Monday, October 21, 2019

Editing and History of "Gumdrop, a short horror"

First, some housekeeping and promotions...Last year I shot my first short-short eight-minute narrative film, The Rapping. It was a festival selection at the New York Midnight Film Festival, actually, showing in New York and won the Weekly Online Once A Week Film Festival for January 2, 2019. I shot this with a single actor, Nikolas Hayes. We had worked together previously on Kelly Hughes' horror films.

I have worked on several projects with Kelly and lately, we've been working on the ongoing annual GUFF, the Gorst Underground Film Festival. We began it and held it for two years at Blue Collar Art but are moving it to The Historic Charleston Theater in Bremerton. Both venues are perfect for it.

Our most recent event series is "Slash Night" at the Historic Roxy Theater here in Bremerton which I recently wrote about here. Gorst is a small community right next to Bremerton, Washington. Kelly started both events and both are now becoming standard annual and monthly events, respectively.

This past summer I shot my short horror film, "Gumdrop, a short horror" with multiple actors. I wrote the screenplay and directed and shot it myself. It is a prequel to my short horror story based on a true crime, "Gumdrop City" (2012) on Amazon as an ebook and included in the collection of my first short horror tales in "Anthology of Evil" (2012). I have a manuscript ready for a sequel as, "Anthology of Evil II", but haven't had the time to deal with it.

On Gumdrop, a short horror and Gumdrop City, the new piece is a prequel. The story is about Sampson, an odd character who in the short story is older and more decrepit but just as dastardly and deadly, but even more despicable a personality. In the current film, In using the short story as a roadmap, I drew a character who had been abused as a child and had grown up traveling to escape his birth country of Czechoslovakia and his horror of a childhood.

In those restrictions of his accent and so on, I gave him a background of having traveled to South Africa and to various locations that affected his accent. His father was Irish, his mother Czech. So he has an accent that is an odd juxtaposition of a Slovak accent with a South African slant to it and words of an Irish orientation. He knew his father but didn't know him long enough for it to affect his accent that much, but enough and in odd ways. This makes him confusing for those he interfaces with. His mental status and his orientation led him into criminal enterprises and to avoid traditional forms of employment and sustenance.

Actor Stan W with lead actor Tom Remick as "Sampson"
Sampson is one odd character and not to be trifled with. As the character, Manz (played by actor Stan Wankowsky) discovers int he film.

Okay now...editing.

First, apologies. I'm more concerned with working on this project than blogging. And I'm adding to this as I'm editing, and think of things to mention.

Like treats. I get up in the mornings around 6-7AM and have breakfast, sometimes just toast and peanut butter, or oatmeal, and two cups of coffee. Years ago I limited myself to two cups a day, maybe tea mid-morning if needed. I watch something on TV, usually news of some sort, or a late-night talk show. Then I get to work. If things go on too long, watching a show, and it's really interesting, I'll stop, and save it to watch at lunch as a kind of reward. Understand I'm retired from IT and work on film production and writing from a home office which at this point happens to be half my living room.

I've found tricking and treating myself works wonders for my motivation and stress levels. Have something to look forward to. And use any way you can think of to make yourself do what you woin't or don't want to do. Whatever works. Just find a way to be productive, and try not to (have to) kills yourself over it. IF there is any way possible to make it entertaining/ Do that. But save the wasteful time spending for after you have worked for a day's amount of work, or more.

I have no formal training in film production. Just theory and doing. Self-taught you might say. I've read a lot of books on film production but should have spent more time ready about editing. Well, I've spent some time learning about it, but this project is in part that education. My next project will look a lot better edited, I'm sure. I'll also be reviewing some videos on editing now. I'd meant to do that already before starting this but the flu had messed up my timing. And other things...

 Sony Movie Studio Suite 16 - Gumdrop
Shown, actors: Luke Remick (Jinks), Tom Remick (Sampson)
I am using Sony Movie Studio Suite 16. For that matter, I write screenplays using Final Draft 11. One of these days when I can afford it I may switch to Final Cut. My first edit of a film was at Western Washington University. I used a half-inch black and white reel to reel rig and had to edit in the camera. At some point, I was soldering wires to add music. And it was a nightmare. But I produced a phenomenology film for my department advisor, Dr. Rod Rees in part toward my degree in psychology. I also got a minor in creative writing and team script and screenwriting.

My next production came years later as a Viacom public access cable TV producer where I shot and directed and edited with a few friends a documentary for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the old Lost in Space TV show. I shot on VHS using my own camera as I'd had a bad experience in college where the battery in every camera rig was dead or almost dead in my case, which was the problem.

I didn't know it was "dead" as it worked some and so I shot a bunch of film to near-disastrous results. Still, some of those shots made it into the film. I used a Panasonic VHS editor deck at the studio and it did cablecast twice in the associated region.

For both The Rapping and now with Gumdrop, I'm using my own equipment and software entirely under the auspices of the production company started in 1993 for the LIS doc, LgN Productions (Last good Nerve Productions). I'm using a Canon DSLR 80D, a Roland R-26 digital recording, an HP video editor system from 2016 and the aforementioned software.

Shooting the film I am using the 80D and a Rode mic on top of the camera as a backup, with the Roland R-26 and a boom mic and tripod for main audio. I highly recommend a backup mic, it can be a lifesaver. But that means you have to marry the proper audio with the proper video and that can be a real job. Especially if you are not documenting your shots as you go. Which, I haven't, sadly. But which I hope to in the future.

Beginning the editing I pull out the screenplay and follow that roadmap. I start to insert the video media and begin to edit. Once I have a sequence of shots or a scene edited, I start to locate and insert the digital audio media. Then I begin matching it up. Part of my problem in not matching up the video and audio first and then ordering up and cutting is I could end up doing a lot of work for naught.

IF I had annotations taken during the shooting, this would go much smoother. But in having actors, especially amateur or nonactors in a production, considering timing as they are working people, not working actors paid to have their time on a schedule to act in my production, it makes life and shooting problematic.

I don't have the time to take the time myself to document and clapper my shots. I have to shoot quickly as on any production, without the safety net of documentation and in shot annotations (clapper and onboard notes).

Another issue was the processing of the audio clips. I really didn't know if I could edit this film, then go back and select only the audio I need, process it (I'm using Reaper for that) and then replace the clips I've used. That is, replace the base media in the editor and have it replace all those snippets all throughout the project. Finally, I took the time yesterday to first do a test and it worked out great.

Another issue I had was I built the opening titles sequence first. In this project the opening titles are the end credits to an extent, only reversed. So in building the opening, I figured as it was fresh in my mind, I might as well build the end. And so I did.

However, that put the end at the actual end of the screen, the project, the file. While editing the other day, and this can happen, I deleted a file and didn't realize I had deleted the end sequence. I realized what I did and could feel a nervous breakdown coming on. So I just sat there absorbing it, thinking if there were ways out of that. Putting off the breakdown until necessary. As it turned out, I found it and from then on every day I save a new version of my work that day and begin a newly named file for the next day. I also saved the end titles in a separate file. THAT won't be happening again. I had also created a couple more unneeded tracks and put it alone at the top out of the way. Which was where it was. Not lost. So my habits aren't too bad after all.

Aside: This happened once after college when I had a dul 5.25" floppy disk PC. One disk had the OS on it, the other was data. I had just written a short story. Sometimes I get in the zone and a story just dumped out onto paper. And it's usually pretty good. I did that once while working on a paper on synesthesia in college. I was exhausted, it was midnight and a short story, one page, single typed, come out. I dumped it onto paper (typed it out) and handed it in to my psych prof, my department advisor in class that next day. The following day we all got a handout. I loved his handouts. I was stunned to realize it was my short story (Perception, which grew along with my short story, later novella, Andrew, into my first full book, Death of heaven). Anyway, I was writing this short story on the dual floppy system and suddenly (and it had done this before), it locked up. Because the data disk got full. At that point, there is nothing to do but reboot. But I hesitated an hour before buying into that need. Finally, I rebooted and immediately rewrote the story. Now when I was almost done with the story I was thinking at the time that it was the most perfect short story I'd ever written. Obviously, I didn't rewrite it word for word but close, but it was not the same as I had written. That was lost.

My point? When you think all is lost, don't accept the breakdown. Breathe. Then think. And do what is productive. And move on.

So I have what I have.

This has been so much easier than editing physically with film or VHS as I had in the past. I was the film editor in my family when I was a kid. I had my grandfather's physical film editor (I still have it) and I did cut and tape film. VHS editing was easier. Digital editing is a dream. As in writing is in using a computer over longhand, or that's how I find it anyway. So much faster to cut and paste than as I did in college, literally cutting and pasting and then typing it all up (back then after being in a queue at the library to use a typewriter).

Yes, I did edit The Rapping last year. But that was a shorter film, a much less complicated film. A film I shot and edited just to prove I could do it. And since it got shown in New York and won one festival, even a micro-festival online, I did prove I could do it.

After a week of editing, the nightmare effort began to get easier as I got into the swing of things. Yesterda I was about six minutes into the diting (six-minute of edited video under my belt) and I hit potentially the toughest scene in the film.

It is the scene with hitwoman Wanda (actress Amy M) and Sampson (Tom Remick). The difficulty came in an interaction that required a lot of insert shots and bouncing back and forth from mid shots to close-ups and some ECUs (extreme close-ups) of a tool. That scene, that sequence of shots took me a couple of days. When I started again yesterday, I felt pretty hopeless, like I'll never work it out.

I thought I was done with that scene but today found I had a mirror sequence (gotta have a cool/bizarre mirror sequence in a film like this). I just finished it and I'm now done with that scene and moving on to the Rowan scene with Tacoma actor Jason Lockhart.

But I'm dumping my media I'd inserted into the project at the end where I clean it up and inject it into the timeline with the other assembled pieces of shots. It's important to remember to clean up. I overuse files/copies in my pre-editing end area of the file to avoid having to reapply a clip. Though I end up with a lot of extra pieces  (also in clipping, and expanding), and just need clean up between sequences, which isn't much of a problem.

I'm also thinking now it might be easier and faster to just video edit and then focus on the audio. As you get used to one thing, video or audio, you get in the swing of it. But when I'm jumping between, I seem to cause myself too much confusion. A few days of this will prove the point one way or another.

But, you take a deep breath and begin again, or continue on as it were. by midday, I was feeling much better. Do not accept the breakdown. Or, accept it, but don't have it. Be productive. Always moving forward.

Professionals produce. Be a professional.

As it is this project needs to be done by the second of November so it can premier at the Slash Night event here in Bremerton, at the Historic Roxy Theater. If I'm not ready, then I can show it in December, and then I'll have more flyers sharing its premiere. And so I may show it twice in a row. We shall see.

At the end of each day's edit, I am rendering a movie of what I have done. Essentially finished rushes. Sort of "finished". As this is all going to take a rough cut, and then a run-through for other issues and another rough cut, over and over as any editor knows.

I have also created a Facebook group, a private group just for the crew and actors on Gumdrop under the LGN banner. There I/we can share issues about the production.. Actors can speak up and hopefully, everyone can learn something, or at least, be made away of progress. I found as an actor you know so little about progression on a production and it can be frustrating.

In making this private group I was hoping to have the actors be more involved, aware of progress (and delays) and hopefully as I said, learn something.

Yesterday I found a few useful links about film production/editing I'd like to share and I shared in our private group.

IFH 113: Post Production Process – Understand It or Suffer the Consequences

Understanding the 5 Stages of Indie Film Production

The 6 Stages Of Editing As A Film Director

I'm into filmmaking, I retired from a very well paying job and a career in IT of 20 years, to make films. To write. To turn my past writings into screenplays and sell or shoot them myself. I couldn't get a film made if I were dying. Like so many others. So I finally just thought, "To hell with it, I'll make my own damn films!"

And so I am.

I made The Rapping up and shot it. I am now finally, for the first time shooting a film based on my own past writings. I first heard about the story behind Gumdrop City in 1983 in an abnormal psychology class. A story so affecting of the entire class, I felt I needed to share it with the world. So I made it entertaining and slipped it into a story about a damaged guy and a serial murderer across the street from him.

I worked for a while with a Hollywood producer on a feature film-length version screenplay of Gumdrop City (I just finished working on a screenplay rewrite of my true crime biopic The Teenage Bodyguard with producer Robert Mitas who has worked with Michael Douglas a lot). I thought that story would be the easiest thing to shoot on my own as my first film of a story I wrote years ago. But to shoot the original itself would be problematic in many ways. So I wrote a prequel and added in some interesting characters and elements. Still, it is a difficult story. But doable. And that's all I needed.

What are those interesting characters and elements? In time you will see.
Hopefully, in very little time.

No comments:

Post a Comment