Photo by Liz Merriman.
Well, that's just about it for 2012. It's been a heck of a year for me. Of course, I directed my first feature this year -- BLACK PAPER. Post-production is coming along quite well, and you can watch the teaser trailer here. But lots of other great things happened this year, too.
In January, Ryan Leeder and I signed an option for a feature screenplay we'd written called THE BOILING POINT. We're still waiting for the film to be shot, but it's great to have an option. Also in January, I directed VANISHING ACT, which I consider my best short film. It played at the East Lansing Film Festival in November, and it's been sent to lots more festivals.
This summer saw the launch of the first Hank Danger radio play -- HANK DANGER AND THE ISLAND OF FIRE!
To top it all off, December 13 marked the twentieth anniversary of the making of my very first short film. Back in September, I hosted a retrospective screening of some of my work to celebrate that milestone.
So all in all, 2012 has been a great year for me. I hope it's be great for you too. I couldn't have accomplished what I did without all the other people involved in those various projects. You know who you are, and you're amazing. Here's to 2013 (and the release of BLACK PAPER)!
Chuck's Boy is pleased to announce the release of the official BLACK PAPER teaser trailer! Happy Christmas!
Over the weekend, I finished editing the rough cut of BLACK PAPER! It's currently about 90 minutes long, but that will probably change a little as I fine-tune the cut.
I'm also working on color correction at the moment. The film's in black & white, but some of the footage came out a little dark, so I need to brighten it up and make sure it's all consistent. I've been testing that stuff out on the teaser trailer. It's not ready for release yet, but it's getting close. Composer Chris Porter sent me a draft of the teaser's score this week, and it sounds amazing. He has a solid understanding of the film's aesthetic, and the music clearly reflects that.
On the whole, I'm quite pleased with the film right now. It's nowhere near finished, but I'm confident that it's going to be a nice piece of independent cinema.
Photo by Liz Merriman.
Well, all the footage has been converted into a usable file type, and after two weeks of work, all the audio has been synchronized with the picture. So now, I'm editing the rough cut of BLACK PAPER.
For those of you unfamiliar with the post-production process for motion pictures, allow me to explain. During production, we shoot lots of footage of all the scenes. Then, an editor (in this case, me) has to assemble all the appropriate pieces of footage into a coherent movie.
Sometimes the pieces fit together very well. Other times, there are issues that make the puzzle a little trickier. For instance, if someone's hand is positioned a certain way in one shot, but is positioned differently in the next shot. That leads to what's called a continuity error. The editor has to try to cut down on those. If the script supervisor has done a good job on set, there shouldn't be too many continuity errors to worry about in post.
The editor also controls the pacing of the film. If I want a certain moment to play out a little longer on screen than it did on set, I can find ways to manipulate the timing of the footage to that effect.
The rough cut is the first edited version of the film. It's not polished or finished, but it gives the filmmakers an idea of what the finished picture will look and feel like. Sometimes the rough cut is very different than the finished product. For example, when Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, saw the rough cut of that film, he thought it was the worst thing he'd ever seen. But that was just the rough cut.
Once the film is edited and polished, it undergoes a process called color correction. In the case of BLACK PAPER, that means that the entire film will be converted to black & white and the contrasts will be adjusted. The film's sound will also need to be edited and mixed so that different audio tracks are set at the appropriate relative levels. And to top it all off, a composer will write music to score the film. We have a very gifted composer on board for that: Chris Porter, with whom I've worked many times.
So right now I'm on the first step: the rough cut. I'm almost twenty minutes into the picture already, and it's not the worst thing I've ever seen. In fact, I think it's pretty good. But then, I am a little biased.
Photo by Liz Merriman.
That's it, folks. Production on BLACK PAPER wrapped on Sunday the 18th. It was a wild ride, but we got through it.
I am so very proud of my cast and crew. These are some talented, hardworking people, and I would be glad to work with them again. I am eternally grateful to my director of photography Anthony Griffin, the 1st AD John Kangas, and the production manager Liz Merriman, as well as all of the other crew members who put so much work into this project.
These actors are among the finest I've worked with. David Gries, Joseph Scott Anthony, and Robert William Ford lent brilliant subtlety to their supporting roles. And then there are the leads. Dana Blackstone and Jack Michael Findley. Good grief, are those some talented performers. It's thrilling to see such dedication and commitment on set.
I'm pretty well exhausted now. It was an intense eight days of shooting, and I basically collapsed when it was all over, particularly since the final day was such an emotional roller coaster.
Still, the footage looks great, and I'm eager to start editing.
Again, thank you to everyone who has supported this project -- whether by direct participation, through financial support, or just by praying like the dickens for us. I feel truly blessed to have been surrounded by such a great team both on and off set. Here's to the future of BLACK PAPER ...
That's me directing Dana on Day One. Photo by Liz Merriman.
Yesterday we wrapped on the fifth day of production on BLACK PAPER. It's been a roller coaster so far.
Every day throws new challenges at us -- difficult lighting or camera set-ups, challenging scenes for the actors, scheduling issues -- but we're all eager to tackle those challenges with gusto. I can't tell you all how proud I am of my crew, and I'm humbled by the superb performances of my extraordinary cast. They're all great, but I have to give particular credit to my two leads -- Dana Blackstone and Jack Michael Findley -- for so skillfully bringing insight and nuance to two of the most difficult roles I've ever written.
Today we're all resting ... or at least trying to. There have been some late nights and tensions have run high more than once, but we're taking it in stride. Tomorrow, we'll be back to work and eager to finish up production on a feature film that I truly believe we will all be proud to have worked on.
Photo by Liz Merriman.
Well, production on BLACK PAPER begins tomorrow. I don't know how often I'll get to post on here during the shoot, but I'll at least try to update on our day off.
Things are moving well. We have a great crew. Pre-production is progressing well. The actors are top-notch. But on this last day before we gather on set, rather than dwell on these logistical things, I'd like to share something that just happened on my lunch break.
A colleague and I left work to grab some pizza-by-the-slice at a little local place that we frequent. We were walking downtown talking about the frustrations of making this film when I heard someone calling to me. I looked up and saw my old buddy Justin. He works not far from my place of employment, and I've been meaning to stop in to say hi for the last two months. And naturally, I've just been way to busy to do it.
I met Justin when we were in third grade, and he was a huge part of my early filmmaking endeavors. All through junior high and high school and even into college, when we weren't playing "Super Mario Kart" or "GoldenEye," we were collaborating on silly little video projects. He's a hilarious guy and has great comic screen presence. I can't even count the number of movies we made together in those days.
But of course, the years pass, and lives take different paths. We keep in touch -- sometimes on Facebook or occasional birthday phone calls or texts -- but it's been probably three or four years since the last time we met in person. And today of all days ... the day before I'm on set for my first feature film ... that's the day I happen to see him on the street.
All the stress, all the chaos, all the uncertainty ... and then that moment. I felt like God just sort of patted me on the back and reminded me that this is the path I was meant to take. All those silly films all those years ago were leading to this day -- this time in my life and vocation. And in that moment, the frustration left me.
I'm about to take a huge step as a filmmaker. Yes, it's a very small film. Yes, it's a story with a small, niche audience. But the thing is, I'm producing and directing a feature. And how many of all those kids who play with their parents' camcorders in junior high make it to this point? Not many, I'd wager.
I feel honored and privileged to be working with the enormously gifted cast and crew that have joined the BLACK PAPER team. And I'm certain that this film, whether it turns out beautifully or horribly, will lead to even better things farther down this path.
Thanks to everyone who is supporting me and this project. I couldn't do it without you.
BLACK PAPER begins production one week from today! It's coming up fast, but the team is pulling together to make this feature film happen.
Liz Merriman has recently come on board as our production manager, and she's doing a bang-up job helping to find people to fill the remaining crew positions.
I think we pretty much have our locations figured out now, too.
More rehearsals this week. Scheduling tomorrow. Magic on the 10th.
Photo by Liz Merriman.
Last Tuesday night, we had our first rehearsal with Dana Blackstone and David Gries. It was great. They both have a solid understanding of their characters. Rehearsals will continue on Monday, and this weekend I'll be meeting with John Kangas, the first assistant director, and Anthony Griffin, the director of photography, to work out the schedule for each day of production.
I finally have a location for the mental hospital. It definitely has more of a rest home vibe, and I think that's totally appropriate. There are some fun visual elements there that I'm eager to play with. I also have a good option for the art gallery now thanks to actor Bob Ford.
So now my shot list is basically locked, and we're making good progress in each department. I still need a few more crew members, but we'll get there. The IndieGoGo fundraising campaign didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but it did bring in some funds. I've also been able to raise some additional money outside of IndieGoGo. If you'd still like to contribute, please let me know, and we'll arrange something.
I can't believe we start shooting a week from Saturday. This is nuts, and I love it.