Friday, May 27, 2011

Beloved B Roll

This has been a good week for the film. There are many reasons for this, but the one I'll write about now is alllllll about the B ROLL.

I've been searching for archival footage for a few years, but haven't been able to find what I need. One reason is because my research hasn't been in-depth. I'd skim, search, and get totally overwhelmed because there are so many aspects to the film running through my mind while doing any one task.

While searching I would think about the big picture: editing, sound, marketing, event planning, and so on. It wasn't hard to break the big project down into smaller pieces, but it was hard to keep those pieces separated while working. Searching for footage was also tough because I was so deep into editing the film. I would think, "This clip might go well here. No, I need to move all of those clips to a different section."

Uh, yeah. It's been a challenge.

So I changed my plan. I decided to wait until the film was almost finished before searching again. Then I'd have (a) the clarity of thought to look again, (b) renewed energy for the search, and (b) a semi-finished film so that I could add the final finesse easily.

A running list of the footage I needed to tell the story (refined from the previous general searches) helped, but I couldn't make any real progress in finding B Roll. Because of copyright issues or lack of funds, the footage I did find wasn't something I could use. For example, the clip of an explosion during the war was exactly what I needed for one segment but it was out of my budget. (I had to make sure I could feed my dog and pay the bills, remember?) Also, I discovered that I needed to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and give this part of the project its due diligence. In other words, I was relearning how to (1) separate the big picture out into smaller pieces and (2) keep those pieces separated so I wasn't distracted while working on the task at hand.

Well, there's some good news (for those still reading). This week Alena Koch (who is supporting our social media engagement efforts) gave me the greatest gift: links to copyright free footage that can be downloaded for free. All week long I have been mentally screaming, "JACK POT!" It is precisely what I need, and I am so grateful to her for finding it.

Now, on to the next steps: downloading, importing to Fincal Cut Pro (FCP), and adding these pieces to the timeline. I've not tried importing to FCP so I hope I don't have file format issues. Adding this B Roll to the timeline will take many hours, but it will be so worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Access to Information

Access to information is quite commonplace in my world. I have access to libraries, book stores, televisions, smart phones, and the Internet. I’m so spoiled that not finding what I need is a shock.

When I first began research on Abandoned Allies, I naively assumed my usual methodologies would serve me well. Boy was I wrong.

One of my favorite things to do is visit a book store, grab a stack of books, camp out for a few hours, and delve into a new subject. I’m in heaven when surrounded by books. The smell, weight, paper, and the information they contain is delightful. I can read for hours, but perhaps I’m revealing too much of my geekiness. The information I craved for Abandoned Allies, though, was nowhere to be found in any of the places I visited.

One store, for example, had a great section on the Vietnam War but only one of the books had one mention of the word Montagnard. Internet searches were fairly unproductive as well. I found information, but couldn't verify if it was reliable. The overwhelming lack of information from reliable resources has stuck with me.*

Tucked somewhere in the remote parts of my brain was my background in journalism. (Studying design, photography, marketing, and business took priority in more recent years.) My journalism teacher, Susan G. Wellborn, left quite an impression on me.

Wellie taught us about accurate and responsible reporting, research methods, interview techniques, and writing. (Lest I not forget that she also taught us how to have a sense of humor while doing such weighty things.) Working on Opus and Currents (our literary magazine and school newspaper, respectively) has served me well while working on Abandoned Allies.

Access to the information I desperately craved came not through my usual research methods but through the people helping with the project by sharing their experiences, personal photos, and the books they authored. Surry (my executive producer) had many of the books I needed to read, the majority of which were written by our cast members.

We have interviewed more than 20 people in the past three years, including the world’s leading experts on the subject matter at hand. While working on the film, I was granted the access I so desperately craved at the outset.
That purple things is supposed to be a bullhorn.
Because I have finally learned enough about this subject to be dangerous, I now long for the chance to share this information so it’s more easily accessible to those who crave it just as I did.

I want to disseminate what the experts have shared with me—through ways that add to what Abandoned Allies explores on screen. I have been so lucky to hear these stories and experiences firsthand, and have learned so much; I feel a great responsibility to share it.

The next step will be putting together a game plan for disseminating information. The possibilities are endless, but it takes time and resources to make this dream a reality. But first things first—finishing the film.

More thoughts on this will come later, I’m sure.

*Note: This information is incredibly hard for the general public to find quickly and easily. A number of people have dedicated their lives to documenting the Montagnard history and culture, and have done an excellent job at it. What I am describing is a lack of availability and access to this information by the general public--people who don't readily know the term or the subject matter experts. I want to make this available in many different arenas, for those who might have trouble finding it if they didn't know where to look.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Screening in Maryland

The setting sun on Friday evening was a beautiful gift.
Last Friday afternoon I left Raleigh, N.C., for Reston, V.A., for a private screening of Abandoned Allies in Maryland the following morning. It was a trip I made alone, and the solitude was both unsettling and refreshing.

That evening I stayed in a hotel room with the fluffiest, white king-sized bed you've ever seen. My exhaustion made me crawl in bed early. The following morning I woke up an hour before my alarm went off, laying completely crooked in the hotel bed and totally confused about where I was or why I was there. To put it simply, I desperately needed some rest. These past few weeks (hell, months) have been quite stressful.

Saturday morning came quickly though. I woke up so early that I had plenty of time to relax, get ready, and grab some coffee. I even had time to clean off the dashboard of my car--something I've neglected for too long.

By 8:42 a.m. I was waiting outside Mike's place, ready for him to meet me to travel to Maryland together. We were both a little shocked when he walked outside and saw me sitting there, waiting. The timing was almost so perfect it felt scripted.

Within minutes we were on our way to Maryland, where we met Greg and his wife. We all chatted for a bit, and then started the film. There were a few technical difficulties I noticed--which I've made notes about fixing--but the DVD played well. The picture quality was unnerving so I need to learn how to export the film faster with higher quality. The entire process takes me about three or four days right now, which is entirely too long.

The responses to the film were positive. There were some areas for improvement, namely with the ending. As I've mentioned previously, we're still working on the ending and it is something that bothers me a lot right now. Talking with Mike and Greg clarified a number of things, which is incredibly helpful.

As I drove home on Saturday, my cell phone buzzed a number of times with follow up emails from Mike and Greg. They shared new resources that will be really helpful with the film: books, photos, stories, etc.

Showing the film to cast members Mike, Greg, Chris, and George has been really, really helpful. The things they suggested helped me figure out how to handle the very things that have been bothering me as a filmmaker.

This coming weekend is Memorial Day. I had planned on visiting AB to work on the final musical additions; however, I recognize that I need time to make changes to the film as suggested by the cast members whom have watched it recently. The new game plan will be working on the film this weekend, and finding another weekend to finalize the music.

Overall, the screening went really well this weekend. It feels so great to be finalizing the film. I can't wait to tweak these last few things so that we can start sharing it with the public. We're almost there, folks. Thanks for your unending support and patience.