Flashbacks

November 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I’d like to open this entry with an excerpt from a previous entry.

“Zach here. Nandan and I are at the ‘office’ right now slaving away on our personal bios to put in the prospectus so that people will give us money. And we’re doing a terrible job. I don’t like writing about myself in this way, it makes me feel slimy all over. So slimy. Worst of all is how far removed this is from the actual film itself on a creative level. So even though technically we’re working towards getting the film made, I can’t manage to feel like it’s worthwhile.”

That was ten and a half months ago, but it’s starting to sound wincingly familiar. Between the submission process, putting together a new website, and working with sound man/graphic wizard Dusty to design a poster, I’m beginning to feel all of that old self-promotion slime oozing back to me. But this time it’s worse.

Like I said back in January, we were working towards getting the film made. But how do I rationalize this shit now? I could claim that we’re working towards getting the film seen. But I don’t know. I don’t think that anyone needs to see this. That’s arrogant. It’s been made, it’s done, and it is what it is: a solid first attempt with some great moments and a lot of rough edges. I know that it’s important to meditate on and be proud of the accomplishment, but then I’d like to very promptly leave it behind and try another.

Actually I just realized that the success of this first effort could probably make the second one exponentially easier to get off the ground. I had a lot more griping to do, but I guess I’ve found my rationalization. Thanks, blog, for helping me arrive here.

My original complaint still stands, however. This work we’re doing isn’t any fun. Seeing Dusty’s poster designs is actually pretty cool. But the rest of it…no, thank you.

In other news, for family and friends, I’ve been very sick but I’m better now, and today was the first day of my brand new and soon-to-be-very-grueling retail job.

And to thank everyone for putting up with me in this post, I’ll end on something kind of interesting. Kind of.

Picture 1

That is a still from one of our rehearsals. It was, in my opinion, far and away our worst rehearsal. No one was taking it seriously, and the shit we were coming up with was seriously stupid. You can see that Julia and Mackinley are having a good time, while my face says otherwise. It was early on in the process and a definite low point.

Picture 1A

That is a still from the very same scene as it appears in the movie. You may expect me to talk about how much I love the scene now and how rewarding it is to see in light of that bad rehearsal. Well, it’s actually one of my least favorite scenes. It’s not bad, I just don’t like it all that much. But the point is that I get a kick out of seeing the two stills next to one another and I hope you do to.

Weird News

October 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. It’s Halloween! Why am I blogging? Because I have some matters to discuss.

If you’ve checked out our YouTube channel recently, which I doubt that you have, you may have noticed something confusing. I’m talking about a teaser we posted for the movie with the title Bummer Summer. What’s going on? What happened to Land of the Lost??? Well, I’m somewhat ashamed to announce that it’s simply not the title of our movie anymore. Bummer Summer isn’t necessarily the title either, but it’s what I’ve been submitting to festivals as. Anyway, check out the extra spooky, Halloween edition teaser I made if you haven’t yet. I’ll make it easy for you:

As I just mentioned, I have been submitting, but I won’t discuss any details for fear of having to follow up with news of rejection. I wouldn’t have been able to make a lot of deadlines had Julia and Mackinley not really pulled through by recording and sending me ADR material for the final scene within a week. Already it has gone from painfully unwatchable to totally acceptable if somewhat eerily incomplete (there are no footsteps yet). I’m not sure where I was going with this paragraph. It’s Halloweekend. I’m tired and I’m grouchy about finally admitting to the title change.

Have a spooky day.

Puppy Whistle

October 27th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Just thought I’d break up the recent silence with a little bit of only slightly relevant news.

Three members of our team (Nandan, Rob, and myself) were just ravaged by the weekend-long production of a brand new short film called Puppy Whistle. Nandan shot it, I was in charge of sound, and Rob himself was the co-writer/co-director/co-star of the show. Check out this very early teaser in which all of us are featured:

Check back soon for more half-assed, semi-interesting updates!

Submit to Me Now

October 21st, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Zach here. It’s never anyone else anymore. I wish Nandan would post something.

Last thing I wrote was about our weird screening. That was cut one. On Sunday night we screened cut three to a diverse crowd composed partially of non-ex-film students (the common man, if you will), and partially of formidably opinionated ex-film students. The general reaction was positive. There was a lot of interesting discussion about the unlikeability of characters and whether or not it necessarily meant an unlikeable movie. Luckily for me, I think we came to the consensus that it didn’t. I’m excited to see what a larger audience thinks of it, for better or worse, because I think I’ll be able to derive a lot about the nature of movies and how people perceive them. It that sense, this entire process has been experimental.

So now that the movie’s almost done (cut four is already complete), what’s next? My friend Nick, who was generous enough to host the screening I just wrote about, has since been hounding me relentlessly to submit to festivals immediately, considering the volume of important deadlines in November. This has generally come in the form of a text message every three hours or so. “u submit yet???” But the sound is a shit-show. Well actually, for being completely unmixed, the sound is awesome (thanks Dusty and Luc, seriously). But the last scene is garbled and the dialogue is completely inaudible. My friend and current generous host Katie worked with the clip for two hours last night before deeming it unsalvageable. We’re now scrambling to complete a full ADR/foley reconstruction of the scene, which includes recording dialogue from actors in three different cities. Meanwhile, the deadlines are too fast approaching. Nick insists that I submit the movie incomplete as a work in progress. Last night I exported a version with the last scene silenced and subtitled. It’s kind of artsy, actually. I’m waiting for the DVD to burn right now.

With the movie being so close to the end and all, I figured it’d be fun to post a photo from when the movie was so close to the beginning.

Photo 28

This is me, embarrassingly enough, outlining the plot of the movie on the chalkboard that Nandan painted onto the wall of our Brooklyn apartment. It was taken on September 22, 2008. Pretty wild.

Seen It

October 11th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Zach here. Last night, we watched the first complete cut of the movie.

I wish I had the patience and literary competence to put the experience accurately into words. Instead, I can only say that it was weird. No one is more familiar with this movie than I am (with Nandan in a very close second place), but seeing it from start to finish was an unfamiliar experience. Even knowing every word, gesture, and expression, I was still surprised by several new, unanticipated effects that the movie produced when seen all at once and in order. I knew that this was supposed to happen, but it was wild anyway. I don’t know. I’m not trying to theorize here, so I’ll paraphrase my feelings: movies are crazy.

Anyway, we watched the thing (we were an audience of five), and afterward discussed it all in detail for a long time. One thing that it seemed like we all agreed upon is that it’s sort of a difficult movie, and not necessarily in a good or bad way. Every principle character is, at some point or another, thoroughly unlikeable, and the visual style is often alienating. This may come as a surprise if you’re only familiar with our pretty stills, good-times blog demeanor, and all-too-“indie”-toned fundraising trailer. But it’s true. When people tell me that they’re excited to see my movie, I often warn them that it probably won’t be what they’re expecting. Throughout the course of production, many of my decisions came from a strange, not-easily-explained desire to displease the audience. Last night, as part of the audience, I wondered whether I should have been more careful what I wished for. But maybe not. It isn’t a matter of good or bad, just taste.

Some bits I think are great and am proud of, some I don’t care for, some seem out of place, some are confusing, etc. But we don’t judge movies on a beat-by-beat basis, we judge them as wholes, defining years of thought and labor with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. I’m certainly not about to do that here, (a) because I think that as a creator my opinion’s not worth much and (b) because no one has seen it and I don’t want to influence any forthcoming opinions (which I unfortunately may have already done). Try to see it sometime.

Even though there’s much work left to be done, seeing the movie for the first time really felt like the beginning of putting it behind me. In a good way. I’m getting anxious to start something new. I know that before long I’ll be able to feel that a review of the movie is not a review of me personally, but of a bi-product of me whose feelings can’t be hurt, a series of decisions I made one summer in wild, passionate haste. I was always so sure that upon moving home last December I would become quickly unmotivated and, having produced nothing, slip into a deep, long-lasting state of depression. This movie is a complete success just for existing. Not to get cheesy.

Act One Done

September 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Editing has been a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Yesterday was particularly productive, and equally grueling. I’m starting to uncover all of the mistakes that I made as director, and it stings when there’s nothing to be done about them. We looked at twenty-three takes of a single scene yesterday and none of them were right because I hadn’t realized or been willing to confront what wasn’t working. And now we’ve got to salvage what we can. Feature films are huge and there are so many different ways to blow it. It’s hard not to lose confidence in the entire machine when one of its parts isn’t working. We’ve pieced together the first thirty minutes, and will hopefully have finished much more by the end of this week. I’m sorry that editing isn’t such a photogenic process as shooting. This blog is starting to lag on the pretty picture front.

I’m going to dedicate a reflection to Nandan, because he’s been studying very hard and doing lots of homework. Also because his mug doesn’t show up too often on the blog.

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This photo really captures my favorite side of Nandan: the miserable side. That particular afternoon we were on one of our signature leisurely location scouts, in search of a country swimming hole. I had already modeled a nice, miniature cliff jump for the camera, but we wanted to see someone using the ropeswing farther downstream. The water was freezing, and I didn’t want to swim out to it, so Nandan stepped up to the plate. I started rolling and he – in classic, country-bred form – went for a dive in lieu of the standard swing-to-drop. And he must have been rusty, because in failing to get his hands out on time he took the unbroken surface of the water straight to the face. Lucky for us I was standing by giddily to photograph the result in beautiful black and white.

It Begins

September 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Zach here. With exciting news. When I got out of bed this morning (out of couch, to be accurate), all of the footage had finally finished compressing and was ready and waiting in editable form. Jesse and I began reviewing takes this afternoon and have started charting out the film’s course on paper. He even got started on the opening sequence as I ate burritos over his shoulder. It won’t be long at all until our first cut is finished. Get psyched.

Picture 1

Meanwhile, a reflection. Strolling down Bedford this afternoon, a passing SUV gave all of us pedestrians a treat: “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas bumping from the stereo and out through the tinted windows. Suddenly, memories. Memories of Skateland, where they would play that song at least twice per session. Back west we used to go every Wednesday night…religiously. Once shooting got underway, however, we were either too busy or too tired to ever make it there again. In fact, our very last trip out there was after our very first day of shooting. That’s when I took this photo:

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This is the kid that works the skate rental window. I think his name might be Hunter,  but I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, he was and undoubtedly still is consistently there to dish out skates begrudgingly…always with a side of sarcasm. Seeing this photo of him makes me smile, especially on account of what a kook he looks like in it. Here’s to you, Hunter. Or whatever your name might be.

New York

September 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I made it on the Greyhound. It was a pretty grueling trip and mostly uneventful. When I first sat down on the bus in Olympia, I noticed that someone had written in marker on the back of the seat in front of me. “Welcome to hell.” That about sums it up.

But now I’m in New York, and it feels nice to be back. Here’s the view from Jesse the editor’s Brooklyn rooftop:

city

Everyone is excited to start putting the movie together. Frustratingly, there are a few days of tedious file compression that are going to have to take place before we’re ready to edit, which we started this afternoon. I’ll let you know once we’ve gotten underway with the real snipping.

Meanwhile, here’s another reflection.

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I always thought this photo was hilarious but for some reason it would never upload to the blog back when it was taken. We needed to create the effect of a smoking engine for our roadside breakdown scene. For lord-knows-what reason, Dusty had packed a smoke bomb and wound up saving the day as he had before and would certainly do again. Anyway, there was all sorts of debate about whether it was safe to light a smoke bomb on top of the engine of my car. I was hesitant, and Julia was downright against it, but everyone else seemed to have a shoulder-shruggy, “let’s see what happens” sort of attitude so we went ahead with it. Anyway, I really like this photo. I think it serves as a nice visual metaphor for our filmmaking process.

Seattle + Family Portrait

September 11th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Bright and way too early Tuesday morning, Luc and I rode the bus up to Seattle to shoot a scene starring Julia that she could use in her reel.

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It was a fun exercise for me to shoot something in a “conventional” way after having spent so much time riding the boring-ass-artsy-long-take wagon. The scene itself was also fun. Somehow we finished it all in an unexpectedly smooth and brief manner. Wrap-party around a peach cobbler.

Picture 100

I stuck around for the night and spent the next day shooting an installation piece for my friend Vicci that centered around some large papier-mâché heads she had crafted. Julia came around to return the boom pole I’d left at her house and to drop off a file to be included in her reel. When it was time to go she gave me the good old goofy “well shoot, I hope I see you again someday” goodbye. It’s weird to be exchanging such long term see-you-laters with these people with whom I’ve been sharing this project for the past several months.  Which brings us to today’s reflection.

When we first met with Julia, it was because our friend Lucy (as seen in the fundraising trailer) had dropped out due to a too-busy work schedule. We decided she seemed right for the part, when all of the sudden Lucy changed her mind on us and asked to rejoin the team. This created an uncomfortable situation. We were upfront with both of them by admitting that we were seeing someone else, and asked for a week’s deliberation. On the day that the principal cast was made official, we took this photograph for the blog and yet somehow never got around to posting it. I think it’s nice.

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