Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A huge thank you to Terry Raven for supporting Ariel as an Executive Director. Thank you so much!

A huge thank you to Terry Raven for supporting Ariel as an Executive Director. Thank you so much!

Big thanks to Aslan Hollier for contributing to Ariel. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Big thanks to Aslan Hollier for contributing to Ariel. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 4, Setting Up Crowdfunding Campaign

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 4
Setting Up Crowdfunding Campaign

From the very beginning of preproduction on Ariel, I had planned to try my hand at crowd funding.  During the Austin Film Festival, I  had a chance to attend a panel on crowd funding.  One of the speakers was John T. Trigonis.  He spoke a lot on how one should approach crowd funding as a means to audience building, not just a way to raise money.  He also spoke of how one should focus on the funder experience and make it as personal as possible.  I was quite impressed.  This was the kind of thing that I hoped I would get out of attending the Austin Film Festival.  John Trigonis had written a book called “Crowdfunding for Filmmakers” (see: so, of course, I went right out an got his book.  It was indeed a worth investment.  The information put down in the book deeply resonated with the approach I wanted to take with my crowd funding campaign for Ariel. 

Armed with the wisdom imparted by John Trigonis, I marched forth to set all the pieces in place for my crowd funding campaign.  Now, I should say here that receiving wisdom and implementing it are two different things.  There were good pieces of advice about making the campaign personalized that I will admit that I am still struggling with.  However, I have accepted that I am doing this as a learning experience and hope to find ways to make the campaign more personal as I go along.

One approach to the campaign I decided to take was to treat it not so much as that I was looking to get money from people as much as I was looking to pre-sell them a product.  In this case the product, minimally, was to sell the film itself, either as a digital download or on DVD.  Other products to be sold were a production book which included the screenplay storyboard and production diary and associate producer and executive producer packages.  One key standard I had for these products was that I was only going to pre-sell what I knew I could deliver.

An early step in setting up the crowd funding campaign was to get all the social media set up so that when the campaign hit I would have that in place.  I got the domain registered and got a Facebook page and Twitter account for the film set up.  I then started inviting people to these places so that when the campaign started the would be familiar to it.  I also went through my e-mail and collected all the addresses from the last few years so that I would have some sort of e-mail list with which to start. 

For a crowd funding platform I chose IndieGoGo . The way IndieGoGo works is that if you don’t reach your funding goal you still get all the donations minus nine percent.  However if you do make your goal you get the funding minus four percent.   For me this was better than Kickstarter’s all or nothing approach.  For most short films, the expectation is to work on a short budget and make do with whatever you get.  So, if you don’t get all of the funding, chances are you can still find a way to make do and get creative and still make the film happen.
    One of the things that John Trigonis had brought up in a separate crowd funding related article that I found online was to set your funding level for what you can commit to raising.  For me that was about $3,000.  I had taken the time to figure out the budget and knew through my own efforts and personal contacts I could likely raise that amount or come pretty close to it.  I also knew that If I did not get all of that, through other means I would find a way to either make up the difference or re-work the film to compensate.

The next consideration was to come up with the perks to say thank you to contributors for donating to the film.  Again, my idea was to approach this as pre-selling the product rather than asking for money.  It was also important to me that everyone who contributed would be able to see the film.  So I set up the lower perk levels to be digital downloads of the film and the production book.  The higher levels were set up as experience packages that went beyond just seeing the film.  The idea with the higher level packaged would be that those who chose those level would get the experience of being part of the film’s production.

So the day came that I went onto logged in, filled in all the blanks and got it started.  I chose to go with the sixty day campaign knowing that the first week or two I would not be doing much activity with it.  This was in part because I still needed to shoot the pitch video but also to deal with the upcoming Christmas holiday.  (I will do a separate write up on the filming of the pitch video.  Another factor was that as my birthday was on December 18th and Christmas was just a week after I wanted my family members to have the option to donate as a birthday or Christmas gift.  This seems to be working as the film is now ten percent funded.

With the pitch video being added to the IndieGoGo page, I have started posting in various groups on Facebook and sending out e-mail.  Time will tell how the campaign goes.

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Contributors: Alyssa Hidalgo Robson and Daniel Robson. Thank you!

I just want to say a quick thank you to Alyssa Hidalgo Robson and Daniel Robson for Contributing at the Executive Producer Level. Thanks for doing your part to help make Ariel a reality!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 3
Victory at the Audition

    This past weekend I held the auditions for Ariel.  I don’t think I could have asked for much better.  We had twenty-four people show up and all the key roles were cast. I was very pleased.
    Before I go too deep into the audition I want to say a quick thank you to Wes Frank, Andrea Christian, Ivan Salazar, David Marshall and Richard Deck.  They helped me run the audition and I am truly grateful for their efforts.  They made my life so much easier.  They were a great crew.  I am also thankful for all the actors who showed up.  They came into the audition with great talents and attitudes. I was very blessed.  Lastly, I want to that the Austin Center for Martial Arts for allowing me to use the dōjō space for the audition.
    The audition was a different format from what people were used to.  I started out with having the people auditioning for the parts of Brown and Perkins first.  This part was pretty straight forward.  The rest was more unconventional. For the dōjō student parts and for any part that had stage combat I had the actors line up in two lines.  Then myself and a former martial arts student of mine each took a line and did some sort of throw with each actor.  Don’t worry.  We didn’t slam anyone.  In fact we were rather slow and gentle.  The point was to see who knew how to take a fall.  Here is the video.

Rolling/being thrown test

After that, I demonstrated one of the techniques that will be used in the fight choreography in the film and had the actors do that. 

Demonstrating fight choreography

Then I had the actors demonstrate what they learned as if they were teaching the class

Fight Demonstration

For the parts of Nancy, Helen, Dylan, Ryan and Lucas I had the actors impov a scene where Nancy is attacked.

Parking Garage Attack

    Once we got done with all of that I had the actors who were auditioning for Helen, Dylan, Ryan and Lucas introduce themselves as their characters and talk about why they enjoyed doing what they do.  Unfortunately, the card on my camera got full.  There was some really good (and really creepy) stuff going on.  All the actors did great work.
    At the end, I had a quick side meeting with the crew to finalize casting decisions.  I then went back to the actors and announced the casting decisions.  As much as possible, I prefer to let actors know on the spot the casting results.  I hate to leave someone wondering.  I know what it is like to audition for something and then have to wait to find out whether or not I got the part.   There is a second reason.  I want to get started immediately.  If I can tell an actor that he or she got a part I can start working with them then and there.  I realize that this is not how most people do it, but, for now it works for me.  I could see how later that might not work for a larger project like a feature film.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 2
Audition Preparation


    As a director, I always look forward to auditions.  It’s like Christmas.  You get to meet new and interesting people who will hopefully bring your story to life.  But there is a lot of preparation that has to be made.  As much as you may be auditioning the actors, in a very real sense the actors are auditioning you.  It is, therefore, important to have all the details covered.
    It can be deceptive how much goes into an audition.  On the surface it appears that that the director, the casting director, producer and maybe one or two other people show up, have the actors fill out a form or two and then hand out scripts and then watch the show.  Truly all of that does go on, but, if done right there is much that most people do not see.
    In preparation for the Ariel audition on Sunday, December 8th,  here is a list of things that either have been done or will be done by the time the audition doors open.

1)  Audition Format and Game Plan.  In the case of Ariel audition, there will be some line reading but also improv and a lot of physical acting.  It also helps to have an outline of what you need to see.  Here is a breakdown of the audition for Ariel that I provided to the actors:

    a) Scene with Perkins, Brown and Ariel.
    b) Scene with Nancy and Ariel.
    c) Woman 1 and 2.  For this one those who are auditioning for this part will need to walk across the room in a manner that indicates that she is not someone who would make an easy target for assault, confident, direct and aware of surroundings.
    d) Dojo Students - front, back rolls and able to be thrown as one would normally be in a martial arts class.
    e) Lucas - Dive roll
    6) Helen, Dylan and Ryan - Simple fall to the floor.  Example: you've been shot, you react and then you fall to the ground.
    f) Helen, Dylan, Ryan, Lucas and Ariel/Nancy - Improv.  Helen, Dylan, Ryan, Lucas corner Ariel or Nancy with the intent of having their way with her.  Helen is the ring leader.  There will not be any stage combat in the audition.  The idea is to see how menacing you can be and how you do it.
    g) Martial Arts Workshop - Dojo students and Ariel.  There will be two or three martial arts techniques shown.  They will likely be based on the fight choreography to be used in the film.  For the dojo students, this will be to see how well you can receive the techniques.  For Ariel, you will need to be able to demonstrate the techniques as a martial arts instructor would.
    h) Improv -  Helen, Dylan, Ryan and Lucas.  You each have one minute to tell why you and your friends like to hunt down assault and rape.  Is this a hobby for you?  Is is a compulsion? Is yours a gang or a highly elite and sophisticated social club?  When did you first do this?  How does it make you feel?  For inspiration you may want to look at the characters of Mickey and Mallory from "Natural Born Killers", Frank Booth from "Blue Velvet" and Hannibal Lecter from "Red Dragon".
    i) Ariel - Show how Ariel can physically portray shy, non threatening and vulnerable; an easy target.  This will be non-verbal.

2)  Date, Time and Location.  For Ariel I needed a space where tumbling and martial arts could occur.  As I used to teach at the Austin Center for Martial Arts, it was fairly easy for me to secure the location.  In the past I have needed to secure studio or class room space at Austin Community College where I am a student.
3)  Audition Notices.  As I have done a number of short films before, I had an e-mail list of actors that I used.  I, of course,  made the obligatory Craiglist posting.  But even more than that, I made extensive use of social media.  The big push was through the various acting groups on Facebook.  Stage 32 is a new social media platform for filmmaking on which I individually contacted every actor in the Austin area and let them know about the audition.  I as well made posting on Reddit. Much to my delight I got a huge response to the audition notices.  I had expected to hear from twenty to thirty actors.  What I actually got was over sixty. 
4)  Following Up.  Once all the responses started coming in I made sure to promptly get back to each actor.  I also made sure to keep all the actors appraised of any updates or changes.  Lastly, I tried to make each e-mail interaction as personal as I could (with varying degrees of success).
5)  Rehearsal.  Yes, I said rehearsal.  Even though I am the director, there is a certain amount of public speaking involved, at least the way I am doing it.  When actors arrive, I need to be able to sell them on my movie so that they stay motivated.  I also need to give them a clear idea of what to expect because when people know what is coming they are much more comfortable and willing to work.  It is also a leadership thing.  I need the actors to believe in me so they will follow my direction.  To do that I must instill trust and confidence.  I also have to make them feel safe to do the work that they do.  Rehearsing helps all of that.
6)  Logistics.  A successful audition depends upon good logistics.  Here is a run down of the things I am putting in place for the audition:

    - Write up and print out scripts, releases, audition forms, shooting schedules, project notes, “audition here’ signs and social media notes.
    - Run to Fedex Kinkos and get copies made of all the above mentioned stuff.
    - Gather the office supplies.  Fortunately, from previous productions, I have enough, pens, clipboards, sharpies, and tape to last me a life time.
    - Get the cameras and tripods together.  That includes backing up any old photos and videos, clearing the memory and either charging batteries or making sure there are spare batteries are on hand.  These cameras will be used for mug shots and for video taping the audition.
    - Making sure that there is a cooler of water for the actors.  Actors appreciate having water on hand.
    - Make sure that there are supplies to clean the audition space up.  I intend to leave the audition space at least as clean if not cleaner that it was when I got there.  I would like to be able to work in that space again so leaving it in good shape will help foster and maintain a good relationship with the martial arts studio.

    As I learned in the Army, proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.  That definitely applies to filmmaking.  With that in mind, I hope that all my efforts to get everything lined up reward me with a successful audition.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 1

    Hello.  My name is John Hidalgo.  I am a film student at Austin Community College.  I am starting this diary to record my experiences while making my new short film, Ariel.  My hope is that it will give people an inside look at what goes on in the making of a short film.  It is also for those who may support me to see where that support is going.
    The idea for Ariel had been with me for about three years.  When it came to me I had already written, produced and directed a couple of student projects for Austin Community College’s radio, television and film program.  I knew that at some point in the near future I would produce it.
    Ariel came from a combination of things.   A long time ago I had gone through rape crisis intervention training through the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault to supplement assault prevention classes I was teaching.  I had been studying martial arts in the Bujinkan Dōjō system for quite some time.  My motivation for teaching assault prevention classes was partially because I wanted to bring more students into our class but also because I had a number of friends and family members that had been assaulted and felt pretty strongly about the subject. 
    There were other inspirations for Ariel.  Without giving too much away there were a number of lessons and concepts in the Bujinkan martial arts that I always wanted to see on film.  I should note here that the martial arts that makeup the Bujjinkan system come from traditional Japanese martial schools.  The movement while being very utilitarian is not particularly flashy and difficult to portray in film.
    I don’t recall exactly when I first had the idea for Ariel but once I did it was with me almost everyday.  Often, as I was on a long drive or laying down for bed, I would play the movie in my head, refining it and working out all the plot points until, in September of this year, it was ready to be written and written it was.  It seemed flowed onto the page.  While not perfect, I felt really, really good about it.  I have since shown it to some people and received good feedback.  I’ve got some rewriting to do but I feel the core of it is very solid.
    In October, I was busy as an intern at the Austin Film Festival and did not get to work on Ariel as much as I would have liked.  That being said, I was still indirectly doing work that would later be applied to what I am doing now.  Working at AFF gave me great insight into the world of film festivals.  I was also afforded the opportunity to attend the festival. There were a number of great panels but the one that really stood out was one on film financing.  At this particular panel was John T. Trigoinis, author of the book “Crowdfunding for Filmmakers” (see: ).  He had some great advice.  One of the nuggets he shared was to not focus so much on getting the money but instead focus on building an audience and, further, building a relationship with that audience.  He also advised taking great care with the experience the audience members had with being a part of your project.  I came out of the Austin Film Festival pumped up and ready to go.
    Starting in November, I started doing all the preliminary logistics that one normally does for a film.  I consulted with both the Texas Film Commission and the Austin Film Commission and found them to be extremely helpful.  I did some preliminary research about insurance and right now have my eye on Fractured Atlas.  I also started location scouting for which I still have a lot to do.  I am luck in that one of the locations is the dōjō where I used to teach.  That one was easy to secure. 
    Starting in November I started getting the word out about auditions.  Fortunately, from previous productions I had built up an extensive list of actors.  In addition to that I did the obligatory post, posted in a number of places on and made a posting on  Lastly, I got on, a new social media platform for filmmaking, and sent individual audition notices to every actor in Austin.  It paid off.  My original expectation was that I would be doing good to have twenty people respond.  As of today there are sixty-two people who have said that they are coming to the audition this Sunday.  Wow.  That was much better than I expected.  Now, with any audition, there is always a difference between the number of people that say they will come and the people who actually show up.  Still, that is pretty good.
    November was also when I started laying the ground work for the social media that will be used to promote the film and the crowd funding campaign.  I want to say for the record that I have just about overdosed on social media.  In the course of about a week I got a secondary Facebook page with the page for Ariel tied to it, a blog and three twitter accounts. There is also the before mentioned Stage32 account.  No joke.  Social media can easily be a full time job.  I got to the point where I have put it aside for the moment so I can focus on all the preproduction stuff that needs to be done.  Then, of course, there is the web site which right now is just the audition notice.
    There is so much to do.  The storyboards are only a quarter of the way done and the script needs revisions.  I still need to find the main location.  Furthermore, there is a pitch video that needs to be written, storyboarded, rehearsed and shot by the end of the month.  Of course, I’ll need to get the crew together to shoot said pitch video. I need to get to the bank make sure that everything is in place to receive the crowd funding and then get everything set up with Indiegogo. 
    If it sounds like I am complaining, I’m not.  I am very happy with the work I am doing.  It is work, but it is good work.  I am looking forward to the process and especially to see the finished film.

Please feel free have a look at the links below and follow Ariel on social media.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wow. I have just finished putting together a list of all the people who have e-mailed me and stated that they will be at the audition. 60! That's right. 60 people. I may have to adjust the audition game plan but that is a good problem to have. Coolness!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hello Everyone,

First of all, thank you for everyone who has contacted me.  The response has been fantastic.  I think we are going to have a great audition.  Auditions are just over two weeks away.  To help you prepare for the audition, I have the following updates:

1) So that you can prepare, below is a link to the current version of the screenplay.  It will be rewritten over the course of the next month or so but the changes will be minor.  It will give you a pretty solid idea of what we will be shooting.

2) Prior to auditions, if you have not done so already, please send the following:  A head shot, a résumé and a short bio about yourself.  The bio should be about a paragraph long and will be used in the cast section on the web site (

3) For those who are auditioning for any of the roles that require stage combat (Ariel, Helen, Dylan, Ryan, Lucas or dōjō students)  please wear loose, comfortable clothing in which you can move.

4) We will be holding the audition in a martial arts studio.  So that we do not damage the mats, please do not wear shoes on the mats.

5) As stated before, the audition will be held, in part, in a workshop format.  The first part will be stage combat oriented and the second part will be improv.  Related to the stage combat, if you are auditioning for Ariel you will be given a few moves to do and then will demonstrate them as if you were a martial arts instructor.  If you are auditioning for Helen, Dylan or Ryan you need to be able to safely fall (nothing crazy, just act like you got shot, react and then drop to the floor).  If you are auditioning for Lucas, you need to be able to do a dive roll.  For those auditioning for dōjō students you will need to be able to handle being thrown (as one would normally be in a martial arts class).

6) The improv portion of the audition will mainly be for Helen, Dylan, Ryan and Lucas. For the improv there will be a part where you tell us about what it is like to be part of a group (be it a gang, a club or an exclusive society that does this as a hobby) of people who attack/assault others for fun.  The other part will be where the four characters will interact as a group.  For inspiration you may want to have a look at "Natural Born Killers" and "Blue Velvet".

7) Social Media - Below are some links where you can follow what is going on.  Much of this is still under construction but stay tuned as there will be regular updates.

8) If you are looking to audition for the part of Ariel or any of the martial arts/combat oriented parts and would like to get a feel for the martial art that is being portrayed, please contact me at . David Marshall (my student to whom I handed over the class) has agreed to allow people who are going to be auditioning to attend his class. This would be on Thursdays and Friday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 PM. Those classes are held at the Austin Center for Martial Arts (see: . 

9) Related to #8, here is a good reference video:

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Take care,
John Hidalgo

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So, this week has been all about getting the social media stuff sorted out. There is a lot of work to be done.

Here are the Facebook pages:
You can also follow along on twitter at:

More updates coming.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hello Everyone,
The date, time and location are confirmed for the audition for "Ariel".

Take care,
John Hidalgo
Just because I'm small doesn't mean I can't hurt you."
In a lonely parking garage, young, shy, diminutive Ariel is confronted by four attackers bent on having their way with her and must find a way to survive.

Ariel is a new short film from Ronan Creative Media that will be shot in Austin Texas in March of 2014.

Audition Notice

Sunday, December 8th, 2013
3 PM to 5 PM
Austin Center For Martial Arts
1000 E 51st St
Austin, TX 78751

We will be looking for actors for the following parts:

  • Ariel - 20s or early 30s, female, petite. Dance, mime or martial arts (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Judo or Aikido a plus) background will be helpful.
  • Nancy - 20s or 30s, female, possibly Ariel's sister
  • Helen - 20s or 30s, female, violent sociopath, leader of her band of perpetrators, think "Natural Born Killers", some stage combat involved
  • Dylan - 20s or 30s, male, Helen's equally psycho boyfriend and partner in crime, think "Natural Born Killers", some stage combat involved
  • Ryan - 20s or 30s, male, One of Helen's accomplices, some stage combat involved
  • Lucas - 20s or 30s, male, One of Helen's accomplices, some stage combat involved
  • Perkins - 30s to 60s, female, police detective
  • Brown - 20s to 60s, police officer
  • Television News Anchor - voice over
  • Dojo Students (eight parts available) - Any age or gender, ideally someone with some martial arts background that knows how to roll and fall, some stage combat involved
  • Woman 1 - 20s to 40s, confident
  • Woman 2 - 20s to 40s, confident

Audition Format
The first part of the audition will be conducted in a workshop format and will include going through some martial arts movement and fight choreography. The purpose is to see everyone's physical capabilities and identify who can play what parts.

Other Notes
If you wish to audition for Ariel and if you have the following items, please bring them. (Helpful but not required.): A long winter coat and glasses.

If you wish to audition for one of the Dojo Student parts and have the following items, please bring them. (Helpful but not required.): gi, hakama, tabi.

All Actors, prior to audition, please send an e-mail to with a head shot, résumé and a short bio. If you do not have any of these you can still audition but it would be extremely helpful if you would provide these items.

Due to the martial arts portrayal and the fight choreography, some parts will require that the actor be available for martial arts training and fight choreography rehearsals.

If you have any questions, please contact John Hidalgo at
Welcome!  This is the blog for Ariel, a new short film from Rōnin Creative Media.  Stay tuned.  Details to come.