Holy Shit: Epic Timeline part 1

For the last three days I’ve been sorting through my seemingly endless .wav onset  recordings.  In the chaos of shooting 16 hour days, I unfortunately made a delirious bad call, and decided to not sort through them in the moment.  The result was six folders labeled “bigmessyaudio_,” of which sorting through (especially when your slate guy (usually me) forgets scene numbers) becomes particularly tedious.

I’m finished! 5am last night, I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to make this blog post, but you can’t possibly begin to understand the relief I’m starting to feel about getting my audio all synced.  I still feel like I’ve missed something.

Syncing audio doesn’t seem so difficult.  I work on 2 hour + edits all of the time.  Look at all of those fucking cuts though.  This is the most staccato project I’ve ever edited.  It’s some intense shit.

epictimelineI’ve started to get rough versions of Mike Schiralli’s score, which sound like totally completed versions.  It’s a desperately needed layer to the film.  The tracks bring life and cohesion to scenes otherwise confusing.  Well, they still might confuse, but you can at least tackle sequences in sections, rather than think “big picture” the whole time.  I so wish I could post a sample of the score.  I’m sure Mike will do that eventually, and I’ll repost it here when the time comes.  Beautiful and funny stuff.  I love it… very 80s and contemporary at the same time.

Anyway,  I’m taking a 24 hour break from audio to focus on visual elements.  Hopefully I’ll get some things shot.  I have the following left to do:

  • Burning sun shot.
  • Scalp rip over alien head
  • 1/3 of stabbing montage
  • End credits shot (requires completion of FX skull)
  • Car Stalking
  • ECU of script title.
  • ECU of antiseptic mouth wash
  • Bug stuff

Wish me luck!

I’m not dead… I swear!

So it’s been over a month since I last posted.  I feel like you (whoever you are that actually reads this) deserve an update.

I’m in the middle of recording a foley track.  I’ve taken a break to let my cats eat since it would destroy my audio to hear them chomping on dry food in the background.

I’ve put off shooting these 3 or 4 car chase shots for what seems like forever now.  We’ve gotten screwed by the weather every time I plan to head down.  Once it was Nick’s license plate falling off.  We seem doomed to not get those shots.

I’ve been working on some rotoscoping.  I’ve been pretty happy with the results, but it eats up my time and sanity like none other.

I’ve finally started to excise some of my shots.  That’s one of the hardest things for me to do in my editing.  If it’s a really nice shot, I want it to stay, but if it doesn’t work in the context of the rest of the film it’s got to go.  I keep tweaking my edit.  Hopefully, I’ll find peace with it soon.

There’s still a ton of work to do on the audio.  Mike Schiralli is stuck at home without the internet.  He assures me this will keep him focused on the score.  I’ve got three tracks from him so far.  They sound pretty excellent.  I’m excited to hear the next one.

I’ve been telling everyone February will be when it’s completed.  That’s totally arbitrary since I set my own deadlines, but if I don’t make it by then, there’s going to be considerable delay afterward.  Don’t worry, I’ll make it.

When is festival season?  I need to know, so I can get denied by all of them. 😉Image

DIY KINO

The state of contemporary mainstream filmmaking is a farce. Bloated budgets, excessive commercialization, and pandering to the general audience has driven the mindful viewer to other media for intellectual stimulation. We live in an era that, as we’ve been told, would bring about a democratization of film, yet the same mindless drivel is defecated from major studios, and the amateur filmmaker tries his damnedest to shape his own feces into something representative of that. Enough shit! Enough with the hackneyed garbage scripts about cops and robbers, a man and woman falling in love, and flatulence to appeal to the 3 year old in the audience.
Let’s not rebuild the industry. It’s too far gone. Instead, let us embrace the past and build a new future: one that treats the medium of film as an art, not a business; one that empowers the filmmaker over his lofty financers and frees him to create whatever, however he chooses. For an audience that is finally media literate, we must create content to accommodate this literacy, and cease the cultivation of values considered proper by social norms.

We must disregard regulation of our art. The re-editing of a film for an American television audience is revolting. Never should the message be altered to shelter the viewer from art, or worse yet, to inject commercial advertisements. Television and multiplexes should not be the preferred avenue of distribution for filmmakers. They reinforce the flawed regulation and censorship that has plagued the independent filmmaker by influencing the social arena of filmmaking.

Let us then define ourselves as something outside the studio’s influence. “Independent” was stolen from us before many even had access to a camera. We are true independents, with zero connection to any major studio, and starting now, we will no longer behave in a manner that perpetuates the studio’s agenda.

We encourage you to join us. Wake up from the nightmare of viewers judging you for creating art that doesn’t resemble a “regular movie.” Forget the ridiculous idea that you can’t make something worthwhile without a budget. Dust off your dirty old camcorder, and capture moving images that stimulate you, and piece them together in a way that stimulates you further. Revolt against the studios and false independents, and inspire others to join the revolution.

I hereby pledge my allegiance to the DIY Kino Manifesto.

Art-house structuralists?  Yeah, basically.  Carlsson, Larsen, and I (also a plethora of yet unnamed filmmakers) have been making films in really similar ways for years now.  Our films are sometimes radically different in terms of content and style, but we all agreed on a few basic principles in guiding our present and near future methods of production.  I think it’s strongest concept is empowering the artist.  You must write, direct, and edit your films.  It’s that kind of personal touch in every nuance of a film that creates a unique experience for the viewer.  It may not necessarily be “good,” but certainly unique.  Isn’t that what film fans have been clamoring for?

WWW.DIYKINO.ORG

Back to Work!

I’ve had several distractions lately from Coyote, but I think it’s put me in a good place to get some major work done over the next week.  I sat down with composer, Michel Schiralli, yesterday to watch the current cut of the film.  I seem to have forgotten that I’ve color graded almost all of the footage already.  It looks pretty nice, but sounds really awful.  There’s a LOT of audio work still, including ADR with Bill Finkbiner that he probably doesn’t even know about yet.  Sorry Bill.  He hates ADR.

In my absence, Mr. Oberst has done some nice PR for us.  He pushed a rough scene from the film at a horror convention somewhere in Middle America.  According to him, it caught people’s attention, but I can’t help but think he’s a little biased about the project. 😉

So off we go on a trailer!  I have a teeny-tiny idea of how to go about editing this, but hopefully a lightening bolt of inspiration strikes my brain soon.  Mike JUST sent me a rough version of some music for said trailer.  This is going to be great.

Speaking of brains, a pickup FX shot of a human brain should be done soon.  I just picked up the mold to put it all together.  Originally the idea was to use an animal brain, but there are more issues trying to pull that off than I care to list.

Here’s a photo for Mr. Finkbiner to keep him from killing me during our future ADR session.  This is one of those f/.75 campfire shots that Nick developed.  The only existent light source is a fire.  Flickerbox? Don’t be a noob.

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To Sleep, Perchance To Scream (guest post by Bill Oberst Jr.)

Full Disclosure: this post is by a cast member of Trevor Juenger’s COYOTE. On the minus side, this means that the author has a vested interest in the film. On the plus side, this means that he was there for the filming and knows what he is talking about (in a general sense…)

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I got a mail from Trevor Juenger after returning to LA from shooting my role in COYOTE. It included this sentence:

“People are going to hate this movie, man – HATE IT!”

Hell of a tagline for the poster. Even though he went on to explain why he thought so by writing “They’re going to be completely immersed in mental illness as they watch it, and frankly, I don’t think that’s going to be a pleasurable experience for many people,” he did not say that he hated that they were going to hate it. Most strikingly, he did not say that he intended to make changes so that people would not hate it. My commercial marketing brain recoiled. People hating a movie is bad.

Isn’t it?

Filming with Trevor was an experience for which I was totally unprepared. He is brilliant. And demanding. And dark. I have worked with all of those things before in different directors. I like all of those things. I admire the creative combustibility of that combination in an artistic compadre.

But there’s something else about Juenger; something I rarely encounter in my commercial acting career:

Trevor Juenger doesn’t care if people like his work.

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“Distributors probably won’t want to touch this thing. There’s nothing directly comparable that has been successful.” – Trevor Juenger to FilmBizzaro.com March 16, 2012

He really doesn’t. In fact, I think he would far prefer confounding, confusing and distressing his audience to having them walk out of a screening saying “That was fun. What’s for dinner?” Juenger wants to make an impression on people, all right, but he could give a rat’s ass about making it a positive impression. Or an easily digestible one.

Despite the accolades heaped upon his young head already (a film archive site called one of his shorts “the most engrossing audio-visual art film since Eraserhead” for God’s sake,) or perhaps because of them, Trevor Juenger seems to want more than anything to draw viewers into a nightmare…and hold their heads under the cinematic pillow he has placed over their gaping mouths for as long as possible.

I am an actor by trade, which means that’s how I eat. Actually, truth be told, I am not much of an actor, but have learned to be a pretty good entertainer. I would have done well in vaudeville (“what? you don’t like ventriloquism – wait – I juggle plates too!”) My first thought is always of how what I am doing fits into the marketplace I am competing in; of how it fits the supply and demand model. I am a statistician. I am a media whore. It’s how I survive. Trevor is an artist.

Trevor-Juenger-quote-no-budget-films

For the 4 sweltering weeks in St. Louis in which I was immersed in the bizarre world of COYOTE, Trevor Juenger continually made me ask myself questions to which the answers were always “No:”

* Is art-house horror, the hybrid genre COYOTE falls under, a money-maker in general?

* Are there many independent venues left in the USA that will even play art-house films?

* Is COYOTE easy to describe in one sentence? Or even two?

* Is a film with real vomit and duct-taped eyelids likely to be an easy sell to distributors?

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But there are other questions (which I had never thought to ask until I met this guy) to which the answers are less easy to pin down:

* Is cinema a form of art or a form of commerce?

* Does art have to be pleasing?

* Should it be?

* Is it better to gamble that controversial art will find an audience or to make safe money?

* Is telling a story reason enough to make a film in and of itself, profit aside?

* When Trevor asked me “Can we do real vomit?” why was my “yes!” so immediate?

In the midst of a St. Louis heat wave, clad in boxer shorts and a dogskin (more or less,)  I realized that I wanted to be like him. I wanted not to care either. I wanted just to create art and let it stand or fall as art without the constant grind of marketing behind it. The damned guy and his insistence on pleasing himself and no one else with his art had awakened my inner idealist, dormant since the first Bush administration.

Look, this whole business is a crap shoot. All of it. If every movie calculated to make safe money by playing it safe with 100% guaranteed people-pleasing content actually did make money, I’d say Juenger was doomed to obscurity. But that isn’t what happens all of the time. It does some of the time, but not all. The movie business will drive you crazy if you try to figure out what people want and give it to them. It isn’t like the audience has ordered a pizza. It’s more like they closed the menu and said “Eh, surprise me.”

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I was recently asked by a German horror blog who is friendly towards my work to write an article for them on German horror films. Besides the obligatory Mentions of M and NOSFERATU I had to do some research, in the course of which I came across a 2006 German-language film called CANNIBAL. It more than disturbed me. I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience of watching it. Yet I did watch it and I am glad I did, even though I was troubled and haunted by doing so. Afterwards I thought of the elements in COYOTE that are likely to be visually disturbing (and there are a lot of them.)

And I thought of nightmares.

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We all have nightmares. And we all hate them (while we are having them, at least.) Yet we will have them, on and off, until we die. As did our ancestors. As will our descendants. Nightmares must serve some spiritual (or if you prefer, neural/physiological) purpose. Apparently, we need them to….to what? To remind us that our waking lives are not all that horrible after all? To experience and file away the illogical fears that free-float around our hippocampus? To teach us not to eat cake after 1am?

Who knows? We have them and life would be poorer if we didn’t. Erat autem nox.

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So Trevor Juenger made a nightmare. And I helped.

It’s a gamble. Trevor doesn’t care if people like it. I do. Neither one of us can help that – it is how we are each built.  But while the damned thing is getting finished; all through the silent months of post-production; I will wonder if the combination of entertainer and artist might have resulted in something people will love to not like.

Ha! As if I care.

(Bill Oberst Jr. is an actor in Los Angeles, CA)

Production Vlog Time Machine

From the depths of the past inside the future, we send a message into the present. Where shalt our reality be? Stop askin questions and watch the vlog! sheesh.

In all seriousness, or as much as I can muster, I did this vlog before becoming so sleep deprived and insane(more then usual) that I couldn’t handle doing vlogs. I’ll do a wrap up piece very soon, so stay tuned…we had shots filmed with xray lenses and lit only by campfire!! I mean come on, you ain’t seen that since….well….you ain’t seen it!

Just Popping in…

Bill's MouthHere’s another screenshot from Coyote!  I was hoping to capture something with a hint of Samuel Beckett in this scene, and at least in this one frame, I think we salute the artist subtly.

If you haven’t heard of Beckett, it’s time to do your homework!  The man is an absolute genius playwright.  It’s my biased opinion, but I always thought some of his work would be better suited to film rather than the stage.  What do I know!?

Let’s watch some Beckett together!

Still SO much to do

Judy SandersonSo here’s a sample of graded footage from the film!  It’s only a frame, but let’s take it slow before delving into all of the content we have from this truly extraordinary adventure.

It’s been a week since we wrapped.  I’ve been working around the clock on a first rough cut edit of the film, and I’m glad to say I’ve powered myself through it.  We’re sitting pretty at a 1 hour 20 min running time at the moment.  I’d love to slim that down to 1:15 before a few additional (very short) scenes slide into place along with the end credits.  If we end up back at the 1:20 mark from all that I’d be really happy.

I hope we haven’t heard the last from Nick.  He’s got access to the blog, so he can enlighten us with the last couple of vlogs he hasn’t posted yet.

Speaking of Nick, he’s really outdone himself.  Some of this work is absolutely outstanding.  I’m really happy we brought out the f/.75, and all of the experimental rigs.  At one point, Nick jumped 4 foot from a moving boat, ran through thistle bushes, etc. for a shot.  Outstanding effort, sir!

Nick and ICan we talk about all of the extremes Bill goes through in this film yet?  Nope.

Bill before a takeWhat an intense and awesome dude!  It’s incredible to watch him do something horribly disgusting and then turn out a Hamlet soliloquy without a second thought.  Bill would be the kindest, gentlest person off screen, then flip out into a misogynistic rage within a moment.  For as much smoke I feel is being blown up my ass with the “king of horror” title, this guy is the real deal.  I had the chance to see a HUGE range of emotions and actions from the man, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.  It’s always nice to have an actor to sell it in the moments your not so sure about, and to make the moments that would have been good anyway fucking magical.

Godspeed Bill!  Good luck on your other projects between now and ADR.

…so where does that leave us?

Well, we’ve still got quite a few FX setups that we’ll be picking up sometime in September.  There are a couple of green screen shots, and a car chase to be filmed in that time as well.  In the meantime, there’s so, so much editing to be done.  Audio hasn’t been placed yet.  Foley needs recorded.

I’ll give you a new screenshot every week, or something better.  Keep checking in.