Saturday, December 19, 2009

Moving Forward


We are moving forward on many things, all of which are most exciting. These past few weeks have seen a great resurgence of progress related to the film, for many reasons. We have had a number of people join the team of volunteers, and for that I am most grateful.

I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel...

Super 8 Adventures Continue

Bulbs for the film projector arrived earlier this week--just one piece of a stream of delightful news. Finally, finally, I would be able to view the mystery Super 8 footage from Vietnam.

So yesterday, my fella sat down with me to test out the new bulbs. I was excited, nervous and anxious all in one breath. He tested out one bulb, but nothing happened. So we put in the second bulb, and still nothing happened. Alas, there was no way to view it film.

What a disappointment! I had so hoped that we could start viewing the footage! I can't tell you how sad I was that the bulbs were not the source of the problem. When I turned it on the first time, the bulb worked and then made a sound like it had blown out. To find out that it was something else, means it is not a simple solution and not likely we can do the conversion ourselves. This means we'll have to find someone to help with it.

For about an hour, I called around to find out about repairing the projector, renting another one, and having a company do the digitizing for us. As it turns out, repairs to projectors of such an age are highly unlikely unless you do it yourself. (You'd have to buy another one for parts, take it apart, and tinker until it starts working. A time-consuming, expensive option.) Renting another projector to view the film is not a likely success story, either. The rentals are hard to find to say the least. Conversion companies are starting to look like the solution, as much as I have been avoiding that route to save on production costs.


Companies like Flicko's take your old media and convert it to new media formats. They scan 35mm slides, make VHS tapes into DVDs, and so on. I spoke with Gary, the owner of Flicko's in Cary, by phone last night and told him about the project. He took the time to explain his process, help me think through working with him, and guess at how much it would cost (without seeing the film to know for certain.) So I stopped by today to talk more with him, perhaps peek in on a conversion in progress, and get a more accurate estimate for our specific project. He was most gracious in talking with me about the specifics, our documentary film, and even my background and why I was working on the film. He took a look at the footage I brought in and provided an estimate, all the while hustling to keep up with holiday demands.

Since we're on a zero-dollar budget, I decided to wait on conversion. He was pretty busy with demands relating to the holidays, too, and since we're not in an immediate rush to have it in our hands next week, I'll reconnect with him in January. In the meantime, I will continue working on a route by which we can convert (or at the very least view) the footage we have available.

If anyone reading this has access to digitized film from the Vietnam War (specifically the central highlands, or of Montagnard/Special Forces activities), a means by which we can convert our footage at no cost, or connections to anyone who can help, please let me know via email: camwatts@gmail.com. We would be most appreciative of the support!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Good News Keeps Coming

These past few days have been utterly amazing. Support for the film keeps coming, and those that have joined the team are carrying it forward with such ease and expertise. I'll have a more formal update soon, but for now I must simply say, "Wow!" It's great to have so much wonderful help. I never cease to be amazed by what a few talented people can do, and I am absolutely ecstatic about 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Quick Look Back


Today is one week away from Christmas Eve Eve, and it makes me feel that the year has gone by in the blink of an eye. My how time flies these days. Is this part of growing up, getting older, having more responsibilities? Or did time always go this fast?

In the past year, we've
  • wrapped production
  • digitized all the footage
  • transcribed all interviews
  • scanned / collected nearly 1,000 images
  • brought on about 5-8 new volunteers
  • started the process by which we digitize Super 8 film
  • started the editing that will lead to a director's cut
The editing has moved slower than I had hoped for so many reasons (my AC went out, then my heat went out, I got sick, Matt and I couldn't meet, the list goes on), but I am confident that pace will pick up again now with the addition of a few more volunteers. Matt has been working with me on the editing for quite some time, and I look forward to having his continued help editing the film. It's going to be a great final product!

This time of the year makes everyone look back for a quick thought about the past 12 months, how quickly they passed by, and what exciting things await in the next year. I know that 2010 will be, quite possibly, one of the best years of my life. We'll finish this film, share it with others, and make great things happen. I never cease to be amazed with the great things that happen when a incredible, passionate people come together.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Response

Thank you all for the overwhelming and immediate support! I am so humbled and feel so lucky! In the past few hours, we have had an incredible amount of support from local folks. What a wonderful community!

It is a great pleasure to welcome Paul, Phil, Jessica, Alena, Chris and Lisa to the team. As we move forward, I'm sure you'll hear these names mentioned here many times. I am so grateful to have the help! It is certain that this project will move forward much faster and more smoothly with their kind support.

We are still in need of volunteers, so don't hesitate to connect with me if you are interested (or know someone that wants to help). Projects of this size can only be done with the help of many, many people. If you want to help but don't see anything on the list that fits you, send me a message and we'll find something fitting. There are many things to be done, for certain.

Volunteers Needed

We are looking for help with our documentary film, in the form of additional volunteers. If you, or someone you know, is interested in being a part of our documentary film please share this post with them. If they want to volunteer something other than what is listed below, I welcome a more in-depth conversation. Feel free to connect via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, phone (919.229.9357), etc. with ideas or support.

Those interested in these positions should be ready to learn about the Montagnard-Special Forces story, be committed to the project, and work directly with me on a daily/weekly basis as required. We understand that circumstances change over time, but seek people committed to the project's success to the end. We hope to have the project finished in the coming months, and seek the following support in order to help it move along faster.

Currently, we are seeking the following:
  • Video Editor(s)
    We're looking for support from people who know how to shape a documentary story using Final Cut Pro on a Mac platform. Matt and I are currently editing the story, but in order to speed up this process I need the help of additional video editors. This person either has their own equipment, or is willing to use the equipment we have available. Someone who can work 4-6 days a week would be ideal.

  • Production Assistant
    The project has grown a great deal since it started in March 2008. To help manage all of the details, I'm looking for the support of a production assistant who will partner with me to keep things moving forward. This person must be reliable, trust worthy, attentive to details, obnoxiously organized, a self-starter, and ridiculously motivated. The volunteer position would presently require only a few hours a week with a set schedule and list of tasks; however, as the film nears completion, the production assistant may gain additional opportunities (coordinating screenings and Q&A sessions, for example).

  • Communications Coordinator
    We are currently in post-production, but when the film gets closer to wrapping I will need the support of someone well versed in coordinating all communications efforts: writing press releases, talking to the media, creating fact sheets, making phone calls, answering phone calls, etc. This person is the ultimate diplomat, has unbelievably great etiquette in person and on the phone, enjoys writing/editing, responds to inquiries in a timely manner, isn't afraid to make cold calls, and wants experience working with the news media. We will start working together now, in preparation for the completion of the film. At that time, the level of time required for this volunteer position may grow.

  • Social Media Assistant(s)
    Someone equally fascinated with the world of social media is ideal for this position. They think about Twitter, Facebook, blogging, RSS feeds, SEO, link building, and more all the time. This person really understands the power of social media, but is also a savvy writer. They know the rules of the game, seek a chance to practice what they've learned, and want to share what they know about social media with certain members of my cast/crew. Analytics and measurable results excite this person, and they want to report these figures to me on a regular basis because they are thrilled with the work.
If you have any questions about any of the previously mentioned volunteer positions, please let me know. We are growing the team, and want to work with only the best. It's an unpaid gig right now, but will most assuredly lead to big opportunities down the road. This ain't the only film we'll be makin'. ;)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Super 8 Kodachrome Film


Now that we have almost all the scanning of 35mm images and prints completed, we're moving on to the archived Super 8 film. Surry supplied me with about 18 rolls of film, many of which are labeled as footage taken during his time in Vietnam.

I've been reading about the process by which you digitize the film online, and think we might be able to do it ourselves--although I confess it makes me a little nervous because we could potentially ruin some of the film just by handling it. We could take the film to a place that does this for us, but with 18 rolls of film, I believe that process will not serve us well. We would have invested in digitizing film that may never make it into the final movie, and some of it may not even be related to the project. So instead we hope to watch the film, then digitize it, and select the clips we want before investing time and resources that could be wasted.


We've ordered new projector bulbs and will hopefully be able to view the footage very soon. I'm anxious to go through the rolls of film, as I think they will lend a great deal to the movie. Once we find the clips we want, we'll focus on digitizing those clips. It'll certainly be a process, but one I am looking forward to completing because I know it will be critical in telling the story of the Mongtagnards and their relationship to the Special Forces.