Friday, April 9, 2010

Time to breathe, time to sleep...

...of this I have none. I'm writing this while I wait for a scene to finish rendering.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been wonderfully, deliciously, exhaustingly busy editing documentaries to be shown during the Sarasota Fringe Film Festival. I was originally given a piece on Circus Sarasota to edit (one hour from 8) and about halfway through, I was asked to cut together a three minute interview. Four days ago, I was given three books, two scratch tracks (place holders so I could do basic edits until the real sound bed arrived), a DVD, and some raw footage of a historical re-enactor and was asked to start putting together a 10-15 minute documentary on early Sarasota settler Bertha Palmer as well as edit a video set to a song about Ms. Palmer using everything at my disposal and to have them both ready for yesterday's screening. You read that right: yesterday's screening. For those keeping track, that was three days to edit two projects that used techniques and ratios and qualities that I've never used before while also working full time at my day job which is gearing up for the mainstream film festival for which I am head film projectionist. Three days ago, I finished the first cut of Circus Sarasota and it also screened yesterday. I don't know how that went, I was too busy flipping out about Bertha Palmer and going to the screening for Anathema. It must've gone okay, I didn't get any phone calls saying that the DVD screwed up.

Anyway, since I can't just reuse every photo over and over, that would drive me nuts, I scoured the internet looking for photos that would apply to the script. I have to hug the Library of Congress's Flickr stream and Wikimedia Commons for their incredible collections of public domain and Creative Commons photos. Fair Use is a little too gray for me, though, I have to say. I also scanned something like 65 photos for the project at what I thought was the appropriate size.

I finished the first cut of the Palmer project yesterday afternoon at the office (thank you Ampersand, my wonderful, wonderful MacBook Pro, for being AWESOME.) I exported normally and burned a DVD then took the disc downstairs to watch it on their TV and discovered that the render and encode did nothing to alleviate a fantastic moire effect on the photos I scanned, and a couple of the photos I found.

Merde (pardon my French.)

The editor sitting next to me working on another project suggested that I convert and de-interlace. It took something like two hours to encode, but it gave me a useable picture to get us through today's screening and I could go back and fix it for Sunday's. Great. It finishes, it burns, I check, all's well, I start and finish a rough cut of the music video, but it needs way more polishing before I can let it go out so at the Main Man's request, I create a screen wash for while people are seating using the song and the credits and a note that says that the music video will be shown on Sunday. I hand over all of that and, by that time, I have to head to work for my 6 pm shift.

Half an hour after I get there, I get a phone call, remarkably calm, from the Main Man saying that the DVD is screwed up. While he's sending someone to get the back-ups, I check my file and, lo! and behold!, there's a sound glitch 8 minutes into the project. The only other useable copy I have is the crappy moire'd version from earlier in the day, but it's on my computer and I don't have time to burn it. I arrange to leave the booth in my co-worker's hands while I take my computer over to the venue and hook it up to the projectors for the 7 pm screening. Thankfully, I have all of the connections we needed to get picture via the mini-display port and sound via the headphone jack. They have me play the screen wash after every one is seated (which I thought was a bit strange, but I'm also exhausted, so what do I know?) and then the movie. While it wasn't as pretty, it looked a heck of a lot better than I thought it would and if the gasps and laughs are anything to go by, the audience (a packed house) loved it! I received a couple of notes from the Main Man and the Main Woman, the producer and director of this project, things I already knew I had to fix (and one thing I had fixed between encodes, actually...) and then headed off to the screening for my film.

Yeah, A Hammer Fell in Jerusalem: Anathema screened yesterday.

I have to say very quickly that while I love this festival, I think it's wonderful and lively, it's also packed with documentaries. Jam packed. I only know of four or five narrative films in the festival, but I haven't had much time to go over the programme as I've been busy. Anathema was surrounded by documentaries and with a name like "A Hammer Fell in Jerusalem", it's easy to confuse it for something of heady enlightenment and social significance. Whatever messages I have in it, and they're there, they're wrapped up in a 30 minute black and white silent Sci-Fi / Dark Fantasy film. That's a lot of strikes against it, not to mention the few little problems in it that endear it to me, but would annoy most people. I can't WAIT to do the feature version! (Yes, it'll be a talkie...though it's debatable about the colour aspect because man, I love the cinematography on that flick...)

The already small audience walked out fifteen minutes into the flick leaving just myself and Brian's friends in the theatre.

I've had people not show up before, and people have left before, but I've not had such a mass exodus in any of my previous screenings. Though it stings on that personal ego level, I'm really okay with it. I know, realistically, that not everyone, especially in the hometown, is going to dig what I put out there. The idea of an Asian descendant of Christ seems to be as strange to people as the thought that Jesus wasn't white, though I have to say that I didn't hire Eon because she's Asian, though that was a factor. She was well-prepared in the interview stage and her background brought something unique to the story. I don't cast for race, I cast for talent and spark. Eon has both.

I got giggles from Brian's friends in all the places that make me giggle, which is nice. Whether theirs were "haha this is crap" giggles or "teehee!" giggles (like mine) who knows, but they provided the reactions I was looking for.

A year on, though, I can see all the little things that I wish I could go back and fix, and will when I do the feature. With all of the crap that happened before the screening, how little sleep I've been getting, the twenty-hours days I've been putting in between the editing and the theatre, the screening itself, and all of the work still ahead of me on so little time, yesterday was just a really crappy day. On the bright side, however, the Fringe festival's projectionists are wonderful. It was, seriously, one of the best screenings visually that I've ever had. The ratio was displayed correctly and it was crisp and clean. That, right there, is HUGE. Also, it's always wonderful to see Brian again and his friends are awesome! Hopefully, we'll all work together! To quote Wil Wheaton, let's get excited and make things!

All in all, yesterday can go take a long walk off a short pier. Today, I'm back at it. The last screening for Bertha Palmer takes place at 1 pm on Sunday and I promised to have it in their hands at around noon that day. The Sarasota Film Festival starts properly tomorrow, but the opening night film is tonight at the Van Wezel. If anyone sees Kevin Kline, wave to him for me. I won't even get to see the back of his head. :(


NoelCT said...

Wow. That is certainly one hell of a day. Glad everything ultimately fell into place, though sorry to hear about the unfortunate screening.

I don't cast for race, I cast for talent and spark.

A lesson well learned from Romero, I'll bet. :)

Marvin the Martian said...

Wow, you're getting recognized for your talents! At least in documentaries. ;-) Congratulations! You're the epitome of grace under pressure.

I'm sorry the audience walked out on your masterpiece, but you're right, this town is really totally the wrong demographic for your stuff. ;-) So what do THEY know.

Congrats again!!!

Lori said...


"A lesson well learned from Romero, I'll bet."

Absolutely! But it also doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to exclude people from casting just because of skin tone or body type or even gender unless the character is specifically written as such. Ripley was originally conceived as a man and look at the amazing legacy of that character with Sigourney Weaver in the role!


Haha! I'm really hoping to have more than one masterpiece, but thank you... Once the festival is over and I've had some time to recuperate, I hope to start pre-production on a new short. :D