the journey of a first-time filmmaker through the eyes of a software engineer — part 3—post-production
The lessons I learned during the post-production process were the most painful ones. During the editing process, you “harvest the fruits” of the choices you made during the pre-production and the actual shooting of the movie. Editing “Aloneness” was very difficult for many reasons, some of which I am not at liberty to talk about. It didn’t have to be that hard as I learned later when we started working on “Collage”.
In my first post, I talked about the importance of having a storyboard and we had it for “Aloneness”. However, I have not seen how the drawings translate to the actual footage. I was playing the perfect movie in my head based on the script and the shot list, not realizing the trap I was falling into. I thought we had all our bases covered with the angles we decided to use and for the majority of the scenes we did. However, there was one scene that turned out to be extremely hard to edit because it was long and dialogue heavy. If we had more variety in shots it would’ve been much easier to put together. I have met many editors since I moved to Los Angles and all of them say one thing: “There is never enough coverage”.
The storyboard for “Collage” was very different. I didn’t draw it, I filmed it on my computer. In “Collage”, the story unravels on a computer screen of one of the characters; so, I simulated most of the movie on my screen. During our pre-production meetings I showed this footage to my director of photography, my editor and my animator/compositor - “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
In “Collage”, we had to use animation to simulate the computer screen and composition to assemble this animation with the footage we shot. The day before we were supposed to start this process, a friend of mine who was going to create and compose the animation bailed out. It was not a good day. I just finished a ten-month production process of “Aloneness”, I was exhausted. I had the footage cut and synced with the sound and no one to put it together. Even with all the highs and lows of the moviemaking not once did I have the desire to quit. No, I am not a hardcore badass. I felt responsible to all the people who worked with me on these movies and I couldn’t leave the work I started unfinished. So, that night I pulled myself together and posted an add on craigslist. Within less than 24 hours, I got 19 applicants.
As I was flying from San Francisco, I was going through everyone’s portfolio and I found a few that were very promising. After multiple emails and several interviews, I had my animator/compositor and we were back on schedule.
On a side note, out of 19 applicants, only 2 were women. This is not shocking to me, I have seen the lack of diversity across all industries I worked in. I was the only woman among 8 white males at the commercial loans approval meetings when I worked in finance. I was the first female software engineer hired by my company when I started working in tech. And based on the research conducted by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film — “Women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250(domestic) grossing films of 2014. This is the same percentage of women working in these roles in 1998.”
The rough cut of “Aloneness” was over 15 minutes without credits and the final cut was 11 minutes 40 seconds with credits. A five-minute difference might not seem like much, but it was an eye-opening experience to see how just two seconds can make a drastic difference in the feel and flow of a scene.
I used to get uncomfortable at seeing myself on a screen, but since I had to watch my face hundreds of times as we were going through the editing process I learned how to dissociate myself.
We had an original score written for “Aloneness” by amazing Steve Gibons. The process was fascinating. During our first call, Steve lives and works in Chicago, we talked about the script and the rough cut that I shared with him. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to convey with music, I also wanted it to use only one or two instruments. We decided to use violin and piano. It was a very collaborative process, he would send me samples and then play the pieces I selected while on a call, then I would give suggestions on lowering the pitch in some places or changing the tempo in others. I was very happy with the final result and forever thankful to Steve.
Before we could wrap the work on “Aloneness” we decided to do a color correction. Me and my co-producer, Noel Olken, sat with our colorist Moritz Fortmann for more than eight hours in a dark room editing a 10-minute movie. The final result was totally worth it!
In “Collage” my goal was to establish characters and their back-story through the things that are shown on the computer screen. There are clues sprinkled across every frame of the movie. I understand that the audience might not pick up on some of them, but I believe that details are very important. For example, the movements of the mouse on the screen are very specific to the character who controls it. The timing of the elements that show up on the screen were also specific and I think I drove Tahira Ali, the animator/compositor, insane with the multiple adjustments I wanted to make.
Now that both movies are complete the only thing I have left to do is to sit and wait on hearing from festivals. As I compared short films to MVPs in my first post, festivals are like rounds of fundraising with VCs, incubators, and accelerators. Submitting to festivals is not cheap, for short films a typical regular submission costs between $40 and $65 and you do not submit to one festival only. Exposure is very important and for me it’s everything. Being selected for a festival opens many doors and gives an opportunity to meet other directors, producers, writers, actors, distributors. It takes a lot of people to make a good movie and I am only beginning my journey; so, wish me luck ;)