Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21 update, music music music

Fence in downtown Coupeville, WA
(photo by Erik Hammen)
More great news on the music front -- we scored two tracks from 2i to be featured in Mondo Beacho!

2i were a fantastic band out of Minneapolis that were known for their totally unique sound and awesome live shows. The two songs we're using are actually from one of their live recordings.

Thank you Sharon Kaniess and 2i!!

I also sent three more new songs to David Thomas, all footage-tested and ready to mix.

So... as of this writing I have one more song to finalize (tonight) and one more to either find, or more likely, to write -- but I've got a pretty good idea of how it's going to go.

In other words, we are inches-in-time away from starting the final cut with music!

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14 update - Mondo Beacho

Ahren Buhmann on set for Mondo Beacho
Ahren Buhmann on set for Mondo Beacho
(photo by Mel Cafe)
I think the photo on the left was taken on set while we were actually rolling camera. It's just that the light is totally different than in the final film.

It's a great shot, though. I like the whites that Mel gets from that DSLR of his.

Anyway. April may be the cruelest month, but so far we are doing great in the music department!*

To wit-- last week, I was turned on to a new band, the mighty Wet City Rockers. Their work is absolutely perfect for a bunch of stuff we need, so I contacted them immediately. They are very cool.

And -- they are willing to contribute four songs to the film! That's a lot of songs. (Thank you Wet City Rockers!!)

I've also been composing a lot on the 8-track, and I've been listening to a whole ton of great stuff from other folks--nothing else has quite clicked yet but sometimes it takes a while.

To wit again, I completed a song last night that I'd had in mind and then dismissed for one part of the film, only to realize that it might work great in another part.

Then I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered if that song is right after all and if so, maybe it could be a lot better.

The middle of the night is not the best time for objectivity, so I'll have to look at it again and reevaluate.

On that note, if anyone knows of any traditional disco bands out there that are not shackled to Sony or Warner Bros, please let me know.

*Actually I think part of the cruelty of April is the illusion of joy early on, a set up for you to be absolutely crushed by the end of the month...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Update Monday, April 7. Mondo Beacho

Silent-era stars Dorothy Sebastian and Joan Crawford
on the beach
Yesssir, that's the life. Young and stylish and carefree. Lunching on the beach with a pal. Say, you brought your "uke" -- Let's have a song!

This picture reminds me of post-production music work in many ways. I too eat sandwiches!

Last week, I completed two new songs and sent them to David Thomas to begin mixing.

David and I also completed the mix-down of all the performance songs (ie: the bands). Now they sound great and are ready to go in the picture. I should mention that when I say "David and I" what I mean is David had already done the actual mixing and the brains part, and I came in and sat around and said stuff like "can we have a little more of that whatchacallit... that one."

I also roughed in three other songs, and I'm hoping to complete at least a couple of them during the next week. I tried out some alternate guitar tunings on one of them. (But not the Curtis Mayfield tuning... yet).

Beyond that, I also spent a lot of time trawling around and listening to local bands via various online resources to find like-minded individuals who might want to Collaborate with me.

There are a lot of good bands out there.  And of course, I want to Collaborate if at all possible.

But it never fails to amaze me how a song can seem like it'd work perfectly for a scene, but then when you actually go into the picture and put it over the scene, it's no good for reasons that aren't clear until you see it.

Nuance is the key thing.

Nuance is a nuisance.

But it's also the difference between good and "okay".

Roasted and burned.

Bleu cheese and rotten.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mondo Beacho report March 31 - amassing songs

Mondo Beacho, Erik Hammen, Sarah Winsor, Ahren Buhmann
L-R: Erik Hammen, Sarah Winsor, Ahren Buhmann
(photo by David Thomas)
I got a lot done on Mondo Beacho this week.

It was kind of gloomy here in Seattle, but the sun finally came out yesterday and I went out for a run. On my new route, I passed right by the area you see in the photo on the left, where we shot a few scenes last summer.

I spent a lot of time talking over email with Greg Wharmby this week. Greg is one of the handful of great musicians around the country (including but not limited to Graig Markel, Punishment, Thomas Wold, Fermentation, and Thee Samedi) that I'm working with on the huge variety of tracks we need to complete the soundtrack for Mondo Beacho.

It's a lot of people, I'll tell ya what.

In fact, one might say that as usualI'm doing a lot of "collaborating"!

Here's the tricky thing about movie music. It's more about feeling than melody. And, in Mondo Beacho, most of the music is presented as actual songs motivated by a specific source (usually the radio), as opposed to traditional omniscient soundtrack cues.

So in addition to being great tunes, these songs have to be specifically-atmospheric, the right tempo, and sound right with the rest of the film, and not get in the way of dialogue or suggest the wrong thing through lyrics.

In other words, the music has to serve the movie, not vise versa.

I have very high hopes for my musicians, because any gaps left over will have to be filled in by me. Unfortunately, I have to fill the gaps first, then backfill with new tunes as they come in.

I generally like to work on songs one at a time, but I've found with the amount of material and the sort of material I need to crank out, my burnout rate is a lot lower I actually have a bunch of pieces in progress at once. So I blast away on one song until I can't get any farther with it, and then switch over to a different one and keep working. Ultimately, it's headphone-fatigue that makes me stop for the day.

Arrangement is a big thing. And instrument choice. Sometimes the 20 dollar plastic, belt-clip preamp sounds more "right" than the real thing. Sometimes the cheezy software keyboard emulator that everyone in the world owns and is sick of sounds very right...  but only after I put it through a phalanx of top-secret studio-processing tricks of the damned. Many which I learned in making my previous film, Time of the Robots.

Speaking of studio tricks, I'm also working on getting together with David Thomas, to go over the mixes he's done of all the performance material, and today, I'm sending out release forms to all the musicians whose music is already baked into the rough cut!

Very exciting.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mondo Beacho rough cut complete. Cue music.

I finished the rough cut on Tuesday. Posting early this week, got stuff to do...

I've also gone through the film and noted all the cues that are currently filled by temp music.

(Keeping with that theme, the picture here is also a temp picture, albeit a cool one.)

Anyway, there are a lot of music cues to take care of.

But the sun is out, I'm really happy with the way the picture is looking, I'm already working with a couple people on music ideas, and the road ahead seems very rosy from where I sit.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rough cut getting close

L-R:   Riley Neldam, Kenna Kettrick,
Ahren Buhmann, Sarah Winsor, and John the extra
(photo by Jennifer Dice)
Summer in the northwest -- it's later than it looks.

We're on the beach -- Golden Gardens -- for the bonfire scene. Shooting with a permit, in front of a slightly unpermitted fire-pit constructed of an old Smokey Joe with its legs yanked off, buried in the sand.

We had a fire captain -- Jennifer Dice-- whose job was to make the fire bigger.

Foom! Up it went.

Do people sing around bonfires anymore? They do where I come from. Last time I was back east visiting my brother Bret and his family, we had a bonfire in his backyard. My niece Freya lent me her plastic cowgirl guitar, and we were able to squeeze a few tunes out of it.

Group singing is good for the brain.

The world-famous St. Olaf Choir holds hands when they sing, the whole lot of them. It helps them function as a single unit. The vibrations and empathy are transmitted directly. They don't have to worry about holding a guitar, though.

Or a beer can.

In the editing room, the bonfire scene had some unusual challenges. Honestly, I was stumped for a couple of days over the best way to cut it. But I cracked the code yesterday afternoon.

Now that I've got a grip on the whole thing, I hope to finish the rough cut this coming week, and then start on the remaining music tracks immediately after.

I'm pretty excited to get going on the music.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mondo Beacho update, daylight-savings edition

I got a lot done this week. Worked on the rest of the record store scenes, then on to the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall, and beyond that to our little scene on 1st Ave. S. near Slim's Last Chance.

A lot of locations on this film.

A lot!

You wanna know what one of the primary rules of indie filmmaking is? It's "limit your locations".

The process of packing up, moving, unpacking, and shooting over and over and over is costly, time-consuming, randomizing, and exhausting.

Limit your locations! It totally makes sense.

In a bean-counter sort of way.

But dammit, I love locations and I'm doing it the same way on my next film.

Locations are key to your mise-en-scène!  It's not "adding stress" to bring your cast and crew to places that inspire everyone and gives you beautiful images as well, it should be part of the expectation. That's Cinema, baby.

I do wonder sometimes, in the dark of the night, whether the I-know-better "punk rock" approach to filmmaking that I love so much maybe won't come out so charmingly rough-edged one day...

But this week? Once again, everything fell gloriously into place like I hoped it would.

Ha! Vindicated!

A bit 'o editing magic, it is. A little shell game, made possible by tons of pre-production planning, and then --- crucially -- by working with excellent actors and excellent crew.

I'm sure I'll have to eat my words some day in this regard, but what's the point of being in the arts if you have no conviction?

Anyway... Moving right along...

Now that we're getting close to the end of the rough cut, I've started getting distracted by the upcoming music phase of post production.

I need to reel back that distraction until the rough cut is done.

Last night, for example, I got a bee in my bonnet that I needed to figure out a particular piece of music right now, so I switched gears and tried to crank out a new brand new song -- with no real ideas per se and using kindergarten-level tools (re: apple Garageband) --  right there on the spot.

That was a big fat waste of time. But it did remind me that I'm gonna need to invest in one more (ahem) piece of software not too long from now....

In other news:  

The Criminal Element, written by Jennifer Dice and directed by Steven Sterne, at Seattle Public Theater this Saturday, March 15th, at noon. These Dice/Sterne plays are a blast, I highly recommend them. I'll be there, I hope to see you too.

And don't forget to Spring Ahead today.