Tag Archives: sci-fi

Finished! Big Thanks to Redlab Digital and more.

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LOCKED & LOADED! Michael Legedza, Shawn Whitney, Kathryn Palmateer and Jason RIvera. 

I’ve been meaning to summarize our final stages of post-production for the last several weeks and have final set aside the time to do so. When, many moons ago, I last blogged about our struggle to complete post-production, we had just hired Luke Sargent to step in and take over the role of picture editor. This was both an excellent decision – life changing, in fact – and a lesson in expectations, especially when it comes to timelines for lo-fi filmmaking. 

Luke was contracted to work on the edit until the end of October. But when you only have a few days a week to work on something things take longer than expected. He had every right to step back at the end of October – when we barely had a fine cut – and expect either more money or to move on. But he stuck with us right to the end, through colour correction and sound mix. He has been an inspiration to us and a great learning resource. And incredibly supportive – in the last two weeks he picked up the master files and a BluRay master from Redlab Digital (our post-production house) – to cut a trailer for us and to burn us an exhibition screener. Incredible. Besides his commitment, his work and creative contribution have been incredible. I don’t think that any of us believe that we would have a completed film as good as it is without Luke. Many hat tips go his way.

I have to admit that I’m the kind of person who isn’t always great at planning ahead. I focus on the task at hand, work my way through it then move on to stage. As we approached the end of picture edit we knew we were going to have to colour correct the film – we lit with mostly fluorescent bulbs, for instance, which gave everyone a yellow hue. And of course we needed a sound editor and sound mixer – to get the best quality sound and to get an M&E track (music & effects – you need a separate track from the dialogue if you hope to make any foreign sales so that they can dub in the local language).

This was new territory for me. I have no experience with this aspect of the post-production process and have never dealt with a post-house. I met with one facility and they talked about giving us a great deal and coming in as executive producers in return for an equity stake in the production – then they backtracked a few days later and gave us a very large quote that was out of our budget. But, even more, we were left with a bad taste in our mouths because they had said one thing and then turned around and done another with no explanation and pretending like nothing had happened. Trust is really important to us. So, I started looking around Stage32.com – sort of a Facebook for film industry types. We’d found some crew on their for the shoot and it had worked out well. We got in contact with a few colourists and even met with a wonderful sound editor and mixer, Anne-Marie Ront. But it was clear that separating all of the elements – when none of us had experience with this stage of post – was going to be too much to deal with.

Again, Luke came to the rescue. He introduced us to Ahmad Ismail at Redlab Digital and Ahmad came through with an excellent overall quote for bespoke completion services. We decided not to try and take the movie to Telefilm and seek finishing funds. We’d already had a bad experience of submitting the unfinished film to a distributor who had been asking to see a rough cut – and then didn’t give us notes, just sent a curt email passing on the film (we were expecting advice, not a sale). Filmmakers: in case you haven’t heard this enough, never send your unfinished film to anyone, no matter how much they ask. So we decided to shoulder the extra debt and finish the film ourselves and do it in a one-stop, high quality facility. And it was well worth it – Redlab organized everything and all we had to do was show up and focus on the movie. And we worked with some excellent people: colourist Andrew Exworth, Sound editor Michael Legedza (who provided full foley and created a whole sound design for us!), and sound mixer Jason Rivera. It made it a painless process and gave us a film that was the best possible end product that it could be. There’s no doubt that helped us get into Worldfest, the Houston International Film Festival.

It’s been a long, challenging process and a steep learning curve for all of us. But we made it through and now we’re ready to embark on the next phase of this journey: festivals (yay, Houston!), sales, and a premiere screening in hometown Toronto. Stay tuned!

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Day 6: Humpday Heavy Day

BY SHAWN WHITNEY

The halfway point is the hardest part of any endeavour. You’re far enough from the start that the novelty has worn off and you’re too far from the end to feel the sense of impending relief. I guess that’s why they call Wednesdays “humpday.” Today was our humpday – the halfway point through the shoot. It didn’t help that I went out drinking with the director of photography last night and didn’t get into bed until 1am. (Hey, I never said that I was smart.) It also didn’t help that today was our heaviest page count day of the whole shoot – 11 1/2 pages. On the best of days that is a heroic amount of pages to cover – for reference, feature productions regularly only shoot 4 pages or even less in a day. On humpday it’s madness. And we had some leftover pages from yesterday – a time lapse scene of our heroes assembling their cloning lab.

The thing about shooting a 12 day microbudget feature is that you live or die by getting your days. There is no room for going overtime when you don’t have the money to pay your actors overtime. And having to reassemble crew and actors for pick-up days after the fact is not something we really want to have to do given the logistical and cost associated with doing so. It means that you have to prioritize and be flexible about your coverage (the number of different angles you shoot for your scenes) and you have to prioritize which scenes will get full coverage. Today that was especially necessary if we were going to stay on schedule. So, in the morning, we shot with two cameras to get our time lapse lab construction scene – with one camera at a medium distance and the second camera with a larger lens getting close-ups that we can use as inserts during the time lapse sequence. Upstairs for a number of toilet scenes, we shot three scenes from one angle. Doing that is a bit of a risk – what if the performance is inconsistent? Or any actor flubbed their line or a shot went fuzzy at some point during a long take? Then you don’t have any other angles to cut away to in order to cover up a weakness or just to build a textured scene. On the other hand, some scenes are less important than others. A scene that acts as merely a transit between one plot point and another, is less important than a scene in which a major turning point takes place. A moment of key conflict is one where you don’t want to take as many chances that you might not have enough coverage to build a solid scene. You need to shoot from as many angles as possible, including inserts and cutaways when you can. The key is differentiating one from the other and then getting full scenes in those where we relied on one angle to carry the scene. Does it always work? Check out the outtake below to see what sometimes happens, especially in a comedy with an actor who has a background in improv.

Outtake 1 From A Brand New You from Shawn Whitney on Vimeo.

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Welcome

[Versión en Español debajo].

First off, welcome to the blog for A Brand New You. We’re in the process of trying to create a film that connects with people in a way that’s fun and quirky, which shuns the usual storylines and character types, and still retains a genre sensibility – in this case an indie comedy with sci-fi elements.

This blog is a way to track that process, for the edification of other micro-budget filmmakers and, perhaps, for film fans. We also think that the issues, themes and choices that we’ve made in creating this story and film are of general interest. In the realm of science, things like synthetic biology, cloning and the role and power of citizen science (such as the DIY bio movement). But there are other controversial themes that are touched upon like euthanasia, abortion, cancer and bereavement. (And, yes, it is a comedy!) Nor are we unaware of the fact that using a black, male lead with a Cuban accent is, to say the least, out of the ordinary. If we can use this film and this blog to generate a kitchen table discussion about some of these, it will have served its purpose.

So, why this story?

Simply put: because we’ve never seen it done before. We’re all familiar with the more typical micro-budget films out there: teenagers go to a cabin where they are killed in horribly brutal ways one by one. There’s also the more recent phenomenon of the mumblecore scene in the US, with films that are very loosely scripted and focus on twenty-somethings in angsty relationships, suffering through, well, being twenty-something.

Just to be clear: we like both those answers to the question of how to make a movie that’s affordable when you’re not a studio and/or don’t have a million or even a hundred thousand dollars. But that wasn’t us.

The story needed to be contained because of budgetary concerns but we didn’t want it to be claustrophobic. We wanted it to be genre but follow a different path than we had seen before – and the writer is more of a sci-fi than a horror fan. We wanted it to feel fresh and natural, but not sacrifice strong writing to improvised story and dialogue, which can often feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable even when it shouldn’t.

And we wanted it to contain faces and voices that you don’t usually see in North American cinema, even indie films. To that end, we will also profile the many contributors to this project, both on-camera and behind the scenes. Because a film is much more than just the director or the star.

We hope you will join us on this journey.

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Bienvenidos al blog de A Brand New You. Estamos en el proceso de crear una película que se relacione con la gente de una manera divertida y extravagante, que se salga de las historias y personajes usuales pero que mantenga la sensibilidad hacia el género – en este caso una comedia independiente con elementos de ciencia ficción.

Este blog es una forma de que otros cinematógrafos le puedan dar seguimiento al proceso de construcción de una película con presupuesto micro y de que, ojala, algunos fans nos sigan. Creemos también que los hechos, temas y decisiones que hemos tomado al crear esta historia y película son de interés general. Por ejemplo, en el mundo de la ciencia temas como la biología sintética, la clonación y el rol y poder de la ciencia ciudadana (como el movimiento HTM – Hazlo Tu Mismo o HUM – Hágalo Usted Mismo). Pero hay otros temas controvertidos que también se tocan, como la eutanasia, el aborto, el cáncer y el dolor por la pérdida de un ser querido. (Y, si, es una comedia!).  Y somos conscientes que utilizar como actor principal a un hombre de color con acento Cubano es algo fuera de lo común. Si podemos utilizar este blog y la película para generar una discusión en nuestras casas sobre algunos de estos temas, éste habrá servido su propósito.

Pero, porqué esta historia?

De manera simplificada: porque no hemos visto que se haya hecho antes. Tenemos cierta familiaridad con las más conocidas películas de micro-presupuesto: adolescentes que van a una cabaña y son asesinados uno a uno de una manera brutal. Está también el fenómeno mas reciente de “Mumblecore” en los Estados Unidos, con películas que tienen un guión bastante libre y se enfocan en jóvenes en sus veinte con relaciones angustiosas, personajes que sufren, en fin, viviendo la década de los veinte años…

Aclaremos algo: nos interesa obtener la respuesta a la pregunta de como hacer una película que sea posible costear cuando no se es una productora o estudio y no se tiene un millón o cientos de miles de dólares. Y nosotros no somos ni lo uno ni tenemos lo otro.

La historia debía mantenerse contenida debido a las limitaciones presupuestales pero no queríamos que se volviera claustrofóbica. Queríamos que siguiera el género pero que tomara un camino distinto de lo que se ha visto hasta ahora – y el escritor es mucho mas un seguidor de la ciencia ficción que del horror. Queríamos que fuera fresca y natural, sin sacrificar un buen guión que fuese remplazado por la improvisación en el diálogo que a menudo hace que se sienta extraño e incómodo aún cuando no debiera ser así.

Y queríamos que tuviera caras y voces que usualmente no se ven en Norteamérica (incluyendo aquellas de las películas independientes). Muchos de los colaboradores en este proyecto, en cámara y detrás de ella tienen este perfil. Porque una película es mucho mas que solo el director o la estrella principal.

Confiamos en que nos acompañen en este viaje.

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