Sundance Impressions: Snow and “The Sentence”

The threat (or promise, depending on your outlook) of snow delivered today in full force. So much so that I was taken off guard and missed an early screening due to basically being buried in a snow drift. I was born and raised in the midwest, and I started driving at age 16 with a very light front wheel drive vehicle in the dead of winter in a rural area. But it turns out once you live in LA for like, a minute, your natural instincts begin to disappear and you struggle to remain upright.

I was really proud of my snow boots though. Obviously I am not A Winter Sports Person (TM) so I didn’t own boots until last week. Breaking them in here was a risk and it seems to have paid off.


The Egyptian Theater

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Sundance Impressions: Main Street, Friends, and Lizzie

Boarding my flight from LA, I knew I was in for an interesting trip when half the people around me were already wearing snow boots and hats. It was a chilly morning by Southern California standards, but my sweaty self was regretting even wearing a long sleeved shirt. (I really enjoy visiting cold places because I can walk outside and be comfortable. But I obviously don’t like living in them.)

Inside my press credentials, I was surprised and pleased to see a number for a hotline the festival created with the Utah Attorney General’s Office to report harassment, sexism, abuse, and discrimination. I hope other event organizers are taking notice (hello, NAB Show) because this is an obvious tool that should have been implemented years ago. It’s been an after-thought for so long, and it’s finally at the forefront.


The insert was inside all festival badges.

Wandering Main Street involved spotting actors I know whose names are on the tip of my tongue, people I worked with on projects in the past, and people I’ll probably work with in the future. And talking a lot about the threat of snow.

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Searching: Creating Cinematic Drama From Small Screen Trauma

On the feature film Searching, editors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick were tasked with some hefty new challenges: a film shot almost entirely on GoPro (with a little dash of iPhone and MiniDV) requiring thousands of layers of continuously rasterizing vector files — which takes place entirely on computer screens, in application windows that were meticulously created and animated, rather than screen-capped.

And in its original form (and original title Search), cut under crushing deadlines to meet its Sundance Film Festival debut in January 2018. Acquired by Sony Pictures in one of the festival’s biggest deals, Searching opens worldwide this month.

>> Read the whole article on Creative COW

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Being a Post PA on a Sundance Indie Feature

Before the lush celebrity gift suites, the sold-out Q&A sessions, and the long lines of frozen but eager cinephiles trying to grab the hottest ticket in Park City, a movie was made — and it was hard work. And behind the producers and directors and actors who led the charge, a “below-the-line” crew of anywhere from tens to hundreds of craftspeople worked to bring filmmakers’ visions to life. They’re the post production engineers, the editors, the camera operators, or the composers whose names are in the credits but not the numerous story pitches to Sundance press outlets like the COW. Union or non-union, aspiring or veteran, these individuals spent weeks of their life behind the scenes dedicated to telling a story. And in my 2018 COW Sundance Film Festival coverage, I’m telling their stories.

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A lot of assumptions are made about post production assistants, or “post PAs”: that they simply fetch lunch, sort M&Ms by color, or other “small” tasks dolled out at the whim of a producer. But Briana Kay Stodden’s career so far has been anything but minor. After jumping from rural Illinois to New York City, she has served as post PA on some of the most talked-about shows and movies of 2017 and 2018: Oscar contenderMudbound, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, Golden Globe winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maiseland now making its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week, Private Life directed by Tamara Jenkins.

Briana graduated from Southern Illinois University with a BA in Cinema Studies and spent her college years working in news. Upon graduation, her partner Eric was offered a job at Light Iron in New York. They moved together, without so much as a quick visit to NYC before the relocation. “There was a lot of uncertainty in those first few months and being unemployed was scary for me but I had a few projects I did from home that kept my bills paid.”


Briana Kay Stodden

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Follow Me at Sundance This Week

Tomorrow morning, I’m jetting off from sunny Burbank to snowy (frigid, icy, frozen) Park City, Utah to cover the 2018 Sundance Film Festival here on the COW. I’ve got furry snow boots, long underwear, and a handful of tickets that cover everything from the fest’s most anticipated to most experimental offerings. And I’ve got my own angle.

Before the lush celebrity gift suites, the sold-out Q&A sessions, and the long lines of frozen but eager cinephiles trying to grab the hottest ticket in Park City, a movie was made — and it was hard work. And behind the producers and directors and actors who led the charge, a “below-the-line” crew of anywhere from tens to hundreds of craftspeople worked to bring filmmakers’ visions to life. They’re the post production engineers, the editors, the camera operators, or the composers whose names are in the credits but not the numerous story pitches to Sundance press outlets like the COW. Union or non-union, aspiring or veteran, these individuals spent weeks of their life behind the scenes dedicated to telling a story. And in my 2018 COW Sundance Film Festival coverage, I’m telling their stories.

I’ll be talking to directors and producers and writers of course, and I’ll tell you all about the films I see and the scene that’s set in Park City, but my goal is to bring you insight into the daily lives of the crew — the ones with the 10 or 12 hour days, the ones who worked their way up through unpaid “for exposure” promises, and the ones who unwaveringly service someone else’s story.

In our current political climate, in Hollywood and everywhere else, learning more about each other and respecting one another’s work and life has never been more important. The #MeToo movement has opened a dialogue we’ve never been able to have with each other before. Time’s Up, the legal defense fund set up support those who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace, is making the right moves toward keeping that dialogue happening and protecting those who want to have it.

But we can’t forget our below-the-line crew in these conversations. For every actress who has been assaulted by a filthy producer, or every director coerced by a power-hungry executive, there are thousands of female crew members in production and post who are caught in a nuanced power struggle every day. Many of them are harassed, assaulted, and abused too. Most of them can’t or won’t ever speak up because they remain in a position where they would lose work, maybe forever.


Courtesy of Sundance Institute

#MeToo is going to shape a lot of Sundance coverage this year because it’s going to change how we view the films in the festival. That will be challenging for some people who have old traumas reawakened, and offensive to others who view equality as a loss of power. But regardless of your opinion or your past experience, something has shifted and its affecting Hollywood — and the best thing we can do is try talk to each other. A lot.

In the coming days I’ve got conversations to share with operators, assistants, producers, editors and many more. I’ll be sharing what I see here on this blog, as well as shorter, quicker takes on my Twitter and Instagram feeds. Film and television editor Meaghan Wilbur will also be on the ground in Park City serving as a contributing editor and tweeting some #hottakes from the theaters.

Back to packing now — is four scarves enough? I’m bringing four.

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2017: Year in Pictures

Sometimes I get to the end of the year and feel I haven’t accomplished enough. When I review my Camera Roll, I realize why I’m so tired. 2017 was an exhausting year for a lot of reasons. But so many good things happened, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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The Myths of Setting Goals in Post Production

If you work in post production, you’ve probably described yourself a number of ways. Curious. Goal-oriented. Driven. Ambitious. And as 2018 approaches, the urge to revisit your goals as a professional naturally rises. There’s not much to back up the usefulness of the idea of New Years resolutions, but we do them anyway. Humans love patterns and milestones because we’re weird and adorable, and my experience in post has led me to believe that my peers are even more gung-ho about that stuff. We make lists and charts and binders and we live for it.

For your career potential and your generally happiness as a person (or at least the parts linked to work), it’s important to continually check in with yourself. Are you growing in the ways you want? Are you heading in the right direction? Are you generally satisfied with your work life? If not, how can you reposition yourself in the coming year to be more closely aligned with what you really want? I think most serious and successful people in our industry have this sentiment ingrained in their head sooner or later: stasis is generally not good because too much is changing. The feeling is that if you aren’t learning, you’re being left behind in some way.

However, lately I’ve stumbled upon a lot of post production professionals who seem to be taking this much more deeply to heart than is useful. Hardly anything in our work life (or our personal life) is so black and white as an “if, then” statement: “if you don’t take that indie project, then you don’t care” — “if you aren’t learning, then you’re not trying” — “if you’re feeling burned out, then you don’t want it badly enough.”

I’ve always been goal-oriented. I love tangible achievement. I love working toward something. I REALLY love making a list and checking things off, especially if they relate to the big picture of life. But like, whoa: when you’re so narrowly focused on Achievement(TM), you could missing valuable experiences or making yourself unnecessarily unhappy. Goals are supposed to guide you toward fulfillment, but not at the expense of your day-to-day happiness and overall wellness. I see high-achieving, goal-oriented young professionals in our industry beginning to burn out far too early

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Living The American Dream: Editing Sharknado 5

Ana Florit is your typical Los Angeles-based film editor: among other things, she grew up in the French Alps, moved to Paris, directed a one-hour movie, moved to LA, and has worked on five Sharknado movies, including the most recent, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

You know, your usual run-the-the-mill American Dream story.

In Ana’s case, the journey also included a stint at Video Symphony leading to editing all kinds of projects, including Mischief Night which earned her a Saturn Award nomination. For her, working in movies was “the perfect balance of creativity and technical work,” which very much applies to her work on the Sharknado films for Hollywood independent film studio, The Asylum. Serving as lead editor on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th films, and working in some capacity on the others, Ana also had a huge hand in moving post fully from Apple Final Cut Pro 7 to Adobe Premiere Pro.

Read my interview with Ana >>

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What’s the Deal with that Content-Aware Fill for Video Thing Adobe Showed Us?

Last month at Adobe MAX in Las Vegas, we saw Project Cloak for the first time. The research project and experiment is still in development, and it may or may not ever be in a Creative Cloud product, but it sure was captivating: draw a box, do some Adobe Sensei magic, and poof: that ugly lamp post is just gone. Logo on a t-shirt? GONE! Weirdo in the backgrond of your shot? Yep: EXTREMELY GONE.

If you’ve ever spent hours of your day rotoscoping something to remove it from a shot, you might share the sentiment: I need this. Are we playing God, or are we taking back precious hours of our time? Why not both!

To find out more about the research, technology, and thinking behind it, I talked to Research Engineer Geoffrey Oxholm.

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Adobe MAX Recap

I went to Adobe MAX in Las Vegas this October, and here’s some of my coverage!

Yes, Adobe CC Video Apps Updated at MAX
Day 1 at Adobe MAX: Things People Said
Sneaking on the Future of Creative Technology at Adobe MAX
What’s the Deal with that Content-Aware Fill for Video Thing Adobe Showed Us?

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