“To’ona’i” Post-production Days 4-6

Day 4

The rough cut thrown together over Days 2-3 was, if I may say so, a decent start. (Editing a twelve-minute short film was a daunting enough project to grind through – but the thought of cutting a ninety-minute plus feature still shuts down various areas of my brain.)

A moment of self-discovery late in the morning: doing the rough cut myself has dealt to a hitherto unvoiced fear of not knowing if I have enough coverage or not, and the paralysis that would ensue. There is never enough coverage – and if you do have enough coverage, there are never enough takes to give you ‘options’. But instead of being paralysed, I was forced to try different approaches like new sequences and new narrative structures – finding new ways of telling the same story.

Where I had started Day 3’s rough cut of 27+ minutes, by the end of the day, I had reduced it to twelve minutes.

Day 5

Twelve minutes can still be an eternity. I’ve sat through ten-minute-long short films that have felt interminable. Although I want a deliberate pace for To’ona’i, I definitely didn’t want it to drag. The cut just didn’t drag for me. Despite numerous trims and nips here and there, they made only a few seconds difference.

Two sets of fresh eyes were railroaded into an impromptu screening. One pair liked the pacing and story and acting. The other pair thought the cinematography was the best thing since sliced pan. The cinematography has been getting such good press, I get a glimmer now of the attractiveness of a possessory credit:

CINEMA-GOER #1: What a… crap movie.
CINEMA-GOER #2: But what composition of shots! The depth of field on the actors! The character of the lighting!
CINEMA-GOER #1: Why, yes, it was a pretty little thing. Who did it?
CINEMA-GOER #2: I dunno. But it’s a [POSSESSORY CREATIVE] film.
CINEMA-GOER #1: A mighty fine looking film, it was.

I took the cut to Mr Tripuraneni who pronounced it ‘good’ on arrival. He has since taken over: he’s going to tighten it up, clean up the audio and give it a quick grade. Despite his teasing about giving the whole film a hallucinatory feel – or possibly a Michael Bay-fired blur of images cut to Celine Dion warblings – I never once took the bait. I was too sick of watching and tweaking and watching and tweaking the footage.

He could do what he damned well liked.

Within reason.

Day 6

After I told The Goddess the joke about the sloth who’s mugged by a gang of delinquent snails (when asked at the police station what happened to him, the sloth says, I don’t know – it all just happened so quickly…), she pointed out that after a week of frowning and groaning and sighing at the hired MacBook screen, my mood had lightened considerably.

“Really?” I asked. She gave me Her look.

But I was having so much fun at the time.


“To’ona’i” – Post-production Days 1-3

Yesterday, I threw clips down onto the timeline just so all my eggs were in one basket.  It’s called an assemble edit.

Today, I’ve been trying to make a story out of them.  The more time I spend with the footage, the better an idea I have of what I’m doing. It’s tedious work.  But it has its moments – I give you a txt-exchange between my post-production whip supervisor and I from this morning:


HIM (0830):  So you finished the assemble edit i presume :)


HIM (0833): No you are not. You are just texting

ME (0833): Assemble was 30+ minutes. Am cutting now. Am kinda sorta maybe getting a feel for things. Slowly. But. Surely.

HIM (0836): You wanted to do the rough cut, so dont you point finger at me amigo. :) Make sure you [EDITING TECHNO-BABBLE.]

ME (0840): Stop interrupting. Genius at work. (Thanks for tip about [TREK-LIKE EDITING TECHNO-BABBLE THAT I ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD]. A typically excellent idea from yourself.

HIM (0842): Oh yeah i am at work – you didnt have to state the obvious. Now back to the keyboard for you ;).

Just typical of him to get the last word in.

But who’s blogging right now, huh?


“To’ona’i” Production Day 5

We wrapped today.  (Considers executing a little happy dance; thinks better of it in case of total body collapse.)

We had a wrap lunch of sorts yesterday as Mr Eversden and his ever-present assistant, Mr Hall, were no longer required for their lighting expertise – the camera was going to be operated from within the car, come what may.  I’d been warned that Mr Eversden could be a bit of a curmudgeon but I found him to be patient and accommodating and utterly professional.  Another name to ask for specifically when I can afford to pay full rates.

Today it was just our actors, the unflappable Mr Amosa and the irrepressible Ms Leilua, our grizzled DOP Mr Meikle, and myself.  Second unit stuff, I think this is called:  getting ‘dirty’ over-shoulder stuff of our actors driving around the city, catching shots of this or that guerilla-styles, capturing moments that may or may not come in handy. It’s always better to have options in editing, than not have enough footage at all.

Our day was five hours long.  After four looong days (I’d be up at 0600, out the door by 0630, home by 2100 with production stuff to attend to, followed by bedtime at 0000*), it was… I can’t find the words to describe how happy I was to see my family in the day time.  It sounds incredibly saccharine but it’s true of my relationship with The Goddess:  time apart is painful.

Sometime this week I’ll post about more specific things – like how could I possibly fill up a day like that with a mere short film, or why in the gods’ name would I do such a thing.  Until then, I’m off to bed.

*  Yes, this was only for four days.  Yes, I am a wuss.  And yes, right now, I don’t care.  But I’ll remember you said that.  I remember things like that. 


“To’ona’i” Production Day 4

I was selfishly hoping that we could wrap today.  I hoped (not quite prayed, but came close) that what coverage/shots we’d got for the montage would be sufficient.

Mr Meikle, through harsh and bitter experience, knows better than to take the hints of a tiring and decreasingly coherent multi-hyphenate.  So we’re shooting tomorrow.

Oh well.


“To’ona’i” Production Day 3

If yesterday afternoon‘s lesson about light-chasing wasn’t enough, today’s shooting certainly drove the point home.  You want two people talking outside?  Shoot the two of them both in frame (a ‘two-shot’).  Then shoot each one individually (‘singles’).  Then when you’re in a dark room with just you and a monitor and your awfully precious raw footage, you – and your end audience – are going to expect all those two-shots and singles to be lit exactly the same.  Even though you shot them over a four-hour period.

A lot can happen in the Auckland sky in four hours when the forecast is for clouds clearing with possible light showers. Heaps.  Bucket loads.


“To’ona’i” Production Day 2

Am buggered so shan’t stay long.

This morning’s set-ups were delayed by technical issues:  a car-rig that had to be adjusted for changing light, then compounded by a lens adaptor that wasn’t as rock solid as expected.  After five hours of rigging, it was all ditched for hand-held coverage from within the car.  The DOP was not happy.  I told everyone who’d listen that my next film would consist of two people in a room and nothing else.

As you’d expect, time spent on the morning’s set-ups meant that there was less time for the afternoon’s set-ups.  Mr Meikle and his gaffer, Mr Eversden, raced not only the fading light, but spotty clouds, big clouds, clouds with frustratingly uneven breaks of blue, and so forth.  Add to that being on the Auckland Airport flightpath, and soundman Mr Rea was forced to pause proceedings when necessary.

No fun at the time.  But fun in retrospect ’cause we still met our day (well, I think we ran ten minutes over).  So a pretty rockin’ day, atcherly.

Time for noddy land.


“To’ona’i” Production Day 1

I really should be in bed. I’ve got to be up and about in seven hours. This is rather irresponsible.

Despite a slow start to the day due to the late arrival of camera gear, we met our day with an hour to spare.  Back-slaps and handshakes abounded.  There was no shouting, no kicking of actors, no beatings of assistants.  Today, I believe, was a Good Day.

On-set workflow was set up by the very capable (and available only for one day) Mr Heron the Camera Assist.  Once we’d wrapped for the day, I took the footage (external hard-drive, actually), and passed it under the very discerning eyes of our post-production consultant who pronounced it “useable”.  Post-production workflow, courtesy of the choice of camera, is also under control.

In short:  the chances of a finished film making it out to those hardy souls who watch short films, have increased that little bit more.  (As per my last post:  if a no-budget feature crashes after shooting wraps, who truly sees it?  No one.)

Onwards to Day Two.


“To’ona’i” Pre-prod Day -1

One sleep. Don’t know if it’ll be fitful like the last few. Hope not. Maybe. Probably.

Mr Power had to gently talk me down from an incipient nervous breakdown earlier in the day (“Don’t be ridiculous”) (it was better than “Don’t be a drama queen” ’cause I would’ve clocked him) (not that I’ve anything ag-,… never mind). He’s a good man.

I thought today would be relatively cruisey but an assistant who became unavailable meant a whole lot of scrambling during the day. A nice reminder of how truly collaborative filmmaking is – regardless of how ‘low’ one’s job might be, everyone is essential.

Not all wrinkles had been ironed out when I last saw Mr Power late this afternoon but I’m not going to worry about it any more. He’ll sort things out. ‘S what a good producer does.

Noddy time.

(I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to blog during the shoot. If things go quiet, you’ll certainly know why. If I continue blogging, don’t tell the cast and crew – I should be prepping for the next day.)


“To’ona’i” Pre-prod Day -2

Holy crap. Two days to go – not even that: a mere two sleeps. Oh dear.

Mr Power the producer is on the case working through all the things I’m unable to do, or have run out of time to do, or am too chicken to do, or that are his job anyway.

Crew?  Check.

Schedule?  Being finalised.

Script?  Which version we talking here?  Production, shooting, or a revised version of either?  Let’s say… in progress.  Any minute now.

Gear?  Audio – check.  Video – arrives in town tomorrow for check, prep and test by Mr Meikle‘s minion.

Cast?  Check.

Reluctant multi-hyphenate?  Dreading every minute of pre-prod.  But knowing how essential it is to a reasonably drama-free shoot.  Oscillating wildly from little-boy excitement to full-blown terror.

This will end.  In two sleeps plus five shoot days.

And then there will be post.