her multimedia-savvy boyfriend. As always, http://www.darbiworley.com has the latest on her.
Ben Pascoe is rocking his way through graduate school, trying for that MFA degree in film production from the University of Ohio in Athens, OH and maintaining a nearly perfect GPA to boot. When I talked to him around New Year's he was busy finishing the editing on his end-of-semester project and pitching all sorts of ideas for what he'll do next spring.
Rich Simental has been working on getting his pilot's license, making frequent trips to and from the Georgetown airport where some scenes from Krone were filmed. (Although, ironically, Rich missed those days for some reason.) His ultimate aim: Jet pilot's license! Vwoooosh! Good luck with that, Rich!
I've never been quite happy with the only promotional trailer we had, going back many years. It was cut together before we even finished shooting the movie, and certainly before any of the effects and sound work were done. I always meant to cut together a better one, but for quite a while I was too busy editing the movie itself (though I made one or two aborted attempts, in an effort to find a productive-feeling diversion from the main effort). Then, when the movie was done, I was too exhausted to even think about looking at the footage.
Then the president of the American Astronomical Society contacted me, and asked me if I wanted to show a Krone trailer before a showing of the movie Real Genius at the Alamo Ritz theater in downtown Austin, which was going to be packed with astronomers in town for the A.A.S. conference. It helped that the president of the A.A.S. happens to be J. Craig Wheeler at this moment in time.
Well, I can't show that old thing, I said to myself. Now I have to make a better trailer, one that would look good shown theatrically. And so I did, and I think it's great! (See it on our video page.) It makes me want to watch the movie, and I've seen the movie about eleventy-seven times.
If you're curious about the comparison, the old version of the trailer looked like this.
Here's a bit of news that I neglected to advertise properly: Sci-Fi London, a science fiction film festival, recently added an online video service it calls Sci-Fi London TV. One of its featured programmes is The Krone Experiment -- in fact, it was the movie-of-the-month in December. This means that it is now possible to watch the entire movie online, exclusively on Sci-Fi London TV. Better yet, the brief audio problem in the last reel of the movie, which a lot of people ask about when they watch the DVD, has been fixed for the online version.
A couple of website updates: a video clips page featuring YouTube links to selected scenes from the movie, as well as a trailer (which I need to find a better version of, but at least there is one now). Also, the uncensored version of the blooper reel from the DVD. (Warning: strong language.)
Ben Pascoe's email address on the contact page has changed, mostly because Ben is no longer in Austin -- he's moved to Athens, Ohio, having entered the MFA program in Film Production at the University of Ohio! Congratulations, Ben! His goal is eventually to teach film, and we wish him all the best.
Darbi Worley (www.darbiworley.com) continues to check in with us every now and then, giving us updates on her acting career in New York. She apparently is loving every minute of it.
Rich Simental is busy earning his pilot's license, and apparently doesn't plan to stop when they let him fly a little Cessna, oh no -- his ambition is to be a jet pilot. Whoa dude. Well, we wish him good luck with that, and we'll be happy to take those free private jet rides in the future. (We are getting free private jet rides, right?)
J. Craig Wheeler is now president of the American Astronomical Society, the premiere astronomy association in the country. He even has to fly to Washington D.C. to talk to senators and the head of NASA and all sorts of things like that. I guess he should talk to Rich about getting a ride up there...
And Tom "Vince Martinelli" Chamberlain just got married! Congrats, Tom!
That's the news for now in Krone Experiment land. Stay tuned...
There are a lot of people wondering why in this day and age there are no trailers or preview video clips of the movie on the site, to attract potential customers. It's a combination of having become distracted as well as having more ambitious plans for online video than are probably warranted. I'll try to get a few things up by the beginning of September.
I've also been meaning to do a general update to the site, perhaps switching to something that's easier to update and more consistent with the web experience people are used to elsewhere. I'll make the time to do that soon.
12-03-05 IT'S HERE!
Wait, it was February when I last posted that news about the DVD status? Holy smokes. No wonder people have been asking me where the heck it is. I could have sworn I made an update since then. Of course, I could have sworn back in February that I'd be done in May.
The first thing I should say, in reference to the update I gave last time, is that I finished the rebuild of the widescreen format of the movie, shot by shot, in late June. Since then, I've been working on the audio, but I got sidetracked having to rebuild an old version of the -- oh, it's not that important what the details are.
The short version is, I am still on track, but as usual, it's taking much, much longer than I could ever have estimated. I shudder to look through this news page and see how many times I've badly underestimated the time it would take, and how many predictions of finishing that I've made.
In an effort to move people's attention off this page of old news and into a new format, I'd like to get everyone to look into the Krone discussion forum that I've set up. I guess my half baked thinking is that if people talk amongst themselves, they won't notice how long I'm still taking.
However, it will keep my morale up if people do end up posting there now and then. And I will probably use that forum to make announcements as they come up.
In other words, after all these years, I still care, and I'm still trying to finish working on this movie. Believe me when I say that nobody wants it to be officially done more than I do. Some people tend to doubt it.
Well, what's going on now is two tedious processes, designed to make the DVD look as good as possible. The first is a shot-by-shot rebuilding of the movie in anamorphic widescreen (16x9). This is what the movie was originally shot in, but at some point along the line, it was expedient to render a letterboxed version of the film, after which point the extra pixel information was lost. Restoring this will make the DVD look much better, especially if someone watches it on a fancy high definition television.. (This is what is meant when a DVD says "Enhanced for 16x9 widescreen televisions.") The most recent edit of the movie, which was screened in December, is being rebuilt shot by shot from the original 16x9 footage. Kind of tedious, takes a while, but will be worth it.
Along with this is a digital grading and color-correction process, which is most needed in scenes that were shot earlier, when I was less confident about lighting and cinematography, resulting in uneven color balance and contrast. The unevenness is something that a casual viewer wouldn't notice, but which has always bugged me a bit, and fixing these things makes scenes subtly feel stronger and more engaging. As long as I have to rebuild the movie one shot at a time, this is a good opportunity to fix these things where appropriate. It does make an already tedious process take even longer, however.
After the picture is rebuilt from start to finish (and there is one last special effects shot to do, based on one last night of pickup shooting that was done in January -- almost exactly five years from the first day of shooting in January 2000), I will also go through the entire audio track from start to finish, making sure the levels are consistent and that there's no stray pops or noises or distortions. These are things that have crept in over time, and which became apparent when I heard the movie in a theater auditorium in December. Alas, something I would like to do someday -- a 5.1 surround sound mix -- won't happen for this DVD release. Just as well, because if I waited for that to become viable, it'd be even longer to a release.
Basically, the fact that we're going to be printing hundreds of copies of the movie in a pretty definitive way has made me want to get it looking and sounding as sharp as possible. I just don't want people to think that it's sitting on the shelf with no work being done, because that's not the case.
Extra note: Darbi Worley (Pat Danielson) would like everyone to visit her personal website at http://www.darbiworley.com.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the Nudge 1.5 Festival premiere. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and it was a bit of a Krone family reunion, with cast and crew we hadn't seen in a while all gathered together again.
DVD update: Work on the DVD master was nearly done, but this screening we had has pushed the schedule yet again. In one way, it was good, because I made some improvements to the movie for the screening. This means that the version that is on the disc will be the best it's ever been. The downside is that it was so much work in such a short time that I need to take a break from it again for a few weeks, probably until after the holidays.
That means that it'll be January before copies are ready, but there's really no reason they won't be ready then, since all of the work is basically done. When the DVDs are ready, a link to order them will be the first thing you see at the top of this website page, so keep checking.
I apologize to the cast and crew (and the various fans around the world who have contacted us by email) for the year-long delay in getting copies of the movie ready after the premiere screening. The truth is that the movie was enormously complicated to put together, really too much for one person to do by himself, and it left me completely burned out after that initial showing. Even all of the cheers and pats on the back I received that night couldn't quite recharge my drained batteries.
Even though many people expressed to me how delighted they were with the cut of the movie that they saw, there were still a number of improvements and changes I wanted to make, some of which required updating my hardware and software, and all of which requied me feeling up to the task again.
However, we now seem to be back on track, and I think the DVD and videocassette versions of the movie will be worth the work that went into them. Thanks again to everybody who contributed their time and talent to The Krone Experiment, and wish us luck as we try to find distribution for this movie.
Long time between updates, as 2003 passed and 2004 arrived. There hasn't been anything like the activity we used to see when we were still in production and I was editing full-time, but there are still some things going on that I keep neglecting to write about.
One of these activities is applying for festivals, but there has been no good news to report. So far, the two local festivals (South by Southwest and the Austin Film Festival) have not been friendly to us, and neither have the two other festivals we've tried -- including, strangely, something called the Do-It-Yourself Festival in Los Angeles. It seems like we would have been a sure bet for that festival, but we weren't.
I contacted my former professor and mentor at Stanford last September to ask for his advice. First of all, he told me that I should never attempt to edit my own movie by myself, because it'll leave me feeling burned out. Er, right. Anyway, then he said he'd pass along a copy of the movie to a fairly famous film producer who now has a straight-to-video distribution company. That sounded terrific, so I sent off a tape, and he forwarded it along, and since then I've heard nothing. Oh well.
A number of people at the screening asked about the movie posters we put up on the auditorium doors. At some point soon (when we have copies of the movie ready), we'll make these posters available, along with a new version of the poster that I've been working on from time to time, one that looks a bit fancier and more professional.
Can it really be four years since our first shooting day? Sadly, it can, and it has been. We all knew it would take a while to make this movie, but I don't think anyone really expected it to take more than four years. That's a long time to spend on one project, even a worthwhile one like this.
However, to put a cheerful spin on things, Associate Producer Rich Simental recently made use of a personal trip he was taking to Japan to shoot footage for a missing sequence from the movie that we were never able to manage during production. The timing of it is such that the very last shooting day of the movie, for this extra material, comes pretty much on this anniversary of the commencement of shooting. Not bad.
People curious to see this extra scene will, of course, have to wait for the DVD. Maybe we should call it a Special Edition DVD, since it has extra, never-before-seen footage! That's what they do in Hollywood, anyway.
It was a tremendous effort getting the movie ready for the cast and crew screening in the plush Avaya auditorium in the ACES building on UT campus, but it seems to have been worth it. Nearly 100 people, made up of cast, crew, friends, and family, some of whom travelled across the country, arrived in high spirits to see this movie we managed to create. The general response was enthusiastic, and some were nearly beside themselves with praise.
There were some technical problems at the screening that were unfortunate, but I think I was the only one who noticed. I still have a laundry list of about 40 changes I want to make to the movie, but they'll have to wait. Mostly, it turned out how I wanted it.
After the screening, about half the crowd joined us at the Dog & Duck Pub on Guadalupe for a combination premiere/wrap party (since we never officially had a wrap party). Everyone had a great time, so I'm sorry if you missed it! You should have been there.
I know it's hard to believe, but yes, it is true: "That's a wrap!" for The Krone Experiment. Forty-nine shooting days spread out over two years and eight months, but it's finallly all in the can. What's nice about this is that the movie is pretty much all put together except for the material we shot during this past week, so the normal gap between finishing production and finishing post-production isn't going to be there.
So, hugs and congratulations all around. It's been an amazing run. From the first day to the last, each shooting day was fun and lively in its own way. Even the pressure-cooker days were fun, in retrospect. Just the right balance of being serious about the work and being silly in between takes.
I will definitely miss shooting this movie, because I don't think this same chemistry we had will ever be quite the same again. On the other hand, I am definitely ready to move on! And one thing I won't miss is having to lug all of my own equipment around. Maybe we'll be able to actually hire some grips next time.
Now I need to hunker down and get everything put together and ready to show to people at long last. It is no longer stretching the truth to say "we're really close!" any more. Honestly, we're really close!
We definitely will need to a big wrap party, too. If you were part of our production, I hope to see you there.
P.S. - To mark the occasion, I have completely updated the Stills gallery on the website. The 65 pictures are now presented in a slideshow format at full resolution, in the same 2.22:1 widescreen ratio as the final movie. Take a look!
On a hot August afternoon, our full crew reassembled for the next-to next-to-last shoot of this production, shoot number 43 out of 45, almost exactly 2 and a half years after shoot number 1 in January, 2000. It was a lively and quick 2 hour shoot, but I think it will be one of the more memorable scenes in the picture. A lot of effort -- most of it coming from Krone patriarch Craig Wheeler, who found the cast; coordinated the securing of the location (courtesy Luther Keeler, a longtime friend of the production) in the freight elevator of the Service Building at UT-Austin; bought art supplies and enlisted help creating Chinese language posters to decorate the scene; acquired a set of six worker jumpsuits (donated by Cintas -- many thanks!); and found boots for everybody, courtesy of the Austin Fire Department (more thanks).
As usual, the mood was upbeat and everyone had fun. As I was wrestling my boxes of equipment out of my car for the hundredth time (actually, probably the 40th time), I couldn't help get a bit wistful. Each shooting day on the film has been so much fun that it is sad to think there aren't going to be any more of them pretty soon. We have pared our plans down to the minimum required to complete the movie, and that leaves only two more shoots, which we are scheduled to complete in the next few weeks.
Again, I still can't go on the record and say when the movie will be finished and ready to be screened, but it is close. Stay tuned.
With the Rough Cut essentially as complete as it can get (with tweaks and revisions still being done to tighten it up), we are full steam ahead on shooting the three remaining scenes for the movie. A potential composer for the movie is going to be looking at a tape of the movie so far and cooking up some demo music in the next couple of weeks.
Things are on schedule, and one of the things that has helped seems like it's disappointing news, but really it's not. We will be cutting an extensive series of scenes entirely, essentially dropping a whole set of characters and a subplot that were fully developed in the screenplay. Getting the scenes done requires a much higher level of technology than we can afford, and the movie as it stands now works without them, and I finally realized tonight, after doing a fairly extensive test shoot, that it would be a force-fit to try to get them in now, even if they came off looking spectacular.
Well, that's the movie biz. I am somewhat relieved, though, because I am racing to keep on a schedule I set for myself, and dropping that subplot frees up a lot of time. I think the movie will be better for it, and that's really what it's all about, isn't it?
There is a running joke in The Agony and the Ecstasy, Carol Reed's 1965 movie about the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rex Harrison, playing Pope Julius II, who commissioned the work, periodically drops in on Michelangelo (Charlton Heston), and asks him somewhat urgently, "When will it be done?" Michelangelo always replies, "When I'm finished."
No, The Krone Experiment is not the Sistine Chapel, but the question and the answer still apply. Ben Pascoe is of the mind that we should refrain from making predictions, public or private, about when it will be done beyond saying, "When we're finished," while I tend to want to reassure people that the release is coming soon.
In the interests of reaching a compromise, I will say that I have finished a rough edit of every scene we have already shot. The last few shoots still pending are being scheduled now, and there is no backlog of unedited material standing in the way of stitching those last scenes into the cut. Post-production will continue through the end of summer, at the very least.
We are aware that there is a lot of anticipation building up out there -- we feel the pressure every day -- but Ben and I agree that it's not worth showing the picture before it's tweaked down to the last detail and ready to go, just to temporarily ease the pressure. Trust us, you don't want to see it it a rough state, you want to see the final cut. So, hold on.
It'll be done when we're finished.
I got an email today from someone out there, urging me to update the website more regularly so that he knows what's going on. It's always surprising to be reminded that the movie already has a fanbase that checks this site regularly for updates! I've been meaning to, I've been meaning to, honestly -- but I've only got two hands, and those have been frantically editing the Rough Cut of the movie for the last month or so. (See April 23, below, for the real news about the movie's current progress.)
I have, however, been working on a reworking of the underlying code of the website for a while now. This new version should look mostly the same as the February redesign on the surface but, underneath, the HTML code has been changed to utilize Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for all text layout and formatting, in accordance with modern design standards. The niftiest effect this allows is that the website's background graphic (the planet with red lines shooting through it) remains stationary while you scroll the text up and down. The next thing I'm going to do is update the stills pages, which are by far the most popular pages on the site. All of the pictures there were originally captured with older equipment at a low resolution. Much sharper captures are now possible, taken directly from the Rough Cut, and I just need to get around to doing it.
(Modern browsers should accept this new CSS code happily, but on older browsers (such as Netscape 4), things might look worse than they did before. Sorry about that.)
After a month off, editing is now going full steam ahead. (See the Calendar page for the difference between March and April.) As of this writing, the rough cut is a bit over 100 minutes long. No longer a mere pile of hundreds of puzzle piece-sized individual takes, it is recognizable as a movie for the first time. How about that?
I recently received email from someone in the UK, of all places, telling me that he couldn't wait to see it. I know how he feels. If things stay on track, the summer will be spent fine-tuning the edit and working on the sound and the music. By now, I should have learned my lesson about predicting when the movie will be done, but we are on the schedule I pencilled out at the beginning of this year. I think it is fair to say that the official year of release for The Krone Experiment will be 2002.
So, stay tuned, Krone Experiment fans -- it's going to be quite a ride to the finish.
Note: Due to a regrettable oversight, we have until now forgotten to credit and thank pilot Andy Trevino, who took us on a flight last December out to the Texas coast and back, providing us the means to shoot several minutes of aerial footage. As this footage makes the movie look that much snazzier and professional, we apologize to Andy for not putting his name on the website right away. A lot of the people who have helped us out along the way have done so in large part for the recognition they get from having their name featured in the credits, so we hope this doesn't happen to anyone else.
I really should learn not to predict a final wrap date after so many bad guesses, but we really are close. On the magic date of 02-02-02, on our 40th production day, we shot the very-important (and very difficult to schedule) scenes of our heroes meeting a scientific thinktank. With nine actors and a six person crew (maybe seven, if you count Kelley Huston, who came by to help, didn't see anything to do, and left again), we rocketed through a full fifteen pages of script, finishing an astonishing three and a half hours ahead of schedule. All of the actors were energetic and first-rate, but the clear standout star of the show was our own Ben Pascoe. In his final shoot as Alex Runyan, Ben mesmerized everyone with his tour de force performance in an absolutely key scene in the movie. Boy, is it good -- I can't wait to get the movie together so everyone can see this stuff! Bravo, all.
This shoot also marked the grand finale for our stalwart lead actor, Tom Weirich, who has been the acting backbone of the entire production, as well as more of a help behind the scenes than anyone realizes. Tom is too shy to take any credit for all that he's done, but we'd like to say that we really appreciate it.
On this same day, we also wrapped our lead actress, Darbi Worley, who plays Pat Danielson. When she auditioned and got the role, she expected maybe to spend a couple of months of her life working with us, and instead it took a full two years. To her great credit, she never left us hanging (even when her busy professional life relocated her to New York City), but stuck with us all the way to the end. The next time we call Darbi back to Austin, it will be for the premiere -- and we're all looking forward to that!
We also wrapped local actor David Blackwell, who plays seismologist Ellison Gantt, the biggest of the movie's many supporting roles. We'd like to thank him, too, for hanging in there and being always upbeat and positive about the work and our chances for wrapping things up sooner or later.
Let me parcel out a few more individual thank-yous to the cast and crew this weekend:
And so, to commemorate all of this, the website has been slightly reorganized and given a new look on the front page. A few pages have been eliminated: about, the_book, and the_movie, specifically, because their information is now contained on the home page. There's also some little graphics, just to pep things up. I'd like to update the stills galleries at some point, but I think I'll wait until we get a bit farther on the rough cut. The editing will soon get a boost, I hope, because Tom (Vince Martinelli) Chamberlain, one of our supporting cast, has volunteered to help out. This should really help us get a rough cut done much sooner.
Onward and upward, as they say. Stay tuned!
Editing, editing, editing. Lots of editing is going on. This is where the wonderful footage that we've spent years getting is all put together into a real movie. It is not the place to suddenly start rushing and skimping on quality, so it is also somewhat slow. Patience, patience! Every now and then I get an email from one of our patient, dedicated fans who checks the website regularly to see how it's going. It's always nice to know there are people out there who are excited as ever to see it. (I keep thinking we should reward these folks somehow, like maybe with a Krone Experiment t-shirt that says, "I was a fan before it even came out!" on the back. Or maybe a button that says, "#1 Original Fan." Something that will end up being really rare and collectible.)
That said, we are fretting a lot over our inability to schedule one last big scene that would wrap all three of our lead actors in one fell swoop. We have been attempting to schedule this scene since we started production in earnest in March of 2000, and just this month it almost came together only to be postponed again. We are literally waiting for the stars to come into alignment on this one. My fingers are crossed that we will not only get this important shoot done sometime in January, but that we will pretty much be able to call the production officially wrapped around the same time. Party!! Okay, not yet, but we'll have one.
Also, if we keep burrowing ahead on the editing, it won't be long after we wrap that a rough assemble of the whole show will be available. And after that, some sort of -- could it be? A screening!
Okay, patient fans. Hold on. Maybe I can put up some more pictures or some QuickTime videos like I've been promising for ages and ages in the meanwhile. You are welcome to email me to demand that I do so.
Reports that we are making the last lap in the marathon here and will soon wrap production are, amazingly, true. We knocked out another batch of scenes on September 28 and 29, wrapping two of our major supporting actors (Mark Turner and Michelle Coffin) and coming this close to wrapping our lead actor, Tom Weirich. Tom started out with 65 scenes and now has only two left (both in the same location).
So, here we come. People are welcome to stand on the sidelines cheering and handing out cups of water as we make our way to the finish line.
The good news is, we're of one mind to finish up the production in the next eight weeks or so. Barring unforseen circumstances, we should be able to do it. Unforseen circumstances have a way of popping up, so it might take a little bit longer than that, but we'll do our best.
And now the bad news: So much for the Texas Filmmaker's Production Fund grant. We got the rejection letter over the weekend, spoiling a perfectly good wrap party for Krone's sister-production, Yorick, Fool of Denmark. Okay, so it's not as bad as, say, having all of our equipment stolen. On the other hand, having had all of our equipment stolen and also not getting the grant is doubly vexing.
Meanwhile, I started editing again last month and have started assembling what still, after all this time, looks like it's going to be one heck of a good movie. We have a rough cut of a preview trailer made that we'd like to get on the website here as soon as possible -- we're just waiting on music we have full clearance to use.
With a little luck and a lot of work, it shouldn't be very long before we have a rough cut of the whole thing, at long last.
One last note: If you've been part of our little production, make sure we still know how to contact you. We'll be wanting to get in touch with you about: 1) The wrap party, 2) The first preview screening, and 3) Your deferred payment. Thanks!
Sorry there hasn't been much news lately. As usual, I've been too busy to stop and give updates! The big recent news is that we've applied for the Austin Film Society's Texas Filmmaker Production Fund. If the money comes in, we'll be all set for post-production.
Where are we now? Well, we're finally editing again, and for the next few months, that's going to be the big task at hand. We are still on track to finish up the last bit of shooting, although we probably won't wrap until September 2001. By October, we hope to have enough put together to hold a rough cut screening somewhere in town. Don't confuse that with an actual premiere, which will be March 2002 at the earliest. We would love to finish the movie faster than this for the benefit of everyone who has already been waiting to see it for a year now, but we definitely do not want to rush the editing and mixing. We've taken the time to get great footage, and now we need to put the same effort into assembling the final product. So, as usual, all estimates about when it will be done should be taken with a grain of salt.
We will be making more goodies available on this website soon, so stay tuned.
We're all still recovering from last Saturday's big Ops Room shoot, arguably the most labor-intensive shoot of the whole production -- which is saying something. Many thanks to the extras who hung in there for many patient hours. No doubt it seemed to them like a lot of hanging around and waiting with nothing happening. On our end, it was a day of frantic, unceasing activity, as we ripped through 14 scenes (12 pages of script!) in nine hours.
Thanks are due to Avaya, the company that loaned us a roomful of computer equipment. Mostly I'd like to thank our core Krone team: Ben Pascoe, Rich Simental and especially Morganna Thomas, for giving this one everything they had during a week that would have been busy anyway (in those things we like to call "real lives").
After this one, everything else should be a walk in the park. Post-production will soon resume, for the first time since the November theft of our editing computer, so there is a chance that some teasers and sneak previews will be coming out this summer. Stay tuned.
We are so grateful to have such patient actors. Some of them have been hanging in there for well over year, with months going by in between their scenes. (Some actors who auditioned in January 2000 are still waiting to shoot their scenes, but let's not talk about that.)
On our Friday, April 20th shoot, we had the distinct pleasure of saying, "That's a wrap" to three terrific actors who have been with us since that first audition: the wonderful Robert Graham, whose elegant, sly, and one might say leonine performance as ex-KGB head Grigor Zamyatin has got to be seen; Dirk Van Allen, whose performance as CIA Director Howard Drefke oozed authority and strength; and Ron Tatar, who gives a sharp, shrewd portrayal of a President of the United States (our own, fictional President, of course). Ron shot the first half of this extensive scene last September, and returned again seven months later (can you believe it?) to finish it up.
Thanks to the staff of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin for the use of their large conference room, which served as our White House location. Thanks especially to: Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of Natural Sciences.
We're a little closer all the time. Those of you who read the Calendar page and wonder why nothing seems to be happening -- don't worry. Pretty much every blank day isn't a no-activity day, it's a day of making phone calls and waiting for them to be returned, scheduling shoots and postponing them, etc. On the schedule for May are a number of shoots that could bring us down to just a few remaining scenes. It seems that, soon enough, we will be finally able to shout, "That's a wrap!" Stay tuned.
One of the great things about our crew is how fast we are to pounce on opportunities that randomly pop up during a day's filming. It's just being smart, and quick. If we're on location, and, say, the right kind of car just happens to drive by -- hey, we're all on it, just like that. Get the footage. We can use it.
Last week, we took a long trip (350 miles) to the The Texas Air Museum in Rio Hondo, TX to take advantage of a decomissioned US Navy vessel, the USS Iwo Jima. The museum is a wonderful place that does great preservation work, especially on military aircraft. Any airplane buffs reading this should check it out. The museum's director, John W. Houston, allowed us to use the Iwo Jima for free, which was tremendous, with the caveat that the museum was still going to be open for business all day. He warned us that one or two people an hour might wander through. Hey, a free location is a free location. (Another decommissioned ship, whose name we'll tactfully omit, wanted more money than we've spent so far for the privilege of one day's filming. Yeah, right.)
Sometime in the afternoon, a young Marine trainee showed up on the bridge when we were filming there. Hm, here's a young man, with a military haircut and bearing, wearing a khaki uniform. Let's get him in the scene! And hey, you don't have any friends with you, do you? "Yes," he says to us. "There's six of us." Well, get 'em up here!
So, we came home with footage of a bridge stuffed with extras, providing that important sense of activity and life that can really sell a scene like the one we were doing. Out of nowhere! Most film shoots experience crushing bouts of rotten luck, not sudden swings of perfect fortune. I guess we've had our bad days, too -- like the camera and editing equipment getting stolen -- but when we're on the set, good things seem to happen. And if they do, we're quick to make sure they get on videotape and in the movie.
When the movie is said and done, and people come up to us and ask us "How did you guys do that?" we'll have to say, "Well, we were lucky. And we were smart." Maybe there's another crew as smart as ours, but I doubt you're going to find one as lucky.
It's official: we're in the home stretch on this long project. I feel weird that we have actors who auditioned a full year ago who have yet to shoot their scenes, but I'm happy knowing that we are in fact on the phone with them right now, telling them that their scenes are finally coming up on the schedule in the next few weeks. We may be slow, but we're persistent.
Despite the freakish loss of our equipment (which was covered by insurance, thankfully, and which will be replaced), we are still having good luck with this project. A couple of weeks ago, the movie got a big boost from a pilot named Simon Diver of Currey Aviation Services, who hooked us up with a private plane and a helicopter, adding more production value and realism to a crucial scene. Simon then volunteered even more help, including plane travel for our cast and crew, to a special location on the Texas coast. I'll write more about it when it happens -- I don't want to jinx it. Suffice to say, this movie is going to look like a million bucks.
Speaking of bucks, we are starting to prepare contracts for our cast and crew. We've had a lot of discussions about the best way to split up the pie, and we hope that we'll be able to make most people happy. We'll be getting in touch with everyone individually soon about their contracts.
Everyone agreed that the show must go on, so it did. Yesterday, using borrowed and rented equipment, we went back into production. The long, morning-to-night shoot ended up being one of our longest and most productive shooting days so far.
We have some hopes of getting another couple of scenes done before the end of the calendar year, but this all depends on the holiday schedules of cast, crew, and location -- so basically, hard to count on.
Still, lead actor Tom Weirich is charged up and ready to go. Tom has been keeping track of the number of scenes he's shot, and he says that after yesterday, he has only eleven scenes left to go. The end seems to be in sight, despite the recent setback.
I suppose if we survive this, we can survive anything. Yesterday, my camera bag and my backpack were stolen from the trunk of my car. In the camera bag was the XL-1 camera we've been using for this production, the sound mixer, the editing tape with all currently-assembled scenes, the footage for scene 54, and the most recently-shot footage (Bob Isaacs pulling burning books out of a fireplace). In my backpack was the Macintosh G3 Powerbook computer on which the editing was being done.
It is possible to keep shooting, using rented or borrowed equipment, but it is no longer possible at the present to keep editing. Everything that had been edited up until now has been lost, so we're back to square one on that.
Insurance may cover the replacement of some of this equipment, but I don't know for sure. Perhaps we need to organize a Krone Experiment fundraiser. I'm not sure exactly what the attraction would be, since we have no way of showing footage any more. Something to think about, though.
My apologies to Tom Weirich and Michelle Coffin, whose lovely work on scene 54 has been lost. This scene will now either have to be re-shot or dropped from the movie.
If we could reliably predict when the movie will be finished, we would, but we just don't know. Patience, always a virtue, is going to bring good things in due time. There is every indication that the footage we do have is starting to assemble into a movie that fulfills the promise of the screenplay, which most people agreed was pretty darned great.
Things are still moving, just very slowly. We've saved the more complicated scenes for the end, and consequently, we're having more trouble than ever before just scheduling shoots. There's a bit of a "herding cats" kind of feeling here. We seem unable to get our two lead actors, Tom Weirich and Darbi Worley, in the same place at the same time.
Still, things are moving along, and word seems to be spreading. Just this morning, I mentioned the name of the movie to someone I met on the street, and they'd heard of it. Weird! Name recognition might also go up when the next issue of Indie Slate magazine comes out -- look for our write-up in the "Reel Life" section.
I know that there are some of you out there who regularly check this website and this News page for updates, and wonder what's going on when nothiing happens for a long time. What this means is not that there's not much going on, but that there's too much going on!
Ben has been advocating a strategy of regular weekly website updates with small changes. Easy for him to say, but it's Rob who has to do it, and he's busy trying to edit when they're not scheduling or shooting something. There's also an article for Indie Slate magazine that he's supposed to be writing.
Maybe some kind of new section, maybe a Production Calendar, would help -- something just to document what's going on every day. I guess today might be a good day to put that up. There are tons of new photos and stills to upload, as well. Things might start hopping again soon.
A day of filming turned into a night of revelry yesterday. After Rob called a wrap for the day, suddenly there appeared balloons, presents, and a birthday cake -- an impromptu surprise party for The Krone Experiment's writer/director, who turned 30 on October 20.
As we sail into our final weeks of production, our moods still good but our heads and bodies getting tired, suddenly looms the enormous mountain of tasks known as post-production. First, there's the task of creating a real movie from the hours of footage: assembling a rough cut, locking final cut, sound editing and mixing, and adding a musical score. Along with that, we have to start looking ahead to how we want to promote, show, and sell the movie when it's done. Things feel like they're only going to get crazier.
For editing, Rob will be using an Apple Macintosh G3 Powerbook running Final Cut Pro software. He scored this portable editing studio by trading in an older computer in a recent special rebate offer, another of those fortunate turns-of-events that have made this production feel special.
We've been so busy shooting things the past two months, I'd neglected to upload still frames from the footage to the website. I finally got around to it last night, so there is a second gallery of production stills on the website, 24 new pictures featuring many new faces from our excellent cast. Check it out.
In other news, the History page has finally been completed. You should check that out, too, if you want to know how this movie came to be.
One of the reasons that the production is going smoothly is that we have incredible luck. Either we luck into a good situation or we luck out of a bad one, often not realizing until later on just what happened.
On July 8, we scheduled three important scenes all on the same day. It was a tough day with a very early call, and Rob and Ben were both tired going into it. We were supposed to wrap by 3pm, but by 2:30pm we were only done with two of the scenes and were just starting to go ahead with the third, lacking any particular hard reason to stop. Teresa Weirich, who had secured the location, was willing to let us run over if we needed to.
Then a funny thing happened, or rather, a funny noise. A deep rumbling noise, near enough to vibrate the floor. Some sort of emergency air system had kicked in to take over for the air conditioning, which we had shut off for sound purposes. Rob used this as an excuse to wrap for the day, so that we got out on time and we could come at the postponed scene sometime later.
As it happens, we shot this scene this past weekend, at a completely different location, and took all day to do it -- a full eight hours before Rob was satisfied with it. It's a crucial scene in the story, where things pivot in a positive direction for the hero, Bob Isaacs. It really deserved the full treatment it got, with complicated camera movement, lighting, and actor blocking -- none of which would have materialized had we shot it on the afternoon of the 8th. Good thing we postponed it. If that funny noise hadn't started up, we would have pressed ahead and done it as originally scheduled, and it would have come out substandard.
Lucky little noise, that was. It was a bother and a problem when it happened, but what it ultimately yielded is arguably one of the best-shot scenes in the movie.
We've all been hoping to finish all but the difficult set-pieces before the end of Summer 2000. After a couple of long scheduling meetings, Ben, Rob, and Jenn worked out a shooting schedule that goes through the end of August. If no one burns out, it will definitely take care of most of principal photography on this ambitious production.
Now, if only Rob could start editing...
Ben and Rob finally hired on what they had been calling the "missing third piece" of the production company. Jennifer Matyear, who appears briefly as "Gail Adams" in the movie, came on board to help with business and organization duties. Hooray!
People keep asking us how far along we are, how much of the movie we've shot so far. Our stock answer now is to say, "We've got a couple more scenes to do." Yesterday, during a long but productive day shooting office scenes, we started joking about using the name Tortoise Productions. We may not be moving especially fast, but we're getting there. I might also add that the quality we are getting fulfills our best expectations. We have the best cast and crew in town, and we all know we're part of something special in-the-making.
Special thanks to Austin Asset Management, Darri L. Cross, and Matthew T. Reading for the use of their offices and their coffee mugs. It really makes our day to have people throw open their doors in welcome for this production. So, if you have a pile of money and need sound investment advice and services, you might want to pay a call to the good folks at http://www.austinassetmanagement.com.
After a long hiatus, our small but fast and dedicated cast and crew powered through eight and a half pages of script in three shooting days.
On Thursday, 4 May, with D.P. Mark David on camera so that Rob could take care of the sound recording, we shot a crucial sequence in which the hero, Bob Isaacs, has an uncomfortable meeting with Grigor Zamyatin, the former head of the KGB. It was a night shoot that started late and ended even later, but the performances really cooked and the footage looked superb.
Special thanks to Cynthia Karkoska of Cynthia's Manhattan Limousine, the best limousine service in the Austin, Texas area. www.cynthiaslimo.com
After one day of rest, on the weekend of May 6 and 7, we descended into the subterranean levels of the Physics department building at the University of Texas at Austin, in order to film the first part of a special two-day shoot. The setting is the laboratory of manic genius Paul Krone, and where the infamous experiment of the movie's title takes place. The shooting was physically rigorous, but thanks to safety precautions, there were no accidents or injuries on the set. The footage we got is intense and exciting, and Rob can't wait to start putting the sequence together in the editing room.
Rob, Ben, and Krone author J. Craig Wheeler took the afternoon to scout some very exciting locations. Working with a low budget, much of our potential production value will come from great-looking locations that do a lot of the visual work for us. We can't wait to film in these places!
Principal photography on The Krone Experiment officially continued today, with cast, crew, and a roomful of extras nailing a pivotal scene in the script. Extensive rehearsals paid off in the powerful performances delivered by our lead actors, Tom Weirich and Darbi Worley. We finished on schedule, and everyone involved is excited to get on to the next scenes.
Yes, much to everyone's surprise, principal photography began on a chilly Saturday morning in January. Our actor Eric Sparks showed himself to be a real trooper. With little time to prepare, he showed up knowing his lines, doing a British accent, and willing to fling himself into the biggest puddle we could find.
Thanks again go to Ben, for getting the news on the Tuesday before that we were going to shoot on Saturday -- first he'd heard of it -- and getting it together. If everyone is this generous with their time and talent, we'll really make a great movie together.
Casting Director Ben Pascoe pulled together an incredible day of auditions on Saturday, 8 January 2000, at the Clarion Inn in Austin. Ben and Rob saw 49 actors in six hours, with Rob videotaping each audition. It all went really smoothly, and we have a lot of tough casting decisions ahead of us.
Extra thanks to Ben's sister Hilary and brother Jonny for managing things at the table outside the audition suite. Everybody did a terrific job.
September 19th, 1999: future director J. Robinson Wheeler walks out on his apartment porch to get some fresh air and stare out at the sky. "I'm going to do The Krone Experiment," he announces to himself and the Universe. No idle promise, and the Krone movie project becomes a reality as of that day.
The next day, he sends the script to Ben Pascoe, and contacts his friend Rich Simental by email, telling him that the project is a go.
On Christmas day, 1994, J. Robinson Wheeler presented a completed first draft of the Krone screenplay to his father and co-writer, J. Craig Wheeler. Four more draft revisions were completed in the six months following that day.