Archive for the American University Category

Waiting On A Train

Posted in American University, DC, Red with tags , , , on September 8, 2012 by Jon

My friend Dave Joyce’s short film, Waiting On A Train, is an official selection of DC Shorts Film Festival. I served as D.I.T. on set using the short lived Storm from The Foundry. Anyone remember that program? <crickets> Right. At one point they were even writing an article featuring Waiting On A Train as an early adopter of Storm. C’est la vie.

I had a much larger role as editor of the film, for which I used FCP7. I cut the above trailer based on an idea Dave and I discussed before I shipped off for sunny L.A. If you’re in D.C. catch a screening and Q&A with director Dave this weekend as a part of Showcase 13, September 8, 10, & 15.


Demo Reel

Posted in American University, Canon 5D Mark II, DC with tags , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by Jon

Mainly focusing on my editing and cinematography. A little directing thrown in at the beginning as well.

Slaughter Across The Water

Posted in American University, Canon HV20, Documentary with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by Jon

In 1997 the Spa Creek bridge was shut down for repairs. This was the neighborhood of Eastport’s main connection to the city of Annapolis. Residents worried about the negative effects on their local economy and businesses. Out of this quandary the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE) was born.

In 1998 the MRE challenged Annapolis to a tug of war to celebrate their triumphant independence now known as “The Slaughter Across The Water”.

“The longest international tug of war over water in the world” (although the Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t recognize tug of wars due to their danger) draws thousands of onlookers, participants, and merrymakers.

In 2009 I followed MRE members from the planning stages of the tug to it’s inevitable aftermath. My camera, a Canon HV20, suited my run and gun style and allowed me to shoot handheld and remain unobtrusive.

I felt a larger camera that screamed “professional” would have made people uncomfortable. The only shots that contained any direction were the interviews. Everything else was just being in the right place at the right time.

To document the tug of war I positioned one camera crew on the Annapolis City Dock with an HV20. On the Eastport side we had two cameras to cover the several thousand people enjoying the tug festival which includes food, booze, and live music. I was on the ground with an HV30 and my dad was positioned high above  with an HV20 locked down which also streamed live to the Internet.


The Vaunted Canon HV20


I cut the film using Final Cut Pro 7. The look of the Canon HV20/30s allowed me to get a “cinema” look at 24fps. I can’t compliment these cameras enough. Finally, I worked with my brother Peter to grade the film in Apple’s Color. He’s well known in the DC area for his color grading wizardry and I highly recommend him for your next project.

The Tug of War, now in it’s 13th year, continues again Saturday, November 6 on 2nd Street in Eastport and City Dock in Annapolis. Details about this year’s event (including booze on the Annapolis side for the first time!) can be found at the MRE’s web site here.

I hope that my humble little film serves as an entertaining and historical account of the mysterious practices and often misunderstood people of the MRE who are ‘still revolting’ 13 years after their founding.

p.s. I’m proud to finally release this film to the public after nearly a year of keeping it under wraps. It was nominated for a Visions Award at American University. Big props to everyone who helped out with the production including Yuri Ozeryan, Andrew Gay, Wendy Marxen, and my professor Larry Engel.

Dead Man’s Hand

Posted in American University with tags , , on April 4, 2010 by Jon

My Film and Video Production II midterm project had a set of parameters:

  1. It had to be shot on a 16mm Bolex camera in black and white
  2. The story had to be an original script featuring 3 people playing a card game.
  3. A 4th person walks in on the card game and drama ensues.

Shooting on film is no easy task. Especially when you come from the world of video and you’re used to shooting fast and loose or run and gun. With 16mm film, its ALL in the pre-production. I had a couple of great crew members to help me bring the vision and script I wrote for Dead Man’s Hand to life. You need a script, a revised script, shot schedules, floor plans, a storyboard (yes, those are original Jon Salvia illustrations), and prop and wardrobe lists.

The best thing about this project was learning to plan for a film shoot. Breaking down every aspect of the film and trying to plan for it was as rewarding as it was challenging. Working with the actors was great.

The worst part about shooting with a 16mm camera from the ’60s? It’s a piece of crap camera from the ’60s. Lenses don’t focus correctly. The thing shakes like it’s going through a Haitian earthquake. And it’s basically ready to fall apart at any moment. Also, we were completely misinformed about the amount of time each reel of film would give us to shoot. We were told 10 minutes. In reality we had 2:42. Yeah. We didn’t realize it until the 3rd roll that our timing was waaayyyy off. But by then it was too late.

The result? We’re didn’t get 75% of the footage we THOUGHT we were getting. That kind of left a few holes in the story. No close ups of the main character. NO shots of the climax. Entire missing scenes. I’m still frustrated by this project which is why I haven’t written about it until now. We shot at the end of February, and completed the film nearly a month ago. Here’s the “remix” I did because I was bored.

I was inspired by the editing in Ida Maria’s “Oh My God”. The “strobe” effect is accomplished by lining up a bunch of (approx) 5 frame or less clips of the same action. Et voila!

Gayla Lee Glass Artist

Posted in American University, Canon HV20, Documentary, HD Video, How To on February 10, 2010 by Jon

Between 2 feet of snow this past weekend and another potential foot today, the DC area is getting pounded by powder. This hasn’t kept me from finishing my most recent project. “Gayla Lee Glass Artist” is a short bio documentary on my friend Gayla Lee.

The idea was to film her creation process and tell her story.

Beautiful platters, jewelry, and assorted glass based art by Gayla Lee

Specifically, Gayla works in glass fusion which is the baking of glass in a kiln.

Bring the heat

She was kind enough to indulge me in filming her for my first project for Film & Video Production II at American U. Gayla teaches at the Corning Institute and has been filmed before so she was very natural on camera.A work in progress

Her house, situtated on the South River in Annapolis, MD, provided a gorgeous setting for the interview.

Gayla Lee at home on the South River

We used almost all natural lighting except for the kiln scenes and the interview. Check out her work at and support an aspiring artist!

The Patriarch

Posted in American University with tags , , , on December 24, 2009 by Jon

In Film & Video Production I at American University the class was divided into several groups of 3 to 4 students each. Each group had to come up with a production company name. I liked Tick Tock Productions. It reminded me that we had a lot of work to do and the clock was ticking. Plus, it’s onomatopoeically like Alfred Hitchcock.

Director Yuri taking a look at the frame.

The Patriarch is the result of our Swap Project, which was one of two final projects due for the class.  The Swap Project works like this: someone not in the group writes a 5 minute fictional script with no dialogue. Each group gets assigned a script  and turns it into a film. Although The Patriarch is a dramatic piece we decided to go for a handheld look. My Canon HV20 is a GREAT lightweight camera and handles very well with my Panasonic wides angle lens adapter. Combined with the HV20’s cinematic shooting mode we were able to get a nice film look. It’s a great alternative to shelling out $800 for a Letus 35mm adapter.

Shallow depth of field.

I really enjoyed being cinematographer as this was my first time shooting a fiction piece. If I were able to go back in time I would have made sure we used bounce cards to even out the lighting on the actors faces. Speaking of the actors, they were great to work with. On the first day of our two day shoot we only had Gary DiNardo. He’s really pro and easy going. I highly recommend him for any indie/student filmmakers looking for a male lead.

Jessica Ross and Gary DiNardo have chemistry.

Jessica Ross played the woman and she was equally great to work with. She came through on extremely short notice when our original actress bailed at the last possible moment.

The post production was a bit difficult. It’s in post where you figure out “holy shit, we’re missing key shots”. We worked around it, improvised, and were able to cut the film without doing any reshoots. Big props to Yuri Ozeryan who directed and did sound design. Andrew Gay came through in a big way keeping us on time during the shoot and composing original music for the film!

Yuri and I discuss at least two ways The Patriarch could go.

Finally, it came down to color correction. I really want to get good at using Apple’s Color. I added basic primary correction of the blacks and highlights. Then in secondaries I tried to saturate the actors skin where possible. Plus, I upped the blue gain to give the whole thing a “cold” look. Finally, in the color fx room I added a vignette and film look, hence the graininess. Obviously, I’ve got a lot to learn about Color, but working on The Patriarch was great practice. I’ve got to hand it to my brother, Peter, who put together a great tutorial for anyone looking to hop right into Apple Color. Check it out here. Below is The Patriarch (same cut) pre color correction.

Salvia On Salvia: An Insightful Blog Post

Posted in American University, Documentary, HD Video with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by Jon

In film school you’re doing one of two things: making movies or not making movies. Don’t get me wrong, the writing course I took this semester was fantastic and I was able to apply what I learned to my production class. That’s kind of the point. But the point of this post is to share one of my movies. Or “an autobiography” as I put it in the title. From concept to completion this is the only film from class that was done without the help of classmates.  Below is the autobiography. Below that you can read about the processes I went through to create, execute, and produce this short little film.

Salvia On Salvia: The Autobiography

Pre Production

The rules for making this film included (1) You must appear on camera in your current form, (2) You get to choose exactly what you share in your autobiography, (3) Total running time should be around 5 minutes. Right away I knew the look and style for the film- a run and gun documentary with a sit down interview anchoring the narrative. This doubled as practice for my final project, a documentary. My astrological birth sign is Gemini, the Twins. I thought it would be interesting to interview myself and employ my editing skills to make some movie magic happen. Special FX incoming! The interview would detail where I went to school. It was also essential to include footage of musicians performing at radio station WRNR FM. That was my first full time job out of college and the filming I did there is what inspired me to apply to film school in the first place. I wanted to include never before seen footage of Andrew Bird’s performance at RNR’s inauguration party for Barack Obama. That way I could use the live recording of one of Bird’s songs from the set as my soundtrack. Andrew thought that WRNR was, “…well curated.” That’s what Andrew said to me when I drove him around my car for a couple of days before and after his RNR gig. But that’s another blog post.


I needed b-roll. It was simple enough to drive around Annapolis and shoot the grade schools I attended. The interview took place at a pet store – I have a theory that puppies make everything better – the owner of which I worked for back in the day and he helped me with the shoot. I purposefully did not write a script for the interview. I wanted to make it as loose and off the cuff as possible. This was another way of practicing for the interviews I would conduct in my documentary… and/or I’m lazy. The audio in the interview was recorded with a wireless lav mic. The footage I shot of WRNR performances comprised b-roll for the second half of the film.

Post Production

In the era of non-linear video editors, it’s in the edit room that your film gets told. Its the most important skill to learn as an up and coming filmmaker. My interview with myself served as the spine of the story. My story was brought to life through b-roll. For sound I added the live WRNR version of Andrew Bird’s “Fitz and the Dizzy Spells” as my soundtrack. Audio was made to peak around -12 dB. My professor Larry Engel says that making a film is like conducting music. It’s all about rhythm, tonality, and melody. Cutting to music in the edit room is where I got my start and it seemed like the logical way to go with my autobiography. The result is at least what I was going for, which is all you can ever hope for as a filmmaker.