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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 clich├ęs 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.