That’s the kind of sentiment I always feel at the completion of a film. Like I just dragged a magic gold ring across Middle Earth and heaved it into a volcano. It’s a pretty good analogy to filmmaking actually. It sounds easy in theory — sure, I will take the ring. We just gotta get to Bree then Gandalf will hook up with us and take us to Rivendell and Elrond will figure it out from there. But then things get out of control, it all starts to snowball. Before you know it you’re knee deep in a bog trying not to follow any lights while this vaguely human thing supposedly leads you to the most evil place in the universe. Then before you know it, you’re naked in a tower with some orcs. But then with the help of your friends (or crew), you make it out the other end, possibly minus a finger.
While sometimes I feel like I need to go live out the rest of my days in the Gray Havens, I usually tun into Sam at the end of a production.
Well, I’m back.
Anyway, enough with the Lord of the Rings metaphors (you can tell The Hobbit trailer came out recently, can’t you?) I’m happy to report that as of today, our horror short film He Who Watches is complete! This is a summary of the entire frenzied process.
We found out about The Collective on November 6th, and I left for a conference for the week on the 7th.
Theme: ten minutes to live.
Duration: 9m30s to 10m30s
I brain stormed on the way to Vegas about a script. The last text message I got before takeoff from Indianapolis was from Katie, telling me Eric found out we were thinking about making a film for The Collective and he’d love to be in it if we did. Before that text, I thought I knew what script I was going to write (I had a treatment saved in my Evernote for a while that needed development), but with him on board, I wanted to try something new. After 5 days, I flew back and wrote the first draft of the script while crammed into my window seat. Sometime while I was gone, we got Sarah on board as well.
After I got back, I typed up the script and Katie and I worked on revising it. In the mean time, Sarah graciously posted that we were looking for actors for a short to be shot on December 10th and 11th. From that single Facebook post, we got all the actors we needed and then some – networking at its finest. We booked all our actors throughout the next week or so, and released a cast list the week of Thanksgiving. We sent the final draft of our script out to the actors on Thanksgiving itself.
We spent some time in pre-production planning the locations and audio and lighting. We borrowed audio and lighting from Jeremiah, who also signed on to do the score. When I wrote the first draft I intentionally kept it simple in terms of locations: one indoor, one outdoor, repurposed in different ways. That helped a lot. The outdoor location was difficult to determine as we could never go see it on the day and time we would be shooting.
The weekend before our shooting weekend, we were on Kate’s set for 17 hours helping her shoot Home Security.
The following Tuesday, the 6th, we had our actors meet up to make some photo props. We spent a couple of days that week making the props and finding other props, Katie furiously prepared her apartment, and I picked up equipment.
Saturday the 10th ended up being the coldest day of the year since last February. It was ridiculous. We realized our first location wouldn’t work and Eric suggested the park, which worked out so well. Between a little shuffling around, we lost a little time, but still ended up completing shooting on time overall for the day. Sarah was frozen to bits on the ground as we shot her dying in the middle of Broad Ripple. The bridge we chose to shoot on looks great in our film, but it was the worst location to work on EVER. Despite being 18 degrees, there were TONS of people out in Broad Ripple, and I felt at least 50% of them had double strollers. There was loads of traffic as well. We fought and somehow it worked. You can barely hear any commotion in the background.
Sunday the 11th was much easier. It was perhaps the smoothest shoot I’ve ever worked on. Everyone arrived on time, knew their lines well, and took direction excellently. We were able to consistently run ahead of schedule and have a little breathing room even then to have some fun and let our actors relax a bit.
Our edit came together much quicker than we anticipated as well. We intended upon getting together to review footage and start editing on Friday the 16th and picture lock it on the 18th. By the end of the night on Friday, we had basically our entire rough cut. We took Sunday to revise it, and ended up having to cut two minutes to get the runtime under 10:30. The audio was synced with Dualeyes, but there were a few strays that missed sync that we had to hand sync.
We grabbed basically all of our sound effects from the free sound project. The audio mix (completed in FCP and Soundtrack Pro) and color grading (completed with AE/Premiere and Magic Bullet Looks) was finished throughout the next week and Jeremiah finished the music on Christmas weekend. MB Looks is perfect for a project like this where the turn around is too fast for truly custom color grading.
We got the finished music this week and added it into our project. We went over the full audio mix and laid in an updated color grade. Then that was it. All done by the 28th.
The structure of this film is probably the most complex out of any film I’ve ever worked on or created. Actually, I’ve never done any sort of film that had a nonlinear aspect to it. In our film, time jumps forward in increments, and back to present day. Hopefully it comes across properly.I think maybe it might confuse some people, especially if they’re not used to being challenged. It’s definitely not without its flaws, but I’m pretty happy with it. For never having done horror, never having shot anything of any importance with a DSLR (despite many months of research and still photography sessions), never having done a complex narrative, I feel it came out pretty good in the time constraints given.
I dropped it in the mail to JABB Pictures who will put it on The Collective V3, “ten minutes to live” featuring all films by female filmmakers. We were invited by Karmic Courage to showcase our film at a local screening late next month, so the film will premiere in the Indianapolis area on a big screen, possibly the weekend after Valentine’s Day. The other films headlining the screening are ones I’ve had some participation in: Love Dance (editor), Leah No Leia (production assistant), Leah Not Leia behind the scenes (editor), and Home Security (script supervisor). So there is going to be a whole lot of me and Katie’s handiwork on the big screen that night, in both big and small ways. I’m very grateful to Kate for allowing us to show our film along with all of hers so our actors have the opportunity to see it.
After that screening, we’ll probably release a teaser or two to whet some appetites and keep the momentum going toward our official premiere at HorrorHound Weekend at the end of March. That will be quite an experience. Part of the theme of this year’s HorrorHound is “women of horror” which is why this version of The Collective is focused on women filmmakers. It feels a bit odd to be pushed into being a woman of horror for a time, but hell…I’ll take it. We were also invited to do a QandA after the screening, so I guess we’ll both be heading to Columbus! I also heard today that all the films will be shown at the Days of the Dead convention in Atlanta, Georgia in March as well.
So anyway, here we are. 51 days total from the moment we heard about The Collective to export, with a week long conference, 2 holidays, and another film shoot stuffed in there, as well as normal every day work stuff (including a new job for Katie) and preparing for Christmas. 51 days to write, cast, shoot, edit, and score a 10 minute film. It was great fun, and I look forward to seeing where it travels.