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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Would that it were only a day! In fact, I'm back in the lounge scene in Elan Vital and I haven't been there in a while. It has probably been over a month. I made a decision early on in this process to go through the entire story in order, laying down each shot in each sequence and moving on before the über-perfectionist in me took over. In other words, I just wanted to get the stuff organized before I worried about all the details. I stuck to this plan rigidly - and I am very happy that I did. Because I had scarcely looked back at anything I had just finished, my mind was allowed a break from the busy, obsessive machine that gets started in the midst of creation. Now that I am back in the lounge, smoothing it out - cutting and trimming and tightening, I can look at it with a fresh perspective. I am not bogged down by ideas and notions left over from the writing process or from production. Ironically, this being the case, the film is smoother and actually closer to what I had initially conceived than it would have been if I had not taken this approach. Problems from the rough cut are far more easily solved because, free of the vortex, I am able to see new solutions that simplify and improve the flow and begin to complete the picture.

It really is a beautiful thing that happens when you create something that wasn't there before. You know there is a certain potential there - from the very beginning but you can't get too excited by it just yet. You have to get organized. This is what I have been doing. I knew during production that I got the stuff because everyone worked very very hard to help me achieve my vision. I think that everyone felt at one time or another that something great was happening. I certainly did and it was one of the smoothest film shoots that I've ever been on. Now the difference between that feeling and the actual great thing happening is what I've been writing about in this blog. My approach is not a favorite in this fast paced digital world because I need to get all the stuff out in front of me before I start to organize it - and I have to organize all of it before I start to finesse it. You can think of it like a tri-athalon participant. You would not ask the athlete to bike and swim or run and bike at the same time, right? That would be fantastically absurd but it wouldn't help the person win - and would put him or her at risk of drowning or a brutal bicycle chain injury.

So if you consider logging to be stage 1 (which it should be considering the amount of footage), I am currently on stage 3 of the editing process. So far, it is my favorite stage - until the next one I suppose when we marry the sound to the picture. As of today, the process this time around has been smooth as silk and very satisfying. I could go on, comparing this process to painting but I'm sure I passed the average attention span a while ago. So now - let's have some comments!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rough Cut Complete

The rough cut of the film (not including the end credit sequence) is finished. Hooray. Now it's back to the beginning and we'll start all over. Anyone want to start placing bets on how many rounds this will go? Or how about who will be more reclusive until this thing is done - Ryan, Katy, or I? That may end in a draw. Either way, it's good news on this end - we're making progress on a great film and everyone involved should be proud.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Elan Vital Picture Update

So during production, people kept asking me when I projected the film would be complete. I would project anything from late July to August. Of course, this was because at the time, I was preoccupied with directing the film and actually had no idea how long it would take as it all depended on how the footage looked. On this point, I'll say that I have been an artist for much longer than I've been a filmmaker. I admittedly have some strange quirks that some people may not agree with but for which I cannot apologize since they are part of my process and seem to work for me at the moment.

For one, I do not like watching dailies. I actually know when I see it on set if I got what I want. I did watch the Elan Vital tapes but it sent me into a neurotic frenzy because I just wanted to get in there and start working. I could see only errors and potential and it seemed to distract me from the pictures in my head. The experience only enhanced my decision to stop torturing myself with raw footage until it is time to start composing. This means I decided to trust my crew and my own judgment on the set.

The other quirk that immediately follows this is that I do not like the idea of cutting together the film during production and certainly not by someone other than myself. Once everything is shot, I feel fine with working side by side with a competent editor but - you know - when you're in production, you're in production. Things are actually happening right there in front of you and beautiful things are being created - beautiful worlds. To break out of that world right in the middle of the experience just for the sake of efficiency is totally uncalled for. It's an abomination. I would sooner watch dailies than begin editing during production - and much like I would not ask another artist to do an under-painting for me before I paint, I cannot ask an editor to do a rough cut for me in order to save time and effort.

In any case, it goes without saying that my initial estimate for when this film will be complete was pretty far off. I am not interested in throwing something together for the sake of immediate gratification. I worked with some amazing people on this film who worked very hard and gave so much with very little immediately in return. The completed film is the reward. I am putting the kind of energy and time into Elan Vital that I would into one of my top notch paintings. Every frame matters. If there is something that we missed during production or a shot that does not match the mood that I am going for, I find a fix. That's the beautiful thing about non-linear editing. There ALMOST always seems to be a fix. The tools are there - add some creativity and ingenuity and you find some unbelievable gems hidden in the cut that you just didn't know were there at first. Katy has been fantastic in the process. Sometimes I work alone and sometimes she's at the helm which allows me to step back and see things differently and find unique solutions to problems or more effective ways of conveying the sentiment of the scene.

We will be upgrading soon to Final Cut 6 which has some features including a camera stabilization filter that will be wonderful to play with and we're armed to the teeth with post-production programs including Shake 4.1 and After Effects 6.5. For you techies out there, I am working on an Apple "Fall 2005" Powerbook G4 with 1.5G RAM, a Western Digital 500GB external hard drive, and until I get my package in the mail, Final Cut Pro 5.0.4. This level of preparedness will without a doubt add even more quality to the final movie. It also means adding a bit more time to the process. As Katy and I work the picture, Ryan is working hard on audio.

As you all (who worked on Elan Vital) know, it is not exactly a conventional, point and shoot kind of film and I am no less than a Perfectionist who demands a lot from my work. Right now it is early September. I would really really really like to have the whole thing finished by November but even that may be ambitious. There is post-production where we edit the picture and sound which in and of itself is complex and takes several runs through. Ryan's posts below on sound and music will go in depth on that end. But even after the final cut of image is married to sound and music and credits are in place, there is post-post during which color correction takes place, a high quality output is processed, and the final tweaks are made to everything.

I am eager to get the film out to festivals - especially in Europe and some deadlines will be missed this year due to time. We will surely try for those next year and in the mean time attempt to show off everyone's hard work everywhere possible. So in case you are wondering when it will be finished or if we have just dropped off the Earth, we are making wonderful progress daily and - yes - we have fallen off the Earth and into Elan Vital. I hope this post lends a little insight into my process and that of the entire post-production process of this very independent film.

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