editing foley notes 18 the good soldier

The Good Soldier – Notes 18 – Editing begins

Editing officially began last night. Out of 1.5 hours of work I got 1 minute of (un)finished footage. That ain’t a good ratio. But I was sort of just messing around with different cuts – trying to refresh my memory about how editing goes. Once I get moving I think things will go fairly well.

After today I will know better what to expect.

As far as the sound – there are several places where I need to do some foley work.

So I’m going to get to work now…


The Good Soldier – Notes 17 – Film Processed & Transferred!

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

Let me see if I can put all of this into perspective. I had this idea. I wrote this story. I found some brilliant and motivated people to help. I shot this movie and learned a ton.

I just returned from Burbank, CA where I saw the developed film for the first time. I sat in on the transfer process where they take the film from its “film” version to a digitized copy; files on a hard drive.

I sat in amazement as I watched reel after reel of incredible black and white footage scroll by. I am so impressed what this collaborative effort of filmmaker, cast, and crew has brought us.

The entire staff at Yale Film & Video did an awesome job and I am so grateful that I selected them to develop and transfer the film. I especially must thank Keith, the owner of Yale Film & Video, who really went out of his way to welcome me. Everyone at Yale was very friendly and professional. I look forward to future projects with them.

Visiting with the Yale crew has only reinforced my belief that, regardless of the progression of the digital revolution, HD and RED cameras, there is a special place for FILM and what film can do and offer as an artistic expression of life and story. I would truly hate to see the film labs of the world go by the wayside because of digital. Keith and I had a discussion about this during lunch. Cameras and the medium they shoot are nothing more than tools, much like brushes and paint, and picking the right tool for the project is important. Sometimes that tool is digital. But sometimes that tool is film.

I am a bit bias I suppose, I have a deep-rooted and heart-felt tie to the medium of film, more so than digital. I feel more expression, more life, more realism in the medium. Not to mention more challenge. That’s not to disqualify digital, I think it has its place and its uses, which is why I use it too, but one can never forget the history of film and the power of it.

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

I think people are sometimes scared of film. What if it doesn’t turn out? What if it comes back blurry? Out of focus? Completely black? These are all legitimate fears – and ones that I encountered first-hand. My first test footage was shite. But part of making something look good has to do with a learning curve. Too many times I think people get a hold of a top-of-the-line digital camera and automatically think: I’m a filmmaker (or photographer) now.

I remember having this discussion/argument way back in high school when I worked in the film/video studies program and our high school “news” channel. Someone would say, “Let’s go make a film about…,” and I would correct them with, “You mean video.” And though it got on my friends’ nerves, the more I repeated it the more they realized, there IS a real difference. FILM IS NOT VIDEO. Film is a physical and chemical process. Video is a magnetic and digital (i.e. numbers) process. They are different and the end result is not the same.


From The Good Soldier Production Photos

But, wow. I am incredibly off topic now.

What I really want to say is that the footage looks incredible! Sure, there were scenes that didn’t turn out as well as I thought but I think I have enough to work with.

Burbank was a great experience and I am forever grateful that I was lucky enough to experience that part of the process.

Now, the editing begins! Stay tuned and stick with me. We’re going to Sundance, baby!

california its a wrap notes 16 the good soldier yale film video

The Good Soldier – Notes 16 – IT’S A WRAP!

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

Yesterday (Monday, 8/17/09) was a milestone for both the film and myself. We completed the film production phase on The Good Soldier. The film is already on its way to California for processing and transfer. And I am on my way tomorrow as well – to San Diego for a vacation.

I will spend Friday in Burbank at Yale Film & Video supervising the transfer of the film to digital. By the days end I should have the entire digitized film on hard drive and the actual film on reels.

The shoot yesterday went really well. We had two scenes at two different locations. We started at the gym for the first scene. There was almost a continuity issue but luckily Erik caught the fact that some characters were wearing gloves in previous scenes and we’d forgotten them in the scene we were shooting. Thankfully he caught it in time for us to quickly re-shoot the scene, this time with gloves on.

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

Then we rushed down to Norman for the second scene. The “bedroom scene,” as we are calling it, went really well. Thanks to “Dr. Joe” for letting us use his house – it was the perfect location – I couldn’t have asked for better. It was a fun scene to shoot – maybe a little awkward for the two characters but they both did an awesome job and we all had fun making jokes about the whole situation. We even had time to play a little Rock Band.

Oh yeah, one more thing – we finally had a light burn out. Just before shooting the bedroom scene one of the lights fizzled. I guess we lucked out that it happened on the LAST shot. That’s one piece of advice I never took: always have extra bulbs. Next time I will.

There are some more pictures from the film uploaded to the Picasa site – scroll down for the latest ones.

Notes 15 sunset shoot the good soldier time-lapse

The Good Soldier – Notes 15 – Time-lapse sunset shoot

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

Yesterday, Sunday (8/16/09), I visited a location in Sutton Wilderness in Norman, OK for some sunset shots for the film. I set up two cameras and ran them at different speeds and heights (off the ground). Camera one was run at 1 frame per 5 seconds, camera two was run at 1 frame per 20 seconds. Both cameras were operated for about one hour from the same position. This is partly experimental considering it was my first time to shoot time-lapse. It was a beautiful sunset with drifting clouds and a brilliant evening glow. Hard to know what it will look like in black and white.

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

From The Good Soldier Production Photos

Today marks the final day of shooting. I have two scenes remaining. By the end of today it will be a complete wrap on the (film) production. Still some folly sound to be done and the soundtrack is currently in production. More reports to come.

Finally, I received word today from Yale that the film they received last week (36 rolls) has been developed and “looks good.” That’s all I know. I won’t know the details until I see it myself on Friday.

Notes 14 the good soldier

The Good Soldier – Notes 14 – 87.5 minutes & counting

I currently have 87.5 minutes of black and white super 8 film in the can for The Good Soldier and there are just a handful of scenes remaining. The 35 rolls of film was sent to Yale Film & Video in Burbank, CA yesterday for processing and transfer to digital.

For those of you unfamiliar with film, that means I have seen none of the footage shot – it’s not like digital, you can’t see what you’ve shot immediately after shooting it. It will not be until August 21st when I actually go to the lab in Burbank to see what I’ve created. Until then, it’s still in my mind.

When I visit the lab I will not only get to see the processed film but I will get to be there for the transfer to digital and be involved in that process. This was just an added bonus – it just so happened that our vacation to Cali coincided with the lab work – so lucky me. I love the fact that I get to have this added hands-on experience.

I’ve already begun going through all the recorded sound files; those recorded on set and in studio. And I’ve started working on titles and organizing the project. It’s a lot to do. There are all of these individual pieces that must be reassembled to meet the script and tell a story on screen. It already feels like writing again – but this time I know the story and how it ends I just have to show it. In editing it is equally difficult to take all of this footage – almost 1.5 hours worth – and distill it down to a 20 minute film. That’s a lot of choices to make and a lot of leftover material.

Post-production will officially begin when I return from California. Hopefully, I will not have any re-shoots. A re-shoot is just what it sounds like: when you have to re-shoot a scene because either the footage didn’t turned out or you are missing a key component for some reason.

So out next (and final) shooting date is Monday, August 17th. We have two locations to visit and two very important scenes to shoot.

notes 13 the good soldier

The Good Soldier – Notes 13 – Saturday Wrap!

Original logo/art by Seth Capshaw

Today was a hard day. It was hot. It was windy. How can it be so windy yet still be so hot? It’s like working in a convection oven. But that’s Oklahoma in August.

The scenes we shot today took place on a rooftop and in the upper head-house/tower of the silos. Setup took some time because we had to get all the equipment up ladders and in odd locations. It was a combination of trying to get the right lighting but at the same time hiding the lights and cords – and still make it all look natural. But that’s film.

All this was done with a mere three person crew – including the lead actor! It was a skeleton crew to say the least but it seemed to work given the obstacles and precarious positions we were dealing with. But the shots today may be some of the best in the film – given the locations and the unbelievable angles. There is an overhead shot in particular that’s going to look like a $50K crane-shot. I love cheating shots like these – people wonder, “How the hell did they get THAT shot?”

Brian, the lead, is a trooper. It’s a good thing he is as adventurous as he is – and that he’s not afraid of heights. “You think you can get up there and stand on the edge?” I’d ask him. “Sure,” he’d say. I was more nervous about it than he. It’s not a good thing if you accidentally kill off your lead actor. “Oh, by the way, that board up there, make sure you don’t stand on it, it’s rotted and you could fall through.”

Most people would have packed it in by now. Not Brian, I think the danger just excites him more.

It was the middle of the day and we found ourselves lugging and hauling production equipment over 100 feet up – by ladder. All this for what? 2 minutes of film, maybe. But those shots – I can’t wait to see them.

Saturday’s shoot went great, despite the heat and profuse sweating. All that’s left are two short (but essential) scenes that we’ll shoot, hopefully on the August 17th.

The film shot thus far is going in the mail on Monday morning to be processed. The plan is to pick up the remaining shots and get it to Yale Film/Video in Burbank quickly – either by mail or by hand….

Another stroke of luck: we’re going to San Diego on the 19th. During the trip I’m making a special trip up the coast to Burbank to be present the lab for the film transfer! I’m psyched about this – it means that I will have input during the transfer and get to make adjustments to the brightness and contrast. Not to mention I will have my very first look at the film then and there!

notes 12 production photos

The Good Soldier – Notes 12 – Production Photos

We’ve got quite a few pictures from the production shoot last weekend. I am uploading them to my Picassa album. See them here.

As for what remains, we have a couple of scenes that we are shooting tomorrow morning. These are scenes that we had left over from the main shooting days. The plan was to shoot them on Thursday but it was raining so we had to push the date back a bit.

After this I have one more day of shooting – August 17th – and it’s just a couple of scenes with “Miss June.”

In the meantime, all the film up through Saturday’s shoot will be shipped off to Yale Film & Video in Burbank for processing and transfer. I’m hoping (if I can find an affordable plane ticket) to go out to Burbank so I can be there during the telecine process. That will allow me to give input on elements of the transfer and possibly make adjustments to the light when needed.

in production notes 11 the good soldier

The Good Soldier – Notes 11 – In Production

So we are 2 days into production on The Good Soldier and everything is going well. Not that I am entirely sure what it is really supposed to feel like because I would not consider myself an expert on film production shoots, but by the accounts of the cast and crew people seem to be pleased with our progress. Apparently I’ve done a good job in getting my shit together and being somewhat organized in terms of pre-production. Sustaining that organization through production has been the primary role of our script supervisor, Lisa, also my wife. I knew she would do great at that.

Driving to the film shoot early Saturday morning I remember thinking: by the end of the day I’m going to know what it feels like to shoot a movie.

That morning we started off pretty slow. At the outset we had forgotten a couple of important items that we had to make special trips for and there was some time spent in just gearing up and establishing the scene. It was a good idea to just work with the main character on the first day, and we made good progress. Still, we were somewhat behind schedule – based on my overly ambitious shooting schedule. It was really my fault for beefing it up so much. But in retrospect there were no major screw-ups and we made it from shot to shot quite nicely. By days end I was completely and utterly spent. I clearly had not anticipated the physical and mental stamina required in maintaining the constant attention to the camera, the lens, the shot, the scene, the acting, the continuity, the pace, the script, and all the technical aspects of lighting, sound, and props. It was a groundswell of information to process.

It wasn’t until arriving home late Saturday night that I was really able to reconsider what I’d done. I realized there were shots I missed and shots I wanted to change – but overall I felt satisfied with the process thus far.

I want to share some things, outside of this basic documenting of what happened for those thinking about filming their own movie and for those that just want to know what it feels like. The concept of making a movie is glamorized and romanticized. So many times the daily work that goes into making a movie is filtered out almost as if the movie goes from idea, to story, to film, to theater. As simple as that. But what happens on a set is that each person has a specific role and everyone is reliant on each other to get the job done. So in that sense it feels like work. You’re setting up heavy and oftentimes cumbersome equipment, positioning lights, moving props around, making sure each thing is consistent from shot to shot and scene to scene. Then you’re working with the actors to make sure they know what their moves, lines and emotions are. All this might happen in the course of fifteen minutes then you move a bunch of stuff around and do it again, and again, and then again. And all the while there is a constant attention to two major things: exposure and focus. Is the light level correct for black and white film? Is the action in focus?

It didn’t feel glamorous. It didn’t feel romantic. At least, not on the surface. But then again….I have to be honest. I have loved every single second of it. It’s everything I’d hoped and thought it would be. Now I know this is why people want to make films.


Sunday, today, felt easier than yesterday. We got started faster. We bounced from scene to scene and even picked up a couple of extra shots that will tie things together better. We had some big scenes today – shot a lot of film. I’m blazing through these 50 ft rolls. I’ve shot 21 rolls so far.

At one point I had a sinking feeling that we just were not going to finish based on the schedule I created. It was just too much for two days. So I began to get a little overwhelmed with the amount we have remaining to shoot. And though we were planning to shoot on Monday evening in Norman I hadn’t thought of another time to shoot the scenes we’d missed. But then there was some discussion and someone asked, “Well, what are you doing tomorrow?” Before I knew it people were volunteering to shoot during the day on Monday in order to catch up. So it looks like we are continuing the shoot as a make-up day tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be a FULL day of shooting but I am anxious to get going.

There are tons of pictures from the shoot and some video to share but it will have to wait until there is time to mess with all of that.