And that permit is an old ass Canon ZR800 (a pawn shop would give you about $20 for it) but that’s how we shot an entire web series that garnered us both an award and a thumbs up from the writer of Dark Knight.
Hollywood and the movie industry can have a reputation for being a seedy shark tank. The vibes of negativity, disappointment and despair aren’t too hard to find out here. I try to do my best to duck and dodge those vibes, but it’s tough sometimes. But what if it wasn’t tough, what if negativity was nonexistent in your Hollywood pursuit. Well for most people it was nonexistent, in the beginning. Sure we all dealt with the same struggles of uprooting and landing here. But I’m talking about the initial wide-eyed authenticity of being physically linked with the city that can make your dreams materialize. Not as depicted in cheesed out pop songs, or sensationalized reality TV shows, but the real visceral and blindly hopeful charge of first moving here. When I first moved here I was so clueless, someone called me “green” and I asked them what does “green” mean. I imagine you’ve all had some similar moments, and you laugh, fondly recalling that naive version of yourself. And that mentality is exactly what we set out to do with On Empty.
We went to great lengths to avoid the overdone bro’ed out, pompous, cocaine raged, endless party version of Hollywood. The goal was to recreate the bubble of true optimism. Like when you were a kid scarfing down your saturday lunch so you could race back outside to keep playing. That was the feeling we wanted to pull from. And for the sake of entertainment we cranked our characters ambitions through the roof, while sinking our IQs a lil below average. But most importantly once those elements were in place, we kept our world 100% real, leaving only the situations to give away the idiocy of it all.
On Empty as a logline is as follows: A mockumentary series about two hapless movie buffs that feed into each other’s ridiculous and unorthodox ideas of being “discovered.”
So basically, our characters (Vince and Tyler) have been in LA for one week, and truly believe in six months they’ll be at the top of the Hollywood food chain.
In the first episode we decide to shoot a documentary, and want to start it with the hollywood sign in the background. But the sign is far in the distance, barely visible. So the entire episode becomes a deliberation on exactly where to start the doc, as we get closer and closer to the sign.
Eventually we’re sitting under one of the letters. But as you may know, its trespassing to get that close. So we have to run from the cops, helicopters and eventually get arrested.
If you add up all those elements; camera crew, shooting permits, police
officers, police cars, police station, surveillance camera footage, and helicopters, it gets kinda pricy. Or you just snag a good ole Canon ZR800 (or any other bite-size camera) and shoot it yourself.
Most of our episodes begin as a two shot while driving. We just put the camera on the dash with a sweatshirt under it as a shock absorber. And once we’re out of the car, we just tossed the camera back and forth like a hot potato; filming each other and everything around us. The camera had a great built in mic, so we didn’t have to worry about sound either. It was completely freeing and allowed us to capture endless organic moments that would be extremely difficult to recreate in full camera set-up’s.
We were able to brainstorm such a wider storytelling spectrum because we
had no limitations in terms of production and accessibility. We shot scenes in William Morris Endeavor, Warner Brothers, Paramount, all through Universal Studios backlot, Compton projects, California wildfires, Matthew Mcconaughey’s Malibu RV lot, in a private plane to Catalina Island, numerous stores, restaurants, private neighborhoods, etc. The city really does become your playground when you shoot in that style.
I know these days production value has a new bar. DSLRs have become the
baseline. People want HD, 1080P, shallow depth of field, but some don’t even know what the hell all that means. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating, I own a DSLR and I shoot on it often. My point is just don’t let technology get in your way. Don’t let anything get in your way. It can be overwhelming and suddenly you feel the need to complete a full equipment checklist before you can shoot something. Or you feel the need to do everything by the books; film permits, insurance, agreements, etc. What I believe is, yes you need to know when do those things, and also know when you can roll the dice.
From my experience with On Empty, you can roll the dice most every time!
I’m certainly nowhere near the first to say it and won’t be the last, but it all starts with simply hitting the record button.
On Empty Season One Playlist
Vince Foster is a comedic actor and filmmaker. His cinematic themes often
glorify/sympathize with the reckless, hopeless and uncategorizable. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina from an Irish father and Korean mother (who was adopted by a Puerto Rican family) it makes sense that Vince’s view of the world is both eclectic and unique. This variety of life has been apparent throughout his independent film career. His dedication to the filmmaking process is matched only by his relentless pursuit for “what’s funny.”
Connect with Vince: