TV Tropes: Troubled Production

Today, I will talk more about TV Tropes.  Specifically I will discuss an entry on their site called Troubled Production.  This refers to a production that is troubled.  As is common in such film shoots, things can go wrong.  Cast and crew can get sick.  Weather can disrupt filming.  Props can malfunction.  Films can fall behind schedule.

I had issues of my own when I shot my first film for my digital filmmaking class last semester.

First, I had trouble finding actresses.  Then I had trouble finding a location.

When I finally had those two things, I had trouble with with availability and weather.

My cousin who played one of the roles, had to cancel on the originally scheduled filming date because she had a school assignment to work on.  Two days later, we planned shoot but then there was a huge storm that affected much of the state of Illinois.  My cousin had returned home early from getting her hair done because of the weather, and when she returned to get her hair done, she had to cancel because she could not guarantee when she would be finished.  Finally, we rescheduled filming for two days later.  My cousin arrived at my college to film, and we  got to work.  Then I realized that I made a mistake.  I did not turn the microphone on the camera and I had no sound.  Luckily, my other actress, who was a classmate in my filmmaking class told us that the dialogue could be rerecorded and then I could re-sync it when editing it on the computer.

When time came to edit, however, I still had issues because I did not have much time to work on it; I could only edit it at school since only at school did I have access to Macs with Final Cut Pro, or any type of good film-editing software.  I tried to finish the editing on the day of the screening of all of our films, but I could not.  First, the computer on which I saved the files was used by another student (the classmate who appeared in my short film as the mother and aunt) and when I had time, I struggled with re-syncing the audio and realized that I had to do it line-by-line.  I ended sending my professor an incomplete version that was missing audio in two of the three scenes.  He did not show it at the screening because he could not download the file in time.  I was relieved because in my mind, I was scared of him showing it and being humiliated by it; even if it had been complete, I would have not been in the room while it was being shown because I feel it was a sloppy job, and I am committed to doing better next time.  It was my first film, after all, and not many people’s early works are their best, anyway.

Later on the last day of the semester, I finally had the time to finish the editing of the video and audio, and I submitted the project to my professor.  The people who saw it like it, though I really don’t.  But, I value the whole experience, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Of course, I am an amateur, and professionals often have even bigger issues when things go wrong.

TV Tropes has many examples, but one noteworthy one they don’t mention is the film Something’s Got to Give, directed by George Cukor and starring Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin for 20th Century Fox.  The troubles were so bad, that they indirectly caused the film to be abandoned.

First, on the day that filming was to begin, April 23, 1962, Monroe didn’t show up because of a sinus infection.  Cukor changed the shooting schedule to work around her since waiting for her recovery would have delaying the entire film for a month, had she followed a doctor’s orders.

Throughout the next couple of months, Monroe was frequently absent because of various health problems.  On May 19, she was scheduled to perform for President Kennedy at his birthday party; no one thought she would keep that commitment, but she did, and that was yet another iconic moment in her life.

In early June, shortly after Monroe’s birthday, she missed yet another day of filming because of a fever.  Cukor and Fox were fed up, and the studio fired her.

However, Dean Martin, was contractually given the right to approve his leading lady.  He refused to do the film without Monroe.  Fox agreed to rehire her, but compromises were made on both sides.  Monroe had to do two films for Fox including Something’s Got to Give, and Monroe insisted that Cukor be replaces as director; Fox also offered more money than she originally was offered.

However, in August of 1962, Monroe was found dead in her home.  The movie was shelved, but later it was overhauled and filmed as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and James Garner as the leads and released in December 1963.

According to Wikipedia: “In April 1963, Fox released the 83-minute documentary Marilyn which included brief clips from the screen-tests and unfinished film showing Monroe. This was the only footage from the film seen by the public until the hour-long 1990 documentary Marilyn: Something’s Got To Give, which used extensive excerpts from the footage…Nine hours of largely unseen footage from the film remained in the vaults at 20th Century Fox until 1999, when it was digitally restored by Prometheus Entertainment and assembled into a 37-minute segment for the two-hour documentary, Marilyn: The Final Days. It first aired on American Movie Classics on June 1, 2001, which would have been Monroe’s 75th birthday.[5][6] It is available on DVD.”

Another noteworthy case is that of Judy Garland.  Her drug addictions contributed to her being fired from several films and having trouble with others.

First, she suffered a breakdown while filming The Pirate and she was committed, but finished the film.  Later, while filming The Barkleys of Broadway, in 1948 migraine headaches, and the use of morphine and sleeping  led to her missing several filming days; she was fired from the film after doctors said she was only healthy enough to shoot for 4-5 days at a time with extended rest periods in between ans was replaced by Ginger Rogers.  She was, a year later, cast in the film version of Annie Get Your Gun, but Garland suffered with insecurity with the role and did not like director Busby Berkeley’s treatment towards her on set; as a result she was frequently tardy, and failed to show up.  Eventually, she was fired from the film and replaced by Betty Hutton.   Later, she appeared in Summer Stock,  and she missed the “Heavenly Music” number; she did not show up the day it was filmed, and therefore, it was shot without her.  She took a break from the film for two months and returned to shoot the famous “Get Happy” number; as a piece of trivia, Garland lost weight in the interim, and as a result there is the myth that it was originally filmed for a different film because she was noticeably thinner than in the rest of the film.  Finally she was cast in Royal Wedding, replacing June Allyson who dropped out of the film after becoming pregnant; however once again, frequent absences led to her being fired from the film, replaced (by Jane Powell) and she was released from her MGM contract in 1950.  Seventeen years later, Garland was cast as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls.  She was unreliable on the set, missing several rehearsals, and was fired and replaced by Susan Hayward.  Her wardrobe tests and her recording of the song “I’ll Plant My Own Tree” survived.



Thoughts on Bias in Documentary Films

In the course of any kind of education, whether it is formal or otherwise, one needs to make sure that the information they are consuming is accurate, fair, and complete.  As anyone who has ever done or assigned research assignments for school would know, it is important to know several things about the sources of information for the assignments.  One needs to know where the information became from, the person who is giving the information, and how they reached the conclusions that they reached.  Failing to do one or all of those things may result in a paper with lots of inaccurate or biased information.

Documentary films are important tools.  They have the power to educate people about things that they might not otherwise know about.  They can offer different perspectives.  Documentary films can even be the catalyst of a movement that could change the world for the better.

However, any source of information can be prone to bias.  Documentary films are of course no exception.  Many documentary films and filmmakers have been accused of being biased against and/or bias towards certain people, subject matters, and the like.  They may also be accused of misrepresenting issues in order to “prove” their point and justify why their viewpoint is right and why whatever agenda they have should be followed through with by society at large.

For this paper, I will talk about bias in documentary films, including whether and how it can be avoided and if it can be good and/or bad.

I feel that bias can have lots of effects on documentary films.  It can, of course, misrepresent an issue, preventing such an issue that could.  Such forms of mis-representation might include things such as factual inaccuracies, over-simplification of a complex issue, and unbiased perspective and on and on, as we have mentioned several times in class.  Not only that, if an issue is biased it may lead to people being unwilling accepting the message of the film.  Failing to present one both sides can also be dangerous; the conventional wisdom is that there are two sides to every story.  I think that it is important to let people know both sides of an issue.  I have learned that in making arguments, one can strengthen their case if they respond to and attempt to refute the other side.

In conclusion, I have discussed how bias might affect documentary films.  In depicting issues, I feel that it is paramount to make sure that one accurately and depicts the topic in the documentary.  Even if one has a specific agenda, they still need to be sure to back their views up and to present each side in order to show why they are right.  Documentaries can change the world, but care must be taken to be sure that the change is for the better.

My Experiences Shooting My First Short Film

This past Tuesday, November 19, 2013, I finally shot my film for my Digital Filmmaking Class.  However, it was a long and difficult road to get there.

First, I needed to find a cast and crew.  I made attempts to find actresses for my film, but there were many dead ends.  I used a smartphone app called Circle (meant for finding people to to find people in the area to be in the film.  I found two people interested.  I gave them all of the details I had, but only one was interested in actually moving forward.  Later on, I attempted to use that app two find more actresses for all three of my characters, but there was no luck.  I had to constantly tell the one actress I did find, that I had to delay shooting the film.

My professor wanted us to be done filming by the first weekend of November 2013; however, that was not a possibility for me with all of my issues.

I told him about my issues with assembling a cast, and he told the rest of the class about it asking if they could help me.  A woman in my class agreed to play one of the roles.  But I still needed to two more people.

I made several attempts at making casting call flyers and submitting them to find actresses, but they were all rejected.  My main problems were that I submitted them at too short notice and I had plans at the time of filming at home; people might not be comfortbale going to a stranger’s home shortly after meeting them.

I made a renewed search for filming locations on campus and I asked my cousin to play role of Luna; I would have my classmate play both Luna’s mother and aunt.  I found some places, and it seemed like I was set for filming last Friday, November 15, 2013; but then I had to postpone because my cousin had a school assignment.  I let my classmate know, and we rescheduled for the afternoon of Sunday November 17, 2013; however, there was a huge thunderstorm and other severe weather including tornados throughout much of the state of Illinois and the Midwest.  My area just had a thunderstorm, but due to the weather my cousin was not available for filming because she was getting her hair done when the storm hit, and she left for home in the middle of the storm for the sake of safety; she later return to get her hair done after the storm cleared up, but she did not know when she would be done getting her hair done.  Therefore, one again, I had to delay filming.  My cousin did, however, guarantee that she would be available on Tuesday November, 19, 2013, and therefore, I scheduled the filming for that day.

That Tuesday afternoon, I set up the rented filming equipment, while waiting for my cousin.  When she showed up, I introduced her to my classmate, and then we began filmng the first and third scenes, which were set in the same location; there were mistakes of course, but the process was fun.  However, there was a mistake.  I did not check to make sure that I was recording sound; fortnately we later on, we re-recorded the dialogue to edit into the film in post-production.  We filmed the second scene in another location, and then we were done.

The experience was rewarding, and while I have already made several mistakes that I would re-do if I had the chance, I am so proud that I have finally shot a short film.

Films on Justice and Injustice

This semester I am also taking a class on documentary films about justice and injustice.  In class we have watched several noteworthy films about justice such as Bully, Food, Inc., Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth, Mea Culpa Maxima: Silence in the House of God, amongst many others.  Each student must report on two films (graduate students must report on three films).  I reported on Food, Inc., and I will do a report on Mea Culpa Maxima.

This syllabus is below.



Catalog Description: Examines style and influence of key social issue and social justice
documentary filmmakers. Identifies filmmaking techniques and analyzes issues in documentary filmmaking. Examines ethics in social justice documentary filmmaking. Describes effects documentary film has on perception of events and issues, as well as discussing how social media is used in social justice filmmaking.
Course Prerequisite: Any prior course in Communications, Criminal Justice, or
Independent Filmmaking at Governors State or permission of the instructor.
Rationale: This film seminar is intended to introduce social issue and social
justice filmmaking to students in the Criminal Justice, Communications and Independent Film and Digital Imaging programs. Exposure to and study of accomplished documentary films may affect the development of our own methods of critical thinking and demonstrate the power and effect these films have on our society as well as the ability they may have to alter our perceptions and even change the course of lawmakers or legislation.

Intended Audience: Students in Criminal Justice, Media Communication and
Independent Film with strong personal or professional interest in social issue / social justice documentary film and filmmaking. Course Objectives:
Demonstrate a range of knowledge with regard to the world’s best-known and influential documentary filmmakers, their work, and their antecedents in documentary history. Our emphasis in this course will be on contemporary documentary filmmakers and their approaches to storytelling, production, post- production, and distribution.
Express insight into the pressures concomitant in the otherwise supportive relationship between documentary filmmakers and their sources of financing, and their role in publicity.
Express insight into the ethical considerations of documentary filmmaking.
Express insight into styles and aesthetics of the documentary films screened and discussed in the course.
Know and respect the distinction between a documentary’s content – how it may make us think or feel – and the medium and technique of its filmmakers.
Understand how the emotional response a film engenders draws the sustained engagement of an audience.
Recognize how a filmmaker uses the “call to action” and how social media is utilized to rally an audience and bring action to a cause long after the film has been viewed.
Expected Student Outcomes
Upon completion of this course students should be able to:
Identify message meanings and their significance. Examine techniques of effective message design.
Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively and with integrity as informed and engaged global citizens.
Explore the relationships between communication and culture as a means of fostering intercultural relationships.
Identify and exemplify ethical and professional communication practices that
promote human relations.

Master discipline-related theory and aesthetics and demonstrate this mastery through effective written and oral presentations.
Demonstrate critical thinking and evaluative abilities as they relate to interpretations of digital photographic arts and the cinema.
Expected Graduate Students Outcomes:
Graduate students are expected demonstrate a more sophisticated scope and proficiency in interpretation and analysis in both oral and written formats. Graduate students will be required to make three presentations during the term, while undergraduates present twice.
Graduate students are also required to achieve an above average performance with respect to assignments, examinations, and participation.
Instructional Modalities and Activities:
Students will be responsible for finding and independently screening assigned films or works by a given filmmaker on a weekly basis. We will meet on campus in seminar sessions that will include screenings of film clips and filmmaker interviews, as well as discussions and short presentations. You will be expected to speak each week about the films you have seen.
The course has no required text. In lieu of texts, film rentals will be required, and a subscription to Netflix is strongly recommended. All films will be available either on Netflix, or through a streaming rental on iTunes, Amazon, or Hulu.
Optional Text: Cunningham, Megan. The Art of the Documentary: Ten
Conversations with Leading Directors, Cinematographers, Editors, and Producers. New Riders Press, 2005.
Curran Bernard, Sheila. Documentary Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction on Screen. Elsevier Inc., 2011.
Online Resource:
Website for Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary. Thirty-eight filmmakers from 14 countries share their passion for documentary and talk about the artistic and ethical choices they make in their craft.
Relevant/required reading and viewing may be made available by the instructor by email or on Blackboard.

Course Outline:
Please note: the Course Outline, including any film identified for screening along the way, is subject to change during the semester. Each scheduled meeting will consist of student seminar presentations and discussions about films. The titles of the films to be screened will be determined on a weekly basis as the course progresses and updates to screenings will be posted on blackboard or distributed through email.
Class 1 – August 27 Discuss syllabus, course outline. Class 2 – September 3 Presentations / discussion Class 3 – September 10 Presentations / discussion Class 4 – September 17 Presentations / discussion Class 5 – September 24 Presentations / discussion Class 6 – October 1 No class session – Complete take-home Documentary Social
Media Assignment Class 7 – October 8 Presentations / discussion / term essay assigned Class 8 – October 15 Presentations / discussion / midterm review Class 9 – October 22 Midterm test Class 10 – October 29 Presentations / discussion Class 11– November 5 Presentations / discussion Class 12 – November 12 Presentations / discussion Class 13 – November 19 Presentations / discussion / Term essay due Class 14 – November 26 Final Exam review Class 15 – December 3 Final Exam
Evaluation: Grade Percentages
Documentary Social Media Assignment 10%
This assignment calls for you to consider how social media is used in social justice filmmaking. You will get more detailed information on this assignment later in the semester.
Weekly Blackboard Discussion 10%
Throughout the semester, you’ll be required to post responses to questions I ask about the films we are viewing that week. You must post your responses to the course Discussion board on Blackboard no later than 12 pm on Tuesdays. These responses are designed to help you watch more attentively, think more critically and to be better prepared for class discussions. Undergraduate students are required to submit six (6) responses over the course of the semester; graduate students are required to submit eight (8) responses. Your responses will be graded on a 10-­‐point scale. Here are some additional guidelines:
• Undergraduates: Your responses should be at least 200 words in length. (The best way to check your word count is to compose your response in Microsoft Word, and then copy and paste it into the discussion board.) Graduates: Your responses should be about 300 words in length.
• Discussion posts for a given film must be submitted no later than 12pm on the day we discuss that film. No late responses will be accepted.
• Begin your response by listing film, filmmaker, and scene in the film that you are referencing. You may summarize a certain scene and then reflect upon some larger question, theme, or issue evoked by that particular scene. An acceptable alternative would be to respond directly to a classmate’s post. Just keep in mind that you should be courteous and kind to your classmates.
Presentations 20%
On two (undergraduate students) or three (graduate students) sessions during the term, you will lead the group in an exploration of a particular documentary film, and/or filmmaker. See handout.
Mid-term Quiz 15%
The midterm will cover content from lectures, discussions, films and assigned reading to date.
Term essay 20%
Your term essay of 2,500 to 5,000 words is due on November 19. I will distribute an assignment sheet with several suggested topics later in the term. I strongly encourage each of you to meet with me to discuss ideas for your paper.
Final Exam 20%
The essay examination will cover content from lectures, discussions, films and assigned reading. The majority of the questions call for short written responses.
Attendance and Participation 5%
You are expected to attend all lectures, screenings, and post screening discussions and participate in class discussions.

Advisory for graduate students enrolled in IFDI-8400/MCOM-6040/CJUS- 6000-06 : you are expected to meet a higher qualitative standard than the undergraduates enrolled in this course. As such, you will be required to make three presentations during the term, while undergraduates present twice. You are also required to achieve an above average performance (see Grading Policy, below) with respect to assignments, examinations, and participation.
Grading Policy
A Superior Performance 90-100 B Above average performance 80-89 C Average performance 70-79 D Marginal performance 66-69 F Failure 64 and below
Requests for “Incompletes”
A grade of “I” (for “Incomplete”) is assigned and an extension may be granted only by permission of the instructor. In all courses outside of thesis projects and internships, please be aware that after an Incomplete is approved, a student’s maximum attainable grade for the course will be a “B” or lower.
Attendance and Participation:
Your success in the course is directly related to your attendance. In particular, your performance on exams will suffer if you miss any classes. Keep that in mind when you weigh the importance of anything you might miss class for. It should go without saying that this encompasses all personal conduct and the respectful treatment of your fellow students. Please notify the instructor at your soonest convenience after attending to an emergency that has necessitated an absence.
Attendance is otherwise required in all classes. Students are allowed 2 (two) absences or late appearances (15+ minutes). With the exception of emergencies, each absence or lateness thereafter will result in the drop of one letter grade. A fourth absence or late appearance will make a grade of “C” the highest obtainable grade for the course.
In special circumstances, a student may make arrangements to miss class by calling the instructor at least one week in advance. A student who misses a class is expected, regardless, to turn in projects that are due on or before the due date. Any missed assignments or tests cannot be made up. Your mark for participation is linked to your attendance. If you’re not here, you’re not participating. This grade is affected even if an absence is excused.

Original Beauty Shots

I did make an attempt at beauty shots.  However, they were not very good.  If you watch them, then you’ll understand.  Fortunately, I did redo them.

Enjoy, if you can. (YouTube Version) (Vimeo Version)





Beauty Shots

For my digital filmmaking class, we had to shoot at least ten video shots of “beauty from around campus.  This was to teach us how to use cameras and tripods.


I have two identical versions.  One is on YouTube.  The other is on Vimeo.