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