Thursday, July 22, 2010

Screening with Abandoned Allies Crew

Four of our team members crammed into a small room to watch the latest cut of Abandoned Allies last night.  How happy I am to be showing the film to people!

Members of the Abandoned Allies crew sit in a tiny room to watch the latest cut and provide feedback.  From left to right: Chris Moore, Alena Koch, Kyle Owen and Elizabeth Jackson.

The group provided wonderful feedback and asked some great questions.  The conversation helped me think more about the narration, and what information needs to be disclosed.  They also confirmed some concerns I'd been having about certain clips.  There are two things, in particular, that were giving me some trouble.

Part of the history of the Montagnard (pronounced MONT-en-yard) people is their relation to the Vietnamese.  Montagnards, historically speaking, haven't been treated well by the Vietnamese.*  The Vietnamese called them moi, which is a very derogatory word that basically means "savage."  All of this is relevant because it meant that South Vietnam was not recruiting or drafting Montagnards during the war, ergo they were available to work with American troops.  In order to explain this concept, I used a clip wherein one of our experts makes a comparison to something in American culture to help us understand how bad moi makes a person feel.  The group discussion last night helped me draw conclusions about the clip, and I'm truly grateful for that.  There are social stigmas in the comparison, and it might derail the audience from the point we're trying to make.

The second troublesome part relates to the use of visuals.  There are several great stories about certain individuals, but I don't have pictures of them.  Showing a picture of a person while someone else tells a story visually implies that this is the guy from the story.  That leads to confusion for the audience, and honestly it feels unethical.  So I have been debating about this and tweaking things to get around it.  There was one remaining picture on the time line that lead to confusion last night, and the conversation about it helped me put this issue to rest as well.

Waking up happy this morning because of the screenings this week, I think I'll really enjoy the focus groups when we do them.  When I watch the film with other people, it's as if I'm seeing it for the first time.  Having spent so many hours editing the same footage, that is a very refreshing feeling!  It helps me understand what parts of the story are key, and what can be left for the DVD extras.  We have 40+ hours of footage, and there are some really great stories being left out.  I suppose that's just one of the filmmaker's biggest dilemmas--leaving out really great material because it doesn't add to the story the right way.

The group will help us with so many important things over the next few months. 

Chris said he knows how to edit out things on the background (behind our cast when they're talking) which are particularly distracting without degrading the quality of the footage.  I'm so excited about that!  It's been driving me absolutely crazy.

There are some audio quality issues, which I hope to have resolved with the help from a friend of a friend.  I just need to figure out how to get the audio to him to work on it.

Kyle, who is helping us by composing original music, also knows how to resolve some of my troubles with finding an external DVD burner.  My G5 is older, so it doesn't have the Pentium processor inside, which is apparently important for an external DVD burner.  I bought one earlier this week and returned it the next day because it wasn't compatible.  I've called several places, but no one seems to have a DVD burner that'll work with my (growing old) Mac.  While focusing on the editing, this little frustrating gets magnified.  I'm excited that Kyle might be able to find a solution to this problem.

Alena has been helping me manage the Facebook and Twitter accounts, among other social media-related efforts.  These tasks are really important, but very tough for me to focus on while we're in post-production.  My mind is too full of other things like video editing, shaping the story, and all of the marketing / distribution things that will come once the film is finished.  Having her on the team provides so much relief, it's unreal.  I look forward to these efforts heating up when the film is available for the public.  There are a lot of fun social media things we can do.

Elizabeth will help us with event planning when the film is finished.  I've been reading a book about distribution for indie films, and in one of the chapters I read recently there was a bit of info about live events.  I have one in mind that would be really fun, but would require an enormous effort.  In fact, there are a number of events floating around in my mind and knowing that she's there to lead those efforts is really wonderful.  I am anxious to put them on paper once we get the motion graphics and music team members going.  There aren't words for how happy I am to have EJ's help.

All in all, the week has been a huge success, in my opinion.  I'm quite exhausted, but very happy.  The feedback from all of these folks proves that the film is shaping up well, and with some of the improvements suggested will be even better. Almost everyone said they loved seeing the Super 8 footage, too.  It adds so much.  Thank you, Skip Elsheimer, for the help with that!

Oh, my friends, how I look forward to sharing this film with you!!

*I say historically speaking because Montagnards were poorly treated in the past, but it honestly hasn't changed too much there today from what I'm told.  A lot of news articles hint about this, but details are tough to get in writing because the Vietnamese control the media.  The U.S. Department of State published the 2009 Human Rights Report: Vietnam, stating that the Vietnamese government "human rights record remained a problem" and goes into details about it. The Associated Press just published information stating that the Vietnamese government will start publishing a human rights magazine to "help counter what it calls 'erroneous and hostile allegations,' state media reported Thursday."

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