Week 11 03/25/2012
Another quarter complete, yet somehow still very incomplete...
This quarter was a true test of my abilities as I worked myself harder than I ever have before. Unfortunately, with all the hard work & long hours I put into this quarter, I don't feel like I have a single completed piece of work to show for it. I was talking to one of my instructors about how I thought the quarter went. I told him that despite my projects this quarter not yet making it to a polished point, I still feel like I was kept busy and worked extremely hard for the past 11 weeks.
Even if finishing these projects takes the next few weeks, It will be well worth the added weeks of attention. I've never worked on three large projects of this magnitude and I am very proud of the work that I am doing. All three of these projects will be used in my graduate portfolio next quarter and I will make sure that they get the polishing they deserve. I just wish at the end of the quarter I would have had a better sense of closure.
Along with finishing my senior film, I will be editing segments for my multi-cam production, Destination Brew. It is a competition reality show on home-brewing that we produced and filmed this quarter. I will also be finishing my independent study project, which is a short promotional piece for a local dance company. I was really happy with the way the footage turned out, I would just like to give the editing a little more time and close attention. Hopefully I can make some time for some R&R this week, yet still continue making progress on all of these projects.
As I continue working on various cuts of my senior film, I have been looking at the changes I've made and how the film has changed from my original intention. Overall, I think the purpose for creating this story has always been the same, but some other elements have had to slightly change in order to make a more effective and meaningful piece. I've had to dramatize various moments to give them more weight and a better payoff in the later scenes. At first this was really hard for me because I wanted the film to stick to the true story. Eventually, I accepted that the film didn't need to follow every single detail of their story and making these changes would only benefit the narrative.
Luckily, the majority of the style remained true to the original intention. The director of photography was able to understand my vision & followed the style. My intention was to have a blend of handheld, static & tracking/jib shots throughout the film because each shooting style had a way of complimenting each individual scene. For example, I wanted handheld for more chaotic moments, locked down/static for when Joe was confined to the hospital bed and then loose, flowing tracking/jibbing shots to accent Joe's delicate movement. During the more procedural scenes, his camera work flowed nicely with the movements of the characters & I was thoroughly impressed!
The editing style remained true to the original intention, but became more of a daunting task than ever imagined. I never realized how much sound design & mixing would have to accompany the picture so that is what will take the most time as I finalize the edit in the next few weeks. A friend of mine from Pennsylvania has agreed to help with some of the sound design & final mix, which I am really excited about! He will be able to give me a lot of insight on how to accomplish some of the more difficult sound decisions.
I think that with both this film and the rest of my projects this quarter, I have learned a lot about my own abilities and skills as an artist. I think I have a better understanding of where I am doing well and where I still am struggling. I think that I did well with the execution of this production... working through the logistics, asthetics & style of the film, but may have struggled more with the editing portion. I feel like I was off to a great start with the assembly edit, but because of the time commitment associated with Destination Brew, I wasn't able to give the my film the attention it deserved during post-production. Like I said before, my biggest struggle has been with the sound design. Once I talk to my friend about ways to approach the sound, my film will be in much better shape. Once I have a better sense of the sound design, I will be able to lock the picture & finally work on the opening titles & color grading.
Also, another thing I have been struggling with is that I have a tendency of second guessing my own abilities. I know that it is often because I value the opinion of other classmates and my instructors, but it sometimes makes it difficult for me to make progress. I need to trust my own instincts & accept that even mistakes are a step towards improvement.
This quarter has been an incredible learning experience for me. With each project, I test my abilities and grow stronger as an artist. At the end of next quarter, I will be graduating from college. To prepare, I will need to push myself even harder and pay close attention to the areas in which I still need to improve. I'm excited to work hard and see what kinds of new challenges I can get my hands on while I finish these last 12 weeks of school.
Locked in the Office 02/24/2012
It's crunch time. My fine cut is due on Tuesday and I still have a lot to do before I will be able to the lock the picture. I decided that the best way to give my film the attention it deserves I will need to lock myself in the office until Monday morning. Aside from sleeping and eating, I will spend the majority of my time editing this weekend. Of course, with the exception of the Oscars :)
This week I had to make some difficult, but necessary changes to the film. I removed sections and reordered a few scenes. Now that I've moved a lot of stuff around, I need to go back and clean up the transitions and make sure it still flows as a whole. Right now it just feels like a big, jumbled mess.... yuck. Three major sections that I need to work on this weekend include; the opening scene, the disjointed pre/post coma scenes and then the ending of the film.
A couple of days ago I revisited Joe's Caring Bridge journal to stay inspired. Its helped a ton to re-read the material so that the story remains fresh. I've noticed that the film has evolved a ton since the beginning. Originally, it was a story about Joe, then it became a story about Joe and his girlfriend Amy... and now its definitely still inspired by Joe and Amy, but along with my actors, I've also been able to make it a story of its own.
Week 6 02/14/2012
We just screened the rough cuts of our films last week. I felt I made some nice improvements, however I still have a LOOOOONG way to go before I'll feel like its where I want it to be. My next screening will be on February 28th (t - 15 days) and that cut needs to include every scene at the desired length as well as the music, sound effects, etc that I want to use in the film.
Right now I am having a difficult time with the music and sound design... In my head I have the perfect idea of what I want my film to sound like, but I just can't seem to find the right sound effects or music to give it that desired feel. For example, there is an early scene in the film where I want to use a sound effect that represents the ear ringing effect when a bomb has just gone off... I've had a really hard time finding it, but think I may have found something similar. Of course I will need to mix the sound effect with muffled conversation and ambients, but at least its a step in the right direction :) (You can check out the sound at the bottom of this post)
Since my last critique, I have been looking at each scene individually to fine tune and make changes. Because I have been doing that, I keep forgetting to look at the entire timeline as a whole. I'm hoping that once I get the right sounds mixed in, that I will feel my piece start to flow together as one.
The initial bed transfer in my film has seen significant improvements. My instructor mentioned during the screening that his mood wasn't coming off the way it was supposed to. He was supposed to be struggling to transfer on his own, but the dialogue between them makes him see "too chipper" for how he is supposed to be feeling. I decided to get rid of his response to Amy walking into the room. It immediately increased the tension between them and the situation, which will make for a better payoff at the end of the film.
I'm going to continue reviewing each individual scene and then see what types of improvements I can make... layering dialogue, removing dialogue, speeding up/slowing down the pacing, adding music, adding sound effects...etc. It continues to be a tedious process, however I can't wait to see it become a film that I am proud of! :)
I know... finally another update! My apologies for the extremely long delay... last quarter was insane! I wish that I would have blogged more towards the end of the production, but the days were long & there wasn't a lot of free time to write.
It is now Week 4 of the post-production quarter. eeep! Only 7 1/2 weeks left to finish my senior film! That is going to go by soooo fast!
The first three weeks was full of reviewing, converting and organizing all of the footage so it would be ready to edit in Final Cut.
Last week we screened the assembly edits of our films, which means that the entire film needed to be in order. However we did not need to worry about details such as pacing, color grading, music or sound mastering for that cut of the film. Pictured below is a screenshot from my assembly edit.
I'd like to say the first cut of my film went better than I expected! We had a great turnout... three instructors and 3 fellow classmates were there to critique us. It was extremely helpful to have that many opinions & eyes on the project. I was given a ton of constructive feedback, which will keep me very busy until our rough cuts are due next week! :)
This quarter I will try to update my blog more often because it will help to talk through my editing decisions.
Coming soon: More production stills & behind-the-scenes videos from the production! Stay tuned!
First Three Production Days! 11/19/2011
These past two weeks have been extremely busy! On Thursday, November 10th, I started production on LIFE, CYCLES.! On Thursday we filmed Amy's first two scenes; Amy getting a phone call from Joe & then an exterior apartment scene where Amy was running to her car. It was a lot of fun shooting those two scenes & they turned out just the way I imagined them in the script! I had a FANTASTIC & large crew that evening! This was the first production I've had where we used an external monitor and a sound mixer. The external monitor was nice because I didn't have to hover over Tim's shoulder for every take. It was very helpful because I could be clear across the room to approve each composition! Both scenes were fun to do! We used Devin's bedroom for the phone call scene. The night before the shoot, Devin and I rearranged his bedroom.... moved his bed, the wall decor and the lamps to make it look more like Amy's room. Thank you for letting me film at your apartment, Dev!
I wanted minimal lighting in the bedroom so we lit the room with only one Arri light and used a blue gel to create a moonlight effect in the room. I only wanted Amy to be illuminated by the cellphone screen and we were successfully able to do that by Devin holding a second iPhone between the bedside table and the bed. It took a lot of syncing for the two cellphones to light up at the same time, but they were able to make it work! It looks awesome :)
The second scene was the exterior of Devin's apartment. We rented two 2K Fresnel lights from Cinequipt (a local equipment rental facility). We used one light to mimic moonlight and one to mimic an orange streetlight. We also rented an extra 25' of track from them that allowed us to have a 35'+ tracking shot of her running to her car! Tim, Devin and Derek did a fantastic job getting that to work! :) Thanks guys! Lisa (Amy) did a knock out job in both scenes! She is a very talent actress and I love having her on set!
On Friday we had our first production day at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis. We shot the pool scene, which is the scene at the end of the film prior to the footage of the real Joe Stone hand cycling in Montana. First off, I want to say how amazing it has been filming at Sister Kenny and Abbott Northwestern. The public relations manager for Allina, Gloria, has been extremely helpful and supportive in my pursuit of making this film. She has been working with me for the past few months and I am so thankful for her dedication to this project! We were able to film in the pool under the supervision of Todd (A SKRI therapist). I am very thankful that he was able to be with us that day as well. He stayed overtime for four hours so that we could film in his facility and he let us use any equipment we wanted for the scene. Thanks Todd!
Friday took quite a bit of rehearsal and setup, but was well worth it in the end! Tim has been a mastermind behind the camera. He was successfully able to get a shot that I really wanted that tracked down the length of the pool as Joe and the therapist entered down the ramp. Tim found a way to mount the camera to the base of the track and then he made a smooth motion down the length of the pool. Again, the footage turned out great! On Friday, the actors were JP and Lisa, Brad (a therapist) and then the real Joe Stone and two other extras in the pool. Brad was the perfect therapist! Lisa was able to get him very last minute (the night before) and he was just perfect for the part! Thanks for jumping on board on such short notice! The two other extras are my producers for the Superior Dream documentary I am editing. Thanks guys for being a part of my film! :) Also, It was really nice to have Joe Stone there because he was able to work with JP and myself on all of his actions. I like to call Joe my "choreographer" and "consultant" because Joe and Amy have been very helpful in directing my lead actors. Could not thank them enough for being so supportive & willing to share every detail of their story with me.
After the production on Friday my parents and brother brought "sloppy joes" :) to the hospital. We all enjoyed the delicious meal & then wrapped for the evening. Thanks fam for feeding my cast & crew!
On Saturday we were supposed to film in a hospital room, but due to schedule conflicts we had to post-pone. It was probably for the best because everyone was exhausted.
On the following Tuesday, we had a fresh start and we were ready for more! We had our second production day at Sister Kenny. This time we got to the hospital in record time and then filmed 3 scenes, in 3 locations, in 7 hours! By this time, we had a good rhythm down and everyone knew their responsibilities. Very impressive work cast & crew!
Right before we went upstairs to start setting up for the first scene, Gloria told me she had bad news about the schedule. Last minute she found out that two of the locations were occupied until 7:00pm, which caused me to rearrange the entire schedule. I was able to rearrange the schedule pretty quickly and give all of the actors and extras a notice about their new call times. Everything worked out great & we shot the scenes in a different order. We shot the bed transfer scene first. This was one of the scenes I was most excited about & again, it turned out just the way I imagined it! I'm so glad Tim was able to see all the locations prior to filming.. it really allowed us to prepare for each scene.
The night before, JP and I went over to Joe and Amy's house where they made us a scrumptious dinner & then Joe and JP were able to practice bed transfers. It was very beneficial for them to rehearse this because he had an awesome performance on set the next day! I have to say that all of my actors have been very dedicated to their roles. I could not ask for better actors. They really get to know the people they are portraying and relate to their every emotion. I am so thrilled and impressed with their talent!
It has been great to have so many friends and family involved with my film. My brother was able to act in this scene as well as a nurse observing the bed transfer. He is getting his Masters in Nursing so it was cool to have him be a part of this.
The second scene we did that day was a conversation between Amy and her friend Sarah. The scene takes place a few weeks into Joe's coma when Amy is visiting him. This was a very emotional scene and the girls did a really good job! Again, I was very impressed. My crew did an excellent job dressing & lighting the set. My Art Director, Katherine, did a really good job making Amy look tired and worn out.
The last scene of the night was a group therapy session on vehicle modification. Again, Brad was the therapist and I had Joe and his friend Steve as extras. Steve is another player on Joe's quad rugby team & it was great to have him in this scene. As you may have already noticed, I am trying to have the real Joe Stone in as many scenes as possible. I'm hoping viewers will sort of pick up on it because I think it will be special to have him as an extra throughout the film. :) This was the first scene where JP wore Joe's TLSO brace. It looked great & he didn't complain once - What a trooper!
So that was our first three production days! Every scene was rewarding and really fun to produce!
Thank you to the cast & crew and family/friends/extras for your dedication and hard work! I get to work with an incredible group of talented people and I appreciate every one of you!!
Keep an eye out for production stills from the first three days. Soon to be added to the 'Production Stills' page this week!
On Tuesday we hope to film our first set of scenes in the ICU! Crossing fingers that there is a room available for us!
Bringing life to the script 10/25/2011
A lot has happened since my last update... I held two auditions and callbacks for the film the past two weeks & now I'm excited to say I have a cast - And they are an excellent group of people that I am very eager to start working with.
There are still 2 or 3 actors that I need to decide on, but my leads have accepted their parts in the film! I knew right away when the two of them walked in for their auditions... they both had fun personalities, looked the part and nailed their improv scenes! I brought them both in for callbacks the following Tuesday to see how they worked together and sure enough they played off of each other very well! I gave them each very simple goals in an improv scene & I absolutely loved their interpretation of it. They were very "Joe & Amy" in that moment and right then, I knew I wanted them as my leads.
Today was a very big day for me - a day I was both very excited and nervous about. I brought Joe & Amy and Lisa & John-Paul (JP) together for the first time! I was very excited about this because I think its important that Lisa and JP know the people they are trying to portray on a personal level. I was nervous to see if Joe and Amy would like the actors I casted to play them. I don't know why that made me so nervous because they got along really well!
Joe & Amy shared their story of Joe's recovery in great detail with JP & Lisa! It gave my actors a really good glimpse of all of the emotions they felt during the entire year in recovery...
Joe shared some of the pictures they took throughout his recovery... It gave the actors a good idea of the props & wardrobing associated with the production.
JP even tried on Joe's TLSO brace during the meeting. Surprisingly, they are about the same body type!
I made some notes in the script during our meeting - It felt great to listen to Joe and Amy tell their story to my actors while I followed along in the script.
JP followed along in the script while Joe and Amy talked
The Joes, the Amys and their director :)
Overall, this was a fantastic day! I'm really glad that Amy & Joe could meet the actors that will be portraying them & vise versa.
Photo Credit to Jason Hadley (one of life, cycles.' cinematographers)
Thank you for helping share this day & the wonderful photos! :)
Production Quarter 10/10/2011
We just started Fall quarter last week, which means we are now in the production quarter of our films. I haven't had much time to update this journal because I have been so busy working on more pre-production elements and preparing for auditions.
I finally sent out the casting call for my auditions on Friday! I feel like I hit a major road block in my progression because before I sent out my casting call I wanted to be completely done with the additions to my script and finish my actor audition packets. I finally realized that doing all that beforehand wasn't necessary. I just needed to get the notice out to the potential actors and then I could move on. Sure enough, as soon as I sent out my notice, I felt much better about my progress and was able to get a lot of work done this weekend. I woke up this morning with 12 emails from people wanting to auditions, which made for a very motivating and exciting way to start the day! I read through their resumes and took a look at their headshots. Looks like a great group of potential actors! Cannot wait to meet them all!
The rest of this week I will be finishing my actor audition packets, finding scenes from my script for them to read at the audition and finding specific improv strategies for each character in my film.
Last Friday, I brought my Assistant Director, Devin, to Abbott Northwestern and Sister Kenny. He was able to help me record room dimensions and get a good feel for the space. I then took those dimensions and created floor plans of each room. With the floor plans I will be able to work with my camera and lighting crew to map out where the equipment should go. I can also use the floor plans to block out the actors movements within the space.
I just recently signed on my classmate Tim T. as my Director of Photography. I'm really excited to have him on my crew. He is also a senior, has a lot of experience with wedding videography, and has a great eye. I just spoke with him and he will be able to join us when we go back to the hospital to take photo storyboards of each scene. I think it is very beneficial for my department heads to see the hospital before we shoot so that they can get a good idea of my vision and how we can best utilize the space.
I also just signed on my script supervisor (Shelly - a pre-pro senior) and my art director (Katherine - an Ai photographer) this weekend. Shelly will make for a great script supervisor because she will make sure we follow the script, production schedule and make sure we finish every scene in the allotted time. I'm very excited to work with Katherine as my art director. She is a great photographer at Ai, has a natural eye and pays close attention to detail within all of her photographs. She also does all the wardrobing/makeup and design for her photo shoots so I know she will do a fantastic job!
Lots to do before Friday this week... so I'll get back to work. I will have more of an update after shooting my photo storyboards this week. :)
As I said in a previous post, I have recently been focusing on the location scouting portion of the pre-production. I contacted the head of marketing at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute (Abbott Northwestern Hospital) to ask permission to film on their campus. Although he expressed that he was supportive of my efforts, he was not able to give me permission himself. He then forwarded my email to the proper person: the public relations manager for all of the Allina Hospitals and Clinics. She promptly responded to my email and was very happy to help me out with filming at SKRI!
We had a meeting last week where she gave me a tour of the hospital and we discussed all of my access and restrictions around the hospital. Surprisingly, I will be able to film in every location I was hoping to have access to. My only real limitation will be making sure that I do not film other patients unless they give me permission. I will be prepared with both location and personal releases when it comes time to film at the hospital.
I was able to take pictures of various rooms/hallways around the hospital that I plan to film in. Specific locations will obviously change based on which hospital rooms will be vacant during the end of October/November. Below are just a few of the pictures I took of the locations. I hope to return to take photo storyboards with stand in actors to get a sense of the compositions and lighting I will want.
Based on a true story 09/14/2011
Dating back to the early days of cinema, some of the best films were based on a true story.
The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
Raging Bull (1980)
Schindler's List (1993)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down, and Pearl Harbor (2001)
United 93, and World Trade Center (2006)
and most recently:
127 Hours, The Fighter and The King's Speech (2010)
It was such a relief for me to find a long list of influential films that have all been based on real people and actual events. One of my biggest struggles when I started writing was if people were going to care to watch a real-life fiction film on Joe's story. I was hesitant because I'd heard people say that true stories are often cheesy/corny/overly dramatic... but clearly from the list of films above, that isn't always the case. If done well, a true story can be presented just as well as a completely fictional one.
I've worked really hard on the script to take significant moments in Joe's recovery and tell them in my own creative way. I've taken a true story and altered it in a way that is entertaining. I took the straight linear story from Joe's daily struggles and achievements with his recovery and decorated it with reflections of his previous lifestyle to help motivate him through the new challenges he faces.
I was able to take my passion for documentary filmmaking and use it to help write this real-life fiction film. With documentaries, the filmmaker spends a lot of time with their subject... getting to know them, interviewing them and understanding their motives. I was able to spend many hours talking with Joe, studying his every move and learning about his life in order to know what my character motivations would be within the script. Joe even said one day that I know him about just as well as his girlfriend, Amy does! :) That was a huge compliment because I feel like I have worked really hard to thoroughly study Joe and his incredible story.
Within the next few weeks I will be casting to find someone who can portray Joe, his girlfriend and his family. I'm excited to take the study I have done on Joe's facial expressions, hand movements, motives and watch it come to life on screen. :)
My Kickstarter campaign ended last week with $2,207 in total pledges!! :) A HUUUGE thank you to all that supported my film and shared Joe's story with their friends and family! This production has already come a long way with all of your help! I will be collecting contact information from all supporters here shortly so I can start creating the REWARDS! :)
Thats all for now. I will have an update and some pictures up here later this evening from my location scouting!
A completed script! 08/30/2011
Ahhhh... relief. I have finished the first full draft of my script and I have to say it feels really good! I am really excited to have the entire story laid out so that I can now begin breaking down each scene. Our instructor just showed us a feature within Celtx (the scriptwriting software) that allows us to easily complete scene breakdowns. We can breakdown the characters, props, sound effects, costuming, etc. within each scene. Something that use to take hours to complete can now be done in a matter of minutes. Hallelujah! :)
Now that I have my script complete, it is also time to start the location scouting. I need to contact various people and ask their permission to film in their facilities. The hardest location I need to lockdown will be a hospital... where 90% of my story takes place. I recently watched a student film where they filmed in an ambulance AND a hospital. It gave me the confidence I needed to seek out those types of locations myself. "All things are possible until they are proved impossible." I recently received the contact information for the head of marketing at one of Joe's hospitals here in the cities. I emailed them to see about shooting there next quarter. I will update with their response. This would be an ideal location because it is accurate to the story, close to school and close to Joe for when we need to borrow his wheelchair and hand cycle.
Kickstarter Update: I have only one week left to receive pledges for my film! A lot of people have been spreading the word about Joe's story, which is so great to hear. :) I am so happy that I decided to start a Kickstarter campaign. I think that having an actual budget to work with will improve the quality of my film and the effectiveness of the story. If you still haven't seen the Kickstarter video, check it out here!
Along with breaking down each scene and starting to find locations, we need to find someone to read our scripts. We are supposed to find someone who knows nothing about our story and ask them for feedback. I plan to send my script to one of the producers from my internship. A person whose opinion I trust that I know will give me an honest and thorough critique.
That is all for now! Updates soon :)
Here is my journal where I can reflect on the creative process in the development and production of my senior film.