Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

99.9% sure the film is complete. Burning dvds as we speak.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Looks like we've made some progress in the area of colour correcting, and we're almost there.

The next step is to show it to the cast, and send screeners to some filmmaker friends and festivals. We haven't really been looking too closely at what festivals are coming up-- better to get the film done right than get it done sloppy in time for this due date or that one-- but I think we've more or less missed out on the big January-February festivals.

Our basic plan is to ask some of our friends what festivals they think we have a shot at, and trying those first; then we'll try some other American festivals. I doubt we'll try any abroad, as our finances don't really allow for much travel. Heck, our finances don't allow us to apply to a whole bunch of festivals, either. $30-60 a pop is a whole lot of money to give someone on the off-chance they may watch more than five minutes of your film.

So our basic idea is to choose carefully and see where it goes from there.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We've still got to mix the sound for the new material, and do some colour correction for some earlier bits. But one marathon editing session later, it looks like we're done. The picture's running time will probably be just around seventy-seven minutes. While our "magic number" was eighty, and while the previous cut of the film was eighty minutes long before these reshoots, we feel that the cuts we've made and the new material we've added makes for an all-around better film. It's better to have seventy-seven minutes that "work" than to add three that don't.

As we said above, we've still got some finnessing to do, but we're very proud of the film and very glad to be nearing completion.
First editing hiccough; it turns out we forgot to shoot a fairly crucial line in a section where every line (quite literally) counts. We think we might have a way to save it that won't necessitate messy reshooting, but it will result in a "Who Shot Niceguy Eddie?" sort of error.
Editing of the finale has begun. We've just finished logging the 47 clips that we need to put this thing together.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Half-way through. So far so good.
Actors should start arriving in the next ten minutes.
Today's the big day. After about three months of basically sitting on our hands, we're going to reshoot the ending and finish the blasted thing.

It's not that we aren't still enamoured with the film. It's a good movie, and it'll be even better when we're done. But we shot for less than two months. Three months of waiting for one more day of shooting boggles the mind. The frustration grows over the course of each day, building until it's some variety of not-particularly-cuddly primate on our back.

So, while we're still very enthusiastic about the project, we'll be very glad to have it finished just the same.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

As we're working on the rewrites for our Thanksgiving shoot, and looking at options for trailers, we're also working on finalizing the music used in the film. As we were doing our rough edit, we used classical music as temp tracks. And now we're replacing those recordings with royalty-free/copyleft/public domain recordings of other classical pieces.

"But isn't all classical music in the public domain already?"

Well, yes; but not all the recordings are in the public domain. Companies like EMI own the copyrights on certain recordings, and you get hit with the same kind of licensing fees that are involved when you want to use contemporary music.

However, there are some copyright-free recordings available, if you know where to look. And where we decided to look was Musopen, which provides free recordings of public domain music. It's in the same Utopian, Collaborative, community-focused idea behind Wikipedia and, heck, the Internet in and of itself. It's a marvelously useful website, with a variety of recordings available.

If you need to find a free recording, or if you're someone who's interested in making a recording for this project, we highly suggest that you check it out.

The other thing we've been doing is some (very rudimentary) audio mixing. We're still not sure as to the usefulness of all the bells and whistles, and we still have a lot more ambient noise than we want. But it's all room noise, not camera noise; it's very, very, very important to have (and we're very, very, very glad that we have) a microphone that is not mounted to the camera. Our mike only has a six foot cord, but those six feet make a world of difference.

And, oh yes, we're also doing colour-correction, which is a fairly tedious bit of business, but important. Here's a couple of examples from the exhausting "chicken scene".

Here's a couple stills from the original footage:

As you can see, both of these images have a distinct red/orange glow. That's not necessarily a bad thing-- but it doesn't match the footage shot in the previous scene, which took place in an adjacent room and was intended to flow right into this one. The sudden change in colour temperature is a bit jarring.

And so we fiddled with the colour correction feature on Adobe, mostly confining ourselves to a slight adjustment of the Red Gain, and what we ended up with was this:

Colour correcting has, in the past, always sounded like some tedious process without a whole lot of value-- "so what if a shirt is a little bluer here than there?" But having seen some of these results, I've got to say-- it's still tedious, but highly useful and important. Anyone who takes their filmmaking seriously should devote some time to colour correction/timing.

==Tom & Mary

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A few days ago, we finished assembling the rough cut of The Man Who Loved; the film clocked in at 80 minutes. We watched the rough cut together, and then watched it two days later with Adrienne (Jacob has since gone back to school).

We're all very happy with the film, but we quickly realized that the ending does not work. It strikes the wrong note, it's too cut-and-dry, and moves too quickly.

Through out production, we've reconcieved and rewrote and reshot and rearranged things. Much of the film unfolds in long, tense sequences-- scenes that run 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 8 minutes, so on. (Scenes that, I might add, don't seem to drag, either.)

But the ending is still composed of miniatures: a thirty-second scene here, a minute long scene here. It's wholly at odds with the rest of the picture. It also feels somewhat underwhelming. Earlier sequences have some bite to them-- they have "teeth". The ending feels genteel by comparision.

It's not that the ending is bad, per se; the film, as a whole, still works. But we can see that the film can and will work much, much better with a new and improved ending.

The problem this poses, of course, is that Jacob-- our leading man! our title character!-- has gone back to school, many hundreds of miles away. He'll be coming back for the Thanksgiving Weekend, which means we'll have to reshoot at that time.

And so, we've got two months in which the film is, for all intents and purposes, on hiatus. Two months in which the film exists in a strange limbo place between almost-done and done. Which also means there's a damn good chance we'll be missing the early winter festivals.

Ah well. It's better to make sure the film is good, regardless of timing issues.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More film stills.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

We're 99% done with shooting-- maybe. There's one more scene we have to shoot for sure, and since we still have our leading man for another week or two, we'll see if we can think of anything else to shoot. Might as well use the time we have.

The whole production's moved at a very smooth pace. About the biggest problem we had was in casting the part of Sue-- a small but, we thought, vital part of the film. Just around two weeks ago, we found her. Or so we thought.

When she auditioned for the part, she wasn't great, but she would do. With a few rehearsals, she would have done an admirable job of bringing the character to life. And, in truth, after a few rehearsals it was apparent that she had improved greatly. You can probably tell from the use of past tense that things haven't quite worked out.

There were a few early warning signs. First of all, she had an extremely erratic work schedule that we had to plan around-- making changes at the last minute, et cetera. In the past, we've tried to work with extremely busy persons, and more often than not, they end up bowing out because their schedule is too hectic. And it's hard to blame someone; after all, they're only getting paid in home-cooked (or pizzeria-purchased) meals. Paying gigs come first.

But there was also a strong sense of disconnect. She would say a line; we would give her a direction because we thought the line needed work; she would say the line exactly the same way as before. We went through this cycle three or four times before we got a different line reading-- one which wasn't precisely what we were looking for, but worked just the same.

And it wasn't just that we had trouble communicating, it was that at times we weren't even speaking the same language. Let me give you an example of what we're talking about.

Last year, we created a "zombie sitcom" for Youtube called 'Ned and Sunshine', which is a whole 'nother story in and of itself. But while we were casting that series, we auditioned an actor who didn't know what zombies were. He was very confused-- and perhaps a bit offended-- when he explained it. And we knew at that point that working with him, on that project, would be impossible-- that he just didn't 'get' the project at all.

We had much the same feeling with this actress.

We had to rewrite an entire scene-- the big Duck, Duck, Goose party-- when she failed to show.

On the night of the final rehearsal before shooting her scenes, we got a call from Jacob-- our lead-- to let us know that she had let him know that she would not be able to make it. The reason? She wanted to stay home and watch "Who Wants to be a Superhero?"

Now, we love and respect Stan Lee as much as the next person, but it was a bit too much. And so, after a lot of discussion, we decided to fire her.

Now, with only two weeks left before Jacob-- who is in every scene-- went back upstate to college-- this left us with one of three options. Option one, which had proved damn nigh impossible thus far, was to recast the part.

Option two, which was untenable, was to stick with the flaky actress in hopes that she wouldn't screw us over when it came time to shoot, and that she would be adequate at that time.

Option three was to cut the part entirely, which would necessitate the removal of nearly fifteen pages from our already-thin fifty-eight page script. This would bring our runtime down from eighty-to-ninety minutes closer to seventy minutes. Which, when working from forty-three pages of script wouldn't be bad. And that's what we decided to do. (Sort of.)

But wasn't the part vital? Well, yes and no.

Yes, the part was vital to the script of The Man Who Loved. She served as a counterpoint and foil to Sarah; she was a threat to the marriage, not so much sexually but in a more subtle, platonic way; she also soldiered some of the more didactic material. So, the script of The Man Who Loved could not function without her.

But the film is a different story. The film seems to be getting along quite nicely without her.

Though she's not completely gone. She's mentioned briefly and appears as an off-screen voice, provided by camera-shy cutie Mary Russell-- one half of the directing team. So, I guess we did recast the part in the end.

The script and the film are two different beings, two different versions of the same story. There are a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences-- in tone, in content, in theme and emotion. As the production-- and, indeed, the rehearsal, casting, and editing-- process unfolds, the story takes a new direction. That's the wonderful thing about working in a collaborative form.

Painters use oils or watercolours; writers use words; musicians use notes. But a filmmaker writes in faces, bodies, details, expressions: a filmmaker writes in life itself, in souls. And so a film will always be a living thing, while a screenplay will always be words, margins, and page numbers.

I guess my point is, sometimes you don't need that one scene or character upon which you thought everything hinged. When you can't get that shot or scene or line or character the way you want it done, you have three options--

One, go with the mediocre version. This violates the Howard Hawks definition of a good film: "three good scenes and no bad scenes".

Two, don't finish making the film. But remember, "the worst film ever made is the film that's never made."

And three, work around it. Film, like politics, is the art of the possible. Do what you can with what you have.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today we had a big shoot-- one we're still in the middle of, though we're taking a couple hours of break-time. We shot what was promoted to everyone involved as "the Duck, Duck, Goose scene"-- only to cut out the actual game of duck, duck, goose that would have served as its central set-piece.

To make a long story short: we got everyone seated to play the game, and that's when we found out that the room-- the biggest in the location-- was far too small in which to play, let alone film, a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. This revelation-- coming after five grueling hours of shooting with the largest cast we've ever worked with-- almost ruined our day.

Then we cut it out, and though we won't know until we actually edit the scene, it seems to work just fine without it, though we're a little worried about the film's runtime after cutting such a major chunk out of it.

We should have a trailer and some clips soon. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The problem with a blog, of course, is that you've got to keep up with it. :-)

So, to be brief:

Production's moving along at a brisk pace. We are 72% done with shooting. We have a major shoot coming this Saturday and-- if all goes well-- that should bring that percentage up to 86.

We had a casting mishap-- our ultra-secret guest star fell through-- but it looks like we've found a replacement, just in time; it also appears that we've found a Sue.

Editing is moving along slowly but still at a decent pace.

We will be giving you a more detailed look at the editing and production process, and will probably be providing a trailer soon as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We had two shoots over this weekend-- a small one on Friday, and a big one on Sunday. Both went pretty well, but Sunday was difficult-- cramming four people into a tiny room with seven-hundred and fifty watts of lighting on a very hot day is not our idea of a good time. But we stuck it out, we got done what we had wanted to get done, with a miminum of fuss. We are now 33 % done with shooting.

Here's a couple of stills to whet your appetite:

The film's looking great and production's going smoothly. We've never had a project move at such a nice pace without any real major difficulties. Part of us feels blessed; the other part is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

First shoot today, and things went wonderfully!

We shot from approximately 2:15-8:00, using about two hours of video (that's one-and-a-third tapes) and shooting nine pages-- about seven percent of the total script. But that's just the numbers.

What's important are the performances-- and our actors delivered. The scenes we shot today ran the gamut from sexy to painful to bizarre to silly. In each scene, the actors were game, often finding new-- exciting-- and entertaining-- ways to bring George and Sarah to life.

We didn't do too shabbily, either-- each scene had a distinct-- but beautiful look, we found a great many camera angles, as well as telling details (the curling of her toes, the way he sets a glass of milk on a nightstand) to ground the scene in a sort of mundane beauty.

It felt really good to be shooting again-- though we could have done without the heat. Over the course of six hours, we all pretty much boiled under 500+ watts of halogen goodness. But one look at the footage and the performances, and we knew it was worth it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

To make a long story short-- the actress we had over on Tuesday didn't pan out. To make a short story somewhat longer, the Farmer Jack never happened.

We were told to call the corporate office; we did. We explained that we'd really like to shoot in a Farmer Jack before they were gone-- that we felt they were an important part of Michigan and that we'd like to document its passing before they closed in the first week of July. We got a message back the next day:

"Can't help you. We're closing."

No nicities, just five terse mean little words. Which is, unfortunately, the way Farmer Jack's customer service was after A & P bought them out and drove them into the ground.

We had another rehearsal tonight. There are a few cobwebs to shake out-- it's been a good two weeks-- but we're more-or-less ready to begin shooting on Sunday. Some of the moments in rehearsal tonight were quite extraordinary as well-- shocking and true and revealing of both character and the skill required to bring those characters to life.

We'll let you know how the first shoot goes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tomorrow night, we're meeting with an actress about the still-uncast part of Sue. This actress-- a friend of ours-- is not the first person you'd think of for the part we described earlier. But then, when you stop and think about it-- yes, she'd work perfectly!

At least we hope. We'll find out tomorrow.

We're also waiting to hear from the corporate offices of Farmer Jack, a Michigan-based grocery store chain that'll be closing all its doors in about two weeks time. They've been a fixture in Michigan for decades-- we'll be sad to see them ago. We went to the one near us today. The shelves were practically bare. It was very moving in its way-- very sad, almost elegiac. And if we can grab a little of that feeling for this scene-- which is basically George just buying some toilet paper-- it could make it really be about something. It would also tie the film to a time and place that's fiercely Michiganian.

We'll start shooting at our main location this coming Sunday afternoon, after a final Friday night rehearsal.

Keep this page bookmarked and we'll be detailing these events as they happen...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hildebrandt's on vacation, which means that rehearsals are off for the next week. We're not worried; it's shaping up quite nicely-- better than it ever has before, in fact. It's a heady feeling, and we really look forward to beginning production in July.

We've been spending the downtime trying to get the house ready to shoot. There's still things to be done-- but it's not really a whole lot. It's not like we're shooting a sci-fi epic or anything.

Our filmmaker friend has said that he's interested in the part, though he hasn't read the script yet. He's going to be getting married at the end of June, and if all goes well, and he likes the script, we'll be shooting with him one precious weekend in August. That part, Ryan, shares a lot of screentime with Sue-- Ryan's girlfriend-- a part that we haven't cast yet, and looks to be bothersome.

It's a good part, nice and solid and yet compact. Sue is a very open person, very honest, never afraid of an argument but never trying to cause injury. It's a sexy part insomuchas her openness, honesty, warmth, confidence, and intellect are very sexy qualities. We need to find a very charming young woman, mature and captivating.

We're sure we'll find her-- it's just that at the moment, we've been drawing a blank. We'll update here, of course, as our search continues.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Finished the rewrite of Sequence F today, adding four pages to the total length of the script and greatly improving "the problem section". We also lessened the melodrama of a vital scene while increasing the tension-- melodrama being an easy-out when you're writing something at three-thirty in the morning.

With this in place, we're ready to cast the smaller parts of the film. We already have our two leads-- Jacob Hildebrandt and Adrienne Patterson, who are doing a fantastic job in rehearsals.

We've just sent an e-mail to a filmmaker/actor in an adjacent state to see if they're interested in one the smaller parts. We'll keep you updated on the decision of this mystery person.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

When we finish writing a film, we don't go shopping around for other people's money. Instead, we produce it ourselves, out of our own pockets. Because of this, we don't follow screenplay format exactly; rather, we tweak the format for our own purposes.

The biggest example of this is the division of the screenplay into chapters or "sequences" of between four and fifteen pages, a device popular with the screenplays of the thirties and forties which has since fallen by the wayside. At the end of each sequence, we insert a page break, so that each new sequence starts at the beginning of a new page.

One reason why we do this is to facilitate understanding. To group scenes and shots together so that the actors understand that these parts should flow and work together, and this part is a change of pace.

Another good reason for doing this is to facilitate re-writes. If a sequence isn't working, we can rewrite that sequence and print up copies of that sequence. If we stuck to traditional modern-day screenplay format, a couple of small changes might move everything in the script down a few lines. Which would necessitate a reprinting of a huge chunk of script.

By cordoning off the sequences, it saves us time, paper, and, ultimately, money.

We mention this because we're currently rewriting Sequence F, our pentultimate sequence. The Man Who Loved is not plotted like most films-- exposition, rising action, climaxes and denounement. No false crisis or inciting incidents. It follows, instead, the structure of music-- a progression of ideas and emotions, with changes of pace and counterpoints.

That being said, Sequence F, coming right before the finale, is somewhat lacking in the necessary tension. The emphasises of the sequence-- the strained relationship of the young couple, George and Sarah; Sarah trying to fight her depression; George pulling towards his other friends, Ryan and Sue-- were clouded and unclear. And so, in order to increase the emotional tension and clarify what's going on, we're currently rewriting that sequence.

After all, what is a story but an appeal to the emotions? And what is film but a way to communicate?

Perhaps later on we'll post the older and newer versions so that you can compare and contrast, and get a better idea of the process.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Man Who Loved is a feature film being written and directed by husband-and-wife team Tom & Mary Russell. This site will endeavour to track its progress. We expect to be shooting this July and August, and to wrap post-production a couple of months after that. We're currently rounding people up for the cast, and we're knee-deep in rehearsals with those we've already got.

It's not our first film. Our last one, Milos, wrapped production in 2004. We pretty much finished the editing of the film by the beginning of 2005, though we have returned to it from time-to-time to tweak it here and there, most recently a few weeks ago. That most recent overhaul was a bit more extensive than most, lifting seven minutes out of the film.

But, for the most part, and for all intents and purposes, we haven't made a film in three years. And while we haven't been completely stagnant all this time, there are a number of reasons why we haven't attempted another feature until now. The most important is that we were still looking for the right project, one that appealed to both of us, one that we felt was important enough to eat up the better part of the year.

And in the story of a marriage, we found it.

It's a love story, but it's not about falling in love. It's about being in love. In most love stories, the couple gets together and it's happily-ever-after, all sunshine and roses and soda pop. But anyone who's actually been in an adult, long-term relationship knows that happily-ever-after is seldom the case. It takes a lot of work and effort not to strangle the other person.

And that's more-or-less what this film is about. About real love, and depression, and pain. But don't think it's a downer. It's a film that's going to be unquestionably and breathtakingly beautiful and romantic and sexy. And, we hope, a film that inspires, that makes a positive difference in your life.

As to whether we succeed or not, well, you'll just have to wait and see.