G’morning, Premiere Day!

It’s 5:32 AM on January 16th. Today’s the day we premiere at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.  We’ve been at work since 9 AM yesterday.  It’s been a lot of work, and a long day, but I honestly can’t express how much fun. Can’t remember the last time I pulled an all-nighter.  Honestly, I think the last time I was up this long and late, I ended up with a daughter by the end of it.

I’m not about to share these thoughts out loud for fear that Christian and Brandon will throw me out the window.

We still had a lot to do as of yesterday: finish sound design, plug in the score, and color correct the film.  And now, after nearly 24 hours of finishing work on our movie, we have our film.  It’s awesome.  Wicked.  Dope, even.  Yes, dope, I plan on bringing back the slang terms from my youth, starting with “dope.”  There is very little cooler than when my daughter tells me I look dope in the morning.

Anyway, the film. First, it’s done. Seven months and 2 days since I first sent the short story to Brandon, we’ve finished our project.  It stands at just over 26 minutes long.  It may not win any awards, might not even make it into any fests, but I’m very proud of the finished product.  I’m amazingly proud to have worked on this project with the likes of Brandon and Christian and the rest of our cast and crew.  I get goosebumps just watching it, and it’s not just the lack of sleep at this point.

We’re burning the movie to disk now, should be able to all go our separate ways home for a nap before the premiere at Spruce Peak today.  I am really excited to see it on the big screen.  Hopefully, I’ll see a few of you there.  If I look a little blurry eyed, you’ll know why.

Don’t worry, now that we’ve wrapped post, I’ll have more time to catch you all up on what Brandon and I have been doing these last couple weeks.

G’morning!

-Mark

 

 

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RECAP!

Okay, so it’s been a while and I’m thinking we need a little recap before we get to our BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS…

*queue announcer voice*

When last we saw our young heroes, they had just wrapped filming at their Wall location, leaving one day of shooting left of The Dagon Wall to be done at the Cambridge location.  However, poor weather, vehicles dangling from stonewalls, and even worse – scheduling conflicts – kept our courageous heroes from finishing their film.  By sheer grit and determination, however, our heroes were able to bear down and bring their cast and crew together for one last day of shooting, and finally, wrapping their production.  Upon finishing the filming of their movie, our heroes quickly moved into Post Production, locking themselves in a small, dark, and often times smelly room, to edit their film.

This is where we find them now…

I think that wraps up the last couple weeks or more of filming quite nicely.  It did take us a little while to regroup after wrapping the Wall, and I have to admit I was beginning to stress a little that we couldn’t get all the players back together again.  Does Spielberg ever feel that way?  Anyway, it wasn’t that no one wanted to finish, but when you’re dealing with four different school schedules, extra-curricular activities, work schedules, family, and Vermont weather, it gets a little tough to line up even one day.  However, we prevailed, and finally had a great day of shooting.

On the last day we spent half of it indoors filming scene one, and then outside filming the cemetery scene, and the departure and return scenes of the movie. It was amazing how much more work it was setting up the lighting for an interior shot compared with the “rolling with it” we did while shooting our exterior shots.  With the exception of one exterior scene, we never used lights outside.

The day overall was a lot of fun, with minimal stress, and left me with only one regret.  I wasn’t there at the very end to say goodbye and thank you to everyone.  I had to run out just as we were filming the last scene, and didn’t get back in time before everyone had left for the day.  Hopefully, it’ll work as well for me as it did for Spielberg when the same thing happened to him on Jaws. The way I hear it, he does it the same way on every film since.

And since that last day, Brandon and I have been working hard on putting our little film together.  It has been a tremendous amount of fun and hard work.  I have to admit, I am so glad we storyboarded our whole film.  It was a huge help in planning our days, and getting our shots, and is now paying huge dividends while cutting it all together.  It’s funny, I’m still amazed – every time – when we cut a scene together and I’m like, “It’s totally the way we storyboarded it!”  Fist bumps usually ensue.

Which leads me to our first announcement.  When editing the movie, I sometimes find myself distracted by the lack of music and score.  It’s funny, our film totally looks like a movie now, feels – for the most part – like one, but doesn’t yet sound like one.  Brandon and I have always envisioned a large, epic, score for our film.  The score, to us, has always had to match the magnitude of the boys’ adventure and imagination.  From the start, Brandon has had a composer in mind, Woody Pak of Chaos Theory Music, but we weren’t sure if we could afford to hire a composer to write an original score for our film.  However, we never gave up on it.  By using PayPal and crowd sourcing our small budget, we were able to raise enough money to cover our pre-production and production of the movie, even most of post production, but we fell well short of raising enough to cover the score.  River Arts stepped up again for us and became our fiscal agent, allowing for tax-deductible donations to be made to The Dragon Wall.  After one very generous donation from a private donor, we received a grant from the John M. Bissell Foundation to cover the whole cost of the score. Woody is working on it now, and we expect to have it by the beginning to mid-January.  It’s still mind blowing to me to think that our little movie is going to have it’s own, original, piece of music to accompany it.  I can’t wait to put it together with our final cut of the film.  Oh, and make it available on iTunes!

We’ve almost got a picture lock on our film now; we’re close to having that final version.  One more night of editing, and we should be there with a complete cut, maybe a few further tweaks the following day, and then we’re on to color correction using the program, Color.

I know we’ve had some folks ask how we’re cutting our film, so I’ll try and flesh that out for you.  We’re using Final Cut Pro to edit and put our film together; I like it, we’d never used it before this project and I think it’s growing on both of us as we work through post.  We’re (and when I say “we”, I mean Brandon) also using After Effects to process some of our shots and do our special effects; the software is impressive, but in Brandon’s hands, the thing is downright magical in what it can do.  However, the best part, I think, of this process is in the collaboration.  It’s our movie, and so – in the end – we make the final call on every shot.  I’m not sure how much I’d like working on a project where we didn’t have that control, or without the same partner for that matter.

And now that leads me to our last announcement.  The Dragon Wall will be premiering at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe on January 16th; times and ticket details to be announced.  We’re also screening on January 20th at River Arts in Morrisville, kicking off their John M. Bissell Foundation Film Series at 7:30 PM.  Brandon and I will be doing Q&A’s after every showing, so bring your questions!  If you can’t make either screening, we’re also going to be hitting the film festival circuit pretty hard.  We’ll be making announcements of where and when we’re showing as soon as we know, so please keep tabs on the website for details.

I really cannot wait to see our film on a big screen and share it with everyone who’s worked so hard on it, contributed to it, and believed in it and us.  It’s going to be a big day and I hope all of you can make it for the premier.  A few people I think we’re particularly excited to show it to are our kids.  Most nights of editing, whether we’re at Brandon’s house or mine, or we’re working on the movie together or independently, our 4 kids find their ways to the studio or up onto our laps.  It’s funny to hear all of them saying the lines, verbatim, and with the same tone and inflection as our actors.  It’s awesome hearing them acting out the scenes in their bedrooms, or saying them along with the movie.  I remember doing it as a kid with Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars and Empire, but to hear Emma, Tristan, Barrett, and Logan doing it with our film, well, it gives me an amazing sense of pride and well, for lack of a better word, glee.  I remember how much I loved those movies as a kid, and I can only hope that our kids love this one just as much; that, and making it all worthwhile, maybe forgiving us for all the time we’ve spent locked away working on it.

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The TEASER

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3DOe0rIHTs

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Wrapping the Wall

We wrapped filming our Wall location this past Sunday!

It’s a bittersweet feeling for me, actually.  I’ve mentioned this before to Brandon, but in some ways I don’t want the shoot to end.  It is an amazing experience, one filled with excitement, challenges, laughs, and good people.  I’ve done some pretty exciting things in my life: I’ve tracked cougars, studied grizzles, trapped and collared black bears and bobcats, but filming this movie I feel trumps all those experiences.  So, no, on the one hand I really don’t want to wrap this shoot.

However, I know we have to, or else all our work will be for nothing.  And, to be honest, I want to wrap the shoot and get into Post Production soon too.  I really do, actually.  I can’t wait to delve into our footage and start cutting this movie together.  The little that Brandon and I have cut in starting to make the teaser trailer of our movie was a lot of fun and more a tease for the two of us than it may be for our viewers.  So, on the other hand, I really want to wrap this production soon, this week, as a matter of fact.

Right now we have one more day of shooting scheduled.  A full day at our Cambridge location.  The good thing is that half of the shoot is inside, so if this unpredictable Vermont October weather keeps knocking us around, we can at least get half the shots in the can.  The weather has proved challenging to this point, but if we can get blue sky for half the day (Are you listening weather gods?), we’re golden.

This past Sunday was our last day of shooting at the Wall and it was completely different from the previous four days.  On the first four days of the shoot we had full cast and crew and covered most of the scenes and shots for that location.  The next half day out there we shot some scenes with just one of our cast, and mostly action shots with very little dialogue, which was different and fun.  However, this last day at the Wall was different from every other day.  With the exception of a quick (relatively speaking) reshoot of one shot in the morning, the rest of the day was in shooting shots without any of our actors.  We had a skeleton crew on set working the shots, and it was a pretty relaxing, fun day.  The funny thing is these were mostly our “special effects” shots.  We had to figure out how to make some effects shots that we needed to get on film that we couldn’t manipulate in Post.  It was fun to work through the problems and challenges each presented in the field and get the shots we needed.

I also got the chance to play “body double” for Keefe Healy that afternoon.  Keefe is the amazing actor playing our Sage.  We’ll see if any of you can spot me in the film.  It wasn’t my first time putting on the Sage costume and standing in for Keefe, but it’s certainly the clearest shot.  Again, we’ll see if anyone can spot me in the film when it’s released.  I think I’ll be hearing from agents as soon as they see me on screen!

The funny thing about shooting that day was I hadn’t even realized we’d wrapped that location until we were packing up our gear at the end of the day and Brandon mentioned it.  I’ve been thinking about it all week, vacillating between the two hands and my feelings on not wanting this to end and very much wanting to see it through.

In the scheme of things, I think this is a pretty good place to be.  We’ll move on to the Cambridge site and I’ll get to log another day of dream fulfillment on this film.  That’s not a bad way to spend the day and at the end of the day on Friday, if we’ve gotten all the shots we need, we’ll wrap production. And, if we wrap, then I’ll be happy to move on to Post and continue bringing this little film of ours the rest of the way to you folks.

–Mark

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GEE WHIZ!

Yeah, that’s right, I just said, “Gee Whiz”!  Now, before you start forming any harsh opinions on the matter, hear me out.  First off, I picked it up from Brandon.  Yes, he has this quintessential every day American boy quality that allows him to utter phrases like, “gee whiz,” or “holy smokes,” or even “geewillickers.”  I may once upon a time have looked like Opie from the Andy Griffith Show, but Brandon encapsulates the essence of the boy still, even into thirtysomethinghood.  And this by no means is a bad thing, as a matter of fact, the dude pulls it off with grace and style.  It’s, actually, a little infuriating at times, to be honest.

However, apart from the apparent nod to my producing partner, I use the term because I fully believe that there is no better term or phrase in our lexicon to fully explain or sum how production on our short film is progressing.

We have four days of filming in the can, most of the script at this point.  We have one more full day of shooting to do with the full cast and crew and one abbreviated day to shoot without the cast.  We do want to reshoot one shot that we just aren’t happy with at the moment, but we could use what we have if need be.  However, we can make the shot happen and – as we’ve done throughout the process of making this film – we won’t settle.  Ever.  We’ve got the time, the willing crew and cast, and the ability to make every shot the best we can make it.  So, we’ll take that shot again.

Now, I know this is my (our) movie, but man, does it look good so far.  You folks that know me, realize that I don’t say things like that about my work very often, if at all.  Maybe because this is such a collaboration I feel free enough to utter those words, or maybe because our Director of Photography is such a whiz at making our story boards come to life, or maybe it’s the sheer awesomeness of our actors making these written characters come alive before me, or maybe this film is really looking just that good.  You’ll get your chance to judge it down the road, but for now I’m basking in the glow of our footage.

Okay, so even I will admit it’s not a movie yet, and for those of you who do know me, realize just how aware I am of my ability to screw this film up during editing.  But, with that said, I never imagined it would look so great at this point.  It looks, well, it looks like a movie.  It really does, and I know this is going to cost me man points, but I really get…what’s the word?…excited?…emotional?…goosebumps?…you get the idea…every time I look at the footage.

This whole experience has been magical for me, it really has.  And, I know that sounds a bit hyperbolic, but it’s true.  That’s why “gee whiz” works so well in summing up our production experience thus far.  It captures the sheer magic, innocence, and youthful exuberance of filming this movie.  Both Brandon and I have loved movies and film since we were kids, we’ve dreamed of making or being in them, watching our work on the big screen before packed audiences.  We’re not there yet, but we’re close, closer than I have ever been before, for sure.

But, this is also a family film, and not just a family film, but a film made by two families, and the phrase captures that as well.  So, not only have Brandon’s and my family exhibited superhuman levels of tolerance and patience with us during this production, but our wives have been right there in the trenches with us working as production manager, script supervisor, food service coordinator, cast wrangler, you name it and they’ve worn the hat.  Our daughters talk about it at school, I’ve over heard my oldest conducting auditions in the playroom with her dolls and stuffed animals for The Dragon Wall.  On one scouting expedition both our oldests were pretending to sell advanced tickets to the first showing.  The subject matter and genre is not only for families, but this film is at its heart, its soul, a family venture.

And, gee whiz, if our extended families haven’t gotten in on the act too.  I mentioned food service before, both Brandon’s folks and mine have covered food for the cast and crew so far, making out of this world breakfasts and lunches to keep the cast and crew plugging along.  Babysitting, food donations from family and friends, mobile homes, and even monetary donations from folks who would have done the previously mentioned had they the time or been closer.  This film started as a product of two families, but this crew and cast are slowly becoming one large extended one.

And, again for those folks who know me, know “family” is not a term I use lightly.

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Camera!

This announcement is a little late in being made, but we’ve been really busy these last few weeks.  However, in the time  since hiring our Director of Photography and getting our first four days of shooting in the can, I’ve had the opportunity to not only work with our new DP, but learn from him as well.  With that being said, I am tickled beyond belief at announcing that Christian Clark is our Director of Photography on The Dragon Wall.

Christian is a very experienced movie maker, director of photography, producer, and artist in his own right, and he has graciously agreed to work with Brandon and me on our film.  Dudes, he has totally upped the ante on this little film in a big way, but Sssshhhh, I don’t want him to know that, you know what I’m sayin’?

If you live in Vermont and have ever seen Rusty Dewees (“This is my Sunday One,” just kills me every time!) in a Ford commercial, then you’ve seen Christian’s work.  But, let me tell you, that ain’t nothin’.  Check out his website and his reel here on his website.

We’re filming our little movie in HD, using a Canon 5d, a SLR digital camera with video recording capabilities.  The camera is amazing.  I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of using an SLR camera to make our movie, but the clarity and quality from this camera is mind blowing.  Add to it the fact that you can exchange the lenses like any other SLR or 35mm camera and it becomes a very nifty camera to work with.

Brandon and his dad built a killer camera jib (JIB!).  We’ve also got an axis dolly on set that Brandon and I built a short track to run on.  These “homemade” pieces of equipment have raised the production value of our film, and in the hands of Christian, we are getting footage that looks like it’s right out of a professional summer blockbuster.  All of this is totally new to me, but I’m having so much fun – not only learning about all the gear – but trying to build or acquire all of these movie making components as inexpensively as possible.  It’s not being cheap people, it’s resourceful!

What this all sugars down to is that by hiring Christian and making sure we have the other camera gear on set is that we significantly increase the quality of our shots and film.  The jib alone has allowed us to make very pro shots for our film.  Add the dolly and we’ve moved well beyond a simple little indie film.  Add to that the Canon 5d and the quality of picture it takes.  Add to that the experience, eye, and talent of our DP and we’ve raised the bar, yet again, this dream of making our movie.

The bar has been raised pretty high now on this little project, but we set out to make the best picture possible, and that’s what we’re doing.

–Mark

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Auditions, Call Backs, and finally…Our Cast.

Okay, I feel like I’ve been outta touch with you folks for over a year, and in reality, it’s only be a few days since my last post.

But, what a couple weeks we’ve had!  I’m guessing in film-making-time a couple weeks is equivalent to a year or more.

A couple weeks back we had our third Open Casting Call audition and got our biggest turn out yet.  It was fantastic!  Our first two audition days were held at River Arts (THANK YOU RA!) in Morrisville, Vermont.  River Arts generously donated their space for our auditions and time in getting the word out about our search for local actors to star in our film.  Their space is beautiful and added so much to our whole experience. And, the first two days were tremendous, more than either Brandon and I would have hoped for.  Our third audition day was held at the Lanpher Memorial Library (THANK YOU LANPHER!) in the village of Hyde Park.  Again, a beautiful venue to have our auditions. And, to be fair, I think both Brandon and I were expecting a low turn on this last day.  I, at least, figured anyone interested in auditioning would have come those first couple days, right?

Man, was I wrong.  It was by far the largest turn out of the three days.  And, again, we had some amazing talent turn out to audition.  I truly appreciate all the folks who came out and auditioned for our film.

We scheduled our call backs on that same third audition day, expecting it to be slow, for the end of the day.  We had a fair number of folks we asked back to not only give us a second look at their acting, but to match them up with other, potential, cast mates.  To not only see how everyone looked together, but to see if anyone had any immediate chemistry. I’ve talked before about how storyboarding had been my favorite part of this movie making process so far, but after working with these actors during call backs, I have to say I have a new favorite.

It was…energizing, in a word to work with these actors, running them through the scenes.  I had so much fun playing “director”, and the kids (and adults) were tremendous in taking direction and giving us their best.

It was a wonderful experience. And, the funny thing is, we’re not done yet.  We’ve got rehearsals from now until shooting begins on September 25th.  Yeah, you read that right, not even 2 weeks away.  Less than two weeks!

Oh, man, I shouldn’t have let Brandon read this last paragraph.  All right, I gotta run and talk him down from the roof now, but without further ado, ladies and gentle-blog-readers, our cast!

Starring as:

Noah: Callum Adams from Stowe!

Jonah: Sam Wright from Wolcott!

Seth: Jacob Cann from Jericho!

Caleb: Jack Manning from Hyde Park!

and appearing as the Sage: Keefe Healy from Cambridge!

Mark

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