Friday, September 22, 2006

Film Production 40.3

The above picture is from the shooting of my film “Deadly Obsessions”. On this day I took over my cousin & her husband’s house and ran a bit late. The funny thing is that I didn’t use as much footage from this location as I thought I would. In the script Rebecca and Lisa have a bit more conversation with each other, but as I found out in the editing this slowed the picture down considerably. So I took out the footage, and tossed it, but while shooting it I thought I needed it. It was in the script, and I liked it, but after repeating viewings it just killed the flow of the film, and even now looking back I can say that I’d cut some more out of the film to shorten it, but I let sleeping dogs lie. After all it wasn’t “Heaven’s Gate” which originally clocked in around 4 hours on it’s first cut.

I did little damage to my cousin’s home, but I was reminded of some scuffmarks I had left. Let this be a lesson to all up and coming filmmakers. No matter how small or how little damage you think you won’t do think otherwise. I was careful, but I couldn’t keep my eye on everything since I was spread to thin as it was. I did have insurance, and I did offer to help pay & fix what ever was broke after filming, but I was told it wasn’t necessary. If you’re going to film in some stranger’s house have insurance. It will save you in the end. Especially in this litigious world we live in now. As I said before the insurance came in handy when I ruined my uncle’s carpet while filming there.

In the picture you see Stephanie applying make-up to the actors. Stephanie was a great help, and she made the actors look good. Ryan my gaffer & lighting director is getting the f-stop. I used an arri BL with a 17 to 85mm lens. The speed of the film was a 2.2 I believe. We used Kodak 7277 film stock, which was rated at 400 ISO.

As I said before I broke down the script as per location, and we shot several different scenes in the location we were in. It would have helped to have a continuity person, but I was somewhat aware of this, so we took Polaroid’s of actors in dress & of the set to remind us on what was the original set-up for that shot. It helped our make-up person extremely, and it helped me remember things that I may have forgotten since I’m bad with details. Like I said I spread myself too thin, and it hurt, but I had to roll with it.

Same thing goes with our sound. I was told on the first day of shooting that the camera was being picked up, and so we made every effort to blimp it. We even put moving blankets over it as I was shooting the film to help muffle the sound. I made the decision to keep shooting. Had I stopped I would not have started again. Momentum is the key. If you don’t have it you’ll flounder, sputter and then die. Every day I was hit with questions that I had to answer. If the questions were about technical things I was okay since I knew what I wanted, but I did sweat the sound problem all through production. I knew there was a way to minimize the sound, but it could get expensive, and I could clearly hear my film teacher as he screamed at me “fix it in post”. You see my film professor was not a fan of fixing it in post, and he knew why, but like everything you don’t know what you’re going to do or have to do till you’re in the trenches of production.

The good thing is that I found Tom Agnello of Agnello films, and he helped me minimize the sound in the mix. I edited the film on a flat-bed editor knowing that I had to go the way of the film mix by projecting my work print of the film. Of course in the intervening years digital technology leaped forward, and the old ways were becoming less and less the way to do business. Tom happens to have a full mixing studio downstairs in his basement, and he is a master at mixing. We improved the sound, re-did sound effects, and did some trimming, and re-syncing of the sound track. Yes in essence he saved my bacon, but it proves a point and that is you need to keep alert and your eyes open at all times at other talent out there. I had been a subscriber to AIVF’s magazine “The Independent”, and I gave him a call. In fact I gave several people a call, but Tom was the only person who made me feel comfortable, and was very reasonable in his pricing.

When I projected the finished answer print at Color Lab I was very happy at the results. One cannot describe the feeling when one sees his or her film projected for the first time. I used a negative cutter down in Florida, who had worked with Color Lab for a long time. Originally the negative cutter was from the Boston area, but he had re-located, and I remember the day I sent ALL my negative down to Florida for the negative cut. Again another expense, but I was charged by the cut, and again it was reasonable in price. I had cut my own negative for my final thesis film in film school, and I knew how demanding a job it was. I NEVER want to do that again. The colors and the sound were good as I viewed the answer print. From there I had Color Lab lay the footage down onto a digi-beta tape. The colorist did an excellent job at transferring it. I did not have enough money for a scene by scene color transfer so they ran it as a straight one pass color transfer. I was told the colorist did do some adjustments on certain reels & scenes and that goes to show you how well they treat their customer.

I looked at the print at Color Labs make shift screening room. It’s where they edit too, so the facility is small. My wife and little toddler Kristopher was there, but they soon left, and I was left alone to view my print. I still would love to see it projected again, but know full well that it’s a digital world out there, and most likely the digi-beta will be the one projected. The digi-beta was required for me to go to DVD. So as you can see there were a lot of steps to overcome, and that’s why it took a while to get the film done. They say films are never done only abandoned, but as my firstborn I don’t want to just toss it aside. I think by working on it for so long I’ve gotten comfortable in saying I’ve done as much as I could do with this film, and I’m happy with the results. Marketing the film is a whole different animal, but at least I have a good quality film, and that would not have been possible if I’d gone the video route. I never abandoned the film, and I was proud when one of my actors said to me that I was a good filmmaker. I had follow through, and I finished the film. I hated that it took almost 5 years, but I do know a lot more about the filmmaking process that I would never have learned by just reading more books. The experience was well worth it, and I’m still not tired with filmmaking. I just want to do more films and at a quicker rate. Digital video can help with that. I have many stories that I’d like to flesh out, and see up on the screen. As most of you know I’m a big fan of Cassavetes, and I think he would be fascinated by the DV revolution, and I see stories and talent out there that still puts a stride in my step. Being part of something bigger has always been something that I wanted to do. Filmmaking is a calling, and a devotion that I am passionate about. I’ve always thought that I make more films, but what the first film has taught me is that if I’m going to do something that will take some time to do I better LOVE it. Because making a movie that says nothing is just a waste of time for me.

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