Monday, July 21, 2014

Update... of the mind

1922 color film test, with Mae Murray
While I let the film's new title marinate, I've been working hard to finish a pass at a new cut that addresses the test audience comments. I'm going to try to squeeze in some more work on the trailer as well.

It's worth spending time to properly process test audience comments. What happens is you hear from person A, person B, and person C. And while A and B love everything except for one little bit that really bothered them, person C thinks that one bit is the best part of the film.

All very smart people, just different aesthetics. How does this film fit into that? And what's person D going to say that's going to affect what A,B, and C said?

That said, person Z, who I talked to last week in real life, had just one major comment and a suggestion, and that suggestion actually addressed a major element across the film that I'd been stumped on. Digging into the film now, the changes I've made based on this new suggestion have been coming out great.

I watched a few other films over the week, specifically to see how they used their score music. I haven't done that in a while, it's always very interesting.

I'm also thinking a lot about color in this go-round, hence today's picture, which is not from our film, but of lovely Mae Murray, in an early color film test (1922!).  A long time ago I thought it might be cool to shoot a beach movie in black n' white, but calmer heads prevailed and instead we have glorious Kodak color. Everyone knows that B&W is great -- hell I've made as many film that way as in color -- but sometimes you wanna use charcoal, and other times you need oil paint. Whatever's best for the project. Right? Right!

Sightings: Anna and I saw Kenna Kettrick at the theater over the weekend, and just a few hours ago I ran into Riley Neldam out on the street, working on commercial shoot. It was great to see them both!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Test audience results (mostly), title change, trailer

I am coming out of my cave to report!

A big huge thank-you (once again) to Gordon Modin, of Gordon Modin Video Production for his help in finalizing the test audience preview DVD and review-only streaming content.

Gordon is a great guy who knows everything and has helped me with my last three films.

That leads to a second huge thank-you to my anonymous test audience for their candid, thoughtful, and thought-provoking comments!

Not much of which I can talk about right now (though I am very, very happy with the overall reactions) but one of the things that came from this was....

Title change
Most people don't know and don't care about my playing fast and loose with the word "mondo", but unfortunately the title Mondo Beacho implies to some people that it is a "mondo film". And it is not.

And those people that care happen to include festival programmers and theater owners...

So...  ah... yes. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I've got a new title figured out! It's gonna seem weird, it's always hard to get used to a new title, but I think it's a good one.

That said, if anyone has any great ideas for a new title, it's not too late to let me know.

Stay tuned for more on this.

I am putting together a trailer for the film, and as soon as it's done (and the new title is finalized) I'll post it on YouTube and Vimeo for all to see and share. It's gonna be awesome.

Monday, June 30, 2014

And after that

Quickie screencap, Play bar is non-functioning
I used to spend summers working in a gigantic warehouse, where I was the only kid among a dozen old guys who'd been working there forever. I suppose I am actually older now than some of them were at the time.

The warehouse was huge and the guys spent most of the day driving forklifts, and moving palettes of stuff in and out of trucks at the loading docks and around the warehouse. Everyone called the forklifts "tow-motors", a term I've never heard since.

The guys worked alone a lot of the time, way off in the warehouse. So when their paths would cross, they'd always have to yell something to each other as they drove by. Sometimes there was a current event to talk about (someone fucking up, a new joke from one of the truck drivers, the boss being stupid, etc.) but most of the time they just hollered one of a handful of standard phrases.

"Fraaaankly, Scarlet" one of them would yell. Then the other guy would yell back "fraaaankly Scarlett!" and they'd laugh and disappear into the warehouse for another 45 minutes.

The joke here, of course,  was a take on the famous Gone with the Wind line, "Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn." Except that their delivery was more like Edward G Robinson than Clark Gable, and with their New England accents it sounded like "Fraaa-nkly Ska-lit".

One of the guys apparently hadn't actually seen the movie, because he said "Frankly Charlotte."

But that was beside the point ....they didn't give a damn.

Sometimes, it got really hectic at work. Then they'd start yelling, "And after that!"

"And after that!"

All this stuff to do! Do that thing over there. And after that, get back on the tow-motor and do that other thing there! And after that... It never ends!

What does this have to do with Mondo Beacho, a rock n' roll beach movie of the mind?

Most of the test audience still has not seen the film, because I haven't figured out how to get it (looking decent) onto a secure, online link and/or DVD. I've tried this, then that, then the other thing after that, and after that, this and that and the other thing. My particular in/out/version editing software setup is complicated enough to have befuddled me and at least one tech-expert type who graciously did his best (thank you Andy Dopieralski!).

I'm making a trip to see a man in West Seattle on Tuesday, though, and I'm fairly confident that after that it'll be ready.

After Tuesday.

Unless, after that, I have to do something else...

Monday, June 23, 2014

there's no audience like a test audience

Hey look, there's Gidget, the original Surfer Girl.

I read this book years and years ago. I've never seen the movie or the TV series.

The book was not as much fun as I thought it should've been. Maybe because it's so dated, or maybe because it was never much to begin with, and just happens to have been made into an iconic Sandra Dee/Sally Field vehicle that seems sort of quaint 50 + years later.

But what a great cover on this paperback edition, yeah?

Anyway, I finished the pre-test version of Mondo Beacho last night. I'll be sending preview DVDs out to my Test Audience this week. This gang of mysterious, unnamed suspects are a few reliably unbiased and thoughtful people who each have a specific perspective that always comes in handy.

They've been hand-picked by me for exactly that reason. Whether or not they like the film can even be beside the point.

In Hollywood, they have a company that handles test audiences.

The way I hear it, (taken with a grain of salt), a randomly-chosen audience has to fill out long questionnaires about a film before they can leave a stuffy, Tuesday afternoon screening. The questions tend to reinforce the insecurities of the moneymen... such as "Did you find the running scenes boring?" for a movie like Chariots of Fire.

With these data in hand, a war of the wills begins between the studio -- whose job is to understand and mitigate risk involved in making money by financing and distributing a variety of disparate films -- and the filmmaker -- whose job can be any number of things but ultimately whose professional reputation is on the line for the artistic decisions that lead to the critical and financial success of this one film. 

Show + business = show business.

Here's a true story I heard recently, (though I've fudged the numbers) about an independent filmmaker whose finished film was picked up by a big distribution company.

Under a big distribution company, a film can be shown nationally, even internationally, on the big screen in front of real theater audiences, and there will probably be some kind of payday for the filmmaker to come from this. 

So that's all very cool.  

"We'll open the movie at 1100 screens nationwide," the distributors said. 

"But first, we'd like your permission to run it past a test audience."

"Or," they said, "if you'd won't use our test audience, we can open on 11 screens."

What would you do? Take a chance that the test audience will love your film and that the distributor won't ask for even more concessions, such as cuts or even reshoots, to try for a better test? (Multiple re-testings are not uncommon). Or do set your jaw and choose the "option" of the handful of theatrical screenings, hoping that word-of-mouth and great reviews will inspire the distributor (whose test screenings you rejected) to take another chance with a "difficult" filmmaker and open the movie across the nation? 

What if you make a few recommended cuts, add a T&A scene, and the film tests well, and then it opens to an average of 45 on Rotten Tomatoes and is gone from 1000 of those 1100 screens after the first week? What if you don't make any cuts, the film gets good reviews, but no one can find it at the local mall and it closes in a week from the 11 arthouse screens to make room for the new Wes Anderson film.

Anyway, I haven't heard how this dilemma turned out for the filmmaker in question. 

But I'd be willing to bet that the distributor would not go for the idea of modeling the movie poster after a scribbly-looking children's book cover.

Monday, June 16, 2014

June update #2

L-R: Ahren Buhmann, Iain Dalton,
Kat Brede on set on Mondo Beacho.
(photo by David Thomas)
Well, I got a ton of work done on Mondo Beacho this week. I'm getting very very close now to a preview version.

And the sun just came out after a dark couple of days.

There's a nice little study in profiles here in today's photo, taken outside Cairo on our one, long day there.

There are two groups: Iain and Kat are setting up the tripod (up up up), while Ahren stands talking to Kenna Kettrick and I, both OC.

Now then. Which of these two groups is the yin and which is the yang?

Or, is it actually that both groups together are yin, while the sunny area around is yang?

Or, is Cairo, with its illustrative t-shirt in the window, actually itself the yin, while nearby Top Pot Donuts is the yang?  Perhaps... Yet Top Pot Donuts was clearly on the shady side of the street!

Either way, I promise more info on the film next week.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9 update Mondo Beacho

Extras: boys on the beach, on location for Mondo Beacho.  In the background: Emily Purington and Mondo Beacho crew
Extras: boys on the beach, on location for Mondo Beacho.
In the background: Emily Purington and Mondo Beacho crew
(photo by Karin Rathert)
I'm at the point in the edit where I'm working on the film as a whole, instead of as a series of scenes.

Pacing is the order of the day. Without pacing, what've you got? I think I've established that: it's just a series of scenes.

Of course, this process also surfaces new ideas for ways to make the film better at the scene-level as well.

The view of the forest makes some trees stand out.

Here's an example: The screenplay calls for a short, single shot at the end of a scene where a bunch of the characters are hanging out after a show, at night. The scene was originally going to be in a bar, but the logistics and scheduling involved for getting everyone into the particular place I wanted all at once, at 10 at night, were not ideal. (Improbable at best.)  So early on, I went out and found this weird little spot by the public dock near the location where we were already shooting that evening.

It was pretty dark in this little spot, but there was something undefinable about it that I kind of liked and I figured it'd make a contrast to the overall sunny palette of Mondo Beacho.

Anyway, the little shot we're talking about acts as sort of an end-cap to a fairly long scene; the last in a series of similarly-paced shots. Watching this scene the other day in context of the whole film, I realized that it was playing differently than I'd intended. And that maybe this new vibe was better.

And that maybe, there were some more things I could do, to make it even better.

So I started digging around in my files for ideas and almost immediately stumbled on an MP3 by this band "Quakers on Probation" that Graig Markel had turned me on to a while ago. I loved this song when I first heard it -- LOVED it -- but I couldn't find anywhere that it'd work in the film. Just in case, I tried sticking it under our little end-cap scene.

All of a sudden it clarified this new impression I was getting of the scene. It went from a slightly wistful, remote feeling, to a very specific wistful party feeling. Which was a million times better.

(A huge thank-you to Daniel Craig of Quakers on Probation for permission to use their song in the film.)

But wait, there's more! Watching the end-cap again I remembered a film clip I had in a different scene that might make the perfect companion shot for this new approach. And by coincidence, I'd actually been thinking of removing that clip from the other scene anyway, but wasn't quite sure so I'd just left it there for the time being.

I put that clip in front of our end-cap-with-new-music, and lo and behold, it worked perfectly, and the new effect is that the scene "opens up" the little world they live in very nicely.

Then I just had to trim and move the beginning, and end, of each clip and the clips around them, and the music, to get it exactly right.

And maybe get rid of the ambient sound track that'd been there.

Or maybe not.

Whew! Well -- I know that's some pretty exciting stuff to lay on you on a Monday morning. But this editing machine will not rest!

And, as they say in sculpture -- it'll be done when it's done.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mondo Beacho update

photo by Erik Hammen
"What's your film about?"

A girl moves to the beach
and spends a lazy summer 
exploring the ramshackle beach town 
and falling in love with the wrong boy.

Mondo Beacho, a rock n' roll beach movie... of the mind.

I think this understates the issue, but dang -- if anyone's got a better way to say this in one sentence, let me know. Artists are the people least-qualified to describe their own work.

I'm at the point in editing where it's pass after pass over the same material, looking as much at overall flow as little details. But of course, the better it flows the more the little warts stand out. Then when I stop and shave off the warts, the flow is changed. What? yes.

That said, there's nothing like hanging out with other artists to invigorate your own work. I spent the weekend in Minnesota, eating and drinking with a whole bunch of fine and lovely people and arts-types, some of them even 'Beacho or film-related, including:

Thomas "Folkadelic Two-step" Wold. His song "Downstream" is in the film and whose new, third record is just about done.

Paul D. Dickinson and Jessica Raymond (from The Last City in the East, the film I made back in 2011). Beers. Laffs. Paul has a new project boiling up but I probably can't mention it yet. Happy birthday, Jessica.

I also had dinner and more drinks with experimental/narrative filmmaker Rolf Belgum, (Driver 23, Atlas Moth, She Unfolds by Day) and his clever and lovely fiancee Heather. I even got to see a few clips from his long-gestating and still untitled new film! Fantastic!

Back in Seattle, I'm looking forward to a very productive and sunny week this coming week.