Saturday, 28 May 2011

Jenny Ringo update...

This has been a long time coming. I reached a point where I stopped posting updates because I would've just been listing the number of phone calls I'd made that week to get things moving. Then I promised to do more video diaries but I got busy with writing and couldn't really justify spending three hours on a Saturday filming, editing then uploading a daft video when I was being paid for actual work. But I've made a bit of progress over the last few weeks and hopefully I can say we're close to finishing without having to retract that statement in the next post.

Warning! Incoming tenuous train analogy!

So every morning I get a train from Worthing to Brighton which involves changing trains at Hove. A few weeks ago there were some problems on the line and the connecting train from Hove was delayed. Hove is about 25 minutes walk from where I work and about 10-15 minutes on a bus. But it's only 5 minutes away by train and the next train was only delayed by a couple of minutes. So the most sensible option appeared to be to wait for the train. Only when the couple of minutes was up the train was then delayed by a further 2 minutes. This continued to happen and the whole time I'm thinking maybe I should walk or get a bus.  In the end I waited for the train and ended up being half an hour late. If I'd known the train was going to be delayed by that much when I'd arrived then I would've walked or taken a bus, therefore not being as late. But I didn't know because the train was perpetually 2 minutes away.

Still with me? That's what the last few months of working on my short film have been like. Since January it has seemed like we've been perpetually a couple of weeks away from finishing. But things come up, people get busy, and it gets put off. I know what it's like working on creative projects for free. Those projects will always be the ones that get put to the back of the queue when paid work comes up. Back in March I told a production company who weren't paying me I would get a rewrite finished by the end of that month, but then I got a paid assignment and ended up only finishing the unpaid rewrite last week. Other things get in the way too - personal problems, family crises, medical issues; things that you would maybe work through if you were being paid but put a definite stop to unpaid work. Without getting into specifics, that's why it's taken so long.

Getting back to my train analogy, had I known it was going to take this long back in August I would have looked at other, possibly less convenient options. I don't think walking was ever an option - this would be the equivalent of me buying my own Mac, learning how to use Final Cut and doing the whole thing myself which would a) take ten times as long b) not be anywhere near as good and c) be unfeasibly expensive. That said, I certainly wouldn't attempt something like this again without being able to review the footage on my own system. One of the things that's made this whole process incredibly difficult for me is not being able to see the film or tinker with it myself. Maybe it wouldn't have helped, but at the moment it doesn't feel like it really belongs to me and I would've like to have felt like I at least had a little more control.

I could have taken a bus. I knew other people who could help and was going to use someone else initially for the editing, but working with them would have been a lot less convenient in terms of location. I've always had the option of looking for other people as the process has slowed down but the idea of transferring all the files and explaining what I want to someone I've maybe never met before seems like it would take forever. Plus I've seen people try this before and what inevitably happens is that the new person hates what the first person did so suggests changing the whole thing, stressing that it will only take a couple of weeks. 6 months later and you're in the same position again.

It's not taken forever really. A friend recently finished a film of similar length and scope which took two years to be completed. I know shorts that have taken longer. We're only just past the 1 year mark, but even then that's 1 year since I decided to start making it. We didn't start filming until late June. But it feels like it's taken a long time. I think this is partly because of the momentum we had at the beginning. A film shoot always carries its own momentum - there are always reasons to get it done quickly, like the changing weather, or locations that are only available for a short time, or actors having to go do other things. But for a few months at least we managed to carry that momentum through to post-production. The film was edited in record time and I honestly thought at that stage we were only a week or two away from completion. Then people started to get busy, meetings with the key crew became more sporadic and most of my work on the film became about phoning people constantly to sort out the next meeting. Which gets a bit repetitive after a while.

The other thing that makes it seem to me like it's taken forever is the projects that have been started and finished since I started this one. Mark Moynihan started blogging about his film Little Things back in August 2010 and finished the film in March 2011 (you can watch it here). Perhaps more ridiculously, another friend started shooting an actual feature while I was filming the short and managed to have the film finished for Cannes. Features are a bit different though, especially when there's money behind them. There's a definite deadline with features, hence the saying that films are never finished, just abandoned.

On a related sidenote, I've recently been working my way through the Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels (which wasn't a particularly satisfying use of my time) and found a really interesting documentary on the DVD for the third film. The best DVD extras are the ones where films have gone wrong and those responsible are honest about why it went wrong. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 is not a good film, and arguably would never have been a good film even if it had gone to plan, but the documentary did make me feel for the director Jeff Burr. He wanted his own way and he wanted to do something a bit different but every available creative whim was blocked by the executive producers who wanted the film to come out on time, within budget and with an 'R' rating. And yes these things are all reasonable requests, but they hired a director who wanted to experiment then denied him the opportunity. Plus Burr comes across as a genuinely nice bloke while the executive producer on the doc seems like Satan himself. Ultimately Burr was fired, only to be re-hired when they couldn't find anyone to finish the film.

This is one of the good things about short films. There is room to experiment. There is no real pressure. There aren't usually any serious disagreements. But at the same time with no definite end point (other than me saying when I want it finished by) you can get into situations like this where the process is ongoing for longer than seems necessary.

So to get to the point, earlier this week I did manage to meet up with the sound designer and sorted out where we are. Everything is done apart from recording around 70 sound effects which then need to be edited into the soundtrack. That sounds like a lot but most of them are small domestic things that should be pretty easy to record. We've agreed a deadline of mid-June. After that everything just needs to be synced-up to the film and we should be actually finished, ideally by the end of June. Unfortunately I have now reached the stage where if someone suggests some worthwhile but time-consuming tweak that will improve something that 90% of people won't even notice I'm saying no. I really just want to get it finished now and I am really hoping I don't have to write another post like this in the next couple of months.

1 comment:

hels said...

1) I like analogies too, so I'm going to continue the walking part of it... if you ever find that factoring in to your schedule a really long walk around every street and lane and alley of hove becomes a priority, for navigational and autonomous exercise purposes, you can ask Ant stuff, possibly with an actual, um, parallel walk, right?

As in, if you do decide next time you want to tackle the edit yourself you can ask Ant anything you want about how he goes about it? For one thing, he don't do Macs. He's a strictly Premiere and Avid guy. The newer Premiere is literally identical to the other ones now, practically a copyright infringement. He'll probably never go Apple, and anyone who says you have to to be a proper filmmaker is talking massive mounds of brown nastiness.

2) For one of Ant's feature projects we've actually gotten an outline designed for a documentary of the shoot, precisely so that if it went all Lost in La Mancha we could release that as part of this Fail genre. If the shoot went bad we'd film that, if it was going well, we had a narrative in place of faux fuck-ups for entertainment purposes. Fail production docs are always good. Have you seen American Movie?

3)The whole features being inherently complicated, difficult and pressurised was part my interest in starting something collaborative. As an experiment of course since it would new terrain, but I'm honestly intrigued as to chances of successful and swift completion if several different groups shot encapsulated but relatable shorts on a shared narrative or shared themes, in an Amicus style. That's what Ant's working on right now, in large part relating to your plans. We'll have to discuss soon...

p.s. did you abandon any of those scripts that were requiring oodles of work with no money? Unless of course all of them are paying you now? x