Friday, June 18, 2010

Meeting with Todd Tinkham

As post-production progress continues, I keep learning more and more about film making.  Last night I met with fellow filmmaker Todd Tinkham, who is in post on Southland of the Heart, an "independent feature film about life, loss and the many lessons love has to offer."

Before I met Todd, I had heard so many great things about him. My fellow improviser and filmmaker Christopher G. Moore raved about Todd.  Lisa Sullivan, a fellow social media and communications professional, also spoke so highly of him and provided an introduction so that I could play an itsy bitsy role in the film.  When I finally got to meet Todd on the set of Southland of the Heart, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity. 

Todd is a gracious, generous and kind man.  He's passionate about filmmaking and telling great stories.  It was such a thrill to watch him work with Chris on the set of Bursters.  My friend invited me to take production stills while they shot Bursters, and it was immediately evident how dedicated and professional everyone is in this area.  Fiction filmmaking is a whole 'nother bit of filmmaking that I've not yet explored, and is quite different than making a documentary.  And while I have no comparison to other film industries, I rather love the community we have in North Carolina.  Everyone I meet is so fascinating and talented, and Todd is no exception.

Last night I had the privilege of taking a sneak peek at Southland of the Heart, and I am so anxious to see the final cut!  The film is beautifully shot here in North Carolina and stars a number of talented people I adore (both in front of and behind the camera).  You can watch a teaser of Southland of the Heart here, or like the film on Facebook here.

After Todd showed me the first half of Southland, he let me introduce Abandoned Allies.  He seemed to respond to it well, although it paled in comparison to the beautiful photography of Todd's film.  My heart delighted with seeing some of the Super 8 footage in place, the first time I've shown it to anyone other than Skip of A/V Geeks (who helped us with the transfer).

As I mentioned yesterday, I feel like the first few minutes of the film are much more solid than the rest of it right now.  There are more graphics and the transitions between content / clips are healthier, in my opinion.  There's still a lot of work to do, and my main focus is making sure the content is as strong as it can be: the right people say the right thing in the right order.  Once I have that locked down, I can keep making improvements from there. 

We watched a bit of Abandoned Allies and then Todd started tweaking pieces of the film to make improvements.  He showed me easy ways to improve upon some of the mistakes that have been nagging at me endlessly.  He also shared a few filmmaking terms I didn't know, which is fun.  I am ravenous for this information, and find myself envious of anyone studying filmmaking in school.  There are industry terms, film histories, and rules that I would absolutely devour.  Right now, though, my focus is on finishing!  In the meantime, I'll keep learning as I go.

Todd has offered to continue providing input, for which I am most grateful.  His input, as well as other filmmakers who have made the same kind offer, will help make the film so much better.  I can't wait for that part of the post-production process.

The filmmaking process is a collaborative one, which is one of the things I find most attractive about it.  You can't make a film in a vacuum, as you might when painting a still life.  It is truly a living, breathing, ever-changing form of art that is simultaneously a business.  The marriage of art and business, and their offspring known as entertainment, is what I find absolutely addicting about filmmaking.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting Super 8 In Place

Things are still coming together for Abandoned Allies, which is always exciting.  Last week we finally transferred the Super 8 footage with the gracious help of Skip Elsheimer of A/V Tech Geeks.  Walking into the studio with that digitized footage was a feeling of complete excitement.  Skip has been so patient and helpful throughout the process, and I am so grateful to him for his help with our film.  If you have films to transfer, please send your business his way and tell him I sent you.

This week we've been adding the new footage to the timeline in FCP, ever so slowly.  The process is something like this: You watch the rough cut of the film, looking for places where B Roll would improve the story visually.  Then you skip over to the folder where the Super 8 footage is stored and try to find a clip to go in that spot.  Or vice verse: you find a great clip, and then look for a spot to place it.  It's relatively tedious, but I'll not complain about it!  I'm so excited to finally have that footage digitized.

My opinion of the state of the film is daily improving.  We want to make the best film we can make, given our current constraints (budget, time, quality, etc.).  When I watch the film, all I can see are my own failings: audio, color quality, visuals.  Those mistakes I've made during the past two years feel like they stick out so much, but I know talented people that have promised to help make improvements.  This may be entirely too honest to state such things, but I desperately want it to be a great film to watch.  The story is such a great one, that I hope I may remotely do it justice.

The first few minutes of the film seem to be really solid, to me, at this point.  Footage looks good, the content flows well, and the visuals are getting better and better.  I think the content is in an order that will make it easy for an audience member to process, and it's supported by visuals that are appealing and entertaining.  The transitions at this point are still in need of improvement, but I think the first few minutes of the film are pretty solid right now.

The overall story has shaped up quite well, too, but there's always more work to be done.  I have finally come to terms with a finalized outline, something that has changed over and over and over again.  And over and over and over again.  Our three main points have always remained the same, but the order in which we support the points kept changing based on my interpretation of how an audience member needs to receive the information.  Each time I show the film to someone new, I get better insight into how to support these points.  What information can be left out?  What information should be added back in?  What's confusing and needs to be clarified?

We want the film to be something that honors and respects the people we depict: both American and Montagnard soldiers.  We want it to be relevant / appealing / entertaining to several different generations, too, which can be tough.  Something that the Vietnam War generation understands is something that my generation might need explained in detail, for example.  So how much information is too much, and how much information is too little? 

The balance between these two extremes is what I battle regularly.  Ultimately, you can only include so much information, and people interested in more can watch the DVD extras or go online to learn more.  That thought gives me great comfort when I start to stress about leaving out pertinent details that have helped me form my own opinions.  But, I have digressed...

We're putting the Super 8 footage in place now, and hopefully will have more footage to add soon.  If you know of someone who has Vietnam War footage we can use, please let me know.  Or, if you're interested in researching archives to find what we need, that's helpful as well.  We have a zero-dollar budget, so finding clips we can legally use for very little or for free is a challenge.  I saw one clip of an explosion that was particularly helpful, but it was a few grand to purchase.  I'll keep trying other routes before making such an investment.

The journey continues, my friends!  Thanks for all of your support, encouragement and interest in our film.  We look forward to sharing it with you in 2010!