05 December, 2009

Shirts & Swag Available

While we were doing the mix this past week Mike mentioned that the crest for the Royal Commission on the Loch Ness Monster would make a good shirt.

I can't say he's wrong about that, so I got the graphic and prepared some shirts (and other swag) at Cafe Press.

If anyone wants a copy of our first design, they are now available.

If you order quick you may even have one before I do!

How does it factor in the movie?  You are just going to have to wait and see...

03 December, 2009

Wired for Sound

I knew in an academic sense that the sound mix was going to change the film - improve it in tremendous ways - but it seems that there is little that can prepare you for the impact that a high-end sound mix can provide you.

Sharpe Sound has been Vancouver's "go-to" sound studio for film pretty much since the industry took off in the '90s.  Paul Sharpe who founded it turned down the opportunity to mix Schindler's List so that he could focus on opening his studio.  It is a wicked establishment.  Their halls are pretty much wallpapered with their nominations and awards.  Several of those awards were won by our Sound Supervisor, Bill Mellow.

I've known Bill for about a decade now through a mutual friend, Scott John, who is an associate producer on "Beast."  When I met Bill I was working in a smaller capacity on another independent film and he casually offered to help on the audio for it.  I am not really sure why that offer was never taken advantage of - it was not my call at the time, and the sound on the film in question was in the end practically ignored.

I think that at the time Bill was interested in taking on a project the size of a feature for the bigger credit (though I am assuming his intention as part of my own personal narrative).  When Craig and I were in early pre-production on "Beast" I remembered Bill's previous offer.  We - Craig and I - knew that sound was an area that we had very little acumen, even in terms of administrative planning and figured that we should at least talk to someone to get the lay of the land.  I called Bill and we met and bought him some beers and chatted.  I was crossing my fingers that at some point further down the line we could spin this preliminary meeting into some kind of practical assistance.  I figured that by that point Bill's need for bigger & better credits had largely out-walked his desire to work on freebies.  I under-estimated Bill's exceedingly good character.

As we drove away from that meeting it hit me... "Holy shit Craig, I think we were just offered tens of thousands of dollars of post-production audio work for free."  I was still under-estimating what we would eventually receive.

That was over three years ago.

It's been a slow journey, and in the end we pretty much got the full treatment - edit, effects, foley, ADR & mix - and all from a studio that, beyond being outrageously generous, has also been incredibly patient with us, our first-timer mistakes, and a schedule which has shifted so many times that we ourselves are emotionally burned out from it.

The past two days have been "the show."  It was exhausting and exhilarating.

I've been in the big mixing rooms before (indeed the very room we worked in) and I've been involved in sound mixes on small films before - but never have I been in on a sound mix in the big-assed, full-on, state-of-the-art studio.  It might have been a touch intimidating at first, but overall it was like going to Disneyland.

Phil's photo from early in day one of the sound mix.

There were some points where things were frustrating - almost all of which can be chalked up to 'learning experiences' on our part.  There were a few points where we had to negotiate our way through creative choices made by various combinations of people in the room - and that too could have been more easily dealt with had we on our end been more specific in advance or had a bigger budget to apply to moving all our post-production forward more cleanly (but that is a reality of low-budget film-making).  And in the end the result has me elated.

It was good that Mike - our editor - was there.  He is the person who has worked most intimately with the final product and knows each moment in the film and what it is achieveing.  His eye... er, ear... for what was needed is much more specific than Craig's or mine could be.  Virtually everything he brought up were things that I would have noticed... days later, after it was too late.

I was also distracted... no, entranced by the quiet dance of the mixers.  Bill and Kelly have been working together behind mixing boards for a decade and a half.  Joe has been mixing with them for several years too.  It's amazing how well they know each other's work and process.  In the course of two days there were maybe two dozen times that they had to communicate instructions or questions to one another verbally - always on very specific things.  It was fascinating watching them roll back and forth from one station at the board to another, passing off control to one another without the tiniest outward cue.  Initially I couldn't even tell who was 'in control' at any given moment, but I clued in soon enough.  Though I never did pick up how they managed to pass it off without stepping on each other's toes.

The foley (which had been recorded by Joe and another technician - Jean - who we did not meet, and mixed by Joe) was great - and with SO many group scenes could not have been an easy job.  Nailing the specifics of it was often surprizing - the exciting flourishes that called attention to details that might otherwise get missed.  (Case in point that will mean nothing to anyone who hasn't seen the movie - the ratchet on the Princess's fishing-float 'ear-ring'.)

Watching (and more to the point, listening) to Kelly re-edit dialogue and music on the fly was very cool too.  At one point he took an edit that Mike had done that had seemed passable at the time and re-edited it seamlessly and with flourish that left us feeling kind of sheepish.  His other work was equally well executed, but if I get to every specific I'll be here forever.

The same can be said for Bill.  Several times he was put in a position of having to create new effects out of whole cloth, or adjust the sound edits of CG that had been massaged.  Suffice to say that all this only adds to the degree that I'll be thanking Bill for the rest of our days.

And then there is the music...

We have two different composers on the film - Luke (who was also our Location Sound Mixer) and Phil.  In general Luke dealt with the grittier sounds and Phil with the emotionally delicate sections.  Luke's music is more guitar driven, while Phil is more orchestral.  Both ventured into maritime sounds and into each other's prime territory - Phil does have a guitar-centred theme that pops up twice in the film and Luke nails the emotional drive of several important scenes - elevating one in particular (so hard to talk directly about this without giving spoilers) from heart-breaking to tragic.  Both of them did a great job and at times surprised me with how much they were able to bring to the table.  The temp music was effective, but the music that has been tailored for our specific moments makes such a spectacular difference.

And this is to say nothing of the two songs added to the film by The Pucks.  One of which Kelly found himself bopping to long after it was over.  One was written for the film and appears 3/4 of the way through - the other is our end credit sequence and was a most fortuitous find.  (Both songs are on their latest album, Martha.)

It was also the first time I got to see the film on a big screen - and while it was a low-res version that was playing 'hot', it was pretty cool to see the film so close to how it will be in it's idealized final version.  Indeed, the 'money shot' of the film - with the sound effects added was something I was not prepared for.  I had only ever seen temporary versions on laptops.  Last night at 9pm, if the audio had not been turned up to eleven, I would have been heard to mutter "Oh my god..." under my breath.  It was a good thing.  It was also hardly the only time.  The confluence of sound, finalized effects that I was seeing for the first time, and seeing the film twenty-feet tall was inspiring.  Expriencing the build up to the set-piece scene that Keith sold the film to me on was fantastic.  The characters are getting excited, there is a flurry of activity, the music is pulling the viewer along whether they like it or not... I couldn't help getting caught up in a scene I've seen dozens of times before.  Truth be told, I think I might have been more excited for the characters than I was playing one of those same characters in the same moments we were acting.

When all was said and done I was a bit overcome.  Even though we had pretty much watched the film in clips 10-90 seconds long at a time, the impact was apparent, and the enormity of the gift that had been given to us by Sharpe hit me like a tonne of bricks.  As I thanked the guys for their effort, the value they had added right at the end of what has been the work of over a decade in total hit me.  I had to stop talking, or I probably would have lost it and made a fool of myself.

Anyhow... it was pretty much the end of creativity on this film - and that in itself is a relief.  The work left to do is nominal.  By this time next week, apart from finalizing the end credits, we will have a finished movie.  Really, so far as I am concerned, I am no longer making a movie - I have made one.

29 November, 2009

Heading into the Mix

I'll be doing another update very soon.  I just wanted to make not that we are on the verge of going into the sound mix.
It starts tomorrow.
The composers are finished, the picture is complete - all the effects comped into the final version.

There will be inevitable tweaks of the credits, but that's simply a matter of adding the appropriate text to the scroll and adjusting the timing accordingly.  But truly, this week we will be finished making The Beast of Bottomless Lake.

There are some exciting possibilities ahead that it would be a bad idea to speak directly about here, but let it be said that after all this time - too long a time in many ways - we will no longer be 'making a movie' we will 'have made a movie.'

I'll report on the sound mix in the next few days - and then once that's done, it's really just a matter of creating a final render. 

What a long fabulous journey it has been.

13 October, 2009

If I were Superstitious I Wouldn't even Mention This...

Haven't had a truly positive update in a while.  Thought I'd drop in and let folks know...

Despite all manner of delays, some which could have been avoided with a bit more foresight and some which could not be avoided on our small budget, we have had a few things fall in place this past week and it's looking good for the last few pieces of post-production.

The last work could be done as early as Hallowe'en... but a safer estimate would be a week or so further along.  In any case, there are few issues which could hold us back now.  The finish line is so close that if it were olfactorily sensible, I could smell it!


05 September, 2009

Interview on Skeptically Speaking

Just a quick note to direct any of you who check in here with any regularity that I was interviewed on Skeptically Speaking this past week about the film and some other stuff...

Oh and for the record, despite what I said, David Nykl is NOT at DragonCon. He called me last night - the night the show aired - asking if I wanted to go see Inglourious Basterds. I am nowhere near Atlanta right now (indeed I've been watching parts of SkepTrack at DragonCon on-line; therefore David is neither (or he expected one heck of a commute) and is NOT at DragonCon.

Sometimes I'm a dumbass.

29 August, 2009

A Quick Cry for Help!

I'm going to be a guest on Skeptically Speaking this week, but due to a bunch of factors (they're having technical issues in the studio & the host is going to DragonCon) they aren't doing the interview as one of their normal call-in shows.

We are pre-recording the interview without any random listener questions. We're doing that on Monday evening (Aug 31st).

It would be cool if we had some email questions though...

Here's the preview of the show:"Kennedy Goodkey, one of the actors in the new independent movie The Beast of Bottomless Lake will discuss Ogopogo, being a skeptic in the not-so-skeptical acting community,and what it’s like to shoot a movie in a town where the tourism industry is built on the perpetuation of a myth."

If anyone can come up with a question, go to their home page and email it in to the show.


Thanks in advance!

04 August, 2009

Toronto Announces Film Schedule - Sorry Folks this isn't a "Great News!" post.

So, what more is there to say after that post-title?

TIFF has announced their films for this year.

"Beast..." is not one of them. We've actually know this for a few days but haven't made much noise about it until the official announcement.

Am I disappointed? Well, yeah. Kind of.
But honestly I'm a bit relieved too.

We were unable to provide TIFF with a completed version of the film. It was a work in progress. That is never the best situation, but it's not the end of the world.

If we had been accepted... well we STILL aren't quite done. We are very close, but the stress of that impending deadline (plus all the additional work that being in the third biggest film festival in the world) would entail... I'm a bit relieved we don't have to deal with that.

As I've told a number of people - getting into Toronto would have been a huge deal, but not getting into Toronto is not a huge deal. There are plenty of other festivals - a number of which are on the immediate horizon. Not getting into Toronto does not mark being a failure.

Now we can finish the film at our pace - which ironically doesn't add much time to the schedule, but it takes off the pressure to finish hell or high-water and we can roll with complications rather than panic over them.

28 July, 2009

New Cryptozoology Podcast

It's only two episodes in – the latest was posted yesterday – but there is a new podcast about cryptozoology which I've started listening to.

It's called Monster Talk and is available through iTunes.

The show itself looks at cryptozoological studies from a position of strict adherence to the scientific method – though not without a sense of humour about it. So you know you will never hear about incontrovertible proof of the Ogopogo (or Nessie, Sasquatch or the Chupacabra) unless one day they are actually found, like say – the megamouth shark or the coelacanth... which they tell us are themselves probable future topics.

Cryptozoology is funny that way. It is a valid science in a sense (sullied by far too many credulous 'amateur scientists') yet when something new is found it leaps from being cryptozoology to zoology. A true cryptozoologist is really a zoologist who is looking for a creature that is expected to exist based upon empirical evidence.

The hosts of the show are Blake Smith, Dr. Karen Stollznow and Ben Radford. Each of them a skeptical celebrity in their own right. Ben Radford, specifically, co-wrote "Lake Monster Mysteries" with Joe Nickell – which I previously mentioned was a significant research text for "Beast of Bottomless Lake."

Drop by the forums. I'm one of the more active members – with only two episodes complete, there aren't many of us! My forum name is "Jedischooldropout" just about anywhere including on Monster Talk.

21 July, 2009

Thinking About the Okanagan

There are so many people involved in the film who are from the Okanagan Valley. It's hard to imagine that someone involved in the film wasn't at the very least severely inconvenienced this past weekend while a new fire scoured parts of the region.

It's hard for us to be able to keep tabs on everyone. If perhaps any of you are reading this and were caused trouble, our hearts are going out to you. Keep in touch and let us know you are alright.

16 July, 2009

Toronto Film Festival – Keep Holding Your Breath

Just in case anyone is keeping tabs...

Yes. TIFF announced a whole raft of films yesterday and NO we were not on the list.


The Canadian Films are announced on August 4th... so keep your fingers crossed

15 July, 2009

ADR - Completed

Yesterday we finished ADR. (Additional dialogue recording.)

It took four separate days. One day just for David (though he did it in less than the scheduled – worst case scenario – time) two more for most of the rest of the cast, and an hour a few weeks ago just to make sure we got Mark Leiren-Young while he was in town.

I did mine yesterday. I haven't done ADR in two years, but between Beast and Frankie & Alice I've done it twice in two weeks.

Everyone was really great and fast.

Myself I had trouble with one line. My only line in French – "Je ne parle pas l'anglais." Somehow I couldn't get my tongue around the "l'anglais." I got it eventually. But who writes this shit? ;-)

The Amazing Meeting

This past weekend I – Kennedy – went to Las Vegas to attend the Amazing Meeting, the world's biggest critical thinking event.

It was a perfect place to test the film amongst a small group made up of a very specific demographic group that would be interested in "Beast...."

When I arrived at the hotel I was given my room number – 2012. I actually thought that was a joke. In a sense it was. 2012 really was my room number, and I exploited it over the weekend.

For those of you not 'in' on the joke... the doomsday fear-mongering surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar is a current light-weight skeptical subject. The Mayan calendar ends (resets to 'zero' in fact) in 2012. It's pretty silly really. Phil Plait gave a discussion on the astronomical connections to 2012 fears on the 3rd day of the conference.

Upon looking at the schedule for the conference I immediately selected that first night as the best time for a sneak preview. (The film is still not done. Temp audio and incomplete effects are still in place.) I figured that if we started by 8:30 we'd be done around the same time as the magic show, so people could easily go from the screening to the bar. Room 2012 was a number no skeptic would forget.

I pushed the film on Twitter with TAM7 hashtags a few times in the afternoon, and then face to face at the reception and again to the group that gathered for the Canadian Contingent Meet-up.

We squeezed about as many people into the room as could actually be comfortable for 90 minutes, and let fly.

It's such a relief that it was a success. Lots of laughs. While I hope everyone enjoys this film, outside of my immediate friends and family, the people I most want to like it is the scientific community. And while this isn't precisely the scientific community, there is a HUGE amount of overlap. There was a bit of chatter on Twitter about it afterwards, that made me feel awesome.

Bill Prady – creator of the Big Bang Theory – was the keynote speaker for the conference. He has validated for me that comedies about scientists are totally viable. Jennifer Ouellette also spoke on Friday about the Science and Entertainment Exchange – which facilitates the consultation for film and TV writers with scientists. This was all very cool for me.

In the end I walked away from the conference with two radio interviews on my horizon. The first was yesterday with Radio Freethinkers (July 14, 2009 – episode 17) and the second will be in several weeks time on Skeptically Speaking.

26 June, 2009

Vicious Rumours...

Hey everyone I just wanted to quash a rumour that has been flying around.

I just wanted everyone to know that our editor is NOT dead.

That is some other guy whose name is also Michael Jackson.

Our Mike is alive and well.

19 June, 2009

Transcription... boring but educational

Taking a quick break.
I'm in the seriously tedious task of transcribing the film as cut. If anything using the script (even the most recent draft) is actually hindering my speed of transcription.
But... in a way I'm in a priviledged position. Not only am I hte primary writer of the script, but I was also in the film and - duh - I'm doing the transcript. It is educational.
Some actors do a really good job of sticking to the script, some (ahem) really make it their own. There is virtue in both.
Those who make it their own really do add an extra voice to the script - at the expense of occassionally ruining a joke with unfortunate wording. At the same time, for every time they blow a gag or other important (to the writer 'preciously important') line, they find at least one brand new gem.
Those who commit to the text really find a way to make it work, hell or high water. Some times due to the type one actor above they have to adjust their lines, but even then it's usually with the slightest variation possible.
Generally speaking - very generally - the actors who stick to the script in "Beast" are the women, and me. But even I slide around a bit - and I wrote the fucking thing!
But nearly everyone has a habit of adding 'line prefixes' (for a lack of better term) and more often than not, what gets added to the top of people's lines is the word 'well'. I actually just finished transcribing a scene where four of the first five lines began with the word 'well'. Sadly as the writer I technically take responsibility for that. The upside is I also get to take credit for the really great improvs that people make around the skeleton I wrote. (Though of course no one has yet said anything truly brilliant that I didn't write... no, really.)
But here is my favourite embellishment...
The line as written was: "Okay, fuck! Fine!" In the final edit (and there are no cuts in the performance to extend it, this is as it was said in the take) it goes: "Okay, that’s fine. No no, that’s fine. Great. Just great. Fine. Fucking fine. Just fine."
When I say "favourite" I don't mean it's the one I'm most proud of. It's the one I'm most amazed by. Three words became fifteen. But... it works!
Fine. Just fucking fine.

16 June, 2009

Vividus Rocks the House

A follow up to last week's "Tale of Woe."

The guys at Vividus look just a little bit like miracle workers at the moment.

There is still a lot of work to be done on the shot they are completeing for us, but after one week of work they have got a working temp that is WAY beyond what I expected to have by now.

The version I saw this morning made me giggle like a school-girl in a gymnasium full of Robert Pattinson clones. It's going to look far better in our TIFF work in progress submission than the cartoony hand drawn After Effects thingy we had. Though I admit that when I first saw the cartoony version I giggled like a school-girl getting winked at by Robert Pattinson.

Vividus gets a big thumbs up from me.

New Photos Up

I just posted some new photos. They should be appearing in the slide show on the right hand side any time now.

For a change these aren't 'behind the scenes' photos. For the first time, these are photos that are actually from the film itself.

The Provost Pictures machine is humming louder than it has for quite a while. As we push through the final stages of post production all sorts of things are happening. It hasn't felt this busy since shortly after we finsihed shooting. Suddenly film-making is fun again!

09 June, 2009

Disaster Narrowly Averted

So here's a tale of woe...

There is a very important shot in the film that has been concieved and re-concieved many times. Originally we thought 'CGI', but were talked out of it in favour of practical effects. The basic argument could be summed up by "Puppet Yoda is far more compelling than CGI Yoda." So we made a serious attempt to do it practically.
We brought in a specialized props builder whose bottomline budget would have added 20% to our budget for that single shot. Not exactly a change we could truly afford.
We simplified the shot and the requirements of the hero prop. We planned to shoot it on our first day so we could come back and take second cracks at it. But... our first day was one of our worst days on set. We as a crew were learning a lot about each other and getting used to the time limitations of our tight schedule. We didn't make our day and one of the shots we didn't get was that one.
On day two we were back at the same location and while we didn't have time to shoot that shot (the second day was probably our WORST day thanks to extreme temperatures and no real cover from the sun) we did pick up a complimentary shot.
Roughly a week later we found ourselves back at the location again - a separate story in it's own right, told elsewhere - and this time getting the shot in question was high priority. Various efforts were made and the prop didn't really work right. Fingers were crossed, all efforts were made. We would have to see how it came out in the dailies.
Again our tight schedule interfered and it was over a month before that footage was watched. It probably seems obvious, but this should not have happened. It did happen though, and it's no one person's fault. It just happened. Prey of such a small amount of time with relatively few people available to get everything done. If we had it to do again, this is one thing that we'd spend more effort prioritizing. Lesson learned.
When we finally did get to see the footage... well, I'm sure you can guess - it failed to suffice, and that was not really a big surprise.
From there I can't really recall how we managed to form our new plan. It probably came together in stages over a long period of time and probably in part by accident. When we were looking for Telefilm funding we definitely priced out CG that would be very similar to what we would eventually settle upon.
I am being deliberately cagey here as I don't want to give plot details away, but what basically happened is that we chose to NOT take another run at practical effects in our reshoots, slightly changed the end of the film and decided that we would re-purpose a shot (The 'complimentary' coverage we picked-up on day two suddenly found itself arguably being the most important shot in the entire film!), and go right back to the origninal plan of using CG animation.
Luckily in the two years since we shit-canned the original CG animation plan, a lot has been done in the software world. Getting what we needed for our budget (we never did get Telefilm money, so our budget is practically made up of goodwill) was actually possible.

We brought someone on who promised to have us a working rough for our submission to the Toronto International Film Festival. There was plenty of time for that. Long story short: on the day that we were to see our first version for approval we recieved a message that a sudden family tragedy had just occurred and it would not be done, not only on time, but ever.
Do not get me wrong, my heart goes out to the family for whatever it was that happened... but in our world this was a disaster. All we had for the TIFF submission was a goofy hand drawn temp graphic, patched in with After Effects. Yoiks, Scoob!
To make matters worse, so much of the time we had to get it done in had been burned up. A suddenly very short schedule on top of our lack of budget was quite possibly a show-stopper - and we had already paid our TIFF application fee.
We scrambled through a variety of options - most of which were way out of our budget range, others of which understandably spooked when they found out how short their schedule would be.

And the consequent tale of salvation...

As things looked most dire, we were turned towards a new company - Vividus - who might be interested in the challenge. Thanks to Bob Hume of PHD productions (and husband of Leanne Jijian Hume who plays 'Sondra' in "Beast...") for pointing us their way.
When Mike and Craig arrived at the Vividus office they already had a wireframe ready - up on their computer screens for inspection. Clearly they really wanted this project. And they got it. We'll see how their chops are next week.

06 June, 2009

Moving Forward by Degrees

This amuses me. Who said a higher education was expensive?

You too can get a degree in cryptozoology... or parapsychology... or naturopathy... or podcast production from Thunderwood College.
It'll prepare you for finding the Beast of Bottomless Lake!

01 June, 2009

Blog Posts as Elusive as the Lake Monster Itself

Well, this is a pain. The same thing happened with my personal blog too a month or so ago – where I thought I had posted something, but in the end it was nowhere to be seen.

The insider punch-line to that is that the post itself was primarily an effort on my part to catch up on reporting a week's worth of developments which I had meant to be blogging on as each came up, but life had interfered to the point where the developing story had kind of merged into one.

So, here is a rough reconstruction of the bottom line:

The picture is locked. The last ten days or so before lock were a flurry of test screenings as we tinkered with the end of the film in fairly radical ways. Each of those screenings was useful and provided good perspective, though the individual receptions ran the gamut.

The first provided the greatest amount of useful input which we based the majority of our changes upon, and which began the process of retooling the end of the film. Basically we realized that we were giving the audience a lot of redundant information. We thought we were reinforcing what the audience was assuming about character arcs – and we were close; the audience was making assumptions, the assumptions we wanted them to make, but by confirming those assumptions it was coming across as pandering and repetitive. That was a pretty cool realization. It allowed us to eliminate a few scenes and challenged us to find a new way to end the film in a satisfying way that wasn't the denoument we had crafted specifically to wrap the film up in a neat little package.

A small detour here – I am continually amazed at the power of context in an Eisensteinian sense. I could cite numerous tedious examples which came up in the process of editing Beast of Bottomless Lake but one stands above the rest for me. In the middle of the film there was a sequence where Paul, the team leader attempts to make an inspirational speech to the expedition team just before they set out on the water. He isn't very effective and it is interrupted by the appearance of his addled father on the dock. Paul goes and deals with his father. As he leaves the boat he asks the boat captain to build some camaraderie and do some team building. Paul goes and deals with his father while the team prepares the boat to set sail under a call and response sequence from the captain. The sequence had a nice rhythm that ended comically first with the team nay-sayer declaring "This is fucking stupid" before being reprimanded by the captain; seeing the boat is on the verge of leaving Paul overreacts and rushes down the wharf, leaving his dejected father on the dock; finally the comic character casts off – in a nice piece of physical comedy barely avoiding going into the lake before the scene shifts to the boat out on the lake in an up tempo scene of the team getting ready as the boat motors along to pulsing music. First we cut Paul's conversation with the captain – where he asks him to build team work for him. It simply seemed unnecessary. But it made a big change to the meaning of the nay-sayer's "This is fucking stupid" line. All of a sudden the character wasn't talking about the team building exercise, he was talking about the entire expedition, and that made him a bit too cranky. That would have needed dealing with, except we ended up making an additional cut – the entirety of the ream-building/casting-off sequence. The final version goes directly from Paul's father sitting dejectedly on the dock to the driving pulse of the boat cutting through the water; a transition which is actually a really effective shift of tone and pace. I'll mourn the loss of the comic character scrambling to get on board – there is one really good laugh in there, but that is the nature of film-making – you have to do some baby-killing.

The second screening put our solution to the test. We had made some more internal cuts where we felt the film had drifted, like in my example above. The screening was pretty remarkable. The response was overwhelmingly positive – to the point where I couldn't contain myself. Mid way through the film after a particularly boisterous series of peals of laughter I declared "You guys are hysterical!" We have to believe for our own sanity that the response was a bit of a false positive, but at the same time it gave us a level of confidence in the product that was definitely necessary at that point.

Concurrent to the second screening we had sent the film to some friends who we expected to be critical. It would be an understatement to say that we were surprised by how critical they were. Though that said it was also clear that they were watching the film under adverse conditions. Lots of starting and stopping (not so good for comedy) and they came into it having been told a previous and by then significantly inflated running time which by all accounts was too long. Their criticism definitely gave us some good food for thought that rang true, but much of it seemed to come from a perspective that was entirely un-useful to the film that we were making, falling into either the "this is the film I would make" category or a range where we simply didn't have the coverage even if we did see virtue in their suggestions.

With the second screening giving us a boost in our confidence we were empowered to make a final few changes and.... ULP!.... WALK AWAY. Yes, we declared the picture locked. It was an exciting threshold to cross. Surprisingly easy to cross too. There was a certain level of second guessing, but we were ready to walk away. I don't know if it was George Lucas who said it first, but it was he who I first heard say it, that films aren't so much completed as abandoned. There is no doubt that we could have continued to tinker. But we were out of specific adjustments to make and all we really could do was re-visit sections of the film that we thought we could improve if we looked hard enough. No doubt that that would be a process fraught with losses to the law of diminishing returns.

....I've already skipped a step! Before we locked Mike and I spent an evening getting a handful (five) inserts, two of which we used Bronwen for. We popped four of those five into the edit before we called it quits. The fifth we tested and while it worked on paper, it simply didn't flow right in the cut once we tried it out. I learned years ago that sometimes moving forward means going backwards to what was right in the first place. In my days in theatre we often found that we had to try something new in order to realise that we had the right answer in the first place.

A few days after lock we had a spotting session with Bill for sound. It was quite promising. He felt that the majority of the audio was useable. We had talked ourselves into a worst case scenario where we were certain that more than 75% of the audio was useless. But we'll trust the Geminii winner on this one. Even a number of scenes we had assumed as we were filming (mostly stuff on the lake) that we were simply recording guide tracks for Bill assuaged us were 'no problem' and he laid out for us exactly how he would salvage them. I credit both Bill for his post-production expertise for this as well as Luke for going the distance on set to get good production sound.

A day and a half later we received a troubling email from Mike (and this is where I began to get upset with myself for not documenting each set along the way). His hard-drive array had suffered a failure. We may have lost data, but we wouldn't know until the array was operating again. The worst case scenario was that we would have to reload a bunch of files from back-ups, so it was not a disaster – merely a delay. Nonetheless it was not a pleasant 36 hours waiting for word from Mike, but eventually it came... no loss except for the day and a half of worry. Yay!

Even so, that day and a half would skew our post production schedule by more than that amount of time.

We contacted the festival with our first submission deadline – the Toronto International Film Festival – and determined that we could still get our work in progress to them in sufficient time for their purposes.


It has been a long process and we are not out of the woods yet, but having passed a significant benchmark – picture-lock – and knowing that there is a real light at the end of the proverbial tunnel at last it has been a pleasure to let the incidental folk involved that we will be doing a cast & crew screening before mid-summer when I've has occasion to tell them.

Okay, I admit that I made a point of calling Keith's parents and telling them specifically that the end is in sight.

06 May, 2009

...Cutting the Deepest

Yesterday was not my favourite day in this process.

Last night I had to tell one of our actors that we'd cut her scene in the film - relegated it to the vague promise of "DVD extras" should that ever be realistic. It's a reality I've been prepared for in general for quite some time. And most of our actors know that cutting is a reality and that their only or best scene could end up on the editing room floor. But this was a special case.

I don't even know where to begin explaining the needs of cutting for time to a child.

Worse yet, the child in question was my niece, Kassandra - "Kaz."

I talked to her Mom, my sister, Tara first so she knew what was coming and could be prepared to console. I figured that once I told Kaz, that anything I said would be irrelevant - I'd be the bad guy and that the chances of any reason being heard coming from my mouth would dwindle towards zero.

I'm not sure that Kaz fully appreciated what I was telling her at first. I led with the 'up' side - that her scene would be in the DVD extras (ugh - now I HAVE to follow through on that promise or forever be a monster). She said "I don't care. That's okay."

I explained how her scene was cut due to no fault of hers. The scene preceeding it was too long, too technically compromised and ultimately didn't truly forward the plot. It DID add a nice extra dimension to one character and provide back-story... back story that turns out to be a lie, so removing it definitely changes the film. But the scene following - Kaz's scene - is the punchline to the faux back-story scene. Without the set-up the scene is pointless. It's too bad. It's a funny scene. Gets laughs every time we screen it. Unfortunately that isn't enough - especially when we are seriously trying to shave time.

I went on to tell her how happy I was that she was in my film and that she would always be in my film in my heart and mind... and that's where I started to lose it.

Kaz gave the phone back to Tara, and I commented on how I was taking it worse than she was. Tara told me that as soon as she turned over the phone her stoic facade crumbled. I'm guessing that not being in the film is lousy for Kaz. For two years she's been looking forward to being in a movie. She has told friends that she's in a movie. I made a liar out of her. I'm so sorry for that kiddo. Perhaps she was being 'strong' while she talked to me, or perhaps it wasn't until she heard how it was affecting me that the gravity of it sunk in. Either way, I feel like shit.

Picture lock is days away now. Tonight is our last test screen - the first in ages. This time for some folk with industry insight. Should be interesting. Hopefully it'll lift my spirits a bit.

28 April, 2009

Ski Bum Musical

Went and saw the celebratory screening of The Staff: A Ski Bum Musical the winner of this year's Telus 72 Hour Film contest.

The crew was predominantly made up of guys from our crew from Beast.

They were runners up last year, this year they rocked the house.

Congratulations guys!

Cross Posted on The Truth & The Signal blog.

22 March, 2009

Big UPs for The Pucks!

Just a heads up...

Friends of "The Beast..." and contributors to the film - they wrote and recorded a song for the film "More than Just a Woman" which appears on their imminent album "Martha" - The Pucks have a couple of shows coming up in Vancouver.

They are playing this week - Wednesday March 25th - at the iconic Railway Club; and again in early April they will be playing at the opening of the new Vancouver Convention Centre... in fact they will be the first band playing at the opening - which will make them the first act at the VCC EVER!

Congratulations to them!

See y'all at the show!

04 March, 2009

Green chain opens this weekend against Watchmen

Just a quick link this time...

My buddy Mark Leiren-Young - who appears in "Beast..." - is opening a film this weekend.

It's called The Green Chain.

I have credit as the Director's Assistant - whee!

It stars BSG actors Tricia Helfer & Tahmoh Penikett - as well as voice-actor extroardinaire, Scott McNeil; Leo Award winning (for this film) Jillian Fargey; Brendan Fletcher, August Schellenberg and Babz Chula.

But what I really wanted to comment upon was the awesome - if terribly sobering - article Mark wrote in the Georgia Strait about the realities of Opening Weekend.

16 January, 2009

The Beast is finally seen...

A watershed moment.

Yesterday Craig, Mike, David and I gathered together to watch The Beast of Bottomless Lake for the first time front to back on one piece, properly edited.

There is still a lot of work left to be done, but the perspective has significantly shifted. We now have a 'whole' by which to compare against. It also means that I have been robbed of a stock answer. Almost every day I hear some variation on the declaration 'I can hardly wait to see the film!' to which I regularly quip "Yeah, me too!" Simple, but not without its own subtle wit.

But I have seen it now. It's not final, but there is a lot more clarity as to what this particular beast is.

We have a few weeks wherein we are each going to watch and re-watch and compile our own individual list of notes, wishes and thoughts on how to improve the edit; then we will make some high impact changes as time will allow and put that next version in front of a test audience or two... or three. What exactly we get from that remains to be seen, but we'll make our final fine-cut edits based on the ammunition and insight we get from those sessions.

Then we move on to sound, FX and colour correction...

Our intended goal: to be ready to submit to the Toronto Film Festival.