Sounds and Colors

It's been a marathon of a weekend here in New York for the final push to finish Blumenthal. The past two months I've been relatively hands off with sound and color doing their thing and working away. It's thrilling to get back into the city and see/hear all the work that's been done. I was hoping to blog throughout the trip, but that didn't quite happen. I leave tomorrow and there's still a ton to do tonight, but here is a quick run down of the weekend's work thus far... Friday started early with good coffee and a good meeting at Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca. From there, I shot up to Postworks on 44th Street where Josh Berger, Alex, and Ryan were ready to start the mixing session. All the mixing and sound-editing is being done in a Dolby certified theater and doing a 5.1 surround mix. Right away, I was floored to hear the first reel come on. Over the past six weeks, Josh and his team have been editing the dialogue audio, music, and sound effects. The biggest surprises to me were the foley effects and the orchestration of the score. We trudged through the first two reels for about 12 hours and then called it a night.

Saturday was an early start at 9am. St. Patrick's Day in New York is actually the best day to be locked up in a dark theatre for 15 hours. First up was my own ADR work. We spent the first half of the day in the ADR studio recording both dialogue and voice-overs. Nicole Ansari then joined us for some last-minute ADR for one of her scenes. The day was a revolving door of producers with Garrett, Jesse, and Jason all swinging by to hear the progress. After ADR, we jumped back into the mixing stage with Ryan Dann editing in new sound effects as we went. Editor Alex Kopit joined the process as well.

At around 5pm, Ryan, Kopit, and myself rolled down to Soho for some color work. There we met up with my cinematographer Zak, colorist Seth, and VFX editor Conrad. After a boost of powerful Nespresso coffee and a general meeting, we crammed into the coloring suite to get started. We went through the movie from top to bottom at double speed to take notes. After the pass, Zak and I began a lengthy discourse on contrast ratios and our overall "look" for the film. After Zak and I put everyone else in the room to sleep, we went through all the tricky shots that needed some specific work/discussion. We ended the night at around 1:30am.

Sunday we got to sleep in and started at Postworks at noon. Josh and Ryan Dann had spent the previous evening laying in all of the VOs and ADR dialogue. I was amazed at how much work they had done. Two scenes in particular were completely rebuilt from the ground up in terms of sound. We mixed until 5pm and then moved down to Buck where we colored and tweaked the picture edit of one small scene. Color work was a more relaxing workload as there were only a few scenes we really needed to discuss as a group with Seth and Zak. Otherwise, Seth is just painting each scene from top to bottom. Seth was still there when we left at 12:30am.

This afternoon, we are picking up the rendered reels from Seth and bringing them up to the sound studio to see how the finished picture affects our sound decisions. We'll start at the top and work our way through the whole mix one last time before I leave tomorrow.

ADR in NYC from LA

Today was our first day of ADR for Blumenthal. For the uninitiated, ADR stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement". Basically, if a scene has any audio issues that prevent the production sound mixer from capturing completely clean dialogue, then we go into the sound studio and the actor re-records their lines while watching the video of their original performance. ADR can also be used to tweak performance as well. In our case, the issues were solely technical as we did a great deal of filming on location in the streets of New York City (very loud). Most times, it's a simple line here or there that gets lost under a car honking its horn.

ADR is being done in New York while I am in Los Angeles. But, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to participate in the process with my actors. With a direct dial-in and some video conferencing, I felt like I was in the room at Postworks with our super fantastic Sound Re-Recordist Josh Berger. We worked most of the day and got everything we came for.

All that's left is a little ADR for my character Ethan which I'll record on Friday when I'm in town. It was great fun working with the actors again. I'm so used to seeing many of them on-screen that it's weirdly exciting when the actual person walks into the room as says something other than what's in the movie. In terms of the lines themselves, we might have actually brought out some new stuff in the performances, too. Bonus!

Meetings Abound

The screenplay for my movie, "Passing Harold Blumenthal", is finished. For the moment. After sending out drafts to various parties in pursuit of attaching producers and money to the project, I've begun meeting with any and everyone.

I am quickly learning that whether or not someone is interested in being a part of this project, it is always beneficial to meet in person and talk. If there is any shred relevance, I'll always push someone to meet and chat. Even if I know ahead of time that they are not interested in being a part of the project, there is always something to be gained. Often times, I leave the meeting having learned a great deal not only about the process of producing a film, but about my film in particular.

I have also developed a new policy of advice-seeking and fundraising: Never leave a meeting without a new lead. This is big. It is safe to assume that none of my initial contacts are going to be the answer to my prayers. Filmmaking just ain't that easy. However, I have to believe that at least one of them knows the person who would be the answer to my prayers. Or at the very least, knows the person who knows the person who would be. I am not a skilled fundraiser. But I know people who are. And that should be enough to get started.

The good news is that I have written a script that ensures I can make this movie on my own, if need be. I have developed enough contacts and earned enough favors that if months elapse and I have raised nothing, I can move into production myself with nothing but my camera, some friends, and my dog.

Watch Me Make [Insert title here]

My hope is that Watch Me Make a Movie can translate to any filmmaker for any film they set out to make.  From what I do right to what I do wrong, it should apply to any independent movie. But for now, we are talking about my movie. That's what we've been calling it thus far: My "movie", my "feature", my "script". It's high time we give it an actual title. After less thought then you'd expect, the title of my movie is....

PASSING HAROLD BLUMENTHAL

 

Pretty Cheapy - Part Two

Continued from previous post.

After production, I sat down to edit the movie. As I mentioned before, I shot Pretty Happy on the Red One Camera. One of the main benefits of this state-of-the-art camera is that it shoots in a RAW format(more on that later). This benefit also comes with a potential headache in post-production where there are several different less-than-easy workflows for an editor to choose from.

Now, I am not an editor. I had an editor-friend show me how to use Final Cut Pro once, and that is really the extent of my qualifications. However, I spent almost my entire budget on shooting Pretty Happy so I had little choice but to figure out how to edit Red footage myself.

I spent the next month or so reading filmmaker forums online and learning and testing out various different workflows. I am a huge fan of the internet as a learning tool. It has taught me oodles about photography and filmmaking and it has connected me with some very helpful people who have been kind enough to share their editing knowledge with me. The main challenge with these forums is actually finding someone who will say, "Yeah, you can do that." From my experience, most forum people tend to be nay-sayers, and will tell you that you need to either hire a professional or invest in professional-grade equipment. Neither of these are options for the guerilla filmmaker, so I just did it myself on my 2007 iMac.

After what felt like an eternity of researching, I finally began to edit.  I would sit at the computer with Ryan over my shoulder to give opinions and perspective. The process was slow at first, but quickly accelerated as the story and pace began to take shape. We had terrific actors who nailed their scenes within 1-3 takes every time. They gave us plenty to work with and brought a tremendous amount of depth to the story and characters.

When we finally had a rough-cut of the movie together, I showed it to a few friends and industry-folk to get some reactions. One such industry outlet was a small short-film distribution company that had bought rights to a previous short I had done. I received an email from them a day later saying that they loved the movie and wanted to purchase non-exclusive rights for a monthly DVD compilation going out the following month. They offered to buy the rights for $2,000 if I could get them a final cut with licensed music by the end of the week. I said sure.

Then I said, "Shit!" I didn't have a final picture edit, I didn't have a sound mix, and I had no licensed music. But I had an opportunity to make my money back for the whole movie AND pay for a sound mix and music...before I had even finished editing!  So, Ryan and I scrambled. He found an old sound-mixing friend to do our mix, we bought 4 terrific songs from www.shockwave-sound.com, and I quickly learned how to color correct (-ish. I watched a ten minute youtube tutorial on using Apple's Color). We got the master out by the end of the week via Fed-Ex and that was that.

To be continued...