Thursday, June 16, 2011

Call for Volunteers: Private Event in July

Next month we will have one of the largest screenings of Abandoned Allies yet, thanks to the kindness of Richard Gardner, owner / operator of ComedyWorx in Raleigh, N.C. The sneak peek of the film is open to ComedyWorx improvisers (and my special guests) only, as a way of thanking them for the consistent encouragement during this production.

Because nearly 30 people have already RSPV'd for the event, I am in need of volunteers.

You see, I dream big. This will be an informal event, but there are things I hope might take shape. Would you (or someone you know) like to help out? Here are the positions to be filled:

A very talented event photographer willing to work two hours is needed. Someone who is well-versed in photographing people (both candid and posed) in dimly lit ares would be ideal. The event will last about two hours, but the photographer(s) will be able to rest while the film is screening.

One or more filmmakers willing to record the beginning and ending of the event are needed. The goal is to create a three-minute video for the web, showcasing the event and building excitement about the Abandoned Allies. We're after stablishing shots, sound bites from attendees, and shots that show the fun of a film premiere here in the Triangle.

Someone who can help take charge of creating a fun, memorable environment would be incredibly awesome. The blog Hostess with the Mostess comes to mind, so scope out their photos. I use the term designer instead of planner because I want support in creating a program, cute little things for guests to take home, table decorations, and perhaps a guest book. We have an event planner on board (yay!), so we want someone to create those little details that make an event great.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in helping out in one of these roles, please fill out the comments on this blog or tweet @cammicam.

Thanks to all of you for the encouragement. We'll have a more public event later this year. Looking forward to sharing Abandoned Allies with you all very soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jim, Save My Sanity

Yesterday I mentioned that we're showing the film to Lap and his family this weekend. I am nervous about it. Sharing the film means I have to export it and burn a DVD, and a ton of things usually go wrong along the way.

One of my weaknesses is the lack of technical expertise. I read books and watch online tutorials, but sometimes things just don't work out. I am so grateful to have friends willing to explain it and teach me when I can't figure it out on my own.

Yesterday, fellow filmmaker Jim McQuaid (@turnipvideo) of Turnip Video was kind enough to come to my rescue after reading that the export process takes me so long. He visited my office to analyze the exporting process I'm currently using (hardware, software, etc.), and gave me some excellent ideas for improvements so I don't lose four days every time I try to export the film and burn a DVD. I'm a wee bit frustrated with it taking so long.

We chatted for a bit and came to the conclusion that my equipment is horribly outdated. That's mostly likely why it takes too long.

I'm working on a late model G5 which doesn't have enough internal memory to handle a big project like Abandoned Allies. The film is about 60 minutes long. The project file is full of HD, standard def footage, and archival footage--all in many different forms and frames per second. Uhm, so yeah. It's a beast of a project on a struggling system.

We scoffed at my 12" monitor after looking at the other hardware. The monitor is laughably small for video editing. Two large monitors would help me work more efficiently. I keep meaning to search for a good deal on one, but that's tough to do while I'm so desperately trying to finish the film. It's not absolutely necessary, so I just keep my nose to the grindstone.

Now I face a decision. It is not too different, I feel, from the decision one makes regarding a vehicle in need of repair. If the repairs on the older vehicle will cost a few grand, is it worth doing? What's the value of the vehicle versus the cost of repair? Is it better to buy a new one?

I have an older system, which is salvageable but might just cost as much as getting a new one. So, these thoughts swarm around the back of my mind while I edit. Now I also face even bigger questions. How serious am I about filmmaking? Do I want to make another indie film? If so, do I want to be the one editing it? Could I, instead, find someone else to do the editing, someone who has already invested in the equipment? Would this allow me to focus on producing and directing, so that I can perfect those skills?

My mind is constantly going, but there's no time to think on these things too long right now. All of my effort is going towards finishing the film so we can share it this fall and submit it into film festivals. I think I'll just limp along and hope to make it to the finish line as soon as we can.

After Jim and I finished the task at hand, we talked about a number of other film-related things. It's so wonderful to talk shop. It's encouraging to hear about Jim's projects, and what he enjoys. He is an incredibly smart and kind man, doing a number of interesting things right now.

Jim is working on Grace Running, a film about a 14-year old girl named named Grace (played by Sydnei Murphy). The young lady starring in his film is absolutely gorgeous. I hope Jim will let me lend a hand at some point on the production.

Jim also runs the Triangle Filmmakers Special Interest Group (TFSIG), which is a "mailing list and occasional meeting of dedicated local indie filmmakers." If you're in the area and want to introduce yourself to other filmmakers, TFSIG is a great way to do that.

Big thanks to Jim and his support and encouragement. More to come as we hustle to get this thing finally finished!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Private Screenings Continue

Scheduling of private screenings of Abandoned Allies continues. To say this is exciting for me is a gross understatement. We've been working on the film for years, and I'm finally able to start sharing it with people in intimate settings where we get honest, constructive criticism.

This weekend I'll share the film with Lap and his family. I can't wait to hear what they think of it and their insights on ways to make improvements. Lap and his father are both in the film, and make such poignant statements.

Next week I'm hoping to share Abandoned Allies with Hip, his family, and his friends. Hip is also in the film, and is very passionate about sharing/preserving the Montagnard culture. He seems really excited about having a copy of it.

A larger private screening is scheduled for next month. This one is for my fellow improvisers at ComedyWorx in Raleigh, N.C. My fellow improvisers have all been so supportive of this project by volunteering their time, expertise, and encouragement. The sneak peek is a small way of saying thank you to them and offering the first Q&A with a larger audience. It'll be interesting to show a very serious documentary to a group of people who love comedy. It is a very smart, dynamic crowd.

Work on the film continues. I have to finish adding B roll, tweak the ending, finalize music, and mix sound. When those things are done, we will do color correction. Then we'll work on the trailer and start branding/marketing/communications. We will look into film festival submissions and plan local events, too.

The next six months are going to be one wild ride. I can't stop smiling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

10 Things I've Learned: Part III

Last week I posted 20 things I have learned while working on Abandoned Allies, and I promised you a third installment. Without further ado...

10 More Things I've Learned

1. Take excellent care of yourself.
Like they said on Baywatch, you can't save someone else's life if you're drowning. You may not be saving lives while making your first film, but you won't be any good to others if you're drowning in the process. Take good care of yourself: eat well, rest plenty, exercise. Remember these basics so you can perform at your peak like an athlete.

2. Celebrate milestones.
Take the time to appreciate and celebrate your achievements. Set small, realistic goals so you get excited about reaching them and moving on to the next one.

3. Take vacations.
Drop the film. Get out of town. Spend time with family and friends. Then come back to it refreshed, and you'll find that you can accomplish a lot more.

4. Read voraciously.
Become a consumer of information. Everything is related, even if it doesn't seem so on a surface level. Learn at every turn, and connect the lessons.

5. Watch lots of films.
Watching other films helps you think about how you're making your own. Watch plenty of them, even if you feel you don't have time for it.

6. Have an opinion on other films.
People will start to see you as a filmmaker. Have opinions about other films because that will be your industry, plus it makes conversations interesting and exciting.

7. Share great films with others.
When you find a great film, share it with others so they can enjoy it, too. Your recommendations will stick with others, and soon they'll associate you with something they enjoyed. Positive associations are excellent.

8. Forget about filmmaking.
Do something other than filmmaking because it will help you become a better filmmaker. It will work other parts of your brain, make conversations more dynamic, and give you a point of reference to others unexpectedly.

9. Find peace.
When you are at peace, you can do much more, and do it much better, than when you have discord in your life. Do what you can to find peace and establish balance.

10. Remember to enjoy yourself.
Making a film will be tough, but it's important to enjoy each step. It's a process of discovery, and a path unlike any other. Be sure you're not focused on the end result so much that you forget how to have a good time along the way.