Friday, May 29, 2009

When will Hansen lock picture on Endings? When?!

I imagine you're probably getting tired of boring postproduction updates on Endings. There hasn't been too much to update about lately. We got the picture cut to a point that I was pretty happy with it, then I took a break from it. Actually, I thought about showing it to people and trying to see what's working... but I got so busy with a summer class I'm teaching that I never made a decision as to who I should ask to watch it.

So I let a couple of weeks slide by, and then today I decided I finally had to make some decisions on my own, without relying on any (more) input. Trusting your own instincts is always difficult.

But I think we're there. Simon, the editor, is making a few minor changes that I want, and then I believe we'll lock picture this weekend. Of course, visual effects work still needs to be done, and sound. But we're on our way...

As for sound, Sound Designer Kelley Baker has come aboard to supervise the postproduction sound work. Kelley, also known as 'the angry filmmaker,' is an indie filmmaker in his own right, but he also had a long history as a Hollywood sound designer on such films as Good Will Hunting, Psycho (the remake), Finding Forrester,and Far From Heaven. I'm thrilled to have him doing sound on my film, needless to say.

Kelley actually came aboard a while back -- but since his work hasn't really begun until now, I failed to mention it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Bathwater Scene: Getting to the Picture Lock

The rough cut of Endings is down to a total running time of 96 minutes, which both pleases and amazes me, especially considering the fact that my mockumentary comedy American Messiah was 95 minutes long.

I'm pleased to be able to keep a challenging indie drama like Endings to a shorter running time, but I'm also pondering whether or not certain elements work, if it's paced too quickly now.

I don't really think there are pacing problems (or, at least, none that can be fixed based on what was shot) -- but when you're faced with locking picture soon, you start questioning everything. I'm a perfectionist and a realist at the same time. I want to get it right, even if it means going through every take to check what else we've got; but I also want to get it done. Finding the middle ground between these two extremes is, I suppose, what an indie filmmaker does.

Also, the editor of the film likely won't stick around if I started reviewing every cut. I'm nitpicking things enough as it is right now, and he and I are haggling back and forth over one scene that he has affectionately dubbed "the Bathwater scene" -- so named because he believes it holds more bathwater than baby and should just be thrown out.

I'm not sure I agree -- and therein lies the process. We're tweaking this one scene every which way, to emphasize various things, to avoid cheesiness, to trim bad acting, and to try to find a way to transition to the next scene (something I should have planned for better when we shot these two scenes)...

I just took a blog break to answer an email from the editor with his latest suggestion for transitioning. Today has mostly been dedicated to watching the film and working on these little details.

But sometimes I worry that I'm losing the bigger picture while we work on these details. On the other hand, I think I lost the big picture when I started shooting. I really can't see Endings in the way an audience member can, because I'm too close to it and too aware of all the details (of the story, of the shooting, of the post process).

It's kind of a sad thing, in a way. You're trying to create something transcendent, but you yourself can't experience that transcendence, because you created the thing and can only experience it with all your memories of its creation intact. The hard part is determining if other people can experience it as a transcendent experience, something that's hard to judge if you will never see it that way yourself.

I'm trying to determine at what point I'll ask some people unfamiliar with the story to watch it and comment. That's a nerve-wracking process, for me anyway...

In any case, the picture will likely be locked in the next couple of weeks. After that, color correction, visual effects, and sound work all need to be done. But picture lock always feels like the biggest step to me. That's not to diminish the others; the work involved in all of them is critical. But getting the picture cut itself right is critical in setting the stage for all those other steps.