May 06, 2006

Movie Time

So, I said I was going to post the film at 8 PM. That didn't happen. The explanation: I was going to stick to the original plan, but as you may have noticed, the site was down for a few hours today (along with the rest of MuNu). Long story short, I started playing guitar to pass the time while I waited for the blog to be available, and I got a little carried away (no, I wasn't actually playing for that entire time, but you get the idea). On the plus side, I wrote a couple pretty cool riffs and a solo that I might share at some point. But that's for another time when I'm not supposed to be studying.

Anyway, on to the post I was going to write...

I usually take up a big chunk of these posts with explanation before I link to the actual media. I've decided to link to the film first this time and write the backstory in the extended entry, which will let me really get into detail. A couple really brief notes:

1. This is a 65 MB file, which is as small as I could make it without losing too much quality, so you should probably download it.

2. The film was shot in widescreen mode, and I couldn't get iMovie to convert it properly, which is why everyone looks a little skinny.

Anyway, check it out:

My Sister's House

Remember, criticism, both positive and negative, is always welcome.

Now, join me in the extended entry if you wish to know a lot (and I do mean a lot) more about it (WARNING: Contains minor spoilers)...

For those of you who may just be stopping by for the first time for whatever reason (as if anyone actually reads this blog anyway), this was a project for a college course called TRF 521: Dramatic Production. We shoot everything on digital video, but we call it "film" because it sounds cooler, and most of us taking this class actually do want to work in the film industry (I'm personally gearing my ambitions toward screenwriting and editing).

The production process went through several stages. First, everyone in the class wrote a script, and then we chose six scripts to be made into short films by six groups of three students each. My script didn't get picked (which is good, because it was really terrible), and I ended up in the group working with a script called "The Hitchhiker." The other two members of the group (I'll use the initial identification system here) were JK, a rather sarcastic guy who is also involved in acting, and BR, another part-time actor who is also very, very gay.

From there, our job was to revise the script, and JK ended up pretty much rewriting it from scratch, then me and BR put a few finishing touches on it, and I ran the whole thing through Final Draft so it would be properly formatted.

The result of all this is that, other than the very basic plot elements of hitchhiking and mistaken identities, "My Sister's House" bears very little resemblance to the script that inspired it. We inserted an entirely new story on top of the original, and although some of the characters survived the rewrite, the only one whose name wasn't changed is Lucy.

Once we had a script, we had to do casting. This was...interesting. I mentioned that both JK and BR take acting classes, but for some reason, only one of the people we auditioned (the guy who ended up playing Will) is actually an actor. In fact, we mostly took advantage of the fact that BR is an RA (had enough abbreviations yet?) and auditioned people from his floor. Surprisingly, some of them impressed us, and the actresses playing Lucy and Gerri got into the cast as a result.

Shooting was next, which took about a month. We switched roles between director (working with actors), director of photography (camera operator), and sound engineer (boom mic operator/rough cut editor) throughout the project. I'll go into detail about my contributions a little later. The entire process went surprisingly smoothly, and as with any project like this, there were some memorable moments. I guess I could've written about them as they happened, but...too late. I don't feel like getting into specifics now, either. Moving on...

The final stage was editing, which I have been writing about. We do everything with Avid Xpress Pro, which is what a lot of Hollywood editors use. I can say, however, that having used both Avid and Final Cut Pro, I prefer Final Cut. Avid has a bunch of little quirks that can quickly drive you insane if you don't know what you're doing (like the fact that you have to zoom in on individual frames to do a decent insert edit). Still, both are pretty cool. Aside from the tension that occurs when three people have to be in a small room together for hours at a time (including BR accusing me of giving him "attitude" whenever I tried to ask him a damn question), this went pretty well, and we printed to tape on Thursday morning. Which then led to...

The screening. On Friday afternoon, the class, some of their friends, and a bunch of actors from the projects gathered in a Newhouse lecture room to watch the completed films. The slight problem (for me, at least) was that the screening was at 4 PM, and I had a poli-sci final at 2:45. However, I blazed through it with single-minded determination (seriously, that Blue Book was filling up so fast that I thought I might have been imagining the whole thing), and I managed to finish in about an hour and make it to Newhouse with several minutes to spare (of course, the screening ended up starting 15 minutes late anyway, so...there you go).

Aside from the fact that the room had an extremely fucked up projector that put a bright green tint on everything and totally ruined any and all dark/night scenes, the screening went pretty well, and I'd say our film, while not the best, was at least one of the top three out of all six. If nothing else, we had the most consistent audio levels (here's a tip for aspiring filmmakers: It's generally a bad idea to have a conversation scene in which one actor's lines are as loud as hell, and the other's are barely audible. Just because you shot them separately doesn't mean you can't balance it out in editing. Thank you).

So, that's the story of "My Sister's House" and how it came to be what it is today.

Now, since this is my self-centered blog and I can write whatever I want, here's a list of scenes and what I did for each one. You'll notice that I was behind the camera for many of the best looking scenes. This is not a coincidence. Anyway:

1 - Hitchhiking/opening credits: Director of photography, credit design

2 - Driving: Director of photography (although the "eyes in the rear-view mirror" shot was done by JK)

3 - Showing Will the house: Director of photography

4 - The note/throwing out the models: Director

5 - First flashback: Sound engineer, first editor

6 - Dumpster/diary: Director of photography

7 - Second flashback: Sound engineer, first editor

8 - The date: Director, set up the really cool "Lucy walks away" shot at the end

9 - Third flashback: Sound engineer, first editor

10 - Gerri comes home/models are gone: Director of photography

11 - The interrogation: Sound engineer, first editor

12 - Montage: Director for Lucy scenes, sound engineer for Gerri/Michelle scenes. Also, I closed the door at the end.

13 - Closing credits: Um...I sat there and watched BR make them. Yeah.

Finally, a random fun fact: I'm the only member of the production team who doesn't have a cameo in the film (JK is the other guy in the dumpster scene, and BR is the guy in the background in the second flashback). I wanted to be the bartender in the club scene, but the rest of the group shot down the idea. Bastards.

Posted by CD on May 6, 2006 03:40 AM | TrackBack
Category: TRF (TV, Radio, & Film)
Semi-Intelligent Comments

hey, i really liked the movie, thought it was pretty funny:D

Posted by: walter massey at May 9, 2006 04:11 AM
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