Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cinefex Blog: Inspiring ILM

The popular Computer Graphics and Special Effects magazine, Cinefex, just posted a great blog in their "Inspiring" series, featuring me and some of my colleagues from ILM. Check it out.
What drives people to work in the visual effects industry? The glamour? The technology? All those ravening monsters and exploding spaceships? Or is it just another job? In an ongoing series of articles, we ask a wide range of VFX professionals the simple question: “Who or what inspired you to get into visual effects?”

Here are the responses from the staff at Industrial Light & Magic.
Check out the article here:

Monday, February 09, 2015

Biking Hawk Hill with my epic new Specialized Sirrus Comp Disc bike!

After many months of research I decided to go with the epic 2015 Specialized Sirrus Comp Disc bike!! It is a "city" or "fitness" bike, and I've also seen it referred to as "flat bar road" bike. It is totally awesome and I am already loving it.

Sweet ride, bro
Uggggh it is soooo aweeesooome.

The weight of the bike is really light and it's really fast. The 700cc x 30 tires have an incredible amount of "pick up" compared to my old mountain bike. I am really happy with how fast it can accelerate, and also how it can crush the San Francisco hills. The 2 x 10 gears are working out well so far, even for some crazy hills.

Here are the specs!
The Sirrus Comp Disc with Fitness Geometry provides flat bar handling so you can ride faster on longer rides, yet be stable and quick in town. The hydraulic disc brakes mean you'll have confidence to ride regardless of the weather or what you're carrying on your racks.
  • New E5 Premium Aluminum frame w/ Fitness Geometry built for speed and versatility
  • FACT carbon fork w/ Zertz provides lightweight and smooth handling
  • Specialized Espoir Sport Reflect, 700x30c tires for performance and visibility
  • Specialized Body Geometry Targa, lock-on grips w/ integrated bar end for no-slip performance
  • Tektro Gemini, hydraulic disc brakes for maximum stopping power
  • Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed derailleur for plenty of gearing options
  • Body Geometry Targa Sport saddle w/ steel rails for all conditions comfort
  • Compatible with Specialized Plug + Play Fender Set
Technical Specifications
Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum, fully manipulated butted tubing w/ smooth welds, internal cable routing, tapered/integrated headset, fender/rack eyelets
Specialized FACT carbon w/ Zertz, alloy steerer/crown
1-1/8" sealed Cr-Mo bearings integrated w/ headset, 15mm alloy cone spacer
Specialized Comp Multi, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 12-degree rise
Specialized flat, 6061 double butted alloy, 10-degree backsweep, 4-degree upsweep, 31.8mm
Specialized Body Geometry Targa, lock-on w/ integrated bar end
Tektro Gemini, hydraulic disc, resin pads
Tektro Gemini, hydraulic disc, resin pads
Shimano Tiagra
Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed, long cage
Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed
Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed, 12-30
KMC X10, 10-speed, reusable Missing Link
FSA Omega, forged alloy, 50/34
Sirrus, 1.5mm Varus angle, nylon body, symmetric alloy cage, low profile bearing system, toe clip capable
AXIS 1.0 Disc
AXIS 1.0 Disc
Specialized Espoir Sport Reflect, 60TPI, wire bead, Double BlackBelt protection, 700x30c
Specialized Espoir Sport Reflect, 60TPI, wire bead, Double BlackBelt protection, 700x30c
Body Geometry Targa Sport, steel rails, 155mm
Alloy, 2-bolt, 12.5mm offset, 30.9mm, anti-corrosion hardware
Alloy, 31.8mm
So yes, this is amazing.

To really give this a test, I decided to go with my buddy Alex over the Golden Gate Bridge and all the way up Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands which is a big climb. Even crazier, we decided to go DOWN the other side of Hawk Hill which is one-way, but super steep. As these were brand new brakes I took it slowly, but in the video you'll see Alex just flooring it down the hill. :)

At the top of Hawk Hill
I could have never done that ride before on my 26'er mountain bike. This bike really allows me to do harder, steeper, longer rides like this one. I wasn't sure if it could handle this as well as a road bike, but I found it really did. Super awesome bike. After the long ride, we stopped in Sausalito for ice cream, obv.

A very important part of the ride
The other cool part of the ride is Alex was testing out his new gimbal stabilizer for his new GoPro camera. It makes for some really smooth video (and you can really see the difference when you compare the video from Alex's bike with the video from the GoPro mounted to my helmet). The stabilized footage looks amazing. Check out an edited clip of some of the bike highlights here!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Slamdance/Sundance 2015 Day 2: Red Carpet and Getty Photo shoot

Day 2 at Sundance was truly epic too.

Michal and I started off early with a nice brekkie with Batman and Damsel (as one does) and then headed off to the Eccles Theatre to see the film "Sleeping with other people", an offbeat romantic comedy, what the director referred to as "When Harry Met Sally -- for jerks". It was hilarious and the acting and script were both really well done. At the end of the movie, we were surprised that the lead actor and actress, Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis, both came out for a long Q&A along with the film's director Leslye Headland. We had a great time at the screening, the Q&A rocked, and it was fun to actually go to a Sundance screening while in Park City.

To the Eccles Theatre!
Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis and writer/director of "Sleeping with Other People"
Gotta love those chair lifts right through town
From here, Michal and I went to wander around and found the Roots store in Park City! Roots is one of the most famous Canadian clothing brands, and so it was so crazy to see it there. My buddy Noah said to keep an eye out for it -- it is still there after the Olympics that were in Salt Lake City (the year when Roots did both the Canadian AND USA olympic team clothing). It was super fun to check it out and Michal and I bought (almost!) matching hoodies which were Roots Park City themed, with a small AMERICAN flag on the top of the hoodie! This, of course, is very odd for a Roots hoodie which is always adorned in Canadian maple leaves. But yet, super awesome, so... now we have almost-matching hoodies. Win.

This afternoon was all about press and photos, which was a super fun opportunity to drink some tasty free coffee and hang out and goof off, all things that I love doing more than just about anything else.

Slamdance Red Carpet
This is exciting
Red Carpet
One more Red Carpet photo, where you can see the actual red carpet :)
We took a wander after this, walking into the Acura Studio area and watching a free concert, and getting a cup of life-changingly perfect (and free?!?!) hot chocolate from Intelligentsia, as well as a pour-over coffee that tasted like a dream of a simpler time.

I had pre-booked a ticket into the Indiegogo event, and by chance it just turned out there was a secret Tim (freakin'!) Hortons in there -- talk about a Canadian's dream!!! We got a cup of free coffee (why is everything free here?!) and told them how psyched we were to see Tim Hortons there. As my usual luck tends to go, the staff there high-fived us for loving Tim Hortons so much and gave me like 10 packs of Timmy's coffee and some Tim's tote bags. YUP. We walked into the Indiegogo thing to see the end of an interview with Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords. I love this place.

Epic theatre
Yep, there is a freakin' Tim Hortons here!
Oh look, it's Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords!
Well that was amazing. All caffeinated, we headed to the Getty Images studio which was sponsored by none other than McCafe -- time for another hot chocolate, I'd say!

This was the final official event of the day, and we hung out there with Robert Johnson (!!) and some other NFL players who were there also to shoot some photos with Getty Images for the "Sundance Film Festival Portraits: Day 2" album. We got some coffees and chilled out until it was time for makeup and photos.

Chillin' at the Getty Photo shoot green room
Hanging out before our makeup and photos
Oooh fancy hair!
Getting into the mood for photos
And... smile!
The two lovely ladies
Dana looking sharp!
Another angle :)
A good looking group, I'd say!
Of course, I ridiculously asked the legendary Getty photographer Larry Busacca if we were clearly the "most attractive group he's shot all day", to which he said "Of course!" without skipping a beat. He also high-fived me on the way out. Man, this experience was awesome.

Whew! So that was super fun and I didn't try the free (again, free) wine beforehand for fear of looking too red for the photos. Cue, a cheers to this day! We hung around a bit longer in the green room, dancing around, generally being silly, and then getting tweeted by McDonald's. All in a day's work, I suppose!

Ok photos are done, time to celebrate again!
Chillin' post photos
And then we put on McCafe sweatpants and busted a move in the Getty photo studio #canttakeusanywhere
Posing for the McDonald's cameraman, just because
Rob drawing us a "Batkid is lovin' it" sign for the McCafe wall
Put up those wings!
And then McDonald's tweeted us.
Another amazing day in Park City, and a weekend I will never forget! What a great bunch of hardworking and fun-loving people. I love the Batkid wish team, and I'm so happy our little Batkid family is even larger now.

It was so cool to go to Park City and enjoy the festivals and the many, many free coffees and hot chocolates -- but even better to be able to do it in the company of such wonderful people. It's especially gratifying to me, because the Batkid Begins movie is not just a movie -- it's a charity project, and also it's an awareness film that sends a message out, loud and clear. I think it aims to inspire people to be a little kinder, and a little gentler, and a little more decent to each other. Isn't that just exactly what our goal on this earth should be?

Congrats to the Batkid Begins crew on an out-of-this-world weekend at Slamdance and a glorious launch of the film. To many more successes, and I hope lots and lots of people get to see your hard work and see how you helped tell our story far and wide.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Batkid Begins: News & Reviews!

Some fun and interesting news articles have come out about Batkid Begins, and also some really kindhearted and well-thought-out film reviews. Here's a few I've enjoyed so far:
 And some great reviews right out of the gate!
 My favourite comments are from John Ford, of Slug Magazine:
Batkid isn’t here to save us from villains or tyrants or monsters, he’s here to save us from ourselves—from our cynicism and our constant lack of optimism. Batkid is a reminder that we should all be a little more childlike, be a little more trusting, be a little more caring and start giving more of a damn about each other in this world. We need you, Batkid. Save us.

He hits the nail right on the head. To me, that's the entire sum-up of the spirit of the day. Let me repeat this part: "Batkid is a reminder that we should all be a little more childlike, be a little more trusting, be a little more caring and start giving more of a damn about each other in this world."

I cannot begin to explain how overjoyed I am that this is the message someone is taking away from the film. When I was asked to join the Batkid team I just said "Yes", totally engulfed by the idea of it all and willing to go as many extra-miles as it took to get it right. But, thinking about the whole experience after it was all over, I thought about how it actually turned out to fit absolutely with my M.O. -- in the past when I auditioned for TED, in my interview video I suggested that "cynicism is a cultural disease" and that "childlike does not mean childish", that living with passion and a strong hopeful optimism is truly living.

Everyone gets something different from watching a film, I know, but man I am just blown over that one of the reviewers of the film so far took the kind of message from the film that I would give if I was making a film about why I participated in Batkid, why I personally think it sends out a statement about humankind that really matters. I think they tell lots of stories in the film, all important in different ways. But to me, personally, I am truly beyond words that Dana, Kurt, Liza, Ian and the rest of the crew were able to tell the message I would have told, with such clarity and perfection. Mazel Tov to all involved :)

Slamdance/Sundance 2015 Day 1: Batkid Begins World Premiere!

Well, THAT sure was amazing.

Michal and I went to Slamdance and Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah last weekend for both our first Slamdance/Sundance experience AND our first time as part of "World Premiere-ing" a film!

We were there to join the lovely Dana Nachman, Liza Meak, Kurt Kuenne, Ian Reinhard, and other excellent cast and crew of Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World for the World Premiere at the 21st annual Slamdance Film Festival. What an experience!

I had seen about 5 min of the rough cut of the film's opening and it had me in tears. I know Kurt Kuenne's prior work (see Dear Zachary, incredibly powerful film and truly one of the most heart-wrenching film experiences ever), and was so psyched to see how he and Dana had woven a story around the little Batkid wish that we did in 2013 which magically spiraled into the good-news story of 2013. I had a link to the final cut a few weeks before, but had exercised extreme restraint in only watching a couple of clips. I am so glad I saved watching the whole movie until the big day.

Glorious Park City!
Gotta put on our Bat-faces
We got up on Saturday (Jan 24th), had some brekkie together and headed towards Main St in Park City, a truly wondrous little town with a ski chair lift running right over the main walk into town. It's a really excellent spot and I'd love to go back another time and ski when we aren't so busy and overwhelmed with excitement for a film release :)

Walking towards Slamdance
Slamdance HQ!
At Slamdance HQ with Rob, Jen, and Kurt
We got to Slamdance and lined up and man was it ever exciting. Lots of people were there, keen to see the film about the Batkid wish - myself included.

In line for the Batkid Begins World Premiere!
Lots of people here!
An excited crowd
OMG this is gonna rock
Epic people
After a short wait, BOOM in we went to the screening room at the Treasure Mountain Inn, home of Slamdance. I thought it was hilarious that outside the venue, there were signs referring to the location by its short-form: "TMI". ;)

A hush fell over the crowd...

Let the show begin!
The movie was an absolute slam DUNK. I am *so* glad I actually waited to see the whole thing for the premiere itself -- it was really worth it to have all of the emotions run me over and I had a very much "feel ALL the EMOTIONS!" kind of experience. There was sadness, excitement, joy, pride, overwhelming happiness, hope... "feel ALL of the emotions"!

The most important part, to me -- from someone who took part in the day itself -- is that I feel the film really does represent the spirit of the Batkid wish. Without writing any spoilers... it has a great setup and backstory and staging for the truly heroic (I might say, angelic) work that Make-A-Wish does hundreds upon hundreds of times per year to pull off wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. You really do get to see the hard work and care and thought that goes into this organization of world-changingly amazing people. You also get to see the wheels starting to fly into motion for this Batkid wish, how it got bigger and more visible than anyone had imagined, and how the staff, volunteers, helpers, city workers, and citizens of San Francisco stepped up and all did their part to make this boy's wish come true on a scale we will likely never see again. Truly astonishing to see footage from our rehearsals, planning, and the day-of, all beautifully cut with interviews from the organizers, us "cast", and the many, many people touched by this act of pure, unadultered, unfiltered, beautiful humanity. I was blown away. There is so much footage online and available on news sites, but Dana and Kurt managed to pull together a really touching story which is much more than the sum of hundreds of news articles and individual clips. It's just plain perfect. They hit every single note, and to me, they represent why I said "Yes" and I why I was so proud of us, and so damn happy to be a part of such a unique moment in time.

After the screening the room roared in applause and the Slamdance staff ran a short Q&A with the crew.

Batkid Begins Q&A from the crew
I'm in awe of these people
Baby's first Q&A
The crowd listens in amazement
After the short Q&A, we all went up to take a few cast & crew photos and, obv, hug it out.

Batkid fist pump!
Another cast & crew angle
Processing the emotions
Always hug your exec producer :)
Whew! And after a successful World Premiere (!!!!) we headed to a Bistro for some celebration food and drinks and to all mentally process what we just accomplished. Another great Bat-team win :)

Very important aside: for those of you who are not aware, the proceeds of Batkid Begins will be donated to The Batkid Fund -- so this film is not only a freakin' beautiful time capsule of the spirit of the Batkid wish, but it's ALSO a charity project. Oh man, I couldn't be happier with this entire setup.

Better sync up those watches
World Premiere: Success!
And with that, we headed off. Some folks went back to their lodges to warm up by the fire, some went out to party, and some did both (us!).

Time for pizza
Good times :)
A glorious evening
An amazing first day at Sundance/Slamdance, an amazing first experience, and a truly incredible "world premiere event" to have been a part of!