Wednesday, June 25, 2008

One Bite at a Time

Thy Lovely Apple Store
On Saturday I spent over an hour at the Crabtree Valley Mall Apple store. What a delicious place to spend time. I have been avoiding the store because every time I go in, I get convinced that I need to spend a few thousand on software or hardware that I probably could have lived without.

But this time I went in with a purpose: buy Final Cut Pro and an external hard drive. I had grown tired of waiting for someone to help me with the digitizing. Whether or not I would make the money back, I figured it was worthwhile enough to go slam a credit card down and buy it myself anyway.

Well, that’s what I thought. Then I started talking to a Mac Genius, who went over the system requirements for the program. Compared to the general public, I feel like I know a thing or two about using a Mac. Then I walk in there, and realize how little I actually do know! (My parents are right; I suppose it is all relative.)

We discussed the program, and how I can’t return it after I open it. So I had better be sure that’s what I wanted and it could work on the G5 I have waiting for me at home. He asked me a lot of highly technical questions I had no answers to (yet again). This seems to be a theme for this project. It’s happened at every turn: camera store, Apple store, requesting estimates, etc. I have gotten quite the education! Pretty soon I’ll be throwing jargon out left and right.

Anywho…I got home on Saturday and sat the heavy boxes on my kitchen counter, excited but too nervous to open them. Sunday would be the day instead, I told myself.

Well, Sunday came and went. Some how I managed to sleep through the day, despite having woken up at the regular 7:30 a.m. call of Louie to eat. At about 2 p.m., I laid down from a headache and slept off and on until about 11:30 p.m. The strange coma-like sleep made me realize how much I must have needed to rest. On Monday night, I slept another 12 hours. Again on Tuesday night I slept about 10 hours.

Today, for the first time in a few days, I am feeling myself again. Work hard, play hard? That’s been my motto, but some times you need to stop and sleep, I suppose! I am happy to report that I am much more rested today, and feel like myself again.

My Distaste for Time Warner Cable
Last night, though, was completely wasted. I finally got the courage to install Final Cut Pro on my computer—meaning that I was fully committed to owning the program once I had opened the box. I inserted the first installer CD, only to find out that, in fact, my computer was not up to snuff on the requirements. My operating system is behind, and my hard drive might not have enough operating power.

Without internet connection for a week, I was finally motivated to fix the problem. Three hours later, I still had no internet connect, though. I had been on hold with TWC for entirely too long, and the Road Runner online assistance was of no support in any fashion. This morning I gave them an earful about how poor their customer service was last night, and the rep continued to tell me she couldn’t do anything about it. Finally, I got a supervisor on the line with some inkling of intelligence. He did his best to mend what about six others had managed to destroy, and now I am only mildly pacified. My anger towards waiting on hold so long has yet to dissipate.

Tonight, I am hoping that I will go home to an internet connection so that I can finally install Final Cut Pro (FCP).

Digitizing and Editing
Many other conversations are in motion, though. I bought FCP so that I could do the digitizing myself. However, it would be much more agreeable to work with a trusted partner to do this for us. I have put a few requests out there, and have gotten some guidance and perspective from folks that do this for a living. One student has provided an estimate for me, and a friend has agreed to meet on Saturday to talk more about the project. Although I feel like this is moving forward at a snail’s pace, I am trying to be patient and know that it will happen.

There are a lot of fears about handing someone my mini-DV tapes to be digitized. For one, there’s no other copy of the interview. If something happens to those tapes, I’ll have to conduct that interview all over again. That is not possible with the time line we’re working on, and even if it were possible that would be embarrassing to have to conduct the same interviews over again. These people have shared so much with me, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to not trust me because of a minor thing like a tape being destroyed or lost.

Beyond that, I have a lot of concerns about handing my work off to someone. Perhaps I am being too paranoid, but I have been burned in the past and certainly don’t want our hard work to be claimed by someone else before we even get the film out to the public. But, experience teaches you the hard way. As I said, I’ve been burned in the past, and I certainly don’t want anything like that to happen with this project.

Regardless of my concerns, these conversations have me in a hopeful state that this will happen some time very soon. And, if I cannot find a trusted partner to digitize the tapes and help with the beginning stages of editing, I now know that I can handle that once I get my G5 up to par so it can run Final Cut Pro.

Screening Events
My mind keeps jumping forward to screening events. For whatever reason, I cannot stop thinking about this next stage of the project. I keep trying to stay focused on what needs to happen now, but I suppose my full time job as a planner has me conditioned to not waiting until the last minute to set events in motion. If you know me well, this is a huge shift from where I was years ago. If ever there were a procrastinator, it was me! But, now, I see that you have to plan months in advance to make an event like what I have in mind take shape.

So, over some of those sleepless nights in the past week, I have created a list of venues for some of these screening events. The list came as a reaction to conversations with various people who have found out about this project. As more and more people find out, they want to know more (specifically when they can see the final product). I’m starting to understand a lot about the way Hollywood works from this project: red-carpet events bring everyone together after the months of hard work in production and give everyone a chance to celebrate this thing they have created together.

Some of the event venues that keep coming back to mind are local, but eventually I would like to focus on statewide screenings. Places like The Rialto, ComedyWorx and the Brier Creek Country Club are at the top of my list right now. I have already spoken with managers at each of these locations to find out how much it would cost.

I’d like to have a private screening for anyone involved with the film. Sort of a first draft preview so that we can make any edits needed before it goes to the public. I learned the importance of critiques in college, and rely heavily on my family for present-day critiques. To not have that chance in filmmaking (before going public) is a bit frightening, so I want to give these valued players a chance to preview the film first. It also offers a chance to thank them and bring them together, to build camaraderie and trust, to talk about the past, and to look hopefully into the future. I feel like that is the least I can do for those who took the time to sit down with us and talk about their experiences.

Last but not least, I want to use these events as a means to raise funds for the film and the Montagnards themselves. These details have not been fleshed out, as I have to focus on the tasks at hand. But my mind does jump forward to this matter frequently.

Eat an Elephant One Bite at a Time
There is much to do, and very little time. I realized today that July starts next week. We are aiming to have the project completed by September, which means we only have two months left to work on it. There are a handful of other interviews I would like to conduct as well. Time is of the essence, to be sure! But the only way to get something huge completed is to take it one step at a time. Thankfully, there are many people supporting this project. And, that is a reminder to me of the very reason why I adore the film industry as much as I do: collaboration. Everyone has their role to play. And, as cheesy as it sounds, together we can do great things.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Between Here and There

I'm deliciously exhausted. The past week was a challenging one, but I feel that quite a bit has been accomplished. It's very exciting!

At Southeastern Camera (Again)
On Friday, I returned the loaner camera to Southeastern Camera and picked up our Canon XH A1. Always anxious to unwrap new toys like Christmas morning, I pulled the camera out right there in the store and drooled a bit before returning to work. What a beautiful way to spend my lunch hour.

Dinner at the Toot-N-Tell
In order to regroup and discuss some of the project details in person, I met Surry and a few of his friends for dinner at the oh-so-tasty Toot-N-Tell in Garner. One of my preferred buffet dinning locales! I've been lucky enough to dine there with Surry and his acquaintances on several occasions. It is one of my absolute favorite buffets in town, and one of the only places I know of that serves baked cinnamon apples and fried chicken that delicious! Perhaps it is the delicious Southern-style cuisine, or the unforgettable dinner conversations, but I have grown conditioned like Pavlov's dog to get excited each time I hear the name 'Toot-N-Tell'!

Surry has an incredible talent for bringing like-minded people together. He finds people that share interests, usually perfect strangers, and has a most graceful way of introducing them to one another, such that they feed off of each other's strengths and knowledge. It is a talent I greatly respect and hope to replicate.

One of his guests, Adam Shepard, I had met a few years earlier (at the Toot-N-Tell, no less). Since our first introduction, he has accomplished great things. His self-published book, Scratch Beginnings, has taken off and is heading in very exciting directions. I recommend reading it, so that when it hits the top reading list you can be ahead of the game! Check out the website and find a way to get your hands on a copy:

Surry has described Adam as having a "fire in the belly" to make the book happen, and it is easy to see why. I read the book earlier this year, and enjoyed it a lot. People can accomplish great things when focused, determined and unrelenting--and it is easy to see that is why Surry continues to encourage young people like Adam and me to find what fosters that "fire in the belly" as he says. Start now, and never stop working towards big dreams. Find a way to make it happen!

Montagnard Thoughts, Day and Night
I now find that the movie and the Montagnards are in my thoughts nonstop. It's grown from a project to an obsession. It's the first thought in my mind when I wake up each morning, and the last thoughts before I fall asleep each night. And, with each step along the way, with each new challenge and lesson learned, I am thankful for all of the steps that have lead to this point.

Our experiences shape us, there is no denying that. Each step in our lives is something that teaches us, and helps us learn how to move forward. My past three years at my full time job has taught me a lot of lessons that I am now applying, and it feels like destiny has had a hand in it.

In the Present, Planning the Future
My thoughts keep jumping forward to the post-production, even though we are not finished with the interviewing process. We'll probably interview at least 4 more people, which I am trying to schedule as soon as possible since our weeks are disappearing very quickly. There are so many additional people we could interview, but for the sake of this project we are staying very focused.

Plans for the next steps are formulating and solidifying, and that feels great. I'm writing these plans down in order to help flesh out these thoughts and share them with Surry. It also helps keep records (like this blog) so that we can look back and appreciate how far we have come in each step of the process.

At every turn, I find myself surrounded by people smarter than I am--oh, how grateful for that I am! My very talented and intelligent friends and acquaintances continue sharing advice and information that is helping this project. And if I could hire them for the work they do so well, I certainly would. That is what makes you really appreciate how Hollywood works; it is an industry based on relationships, hard work, quality and living up to your word--the very things these interviews have covered.

The Buzz
Thanks to social media tools (blogging, Facebook, etc.), I have had several interesting conversations lately. People are hearing about the project and want more details. Word is spreading quickly, and I find that the buzz around the project is helping me stay focused and on schedule. A lot of people are asking about the subject matter, and what we'll do with the film after it's finished.

I'm actually really excited that so many people are asking these questions. I once read that a screenwriter has a lonely job in the industry because he is so autonomous, sitting in a room by himself writing. Well, indie filmmakers who are just getting started (like me) can feel the same way. But, thanks to the web I feel like a part of a greater collaborative team. That's pretty fascinating!