Category Archives: Film making

Hungover Update

Went to see my wonderful artist friend Jelena yesterday evening. I had a couple of wee gifts from New York’s Museum of Modern Art — bendy rubber people with magnetic hands and feet — and she was going to practice aura healing on me. What had I forgotten? That today, the fourth of the fourth, is her birthday! Doh. Well, lucky I had a gift, wasn’t it? We ended up drinking a LOT of wine and getting a really good Chinese takeaway. No healing but therapeutic nonetheless.

Now I have a hangover and am on the phone trying to get the last stages of Last Train sewn up…

Printing costs
I phone the labs for a quote on Last Train. It was shot on Super16. Ted, the friendly voice at this lab says, “Do you want a 16 millimetre or 35 millimetre blow up?” I say, “It will probably depend on the cost.” Ted: “Well, you do realise that a Super16 print is mute don’t you? There’s no room on the print for an optical sound track so it can only be shown on a double-headed projector with separate mag [magnetic] stock.”

Of course, I wasn’t aware of that. No one has mentioned that right up until this point. Why? I have no idea. So it looks like I have to get a 35mm print, which is doubtless going to be expensive. Or maybe it will be affordable. Ted says to email the running time across and he’ll send back a quote broken down into each stage that’s needed. Then I can call him again and we can go through it. I ring the graphics people but Martin is out, so I can’t get the end credits final running time. I ring the neg cutters but Andy is out, so I can’t get the final running time for the rest of Last Train.

I twiddle my thumbs and wait for my calls to be returned…

Getting an EDL
Simon the editor is back in the UK so I call him to sort out the Fate & Fortune edit decision list (EDL) which needs re-doing with just two title plates instead of seven. I get through. Hooray! He’s at the dentist and can’t talk. Boo!

And so it goes on…

Is It Done Yet?

No. So what have I done about getting these films closer to completion in the past couple of days? Well, I’ve taken some more of the negative to the cutting rooms today — just one can instead of the seven that were ridiculous to carry the other day.

And I phoned the sound guy at the weekend. Guess what? Having said, “We’ll have it done in the next couple of weeks,” his latest news was that, “We’ll get it done on the twenty second. I promise. You can hold me to that.” This means audio postproduction — a three day job — will have dragged on for SEVEN MONTHS!

I think I should do some swearing and, no, I wasn’t overly ecstatic. And I am turning the air blue, but I’ll save you having to read it. This time around, anyway. Regardless, I don’t have that extra �1,000 to pay for sound — or rather, if I can get out of spending that money, I surely will.

Talking of funding, whatever happened to making money on the stock market? The shares I bought specifically to pay for all this are currently worth less than half what I paid for them (�1.5k from �3k). However, I have cashed many in at a profit to pay for things already (about �2k’s worth). So, should I buy more? Warren Buffet doesn’t sound too optimistic, does he? But the money has to come from somewhere.

Meanwhile this all means I go back to concentrating on Last Train because the sound mix for that is done, graphics are set with the exception of end credits which will need setting and proofing, and the negative should be cut this week. Now I need to find a lab. Metrocolor, who did the developing, have been bought out by Technicolor and are no longer dealing with 16mm or super16. Groan groan (procrastinate procrastinate).

The joys and frustrations of creating something from scratch continue.

Dear Diary

My film making progress report by me (age: 30-something)

Today I went to the big city (London) and took seven cans of uncut negative to The Man for cutting, along with Beta SP tapes of how the edit should look. I didn’t quite realise how much this all weighed so my shoulders now ache but luckily the $5NZ canvas bag I carried it all in held out.

On the way, I made a few more comparisons between New York and London from this side. Such as: the Underground trains here are different on every line so carriages would never be interchangable for flexibility in the way the NYC Metro system is. I noticed this because my head was touching the light fittings on the Victoria Line but I had a couple of inches clearance on the Northern Line. I’m 6’1″ and my head never touched the ceilings on the Metro — enough headroom for an average basketball player there.

At the neg cutters, I met Andy, a friendly chap and dropped off the negative and tapes. Then I walked down to Covent Garden to see the graphics people. Halfway there I stopped to buy chocolate (!) and realised I didn’t have the VHS tapes with me, so I had to walk back up through Soho to Tru-Cut. Doh. Does everyone carry on like this?

Eventually, via another stop to buy a salmon sandwich (delicious!), I found the offices of the graphics people, Cineimage, themselves in a sandwich — a sandwich of office blocks, with Pineapple dance studios on one side and the London Film School on the other.

Meeting the designers was excellent. It saves so much time if you can talk to someone face to face and say what you want, what you’re trying to achieve, what you don’t really need and what you’ll consider. Martin set up the font and layout for the Last Train plates to match what we’d done on Avid (the computer-based film cutting system) and he introduced me to their font wizard, Matt, who helped me find a nice script typeface for Fate & Fortune.

Fate & Fortune is a bit tricky to sum up in one title but I think we actually did an excellent job. It’s a dark comedy with supernatural overtones, so I didn’t want something too serious but I didn’t want Carry On Camping or The Pink Panther either. When we got something close to what I wanted, I showed him how we’d done three overlapping disolves on Avid with an extra large ampersand (&).

As Matt tried different things on the Mac with the layout, I had the bright idea that the ampersand could reach across the word Fortune, extending a finger of doom, and maybe we could add little devil horns to it too. Now he’s going to add those details by hand and I think it’s going to be really cool because he has a really good idea where I’m coming from. Those fifteen minutes of creative thinking and putting ideas into action are the real fun and what makes the whole process worthwhile.

On the way out Martin asked one of those questions that always throws you. “And it’s all done at 25 isn’t it?” Without thinking I said, “Yes.” But it isn’t. We shot everything at 24 frames per second for international screenings but it’s speeded up to 25 for telecine transfer for editing. Doh. I remembered on the train and remembered to phone him up when I got in.

Also, while watching the Fate & Fortune tape at Cineimage, I noticed it was an older version with more title cards. Uh oh. I’d also left that copy with Andy at Tru-Cut, which was wrong. I’d have to remember to call him too. My mind went into overload and blanked this important detail until I was leaving and I kept thinking, “I’m sure there’s something I must make a note of…” like you do. Then, wonder of wonders, as I opened the door to leave, who should be there but Andy, coming to visit Martin on another project. Luckily I had the presence of mind to remember to tell him not to cut F&F based on what I’d given him. Phew.

Afterwards I went to pay off some bills and change my remaining 100 dollars back into sterling. However, I balked when the bank offered me an exchange rate of $1.51 to the pound which meant they’d only be worth about �66 instead of the �72 I paid for them ($1.38/�1). Seemed a bit of a jump — I’m sure the rate was something like $1.45/�1 to buy sterling in NYC — but maybe I’ll just have to bite the bullet and take �66 next week.

Bankers are bastards. Now I’ll have to figure out how much to borrow from them…

Gimme My Cheese

Sod it, I can’t be bothered to whine about anything except the sound dubbing expert who I’m not paying anything and who is still putting the brakes on my film after six months. I’m sure I could have found someone equally as talented willing to do this favour in the meantime. What a pain.

Should I take the gamble that I can get it all finished in a month with no visible means of financing and fill in the Cannes Festival application today? That would mean bullshitting about a couple of things and not actually having a completed video to send them. Or should I go watch some television for a bit and procrastinate? Maybe I’ll just go back to bed.

It hurts my head…

Oh bugger.

“A print or video cassette from the applicants must reach the Selection Committee before April 1, 2001.”

So no Cannes do this year then.


Okay, things to do:

Neg Cut
Deliver negative (ten large heavy cans), Edit Decision List (EDL) and 2x videocassettes to Neg Cutters (Andy at TrueCut)
– timescale: tomorrow (there’s a tube strike today)
Get new EDL for Fate & Fortune to include shorter title sequence, phone editor to arrange
– next week (he’s out of the country until April 3)

Titles and credits
Visit graphic designer and finalise opening titles, font, layout and closing credits. Find cash.
– tomorrow 12.30 (appointment made)

Requires cut negative and cash, so phone bank and arrange outrageous loan for this and various other things. Re-cost out everything on this list in Excel, then take deep breath and contact bank
– today

Sound mix
1. Last Train – done, so go to optical
2. Fate & Fortune – kick sound editor on a daily basis, whine a lot and get numbers of alternative sound editors (in hand)

Optical sound negative
1. Requires Tascam cassette (done), cut neg (in hand) and cash (bank)
2. Requires Tascam (see sound mix), cut neg (in hand) and cash (bank)

Effects and opticals
Forget it, you’re broke!

Final print
1. Director of Photography wants Grade A 35mm print in addition to graded print. Tough, unless he’s paying. Will probably go with Super16 print only.
2. DoP wants Grade A 35mm print (surprise surprise) but will go with it because I do too. Takes priority over Last Train as it’s shot on 35mm for a quality look.

Exhibition – festivals
Find names and dates and enter. Note Cannes will only accept first run films so that’s missed. British Short Film Festival, Birmingham Festival, Europe, Australia and USA. Plan for print falling apart in approximately three months and ponder cost of replacement.

Exhibition – television
Ensure print is immediately telecined to digital format ASAP. Then, helloooo distributor! Channel Four/BBC specialist units. No? Okay, BBC first stop via new BBC Choice scheme which probably involves handing over all the international rights to everything in exchange for bugger all and a chance to win a few hundred quip. yip.
– early May (application form on desk)

Get more work!
By sending VHS copies to those responsible for hiring freelances at major channels, film companies and agents.
– early May

Hmm. Sounds like a plan…

Re-cost post production
Find that it comes to �11,000-plus. Feel nauseous. Phone lab next – “Do I absolutely NEED to have an interpositive and an internegative?”

Take out one disolve
To be replaced with a cut, no matter how difficult that is. It saves A&B roll surcharges. Re-cost comes out to �9,800. Still feel queasy. Might be able to get it down to around �8,000. �6k would be do-able or I’ll barf up a lung. Sales manager at lab is out of office until later…

Watch some TV including last night’s episode of Star Trek Voyager which was lame. I also mess around on the internet for a bit and check my stars – which are ridiculously positive at two different sites – and my bank balance online – which is not quite as bad as I thought. Phew. My finances should actually survive the month.

My heart pricks me into a misguided attempt to make life better (and live up to the astrological promises) so I send an email to a friend who isn’t speaking to me. No reply comes back which could mean I’m the world’s biggest pain in the ass except I know I’m not, I’m just fed up. The lack of response means I’ve probably just pissed that person off more which was obviously not the intention so it makes me feel worse so I come here and beat myself up about it.

Phone the lab again. The sales manager is back in the office but on another call so I leave my number. His secretary gets the number wrong – twice – then she says he’ll call back later. He’ll probably call back next week. I think Mercury – the planet of communication – must be taking a vacation from my sign this week as it seems like no one wants to speak to me. Yes, I’m whining about that too. Bite me.

Lab costs and loans
Lab finally calls back too late to get in touch with the bank but the new figures are fed into my Excel spreadsheet and several unneccessary lines are deleted. The labs are really helpful and it looks like it’s going to cost around �4,500-�5,000 which is still shitloads of money but after the �11k panic, it sounds pretty reasonable.

Hey, I could get this sucker finished in just a few weeks!

Rambling Without Moving

It’s been one of those weeks where it’s felt like nothing much has happened and yet tons and tons has happened and there’s a sense of inevitable irresistable and welcome change.

Earlier in the week I was talking to a friend about her impending visit to a psychic (and I’m still bursting to hear what happened, but she knows that so I’ll shut up). Nevertheless, it reminded me of another friend who does tarot readings and it just so happened I was round her house on Tuesday or was it Monday? Where did the time go? I digress.

So my other friend did a tarot reading for me and it was all about how I’m resisting change and holding on to stuff when there are great opportunities around me if I’d just look around. There was also a lot of stuff about laughing and enjoying being with friends and generally having a good time. And the opportunities and changes that are there and coming are inevitable, whether I push it or not.

Of course, I’ll probably push it because that’s just me, but it does take away the feeling of pressure to DO something when it’s said that it’s inevitable like that and I think that lack of pressure is a good thing. It gives some freedom to think and be creative.

Then tonight another old friend, Andy, phoned up and said could he drop in on his way home and I said sure, that would be great because I haven’t seen him for ages. And he did. We actually didn’t do that much talking but the thing about talking to Andy is it’s always very meaningful.

Andy works as an editor and is several bands and he played me a CD — several in fact but this one stood out — of this song he’s been doing with a female vocalist with a beautiful voice. Fay.

Andy plays a very sensual baseline and there are more people than just the two of them in the band. The song is all about this woman who has these delusions that she’s a secret agent and it’s just fantastic. I hope they make it big.

We talked a bit about options for the future and I tell him about the progress of my films because he’s done the music for one and they still aren’t finished because I’m relying on favors. Andy says not to worry, they are moving forwards and it will happen and it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it without funds.

We also talk a bit about graphic design and my trip to New York and just his reactions tell me I’m doing the right things and it he kind of just lets me inspire myself and gives positive reinforcement. I think a bit about working part-time and maybe doing a job-share in with another director so I can go back to college and study some more. It feels like an option and it feels good to have some options.

I’ve been listening to the lyrics of that song after (I burned it on to a minidisc) and it is so well written. And I was also thinking about the books I’m reading at the moment (another recommend from another friend), Travis McGee, and the wonderful storytelling and neat turns of phrase and general unputdownableness of the latest one I’ve bought. And you know what? I feel the urge to be more creative returning.

Spring is definitely in the air.