Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Endless Possibilities

It's (nearly!) a brand new shiny month, so let's play a little game. Look at the picture below and tell me where in the world you think this is and who lives behind the door.

from www.pinterest.com

To spice it up, I'm going to offer a copy of my new Rae Summers novel, Prohibited Passion, to the commenter with the most imaginative response.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Call

It's Friday morning, 5th April. I return to my desk at the day job from a coffee run to see an email in my inbox titled 'Harper Impulse submission'.

My heart starts thumping wildly. It's only been three weeks since I submitted to Harper Impulse, the brand new imprint from Harper Collins, but I've heard via the grapevine that the editors had an acquisitions meeting...

I'm not too stressed. A sale would be a dream come true, but a rejection won't be the end of the world. If it's a rejection, then I plan to self-publish. I have a freelance editor on standby and a cover already designed.

I may not be anxious, but I can still scarcely breathe as I click open the email. It's two lines only. "Are you free today for a quick call? I'd love to chat further to you about your submission."

I've already had friends go through this, so I know editors don't just call to chat about your work. They call to buy.

I shoot back a reply. "Any time" and my mobile number. And I sit there trying to remember how to breathe.
It's 11:40am.

Then my phone beeps, reminding me the battery is running low. Just that morning I'd decided to let it run itself out before re-charging and its death is imminent. Oops.

I plug in the charger and naturally, for the first time ever, it won't take a charge. I run all over the office, trying all the plug points, swearing, sweating, as the phone refuses to charge. Thank heavens the rest of my team are out and there are no witnesses.

Finally, the screen lights up, the charge indicator starts to move, and I breathe a massive sigh of relief.

Just then the hair & make-up stylist who's doing prep for our next film shoot pops her head in my door, and I can scarcely manage a coherent conversation about aging make-up and contacts and hair extensions. She looks at me funny, so I say "I'm so excited! I'm about to get The Call!" Then I have to explain what The Call is.

As soon as the stylist leaves, I email the Minxes, because they're my soul sisters and they know exactly what The Call means. And because I don't want to be alone in this.

Then I make a toilet run, get pen and paper ready, make a list of points to discuss with the editor in case my brain stops working, get a glass of water ready, and ask the kitchen to keep me lunch. I don't plan to leave the desk where my phone is now plugged in and charging until that call comes in.
I'm ready.

Time ceases to have meaning, but I think it's about 12:15 when the phone rings.

Thank heavens for that list! I manage to have a sane and sensible conversation with the editor, even though my brain stops working after she utters the words "we'd like to offer you a two book deal."

Since the phone is still plugged into the charger, I spend the entire phone call bent down with my head practically between my knees. Which is probably a good position to be in when you take a call of this magnitude.

We talk royalties and contracts and covers, what the imprint is about, estimated release dates, and changes to the opening scene. We even talk about writing conferences and the editor's holiday on the South African coast. (Now that I'm typing up this story, I'm amazed I remember so much of the conversation!)

I even manage to mention the fact that Waking up in Vegas is in fact the first in a series of three. Three rings, three stories. Read the book when it goes on sale and you'll know what I mean.

When we hang up, I literally stand up and dance. And there may have been an air punch. Again, I'm truly grateful it's a quiet day at the office and I'm alone.

The rest of the afternoon was, needless to say, a write-off. It's hard to focus on everyday day job type stuff when you're floating a few feet off the ground.

So that's my Call Story. There's a great deal more that's happened since, but that'll have to wait for another blog post. Because I'm going off to dance some more.

Monday, April 22, 2013


If you're here looking for the next instalment in my Behind the Scenes series, my apologies. Those posts take a little time to put together, and since I've been kept busy on a shoot for a headache tablet commercial (and the house we were shooting in had zero signal) the next post will be delayed.

In the meantime, I've gotten my rights back to Let's Misbehave and have been re-writing it ready to self-publish. There are moments when I see flashes of brilliance, but mostly I'm thanking all the writing gods for the opportunity to edit.

There are 'had's and 'that's all over the place, and my characters 'notice' or 'watch' everything around them. Happily, I not only get to fix these basics, but to add more depth to the characters. The new and improved version will be available on Amazon later this coming week.

Here's a sneak peek at the new cover, courtesy of Viola Estrella.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Behind the Scenes 11: The Sound Department

The only thing I remember from my years in film school (at least, the only thing I remember learning inside a lecture hall) is that the audience only notices the soundtrack when it's done wrong.

A good movie soundtrack should be so realistic and integral to the scene that you never even notice it's there. Footsteps, bird song, doors opening and closing, background traffic... all those normal sounds we hear every day and take for granted.

The on-set sound recordist's job is to capture all the different audio elements as cleanly as possible for the Sound Designer. Aside from capturing all the background elements (sometimes recorded separately as 'wild' takes), he or she also needs to record those elements while also ensuring the actors' dialogue is audible at at all times (preferably with no unseen aeroplanes flying overhead, or crew members chatting about the weather in the background).
Of course, this isn't always possible.

From www.domgee.com

Imagine shooting a street scene in Manhattan... You can hardly ask all traffic in a three block radius to stop so you can hear the actors talk. Or when ther are big SFX explosions going off. So that's where re-recording comes in. The audio for most big budget movies is almost entirely put together in a studio once the picture has been edited, a job so big it definitely deserves it's own blog post.

On smaller jobs, like the ones I work on, almost all the audio is recorded live on set and only minor adjustments are done in post production.

In this post I'm just going to concentrate on the on-set recordists, those poor slobs who are on set at the crack of dawn, usually are parked the furthest away from set and have to schlep ther gear the greatest distance, spend all day out in the elements, either baking hot or freezing cold (because it's always one extreme or the other), usually over-looked by the Director and DOP who only have eyes for what the camera is doing...
Yeah, whoever thinks film work is glamorous has never been on a real film set.

The Sound Department is one of the smallest departments on any film set, seldom more than three people, and on most of the TV commercials I shoot it's a 'one man band'.

From www.trewaudio.com
The head of the department is the Sound Mixer, who places the microphones on set, then monitors the audio levels, quality etc during takes, and liases with the AD when another take needs to be done because the audio was not 'clean enough' on the previous take. He will also let the Lighting team know if he needs baffles (great big screens of cloth) erected to reduce extraneous sound.

From www.canford.co.uk
On bigger shoots, the Sound Mixer will be assisted by a Boomswinger. This is the guy (or gal) you see most often in movies about movies, the one holding a big stick over the heads of the actors with a big grey fluffy sock on the end. The boom pole is used whenever microphones cannot be placed on the actors themselves. Boomswinging is an art in itself, as the operator not only has to keep moving the microphone to whoever is speaking, but also needs to watch that his pole (or its shadow) aren't in shot, even when the camera is on the move. (BTW, the grey fluffy sock dampens wind noise).

On even bigger shoots, the third and most junior team member, often an apprentice, is the Cable Basher, sometimes very boringly known as the Sound Utility Technician. Apart from assisting the team in everything else they do, changing batteries, perhaps operating a second boom, he also keeps track of the microphone cables, making sure they don't get snagged, tripped over, wound too tight etc. He's also the Sound Mixer's personal tea boy.

In this digital age, with radio mics and other equipment working wirelessly, cables are no longer such a big thing. But there are still many instances when wireless doesn't work, such as when there is too much wireless interference, no clear line of sight between the microphone and the sound recordist, or when the actors cannot be 'wired' or 'mic-ed' because of their clothing or action.

From www.filmjob.info

So what does it take to be a sound recordist?
Aside from excellent hearing, a good awareness of the world around you, technical knowledge of audio equipment and the science of sound, years and years of experience, there's also a certain amount of artistry and talent involved. Sound, so often take for granted, can heighten the emotion of a scene, and catching just the right sounds on set can make the sound editor or designer's life so much easier.

From next week I'll be looking at the more creative departments of a film unit, starting with the Art Department.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The best April Fool's joke

Today's winning April Fool's joke comes courtesy of JA Konrath.

I'm back working on my Superstorm Sandy Story, and getting to do what we writers do best: research. Today I had the onerous task of picking Halloween costumes for my hero and heroine. This is the costume Ana ended up picking for Cam:

"As you wish."