Looking Backward and Forward

Sebrina Eric Back 3
It’s been almost two weeks since we wrapped REMAINDERED and yesterday I was finally able to see — after some tech problems and delays — all of the footage we shot and an editor’s assembly of most of the movie (minus one scene).

I am extremely happy with what we’ve got and thrilled with the performances by the entire cast. The cast and crew did an amazing job….far exceeding my expectations.  

Today I sent the editors — PJ Starks and Rodney Newton — detailed notes on all the scenes and now I am eagerly awaiting their next pass, which I hope to see in bits and pieces over the weekend and into early next week. Hopefully, we can get the film locked next week so we can start working on the sound & music mix.

But this editing from afar is extraordinarily frustrating for me. I’m back in L.A. and the editors are in Owensboro, Kentucky. I’d much prefer to be able to sit in the editing room with them while they do my notes…as I have on the hundreds of hours of TV that I’ve produced.  If things bog down too much, either on the editing or the mix, I’ll fly back for a weekend and work with them to get it done in time for our Oct. 16 premiere screening at Bouchercon in San Francisco.

While reviewing the footage and the editor’s assembly, I was struck again by something writer/producer Michael Gleason taught me. You have four chances to make your show. There’s the show you visualize in your mind… there’s the show that’s created in the script that you write….there’s the show that’s created in filming…and there’s the show that’s created in editing. There can often be a considerable difference between each of those creations…and each stage offers you the chance to “rewrite” the story, if not on the page than in the performances, the shots, and in the final editing.

The movie isn’t exactly what I imagined when I wrote the REMAINDERED short story or the script. Surprisingly, in some ways, Lee the Writer and Lee The Director ended up being two different people with  sometimes differing takes on the material. I found myself changing the tone to some degree, and the characters, in the way I directed the actors and in how I chose to shoot it… and, now, in how I am choosing to edit it. It’s been fascinating and fun for me.

Eric Signing 2

I found that directing was like writing with cameras. I was surprised by how clearly I saw the movie in my mind when it came time to actually shoot it. I knew exactly what shots I wanted…which helped me make my days (time-wise and budget-wise) and made it easy to decide which of my crew’s clever ideas to accept or reject.

I made some mistakes, of course.  There’s one shot I’m kicking myself for not getting (I didn’t think I needed it and I was wrong) and one scene I wish I’d staged a little differently in the master (but it’s not a big problem).

There was one location I wasn’t able, for various reasons, to see with my own eyes until we shot there (I approved it based on photos). The location was a big mistake in so many ways, but we were able to cheat it, thanks to the cleverness of my “indie” crew. It works, though not nearly as well as I would have liked it to. In that same scene, there was one seemingly simple prop I didn’t see until it was time to shoot it…and took for granted that it would be right… and, of course, what I got was totally wrong. We had to cheat that, too, but we made it work, though again not nearly as well as it would have with the right prop.

And there was one critical piece of set decoration that turned out completely wrong, which would have been a crippling problem for us if not for some amazing, last-minute help from the terrific folks at the Evansville Barnes & Noble. 

We overcame all those issues… and made a film I know that I am going to be immensely proud of. But I learned an important lesson from making those mistakes, all of which were entirely my fault. Next time, no matter how overly meticulous or controlling it may make me seem, I’ll make sure I see every single thing in advance and not take anyone’s word that something was done the way that I wanted it to be. I will need to verify everything.

Oddly enough, my biggest mistake was on an issue not related to filming. I didn’t personally see to it that we had an on-set photographer to take production stills… and that mistake has become a real problem for us now as we’re preparing our publicity. We have hundreds of behind-the-scenes production photos taken by crew people…but we have only four…yes, you read right, four…pictures that could be considered production stills (scenes in the movie). And those were taken by chance by a member of our crew. We could use frame grabs, but since we didn’t shoot this film in high-def, the quality is going to be poor.

But those are all minor quibbles in what was a fantastic experience with a great crew of talented, and hard-working, local actors and film-makers.  I loved directing and can’t wait to do it again…and maybe, if I am lucky, it might be with the same group of people.

(Pictured above: Eric Altheide and Sebrina Siegel in frame-grabs from the time-coded “dailies”)

5 thoughts on “Looking Backward and Forward”

  1. The film adaptation versus novel debate tends to grate me. Never mind that several new “authors” are making the flick and the novelist rarely has an active hand. Fellow readers I talk to recognize that film versions will be different due to demands of the media. But, whether or not you like the novel better seems irrelevant – the film version is a new work.

  2. I love the shot at the top of the post, it’s got layers and layers of subtle meanings. Here is a guy who not only is being tempted by a great looking woman, but who is wondering about himself, her, his life, life itself, the entire situation, and is asking himself for answers on all these different levels.
    For him to be leaning his head against the door-frame is a stroke of genius, whoever thought it up, because it reveals great depth of character, a character that is capable of great self-analysis and self-understanding. It doesn’t just show brooding, which would be great, it shows intellectual detachment at the very height of temptation, which in turn creates a real depth of emotional experience.
    This story in prose was really good. The stills make it look even better on film to me.

  3. REMAINDERED was shot at standard definition on Mini-DV. Wish we could have gone high-def, but I had to work with the equipment that the schools that sponsored the film had on hand. But we had two cameras and a steadicam operator, so I was able to get the shots I wanted and make my days.


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