Pueblo Debuts in Boulder!

It was an amazing experience to watch Pueblo Barcelona screen in my hometown with an audience of 250 people! The reactions were great with lots of laughs! Take a look at some pics from the MmmmmBoulder event below.




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Red Carpet Photos (and more) from Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival

Back from Philly! Ben, Erika, and I had a great time on our recent trip to the film festival. It was awesome to see our work on a big screen and we had fun meeting filmmakers and animators from across the country (and world). Here are some pics:

Pueblo Premiere

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New Pueblo Episode Selected for Film Festival

Greetings Pueblo world! It’s been a long time since I last posted, but I have some exciting news: we have a new short film based on the Pueblo series and it will be premiering soon at the Philadelphia Film and Animation Festival.

WHEN: Thursday, September 27th at 3:15 pm
WHERE: International House, 3701 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 19104
WHAT: Shorts Showcase of quirky live action and animated TV and web shows.

This film is essentially our ninth episode, though it’s different from the first eight because it was filmed in Barcelona and was designed to be a slightly longer, self-contained story. (We wanted it to be accessible to an audience that may not have seen the original series.) I don’t want to give too much away, but the plot revolves around a tumultuous weekend love affair between Ben and Erika as they explore Barcelona and attempt to rekindle their romance. With the city as a backdrop, the story also highlights some of our favorite aspects of Catalan culture.

If you live in Philly, come check it out! Ben and I will be there for a Q&A afterwards. If you don’t live in Philly, cross your fingers that we will screen again soon in a city near you. Unfortunately, film festival rules prevent us from releasing our film on the internet right now, but we’ll definitely post it online as soon as we can. Until then, here are some behind the scenes photos:

Park Guell, Casa Mila

Calçotada in Barcelona from Pueblo

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How to apply for a Spanish Criminal Record Certificate

If you are applying for a Visa, either to Spain or another country, you may need to provide a Spanish Criminal Record Certificate if have you lived in Spain for longer than 6 months during the past 5 years. Due to unfortunate bureaucratic circumstances in Andalucía in 2011, after my first year as an auxiliar I was unable to extend my NIE, which forced me to reapply for a Visa in the US in order to return to Spain for a second year. In this case, I was required to provide this background check.

Fortunately, the process is not too tedious if the steps are followed correctly.

Where do I apply?
Visit www.mjusticia.es, specifically here. Read this very carefully, attention to detail is key.
An English version is available here. The English version helped me understand confusing parts of the Spanish version, however it is missing many details only included in the Spanish version, so be sure to read both.

I was told you can apply online, however the link on their website did not work. So I was forced to Express Mail my documents to Spain following the steps posted on their website.

What documents do I need to send?
1. A 790 application form. Download and fill this out in black ink, all capital letters.
2. A receipt of your BBVA wire money transfer. Google search a BBVA Compass bank in your area. For the year of 2011, the fee that you will need to wire is 3.54 Euros. The details of the Account Number and Account Holder for this wire transfer are located in the link above. This receipt needs to be included in the documents you send to Spain as proof you paid the fee.
3. A copy of your passport or form of identity. Make sure this form of identity is current! My mistake in this process was that I sent a copy of my NIE from the past year that had expired. Thus, I received my paperwork back in the mail announcing that because my form of identity had expired, the whole application was void. I also had this copy of my NIE card certified by having it notarized, although I’m not sure if that was necessary.

Send your documents Express Mail to:
Central Office of Citizen Services of the Ministry of Justice
Plaza de Jacinto Benavente, 3
28071- Madrid.
Spain

Although it costs $29 for Express Mail at the post office, I recommend it to make sure these documents will arrive quickly and efficiently to the Madrid office. As I mentioned, my attempt was unsuccessful in this process, but it took exactly 2 weeks to receive a reply in the mail from them, so it appears they stay true to the timeline listed on their website of processing the form within 3-10 business days.

An exception was made for my Visa in the last minute, so I did not have to repeat the application, but anybody who succeeds in this process, please comment here about any discrepancies or details that I have missed.

Good luck!

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Pueblo Joins the SFN Web Series Network

We are excited to announce that Pueblo is now a featured web series on the St. John-Fisher Entertainment Network, a site showcasing original web content. The press release is pasted below for more info.

Romantic Comedy ‘Pueblo’ Joins Web Series Network The SFN

Web Network The SFN (St. John-Fisher Entertainment Network – http://www.stjohn-fisher.com) has announced today the arrival of Pueblo to its original programming block. The charming romantic comedy is a blend of documentary and fiction, revolving around an English teacher’s adventures in a small farming village in Spain.

Created by friends Eve Richer and Ben Raznick while working as English teachers in La Puerta de Segura, the web series is the first of its kind to be entirely produced in the region using local talent and production crew.

Ben Raznick plays fish-out-of-water Ben, an American English teacher who arrives in Spain to teach English in the schools and soon develops a relationship with a local beauty named Erika Martinez who happens to be played by… a mannequin head. The fact that she’s a mannequin head is never acknowledged throughout the series, which only adds to its quirky charm and unique storytelling.

“Pueblo is a captivating, charming series that instantly grabs you and makes you smile,” says Todd Fisher, co-founder of The SFN. “We knew it was a perfect fit for our network the moment we watched the first episode. It’s wildly imaginative.”

The eight-episode web series is also a love letter to the town and its inhabitants, giving us a rare glimpse into the lives and landscapes of a world most people will never get to experience.

“You’ll find yourself falling in love not only with American Ben,” says Fisher of Pueblo, “But with all of La Puerta de Segura.”

Watch Pueblo on The SFN: http://www.stjohn-fisher.com/pueblo/

The SFN is establishing itself as web worth watching, an online destination showcasing some of the best, most high prodile content available to online audiences. PUEBLO joins a growing list of exciting web series including comedy HOMESCHOOLED. sci-fi web series AIDAN 5, web soap DEVANITY, comedy series FUMBLING THROUGH THE PIECES, and the SFN’s original content soap CALIFORNIA HEAVEN.

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How to Get a Walk-in Apostille for Spain Visa Documents

Okay, first of all, does anyone know how to pronounce the word Apostille? A site I found via Google breaks it down phonetically as a-poss-steal. That means I’ve probably been saying it incorrectly throughout years of applying for various visas…

But anyway, regardless of the pronunciation, I am here today to share some information on how to get walk-in Apostille certifications in DC, specifically for applying for a student visa for Spain to participate in Spain’s government teaching program. I am based in Northern Virginia so I am applying for my visa through the Spanish consulate in DC, and because I live near DC it was possible for me to get same day walk-in Apostilles. I am only speaking from personal experience here and I cannot provide information on other consulates. The only way to get official information is to contact these offices yourself, but since we all know that can be tricky and internet information is unclear, I am answering a few questions in the hopes it will help other people going through the same process.

Q. If I am applying for a student visa for Spain through the DC Consulate, what documents need an Apostille?

On August 15th, 2011, the day I applied for my visa, the DC Consulate required an Apostille on two different documents: the FBI background check and the medical certificate.

Some other consulates do not require an Apostille on the medical certificate, but at the time of writing, the DC consulate does. (By the way, for the teaching program they recently announced they will accept state police checks in lieu of the FBI check but I didn’t go that route so I can’t help you there.)

Q. How do I get a walk-in Apostille for the medical certificate and FBI report?

Being young and naive, I thought I could get both documents Apostilled at the same office. Ha! Silly me. That would be convenient and efficient and unrealistic. There are separate offices for each document. Someone told me one office is for federal documents and the other is for state documents so that might be why.

To get a walk-in Apostille for your medical certificate:

Important! Before you go, make sure your medical certificate is already notarized. It has to be notarized by a DC notary. I did mine at a PNC bank in DC which notarizes for free if you are a bank customer.

  1. Go to the Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications. It is right next to the Judiciary Square metro stop on the Red line.
  2. Sign your name in the book at the desk and wait for your name to be called.
  3. The charge for the Apostille is $15 per document. I paid with a credit card but it helps to bring your checkbook as a backup because their credit card machine was broken the day my sister went and she had to leave to get a money order. They don’t take cash.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Phone: (202) 727-3117
Fax: (202) 727-8457

ADDRESS
441 4th Street, NW
Room 810S
Washington, DC 20001

PUBLIC OFFICE HOURS
Monday through Friday from 9 am to 1 pm

To get a walk-in Apostille for your FBI report:

Important! Your FBI report must be authenticated for this to work. Ben wrote a blog post about authentication so check that out if you’re confused.

  1. Go to the State Department’s Authentications Office. It is near the Foggy Bottom metro stop on the Blue line and close to the Spanish embassy.
  2. Walk in and take a number from the machine by the front door and wait for your number to be called.
  3. The charge is $8 per document. Again, I paid with a credit card and I’m not sure if they take cash.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Phone: 202-663-1848
Fax: 202-663-3636
TDD: 202-663-3468

ADDRESS
Columbia Plaza Store Front
518  23rd Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

WALK-IN (COUNTER SERVICE)
Open only from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Monday thru Friday except Federal Holidays

Q. I spent all morning running around getting Apostilles and now I need to make photocopies of them for my visa app. Quick! Before the Spanish consulate closes at 1pm! What do I do?

This happened to me. There is a Fedex Kinko’s on 2400 M street (24th and M) near the Spanish embassy which is at 2375 Pennsylvania Ave. It is a pretty short walk (or in my case, run). Good luck!

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Audio Recorder and Other Gear Used for Pueblo

Equipment for filming Pueblo in La Puerta de Segura

I recently published a post about the camera and lenses used to film Pueblo so today I follow up with an entry on the other stuff we had in our equipment bag. I’ve listed the items below in decreasing order of importance, meaning that after my Canon T2i camera I’d say the next most crucial item was a way to record sound, then a viewfinder, and so on. Hopefully this will be useful if you’re wondering how to allocate resources on a limited budget (though I’m ranking these in the context of Pueblo so it might not totally apply to your project). As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Zoom H4n Audio Recorder

Audio recorder used for PuebloAlmost all the audio you hear in Pueblo was recorded on a Zoom H4n recorder using the onboard stereo microphones.  Since I was focused on filming/directing and Ben was usually on-camera, we didn’t have anyone fully dedicated to sound so we just did the best we could. Luckily the Zoom worked out well for us and the audio it records is much higher quality than what I can get from my camera.

To capture the audio, we developed a couple different approaches through trial and error. For shots that were mostly stationary (e.g. Ben sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender), we’d just place the Zoom somewhere out of the frame, do a quick test to determine a recording level, and hit record (sometimes a tripod was involved here, see tripod section). For scenes with a lot of moving around or impromptu discussions in the street (e.g. Carnival, San Blas, the market) Ben would usually hold the Zoom with one hand, walk and talk, and I’d do my best while filming to keep the Zoom out of the frame. For the most part this worked fine (especially as we gained experience) but the trick is to get the Zoom mic as close to the sound source as you possibly can. This is key since it’s hard to control background noise out in the real world and the closer you can get your mic to the sound the less you’ll pick up the noise.

Syncing the Sound with Pluraleyes

My Canon T2i camera also recorded sound as I filmed, but as I mentioned, the quality of the in-camera mic isn’t very good so I only used it as “reference audio” so I could sync the Zoom audio to the video files during post-production. To do this I used a magical software plugin called Pluraleyes which is explained in the video above. The software is great and can work wonders, though sometimes my camera audio was so crappy that I had to use the “Try Really Hard” option. That option helps but it can take a while.

Note: I no longer have the Zoom H4n so I’m thinking of replacing it with its cheaper little brother, the Zoom H1, since I don’t have a use f0r the XLR inputs that increase the price tag of the H4n.  I’ve read that the H1 and the H4n use the same mics so it seems like a good deal, and with the money saved I could get a good windscreen. The H4n comes with a windscreen but it’s mediocre. It’s all we had for Pueblo, but I highly recommend a better windscreen for either of these recorders if you plan to record audio outside.

LCDVF Viewfinder

LCD viewfinder for Canon T2iI got an LCDVF viewfinder last minute before I went to Spain and was very glad I did. A viewfinder is really useful for two reasons: 1) it makes it much easier to see the LCD screen which is important when you need to pull focus or are trying to shoot outside on a bright day, and 2) trying to shoot handheld without a viewfinder makes things very shaky. For Pueblo I usually shot handheld since it provided the documentary feel we were going for, so I used the viewfinder all the time.

I’ve never tried any other viewfinder so I can’t compare the LCDVF to other brands, but I can say that it serves its purpose well and I like how it attaches magnetically to my camera. My only complaint is that it tends to fog up quite a bit in certain situations. Such is the case with viewfinders, though I’ve learned that if it starts getting foggy while you’re filming you can try to smoothly maneuver it away from your face a bit so air gets in. That helps a little but if anyone has other anti-fog tips please share.

Tripods

I have my extended family to thank for these two tripods. They were both hand-me-downs, one donated by a cousin and another given to me after it had retired from a life of 1980s home videos. Below I explain how I used them for Pueblo.

Big tripod

Like I said, I usually filmed handheld for Pueblo, though sometimes in our dialogue scenes I used a tripod to get a steady shot and a little more of that cinematic feel. I also filmed almost all of Ben’s interviews using the tripod. I’m not sure what brand my tripod is but it’s so old I doubt it is even on the market anymore. If you’re looking for something cheap see if you can find a used one, possibly on Craigslist.

Little tripod

Mini tripod used for Zoom H4nMy mini tripod is a Joby GorillaPod. I would never put my DSLR on it because I don’t think it’s sturdy enough, but I mounted the Zoom H4n on it all the time. (They actually sell DSLR ones but that’s not what I have.) It was useful to stand it up on tables or sometimes the floor to elevate the recorder and point it in certain directions. Sometimes I’d use the bendy legs to wrap it around a chair or around one of the legs of the bigger tripod when my camera was on top. In this picture you can see it on the table after filming one of our scenes.

Memory Cards, Battery, Bag

Messenger bag for camera equipmentLastly, I also had a couple memory cards and an extra cheapo knockoff battery. The battery works fine but has a way shorter lifespan than the official Canon one. It was also way cheaper so I can’t complain. It is really useful to at least have 2 memory cards and 2 batteries with you at all times in case you need a backup or one gets full/dies.

So there you have it, all the equipment we used for Pueblo. Fortunately it was easy to fit and carry all our equipment inside of my messenger bag, which also doubles as a handy Erika carrying case.


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Biography of Gerald Phelony

Gerald Phelony is featured in the opening scene of Pueblo. He appears in a cameo role as Phillip Raznick, Ben Raznick’s father.

Gerald is a veteran actor. He has appeared in many supporting roles at Dinner Theaters in Washington State and Oregon. Gerald is best remembered for his interpretation of a matzah ball in Fiddler on the Roof.

When approached to perform in Pueblo, Gerald had been out of acting for five years. Producers of Pueblo located him working security at the In and Out Burger in downtown Olympia, Washington.

Gerald made his disappointment known when he received a brightly colored pair of socks for his participation in the Pueblo project.

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Music of Pueblo

The entire process of finding and deciding which music to use in Pueblo was one of my favorite parts of the project. We were lucky enough to get permission to use original compositions from many incredible musicians. Below is information about the contributing artists and at the end of the blog post there is a complete list of which songs were used in each episode.

El Niño del Parking

Eve discovered this flamenco fusion group through the works of the internet. After corresponding with them through their Facebook fan page, Oscar, the head musician, was more than happy to be a part of the project. The group is based in the town of Jerez, in Andalucía, southern Spain. Check out their music on Myspace.

The Pinker Tones

A friend of mine in La Puerta de Segura played me songs from The Pinker Tones and I was instantly hooked. The Pinker Tones are a hip alternative pop group from Barcelona, comprised of two guys by the names of Mister Furia and Professor Monso. We contacted them through their website and we were ecstatic that they were interested in our project!

Manuel Kohan

Manuel is a good friend of mine from Buenos Aires. When I moved there in 2009 I happened to find a place listed on Craigslist that had a piano. I’ve played the piano since I was 10, so I jumped on the opportunity to move in. It happened that I would be living with an extraordinary guitarist who would become a very influential musician in my life. We had jam sessions daily and super “buena onda” or “good vibes” as they say in Argentina. By the end of my time in Argentina, I had studied tango and folklore on the piano with a variety of amazing piano professors. I decided to record my first professional CD and Manuel volunteered to play in 4 of the tracks. When Eve and I began creating this web series I immediately knew we would have to include Manuel’s music somehow, and we happened to find a snippit in one of his songs “Último puerto” that would work perfect as our theme. Manuel’s first professional CD is in the making, and I look forward to the day that I can return to Buenos Aires so we can jam out again like old times!

Banda Municipal de La Puerta de Segura

La Puerta's local town bandThis local orchestra in La Puerta de Segura plays in all public holidays and events. While Eve recorded the visuals of San Blas and Carnival, I had our ZoomH4n recording the entire length of the band’s music, which we ended up using for both the San Blas and Carnival montages. (All props to Eve, genius editing!)

Complete list of Episodes and Music:

Episode 1
Pueblo Theme:
“Último puerto”
Manuel Kohan

“Sin truco sin maña”
El niño del parking

“Báilame por tangos”
El niño del parking

Episode 2
“Electrotumbao”
The Pinker Tones

“Este mar”
El niño del parking

Episode 3
“Travel Club”
The Pinker Tones

“Sonido Total”
The Pinker Tones

Episode 4
“El tonto enamorao”
El niño del parking

Episode 5
“Dolores”
El niño del parking

Episode 6
“Con te partirò”
Music by Francisco Sartori
Lyrics by Lucio Quarantotto
Performed by Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman.

“No te vayas de navarra”
Ignacio Román y Rafael Jaén
Banda Municipal de La Puerta de Segura

Episode 7
“Me gusta mi novio”
María Figueroa
Banda Municipal de La Puerta de Segura

“Viva la juventud”
The Pinker Tones

Episode 8
“Fly Me To Brazil”
The Pinker Tones

“Te quiero yo”
El niño del parking

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Camera and Lenses Used for Pueblo the Series

HDSLR, Canon T2i / 550DSome people have been curious about the gear I used to make Pueblo, so I’m finally writing up a post about my trusty Canon T2i. I was lucky to get this camera as a birthday/Xmas gift, but it’s on the low budget end as far as HDSLRs go and a good place to start if you want to buy video equipment. Of course, you don’t need an HDSLR or anything fancy to make a film. As long as you have something that can record video, just grab a friend (or mannequin head) and start shooting.

Camera

I did all the camera work for Pueblo on a Canon EOS Rebel T2i (known as a 550D in Europe). I really like this camera. It’s the only DSLR I’ve ever owned, but it shoots both photos and HD video which is great since I like to do both. DSLRs are really designed more for photography than video, so there are some limitations, but for me the pros far outweigh the cons. If you’re on a budget and are looking to get an HDSLR, the T2i is one of the most popular and affordable options out there and is considered a great first DSLR.

For an overview of DSLR filmmaking, check out this thorough and well-written DSLR Cinematography Guide.

Lenses

One of the reasons people like to film on HDSLRs is the ability to use a variety of lenses. Lenses can be pricey but it’s worth it to have more than one if you’re going to invest in this type of camera.

I had two lenses while filming Pueblo: the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens that comes bundled with the T2i, and a used 50mm f1.8 that I bought for $50 on Craigslist. I did some research before buying the 50mm lens and there seemed to be a consensus that this “nifty fifty” is the best bang-for-your-buck-lens you can get if you’re on a tight budget. It’s got pretty incredible optics given it’s price point. Below is a little more info on both lenses and how I tended to use them while filming Pueblo.

(Keep in mind, the Canon T2i has an APS-C sensor so it is not a full-frame camera. I won’t bore you with the technical details of this, but in practical terms it means that in order to understand the true focal length of the lenses I was working with, you need to multiply the numbers by a 1.6 crop factor. Therefore, for me, the 18-55mm lens is actually 28-88mm and the 50mm lens is actually 80mm.)

18-55mm Zoom Lens

I usually used this lens when I needed flexibility and a bigger range. It was also essential anytime I wanted a wide shot. It works well when there is good light or you are outside in the daytime, but it is not the best lens for low light shooting. If you want to get a shallow depth of field look (i.e. make the background blurry), it is not the best choice given that the aperture does not get very wide. That said, there were a lot of situations—especially shooting live outdoor events like Carnival—where it was really helpful to have the flexibility of a zoom.

50mm Prime Lens

This lens generally produces a higher quality image than my zoom lens and works much better in low light or when you want a shallow depth of field. A 50mm is considered a “standard lens” on full-frame cameras and is said to represent a view similar to that seen by the human eye. However, as I explained above, this lens actually acts like an 80mm on my crop sensor, so you really have to get some distance between yourself and the subject if you want something other than a close-up. I used it a lot for doing interviews with Ben and anytime there was low light, especially in those really dark bar scenes.

Camera Settings

I shot everything in 1080p HD resolution at 30 frames per second (though I exported at 720p). Shutter speed was usually 1/60th of a second. But here is a tip! Electricity in the U.S. is supplied at a frequency of 60 Hz but in Spain and most of Europe it is 50 Hz. So if you are ever filming in fluorescent lighting in Spain (which is not ideal but was sometimes the case during Pueblo) make sure you switch your shutter speed to 1/50th of a second. If you don’t you will get an annoying flickering effect. I learned this the hard way and it took me forever to figure it out.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. I’ll write up another post soon about our audio recorder and other gear.

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