Monday, 26 September 2011

Under-delighted

Finally, today the ball-ache is over.

I say over, but really it has just changed from a stamping pain to a dull throb. Today Jake and I finished auditing and cataloguing all our movie and sound files, in anticipation of handing the whole lot over in a tidy state to an editor. Two weeks of comparing our meticulous Script Supervisor’s notes with the contents of three hard drives, trying to make sense of it all.

Today we re-named our last file. And it was at this point that the dull ache set in to the Charmed testes.

Because it was at this point that we got the final tally of what’s been lost in the move: fourteen shots and 201 sound files.

Nowhere to be seen. Vanished. Gone forever.

After months writing the script, half a year of pre-production and an insane four weeks waving a camera at some acting, it all comes down to what footage you have. At this point the script might as well go in the bin; these are the only puzzle pieces you have to play with, and you have to make the best picture you can from these and these alone.

So finding so many pieces missing from the box can best be described as “disappointing”.

Sure, we have 1,653 other shots to play with, and 1,235 perfectly OK sound files. But that’s not really the point. As an example, three of our missing shots are empty frames of sets; clear all the actors out of the way and just film the stuff they’re stood on for ten seconds or so. While this is not particularly useful as part of an edit (which is presumably why they got deleted, and then carefully deleted from both of the back-up disks too), they would have been massively helpful for our digital FX guy when he has to remove one character’s missing leg (which got filmed in a green sock). I don’t think it’s an insurmountable obstacle, but it does mean that what might have been a two hour job now takes him a week to do (disclaimer: actual timings for DFX work may differ wildly from these completely pulled-out-of-my-arse guesses).

So Monday night in Winchester finds me not in the finest of moods. 

We tell ourselves that it is what it is, and we’ve just got to make the best of what we have; there are no show-stoppers in the missing footage, and we’re not phoning around to get everybody back for pick-ups just yet. But this was the easy hurdle in the editing process, and higher fences await. It doesn’t feel good to be tripped up so early.

But then again, if every blog entry was just me being cheerful you’d smell a rat. This making a movie lark is difficult, you know. Pungent.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Putting the iHoover round

Damn this tidying up.

The march towards getting all the information together that we will need to pass on to an editor continues with a slow and painful grind. A lot of playing with spreadsheets; colour-coding files; searching through sound files to try and tally up with bits of speech or noises on un-slated footage; a lot of sitting on our respective fat arses staring at computer screens.

And so Jake did the only sensible thing that a man can do under these monumentally monotonous circumstances. He went on holiday.

Well, it was really just a long weekend (albeit longer than most long weekends), but he did leave me with the singular pleasure of logging and re-naming all the sound files while he was away.

1,235 different WAV files, each with a name completely un-correlated with the scene, shot or take. That’s 1,235 different times I get to listen to Lois our Sound Recordist say “speed” and me say “Action”. 20 GBytes of data (or just over 19 hours, in old money).

It is what it is – a phrase quickly becoming the Charmed mantra. And so we push on.

Anyway, fresh from the shameless tarting wing of the company comes this recent moment of Resurrection buzz-building, ably decorated by Eric Colvin (in the orange) and Joe Rainbow (in the fatigues), with the freshly zombified Sam Purnell below them. And, yes - Jake really does talk like that when he’s being interviewed, exclamation marks and all!

So, another couple of hours with the rename button await before bed-time. However, as a fitting accompaniment, I have been mostly listening to the infectiously spiky riffage of Mega City Four on Spotify all evening; a band that used to be graced by the guitar talents of Danny Brown, the actor that plays Beaumont in our movie. A man with more talent than me would attempt a mash-up with some of the character’s dialogue; God knows I have enough bloody sound files at my disposal. What makes me think I'm so special? / Good girl, you’re a good girl.

Now that’s the proper way to avoid an evening's work. Not today, sadly. Muffled.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A thousand toothless cuts

It’s been a mixed bag of mood down at Charmed Central over the last couple of days.

I blame the bloody edit. Not, I should mention, the sterling work that Sam and Alex have done to get the first assembly together, but the shear amount of wood that we are failing to see for all these damn trees.

So, we do indeed now have a cut of the movie to watch, coming in at around the 1 hour 45 min mark. And it does everything that a first assembly should do – it infuriates, reassures, depresses and occasionally entertains. It allows us to re-enjoy all the stresses of the shoot, but from the comfort of the office.

But deep in the heart of the footage, there is most definitely a movie screaming to be let out. Thank fuck.

Much of the chat over the last couple of days has been about where we go from here. Original plans were for the two of us to take the footage and stitch the movie together over the next few months using Sam’s assembly as a springboard, but this may have changed.

It’s because a few little things are niggling us.

First up, editing a whole feature (with action sequences, horror and quiet interludes) demands serious craft and experience. Sure, Jake and I have both edited stuff in the past, but not on this scale, and not with the same potential audience that we hope to coax into watching this film. A passing knowledge of the basic rules of how to stick tab A into slot B just isn’t going to cut it (no pun intended); we simply don’t have the chops that a proper editor does, and our film will be all the worse for it.

But more than that I have a fundamental problem with people that write, direct and edit their own stuff. Editing is the final opportunity to re-write the movie, and Jake and I are so mired in the minutiae of the film that we don’t have the required perspective anymore. If you want to see what I mean, go rent a recent Kevin Smith movie.

So, given our aim to hit Cannes next May with the finished product, the chat has been mostly about bringing someone in. A whole different can of worms.

Chief amongst these is gathering all the ingredients together in a palatable form to hand over to someone else. Which means ploughing through all the shots and trying to tie them up with the Continuity notes that Amy our Script Supervisor has meticulously prepared for us; making sure that we have all the available footage in one place and labelled properly. Our camera’s compact flash cards had a habit of corrupting the odd file, leaving us to dig the odd shot out of our back-up SD cards, we have to check that all our second unit footage has been logged, we need to tie together shots which were missing a slate for one reason or another, etc.

Ah. More Excel. Marvellous.

Actually, what it is is a slow and painful ball-ache, and should keep us suitably under-entertained for at least a couple of weeks. Don’t expect to read anything too insightful on the film-making process till October.

As an aside, I suffered a moment of consternation while we were filming when it turned out that an earlier blog about the joys of smoking had inadvertently lured some of the cast back into old and bad habits (at least for the duration of the shoot). Everybody parted ways after the wrap party vowing to knock their respective habits on the head before rejoining the real world; I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have made absolutely no leeway into becoming that cleaner, healthier Andy since then, and I hope the others have fared better than me. I am, however, sadder still to witness the early buds of a nicotine attachment from m’colleague at Charmed Central (although he does seem woefully late to the party). Double the reason to sort it out, Phelps, before the whole production collapses under the weight of carcinogens.

I blame the bloody edit, although I may have already mentioned that. Repetitive.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Whimpering when only a bang will do

Well, that was a bit of a damp squib.

Oh, welcome back, by the way. With the weeks of pre-production panic, shoot insanity and psyche re-balancing now officially “things of the past”, hopefully we can get back to more regular communication. Having just spent an extraordinarily relaxing week sat indoors watching Wales getting rained on, I am now officially champing at the bit to dive ball-deep into post-production.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, the 12th September was planned as the date that Jake and I would reconvene in the Charmed offices, and gaze wistfully over the fruits of Sam’s first assembly edit.

On paper a first assembly is no massive milestone – simply a rough edit that has been quickly pulled together to check that we have all the shots that we need to make a movie. Sam, along with our Digital Imaging Technician Alex, has been meticulously building this as we went along throughout the shoot, from the comfort of a number of silos suitably removed from all the action and production faff.

So, no massive milestone. But then again it is our first opportunity to watch the whole film.

Tradition dictates that directors and producers walk way from viewing their first assemblies in exceptionally bad moods. The temptation, I guess, is to watch it as you would a normal movie, even though the shots have been stuck together in a fairly utilitarian manner, the sound is all over the place, no one has even thought about the pace of the film, and there’s no music or foley, or digital FX. Instead you’re presented with a smorgasbord of off-mic dialogue, performances that look different to when you were shooting them, un-fixed continuity issues, prized footage buried in a soft focus, etc. etc.

So Jake and I were bracing ourselves for a thoroughly miserable day. That is until last night, when it became evident that Sam needed an extra 24 hours to tidy the edit up further.

And so our day of communal Charmed trauma has been commuted till tomorrow. And a morning that should have propelled us into the boozer at lunchtime to reflect on the error of our ways passed by without issue.

Meh. Tomorrow we hit the ground running. You have been warned. Stretching.