March, 2002

Done It!

March 28th, 2002 March 28th, 2002
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Today I picked up the finished print of Fate & Fortune.

Great acting, great pictures, great editing, great sound.

Yes, I am pleased.

The Kung Fu Version

March 27th, 2002 March 27th, 2002
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Fifteen minutes before today’s screening Andy the director of photography thrummmm-m-m-mmms up outside my house on a large motorbike. I swear, if film making doesn’t kill you, your crew will surely try at every opportunity.

It’s a warm spring day and I’m already wearing a T-shirt, a sweater, a fleece and my ski jacket. I pull on leather gauntlets and a crash helmet then hang on to what feels like a very weak piece of plastic fairing behind me as we whizz off through the city streets and on to the motorway.

This is only the second time I’ve ridden pillion in my entire life. I notice how vulnerable it feels to be exposed on two wheels. I wonder abstractly what would happen if we hit a pothole or got a puncture or someone pulled out in front us with no warning. I keep reminding myself to breathe.

I notice that we slide through gaps between cars I never would have thought existed. I notice how sweet the spring flowers smell, their scents windblasted through the grill in front of my chin. I reflect that I haven’t pencilled in personal death or maiming for today so I’ll probably be okay.

Twenty minutes of traffic-jam dodging antics later, we’re at the labs. I let go of the fairing. My hands feel numb.

“That was alright wasn’t it?” remarks Andy conversationally. “Did you see all that traffic? Completely pointless. I’ve no patience with all that.” Yes. Indeed. We go inside to meet Dave, the grader, and Dave, the contact man. “I can never remember these guys’ names,” says Andy. “They’re all called Dave,” I say, helpfully, “except for Greg.” And sure enough, there’s Dave, waiting in the Deluxe foyer for us.

Dave whisks us along to the Deluxe preview theatre, pausing only to scoop up Dave the Deluxe grader en route, and we sink down into the Deluxe seats, watch us the Deluxe curtain rolls back and the Deluxe projectionist rolls the film.

Pip! Now that’s the sound of the marker point for the sound. Pip! That sound matches up exactly with a sync point on the film–a frame which says ‘3’ on the countdown to be exact. Pip! Except to be exact Pip! sounds at the start of the first shot and not at minus three at all. This, dear readers, means that the film soundtrack is in the wrong place and is completely out of sync–two seconds out of sync to be precise. Uh oh.

“It’s like the Kung Fu version,” laughs Andy and sure enough everyone talks then two seconds later we hear their words. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry but opt for laughing. It is pretty funny. What can you do. We just look at the pictures and comment on what’s been done to them.

Dave and Dave have done a great job on the grading. There are just a few scenes which still look a little hot–ie. the whites are just on the verge of burning out–so we ask Dave to bring them down a few points (ie. to darken them). The rest is fine. Much much better than the first mute print, this has glorious saturated colours all looking really rich with more contrast range.

And here’s the bonus: the complete hash they’ve made with the sound means I don’t have to pay for that print. So they can put those small bits and pieces we saw today right and I won’t get charged. I get a free extra grading. My mouth does goldfish shapes and two seconds later I hear “Hahahahaha!” I love the Kung Fu version.

Andy brings me home on the motorbike and on the way back I’m lost in a reverie of how good it all looks and how wonderful it will be when it all comes together. “You’ve got a really great little film there,” says my DP, dropping me off. “It’s really come together and, do you know, I think that’s some of the best stuff I’ve shot.” I am pleased. I think it’s come together very well too–the script, the actors, the images, editing and soundtrack are all marvellous.

Now, tomorrow I’m making my own way to the labs in the morning. It’s not so much the motorbike as that I want to hang around for a bit and pay the bills and maybe arrange another telecine. Andy has things to do and wants to head off sharply. So, no. Not the motorbike at all. Honest. Although if I’m riding one again, I definitely want to be the one doing the steering. Hey, I’m a director. What do you expect?

I Think I Hear An Echo… Echo… Echo…

March 22nd, 2002 March 22nd, 2002
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Sound mixing should be one of the most creatively satisfying parts of film making. The one I did last year wasn’t. Yesterday’s was. The trials and tribulations of what I did last year are elsewhere on this board–mixing desk crashes, missing sounds, inability to use effects processors, tracks all over the place and a general pointblank refusal to put things on the channels I wanted.

Yesterday’s session actually began on Wednesday with a couple of hours spent tidying up the tracks with the rerecording mixer. During this, I asked (and not for the first time) for certain specific sound effects, including various animal growls, a new train siren, train interior atmosphere, car screeching to a halt and so on.

The pre-mix process also involved tweaking the levels of some things and we moved the music around a few frames here and there to get the cues to work exactly. In fact, I phoned the composer who came in and got everything spot on.

Also while I’m there a chap comes and introduces himself, “Hello, I’m Colin. I’ll be doing the mixing for you tomorrow.” Hang on, I thought Peter was doing the mixing. No we’ve moved. We’re in Colin’s studio now and Peter and I are going to supervise everything. Oh, okay. I wonder what this will mean in practical terms until Peter shows me the studio later. What’s impressive are all the BAFTA award certificates on the wall outside with Colin’s name on. ‘Nuff said.

****

Yesterday I went in early and checked out the tweaks and changes I’d asked Peter to make. Not only was it good, but it was very good. Very very good. For example, there’s a train siren which startles the character at the beginning of the film, causing him to knock off his hearing aid which he then treads on, breaking it and rendering himself deaf. A lot of the story follows from this so it’s an important plot point.

The original sound editor hadn’t included a train siren at all. Despite being asked several times. Despite being told why it was important. Nope. No sound effect. So our hero just knocks off his aid for no reason and then treads on it. The first rerecording mixer did actually find a siren effect. It was useless. One of those sirens that rises up from nothing and then fades out again. Not shocking or startling in any way.

Yesterday, Peter had done this: the siren was a harsh ‘Beeeep Beep!’ then the hearing aid comes off with a wooshing sound and then there’s a loud ‘Crunch!’ followed by a whistling noise and no other sound, to represent a hearing problem. Not only does the sequence work, but it has a rhythm: Beeeep Beep, stagger, Wooooosh, Crunch! Honestly, this is not just what I wanted, it’s better.

There are now animal growls in the van of the guy supposed to be transporting wild animals, establishing their presence. There’s a purring sound over the woman rubbing herself over her car, establishing that she’s nuts about it. The train interior shot actually has the noise of a train as well as a heartbeat effect (added by the original sound editor to make it feel more tense but he didn’t include train atmos, bizarrely). In short, Peter’s made lots of little things work.

****

So, through the two soundproof doors and into the more money than I can afford rerecording studio which consists of several comfy black leather chairs facing a large projection screen, surround speakers and, in the middle of this tastefully appointed room, a large computerised desk–11,000 computer controlled motorised faders and other parts. Yes, for all you geeks, that’s 11,000 things which could go wrong.

We have to wait a bit because another guy, also called Colin, is also mixing a short film with Colin the rerecording mixer. Colin’s project, New Year’s Eve, has been the victim of a computer crash and somewhere somehow it’s muted out three lines of dialogue. I watch while they’re put in.

New Year’s Eve has been shot on Super16 and looks very classy. I’m impressed. My peers are actually working to a much higher standard than I thought so winning competitions isn’t going to be as easy as I might have believed.

The scene they’re working on looks like something straight out of a typical British romantic comedy. There’s a couple in a garden and the man in a suit is expressing regret that he’s forgotten the name of the girl he’s talking to. She doesn’t give him any help but sits there making him feel smaller and smaller. It’s very well written, great dialogue, well observed and engagingly played.

Then it cuts to a scene where people are wearing dinner jackets (tuxedos), bow ties and have Hugh Grant’s foppish hair style and manner. Colin will go far. In fact, he’ll go further now because I gave him the website addresses for Cannes and withoutabox, the festival entry site. He hadn’t actually planned on entering. Doh. I’ve helped the competition. Doh doh doh.

Mind you, wait ’til he has to pay for a 35mm blow up from super16. Haa haa!

****

At last we start mixing Fate & Fortune. Colin, the mixer, plays the film through for the first five minutes. “You haven’t made it simple, have you?” he grins. “You know you enjoy a challenge,” Peter grins back.

The first sound is a rushing wooshing effect which I want to come from the back of the theatre to the front. We’ve laid down the tracks for the surround channels on two specific tracks. All Colin the mixer has to do is raise a fader on these. Oh, and get the level right at the right time and a hundred invisible things that are a result of his experience. Anyway, it takes him no time at all. Woooosh, woooosh, woooosh! We’re in.

****

I foresaw two real snags with mixing (not counting computer crashes, which fortunately didn’t happen to us anyway yesterday). One is a scene in a car showroom which we filled with smoke on location and turned into something resembling a shrine with Toyota’s finest bearing down on it in a semi-circle. The second is a scene where the lead actress is scrubbing a floor in a takeaway and keeps going out to stroke, pet and kiss her new car, ignoring her whining boss until she eventually drapes herself languidly over the bonnet. (Yes, I am strange.)

The first scene is actually just a few shots with choreographed tracking leading into a medium two shot. However, the sound is very complex. There’s dialogue and sync sound on the centre channel. There’s music on the front stereo tracks. And there’s a disturbing whispering noise like something out of The Omen coming from all round. Together it adds up to something resembling The Addams Family crossed with Carry On Screaming.

This scene, as I expected, does take a bit of work but eventually we get the balance right and I think it manages to walk the fine line between dark humour and social comment on the (frighteningly necessary) evils of cars. It ends with a close up of a toy bear swinging from the driver’s mirror and a growling sound which overlaps a cut into the next scene and a close up of a stuffed wolf. All very jolly.

The other scene is more of a headache but I haven’t got the time, and more importantly the money, to sit and procrastinate. I have to make decisions. Snap snap snap. Don’t think. Just do. The problem with this scene is three-fold.

One, I’ve previously brought back the actor who played the kebab shop owner (Lou Dikros, geddit?) to revoice his lines for a better performance. This is called audio dub recording (ADR) where he matches his own lip-sync on screen and we rerecord his words. The trouble with this is, the sync sound actually has reverb on it–the echoes from the walls, ceiling and other surfaces you’d get in all rooms. The room acoustic. The ADR has none of this. So we’ve got to add it by processing it through an effects box.

Two, I want the music to take over the scene so we become as lost as the lead character (Marge) in her car-obsessed fantasy. This means that Lou’s words should become lost, like the teacher who sounds like a blah blahing horn in Charlie Brown or something. The scene is really a dance, to my mind, with Marge nipping outside to stroke her car everytime Lou leaves her alone and then coming back in to scrub the floor just in time for his return.

Three, given that the scene is really about Marge and the car, I should have got more coverage on her so that I could play it on her reactions more. [Sidenote: I was watching Alien this week and notice the whole chest burst sequence is all played on character reactions up to the point where John Hurt starts choking. There’s very little sync.] Anyway, I didn’t have the stock to shoot like that, so there’s lots of shots of Lou talking, which means it will look odd if we start processing his voice with effects to make him sound more irrelevant.

The solution to all of these has to be one or maybe two things to cover all the bases. What we come up with is a reverb effect on some of Lou’s lines which gets more exaggerated as the scene goes on. We also bring him down in the mix and bring the music up. We bring car sounds and other atmos down too.

I say “we come up” with this. Actually, the experts just smile at me and say, “Well, what would you like?” and I have to come up with the answers based on what I know. That’s often the way, by the way. You ask people to be creative and if it’s really bizarre they throw it back at you, the director, to sort out. Which is entirely right.

So we’ve got Lou sounding as though he’s talking from the end of a long tunnel, which is eventually the description I came up with that Colin could understand and dial up something for on the effects box. He actually found a reverb called ‘stairwell’ which could be configured for the audio being processed to sound like it was coming from a space with a variable number of floors. Colin used 21.

That’s nearly enough but not quite. I suggested we add an echo effect to the end of Lou’s lines, so they continue to hang there after he’s left and we cut back to Marge. “It used to be white, you know… you know… you know… you know…” Fortunately this studio has more than one effects box and we can do it. It works. We can now see (in my opinion) Marge’s indifference to Lou’s words and the madcap kind of dance she has going on between her car and the shop.

The rest of the sound mix is pretty much a matter of getting the balance right. Making things louder or softer and varying things in relation to each other. At the end I’m really pleased and we make two Dolby SR encoded DAT’s, one for the optical neg and one to send to the telecine people to put on the video. Hopefully those things will be done today.

Before I leave, I see Peter’s working on another short, this one directed by a cameraman. It’s a 26 minute period drama set in Ireland. It is absolutely beautifully shot. I’m going to compete with this person and other Colin for work? Oh wow! Best not to think about that. For now I have to crack on with updating my website and getting publicity postcards made.

It’s all go.

Henny Penny And Turkey Lurkey

March 18th, 2002 March 18th, 2002
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“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” cry my work colleagues. “What is it? What do you mean?” I asks, asks I. “We really need a favour,” they say, say they. “Urgently!”

Hmm, methinks I do detect the scent of a shift swap being requested. Methinks I would really like to get Sunday off to go on a course. “Of course,” I say, nonchalently, as if it is a mere trifle. “No worries. Whenever you like. I just need to work late on Sunday instead of during the day.”

So on Sunday I’m going on a one-day course with the Director’s Guild and will be learning more about working with actors. I cannot tell you how pleased this makes me. I am seriously going to have to play loud music and dance on the table once I’ve posted this. I have lurkeyed and hope the result is no turkeys.

“What of Henny Penny?” you asks, asks you. I’m tempted to say there is no Henny Penny and the sky isn’t falling. However my car is falling. Falling to pieces. And I lack pennies–of the henny variety or any other–to keep paying for it to be fixed. Last week I had the alternator and the cambelt replaced. This week, the radiator has sprung a leak. Good thing I get driven home by a chauffeur isn’t it?

“You cheeky bar steward!” I think I hear from the back (yes, you). At least, I think that’s what you said. And I nod, embarrassed because you are right. It is one of those job perks of working in television that I really do appreciate. If it’s any consolation, the hours suck.

Anyway, top thing is that tonight’s chauffeur wasn’t a complete loon racing down the white markings of the motorway, straddling two lanes and nodding off to sleep at the wheel. No. Nor did the car reek of aftershave in a vain attempt to mask the smell of BO where the driver had been sleeping in it for two days. Another bonus.

Tonight’s driver was James. James–yes, for real, “Take me home, James!”–asked about my car. “Ow is your car, doin’, for real, bruv?” he asks, asks he. I tell him. “It’s pants.”

Now the thing I find out is that James used to deal in cars before he started driving eejits like me around in the middle of the night. And James knows where all the auctions are and where the bargains are. At least, this is what he tells me. “You don’ wanna be tradin’ yours in for no new car, bruv,” explains James. “You could be spendin’ just a coupla grand and get a decent motor that’s hardly bin used, innit.”

Well, I’ll bite. What else am I doing with my time apart from film making, distribution, trying to find an agent, planning another shoot and fretting? So it looks like at some point I’m off to a car auction with James–a motormouth in every sense–to look at shiny mow-tahs, barely used by the gentrified classes and the like. Cushtie, innit?

Oh, God, what am I letting myself in for.

Strict Lee’s Ballroom

March 17th, 2002 March 17th, 2002
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Every day I come to the computer screen and it sits there implacably in its blank slate state. Some days I have nothing to say or I’m just to tired to feel I’ll make any sense so I leave it blank. Today feels a bit like one of those days but then I was thinking about why I feel so worn out on the way to work this morning and I reminded myself I’m not doing very much exercise.

So I was thinking about exercise. I haven’t been to karate for four months. That’s bad. And the gym keep sending me these emails saying, “We haven’t seen you. Where are you?” and I write back and say, “I’m here, camouflaged!” but sending these literary pearls to the gym swine isn’t really getting the blood flowing around my veins. Most days it feels like an effort walking from the station to home. I’d much rather take the bus.

The thing with the gym is always, “What’s the goal?” And that’s also the thing with most exercise–why do it? Yes, yes, it will save my life and make me feel good and sound soothing sleep and so on. Ahhhh. But really, it’s just harshness in a soft world isn’t it? Can you kick it? Yes, we can.

So I was thinking about what I used to really enjoy doing, which was going to salsa, and I was wondering why I don’t do that any more. I gave it up when I started going out with someone who didn’t understand why it’s fun–or can be fun, and incredibly sexy–to dance with a partner.

Incidentally, I seem to know a lot of women like that–independent modern British woman dances to her own tune, on her own, thankyouverymuch. But more than one (of the same type) has said, “What I really want is a cottage with roses around the door and a hubby and two point four kids.” Well, guess what–you have to dance with someone (metaphorically speaking), give up the indepen-dance, to make those dreams real.

I’m sure that will provoke a few thoughts here but back to the plot…

Dancing. There was actually a goal, and the goal was to feel confidant enough to go to cool dance clubs in London. Every week my friend, Nicola and I would go along to the local clubs and do the lessons and spend the night dancing with people. It was really good.

Bonus: if you go dancing with a girl who’s a friend, as opposed to a girlfriend, it takes the pairing-up pressure off. Women don’t feel that you asking them to dance is some kind of come on and so I got to dance with practically all the women at the local clubs, big and small, shy and confidant, beginners with two left feet and snooty girls who knew everything and tutted a lot if I missed a beat. There were a lot of very good people between those extremes. So my dancing actually improved. And that does wonders for your self-esteem.

Eventually, after about a year, Nicola and I felt going up to London would be cool and off we went, no doubt full of images conjured by Strictly Ballroom where everyone who goes to a big latin dance club is really into dancing. Now here’s the thing–everyone who goes to a big latin dance club is *not* really into dancing. What we quickly found out was there were a handful of superb dancers (literally about six) and loads and loads of guys who were the worst kind of dance club pigs.

Here’s what your average dance club pig does: they ask a girl to dance then lift them across their leg and grind it into their groin for the whole seven or eight minutes of the track while they gyrate their hips. They don’t actually move or dance other than that but leer horribly at their partner. I don’t quite understand how they think this is attractive or sexy or anything. It’s actually quite sickening to watch and, following on from my thoughts above, I can totally see why so many women would rather do the indepen-dance thing.

Nevertheless, the first London club we went to was full of these leery greasy guys hanging on to the walls like vampire bats and frankly it was the thing that started putting me off the whole thing. Then when a girlfriend came along who didn’t want to go any more, it was actually quite easy to give it up. Plus Nicola had partnered off with my French buddy, Jaffa, and he doesn’t do dancing. A man of few words, he does grinning, stories, cabinet making, wine and would chain-smoke very thin roll-ups if Nicola let him.

So dancing was no more. The goal had gone and there was someone new in its place and life was fun and so on (and so forth). And yet now, time has passed and that girlfriend is long gone, the dust has settled, and I’m thinking, hmmm, salsa–that felt good. I don’t know if I’d take it up again, but it was definitely fun when it was the small local hall and a few people, all ages, shapes and sizes. On that scale, in that atmosphere, I highly recommend it.

Time Is Money

March 13th, 2002 March 13th, 2002
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Never more so than when you’re sitting in the grading room with an hourly rate of X hundred pounds and very little sitting in the bank.

Today I went over to the labs and looked at the print of Fate & Fortune and I have to say it’s great. It still needs work but it’s nothing like the (scary) telecine I’d seen for the sound work. The scene I thought was pink (magenta) actually is nearer the gold colour it should be and most of the other things are okay.

Deluxe has a really nice little 20(ish) seat preview theatre by the way. I’d like one of these for my home. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen any time soon as the fortune part of Fate & Fortune still eludes me. My home today could probably fit inside that theatre with room to spare.

Time is running out though to get this work off to Cannes so while I was there I asked if we could do a graded telecine (transfer of film to video). Grading in this case means having an operator sitting there making sure all the shots match colours, contrast and brightness. The answer was yes although I’ll have to replace the wrong shot which the neg cutters added plus the soundtrack later.

Now, here’s the thing. A graded telecine transfer is a bit like a gameshow. The only person who sees the equipment regularly is the grader but you have to figure out in no time at all what it’s capable of and what decisions you want to make in order to get the best results on your videotape.

You go in and meet the grader (called Dave–everyone at the lab appears to be called Dave, Roy or Ray presumably to simplify things). He laces up your film on a very expensive piece of kit (the telecine machine) and you sit in a small suite in front of the most space-age control panel yet and a few monitors.

Dave then starts dialling glowing trackerballs and pushing buttons. The console beeps and your film starts moving on the monitor. He dials in the correct aspect ratio (a 1:185 letterbox) on the screen and then looks at the opening titles which should be white and sharp on a dense black background. Two beeps and they are. The black blobs on a couple of the opening shots (caused by dirt on the neg) aren’t so easily taken care of. In fact, they can’t be taken care of.

Then we look at the opening sequence and I tell him I’d like this all to have a blue colour cast as it’s meant to be morning. The pinks in the sky in some shots shouldn’t be there. And one or two burned out shots need bringing down in brightness. Dave sorts out the first two and then tells me why he can’t do the last exactly as me want it–because I haven’t got a low-contrast print and there’s not enough detail in the print I have got.

At one point I find myself saying repeatedly, “I’d like the contrast level reduced,” while Dave dials up the level to make the image look ‘punchier’. Eventually I get what I want. Memories of the first rerecording mixer nudge their way forwards as Dave finds reasons why things can’t be done the way I ask but I push those thoughts back because this is costing serious money and I need to stay focussed.

We get to the car showroom scene which should have the amber colour cast and after much contrived explanation of how it should look, I finally hit upon telling him we shot it on daylight film in daylight lighting with colour correction for tungsten stock (which reproduces daylight as blue). “Aha,” he says, “Wratten!” and dials in the numbers. Bingo, amber.

We’re now three pages into the script and half an hour has gone. At this rate it will take two and a half hours. And it still won’t get exactly the result I want. Wrong contrast stock, dirt on the neg, blah blah blah. I’ve enough money for one maybe two hours at a push. I start saying fewer things but commenting where it counts while Dave works to make the shots in each sequence match.

After an hour Roy the manager comes in because I’ve asked him to remind me how long I’ve been haemorrhaging cash, I mean how long I’ve been there when it gets to the sixty minute mark. By this point I’ve discovered that what looked fine projected on a big screen doesn’t look fine viewed via a TV camera on a small (48 inch) phosphorescent monitor. It all needs more work that it isn’t going to get.

Let me explain a little. When the size of the image is reduced, colours become denser and the image becomes darker. Because it’s television, contrast is lost anyway (because television sucks). This means that one shot following another might not match as well as it did when projected up because small differences in saturation, colour and brightness are actually made larger by this process.

Imagine adding some drops of food colouring to a small glass of water until you get a really deep colour (video). Now imagine adding the same amount of pigment to a large bath of water–the colour is going to be much less intense. It’s the same principle at work. The latter is the projected film, which needs more colour and density to cope with projection, while the former is video.

So I learn and we get it done in an hour and a half and we play it back and it looks pretty good. In fact, it looks damn good. Not perfect but honestly still beautiful and better than most short films you’re going to see in the near future. I hope. I just remembered I didn’t notice the dirt blobs so maybe I’ll get away with it, although ugh.

Four more stages to go. Sound mix–next week according to the rerecording mixer. Optical negative–after the sound mix, will take a day and night to make and process. Final answer print with sound–will take the following night (the lab only does processing at night). Transfer sound and missing shot to video via telecine.

Then I have to send a VHS off to France for Cannes.

Now before everyone breathes a sigh of relief and thinks that’s it, done and dusted, let’s look at the above stages again. Sound by next Friday. Optical neg the following Monday finished by Tuesday. Answer print finished by Wednesday. Friday is a bank holiday (it’s Good Friday) so that leaves a window of just two days to get the video work done and sent off.

Talk about cutting it fine.

Don’t Try This At Home Kids

March 6th, 2002 March 6th, 2002
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Film making, that is. This is. With no money. Just talent, enthusiasm and youth. Haha. Whatever I had of any of those I’m definitely running short on at least two and the third is hiding under a rock. It’s hard to believe the neverending saga of screw ups when I am actually paying for some of these things. Maybe I have bad Feng Shui and need to start moving the furniture around.

Long story short: get to sound studios at 6.30. Spend first hour lining up project and untangling first minute of knotted audio tracks. Avid crashes. Reboot. Start again. The audio is a mess and needs major sorting out. Four hours later we’ve got halfway through the film (ie. eight minutes into it) and we’re out of time.

Hysterically funny (not) things to note:

Everything about the grading is unbelievably atrocious. All the images look washed out and overexposed. The perfectly photographed scene in the car showroom now has no blues or greens in it. It’s pink. And it looks fuzzy. I can’t think of any reason it would appear like this unless the DP and the grader violently hated each other.

The neg cutter has randomly replaced a shot of the lead actress reacting to her children miraculously vanishing near the end with a cutaway shot of… wait for it… an empty road. Oh, happy day! Oh, funny funny jape! I couldn’t believe it. Why? Why would someone do that? When they have a videotape in front of them to guide them shot by shot as well as an accurate edit decision list. Who in heaven’s name knows. I certainly don’t.

So, tomorrow: phone lab and get neg sent back to neg cutters. Phone neg cutters and tell them it needs putting right, pronto. Phone rerecording mixer and see if we can get more studio time this week to finish off track laying. Hell, not even the Dolby mix, just the freaking track laying. Phone director of photography and make gargling strangled noises. I figure I might have time for a nervous breakdown about 4.30am the following morning before grabbing an hours sleep and doing it all again.

Did I mention my car’s completely cuffed? It’s in the garage having the alternator replaced and they’ve snapped the rusted bracket which holds it in place. American Express direct debited approximately half the money I owe them from my account, thereby leaving me hanging as to whether they’ll transfer out the other half. The job I applied for in October last year is being readvertised but the people who interviewed me in November no longer work at the company. And so on and so forth.

I can tell you this much–the soundtrack of this film will be really great. No really it will. Especially with all the amazing strangled gargling noises I’m coming up with. Almost reminiscent of a Feng Shui fountain in a pool of tranquil carp–which I’m hunting with spear.

The Name Of The Beast

March 5th, 2002 March 5th, 2002
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The name of the beast is film making. It sounds like a series of phone calls where you discover one reason after another why your project can’t be completed right now, or even this week, maybe next week. Maybe never.

Ring ring: sound studios, rerecording mixer. Has got telecined tape. At the right frame rate. Hasn’t been able to prepare yet. Should be able to get a studio one evening this week.

Ring ring: laboratory, account manager. DP has been in and sat through a projection of the answer print with the grader. They’ve made copious notes. If the sound is with them by Monday morning, then should have a final print and telecine to master tape by Friday next. The grader is away until Friday this week anyway so wouldn’t be able to do anything before then.

So far so good-ish.

Bad: account manager pauses. “This project was originally booked in through Whatever Pictures wasn’t it? Under their account?” “Yes. Yes it was. But it’s my personal project and I’m paying for it.” “Well, I only mention it because Whatever has an outstanding amount owing to us which they haven’t paid and there’s a possibility, a very slight possibility, that we might not be able to release the neg if money is owing against it.” (Imagine my face at this moment.) “Well, I’ve paid for the developing, through Whatever but they should have just sent the cheque straight to you so I don’t see a problem.” “There shouldn’t be but I just thought I’d better point it out.”

Bad bad bad.

Ring ring: director of photography, just come in the door from a shoot in India. Yes, he’s made notes with the grader. I tell him the print should be ready next week and we’ll do a graded telecine to get it off in time for the Cannes deadline. Oh, he says, I’m flying out again on Sunday. Where are you going? Australia. For two weeks. Making a holiday programme for TV. Well, I’ll just have to get it done without you otherwise it’s never going to get anywhere but we’ll meet up and compare notes.

Now I need to call the people who will make the sound negative and the guy with a telecine suite. And Whatever Pictures.

It never ends.

Touching Base

March 1st, 2002 March 1st, 2002
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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Los Angeles International Airport has very little in the way of facilities. Me being me (as opposed to a giant steel panda called Yanis), I arrived early to deal with security which consisted of getting my bag X-rayed, then my jacket, then going through the metal detector, then being asked if someone could search my book. I was worried they might not approve of my latest taste in reading material–a low-grade fantasy novel–but I appeared to pass this tricky test.

Also gave a load of pennies to a guy with a bucket by the escalator and the reassuring noise of cash jingling prompted him to engage me in his version of highbrow conversation. Once he realised where I was from, he regaled me with his impersonation a UK accent. My goodness, how we did laugh. The tears of mirth could have drowned a small village in Worcester or the Ukraine. Then in I went.

Now, when I say LAX doesn’t have much to offer, I mean the duty free shop is tiny and there are only a couple of other shops, run by the most disinterested shop assistants I’d come across in the US. The appear to be having a competition to see who can create the longest line to the till. One shop also sold the most staggering array of tawdry souvenir crap I’d come across too. Naturally I bought gifts for people there.

Highlight of terminal two, LAX, are the splendid catering facilities. These consist of: one facsimilie Cheers bar, one pizza establishment which could have been okay–I didn’t go in–plus one noodle bar, closed presumably because patrons might run amok with chopsticks. There’s also a Burger King which served food without trays so that people had to eat off the uncleaned tables. Ugh.

Still, it’s nice to see somewhere that makes Heathrow look good.

But really the worst part was that I spent nearly thirty minutes searching for hard candy. Hard candy is a crucial staple of all airports because you need some to suck on it when your ears start popping in the plane. Okay, it’s important stuff because I need sugar for my sweet tooth. Lots. And I need it how I need it, not in gummi form. No chance. Gummi rubber chewy candy of every conceivable variety was on offer, but no hard candy. That sucked, in a non-ironic way.

I realise this recap of the joys of LAX is a perhaps a little lame as posts go–hey, I’m tired, it’s been a loooooooong day–but let it be a warning to you. If you’re flying out from Los Angeles, be sure to pack your sweets before you get to the airport.

Farewell, my sweets.