Thursday, November 12, 2009

Filmmaker's Journey: Reflection PART 2

What's funny to me now is thinking back about my 'blogging"/"online buzz" building plans before production began. I guess it would have been easy to do if I were an avid blogger/twitter-pated/facebooker but I have never been one for that type of thing. I had planned to write weekly journals and post information on how things were going, that seems to be the route of most digital film maker's these days (and for some it pays off). But one thing I realized is that it did not really work with my style: I get so engrossed in the process that it becomes my life; there was never an open window to step into a third person and analyze what I was doing. Besides, I like to let me work speak for itself. I did not have a team of people to document my journey; my time was spent being a filmmaker. My family life was engulfed by filmmaking (that's why we shot during the summer). My wife and super-producer Sofia, my daughter and I were living and breathing the filmmaking process. We slept on a set that we turned our living space into. Shoot on a weekend, backup footage and do rough assemblies to make sure I was getting what I wanted on a Monday, Tuesday was spent relaxing with the family, then Wednesday and Thursday we got back to the production coordination and gathering just in time to shoot on Friday. It was crazy, fun and demanding but in a weird way it was symbiotic. It took my energy but it gave back two-fold; I was living my dream no matter what.

Another thing to touch upon is how much one is willing to give up in order to fulfill the needs of tackling a feature film. Granted everyone is different but I think that one thing is for sure: you have to give up a certain part of your life/career to work on a film. Everyone has different living situations, day-to-day needs and so forth, but when you are making a film, time becomes your worst enemy. I had to give up working for nearly a half-a-year. In and around that time I turned down some work, just so that I would not rob my project of the necessary energy. I checked my savings account and prepared to live as frugal as humanly possible for the coming months. It was scary; but for me, it was necessary.

An enormous boost of confidence and energy for me was the fact that I trusted my cast and crew with our work together. I run my sets like a big family and I think everyone felt that. Some of the best compliments I've ever heard came from people taking in the 'welcoming' 'hard working' 'humble' nature of a Mitchell Street Pictures set. To me that made a great deal of difference. Also I knew everyone who was on set from the actors to the crew (the majority I had already worked with in various capacities). Zach Gossett (the Hush) and I spent a year working as director-actor that really turned into a friendship: he trusted me with the story and the journey I was putting in front of him, and I really could not envision anyone else, after all of the work and building we'd done, playing my lead. Ashley B. Eberlein (the Director of Photography) was also attached to the project at an early stage. We were able to create our visual language and certain story characteristics over various meetings and test shoots. We pre-visualized every shot in advanced and I knew that if she saw something she liked on set she would be able to capture it while still maintaining that visual language. Finally, and very much worth mentioning, Sofia L. Cortez, my producer and Assistant Director, was there from square one. She was involved with the script writing, listening to me read pages to her late at night, working on production breakdowns while I organized myself creatively. She was the technical brain while I was the creative know-no-limits madman, she was my secret weapon, she was my alarm clock and wake up call when she needed to be.

The mask up top and the majority of the appliances we used were created by Phil Velasquez of FreakShop Fx. Phil is always a pleasure to work with: his technical skills and abilities are matched by his creativity and ability to work on the fly when necessary. This was our 4th collaboration. We met months in advance to bring various characters to life. Working from some of my designs, Phil's and some improvisation here and there, we set out with specific ideas in mind and those grew as people began to embody the characters. I used some CG/Visual effects work by the talented Mark Jeschke. He built VFX "appliances", worked some amazing Roto and guided the rest of the visual effects. Overall we sought to create subtle FX work that never tries to steal the limelight from the story itself. I've seen to many films that begin relying on VFX to 'carry' their piece and as much as I admire well done VFX, I did not want to make an FX heavy movie.

In a month, I've written about making this film more than I did after an entire year of production and post. It's funny how things work out sometimes.

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