The end.

imageNot really.  With all due respect, this project is NOT finished, per se - in the sense that…it literally is in a few pieces, waiting to be assembled - and then there are festival submissions and screenings…and, and…BUT a new Fresh Filmmaker has been crowned and the reality is, it’s time for me to sign off.  Seriously.  I’ve had my time.  More than my time…and I’m all set to pass the torch.  Honestly.

This blog (god, still not digging that word..) has been a great joy to uphold - whomever is out there…hello?  thank you for following.  I WILL continue to post screening announcements - you will be able to find them here!  And I’ll probably be starting another blog…all about my next baby.  If you just want some food to fodder, I posted it before, but here’s my original b_og, that I really need to update:

http://www.adamandeveandalltheseotherpeople.blogspot.com/

In honor of all those FRESH FILMMAKER applicants, frantically revising their scripts today for tomorrow’s deadline:

Running on sand is hard.  So is making a movie.  If it doesn’t ever hurt, you’re not doing it right.  

(Source: youtube.com)

Navigating the Landing

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Good Lord.  Seriously.  Why did I think the Post production on this project would be smooth sailing?  I’m a total delusional idealist ~ emphasis on the delusional.  

Carrie Bush, my 1st AD (and an accomplished director in her own right!) and I were having a “catch up” the other day and I heard these words fall out of her mouth, “Didn’t you say we were going to see a rough cut of the film in May?”….uh.  really?  What month is it?  Who said that?  For future reference: Do NOT listen to nor believe anything that comes out of a director’s mouth within the first 48 hours of wrapping a shoot.  I would imagine it’s like asking a woman who’s just given birth if she wants a beer and a bag of Doritos now…or in six months.

After months and months and months of editing this baby, I finally had a day when I just watched the film, BY MYSELF, for myself and I said TO MYSELF, I’m done.  PICTURE LOCKED.  Because, at the end of the day, everyone is going to have an opinion, a thought, a suggestion, a realization - and it’s all WONDERFUL, but as the director YOU really need to have the final say - and that can be really hard to hear with a thousand other voices ringing in your ears.

I took my picture lock EDL/XML (?) upstairs to Pixel Farm where the wonderful colorist, Dave Sweet, was going to reassemble my film transfer according to my final digital files, and then we could start color correction.  A couple days later I get a call from Mr. Sweet saying, “you know, I think your time code is messed up.  I’m having trouble reassembling your cut”.  Cue technical mudslide.

With the unrelenting help and assistance from Mark Steele and Carl Jacobs, editor at Splice Here (that was a PLUG in case it didn’t read as such…) - I was able to figure out what went wrong (my timecode in my Final Cut project got messed up when I did the synching work, i.e. matching up the sound files and picture files, and then REIMPORTED them back into Final Cut) - it was a manual task that only took me about 2 hours to fix! 

Then Mark Steele realized my frame rate was incorrect, than John Sims (sound mixer/designer extraordinaire) realized the frame rate of the sound files were no longer matching up to the “fixed” picture, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…seriously.  It felt like the mud slide of tech words that would not end.  BUT the learning curve was also fast and furious.  I have great respect and appreciation for everyone who kept me calm (Mark Steele/Dave Sweet/John Sims) - this process has been no less harrowing (for me) than what I can imagine it was for those guys landing the 25th mission of the Memphis Belle. That’s a complete exaggeration, but I refuse to erase that last statement.  

…and the reality is, I’ve been through so much on this marathon of a film that it seems perfectly within the natural order of things to have to push and struggle through these last few miles.  I’ve run marathons before, and I have to admit the harder you have to push at the end, the more it hurts, the sweeter the feeling of crossing that finish line! 

Cut Cut, So What

I asked Kevin Russell - the editor I’ve been working with - to give his perspective on the whole (in the wall) editing experience.  His words (all of them, I swear) below:

I’ve worked with very few people like Amanda Becker in the local film community.  She’s a director that’s somehow able to give you just enough information without those fruitless details that can restrict your own thoughts on the project or process.  Where she leaves off in her critiques is a very conscious moment to give you open room and welcome new ideas.  I was very appreciative of her willingness to continually look at her film, her story. and her process with freshness.  

As for ‘who in the world is this guy and what does he have to do with this project anyway’, well… I began editing “Hole in the Wall” about a month ago.  She came to Splice (a post production house in downtown Minneapolis where I work as an editor) with some heavy concerns about the structure and strength of her film.  Helping to solve these issues seemed promising for me, as someone who jumped into editing for the analytical side, and I think exciting for Amanda to have someone external look into the post work.  As for my openness to work on a project that was already well under way in the edit, I must say that I’m quite intrigued by the thought of helping a director figure out exactly what kind of film they may or may not have on their hands.  That kind of exploratory process doesn’t necessarily happen too often in some of the more commercial work I deal with day to day, where you might have strict guidelines for the outcome.  So I started from the beginning with her edit to figure out just that: what kind of film she may or may not have.

From the first day of editing, one of the focal points was to try and develop a more abstract nature to the form.  Since I’ve worked in music videos for the last few years, it came naturally to try and bring out the ambiguity in the story and lessen the literal aspects.  So I took about a week on my own to work with the film and sent Amanda a rough cut soon after.  Initially, I think it was refreshing for Amanda to see a very different approach to the material and the story and overall it felt like the original feeling of what she was trying to accomplish was still intact.  

Cut after cut, we developed a more abstract, tightened, and ambiguous short film.  I let the visuals tell more of the story, removed quite a bit of dialog, and worked to build a fitting mix to the audio, complete with strange hums and children’s voices.  This lead to a shorter and seemingly moodier film then the original version, which was longer and fairly linear.  This also lead to a much different version of the film then I think Amanda was ultimately intending.    

Throughout this entire process, Amanda was fairly open to manipulating the material in new ways, whether it was working for the better or worse, and she was always aware of the general direction she wanted to take the film, so I wasn’t wondering in the dark.  Eventually and inherently with editing in that style though, the abstract nature was pushed too far and we needed to bring it back to a more formal approach so the audience wasn’t lost.  I did just that and we ended up with a hybrid version.  This new and currently the most recent edit, incorporated many of our individual ideas into one fairly cohesive short film.  The only thing that was missing was just a touch of that initial feeling in the original cut Amanda had put together.

That’s where I left off.  Right now, I would imagine Amanda is eating some kind of nut mix and drinking a lot of coffee wrapping up the edit and finding that last little touch to make it her unique approach to storytelling.  I was very supportive of this collaborative process and more then happy to have Amanda develop the final feel to her film.  Throughout the last month, we both stretched ourselves to find out what was possible after the production.  I think sometimes you can go into editing expecting it to be an easy ride with lots of options, but it’s when you really push the material beyond even the only options you thought you had, that you find out just what you can accomplish with your work.        

                     

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did

Newt Gingrich

Forgive me Father, it has been ahhh…yeah.

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I just spent two hours writing this post and it disappeared.  Into thin air.  This has truly been a time of patience and persistence for me.  I feel like I need to confess and wash away the heaviness that has descended on me and this project.  The reality is:

1. I sometimes have evil thoughts about running away from the movie.  

2. I sometimes get short with people I love.  because I’m frustrated.

3. I’ve started using the “F” word a lot.  Like, a lot.

As most of you know, I threw in the theoretical towel on editing my own piece about a month ago.  My mentors and friends were amazing and shopped it around to some local editors to see if anyone would have the time/interest in stepping in and helping me out…no biters.  Mike Tabor (Fresh Filmmaker Producer/Mentor) and IFP then set up a small focus group for me to get some feedback on my rough cut.  I attended but with the understanding that what I really needed, even more than notes, WAS HELP.  SOMEONE TO PLEASE HELP ME.  I walked away with the notion that my film was in conflict - it felt both abstract and linear - and it would be in my best interest to choose one over the other.  I also walked away with an editor recommendation - Kevin Russell (Splice Here, assistant editor).

I approached Kevin, a serene, kind and patient guy, and said to him, “Thank you for being here for me, please take my footage and do what you will.  Let’s make something abstract”.  He did - over and over again…each time following my exact notes and direction, but the honest truth is…it just wasn’t feeling like me; like my voice.  It moved faster, it looked cooler, the cuts were cleaner - a lot of really great things were happening, but for me…I was, I’m just going to say it, FEELING, like something had been lost.  I contacted Kevin and said, “you know - why does it have to be just abstract or linear?  I wrote this story and intended for it to be both - that’s what I wanted and what I intended, and I think we can get it there”.  

It’s a delicate dance, this director/editor relationship (FYI: Not unlike 7 minute dating, you have to just get right into it, and don’t stop until you find the right fit.)  I can honestly say I have no regrets and have utilized this Fresh Filmmaker grant/community project to it’s fullest!  I have learned that you have to make yourself uncomfortable - you have to learn to communicate and to listen.  It’s not easy, but I know in my heart the payoff will be big.  I want to thank everyone, again, for sticking with me.  This community is truly awesome, and I feel like I’ve finally found my part in it all.  Stay tuned for a final screening update….

Walter Murch says…

"The director, of course, is the person most familiar with all of the things that went on during the shoot, so he (she) is the most burdened with this surplus, beyond-the-frame information.  Between the end of shooting and before the first cut is finished, the very best thing that can happen to the director (and the film) is that he (she) say goodbye to everyone and disappear for two weeks - up to the mountains or down to the sea or out to Mars or somewhere- and try to discharge this surplus".  Noted.

it takes a village

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alright.  I had a great lesson-slash-intervention-slash-introspection last Friday, when my long-time mentor and fabulous person all around, Melody Gilbert, gently coerced (!) me to Splice edit house, where I sat with Joe Martin (editor) and faced my film.  Looking at my most recent cut, Joe had this to say, “Beautiful.  You’ve taken it further than any director should on their own.  Let’s get you a professional editor to help you finish this up.”

lovely.  I can now admit that I am unable to be the stay at home mother that I thought I could be with this project, doing it all by myself…this kid’s going to daycare. 

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel…

I’ve come to the dark realization that editing a film, especially when “one” is the writer/director, is similar to The Five Stages of Grief:

1.  Denial/Isolation (“I can put this together myself, everyone just leave me alone”)

2. Anger (“Why? Why? Why isn’t it working?!”)

3. Bargaining (“If I don’t look at it for a week, maybe new footage will materialize? Maybe?”)

4. Depression (“what am I doing………”)

5. Acceptance (“HERE. IT. IS.  I’ve found it/something/the story and it works for me”)

…and of course, moving on.  This rant is in no way intended to sound self-deprecating nor pessimistic.  I’ve just been trying to figure out how to emotionally get to the other (finished) side of this film. I finally opened myself up, got vulnerable, and let some people watch the rough cut I had assembled together (remember my “breakthrough” editing session…yeah, that cut).  After having multiple people view it and provide feedback, I now feel more confused than ever.  But still hopeful.  Always hopeful.  It’s there, somewhere - the footage is beautiful and the performances are rich - it’s now just about shaping the story, that’s all.  Just shaping and making a story - it might not be the one I started with, but it’s got to be there, dammit.

The time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead, never let up.

Rod Laver

Some production stills, compliments of my uncle John!

My amazing composer, Andrew Skinner (local!!) - not a final track…but you get the idea.  I’m very pleased and love the process of working with so many individually talented folks.  Lucky, lucky me….

Motion 504

Titles!  Dropped off a rough cut of my film today at Motion 504.  Andy Reynolds (not Andrew or Mr. Reynolds, as I was corrected) founder and creative director of Motion 504 has graciously offered (for free!) to do the titles for my film, via the Fresh Filmmakers grant.  very awesome.  Can’t wait to see what he comes up with…and where we end up!

BREAKTHROUGH.  Leah couldn’t be here tonight, to help edit, so I stuck it out - stayed after work - had a coworker, Mariko take a look at the ROUGH, rough, rough, rough, rough, rough…and she gave me some great feedback.  NOW, finally…I think I’ve made some progress.  SERIOUSLY.  breakthrough.  it feels so good.  I’m going home to sit on my blue couch to drink a vodka/tonic and revel in the promise of possibility….

BREAKTHROUGH.  Leah couldn’t be here tonight, to help edit, so I stuck it out - stayed after work - had a coworker, Mariko take a look at the ROUGH, rough, rough, rough, rough, rough…and she gave me some great feedback.  NOW, finally…I think I’ve made some progress.  SERIOUSLY.  breakthrough.  it feels so good.  I’m going home to sit on my blue couch to drink a vodka/tonic and revel in the promise of possibility….

still…

…it’s been difficult to post anything lately because I am very much in my head these days.  The story is not quite coming together like I had hoped/envisioned/imagined…i know it’s in there somewhere, but I’m tired of excavating.  I want it to show itself.  

Thankfully I have someone who has stepped up to the plate (as far as “pinch editor” goes) - Leah Haider!  She’s been able to see things I haven’t and I think we’re making some progress…many, many thanks to her.