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Friday, December 16, 2005

Cast/Crew Screening

Stomp! Shout! Scream! had its hometown Atlanta premiere last Saturday night at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. It was a great success by all accounts—- standing room only in a 200+ seat theater, laughs and reactions throughout, even scattered applause after my favorite climactic scene in the movie. I was sweating the whole screening, but my friends assured me it wasn’t that hot in the theater. As the end credits rolled, I waited for someone else to walk up front and thank everyone for coming, but I was the one to walk up there. That’s a really nice and really weird feeling. It was truly thrilling to see the film on a big screen with cast, crew, family and friends.
Now I can concentrate on getting the DVD finished for a February or March release, when there will be another big party to celebrate. Also in the works: the soundtrack (on Chicken Ranch Records), posters, t-shirts, a 7” single, and more festival screenings.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Austin Film Festival Recap

The day Stomp! Shout! Scream! premiered at the Austin Film Festival, I got an email from the Deep Ellum Film Festival that the film had been accepted to screen there. The festival is November 17-23, 2005. Check the website for the exact schedule in the next week.

Totaling up the festival submissions, Stomp! Shout! Scream! is 0 for 10 outside of Texas and 2 for 2 inside the Lone Star State.

To recap the Austin Film Festival, here’s my film maker blog from the AFF web site:

AFF Sun 10/16
Hello. Jay Edwards here to ramble about Stomp! Shout! Scream! and the Austin Film Festival. First I'll have to thank everyone at the festival, especially Chris Holland, for liking my film and offering to host its world premiere. Thanks for reading.

AFF Tue 10/18
I think I'm ready for this world premiere. Between now and Saturday, here's my schedule:
Wednesday: drive 14 hours, Atlanta to Austin.
Thursday: get interviewed at 5:00 AM on the Austin NBC morning show, sleep all day, and try to not get too drunk that night.
Friday: Juggle friends and family flying into town and try to sound like I belong on the "Comedy Writing for TV" panel at 1:45 PM. Oh, and show Stomp! Shout! Scream! to strangers for the first time ever at 10:00 PM. And try to not get too drunk afterward.
Saturday: Attempt to show up on time for the Writing Sci-Fi/Horror Panel at 10:45 AM.
After that, I think I'm done for a while and I can hide in dark movie theaters and watch movies.

AFF Thur 10/20
I'm in an awkward place. Somewhere between "5:00 AM TV interview" and "able to check into hotel." It's just after "14 hours in a car yesterday" and "no sleep." My delirium turns to elation when Stomp! Shout! Scream! gets its first review.

From the Austin Chronicle:
Edwards' loving homage to the short-lived beach-party-by-way-of-horror-film genre of the mid-Sixties does it better than American International Pictures ever did, with canny nods along the way to Them, Jaws, The Horror of Party Beach, and Roger Corman's own B-movie update Humanoids From the Deep. The arrival of an all-girl garage rock band in the quaint seaside community of Merriville Island coincides with a sudden rash of sandy mayhem that may be the result of the dreaded skunk-ape, which leaves behind a hideous odor to match its rampant carnage. On the trail of the beast are a trio of semicompetent cops ("It just don't make no sense – what kind of a homicidal maniac would do something like this?") and the requisite smart guy from the local college, who's final utterances remind us to forget about the skies, already, what we really need to be watching are the tides. It's nearly as much fun as an episode of Hullabaloo, snappy bouffants, earnest braniacs, hippy-hippy-shake, and all.

AFF Sat 10/22
The Stomp! Shout! Scream! premiere screening went pretty well last night.

Chris Holland from the festival and I both felt a sellout was coming from the way folks were talking, but the theater was about just 60% full. That's a little disappointing at first, but then I realized that was just due to our expectations. Promoting a film on the festival circuit is a marathon, not a one-time thing. There will be plenty of opportunities to get the film seen.

The film got lots of laughter throughout and a really nice reception from moviegoers afterward. Thanks to everyone who came out to see it. I personally went right out and guzzled beer with family and friends until the bars closed at 2 AM. That made it a little hard to get out to the panels this morning, but I made it. Now I'll nap and plan out some movie watching for the rest of my time in Austin.

AFF Tue 10/25
Unfortunately, I will not be at the screening tonight. The cartoon sweat shop demanded my presence back in Atlanta. Chris and the festival have concocted a little something in my absence. It's way funnier that I'd be at the screening.

Stomp! Shout! Scream! has gotten some scathingly bad reviews on the AFF web site. It's upsetting at first, of course. And I hate that it might affect attendance at the festival. But if EVERYONE liked the movie, it would be a total failure. I'm not trying to make "E.T." here. If you don't get it in the first 10 minutes, then, yeah, you'll probably hate it and that's fine with me. I know there's an audience out there that does get it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Austin in 1 week, indie film Marketing

Just in case you haven’t heard: Stomp! Shout! Scream! will have its WORLD PREMIERE at 10:00 PM, on Friday, October 21, 2005 at the Landmark Dobie Theater as part of the Austin Film Festival. The film will screen again at 9:30 PM at the Dobie on Tuesday, October 25. Visit the festival website for ticket info.

There’s one last bit of business left in order to call Stomp! Shout! Scream! really done. The end credits have not been put on the final master tape, but that will happen this weekend. As with most indie films, the credit list is long, but not because there’s tons of crew. The actual film crew is just 20 or so people. There’s just lots and lots of people to thank. And I wanted to let the entire theme song play out since Jennifer and Catfight! wrote and recorded such a fantastic song, complete with hysterical breakdown in the middle. Film festivals usually have film makers do Q & A after screenings, so viewers are usually obliged to stick around through an entire credit sequence. This film’s is pretty long, so to spruce it up a bit, I had renown Tiki artist Derek Yaniger do some character illustrations to intersperse amidst the usual list of names and titles. He’s incredible and the illustrations he did for Stomp! Shout! Scream! are absolutely perfect.

Looming just after the movie’s premiere will be working to put together the DVD. I have almost 10 hours of behind the scenes footage, so it will be a monumental undertaking.

Marketing update: The posters will be ready for Austin and they have turned out beautifully thanks to Buffi at Tweet Design. I splurged on full size movie posters, 27” x 41”. It’s one more thing that will make this low budget monster thing seem like a real movie. The stickers just came in today. Postcards and new business cards are scheduled to arrive the day before I drive to Austin.

I’m constantly praising all the folks who have worked on Stomp! Shout! Scream! and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for making the film so much more than I ever could. Stomp! Shout! Scream! has been incredibly lucky to have such a support “staff” of people who like the project and are willing to work hard and have some fun. That was the plan all along and getting into The Austin Film Festival is proof of lots of people’s good work. I’m sure it will pay off on Friday night.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

sound mix, color correction for Premiere in Austin

Just in case you haven’t heard:  Stomp! Shout! Scream! will have its world premiere on October 21, 2005 as part of the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference.  Visit the festival website for tickets and screening info.

Another part of film making is trying to get people to come see your film.  Newspapers and other press outlets are the best resource for letting people know the details.  It makes me feel like a pimp, selling my product, but I spent the last week working on press releases, credit lists, a “statement of the director”, formatting news articles, etc., to put in the first official press kit.  All that stuff is on the Media page on

Post-production on the film took a couple of major leaps forward this week.  It’s at this stage that you go to the experts and hope they can perform those miracles you always hear about.  Director of Photography Evan Lieberman and I supervised the final color correction in Cinefilm’s Spirit transfer suite. Due to the usual time and money constraints of indie film making, we had to shoot several scenes at the wrong time of day.  Colorist Ron Anderson worked his magic and fixed all the problem scenes, plus greatly improved several scenes that were already looking good.  Now Stomp! Shout! Scream! looks absolutely fantastic.  I can’t say enough about Evan, the extremely talented crew he put together, and Ron’s expertise that combined to get this film looking as good as it does.

Michael and Juan at Soapbox Studios put in a Herculean effort over the weekend to finish the sound mix for the movie.  Once again, there’s nothing like going to the experts and getting them to work their magic.  Everyone involved in the sound mix commented about how we picked one of the hardest possible locations to get quality sound—- the beach, at night.  One long dialog scene has waves, a generator, and RF interference competing with the actor’s lines.  Michael was able to EQ the voices just right and make the scene, and the whole movie, sound better than I would have ever imagined.

Maybe they’re just being nice, but everyone who has helped on the film says that it was great fun to work on.  I started this whole project to have fun with the creative people I know, not because I wanted more work.

Principle photography started one year ago this week. I never thought it would take this long or be this hard, but seeing the color-corrected images finally married up to a pristine sound mix sure feels good. I am really, really looking forward to Austin.

Here's 3 shots taken from Day One of shooting, one year ago today.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Toofy Film Festival, sound mixing, World Premiere

Stomp! Shout! Scream! had its first public showing as a work-in-progress at the Toofy Film Festival last weekend. The audience laughed in all the right places and had nothing but positive comments after wards. It was a great learning experience and quite a thrill to see the film on a big screen for the first time. I could see (and hear) that there’s still work to be done, but the film is close to being complete.

Leading up to the screening, Juan and Tony at Soapbox Studios worked very, very hard to get the audio ship-shape, including a session from 6 pm to 3 am Wednesday, after working a full shift at their day jobs. It’s incredible what professional studio speakers reveal. What I thought was a pretty strong mix coming out of Final Cut turns out to have endless, irritating flaws. No matter how good the location sound is—and this film’s is damn good—once you start cutting it up, you introduce all kinds of problems. In locations like a working garage or a public beach or even in a controlled environment like a warehouse office, sound recordings are just going to be different on different takes. There’s no way to avoid extensive labor when it comes to getting a pristine sound mix. I’m sure the film’s sound will be great, it’s just a much longer run than Juan or I anticipated.

Part of the process of mixing is bringing in the actors to re-read the lines that can’t be used from the location recordings. Its called automatic dialog replacement (ADR), but that’s a misnomer because it is anything but automatic. The actors and Juan did a super job, making something that’s completely disjointed look and sound seamless. The best part was adding in screams of terror. All the actresses have incredible horror screams, but for a distant scream on the beach I put Tony in the booth to perform his best girl scream. It’s awesome.

Saving the best news for last, Stomp! Shout! Scream! will have it’s world premiere as part of the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference. This is a great honor for me and for everyone associated with the production. The film will screen twice during the week-long festival with the premiere on Friday, October 21 (exact time and location TBA). This is the deadline I’ve been waiting for. In the next month Stomp! Shout! Scream! can finally be put to bed, production-wise.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Film Festival rejection, validation

Submitting to film festivals makes me think a lot about the nature of being a film maker. I guess anyone who creates something for public consumption goes through an internal debate over what constitutes success, satisfaction, and validation. So what is it that film makers want? They want total strangers to sit in the dark and like what they’ve created. They want to be liked for what they’ve done. Once you’ve been to a film festival and had even one person come up to you after a screening and gush over how much they liked your film… well, then you’re hooked for life. I have that addiction and I’ve been working for almost 3 years to return to that place. I know there’s an audience for Stomp! Shout! Scream! and getting the film to them is now foremost in my mind.

I have received rejection letters from a few of the big festivals. Toronto, “We regret to inform you that we are unable to find a place for your film in this year’s programme. Large numbers of festival submissions have made the selection process increasingly difficult, and inevitable we must exclude promising films from the Festival.” Sidewalk, “Our screening committees have diligently viewed hundreds of submissions, and valiantly battled in support of their favorite films. We are unable to include many of our own favorites due to the nature of a weekend film festival such as Sidewalk.” Savannah, “Thank you for entering Stomp! Shout! Scream! into the Savannah Film Festival 2005. Unfortunately, your film submission was not selected for final competition.”

No matter what they put in the letter, the clichés always really mean, “We like these other films better than yours.” Rejection letters are infinitely better than no response at all which is totally maddening. No big deal, I tell myself. If I made a film that everyone liked, it would be the most bland, boring turd of a movie imaginable. Festival submissions still outstanding are Austin, St. Louis, Hollywood Horror, F4, Portland Underground, Deep Ellum, and Anchorage. New festival deadlines come around every week and I’ll just keep submitting until someone says yes.

Soon after writing that, one festival DID say yes. The Toofy Film Festival in Boulder, Colorado had invited Stomp! Shout! Scream! to screen as a WORK-IN-PROGRESS on Sunday, September 18. The sound mix won’t be finished by that time-- good enough to be heard in public, just not completely done. If anyone reading this knows folks in Denver/Boulder, please alert them to this screening. I would love a full house and lots of feedback for me to make a better monster movie.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Skunk Ape Trilogy

While Stomp! Shout! Scream! is getting an audio make-over in someone else’s hands, two other tasks are keeping me busy: creating marketing & promotional materials and doing research for the next Skunk Ape script.

Back in the fall of 2003 when I was finishing the writing of Stomp! Shout! Scream!, I realized that that script should be the start of a Skunk Ape Trilogy. I came up with a structure arc for the three movies pretty quickly. #1 was a 1966 Beach Party movie with a Garage Rock soundtrack; #2 , a 1972 Animals Attack movie with Country Music; #3, a 1977 Punk Rock movie (the exact movie genre on this one still isn’t quite clear). Locations through the 3 movies would move east to west: Florida for the Beach Party, the Midwest for the Animals Attack/Country music, and Los Angeles for the Punk Rock finale. Just like in 2003, I’ve been watching all the movies I can find within the genre that I’ll be writing. It’s been a summer of Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Empire of the Ants (1977), Grizzly (1976), The Crater Lake Monster (1977), Frogs (1972), Squirm (1976), and Day of the Animals (1977). And there’s lots more.

Watching ‘50s & ‘60s low-budget monster flicks and beach party movie is tons of campy fun. Watching low-budget ‘70s Animal Attack movies is, well... a chore. The ‘50s & ‘60s films always ended on a moral, just or uplifting note, accompanied by a speech by the lead actor, something like “Man is a thinking creature and as such, the greatest in the universe…” Often the plots in these film were wrapped up quickly, idealistically, always leaving room for hope. The low-budget horror films of the‘70s are universally filled with a palpable, persistent hopelessness. Kingdom of the Spiders ends with Williams Shatner trapped in a cabin. The last shot of the film is a matte painting of the town covered in spider webs. That’s it. Everyone dies. The End. Downer movies are not necessarily such a bad thing as source material for writing a film, but it sure makes for film watching and film making that’s just not much fun. And who wants to make monster movies if they aren’t fun? All this leads me back to what I realized when I started writing Stomp! Shout! Scream!: I have to come up with a good story, populated with interesting characters, and employ only the appealing elements of genre movies to give the film it’s style.

Another part of script research is keenly knowing the location of where things take place. Stomp! Shout! Scream! was set in Florida, partially because I knew I could save money by shooting in my home town, but also because I could clearly picture all the locations in my head while I was writing. For the next Skunk Ape movie, a small Midwest town seems like the right location, even though I’m not certain of my story yet and I’ve never spent any time in the Midwest. So, I took a road trip to Iowa for the 4th of July holiday to visit my friend Mitch and his family. I brought along the Skunk Ape costume and my camera to see how a big black ape creature looked lumbering through the cornfields. It looked pretty awesome.

For marketing and promotion, Tweet Design will be creating the poster, DVD packaging, soundtrack packaging, business cards, stationery, t-shirts, and some undetermined give-a-way item. Marketing a film appropriately is every bit as important as making a good film. I didn’t become a film maker because I wanted to be in advertising and sales, but that’s definitely part of the process. And creating posters and t-shirts for a beach party rock and roll monster movie will most certainly be part of the fun.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Audio Sweetening

It’s been a long summer trying to get Stomp! Shout! Scream! completed. With picture locked, animation and the Hi-Def conform done, the sound mix is the next big step. All the audio post production clichés apply here. “Audio is more than half of the video.” “No matter how good the visuals, you’ll loose an audience if they can’t hear the dialog.” Something I learned succinctly when I started doing short films was that if a film has good professional sound, people will excuse a whole lot of visual, story, and other flaws. Juan at Soapbox Studios has been hard at work and gave the film a great complement when we first got started. He said that the location sound and post production audio was so good that he really doesn’t have much to do, just clean up the dialog and stay out of the way of a good film. I’ve realized that until I have a real deadline-- like a festival screening—there isn’t a whole lot of pressure to finish the audio. So we’ll probably keep tweaking it until the first festival acceptance letter comes in. Hopefully that will happen soon. I’d really hoped to have a cast & crew, family & friends viewing party this summer, but that will just have to wait until after a festival premiere.

On the festival front, submissions are going out every week. I’m doing lots of internet research, looking for festivals with good reputations that have shown films like Stomp! Shout! Scream! in the past. In addition to Toronto, Austin, and Sidewalk, I’ve submitted to some big festivals (St. Louis, Hamptons, Hollywood Horror Sci-Fi and Fantasy), some local ones (Savannah, Asheville), and some that just look like great fun (Coney Island, Rehoboth Beach, Portland Underground, Shriekfest in LA, F4 in Seattle, Rebelfest in Toronto, and Toofy in Boulder). If anyone reading this knows anyone at one of these festivals, put in a good work for me. Thanks.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Animated Credits done, HI-Def conform

The animated opening credits are complete. I’m thrilled with them, although I had a crisis a day after they were delivered. While viewing the edited film with Director of Photography Evan Lieberman, I realized that Theodora, the lead character, is not properly established if the audience doesn’t see her on stage singing the theme song early in the movie. Theodora has to be seen happy and alive on-stage and depressed and cranky off-stage. That contrast sets up her mysterious past and the reveal of that past is the best moment in the film. If I use an animated character in the opening credits, all the audience sees is the cranky side and there’s no sympathy for her.
The main reason I decided to do an animated opening credit sequence was because the footage we shot of the actresses performing the theme didn’t turn out that great. It was our first day of shooting and we just didn’t have time to make it what it needed to be. My dilemma was: use the iffy footage and interrupt the flow of the animation, OR have a main character that isn’t properly established.

Compounding this problem was the fact that my HD conform was scheduled for Monday night after my animation was delivered Friday night. I had one day to find a solution. I tried inter-cutting the live footage with the animation, but that was problematic since both scenes were choreographed and lip-synched to the first 2 verses of the song. My solution was to edit in a chorus & verse that I’d removed long ago to shorten the credit sequence. I put the live footage all together in the middle of the animated credits, used a screen wipe to transition in and out of it and, voila, problem(s) solved. The animation retains it’s punch and integrity. And the live footage is short, succinct and a little surprising after seeing the animation. AND the audience gets to see Theodora happy and rocking on stage. At least, I’m pretty sure it solved my issues. As I’ve said before, it’s impossible for me to really judge the movie with any perspective since this month is the 3 &1/2 year mark since I start writing it.

That HD conform session went very smoothly. The fine professionals at Crawford Post did an excellent job, above and beyond my expectations, especially for a low-budget project like this one. Here’s some geeky movie totals: 77 minutes, 510 edits, one dissolve, two wipes (in the opening credits), two dips to black, one shot was blown up 15% in the film-to-HD transfer. Otherwise, no effects, no compositing. There’s still some color correction to be done for a few scenes, but the picture portion of Stomp! Shout! Scream! is essentially done.

Festival submission deadlines are here and I’ve had to send out tapes with a rough mix on them. While this audio is certainly not bad, I would have preferred to have some kind of professional mix by this point. Hopefully, that won’t detract from the film’s appeal. Toronto, Austin, and Sidewalk in Birmingham all have submissions and tapes. I probably won’t hear anything until August or later, so I’m trying to stay guardedly hopeful. At this point, it’s just depends on whether the movie is good enough or not.

Here's 3 pics of me on Day One of shooting, taking the "director's pose."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Opening credits, first festival deadline

Stomp! Shout! Scream! is approaching it’s first deadline. The entry cut-off dates for the big Fall film festivals are coming up in June and the film still needs to be conformed and mixed in order to be ready. I’ve been saying since day one that a rough cut Stomp! Shout! Scream! just looks like a crappy movie, but an HD-ready, mixed-in-surround-sound, beautiful Stomp! Shout! Scream! is really something. I think it is. I did get a look at the re-transferred HD tapes earlier this week and by all accounts the film is absolutely beautiful. No one will believe that we got the look we got on our budget.

The last month has seen the animated opening credits inch forward. The hazard of working with really talented people is that they’re often very busy. Since I had more time than money (still no money, but now less time), Radical Axis Animation Studios kindly offered to do the animation at a reduced rate in their “down time.” There hasn’t been as much down time as they’d expected and the animation is in need of some work before it’s done. All the pieces are there for a really amazing open, I just hope it’ll be ready when my deadline hits.

As far as the mix goes, I’ve resigned myself to getting a rough mix that takes care of any major sound issues and going back to do a fine-tuned surround mix later. A good 90% of our location sound is perfectly good for the mix, it’s just those few lines that had to be recorded in impossible situations that will need to be replaced. Once again, I’m working with a really talented sound designer, but he’s just been so busy that we haven’t started on the mix yet.

The festival deadline is, of course, a self-imposed one. There are lots of great festivals year-round that I’d be happy to premiere at. The one with the best reputation for being a festival for film-lovers is the Toronto International Film Festival, especially the Midnight Madness Programme. That’s the one festival this fall that-- in my mind-- trumps all the rest. That’s the one I’d hold my world premiere for over any others. I just have to get the film ready and hope they will want to screen it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Slatemen of SSS

Assistant Camera, Hugh Braselton with the smart slate.

Assistant Director, Ales Orr, on Day one of shooting.

Grip/Electric, Tony Holley in Florida.

Grip/Electric Mike Brune (future star of Blood Car)

Tony Holly again, on the beach. Everyone looks really good on 35 mm.

Mike Brune again. Great lighting by DP Evan Lieberman and gaffer Jon Swindall.

Forgot the slate, no time to find it, that's me clapping as a slate.

Actors Mary Kraft, Cynthia Evans and Jonathan Green slate themselves for a drive 'n' talk take.

Last one for sex appeal.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Finishing in hi-def

Another week has gone by and Stomp! Shout! Scream! is another inch closer to being done. I saw more animation story boards this week and heard more soundtrack music. Nothing too huge to report there, so I’ll talk technical about how this film will be finished.

The decision process started back before the first frame was shot. At some point while writing the script, I decided that this movie should be produced as if it was made in 1966-- period costumes, music, locations, etc. Since it was going to be made with limited resources, reproducing the schedule constraints and shooting style of the era’s low budget films would be necessary and stylistically appropriate. I always assumed the movie, at best, would be shot on super-16mm film-- for budget reasons and to maintaining the wide-screen look and feel of film. DP Evan Lieberman and producer Arma Benoit worked their favor magic and delivered a budget that allowed us to shoot on 35mm. Evan pushed hard for 35mm so he could perfectly emulate the bright, over-saturated, primary colors of the ‘60s beach party movies. Shooting 35mm over super-16mm gave me the option of a more traditional finishing process-- cutting the original camera negative as the final conform of the film, as opposed to a video-only post production. The best part of having that option was that I didn’t need to make that film-vs-video decision until well into post production.

Before any decisions can be made on how to finish the film for screenings, I had to speculate how and where the film would be seen. I always saw Stomp! Shout! Scream! as a festival circuit, midnight movie kinda film, with home video/DVD being another way many folks would see the movie. Coupled with the fact that so few films get picked up for distribution, I decided early on to settle for a video finish with the option to get back to the original film negative if the opportunity presented itself.

So here’s the process so far:
1) Cinefilm Atlanta did a ‘one-light’ film transfer (quick and with only the most basic of color correction) of the 35mm film negative to digi-beta video tape, letterboxed for 1:1.85 aspect ratio. Usually, time code (numbers that track each frame of video) and key code (also called edge numbers, which track each frame of film) are put along the bottom edge of the frame. These were left off our transfers because it was thought that these digital beta tapes would eventually be source tapes for the final conform.

2) With the film-to-tape transfer came Flex Files—computer spreadsheets that track the video’s time code (which runs at 30 frames per second [fps]) and the corresponding film key code (which runs at 24 fps). I used Apple’s Cinema Tools software to import the Flex Files and turn them into batch digitize logs that could be imported into Final Cut Pro. I digitized all of the film transfer tapes (about 7 hours) into Final Cut Pro 4.5 at the Cartoon Network production office using Blackmagic Design’s Decklink Pro video card. Normally, you would have to digitize at 30 fps, then re-compress all your footage into a quicktime that runs at 24 fps using Cinema Tools. This is done so that one frame in the computer equals one film frame. The Decklink Pro card comes with a codec (a quicktime format, like MPEG) that digitizes at 24 fps, eliminating one long, tedious step. Next, I had to move all my film footage from the office to my computer at home, which could only edit at DV resolution. I used FCP’s Media Manager to export my project and all my footage into the DV codec and carried it home on a firewire hard drive. I linked the digitized/exported clips to the Cinema tools database and I was ready to edit, with the option of either finishing on video (via an EDL [edit decision list] and the digibeta transfer tapes) or by cutting the film negative (via a negative cut list and a professional negative cutter). I’m editing on a 3 year old Power Mac G4 that feeds video to a Panasonic DV tape deck & a regular old TV via a firewire cable. I’m storing my footage (a couple hundred megabytes) on Medea SCSI drives, but firewire drives would work just as well.

3) The next step was syncing up the video with the location audio, which was recorded on DAT tapes. I digitized the DAT tapes with an old DAT deck at the office using an optical cable that plugged directly into the PowerMac G5. Since I didn’t have deck control and therefore no time code reference, the smart slate used in production (an electronic clapper that has an LED readout showing the rolling time code on the DAT tapes) would not match the TC on my digitized audio. Luckily, the smart slate rarely worked correctly and whomever was slating the scenes would resort to doing an “old fashion”, which means you actually slap the sticks on the clapper together, giving you a visual and audio sync point. Between PA Juston Rindlesbach and myself, we spent about 40 hours syncing the audio and video together. One of the great benefits of working in Final Cut Pro at DV resolution was the ability to copy the whole project and all the digitized footage onto a firewire drive and let Juston take it home and sync takes on his laptop, sitting at his kitchen table.

4) I edited the film. I’ve always described myself as not so much a writer/director, but as an editor with control issues. I really went through the last 2 1/2 years of hard work to get to this point-- so that I would have something to edit, at home, without anyone to answer to. It was truly enjoyable, although with limited numbers of takes and a 75-80 minute movie, I only wish there was more for me to do.

This is were the film stands now. The editing is 95% done. The final pieces of the score will be delivered soon and the picture will then be locked. I’ve decided to spend the money to get to a High Definition master of Stomp! Shout! Scream! It’s expensive (about $6,000) but nowhere near the cost of getting a 35mm film print, ($20,000+) and it allows for more control over editing in the opening and closing credit sequences and color correction of the entire film. I’m gambling a bit on the spread of HD projectors into the film festival circuit, where the majority of my screenings will take place (hopefully), but I think the potential markets for a beach party rock and roll monster movie that’s on High Definition out-way the risks. Here’s how I’ll get there:

5) Cinefilm will re-transfer all the 35mm film negative to Sony HDCAM SR tapes with time code that matches my original film transfers to D-beta. There are other HD formats, but if I’m going to go to HD, I should go for the highest quality available and that’s the Sony HDCAM SR. Normally transferring everything would be prohibitively expensive and you would only transfer the shots used in the final film, but because our shooting ratio was so low (like 4 to 1), it will be quicker to just re-transfer everything, probably about 10 hours of unsupervised transfer time.

6) The thing that makes working in HD so expensive is that only the high-end post production houses can justify purchasing the tape decks. Sony HDCAM or Panasonic D5 decks run somewhere around $100,000. Finding one of these post houses that can work in uncompressed HD and that’s interested in donating time to no-budget indie feature film is not easy. So for the conform, I’ve weaseled my way into a weekend session at [a nameless cable network broadcasting facility located in Atlanta] in their AVID DS suite. The easiest way to move the project from Final Cut Pro to the DS is with a good ol’ EDL. It simply lists the time code and tape number of each shot and where it belongs on the master tape. The latest edit of Stomp! Shout! Scream! has 490 cuts, one dissolve and one fade to black. Simple, with no CGI, no special effects. That’s how Roger Corman would’ve done it and that’s how I’m doing it now.

7) The final step in finishing the video will be to return to Cinefilm with a conformed HD master tape and spend a day or two in color correction. (Concurrent with finishing the video, the sound mix will be completed, but that’s probably another whole, boring journal entry just like this one.)

The reasoning behind all this time and money is to take advantage of High Definition’s ability to be screened in theaters, big and beautiful, on HD video projectors. Plus the thirst for any HD product on television has become voracious. Finally, if the stars align just exactly right and Stomp! Shout! Scream! wins the equivalent of the indie film lottery and gets some kind of theatrical distribution, the path to striking multiple 35mm film prints from an HD master is relatively straight forward.

I’ve been scouring the internet for detailed info just like this from other independent film makers without a lot of luck. Hopefully, this all makes some kind of sense and I’ve helped someone out there.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Scoring, Animated credits

As I mentioned in my last journal, these entries may be few and far between while Stomp! Shout! Scream! makes the last few steps toward the finish line of post production. I didn’t realize it’d be 6 weeks before I’d have anything to talk about.
The film’s score is almost done. Composer John Cerreta has done great work. We’ve met maybe 6 times and at least once a meeting, I giggle to the point of out-and-out laughter. Not because what he’s done is goofy, clown-ish music, but because it’s so perfect for what we’re aiming at.

The animated opening credit sequence is progressing well also. Designer Evan Miga at Racial Axis has done a great job story boarding the sequence. I saw the first rough movements of the animated band playing last week. Animator Todd Redner is using the original footage we shot for the scene as reference to wonderful effect. I can’t thank everyone at Radical enough for the added production value this will give the final film. It’s really going to look great.

Here’s the remaining schedule: another 2-3 weeks to finish the score, 4-5 weeks to complete the animation, Cinefilm Atlanta will re-transfer all the original 35mm film to Hi-Definition tape, the edit will be conformed on HD (more on this later), a day or two of HD tape-to-tape color correction at Cinefilm, and finally I’ll start to mix the sound. As I’ve said before, these last steps are the ones that really make this film so much more than the sum of it’s parts.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

finishing the edit

Four months after finishing principle photography on Stomp! Shout! Scream!, I can see the light at the end of the post production tunnel. There’s a fine-tuned rough cut, completed and delivered to soundtrack composer John Ceretta, a long-time Atlanta musician who’s compositions for the Center for Puppetry Arts’ productions have won him tremendous accolades. John has about 6 weeks to deliver his music and at that point I’ll “lock the picture.” That is, I’ll stop messing with it and call it essentially done. Another exciting prospect in the works is having the opening titles animated at Radical Axis, the company that animates Adult Swim shows. Radical Axis principals Scott Fry and Craig Hartin have been great supporters of this project since the beginning and I’m trilled that we’ll be able to work together.

One major goal I had for the film was to be able to show it in theaters, but generally films with small budgets can’t afford to get a negative cut and strike prints. I'm still trying to work out the details, but it looks like I’ll be able to transfer my 35mm negative to High Definition video tape, enabling the final film to be seen big and beautiful. More and more film festivals and theaters are using HD video projectors to show low budget films, and television has developed a voracious appetite for anything HD. These are excellent prospects for getting Stomp! Shout! Scream! seen by as many people as possible.

The next 2 months will be spent putting the final polishes on the film and, like most of the film making process, it’s pretty tedious and not at all glamorous (and, therefore, these journals may not be as frequent). I hope to have a finished film in May, start submitting to film festivals in June, and premiering in the fall. That sure seems like a long ways away, but I’ve been working on this project since January 2003 and it’s no time to get impatient. The time and effort spent over the next few months is some of the most important in the production of this film. A film like this-- a beach party rock and roll monster movie-- has a built-in audience, but also a limited audience. By putting in that extra bit of energy into the fine-tuning of this film, by polishing this thing until it’s the best looking, best sounding beach party monster movie it can be, I can hopefully push Stomp! Shout! Scream! beyond it’s built-in limitations.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Shooting the flashback on 16mm

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Evan Lieberman and I just returned from a quick weekend trip back to Bradenton, Florida to shoot the last scene for Stomp! Shout! Scream! It’s a flashback where John Patterson tells the story of when his parents went into the everglades to collect samples for their lab and disappeared. Their airboat was found adrift with the smell of the Skunk Ape on it and John has been chasing the creature ever since. The scene is only 6 or 7 shots, about 45 seconds in the film, but it’s pivotal in setting up John’s character. Evan and I have decided to shoot it on 16mm film, using the kind of film stock and cameras that were used in the early 1950’s, the era we’re flashing back to. We’ll shoot everything twice-with two cameras (a Bolex and a Bell & Howell) and two different kinds of film.

My best friend from high school, Rhett, helped out when production was in full swing back in October, cooking for the cast and crew. Now, he’s offered up his Dad’s back yard as our location, a canal off the Braden River, a perfect double for the everglades. And he found an airboat for us to use for the shoot, courtesy of his friend who I only know as "Hoss." Absolutely amazing. Rhett will play the Dad in the flashback. My mom is playing the mom. Playing John as a kid is Will Harrison, the 8-year-old son of family friends.

Evan and I shoot for an hour Saturday morning before the “cast” arrives-- beauty shots, swampy detail shots. We go out in Rhett’s dad’s bass boat and get some shots that glide just above the water’s edge. Will, Rhett, and my mom are all good as the flashback actors and we shoot lots of different set ups. At the end of the day, I put on the Skunk Ape outfit and traipse around the palmettos while Evan shoots from the boat. I don’t know where we’ll use it, but you can’t have enough Skunk Ape footage.

All totaled, we shoot about 20 minutes of film. We’re not sure what it’s going to look like, but that’s all part of the fun.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

DAy 11 Recap

DAY ELEVEN (Saturday, October 16)
Locations: Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida

Our final day of shooting and we have something like 14 pages of script to cover. The long days and nights are starting to wear on the crew. That first day of summer camp attitude is long gone and folks are generally all business. Mostly the attitude is let’s just get this done. Maybe that’s just me, but I’m as ready to wrap this up as anybody. A person can be in charge of everything for only so long.

On set today is my grandmother, Theodora Viola, namesake of the lead character and the fictional band in the movie.

She made a hat out of plastic vines especially for her visit to the set, so she could hide from the Skunk Ape. “Nana” to me, she has invested in the film and has been my greatest supporter in the world. I sent her a script and a picture of the actors we’d cast and she read the script over and over with the pictures of the actors. She was thrilled to meet the cast and everyone on set was immediately charmed by her. There’s a short scene in the film where Deputy Bob has to clear some old folks from the beach, which was the perfect spot for Nana’s cameo appearance. For her scene, she’s sitting in a beach chair with a transistor radio up to her ear and yelling, “What?! What?!” while Bob repeats his lines about the beach being closed. She’s really great in her role and it turns into one of my favorite moments in the film. Later she says that this was the best day of her life.

Early in pre-production, one flaw in the script was brought to my attention. My beach party rock and roll monster movie has no actual beach party in it-- the climatic party takes place at Hector’s garage. All those Frankie and Annette beach party movies were supposedly full of innocent fun, but they still had plenty of scantily clad girls dancing on the beach. It wasn’t appropriate to ask our lead actresses to don bikini and we needed to increase the “jiggle factor’ for potential marketing’s sake. The solution that Evan and I came up with was to change the scene where Bob tries to clear retirees off the beach-- add dancing bikini girls instead of old folks. It wasn’t until noon on our last day of shooting that we actually got our dancing beach girls. They are the baby-sitting friend’s of friend’s of my mom. We had to remove the belly rings and cover up a tattoo or two, but otherwise they were perfect, complete with period bikinis. We shot the dancing scene and got loads of promo pics with them and Ned Hastings in the Skunk Ape outfit. Not surprisingly, this scene also created our largest crowd of on-lookers. In the end, we shot the Deputy Bob scene with both Nana and dancing girls. Both will be in the final film.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Day 10 Recap

DAY TEN (Friday, October 15)
Locations: Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida

Nine days into our beach party rock and roll monster movie and finally we get a full day of beach shooting. In fact, the last two days of production are going to be shot right outside of our production office/beach house. That’s the beauty of exterior location shooting (beach, forest, desert), just turn the camera around and you have a whole “new” location. According to Reagan’s script supervisor reports, here’s what we have left to shoot: about thirty pages of script; 34 scenes, approximate 42 minutes of screen time; two more long, long days. The only encouraging thing is that the majority of the beach scenes are walk ‘n’ talk (a favorite of the no budget film, if you haven’t noticed by now), which require little or no coverage. I’ve planned for simple dolly tracking shots that follow along with our actors, no coverage, no cutaways. The actors just do the scene from start to finish one, two, maybe three times and we move on to the next set up. Hopefully the dialog will be interesting enough and the location visual enough that it won’t matter if it’s not the most dynamic in the world.

Biggest potential problem with beach shooting: sand in the equipment. Compounding factor: a stiff, constant wind blowing along the beach all day. The good work of our camera crew keeps anything from going wrong and we have no problems with scratched film or the camera breaking down.

We shoot one of my favorite setups of the whole film Friday afternoon. It’s scene #30, where the police officers and scientist John Patterson examine the mysterious debris for the first time. We set up a fairly square wide shot with the 4 actors standing in a line on the far side of the debris. As John pokes around in the debris, the camera dollies in toward the actors, settling along the side of the debris, ending in a medium profile of John with the policemen reacting right into the camera. When I first saw the film transfer of this scene, I exclaimed, “It’s a real movie! It looks just like a real movie!” The combination of talented actors, good costumes, a camera department that can execute a smooth dolly move (on the cheapest of dolly track in loose sand), a beautiful location and perfect weather makes for a breath-taking shot. Maybe for the average viewer, it just looks like any other movie, but for me, just getting to that ‘just like any other movie’ quality is quite an accomplishment.

Another fun sequence is the scene where Deputy Frank meets his demise at the hands of the Skunk Ape. Just one week before shooting, the actor cast for Frank had to leave the production. The character has just two scenes, but due to the nature of film scheduling, those scenes have to be shot Tuesday and Friday while we’re in Florida. That means a lot of sitting around for an actor that’s killed off on page 10 of the script. At Evan’s encouragement, I cast Assistant Director Alex Orr in the role after one brief phone conversation. [Alex went on to Direct the awesome film Blood Car a couple years after this.] For anyone who has been on a film set, you know how appropriate it is to have a death scene for the AD. His job is to be the bad guy, to yell at the cast and crew, to keep the entire production on schedule. While Alex is incredible at his job-- he’s kept the production moving without any conflicts or breakdowns-- it’s inevitable that he’s going to get on people’s nerves. For his death scene, the script calls for him to walk up to the debris, hear a noise, peer into the debris, drop his flashlight, and get pulled into the debris with a scream. For the last shot, I want a POV shot from inside the debris. Art Director Lisa Yeiser simply makes a wreath of seaweed and palm fronds to put in front of the camera which we set on the ground tilted up. Ned is nowhere to be found, so Lisa dons the gorilla gloves and crouches just out of frame. Alex leans in (cue creepy music)… the hairy hand slowly reaches up… he screams… and cut to the next scene. It’s too early in the film to reveal the Skunk Ape entirely, so keeping him mysterious will hopefully maintain some kind of tension. That is... until the audience sees the $99 gorilla costume. All in all, Friday is one of our best days shooting. We get all the shots we planned and nobody had to say up all night.