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Inakamichi: Visions - Official Movie Website

Production Journal, Page 14

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6 May 2007-
This production is driving me nuts! My cut trailer certainly did not please the writers, who wanted dialogue from the film to be heard; I rendered the rough cuts of our scenes so far, in the hopes that I could prove my point that what we have in dialogue so far will attract no one, and the acting seriously needs to improve.

I could tell that Richie understood my point- he was constantly shaking through the 21-minute screening. Unfortunately, most left immediately after the screening of the scenes ended, so they couldn't hear my pointers about acting. But at least one person now really understood why I'm so hard on the actors.

Unfortunately, yesterday's filming showed that almost nothing was learned from that screening. I had to be the bad guy because the standard was still "good enough", rather than truly good. The final straw for me was when I refused to film an exaggerated gesture and wait until something new could be conceived. When I heard "We don't have the time to figure this out," I muttered, in effect, "Congratulations, your production officially sucks", but with far cruder words. This was also the last straw for Sean, who very nearly left in protest.

I'll go for the defense's position first, then the prosecution's. Like anything, filmmaking requires commitment. You can't pull good films out of a hat like magic- there's actual work involved, and that just doesn't happen when letting the actors sit comfortably be a higher priority than making sure they deliver at least a competent performance. If you "don't have the time", then you certainly don't have the time to be making films.

However, the prosecution could build a perfectly good case against me. I clearly crossed a line, and went miles from wherever it was. In that case, Sean was perfectly right to leave in protest, as utterly destructive as it would be to the production, which would affect everyone else instead of just the person who clearly did wrong- me. This did less to support my own viewpoints, and I hope the cast and crew present that day can forgive me.

...and understand that my demands are only because I care about this production and want it to succeed. Hard work went into it- a whole first trimester's worth of spare time on Richie's and Jessica's parts was spent writing this screenplay, and it was snubbed by the creator of the original characters. It spent time in limbo before shooting started, then a hiatus, then main production.

Actors weren't able to read their lines (and still aren't able), because the dialogue was written only by what sounds good while read- not what can actually be said from an actual person's lips. Revisions are necessary.

If we keep getting stumbled line delivery and allow over-the-top gestures to get in the way just so there isn't the need to argue or spend half-an-hour resolving the problem, however, those months writing the script and all that time spent filming will go to waste.

...and if I didn't care about this production, I wouldn't be so passionate about addressing its current flaws. I'd just be on the standby only going by the extent of my job, being the camera operator and editor, and throw the film in the YouTube wasteland and forget about it as some sort of nightmare.

So yes, I have to continue being the bad guy until someone does my job for me. In the meantime, I'll have to fine a nicer and more reasonable way to do it.

8 May 2007-
"Visions" may have another Film Festival run, as I found today an ad on the ground describing a Fremont Union High School District Film Festival this Friday. Submissions are due the day before. It's either that, or "N", and they want something that can be placed specifically in their two categories of Drama/Action and Comedy.

I don't think "N" clearly falls into either one of those genres. Though by its tone it might be judged as a comedy, I submitted it to Monta Vista Film Festival under drama because I don't want people to be disappointed at the lack of laughs. "Visions", on the other hand, is a clear drama with self-deprecating humor inserted along the way (which on retrospect I felt both helped and hurt the film at the same time).

A few weeks ago, Richie e-mailed me about his personal edit of the middle montage, and he posed an interesting concept: don't mind at all the "where's Evan" scenes and skip right after that. It narrows down my editing choices, which is good since I didn't know any better ones to make, but the footage he suggested didn't show enough conflict for my taste. I'm wrapped up in other projects, so this might be for many months to come. As well, for real film festivals and a possible (legal) DVD release, I still need two pieces of music cleared up for rights- even if they were found on Newgrounds.

* * *

Recently, upon deciding that "'Con'science" needed serious ADR work for some scenes even if they didn't need to be reshot (and some I'm predicting *will* need ADR after reshoots), I came to evaluate Sergio Leone westerns and Italian films in general, and had an admiration for how they didn't worry about sound at all and just dubbed everything in post-production.

My realization was how much I really loathed subtitles. I'm not saying that every foreign-language film should be dubbed- unless I'm sure the dub is very well-done (which I've only seen happen on a select few anime titles), I always go for the subtitled version when I rent a foreign film on DVD. "Whisper of the Heart" is by far my favorite film, and I wouldn't have anything but its original Japanese language track.

But cinema is a visual medium, and I feel that reading subtitles while constantly shifting back-and-forth to the images is distracting. ...not to mention one point that neither side wants to put out in the debate, is that sometimes placing subtitles on the same constant place in the screen isn't always the best idea- they usually solve the problem of obscuring important information by temporarily placing the subtitle elsewhere, but you almost never see them fixing instances of when the area of the text isn't necessarily the most tasteful place to be focusing on.

Furthermore, I fail to understand the need to have every instance of foreign languages in a film to be subtitled. If someone speaks a little bit of German in a film today, audiences might scream if they can't understand what they're saying... or the filmmakers think they will. But in the days of "Casablanca" and "The Third Man", we had no such intrusions. There was a character who interpreted on the side... or if there wasn't, the character could usually sense it meant trouble.

Of course, subtitling is cheaper, but if I get lucky enough and have someone who doesn't speak English asking me for a version of one of my films in their language, I'll dub it if I can, and at least attempt to accomplish good lip-sync and performances out of the dub cast. Not to mention it opens a new opportunity to rework something with the soundtrack.

10 May 2007-
I recall three years ago saying that digital/video technology was wrong, and film is the only way to shoot films... since, after all, it's *film*making.

That was when I hadn't shot one frame of motion picture film. Three years later, I still haven't, but I did get a shot at loading a roll of film into a 16mm camera, and let me tell you, it was one of the most pain-in-the-rear things I've ever had to experience.

Yeah, some may write this off as "laziness", or that it's part of the organic experience of filmmaking... but like the boom mic, there are some conveniences that you just shouldn't have to go through. The instructor came back and forth as I was having trouble with my practice roll of film, asking "How's it going?" and every time I said "I haven't shot one frame, but I hate film more and more every second."

The real downside is that film creates some very beautiful images. I suppose once I get this whole loading thing down, I'll just have to worry about the light meter and the fact that it costs $50-something for 3 minutes' worth of 16mm film, factoring in buying the roll of film, processing it, and transferring it to video for editing purposes. Otherwise, if you're editing on film, you'll need a workprint, and that'll just double your initial cost.

On DV, it costs $5 for one hour of tape, and you see a much closer approximation of what you'll get on your monitor than your viewfinder on film. No wonder Robert Rodriguez and David Lynch love digital so much!

I suppose if I had the money to shoot on film (and that's lots of money), I'll just shoot Super 8mm with the pre-loaded magazines. Just stick it in the camera, and ready to go! Filmmaking is tedious enough when you're working with unpaid actors.

Well, I already spent $75 on three rolls of film plus immediate shipping- couldn't get the student discount as I don't have an ID card for the college yet. No turning back now. Just get it done with. I just hope this isn't as creatively frustrating as painting on a canvas.

12 May 2007-
Dead Moose, Inc. won its first award... sort of. It was a hollow victory at the 2nd Annual FUHSD Student Film Festival, as there were only eight films- two of them mine. "Visions" competed in the Drama/Action category, of which there were only three (so it would have gotten ranked no matter what) and the sound version of "N" made its debut in the Comedy category.

After the first intermission, when all the Drama category was shown, the judges went into deliberation- that is, two certified film instructors and the directors who bothered to show up. "Visions" received harsh criticism for the bad sound (and one of the instructors said "every technical aspect" needed vast improvement), though it did have one vocal advocate who didn't want a frame cut out, saying it spoke the truth of what filmmakers go through.

I already posted a scathing review of my own film after Monta Vista Film Festival 2006- I don't need to repeat my comments about "Visions" again. However, I did get a peek at one of the comments sheets, which said "cut out anything that doesn't have to do with the plot"... which I found interesting because I didn't think it had one. The judge writing that said, "How long was it?"
-"23 and a half minutes."
"Yeah, it's a good concept... for five."

Well, I suppose since it's a failure in its own right (being a massive learning experience is no consolation for audience suffering), I might as well experiment with creating a truncated version of the film that runs 10 minutes. What to cut is the question.

I found it curious, however, that my film received the loudest applause out of all of them. Due to the snickers that I heard throughout that were more directed towards the ending "twist" (which on retrospect I feel was forced and I didn't earn the right to have it), my guess is that they were glad it finally ended.

Then came the comedies. Not to sound modest or anything, but they were, for the most part, crap- both in craftsmanship, and if the craftsmanship was competent, they were still dreadfully unfunny. "N" was in the category, to which I admitted to the audience that they won't laugh through it.

"All I can promise is that it doesn't run an eternity like 'visions', and it's wider than 'Visions'."

The film ran faster than I thought it would. In fact, too fast- I felt my cuts were far too rushed. When it came for deliberations time, however, the only thing that came remotely close to a criticism for "N" was that I was a little too subtle with my joke- the other judge said he had to think about it for a minute, but he found it funny.

Well, in that case, I consider it a success. Even if I didn't entirely intend it to do so, I prefer making subtler films because people don't think about blatant films after they end.

The other directors were curious about how I made it- they thought it was well-shot, and wanted to know how I got the color scheme, "the orange tint". Which you haven't seen on YouTube yet- because it wasn't an in-camera effect. That was a change I made when I started to work on the sound version, and in reaching for far better color timing, I adjusted it to an orange-green tint... which translated to orange-brown when it transferred from the editing screen to the TV (and projector) screen. One of them guessed correctly that all of my sound was dubbed- because footsteps and almost everything except dialogue, keys jangling and environmental noise was missing.

Before I release the sound version of "N" online, I might add a little more sound to it- but not everything.

Finally, came the take I was waiting for- the judge who harshly criticized "Visions". Being how he pretty much claimed that I was talentless in craftsmanship (though he liked my dialogue), it was a 180-degree turn, in which he said "everything was an improvement". If only Monta Vista Film Festival had film teachers for judges, and I could see how "N" does without "Visions" to compare it to.

Awards time came, "American Idol"-style, in which we step forward, and a few false starts until the host announced the winners.

"Third Place in the Drama category goes to... RECYCLED AIR!"

That, for me, was a blow similar to "...and the Oscar goes to... CRASH!" Given how critical people were of "Visions", I expected that to get 3rd (last) place. It ended up winning second, which wasn't a problem for me since what won 1st was the only good film in the entire selection- "The Absence of Comfort", a highly original, sometimes silly but always entertaining film. As it turns out, it was funnier than all the so-called Comedies (and I'm counting by intentional laughs).

Then came the Comedy awards. 3rd Place went to a film I thought was okay, but 2nd place went to what was the worst piece of crap there- "Agents in Black", which was very unoriginal, only funny in how poorly made it was, and unintelligible with bad editing and amateurish camerawork that constantly chopped the heads off actors. It's not that I'm angry that I lost- but anything was better than this. 1st Place went to "Blue Sky Syndrome"...

...but there was a tie! And thus, out of the five Comedy competitors, "N" was the only one that didn't win anything. But since we didn't have anything material to carry back home as proof, I suppose it means nothing. The awards decisions were inversely proportional to what people actually thought of them, anyway.

Though "Visions" won us our first award, I'm not taking it to any more film festivals. At least, not until I severely fix it up, but I've made better films since... and will have to make much better than that to get anywhere.


19 May 2007-
I've reached the point where I've stopped caring. My quality control standards have loosened on the set of "'Con'science" to the point where it will be noticeable on the screen, as I've become extremely tired. The good news is that one of our actors who normally stumbles every one of his lines somewhere actually got his lines memorized, so he won't be the problem with our footage. The bad news is everything else.
Introducing a new cumbersome piece of equipment, a secondary camera which I've hooked up via Firewire so I essentially have two cameras recording raw footage, it was meant for the purposes of on-set ADR. However, we ran late, so it ended up being useless. Once I came to this realization, I took the second camera off my neck, as well as taking the cable off.
Camera angles I sense will be quite awful when edited together, but I have too many other projects in the next couple of days to find out.
Due to Richie's own finals studying, a few scenes will have to be dramatically changed since his house won't be available anymore for filming.
...yeah, I think I'm just gonna write that feature-length B-movie and shoot it over the summer. This tedious shooting for this monologue-filled script just makes me want to shoot something silly, stupid and cheesy with space aliens and all that crap.
I'd talk about the surprisingly painless Monta Vista Film Festival last night, and the fact that they handed out awards to everybody with specific distinctions (the trailer for "'Con'science" was declared "Most Intriguing" while "N" had "Best Cinematography"), but I'm far too tired.
And there's shooting tomorrow.

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