My Short Film Adventure – Post Production Editing

What could be better than squeezing into a tight editing room with a professional editor and the director of a short film for many hours? If you ask me, the writer of said film, nothing could be better. 🙂

Paul, our editor; Hiroshi Hara our director and me ... intently editing a scene from Jordan's Jackhammer

Paul, our editor; Hiroshi Hara our director and me … intently editing a scene from Jordan’s Jackhammer

This week, I was invited to participate in two multi-hour editing sessions and it was thrilling to watch all the footage being crafted into the final product.

What’s especially satisfying is seeing how we are able to use so much of the wonderful work our actors gave us in take after take while the film was being shot. There are some really incredible moments based on the performances.

Ramon at the editing session

Ramon at the editing session

And although I won’t give away any of the jokes in the film (because it is a comedy, after all) what I can tell you is that some of the jokes are full on belly laughs. The pacing seems to be coming together nicely too.

There were some important lessons learned for me during this process too.

For example, when the script is X number of pages, it doesn’t account for any organic creative ideas that can spontaneously arise on set and might add to the total length of the piece.

Also, it’s probably obvious but … the number of days of shooting have a huge impact on what you have to work with in the editing room. We were extremely fortunate to have had four full days of filming for this short. And you’d think four days is a lot of coverage, and it is, but when it comes to the number of takes, the angles of a shot … all of that contributes to the choices available when everything is being pieced together.

For anyone that’s never been in an editing room, the process is fascinating. You are literally going through the film second by second. I’m not exaggerating. All four of us (see photos above) had an extended discussion about a 35 second “mini-scene” in the film and debated over whether or not that segment should be shortened to 29 seconds. We were split 50/50 for a while, but eventually decided to keep the full 35 second version in the film.

Yes, it’s that specific.

And while we got very close to a final version, we’re still not 100% completed with our editing yet. We’re going to have additional viewing time to provide feedback.

Once we have a “film lock,” it means the final length of the film is locked and set. Once that happens, the footage can be handed over to our sound design guy for sound and sound effects (which are numerous throughout), and our composer for the music, and also for voice over talent too. (Yeah, we are pretty fancy shmancy!)

I was extremely encouraged by our editor’s comments that “the production values are very high” on our little film. If they are, it’s due to the wonderful backing of our executive producers Ramon and Mike, of course supported by the cast and crew. (The script may have had a little to do with it too. ;-D)

Now, if we’re very fortunate, once everything is done and ready to be shown… our executive producers will be able to get this short film into some film festivals too. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself; that would be another posting in the future!

 

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Cold in July – A hot ticket

If you live in the NYC area and are interested in seeing indie films, there are a few great places to see them, including the IFC Film Center.

So last week when I wandered by the theater, and IFC was advertising a preview of Cold In July, the new Jim Mickle film starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson, I couldn’t resist and snapped up a ticket.

Cold in July

The preview included a Q&A session with director and co-writer Jim Mickle, fellow co-writer and actor Nick Damici and one of the main actors Don Johnson. That was the final bullet in the chamber for me, so to speak.

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Left to right - Jim Mickle, Nick Damici and Don Johnson doing Q&A at the IFC Film Center at the Cold in July preview

Left to right – Jim Mickle, Nick Damici and Don Johnson doing Q&A at the IFC Film Center at the Cold in July preview

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The film is set in Texas and follows Michael C. Hall’s character through a series of horrifying and life changing events, beginning with the shooting of a burglar / intruder into his home and ending … nearly two hours later … with a major scene of carnage.

I take it from Director Mickle’s comments at the preview that given the relatively low budget, the team was ready to make some compromises on certain aspects of the shooting but I must say that this does not look like a low budget film.

The DP did a great job on the look and feel of the place, and the costumes and sets felt authentic to time and place, even though the movie was actually shot in Kingston, upstate  NY rather than Texas. You would not know it to look at the film.

Hall, Shepard and Johnson did an excellent job in their roles. Shepard plays an ex-con just out of prison and he nails the performance by being understated and yet prone to threats and violence. Hall was perfect as the “joe civilian” who is lured into a world far beyond his normal suburban life, and Johnson was wonderful as the colorful bounty hunter. Johnson added a lot of levity and light-touch moments in an overall dark themed film.

The primary issues I had with the movie were the plot inconsistencies, and there were several.

Most glaring, for me, was in the first portion of the film. We’re told someone that is shot and killed is not who the cops are saying it is and Hall and Shepard actually go dig up the body to check. Sure enough, we are told ‘nope, it isn’t the guy we were told.’

Hall becomes a bit obsessed about who is this guy in the grave? It starts nagging at him, so much so that he starts snooping around on his own to find out. This leads him into other predicaments (which is the point, of course.) However, who is in the grave is completely dropped as the movie transitions into the middle segment and we never find out.

I’m not a fan of luring an audience into something using a dead body, and being told it’s “really important” only to have it drop away into nothing, without further explanation.

But, don’t get me wrong, this movie is so well acted and well made that it’s fun to watch. I am NOT a fan of shoot-em-up films with lots of carnage, and yet I felt myself willingly going along for the ride … much like Michael C. Hall’s character.

I’d recommend giving this movie a chance. It’s got a lot to like, especially the wonderful performances by Hall, Shepard and Johnson.

 

My Short Film Adventure – Writing Credit on IMDB!

My first IMDB Film Credit!

My first IMDB Film Credit!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted an update on my short film adventure, and that’s because filming finished in April and now the short is in post-production.

An editor has been brought on board, and they will produce a rough cut of the film to be reviewed by the Producers, the Director and with luck, me too. 😉

In the meantime, an entry for Jordan’s Jackhammer (working title) has been put on IMDB, and yours truly is listed as the Writer.

Woo Hoo! It’s my first IMDB film credit, and if I have anything to do with it, not my last.

If you want to check it out, there are two links of interest (from my perspective):

Jordan’s Jackhammer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3703880/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Carol Deminski, Writer: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6467027/?ref_=tt_ov_wr

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The excitement continues!

Short Stories – Submit It or Quit It Presentation and Press Coverage

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation at the Jersey City Writers group titled Submit It or Quit It: Short Stories, followed by a panel discussion with two other writers, Nancy Mendez-Booth and Meg Merriet. The panel was hosted by Adriana Rambay Fernandez.

L - R, panelists include: Meg Merriet, Nancy Mendez-Booth and me

L – R, panelists include: Meg Merriet, Nancy Mendez-Booth and me

Our panel moderator, Adriana Rambay Fernandez

Our panel moderator, Adriana Rambay Fernandez

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We were lucky enough to get press coverage for the event, and The Hudson Reporter published us on the front page yesterday under the article title A Gathering of Scribes.

http://hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/25085939/article-A-gathering-of-scribes–Jersey-City-Writers-talk-about-how-to-get-published–?instance=latest_story

To begin my presentation, I did a reading from Etgar Keret’s Suddenly A Knock On the Door; specifically I chose to read The Story Victorious, which was well received and got the laughs it deserved.

Making a funny face while reading The Story Victorious by Etgar Keret

Me making a funny face while reading The Story Victorious by Etgar Keret

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Me hugging Rachel Poy, the co-organizer of Jersey City Writers for all her help on setting up the event

Me hugging Rachel Poy, the co-organizer of Jersey City Writers for all her help on setting up the event

Then we had an excellent panel discussion facilitated by Adriana, followed by questions from the audience.

My message on submitting short stories was simple … if you work at your craft and are persistent and put in the time to submit to journals, you will be rewarded by getting published eventually.

I offered suggestions on how to stay organized by maintaining a spreadsheet / submission tracker. I mentioned Duotrope and Poets & Writers as places people can go to search for potential journals where work can be submitted. And I also told folks that many journals use Submittable, and that setting up a Submittable account is easy and free for writer-submitters.

None of this is rocket science, but it does take time and effort to cultivate a pipeline of finished pieces you want to submit, then select multiple markets, read submission guidelines and send your work around… then track all the results.

I’d been meaning to put up a posting covering the event, and now that we’ve gotten local press coverage I realized the time is now to post a few photos and to say thank you again to Rachel, Jim, Adriana, Nancy and Meg for all of their support in getting this event together and participating.

Beautiful Balinese Percussion at Fat Cat

When I think of Fat Cat, I think of swinging jazz bands. Tonight I happened to be in the city and when I decided to drop by Fat Cat, I had no idea who was going to play.

Boy, was I surprised when I found out.

The Dharma Swara Balinese Ensemble playing at Fat Cat

The Dharma Swara Balinese Ensemble playing at Fat Cat

That’s something that happens in New York City, sometimes you wander into an unexpected event. Then you realize you are having “an experience.”

So it was tonight.

The Dharma Swara organization hosts a “Summer Institute in Balinese Performance” (held in Worcester, MA) and they wanted to come to New York City and play for a crowd hoping folks might be interested to sign up for Bali percussion camp.  http://www.dharmaswarma.org/summerinstitute

Bang a gong, and a drum, and a...

Bang a gong, and a drum, and a…

It’s hard to describe the wonderful music these percussion instruments make in combination, but think xylophones, drums, gongs and flutes all going crazy in barely choreographed chaos.

Then the group took a break and when they came back, they introduced a Bali dancing segment with three lovely ladies in traditional dress holding bowls of rose petals in one hand doing perfectly timed head, hand and body movements to the accompanyment.

Bali dancer with rose petals

Bali dancer with rose petals

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I was so enthralled with the performance I stayed about two hours watching these folks play.

One of my favorite pieces was played by two women who came out with their own mini-xylophones, and they played something called The Drunken Bird (I think?) that is supposed to be traditional.

Drunken Bird Bali percussion

Drunken Bird Bali percussion

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Drumming at Bali percussion

Drumming at Bali percussion

Of coure, I HAVE to mention the wonderful drummers they had throughout the evening. The drumming was always in the front of the ensemble, and leading the entire group through their paces.

Tonight’s Balinese music performance was a stand out for me, and I’ve been to Fat Cat many times.

New York City… you gotta love it.