Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


The Luke Cut

Several of my friends told me that they very much enjoyed The Snyder Cut. So I decided to check it out. And, yeah, I had a good time. But as I watched video essays about the film, a recuring theme surfaced that my friends had also mentioned: It's a little bloated. It doesn't drag, per se, but it's long and has stuff that could probably cut.

That's when someone said, "Why didn't they just hire an editor to cut it down instead of spending $100 million?"

Well, turns out that the studio execs really wanted a Marvel Movie instead of a Snyder film, but the question stuck. I enjoy editing, so I decided to take the question as a challenge: Could I cut The Snyder Cut down to a "reasonable" length?

I immedately decided on some guidelines/rules/parameters/limitations:
  1. I need to leave Zack's cool slow-mo shots and stuff because he'd want them.
  2. I can't cut major plot points or rearrange them; I'm not making a different film.
  3. I am only "trimming the fat".

Granted, there were obvious technical limitations, too. Namely, I can't go and select a different shot or remix the music because I don't have access to any of that. The only tools I had were what I could do with my editing machine and an already edited video and music track. I also can re-record anything or rewrite a scene. I can only cut (and cross-fade, and utilize a few other tricks and tools in my NLE).
The Luke Cut Timeline
The Luke Cut Timeline

I had a blast. It took me a week or or of editing in the hours I wasn't doing my full-time job or spending time with my family or taking part in the various activities that demand my time. And I found a tremendous amount of statisfaction in cutting the almost 4 hour film into less than 2 hours and 15 minutes (including the Epilogue) and several sequences I didn't care about at all, but needed to be there "for Zack".

The Good

There's a sequence where a group of guys pull up to a bank. They slowly get out the vehicles, huge guns drawn. They look suspiciously up and down the street before menacingly approaching the front door where a guard is watching them. As they make their way across the two-lane road, the guard finally notices them and lifts his gun to confront them before he is shot in the back of the head by the leader who has already walked past him. Yeah. It made no sense. I was able to tighten the sequence so it makes a little more sense:

I was able to edit out a line that frustrated me the first time I watched it. A little girl asks Wonder Woman, "Can I be like you someday?" And Wonder Woman says, "You can be anything you want to be." ...which is factually untrue. Wonder Woman is an Amazon goddess. So I cut her reply, and the scene plays much, much better:

A group of Amazon warriors have been guarding a box for a thousand years, or whatever. They have a huge group of them standing guard all the time. A portal opens and winged demons -- with weapons -- start pouring out. They stand there. An evil looking guy drops in and monologues about how he is there to steal the box and how they will all lose. They stand there. The big bad guy insults them. They give a comeback. Then one warriors finally shoots an arrow and the battle beings. Or, you know, the deamons could come through the portal and immediately start shooting...

And there's some swearing, including an f-bomb when Batman claims he is going to, one day, kill The Joker. We could just cut out the swear word.

The Bad

There are a few sequences that were absolutely worse. The biggest example: I cut absolutely everything related to Commissioner Gordon from the film. However, there is one scene where he shows up to tell our main characters where to go next. The rest of the scene, I've been told, is just fan service and to look cool. But in the Luke Cut, it makes no sense because you don't know who J.K. Simmons is or how everyone showed up at this roof top.

Also, watching my cut, I did notice there were places where it felt off and needed some adjusting. This isn't surprising since I had simply cut the film and walked away. I did, however, gain a greater appreciation for the role of a director working with an editor to ensure the vision is not lost in edit.

And had I broken the rules I gave myself, I could have cut more and the movie more fun.

The Ugly

Want to hear us talk about a movie I can't share with you because even uploading highly edited clips brought down copyright claims against me? Of course you do! Check out our little "podcast" where we dicuss it:

The Luke Cut - e59 - No Way to Hollywood

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Full-Body White Background Test Shot

We took a few hours to test out a full-body white background video made famous by the "I'm a Mac" commercials right after I graduated from film school.

Jonathan has also procured some new giant LED lights and wanted to test them out for an upcoming full-body white video shoot a client wants him to do.

Was it possible?

We setup in my living room (about 10'x15' and shot from the attached dining area, giving us about 25' lengthwise). Without moving any of the furniture, we were able to get a full body shot of me -- who is tall -- and garbage matte out the couch and cabinet. Granted, it would have been much nicer to have more than two feet of shooting space to stand in, but it worked out.

Seamless White Background Test Shot

Profession shoots like this take place on a sound stage with a built-in sloped corner and preset lights and lots of headroom, I'd say we did pretty well with a wrinkled backdrop and chairs in the way of where we wanted to setup lights.

We found Zack Arias's Lighting White Seamless video to be really helpful!

I used DaVinci Resolve to garbage matte things out (e.g. simply cut out the other stuff in the background). Because my toes went over the edge of the white sheet, and I didn't want to take more time on this, you can see that my socks get kinda chopped off at the bottom. Six more inches and we wouldn't have had an issue.

Pretty cool.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


How to Make a Quick Corporate Video

My friend Kat was asked by her work to "make a quick video" to use on social media. She called me up and explained the project:

15 videos, 2-5 minutes each, shot over a couple days.

How much would it cost to make it? And if it would be too much, what could they do to make it.

Paying someone (like me or my friends) was going to be way outside the budget. But I told Kat I would be happy to teach her how to do it herself, but that it would likely take 8 hours per video (at least at the start). If you have no experience shooting or editing video, it'll likely take a lot longer because there is so much to learn.

Enjoy this a mini-workshop on how to shoot a quick corporate video.

Please note: To make the video 30 instead of 40 minutes long, I just included small portions of Kat talking.

Hope this helps!

If you have questions, as always, I'd be happy to do what I can to help.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Aside: Magicians' Oreos

They are discussing a guy who recently died because he snuck a box of Oreos. Our character is still trying to sort out his unfamiliar world.

"Magicians can't have Oreos?"

"Diabetics can't have Oreos."

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Aside: Redemption

"Redemption, Frank; it's real."

"Ah -- Jesus Christ."

Intentional or not -- I'm hoping intentional -- this kind of thing makes me smile. Reminds me of the moment in The Matrix when Neo says, "Jesus Christ," and Trinity asks, "What?"

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Introducing Production Notes: BTS for upcoming films

If you've been following along over on YouTube, you may have noticed we've done more than 25 episodes of After the Movies where we criticize and praise movies we love and hate. We also talk about why. ...still, for as much as no one wants to listen to our opinions about movies, I think you may be interested in seeing even more about the ups and downs of the movie making process. That's why we started a brand new show: Production Notes.

Project E - Episode 1: Script Writing

Each episode will explore where we are in the production process (this first ever episode is about writing the script and how that's coming thus far; hint: we have a long way to go). We'll take you behind the scenes and give you a look around. But don't worry, we'll be careful not to give away too many spoilers! I still very much plan to have a complete BTS documentary once the film is done as well, where we can reflect on the process.

So now, instead of just harping on other people's failures and marveling at their successes, you can watch us do it to our own productions!

Let me know what you think, and if you have questions, ask!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Short Film: Damsels

This short film explores beauty, art, and objectification. How do we shift from the good things of beauty and art into the destructive realm of objectification? What's the difference between appreciating a pretty girl's looks and sexualizing her?

Behind the Scenes

For your convenience, here are the six chapters of the Behind the Scenes video:

  1. Story - 0:00
    Explore the over-arching themes as well as the writing and script editing process.
  2. Cast & Crew - 5:20
    Hang on for the wild ride of finding people willing to commit to a project and the ups and downs of putting your "perfect" idea out into an imperfect world.
  3. Pre-Production - 13:10
    What does it take to get a movie up and running? Here we walk through locations, technology, lighting, props, and more!
  4. Production - 21:57
    Immerse yourself in the middle of the action as each day of filming unfolds. This is what it's like to be on a zero-budget film set with Luke Holzmann and team.
  5. Post-Production - 40:46
    Witness the highs and lows of learning new software, editing for over 30 days for a 7 minute project, and all the tiny changes that make a huge impact on the quality of your film.
  6. Epilogue - 53:10
    Take a few minutes to chat, one-on-one, with a few of the young women who were part of this project; hear their stories and find some encouragement for your own struggles.

This film took seven months to complete, almost to the day. I share a lot about that in the Behind the Scenes above; I'm not going to bother transcribing an hour's worth of content here. There's so much good stuff in the video -- and I worked really hard to put to it together -- so watch it and then read on for even more.

I kept bumping into my own personal limitations throughout this process. In earlier shorts, I could (and did) do "everything": Writing, directing, producing, editing ... even acting a bit. As the years have gone on, and my projects have become more ambitious, I've needed more and more people to make the films a reality. And this movie broke several aspects of my personal self-reliance that were probably a bit unhealthy. I clearly needed help with photography, filming, gathering extras, writing, editing, and producing. I may have still been the one doing some of those things, like writing and editing, but without outside input, the final project would have been far weaker. And had people not agreed to help out, there would be no movie, just a quirky script in a Google Doc.

As is, whenever we hit a roadblock, I wanted to quit. Each challenge proved too much for me and bruised my ego by demonstrating clearly how inadequate I am as a person. I can't do it on my own. I do not have the skills. I don't know what I'm doing. I need help. For someone as naturally prideful as I, this was overwhelmingly painful, to the point where I would often end up laying on the floor, the epitome of can't even. I think this ego crushing may be getting worse as the projects get more ambitious. When you're no longer simply recording a conversation at the park, things get messy and difficult and expensive. I am so grateful that Brittany (my Producer) and Jonathan (my DP) were as involved this time as they were. We got such a great video from it!

Some lessons (not covered in the video above):

Framing is important (the belly button)

This may feel like a no-brainer. But while shooting, we got the wide shot of this scene:
Damsels Belly Button

When we went in for the closeup, Abby was no longer in frame:
Damsels No Belly Button

That's when I asked Elise to move a couple steps over. As her navel came into frame, Jonathan looked at me and said, "I see what you did there."
Damsels Close Belly Button

But it wasn't just about her shapely tummy. Without her in the background, I knew the edit would have felt odd. Cutting to Carley by herself in the frame would have given off the wrong impression, like she was abandoned or alone. It would have made the world feel like it had shifted and the others had disappeared. That can be a very powerful thing to do if you want to isolate a character, but it's bad when you want your scene to flow by unnoticed. We expect to see Abby back there, so by moving her over a smidge, the continuity holds, even if we "cheated" the positioning.

The Tutorials I Watched

I mention two tutorials in the BTS video, and I wanted to make sure I could find them again in the future you could find them.

Damsels - Tori and Luke on the Red Carpet
  1. How to make a super bright LED light panel (for video work etc)
  2. DaVinci Resolve Tutorial - Professional Color Correction / Grading (it gets good around 1:30)
Now, as you can tell from the Behind the Scenes, I simplified the LED light panel build. I used three power bricks per panel and didn't bother with a cover. But after talking with Tori, one of the models, at the film premiere, she told me I really needed to add some heat sink (not only is she a beautiful young woman, she also happens to be an Architectural Engineer and major lighting nerd who is focused on light design and knows a ton about LEDs). She urged me to add a sheet of some kind of heat conductive metal to both the LED and power brick sides of my build to help keep things cool. "The more heat sink, the better," she told me in a way that I could understand.

That's us on the red carpet at the premiere.

With that, I would also recommend using only, say, eight of the 10 strips for each brick. I'm assuming that running the power bricks at full capacity for hours on end probably isn't helping anything. Will you be missing a ton of light by reducing each panel by 20%? Eh ... I don't think it'll be noticeable, and if it lets you shoot longer because things don't overheat, it'd be totally worth it.

As for color correcting, I really don't have much to offer. I really appreciated how thorough and clear his video is. It took me, an absolute color correcting n00b, to a place where I felt comfortable with the tools in less than 15 minutes. Granted, I followed along, pausing at each step to try it myself.

Color Code Your Characters

No, I don't mean like the Power Rangers, nor am I talking about the whole Black Hat vs. White Hat good/bad distinction. This is far more practical.

So in the scene where Abby comes screeching into the studio, a billow of smoke behind her, she has a quick conversation with Tabby about Greer. We cut to her spilling her coffee.
Damsels Greer Red

When we cut back to the scene, in has walked Ashley with Carley. Ashley is in a red shirt.
Damsels Ashley Red

Here's the problem: Since we don't know Ashley yet, I was concerned the audience would initially think this was Greer, come to reclaim her photo slot or something. Then there'd be a moment of confusion when the line of dialog introduces a different name. Then the audience would have to make the huge jump to connecting Ashley to Abby as sisters while also catching who Carley is as we crank toward our first really big visual gag with the cat. It was too much.


Make Greer's shirt purple.

The Speed of Editing (don't play to the music)

I know Jonathan made fun of me for my frenetic pace while cutting, but I get bored easily. Keep things moving. The first day of filming, we captured an hour and twelve minutes of footage. On my first pass, I trimmed this down to 45 seconds.

I tell my students all the time that your music should never dictate how long your scene is. Cut your music to fit your scene. After cutting the song I wanted down to those 45 seconds, I watched my edit.

It was felt about two times too long.

So I re-cut the music down to under 30 seconds.

Damsels Opening Music
Taking over and hour of footage and turning it into 30 seconds of blazing fast edits takes time. In this case, about 8 edit days (taking into account learning a new NLE at the same time when I switched from Vegas Movie Studio to DaVinci Resolve).

It's Art (dialog)

Much of the storytelling in this piece is buried in the dialog. There is a bunch of talking that fills the movie. The nuances can get lost as we tear through the script at breakneck speed. The fact that Ashley hints at her immature photographer boyfriend ("Boys like you are so myopic"), the longstanding Tabby + Abby friendship ("Thanks, Tabs." / "No, Abs, thank you."), the thoughtfulness and limitless dreams of childhood ("I want to be a doctor, a docent, or a ventriloquist") all slip by, their depth unexplored.

The one theme I'm afraid is totally lost in the moment is the discussion of nudity in art.

Damsels Hair Up

Ashley's boyfriend photographer claims that his photos are art, like David or The Birth of Venus. He cagedly starts with an example of male nudity before citing one of the most recognizable female nudes in history. These are both, most assuredly, artistic nudes. So what's the difference? Ashley senses there is one, but we don't explore precisely why.

But the question is an important one, and I hope people think about it, even if we don't take time in the middle of that scene to discuss it further.

There's more to say, to be sure. But I'll stop here. I'm happy to answer questions about whatever should you have any.

Thanks for watching!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

P.S. See more short films by Luke Holzmann here:


Show to Tell: Wedding Rings

Thus far in the show, we've seen these two characters interact a couple times in stressful, work-related situations. We've learned that they've known each other since high school and were friends back then, with a slight hint of maybe more.

Now, out of the blue, he calls her while she's home making dinner for her family. And we are shown this:

His Wedding Band

First thing I thought, 'This is building to an affair.'

I'm writing this post, so I don't yet know how the scene ends, but the way the creators of the show are making it, I'm right. A few moments later, we cut back to her in the kitchen:

Her Wedding Ring

All this is done through framing and camera position and the subtle/natural way the characters hold their phones. The filmmakers are showing us something to tell us something. And as one who has watched a lot of movies, this sequence feels almost too "on the nose." But it's a solid visual cue of what this moment in the show is all about.

I was told in film school: "Show, don't tell." That's probably true, but I'd like to suggest that we show to tell. What natural cues can you use in your scene to share with your audience the tone of the moment?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Aside: Scars

The point of these things is to remind us that there is no going back. There's only moving forward.

This line comes in one of the best subtle acting moments of the show thus far. And I love this line. It reminds me of an incredibly insightful post by one of my bloggy friends: Stretch Marks. In it she writes, "I think [stretch marks/scars] are beautiful. After all, what other tangible sign do we have of this life-altering transformation?" Give it a read.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor