Monday, October 28, 2013

Filmmaking #1

Recently two people made related requests.  One person asked me if I could do a post about filmmaking.  The other asked if I could finally upload the movie I did for the Richmond 48 Hour Film Project this year, because it's only been seen at the screening and many of the people who worked on it haven't gotten to see it even though it's been months since it was finished.

Fortunately, these requests kind of go together because the 2013 48 Hour experience gives me something to go on in talking about making movies.

The first thing to know about making movies is that it is terrible.  You cry.  You shout at people who are trying to help you.  You want to crawl into a hole and die.  After you finish one, you get depressed and don't want to talk to anyone for weeks.  How can this be?  Isn't making movies fun?  Also, if it's so terrible, why do you keep doing it?

I'm not sure I have the answer to these questions.  They are certainly reasonable questions.  I've never made money off a movie - not a dime.  I've spent several hundred hours of my life making movies that range from fun-but-flawed to basically unwatchable.  I've repeatedly become so weighed down by the obligation of producing a movie that I never talked to the person I was making the movie for again.  It's been a more or less unmitigated disaster.  Yet I do, in fact, keep doing it.  It's rewarding in a way that's hard to describe.  It's much easier to describe what's terrible about it.

Zero-budget filmmaking is a process in which you come up with an idea that you think will be really great and fun and exciting and then you slowly watch as that idea is ground down by endless logistical problems.  The really significant part of film work is really just a bunch of list making and scheduling and paperwork, which are all things that I'm intensely terrible at.  The "creative" part, which is the part everyone wants to be involved with and help with, occurs in short bursts and often seems to be largely irrelevant.

When you have a budget you pay people to do a lot of the logistical preparations for your shoot, and this works very well because film directors do not tend to be great at logistics.  When you have no budget, of course you're relying entirely on volunteers and the logistical side tends to get neglected until everyone shows up the day of the shoot READY TO CREATE and then you realize you need some lists of things or else you're all just going to be standing around doing nothing all day.

The nice thing about 48 Hour is that you get one weekend to pack all this work in and once it's over it's over.  Except.  When you get done with the film often there is some aspect of it that seems completely unacceptable, and you tell people foolishly that you're going to fix that aspect of the film and then release a new cut for everyone to see and enjoy.  In my case this is always as mistake.  The new cut never gets done because once you get in to try to create it you realize there are real reasons the original film came out the way it did.

This year that particular detail had to do with a really great audio gag where we had two female voice actors come in and do various takes of distraught crying, which we were going to drop in over the beginning of three different funeral clips in the movie.  The takes sounded great, the women were really patient and understanding of my limited technical abilities, and just generally it felt really awful that in the scramble to get the movie finished we didn't get the crying in the movie.

Well, it turns out that for whatever reason when you drop the crying clips into the movie it doesn't work - it crashes when you try to render it.  I don't know what the problem is, and while I'm sure it can be fixed I am officially, today, declaring my involvement with The Death of Don Panini, Waterline Films' 2013 entry into the Richmond 48 Hour Film Project, to be concluded.  The good news is that despite a bevy of technical issues the film is pretty funny and enjoyable if you ask me.  I hope you like it.

To the two women who gave their time and talent only to see their work cut out of the movie, and to everyone else who helped on this very challenging project, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  As always, I hope next time I can be a little better director, and that a little more of your work and talent can make it onto the screen.  Until then, I hope you enjoy The Death of Don Panini.


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