Moving Closer to a Finished Film

Me (left) with my editor, Matt Epstein, on location at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT on Day 2 of production on "Isn't It Romantic?"

Me (left) with my editor, Matt Epstein, on location at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT on Day 2 of production on “Isn’t It Romantic?”

As I reported in my previous post, the rough cut I put together looked pretty good.  There were a few issues which I was confident I could work out with my editor.  I met with him today and we discussed his  rough cut, which is about 75% finished.  He told me that the early scenes are working well.  That is even better news for the film, as he has twenty years experience, so if he says it works, I can bet on that.

There are two main issues we have to deal with, but we’ve got ideas on how to do so.  First, there is a transition from the set up of the story into the middle section, what in a feature length script would be the break from Act I to Act II.  With the footage I shot, it is not clear to the audience what my protagonist is doing.  Danny comes up with a plan but with the way I shot it, there is no inkling of what that plan is, or that he even has one.  I proposed adding a voice over.  My editor took that idea and expanded on it.

Voice overs are commonly used to patch plot holes in movies in exactly this situation.  It can be a very weak device if not used creatively.  My editor proposed that we add a voice over, not only to the scene that’s unclear, but also at the beginning and end of the story.  Just some brief lines to open the story and then wrap it up.  I love  this idea.  By doing so, we integrate the technique as a part of the film and establish it early.  In that way, the audience will accept it as a method organic to the movie’s style.  I also have to admit that I like it because it’s a device Woody Allen commonly utilizes.  When done well, it’s very effective.

The other issue we have is in the movie’s longest scene.  It’s extremely important to the plot and it involves a passage of several hours.  In the rough cut that I put together, I tried using dissolves between sections of the scene to indicate time passing.  I wasn’t really all that happy with the result.  Dissolves are very outdated and I didn’t get a feeling of hours having elapsed.  The pacing of the scene was much too fast.  My editor has some ideas and is going to experiment by putting the scene together in different ways.  I have great confidence in his ability and I am sure we will come up with a suitable solution.

So, there we are.  We’re getting much closer to a finished film, I would say early January, in time to make the deadline for the “Love Actually Film Festival”, which takes place in the city of my birth, New York, and showcases short films that deal with love, sex and romance.  I think we just might have what they’re looking for.  It takes place on Valentine’s Day, which means that if we get in, I will finally have something to do on that holiday other than celebrate the fact that February is half over!

The Rough Cut Looks Good!

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they've traveled to in the car window.

Danny smiles in at Diana with the reflection of the inn they’ve traveled to in the car window.

Another big step forward in the filmmaking process.  Over the weekend, I completed a rough cut of ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  It is, admittedly, a very rough cut.  I don’t have the sound we recorded, only my editor has it, I used the in camera sound, which is of inferior quality.  I also only have a basic knowledge of editing techniques, but I must say, the cut looks “pretty darn good”.  My co-writer agrees with me and in fact, the words in quotes are hers.

We are very excited.  My editor has twenty years of experience and is creative and talented.  When he does his cut and we polish it, using the quality sound, color correction and other post production techniques, we’re going to have a very good film.  It will get into festivals.  There is not a doubt in my mind.

This is quite different from how I felt just a few weeks ago when I was having panic attacks worrying about the quality of the finished film. At that point, I hadn’t gotten a look at everything we had and was experiencing the type of self-doubt many artists go through.  Now, with all of the footage at my disposal and sufficient distance from production, I have a bit more objectivity.

I’ve been making efforts to promote the film as well.  I’m posting updates and outtakes on IIR’s Facebook page and on YouTube.  I’ve also been adverting it on LinkedIn.  We have several festivals targeted so far.  SAG has invited us to submit it to their short film showcase.  We’ve also been invited to submit to a film festival in Wales.  That is quite exciting.  Another venue is the Love Actually Film Festival, which takes place in Ridgewood, NY on Valentine’s Day.  It’s specifically for short films about love, sex and romance.  It’s right up our alley and I really hope to get into that one.  It will give me something to do on Valentine’s Day other than celebrate the fact that February is half over.

Upon Further Review …

My fantasy onscreen credit

My fantasy onscreen credit

The picture above is something I threw together months ago while the screenplay for ISNT’ IT ROMANTIC? was still in development and before I brought in my writing partner to help me add depth to the script.  It’s the Windsor font, the one Woody Allen uses.  It was a fantasy, just a fun, little device to help motivate me.  Seeing my name onscreen in a writing and directing credit was a dream.  It’s now just about upon me.

The actual credit will be different.  I would never use Woody’s trademark font (although I am planning simple, elegant white titles on a black screen).  I want to develop my own unique style.  I also can’t use the “written and directed by” credit, since I have a co-writer.  It will actually be “story by” me, “screenplay by” me and my partner and then “directed by” me.  No matter, it will be a thrill to see it.

My prior update was premature and I now have a whole new outlook on the quality of IIR.  Until this week, I had only had a cursory look at the footage we shot.  My editor is busy with other projects, so we have had phone conversations but haven’t sat down to look at the film yet.  The only look I had was when my DP briefly showed me some of the raw footage.  Based on that brief look, I was worried that I did not have enough coverage.

I now have all of the footage on my computer.  I’ve seen everything and started putting some scenes together.  This is going to be a good movie.  There is one scene that has a few gaps, but my editor and I are confident we can work around them.  I am feeling very good about this project.

I also now have a little distance and can judge my performance better.  Many people have assured me that I did a good job.  I will never be able to see myself the way others do, but I think I did a satisfactory job and my comedic timing is right on the money.  (Honestly, there was never a doubt about that).

I’m looking forward to finishing the film and getting to show if off a bit.  It will be thrilling to see that “directed by” credit on the screen.