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

Final day of principle photography

Tomorrow is our 15th and final day of shooting. I’d originally thought that we’d be shooting for 12 days, but that hope was quickly dashed as I harkened back to past shoots I’d been on, whether behind the camera or in front of it, and, after conferring with my two co-producers, decided to lessen the amount of pages per day so that we got good performances out of everyone.

Boy, that’s a long sentence.

I’m glad that I am months away from culling the depths of my brain to list those I have to thank for making this project a reality. Last night I, Julie, Boofa (our DP), Galit Sperling, one of our actresses, and Julie and Boofa’s friend Emma, went out to dinner. It was a vegetarian kosher chinese food place and, believe me when I tell you, the food was ridiculously good.

Now, I’ve been UP for about two weeks. Energy wise. Sometimes not getting enough sleep, sometimes getting enough, It’s important to keep a steady stream of energy throughout the production, in particular when you’re the head of the project.

Well, last night was the first time Julie said ‘ok, you look really tired,’ and I realized I hit my wall, two weeks after we started. Saturday was our b-roll day outside of our major location, and we all went to Coney Island to shoot some great footage. Friday was our main exterior day, and we all braved 18 degree temperatures in Central Park, slightly warmed by the sun, but bothered by the wind blowing through one of the central thoroughfares the park has to offer.

Excellent work days, I’m very happy with the footage we got. But to end our last week of shooting with two outdoor scenes… that was rough. My thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

So, with a day off, I got some things done around the apartment, got a nap in, and now it’s just past midnight on Oscar night, and I’m still awake.

I know I have a couple of months ahead of me for editing, sound design, color correcting, and agonizing about my physical appearance and acting in the film, but there has never been a moment in my life since I graduated college that has been as cut and dry as it was the other day. Karen asked me if I was going to miss filming and I said I was. The long hours (waking up, cooking breakfast for the cast/crew, cleaning up the apartment at the end of the day, backing up footage, watching footage, trying to sleep when I don’t know my lines… etc), the hard work, the compromises, the intensity, the drain. It’s taken a long time to figure out what I want to do with my life, and this is it.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity, and we’ve got so much left to shoot. I started writing out a wish list of b-roll for the apartment and it was three pages long. We’ve luckily got the camera and lenses until Tuesday, so we’ve got time. But, still. There’s only so much one can do in a day.

Thanks for reading, and for supporting our film. I really appreciate it!

John Painz