An update on Stuck and festivals

Hey all,

It’s been quite a while since I updated this blog.

So. Let’s see if I can give you a good update for the last six months.

Stuck was completed some time in late November or early December, and we started sending out to festivals almost immediately.

We applied to about 40 festivals and started hearing from them at the end of January.

Applying to festivals is a stressful time. You go in with some very, very high hopes, and as notification dates creep up on you, you go through something akin to the five stages of grief.

But this is The Five Stages of Fate.

Hope. Fear. Frustration. Anger. Acceptance.

The first one is self explanatory. Everyone thinks their film can cut the mustard. God knows what that saying actually means, but everyone understands it for some reason.

It’s your baby, and there is no way in Heaven or Hell that a person won’t see the true meaning of your work and understand the blood that went into making it. The screeners will definitely gravitate towards the film, its story, its cast and visual storytelling.

Won’t they?

Fear can also be described as self-doubt. This part of the wait is akin to that guy or girl you really like, and you sent them an email or a text or left a message with smoke signals or something and you’re waiting to hear back from them. But there’s the creep. That thing in the back of your mind that says even though there’s a month before you’re supposed to hear from said festival… something’s wrong. You can’t put your finger on it, but there is something, and it becomes a nagging.

Maybe your screener copy doesn’t work. Maybe it got shuffled somewhere off to the side, fallen into the cracks, and forgotten. Maybe the person watching it just got dumped by a Norwegian, statuesque and beautiful, and your lead fits that description to a T.

Maybe everyone just hates you.

A lot of crazy thoughts keep you up at night while you wait. And wait. And wait.

It’s frustrating, the waiting. You apply to so many festivals you make an excel spreadsheet with more detailed information than you would ever put into your 9-5 job. Ever. The fucking thing is even color coded by notification date so you can tell which festivals you’ll hear from first. And your cast and crew are asking you what’s up and you can’t give them any info, but it’s simply driving you crazy because even a no at this point would be better than the wait.

Wouldn’t it?

That’s day in and day out while you wait for some vindication from someone you don’t know, someone you might not ever meet, to tell you that your film is up to muster for their film festival.

You keep waiting because there’s nothing else to do. You’re not going to be that filmmaker who can’t take it anymore and who writes the festival asking what’s going on. You’re not going to tweet passive aggressively, or post on message boards anonymously about them. Because, just like a murder scene, you’ll make a mistake and you’ll get outed, and you’ll irrevocably burn a bridge.

Sometimes festivals notify you when they say they will. Others blow the deadline, and THAT is when you start losing your fucking mind.

See, this is where anger comes in. On no less than 8 occasions out of 30 (so far) I had to find out we did not get into a festival by reading a press release for said festivals and their accepted films.

If you can, imagine looking at the PR piece, seeing a list of films, and, abandoning the search function on your browser, you meticulously drag your mouse down, lower and lower, until you don’t see your film. It’s torture, and I simply could not believe that an organization who gladly accepted my money did not have the decency to let me know that my film wasn’t accepted before posting those that made the cut.

We received 11 no’s before we got our first yes, and part of the special hell with submitting films to festivals is that there is no WHY. You don’t know why your film didn’t make it. And after the hope and the fear and worrying and all that shit… now you’re just left with a red line on your excel sheet that indicates that, no, you did not make the cut of a festival you thought would be perfect for your film.

Maybe it’s because it didn’t fit the theme of the year. Maybe it just didn’t speak to the right people. Maybe it’s just because the film is bad… and you’ll never know.

Sometimes the rejection letter comes with a kind note saying that the festival appreciates your hard work and apologizes for not being able to feature it that year. Most notes in fact say that, and you try and take some solace in the fact that out of many hundreds (if not thousands) of films, you did not make the top 20% or less.

Take that in for a second. 20% or less of submitted films.

There are always going to be unaccepted films by the hundreds. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

I got one note that said they loved the film, but simply did not have enough slots available to all of the great films they received that year. It was a record year for submissions. Every single festival we applied to, and I mean every single one, had a record year for submissions, which says a lot about the industry.

And sometimes… sometimes you don’t get a note at all.

In the end, note or not, what you’re left with is an empty hull. You’ve showed it to your cast and crew. Maybe your family and friends. You’ve gotten nothing but encouragement from the people who love you, and it builds up your confidence.

But the constant rejection from the people in charge of the festivals you submitted to… that is a repeated kick in the balls (metaphorically speaking, ladies). And when you hit the floor and look up and ask why… there is no face or mouth to give you an answer.

I know exactly where I was when we got into our first three festivals.

On my bed, feeling despondent.

It was brutal, getting all of those no’s. The depression I felt was something very specific. Working hundreds of hours on a project, the stress of borrowing money to finish it, then fine tuning it to the best it can be, and then the continuous crushing. Over and over again. I simply could not believe the film didn’t speak enough to a single one of those festivals to get accepted.

I want to stay as linear as I can, but you have to understand… that is ALL part of this process.

The first festival we heard from was the Soho International Film Festival. Julie Sisson and I first got into SIFF in 2013 with our short film 5AM. Julie, Lynn Mancinelli and I got in the following year with Untitled Zombie Project.

Our third year in, and I felt a palpable relief. We were going to be able to have an NYC premiere with our cast, our crew, and everyone’s family members in a festival we loved being a part of. I’d never felt a wash of relief as I did when we got that news.

The following day, still on the bed (but having left it multiple times for multiple reasons) I got two emails. One was from the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival and the other was from the Newport Beach Film Festival.

I remember seeing ‘Congratul-‘ in the subject line of an email, and I shut my laptop. I sat there for a moment, stunned, and stood up, walked away from the laptop. “Get the fuck out of here,” I said, and slowly opened it back up. That one was from JDIFF. And right above it was Newport.

What a great weekend that was.

About two weeks later we found out we got into the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival.

The wonderful people at both JDIFF and NBFF allowed for fantastic screenings, and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Dubuque was such a fun city to visit (with HUGE cash prizes I might add), and Newport Beach puts on such a wonderful festival. We were so happy to be involved with both!

Our NYC screenings went just perfectly. We sold out our first Soho screening (and were awarded a second), and had such a great crowd at Art of Brooklyn (and a fantastic Q&A!).

Just this past Thursday was the Soho Awards Night and after some awards for short films I was nominated for Best Breakthrough Performance, along with Emmy winner Chandra Wilson who took home the award.

Then we were nominated for Best U.S. Feature Film.

Then, inexplicably, they brought out the Carbon Award for Most Creative Filmmaker. “And the award goes to writer, director and actor…”

And Julie and Lynn, who were with me that night, went insane. I was still in a bit of shock that we’d gotten nominated for two of their top awards, and they started pushing me to the stage.

I got up there and said some things that I honestly can’t remember right now. There were so many lights and photos being taken and I lost my ability to talk, truthfully. And that has NEVER happened before. Both, the talking and the awards.

What a thrill. My sincerest thanks to Soho and Carbon for the wonderful honor.

Some time during that whole stretch of craziness, I was interviewed twice.

First was by HollyShorts who did a Filmmaker Spotlight on me. We had both 5AM and UZP screen at Hollyshorts in 2014, which was awesome.

Second, I was interviewed by Backstage Magazine on being an actor/director. Very exciting! The last month or so has just been a whirlwind of fantastic activity.

So.

When the dust settled, we’d hit 10% of acceptance to submissions.

Lots of people will say that 10% is a reasonable expectation for festivals. I am not one of those people.

We spent a considerable amount of money on those festivals, and I was really hoping for more like 30%. We still have another 9 or 10 to wait to hear from.

Now, it’s important for you dear reader to know that I am thrilled with our festival run so far. Newport Beach is a major festival. The JDIFF will be the Sundance of Middle America in two years. This year they gave away almost $35,000 in cash prizes. They will get MAJOR films in next year’s festival, and that town will be hopping soon. Soho… we have nothing but love for Soho. The people, the venues, the volunteers. It’s always a treat for us. And Art of Brooklyn, in their 5th year, put on a great show.

And perhaps I’m being overly critical of the percentages of possible acceptance. Perhaps.

But when one spends $2300 on 40 festivals and your acceptance rate is $230, respectively… that does not seem like a good return on your investment. Understanding fully that the word ‘investment’ doesn’t really apply as much as maybe the word ‘gamble’ does… there are simply too many factors to being accepted into a film festival… and all of it is perfectly normal, if normal is the right word.

That is part of the struggle of applying to festivals.

Which brings us to the last part of the Five Stages of Fate. Acceptance.

You know, now that I think about it, that last stage might have to change its name to Faith.

It’s your movie. Your baby. You have a full on love/hate relationship with it. You’ve lived with it for months, perhaps years on end, and when you’re finished with it you put it out into the world to see what will become of it.

With every Withoutabox and Film Freeway submission. With every credit card transaction. Every DVD. Every envelope you address, wait on line with at the post office, and ship out with a final look that says “I know our film is great, and they will too…”

Think of it as messages in a bottle. That is the closest comparison to hope and desperation I can think of when applying to film festivals.

You have a strong sense of belief in yourself and your film. You know your crew gave their all. Your film looks good. It sounds good. The pace is fantastic. The performances are spot on.

If you’re a filmmaker and you are struggling to get festivals to vindicate all of your hard work, you’re not alone, and I’m here to say the following;

Expect it all.

In the end, regardless of the outcome, it is so important to continue to be proud of the work you did. Something on that shoot, something from the whole process is going to more valuable than any festival can give you in the end. You’ll have achieved something that many people attempt to do and unfortunately fail in the end with. Something you learned is going to solve a major problem in the future, and you’ll look back and know that without the failures, you wouldn’t be where you are now.

We were very fortunate with our festival run so far, and I hope we get into more of them in the near future. But festivals or not, I love filmmaking too much to quit. It took me 20 years to finally do the thing I’ve wanted to do for so long, and I don’t regret the journey I had to take to get here.

Thanks for reading. Don’t give up on you dream. There are stories out there waiting to be told, and I promise they can be told with what you have available to you. Stuck was shot in 17 days (plus pick-ups) for $7,350. Everyone but the producers and myself were paid and fed well and treated with respect. I owe them all, and I hope they know how important they are to me.

If we can do it, so can you.

John Painz

PS – For those filmmakers who do read this, take a very close look at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. With a very small push, they will be the Sundance of the Midwest. Seriously.

Thanksgiving 2014

I did a very thorough Thanksgiving post two years ago. I don’t have it in me to do another one. But I do have some people I’m thankful for that I have to talk about.

It’s been a crazy year.

Early this year I embarked on making my first feature film, and I didn’t do it alone.

My mom and Karen continue to be very supportive while I go through what can only be called a premature mid-life crisis, or trying to find the real me, or some spiritual path that has determined that being broke and depressed builds character.

They’ve been great through it all.

Julie Sisson and Lynn Mancinelli, my producers, were there to help guide me through the process while I tried to do something I would not recommend, ever. Act in my own movie.

The fuck was I thinking?

Anyway, they were great, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

With them were Michael Hobbs and Jalen Thompson, who rounded out our small crew. They did such wonderful work, and I am grateful they gave it their all.

Holly Hughes and Crystal Vagnier took time out of their days to come by and help, and the shoots went infinitely easier with them.

Katie McHugh, Pete Migliorini, and Marc Palmieri helped secure three VERY important locations. I would have been in a significant amount of distress without them. Thank you all.

Randy Sharp, Louis Pannullo, Alison Digesere, and a ton of other people donated their hard earned money to help make the film happen. Couldn’t have made it without them.

Johnny Rebecchi, who rented us his camera for what can only be considered a criminally low rate. Thank you so much, dude.

My cat Doc, who allowed us to film him in a number of strange situations. All of them legal, mind you. But he was great, and I swear he’s gonna steal the whole movie.

Satomi Hofmann, Katie Howe, Britt Genelin, Galit Sperling, Brennan Lowery, Brian Sloan, Christian Jacobs, Stephanie Ervin, and Brian Linden. What a fantastic cast. I got great performances out of them all, and I couldn’t be happier.

Melanie Ryan, David King, Louis, again, Samantha Livingston, Charmaine Broad, Edward Kassar, Ian Bjorklund, Regina Bettincourt, Drew Jeeves, James Honderich, and Kelsey O’brien round out the rest of the cast. They were great, and I really appreciate you all taking the time to allow me to film in your homes!

Scott Hampton, Evgeniy Yavtushenko, and Terry Derkach round out my post production help. They’ve done a great job, I’m very happy with the work they did for Stuck.

For anyone I forgot, my sincerest apologies. It’s 8:40 on Thanksgiving, 2014, and I am in dire need of dinner number 2. Don’t take it personally.

It’s been a dream of mine to be a feature filmmaker. It was a dream I gave up on when I was younger. These things happen. I’m just glad I was able to come around full circle, write something I was happy enough with to want to take a gamble on producing, and wrangle all of these people to make it happen.

I’m thankful to all my friends and family, too, but you should already know that.

Thanks for reading.

J

Picture locked and reddit.com

In this blog post I’m going to talk about the tenuous road from finishing production to getting picture locked.

I’m also going to talk about how incredibly helpful the filmmakers subreddit on Reddit.com has been during┬ámy time with Stuck.

After finishing up production on the film, it took me quite some time to come to terms with editing the film. Mainly because I hated looking (and listening) at myself. I simply couldn’t bear it.

It took a while, and with some prodding from my producers, I finally got the rough cut done by June 1st, almost two and a half months after we finished shooting.

Since then, we’ve gone through 7 other versions of the film. Versions being relative… I think we got quite close to the finished product on the first time out. Definitely some massaging of scenes, removing whole scenes, removing a major plot point…

That seems like a big thing to admit, especially for a film that is 84 minutes. Removing a plot point wasn’t something that was planned, of course. It just seemed natural, in the end, to eliminate it from the film because it served no real purpose. If you can imagine that your audience has to pay attention to X number of things when it comes to your story and your edit… and removing one or any number of those things might seem to set the entire house of cards tumbling… in your mind. For various reasons, of course. One of them being that it’s your baby and you’ve imagined it in its entirety since the beginning.

Well, every once in a while you manage to see something that isn’t important, that doesn’t help the story, and that is inconsequential to the viewer. For pace reasons, you remove it.

So, we found a major plot point that wasn’t necessary and removed it from the film, and we were all quite shocked at how well it improved things.

That was it for the major changes. From around version 4 everyone was quite happy. We did some massaging, some second here, there, removed to get to the point faster… and after five months we finally put the film to rest. For now.

Being picture locked on a film moves the entire process to the two final stages of post production. Color correcting and sound editing.

I have very little experience with both, and it was very important, seeing as how we’d spent the last nine months piecing together the film, we needed to place these two crucial elements in the hands of professionals.

So, first things first, I placed an ad on mandy.com for a post production sound editor. In three days I received well over 100 resumes from people all over the world. Literally. Germany, Japan, the Ukraine, London, Paris, New Zealand, Brazil… it was pretty unreal the response.

Buried in the list of emails was one from an old colleague of mine from The Learning Annex, this guy Terry Derkach. And I completely missed his email. I did flag it (I flagged around 10-15% of them to go back to), but I never made the connection until, a week later, overwhelmed, trying to make a decision, Terry sent me a follow up.

Very cool of him. So I responded. I met him at his studio in Chelsea, talked about the film, about our budget, and Terry said he’d like to watch the film, go from there. So I sent it to him, and three days later I got a great email. He loved the movie, wanted to help, wanted to figure out when we could get started, and would work within our budget.

It’s one of the luckier things that happened during this production, on top of the great cast, crew, camera rental, lens rentals, coming in on budget, and everything else that went our way.

Terry now has the files and we should hear our first pass of the sound early next week.

Now, I’ve been reading Reddit for a long time. Over 6 years. When I decided to transition into filmmaking, I used the filmmaker subreddit to make a number of informed decisions on equipment rental and purchase choices.

In the last six months I’ve come across a number of threads that have helped me choose not only the best equipment, but also to solve problems with production, find a composer, find creative commons licensed music and, most recently, find a colorist.

First, Scott Hampton, composer. Scott put up a thread in r/filmmakers telling people that they could use some of his music on soundcloud for their films for free. When I did a search on the subreddit for music, his thread came up, and I checked out his selection of work. One track in particular, Internal Light, spoke to me quite clearly, and I was able to add this great track into the film.

After a couple of correspondence, Scott came out for Untitled Zombie Project premiere at Soho in May, and we got to chat a few more times during the IndieWorks screenings of 5AM and 8 for Vegas. So, when there was a particular piece of the film that needed some music, I got in touch with him and asked what he could do for us. We’re in the thick of it right now, and I’m very happy with what I’ve heard thus far.

I also grabbed a number of other tracks from different composers and musicians from r/filmmakers, including work from Steven O’Brien, the band Mutine, and the band Black Cannons.

On top of all that, I used one of Moby’s tracks from his site Moby Gratis, which allows people to license some of his music for free. Which is awesome.

All in all, a great soundtrack for the film.

Now, going over color correcting for the film, I was hesitant to do this part of the project myself because, well, I don’t really know how to do it. I can get around 3-way color in FCP 7, and I have been for the past three years. But color is such a complicated part of post production, and I wanted some professional help, so I went to r/colorists on reddit and started looking around.

I came across this guy:

He posted in r/colorists that he’d just moved to NYC and was looking for editing/color work. Loved his reel, started chatting with him, got a good vibe from the guy, and he quoted me a great price to work on the film. I met up with him yesterday, gave him a hard drive with the footage, an XML file and said go forth and show me what you’ve got.

Should have some key stills to look at by Saturday, to see if we’re on the same page. Very excited for the next week or so. I get to see some color corrected frames and first pass on sound.

So… reddit has been very helpful. So many resources, so many people willing to help out with what knowledge they do have… it’s saved me time, grief, and has continued to inspire me to make movies. My sincerest thanks to those who take subreddits like those seriously, and take the time to educate and inspire.

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to the day I can share the trailer, share when and where you can see the film, and which festivals its accepted to.

All the best,

John

The 4th round of editing

On Friday, September 19th, I finished the fourth round of editing on Stuck. This was after the rough, and then notes upon notes from Julie Sisson and Lynn Mancinelli, my two producing partners.

Some time in July, I think, I also brought onboard my now friend Vicky Lucas to help with some day-to-day editing, since Julie and Lynn both have full time jobs. Vicky does, too, but her schedule was/is a bit more flexible.

So, I don’t know how many of you have been following the legacy that is Stuck the Movie, but over the last seven months I’d been agonizing over the rough cut, then the first revised cut, the second, the third… and this is mainly due to the fact that I’m being overly critical of myself, since I’m the lead in the film.

It’s quite hypocritical because in September of 2013 I shot a feature film for director Kelsey O’Brien called Enchantments, in which Kelsey was the writer, director, and lead actor. There were issues that came up with having the director in front of the camera instead of behind. This is where trust comes in, where the people you hire help make your vision a reality. Depending on the level of trust, this can be a good or bad thing.

I have worked on two web series where the director was the lead actor, and it can work. Depending on the production schedule, the budget, the leeway of the DP to know instinctually what the director wants, and so forth.

I left Enchantments knowing that, even though things worked out (in no small part thanks to Kelsey, who was very specific on a great many things), it’s a stressful situation for everyone involved.

And then I go and make Stuck.

Silly me.

The initial plan was to get an actor to play the lead, as you do, so that I could shoot my own film. My love of solving problems behind the camera knows no bounds.

As we moved closer to production, it was clear we weren’t going to find a lead who could give us 16 days in a row for very little money, and who was non-union. So I said ok. Lynn and Julie pretty much knew this was going to happen. My only real acting was in 5AM, and that was basically a goof.

Which reminds me. A couple of nights ago I almost completely forgot about watching the (2nd) premiere of 5AM on TV in NYC, channel 25. I missed the original air date because I wasn’t paying attention, and I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to watch it again. The producer thankfully told me they were replaying it this passed Sunday. I set it to record, was editing for the past two hours, and almost forgot about watching it AGAIN.

Sigh.

Here’s 5AM if you haven’t seen it:

https://vimeo.com/71621198

So, after watching myself getting interviewed on TV, my only thought was “Wow, I need to lose 20 pounds.”

Great, though, that 5AM found its way onto TV! A big thank you to Melissa Unger and the good people at NYC Close Up.

Onward and upward.

So, yeah, 5AM was a goof. Well, more of an experiment than a goof, but I’d never expected to enjoy acting.

Stuck was kind of a no brainer. The character’s name is John, it’s basically me. I just had to get over some fears. Still, internally I fought it.

Editing 5AM was nowhere near as difficult as this process has been, and I think it’s because the stakes are greater. I’m not even certain what the stakes are, to be honest, but I figure that there’s much more of a spotlight on features than there are on shorts.

It took about a month and a half to work up the courage to edit the rough cut on Stuck. From there, after I got initial reactions from Julie and Lynn, it was easier to tackle the style and overall feel and pace of the film.

Over the past week I’ve received notes from Julie, Lynn, and Vicky on the 4th version of Stuck, and I’m very pleased to say that we’re very close to being picture locked.

For the last month I’ve been working concurrently with Kelsey O’Brien to edit her feature film, so that we could get it out to festivals before their final drop dead deadline. It’s been interesting, going from one film to the other. I try and take some time between cuts, so that I can watch it with fresh eyes, and the distraction of editing Enchantments has been helpful. Not to mention, it’s allowed me to see clearer to the story, instead of being wedded to shots and takes that I might be in love with, but ultimately have to be cut.

So, here I am, October looming, weeks away from being picture locked and one step closer to putting the film out into the world.

I couldn’t have done it without these three lovely ladies. They’ve all been helpful, inspiring, and truthful with their critiques and comments.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the first screen capture of the film. A big thank you to Michael ‘Boofa’ Hobbs for his fine cinematography work on Stuck. It’s been rudimentarily color corrected, but I thought I’d share it all the same. Hopefully within the next month or so, I’ll have a teaser to share.

Thanks for reading.

John Painz

Editing Stuck

It’s June somethingth… 2014, and I have been working as a film/video editor, on my own work or others, for about 3 years now. A little less.

When I started editing 8 for Vegas, I had no idea what I was doing, but found it so rewarding to figure out the puzzle of each episode.

As time moved on, I found that editing, and solving the problems that come with pace and humor and beats, has been one of the three most rewarding parts of the production process. Writing and shooting are the other two, but everything else that comes along with the three stages of production fall into line very closely.

I edit The Thing with writer/director Marc Palmieri. Our process is usually thus: He watches the footage, sends me file names to transcode. We get together and drink and put together a rough cut. He sits with the rough for a couple of days, tightens it up, and we do it all over again. Sometimes remotely, sometimes face to face. If there’s a third meeting, it’s mainly for drinking and hanging out. Then I fix audio and color correct and we send episodes out there, and then worry about the next one.

Editing Stuck has been an exercise in learning about just how bad I am about procrastination, and low self esteem. It took a long time to get my shit together to edit the rough cut. I dreaded every moment of it, and not for a single good reason. Not that it has to be a ‘good’ reason, mind you. The thing that’s bothering you at the time always seems like a good reason, and insurmountable.

That’s not an excuse, you know. Truth be told, making a feature is an exercise in what you don’t know. My initial thought was that editing myself would be as easy as editing 5AM was. It’s not even close.

Multiply the amount of time on screen by a factor of about 13… putting aside the clones. I’m not only supposed to be a character that people like, but I’m also supposed to be convincing. Taking myself out of the equation wasn’t even a possibility, because of inexperience.

So I would sit in front of my computer, unemployed, time going by so absurdly quickly, and I would do a minute here, a minute there, hoping to get to a moment in the film that I would look forward to.

Now, keep in mind. I think the script is one of my best. I think we got fantastic performances out of all of our actors. It’s shot well. It sounds good.

But there’s this guy in it, and I can’t look at his face for another second.

Every once in a while I would upload a scene so Julie and Lynn could take a look at it. Just to show them I was making progress.

My initial deadline for finishing the rough cut was May 1st. Roughly two months after we stopped filming.

I blew that deadline like a cheap suit. Or, I don’t know, like, uhhh… two dollar hooker.

I can’t even imagine what a two dollar hooker would look like these days.

But, yeah. I blew that deadline. By a month. I kept telling Julie and Lynn I was working on it, but I was basically wallowing here at home trying to get inspired.

And so one day I’m sitting here and I lose out on a gig and I said “How am I supposed to get people to take me seriously?”

Now, that’s irony, you know, cause Final Cut was open and I was eating another goddamned rice cake with peanut butter, which is pretty much all I can afford for lunch these days, and I’m sick to fucking death of them, and there’s my movie sitting there.

I meet up with Lynn and Julie at the Untitled Zombie Project screening and they give me a deadline of June 15th and I said fuck that. June 1st. I’ll have the rough done then.

And I did, which is pretty miraculous, if I do say so myself, in my past/present state of mind.

I send it off to them and I get encouraging notes and thoughts.

I can’t bear to look at it, though, which is too funny. I mean, I just spent three months with it, and basically watched it, but it’s got sound problems and color problems, and I’m so used to correcting issues as they come, not the way a feature is cut together.

So, I get their notes and, over the past five days I’ve done a second cut. Which is great. I get to upload it tonight and send it to them and we’ll see where we’re at.

From there, it’s more tightening. It’s fixing some audio levels, so that we’re not culling audio during the sound design stage. Picking some music.

I think we’re about two, two and a half months from being picture locked. Maybe a bit sooner, if we’re lucky. But that’s not bad, all things considered.

It’s been an interesting process, I’ll tell you what. I have a lot of support on the back end here, and I’m very grateful for it. I just have to stop beating myself up over nothing. Which is another process.

At some point I have to paint the poster. I have a great idea in mind, have to take some photos, break out the paints and paper and give it a try. I think it’ll be really nice, once it’s done.

Thanks so much for all of your support and patience. The project is definitely getting there, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

All the best,

John

5AM, Stuck, and Untitled Zombie Project

Hey all,

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated this. Not sure where to start.

I just passed the 30 minute mark on the rough cut of Stuck, which is great. We did a quick day of pick-ups with two of our actors, and that went well. Getting to some of the funnier scenes, and it’s been making it easier to edit.

I also just got back from Los Angeles with Karen for the Hollyshorts Monthly Screening Series. They screened 5AM, which was awesome. I got to meet Daniel and Theodore, who run the Hollyshorts festivals, and they were great, and super enthusiastic to promote short films. 5AM is screening not only in LA but in Austin, Miami, and New York City. We had a lot of fun at the Chinese Theater, got to see some neat shorts, and I also got to hang with my friends Bryan and Alex, who I haven’t seen in a long while.

We got back from LA on Friday, and Saturday we screened 5AM again, this time at the Katra Film Series. I can honestly say that this was the best reception from a crowd we’ve had at a screening of the short. Julie and I had a lot of fun last night. My friend Sam Garland, who starred in Enchantments, showed up, too. Got to meet a lot of filmmakers, and had a lot of people come by before and after the Q/A to say they enjoyed the short. All in all, a great night.

The big news is, Untitled Zombie Project was accepted to its first festival. We submitted it as a web series pilot, and it got into the Soho International Film Festival. It’ll be premiering on May 17th at 11am.

Here’s the teaser:

https://vimeo.com/92077442

I also just found out that it’ll be screening out in LA in May for the Hollyshorts Horror Night screening, which is awesome, too.

Another project I worked on last year, The Waves by Venise Stephenson, got into two festivals in the last month. The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle, and The Art of Brooklyn Festival in May. Can’t wait to go to that screening!

Tomorrow, we shoot more of The Thing, and then I get back to work editing Stuck.

So, things are moving, slowly but surely. Fingers crossed we keep that momentum going.

Thanks for reading!

John Painz

Editing a feature, and updates

I recently started piecing together my film Stuck. I took a week off, but not before I tried to wrap my head around the first scene, and had a minor nervous breakdown doing so.

The reason I decided to go ahead with the project in the first place was because of Julie’s and my short film 5AM. We had a lot of fun with it. The Stuck script was simple enough, particularly in cast size and locations. While I realize that a feature film is a much different creature than a short, I honestly thought it would be a reasonably similar experience.

The first thing I realized was, I hated looking at my face on screen.

That’s a big fucking problem if you’re the main actor. In fact, the word ‘big’ simply isn’t a good enough word.

So, I took a week off.

Now, if I’m being completely honest, it was not my face that was giving me all the trouble.

I wonder if other people have this thought coursing through their head when they take on something as enormous as a feature film. I had a constant thought that was dominating my decision making process, which made me question every single thing I attempted to piece together.

If this sucks, it’ll be the last time you’ll ever be able to do something like this.

That’s a pretty fucked up thought to have. The amount of pressure that subsequently fell on my shoulders was too much to take, and I started having some pretty terrible ideas run through my head.

“I wonder if people will believe me if I tell them that a magnet just happened to fall in the exact right spot, and wipe all of the footage from both hard drives.”

“They might, but I think they’re going to ask you where you got the magnet.”

“Hmmmm.”

A fleeting thought, followed by a nice swift smack to my own face, but still. The mind will suggest some wildly interesting ideas in times of crisis to relieve strain.

About a week later, give or take, I tackled the first scene.

Now, when you’re making a film, you’ve got a finite window of opportunity to shoot pick-ups. People change their hair, they lose or gain weight, they move. Your locations might not be available. Etc.

I pieced together the first scene and said “We missed stuff.”

Not a good sign, particularly when it was one of the last things we shot. But, the mistake was mine and mine alone, and I kept moving forward.

Probably the biggest problem as I began to piece the film together was the fact that I could not divorce myself from the idea of the finished product, which is a MUCH more polished version of your first cut. So much so, in fact, that they are incomparable.

The thing is, the projects I’ve worked on in the past, I’ve always cleaned up while editing, so, at the very least I was seeing what direction the finished project would look like.

You can’t do that with a feature. Sound design and music are going to make so much of what you shot/recorded feel different. Color correcting even more so. So, I’d piece together a scene and tried to say ‘hey, this is going to look and sound 100% better, don’t sweat it. We shot in LOG… it’s not going to be that dark, that grey. Calm down. Take a, yeah, take a xanax. Not with bourbon. Ok, with bourbon, just calm down. Get through another scene and we’ll… no, it’s not a good idea to eat that whole bar of chocolate. Ok, eat it if it’s gonna make you feel better.’

The bargaining phase is just the best.

I brought over Lynn and Julie to take a look at what I’d pieced together thus far. About 10 minutes or so, which is miraculous to me, even now. They loved it, which makes me doubt their sanity.

Lynn even went so far as to call me ‘very charming.’ I did a quick invoice, only to find that she did not owe me any favors or money, so I was genuinely confused, but thanked her.

The process is getting easier, which I’m thankful for. I cannot wait until it’s pieced together, to get an outsiders thoughts on the film. Being this close to a project is just ABSURD.

But, after reading about how others tackle editing features, it’s just a scene at a time.

We’ve got Monday and Tuesday as our pick-up shoot dates. I’m quite confident we’ll get everything else we’ll need.

Now, onto some other news. Untitled Zombie Project is on the shortlist to make it into its first festival, which is awesome. And 5AM is showing at three screenings via the Hollyshorts Monthly Screening Series. Karen and I are trying to make it out to the L.A. screening. Fingers crossed!

That’s about it for right now. We’ll see how it all goes. Thanks for reading.

John