Thursday, September 8, 2011

What the Hell's a Preditor?

I'll tel you what a Preditor is. It's one of those "creative economy" jobs that have been created in recent years, thanks largely to the Internet, but also to the availability of cheap, professional video production equipment in the past 15 years or so.

The term comes from a combination of its two main functions: "producer" and "editor." By "producer," what is generally meant is that you run around with an ENG camera (Electronic News Gathering) shooting whatever anyone might care to look at. Then, when you get home to your computer (typically a Macintosh of some sort running Final Cut Pro as the editing software), you edit it all together. Thus: Producer-Editor. Preditor.

The main forum for this kind of work is the Internet, but you can also find yourself making corporate videos for distribution on DVD, content for TV networks' video-on-demand services, and being a shooter/editor for-hire for a cable network TV show.

With my business partner Jesper Olsson, I co-own Reel Stuff Entertainment, a Philadelphia-area (south Jersey, to be precise) production company that has completed something like 600 projects in the past five years, including an original series for The Discovery Channel, as well as content for the Travel Channel, AOL, Lakeshore Entertainment, AT&T and a long list of others.

This work has taken me to Europe four times in the past five years. One of those trips was for Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, which had us produce travel videos for seven of their properties in Europe & North America. I would shoot the video at one property, edit it on the train to the next destination, then upload it to the client once I arrived.

Last summer, I was in Europe for about six weeks, shooting "Europe After Dark," a travel/destination TV series about nightlife in Europe. The host is Sean "Hollywood" Hamilton, the afternoon-drive DJ at New York City's dance radio powerhouse WKTU-FM. We don't have a network behind us - we shot it the preditor way, on a wing and a prayer during a road trip through Europe, financed privately by an investors' group based in Hatboro, PA.

The idea is to buy air time on TV stations ourselves, then sell the advertising. It's a model that's become increasingly common, although there's no guarantee that the TV station - or the network, if it's an affiliate - will accept the programming even if you show up with cash in hand. Fortunately, "Europe After Dark" received a rather enthusiastic response from the Fox Television Group, and they said they'll clear time on the schedule for it on their affiliates in about 20 top television markets around the country. The challenge now is to get the advertisers, and if we don't do that, this show is going nowhere. So you'll be hearing about that drama as it unfolds.

You'll also be hearing about The Tolltaker. This is a 25-minute short film I made that combines live action and animation to tell the story of a young boy in Northeast Philadelphia in 1973, whose father is MIA in Vietnam and who is being set upon by a fearsome underground demon called the Tolltaker that demands to be paid its "toll."

It's taken me four years, but the Tolltaker is finally finished (after a fashion), and is set to screen at its first film festival this month: the New Jersey Film Festival. I've submitted it to festivals all over the country, but I'm glad that this is the first one to accept it. It's good to start out playing to a hometown crowd.

I actually blogged for a while about making this film for a local newspaper, the Courier Post in Cherry Hill, N.J. Those blog entries are no doubt still around somewhere, and I will endeavor to find them and re-post them, so that these new blog posts will combine with the earlier ones to create a complete account of the Tolltaker's creation.

It's an ambitious project. Aside from employing about a dozen animators (who turned the downstairs of my home in Cherry Hill, N.J. into a mini animation studio), we also built a 60-foot-long Vietcong tunnel set in an old warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia. Our materials? Mostly old, wooden warehouse pallets.

As I write this, the final sound mix is being completed by the Emmy-Award winning composer and sound designer Rodney Whittenberg, working from a studio in the basement of his 200-year-old farm house in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. Tomorrow, I get an audio file from him, which I lay into the Tolltaker timeline on Final Cut Pro. I then export a Quicktime movie, take it to Mike Brand (who was also the director of photography for the film), and get a Blu Ray disk that I will hand deliver to Al Nigrin, director of the NJ Film Festival, on Monday. This is already an extended deadline, and I still am cutting it as close to the last possible moment that I can. More drama.

Other festivals I've submitted to include Sundance, the Hollywood Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival and some others I can't think of right now. I'm waiting to hear back from all of them, so you'll be waiting to hear back with me.

So, anyway - that's enough of a blog post for now, attention spans (including mine) being what they are. There are websites aplenty you can check out, including the one for Reel Stuff:

Europe After Dark:

The Tolltaker trailer:

Europe After Dark YouTube Channel:

And the Reel Stuff YouTube Channel:

And, finally, Facebook. For Europe After Dark:

And the Tolltaker:

And finally, finally: you can follow my tweets at: @ReelStuffenter

See you next time.

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