Soon! – VFX and Subs are done for COMFORT HIM

Current status of production tasks

We finally received the last VFX shot for COMFORT HIM on Thursday the 18th June. The relevant files were then dispatched that night back to Eric Lau for Colour Grading and to Luca De Sensi for the sound mix. And today we finished the subtitles for the three key languages: English, Spanish and Swedish.

So now it’s just a matter of time before COMFORT HIM is out there and people can watch it! Hopefully no more than a week. And hopefully people will enjoy it!

In other news:

I’ve been trying out some new plotting tools and taking a deep dive into story structure:

  • I’ve greatly enjoyed the Screenwriters’ Goldmine course, by Philip Gladwin (sadly no longer live on the internet) – for the best explanation of a complete process to get from no idea, to finished script. It’s an eBook and Audio book combo (complete with example planning spreadsheet tool and beat sheets etc) and it’s good for both Film and TV screenplays – I only wish I’d taken it back when I bought the damn thing! And I wish more people could experience this course!
  • I’m re-reading lots of older texts, but I am also reading some new texts – pictures of the relevant books on my Instagram
  • I just bought a license to a plotting tool – Plottr – on the strength of the ease of use, the fact that it is compatible with Mac and PC and works with dropbox etc, helpful demo videos that they are currently producing and the coming integration with Scrivener, to then import your planning work into that program and take your work into the draft stages.
  • I’m nearly done with the Robert McKee Storylogue webinars, but they’ve been incredibly helpful in clarifying things that I had not properly understood when I first read his books all those years ago.

And why?

– Because I am very much in the planning stage of MR CLEAN the feature. I could have written the damn thing by now. But like the four previous feature screenplays and two novels, I would like to really plan this one out, firstly so that I can create the best screenplay possible, and ease the rewriting process – as opposed to my usual pantsing. But also, for when I consider adapting MR CLEAN as a potential novel. After all, a good friend just read an old script of mine and accurately nailed the structural issues that are preventing it being a top draw action horror script. These would have been easily identifiable if I’d not shirked the previous refresher into story. But yes, time is ticking. Got to get it done! I have one month left!

And lastly, we’re prepping our next short film. Another micro short. It’s tentatively called TVÄTTSTUGA (Swedish for ‘Laundrette’), but actual title to be announced soon. So I’ve been doing a great deal of storyboarding. Not easy with the heat we’ve been having and we’re currently in pre-production on it – and trying to figure out how to make this film, as well as how to make it during Covid.

COMFORT HIM edit is done

End title card for COMFORT HIM

Yes! At long last the edit is done!

Admittedly, we only shot the film in March. But I had still hoped to have finished the edit much sooner. Sadly, Coronavirus has impacted my life in mysterious ways and where I briefly had a period of absolutely no work to do and plenty of time to devote to COMFORT HIM, suddenly I was then deluged with more work than I could handle and not enough hours in the day and some of that work is related to that very virus and various organisation’s efforts to combat it – so in a minor way, I am trying to play my part by helping them. But I shouldn’t complain about the lack of time to edit. For one, the film is now done – at least from my side. And secondly, I am alive and well, currently still employed and have been in isolation since the shoot, where others are unfortunately not so lucky and bad things are afoot in the world. In the scheme of things, my struggle is nothing and I salute those working to make the world a safe place once again, although I fear it will be a long time before some semblance of normality returns…. anyway back to the subject at hand! … Our crazy little micro film idea is soon done.

It’s so nice to have finished the edit for COMFORT HIM. It’s a stressful time though. Right now, four highly talented individuals are looking at pieces of this film, and working through my specific briefs to try and interpret my requests and bring their own unique talent and taste to help craft what is needed, to take this film from a rough and ready completed narrative version, and turn it into a completely new beast – a fully-realised and polished short film that is worthy of being viewed and judged. And I sit here, trying to distract myself by putting the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) together – for when we submit the film to film festivals – and hope that each person somehow manages to elevate my vision to a whole new level that surpasses all of our collective visions. But I am happy that for now I have done my part. When I convinced everyone to read the script and climb aboard this short film crazy train, I made a commitment to seeing it through, as we all did, and it’s another example of the new me actually finishing what I set out to do! No matter what!

The post production team, on this film, is:

  • Albin Larsson (Voxel visuals) – Fresh from his award for the VFX for MR CLEAN, is back in the chair and designing some ways to solve what we couldn’t pull off on set, due to the limited shooting time and logistical issues. Working on 4 VFX shots. And he’s possibly cursing my requests as he tries to make them work with the source footage.
  • Eric Lau – will be colour grading once again. Fresh from finishing the colour grading on LOVELY TO MEET YOU – the film we shot in Barcelona at the end of last year. And if he pulls off what he did for that film, I can’t wait to see the visuals. As LTMY is looking great. We may have to do a bit of rework when we swap the VFX shots in and then regrade them.
  • Flora Cheng, our award winning composer, is once again crafting her own unique music score to complement the film; something which will involve custom designing sounds to fit the style and tone. She’s winning awards for her own work too! So we’re very honoured to have her scoring things again.
  • Luca De Sensi – our Milan-based, award winning Sound Designer / Mixer is also back in the studio and probably scratching his head at how I’ve organised and named all of the files and essentially looking to organise, rebuild and polish the hell out of all of the sound elements. Eventually combining it with the music score to mix it sublimely.

Soon I hope that we can all see and share the finished film. I for one, am more excited than anyone to see it! And it will be great to see it finally come together, all wrapped in a nice bow and given a seal of approval from the production team and the cast and crew.

And then we’ll ultimately know whether it’s a hit or a miss, once we come to share it and see if anyone notices or cares. So far those that have seen it, even without the VFX and score etc, have liked what they’ve seen. But maybe they’re all biased? 😉

And for now, I’ll continue with the EPK, the day job and twiddling my thumbs in anticipation of each of the four segments of post production coming together…

PS – everyone keeps asking when they can see the trailer. There is no trailer. It’s a 1 minute 20 second movie. It’s short enough already!

We’re all flawed – Final cut achieved

We’re all flawed – Final cut achieved

We’re all flawed… Very much me. Very much whatever I produce. But isn’t that what makes us unique?

I think if anyone ever consciously creates anything it usually doesn’t match what the original idea was, once executed. Even a child. I doubt anyone truly conceived the thing that has become me. It’s all one happy accident – a combination of numerous random factors and lots of added road miles and chemicals.

It’s very rare that the film you set out to make is the one you release. It’s no surprise that the editing process is often described as the third stage of the writing process – you write the film, you rewrite it in pre production and during the actual shoot (problem solving and adapting to reality) and then you rework and refine it in the edit, based on what you actually shot. Often compromise is heaped upon compromise and small changes reset the whole, as a result of the effect of collaboration with others.

This film is definitely not what I set out to make at the start. In fact it is bigger and more ambitious. Plotwise, it was a fun way to make a simple short, which could give Darwin and I something to do. Technologically, it would be a useful test of the Gh5 camera I purchased. Scopewise, it was simple – shoot it at home, mostly in a controlled environment and with a limited crew. We didn’t know anyone. We wanted to establish ourselves in Sweden as filmmakers and build a small network of likeminded collaborators. As with many endeavours, our desires overtake our ability in some ways and soon the plot became more ambitious, making the radio DJ and Studio a much more significant part of the film. Then I thought “why not throw in some FX in to the mix?”. This all impacted the Scope, the duration and the budget and the time to get it all done.

The shoot was chaotic at times, but mostly went well for our first shoot working together, despite cinematographers not showing up and not having enough people. With enthusiasm we shot stuff we hadn’t planned on getting. Brief moments became much longer scenes. And we also didn’t get stuff we planned to shoot – partly due to losing control at a few brief but significant moments. All of this added to the complexity of the edit task and once it grew beyond the script it became much tougher to reshape. But it’s all in the past now…

For my part, I inherited the edit, 4 months after having shot the film and having to start it from scratch, due to cross-compatibility issues with files across Premiere and FCP X. Mainly because I refuse to keep paying monthly fees for a buggy sluggish editing programme. Darwin had realised that our estimated 3 week edit timeline was unrealistic and then he’d begun to doubt and move on to other things and it was clear he was not moving forward with it. But I then had to pay the price of a blank slate and try and make up for lost time, when I took it all over. And in that time, the 6.5 months that followed, I had to first identify every shot I liked, then get that timeline down from 33 minutes of footage that told the story I wanted to tell, to the 6.45 mins of finished film that I have now. Constantly trimming and rearranging clip orders and trimming some more. – While also having a day job, writing a new script and shooting that film this summer…

Throughout, I’ve doubted myself constantly. Am I making the right choices? why didn’t I shoot X? How can I weave a narrative from this? Have I weaved a worthy narrative from this? Am I going insane? I must be insane to try and do this for an October 31st premiere? etc. And will anyone even care?

I’d like to think that there are less flaws with each successive project that I work on. That’s definitely what I aspire to – to improve upon everything I do. I think in many respects, this is my best film yet. But despite this, I am well aware of every flaw. How could I not be, after seeing the same shot hundreds of times and each one in a gamut of variations? And all while knowing what my original vision was for each tiny moment.

Essentially, I guess you could say that I am now in the Fine Cut stage. Which means that we have locked picture. We are now working on sound mixing and scoring and colour grading the film for its premiere screening. Is this merely like rolling a turd in sparkle and trying to make it something better than it is? I hope not. I hope the film is well received when the cast and crew see it. I hope that it doesn’t get a drudging by the critics and viewers and I hope that festivals treat it kindly. I hope for all of these things. But even if it gets a kicking from all quarters, I know that I am proud that I have seen it through this far and also will hopefully soon do so to the very end. And that is what I set out to do. I needed to finish this film. I have much more to make. And getting this film done is key to boosting my confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. It’s not perfect, but what films are? I will love it, despite its flaws. I will love it because of its flaws…

So far only a select few have seen the film in its current state. Darwin has suggested edits that have helped (especially one that revealed a continuity error) and others that sought to make the film more linear, until it then highlighted other shots we never got, that would have made that plan work. But it did highlight the fact that two shots I’d considered getting since the original shoot, were still needed to provide a more pleasing ending. As soon as Darwin came back from the US, we got the crew together again to do a fun pickup shoot and snag those shots in true guerrilla style (pics below).

The Composer (Flora) and Sound Mixer (Luca) obviously need that locked cut / edit in order to help them achieve their roles. The VFX Designer (Albin) needs them to work his magic etc. The only question for me is will I have to colour grade again or can I get some much needed professional eyes on this? Oh and the bonus question is always – will we get it done in time? The timeline is ridiculously tight. I am well aware of that. And it’s all my fault. If I had been quicker, the pressure would definitely be on me and not on others. I apologise profusely. But sh*t happens. But let’s hope that something marvellous happens under that pressure and things come together. And let’s hope that no one is broken because of the pressure of this deadline.

And regarding speed. How can you rush your way through an edit, where you essentially don’t know what the final point needs to look like – because the story you shot is more complex than the one you wrote? You can’t. Not really. And not when you have a job that has overly ambitious deadlines you also need to hit. Because. Wages… and then factor in a laptop needing a completely new keyboard and having to go away for two weeks, and software updates breaking the software – which took time to fix – and crashes, not just for me but also while Albin is rendering VFX. oh and having to edit a trailer you never knew you were expected to produce – because who puts trailers together for short films? – apparently it is a thing now. Lesson learned. All of this slows things down.

But there is always value in this process. You learn. All through the doing and failing, you learn and you improve. The lessons learned on this film helped make SVEN GUNNAR a much smoother shoot and edit I am sure. And, the way I feel about this short, is that the effort I have put in is akin to that of what working on a feature must be like. So why not tackle something bigger and more ambitious in the future? it certainly hasn’t put me off – although in the darker periods I’m sure I felt very differently about the struggle I was going through. …

In fact yes, there have been some very dark times. There has been sickness and stress, tears and self-recrimination and illness. There has also been laughter too, sometimes giddy and hysterical or drunken. And the metre has swung from abject loneliness to feeling like I belong to a tight-knit group of co-located professionals and also wondering why no one gives a shit about this epic one-man struggle of creation? Who will see anything other than a flawed, odd, film just shy of the 7-minute mark?

In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? No. Do I matter? No. You are always the only one that cares about your own movie. No one else will ever love it as much as you. And in this time of short attention spans and scrolling timelines, who can get anyone to really care anymore? So why do it? God knows. I only know that despite all the pain, it is a damn sight more interesting than the rest of my life and at the end of it I’ll have something to show to mark the time. And thanks for all the fish…

If you want to learn more about the film editing process, to understand why I’ve taken so damn long, READ MORE.

And as always, if you read all of this, thank you. But why? What makes you tick? What flaws do you obsess about?

And let me know if you want to watch this film when it’s finally done? And tune in after the 31st to find out if we made our premiere and if so, in what form?

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE – 10th laurel and more…

It’s been a while! Not a particularly great period – but I’ll get to that in a bit – but there has been some good news:

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE has made it into the Aasha International Film Festival India. Nice. Not only is this just great news because a film festival wants to screen our film, but it’s also the 10th laurel to date for our film!

 Don't forget to breathe film poster with laurels

The keen eyed will notice that the next festival we’ve been selected for is next year, in May. So it will be awhile before we find out how we placed in that festival.

But DFTB has also been selected for potential screening, subject to contracts / agreements, on TV in Latin America. This is also great. Every bit of exposure and every new viewer is most welcome.

So that’s it for the film festival / screening news…. so what else has been going on?

… Well I’ve been editing. At a snail’s pace, it feels. But I’ve been editing. Namely I’ve been working on polishing the teaser trailer for MR CLEAN, working our excellent composer Flora Cheng, our talented sound mixer / designer Luca De Sensi, on getting the sound mix just right, struggling to get Darwin’s After Effects animations working in FCP X and then rebuilding them all the way I wanted them in Motion instead and trying my hand at colour grading – and no I am not a colour grader! But hopefully, soon, I can release the MR CLEAN teaser trailer and resume editing on the film.

I have been editing the short film of MR CLEAN as well, of course, but I’ve been facing some technical challenges, including a failing keyboard on my Macbook Pro, which resulted in the machine being taken into the shop for a replacement – which if you don’t know, is a major piece of work! And it left me with no option for editing for 2 weeks. That and a stress-related illness has meant for a fun summer I can tell you. lol. The self-imposed countdown to a premiere is approaching. We’re hoping to screen MR CLEAN on Halloween. So every minute counts. There are some VFX in progress, thanks to Albin Larsson – so I can’t wait to see them and share them with you.

But the main battle I’ve been facing is pushing on, despite doubting whether the film will even be any good? Will it be worth it? The fact that a film takes longer than you expect to produce seems to add more and more weight and expectation to the fact that it was shot as a bit of fun, to give me something to do – and has instead become a veritable burden. It is a challenge. I must complete it. But in no way is this fun. This is war.

Anyway, enough. Back to it. Mush!

Sometimes you need to step away…

Sometimes you just have to step away from the computer. 

Seriously. I will explain:

On Sunday, I’d worked hard creating a layered graphic in GIMP (the free graphics tool), and imported a .PSD file into FCP X – my video editing programme – to edit the end title card of the teaser trailer – the bit that just says ‘coming soon’….. It was a copy of the intro title card, with some slightly different wording. Exactly the same as the Intro Title card in design / no settings changed. 

I imported it into FCP X and it came out blank. All the layers were black. There was no visible workable data. Even changing the file name and reimporting or trawling GIMP and FCP message boards didn’t help. In the end I just gave up.

I sat before the same computer this afternoon, and I was planning to recreate the same title card, to find a workaround, but figure that before I do that I will give it one last go. And… It worked first.f@cking.time! WTF!

I’m kind of Hapgry… or Angpy… not sure what is the best combination of the two emotions in one word. Happy that it now works, but angry that something that should have worked first time did not and all that has changed is that I have not had time to tackle it again since Sunday!

But if you want to know why editing can take so damn long some times, hopefully the above clears a few things up. But maybe life was just telling me to step the hell away for a bit and do something else for a while.

If you google the issue – in the past it seems that this was caused by people doing 16-bit graphics, and changing to 8-bit fixed it. And of course previous FCP X updates addressed this issue with PSD files not displaying correctly. But what do we do when FPC X doesn’t play well with perfectly good files? What do we do when a reboot won’t fix it? What do we do when we’re up against an urgent edit timeline and nothing logical seems to fix it? – Personally I don’t like those stakes. But it’s something that should be considered if you’re ever working with layered graphic files in your edit.

Anyway, now the edit of MR CLEAN can continue…..

Transcoding DSLR footage and Radial Dolly

Great article video on using FCP Studio’s Compressor app to Transcode footage for your editing workflow. Obviously the same principles apply to working with iPhone 4 footage etc.

The article: http://filmmakeriq.com/2010/01/the-dslr-filmmakers-workflow/ – and check out all the other articles on the site. There’s some really useful material on there.

The video:

Here’s a great example of what can be shot on the 550D – if you know how – and combined with CG to create a stunning final product:

The 3rd Letter (aka “36 stairs”) trailer from grzegorz jonkajtys on Vimeo.

Nice.

Here’s another great video to show the kind of audio setup you can use to record separate audio and when to use software like Plural Eyes to sync it up later on your timeline for post:

How-to: Shooting ENG style with Dual System Audio on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from Createasphere on Vimeo.

Yes, my brief encounter with a Canon 550D DSLR has inspired me. I am geeking out on the kind of footage that can be acquired. Especially when you factor in this cunning design for a tabletop Radial / Micro Dolly!

here’s the video to show you how they made it, with example footage: