Documentary film production site of (tentatively titled) "The Drift"

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another year

It remains to be seen, at this point, whether The Drift will see the light of day. It certainly won't be 2008

The coming year will be different. My immediate plans are to move and apply to graduate schools. Looking down the barrels of recession and meager wages, I have to figure something out and fast. This film, it seems, will be on the back burner until my short term plans are determined. 

There are moments of inspiration that I have to finish this film. Unlike a writer, I cannot merely pick up a pen and write or edit. Filmmaking, at this point, is not a wholly portable medium and it requires chunks of time set aside for shooting and editing. If it is 'on the fly,' it is only so in the pre-production moments of writing or, if one is lucky, production with flick of a switch on a camera. At the moment, I am typically exhausted when I am home and editing or inspiration in general is just not happening. 

So, for the coming year, where the political climate will be more habitable and perhaps reasonable, this film may be finished. I worry that its relevance may be over and the political moment in which it was shot is essentially extinct. We have only one president now and it isn't Bush. 

I'm still looking for opportunities to finish and time to let the film complete itself. I refuse, however, to finish in a state of haste and rush it out to festivals. It needs to be finished on its own or not at all. 

It may be possible that a rough trailer and some clips may appear in this space soon, so keep checking. In the meantime, I will be quite busy and possibly unable to touch The Drift until the new year arrives. I'm hoping a year from now, all will be done.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unwritten map to sea

Late afternoon shadows
cast onto your back
as you walked down the sidewalk,
the leaves flashing
across your white shirt
scrolling upwards as you moved away
like your own end credits...

- EVH, Missed Opportunities

In the time that's passed since June of this year, I have completed two short films, May Dailies and Wealth and Work, 12 minutes and 7 minutes respectively. Since February of 2005, The Drift, which has been what I've been most proud of, had the most difficulty with, and am the most frightened of, remains unfinished.

Since beginning this blog, I thought it would essentially motivate me to progress, push me to finish this movie as I documented my most difficult moments, or times of joy. Well, that seemed to have failed. I am not finished and wonder if I ever will be.

I don't really have to finish, I've discovered. It may matter to my friends and to those who I have interviewed for this film. But for myself, the struggle to piece this film together has been all consuming, unnerving, and a near impossibility. I have tried, for sure. But this is such an enormous effort, one in which my attention cannot completely take control of, that I am daunted by the work to be done, and upset that I can't do it alone. I can't hire post-production assistants, editors, or anyone else. I'm in this alone, and in my head, I can see a finished film. Why go beyond that?

I am really trying to finish, though, but can't find the momentum to do so. I have a handful of half-finished scenes, alternate beginnings, and, if I may, some good intentions. But the energy isn't there anymore. I've been so emotionally involved, that The Drift exists as some kind of wild abstraction or a medical condition I can treat with pills. Yeesh.

It doesn't help that I may not have enough material or that there's a good possibility that people may never see this. At this point, I don't need to finish for myself, but some kind of goal would help. But what? Festivals? Eh.

It may come down to me having to not finish at all. I really, really don't want that to be the case. But this entire film is out of my control, because I couldn't really guide it through, couldn't give it the care it needed at times, and perhaps, don't see how it could ever be truly finished. There's an end, yes, and perhaps a beginning. But I haven't been clear-headed enough to fill in the middle.

So, as previous posts, you, dear reader, may gather that this journal is more or less a cataloguing of failures, which is unfortunate but true. I hope that it may be something else, someday. Right now though, it accurately reflects what I am dealing with. But maybe for not much longer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Helas pour moi

Having just (barely) picked up this film again, like a half-read book, it's apparent what my biggest problems are.

- An opening scene which was equal parts cloying, humorous and poetic, which I've decided to cut. The scene was shot on day (or rather evening) one, so I was attached to it as a beginning for linear purposes. It's clear that, while there are some lovely elements of this single shot, it's long and unfortunately inconsistent with the rest of the film.

- I have an abundance of found footage, shot by David, his family, friends, and news media. It's difficult, for me, to find the proper places to use all of this material. I am, admittedly, blessed and cursed with all of this footage, so I'm refocusing (at least) the first part of this film to incorporate more, and the latter parts focusing more on the 'present.'

- A mid point revelation, shocking as it was, leaves too many questions unanswered. Without revealing this, I will say that it essentially contradicts everything before and after, calling into question my role as filmmaker and his role as subject. The film seems to pick up where it left off after this, instead of changing directions as much as it could. I may have to shoot a bit more material to flesh this out.

- I'm stuck in a bind, editing wise. As someone who rejects the present day aesthetics of documentary filmmaking (talking heads, coverage, L-cut of talking head over B-roll), I'm trying to find a way to use as much footage as possible without falling into the trap (as I see it) of so many other films. I prefer the traditions of differing filmmakers as Robert Flaherty, Chris Marker, Basil Wright, Jean Rouch, and Frederick Wiseman to the ways of Maysles, Pennebaker, Kopple, and Moore. As much as I want this film to be expressive, occasionally fly on the wall, and work of portraiture, I'm wondering if I'm imagining a film that I don't have.

- Focus, focus, focus. This film shifts so much, with events, changes in David's life, and to be frank, changes in my filmmaking, that I find it a daunting task to tie everything together. Should I take a completely linear route, which would explain all of this, even if it's at the expense of a 'better' film? There are endless starting points, some may work better than others, but it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to find the right one.

- Too close to home. As I've stated before, in many ways this film is one long home movie (a description which, not including my own, encompasses some of my favorite films), so every edit, voice over, L-cut, and extended sequence feels like a violation of some sort, which I suppose is true. But, as much as I hate to admit it, the film may be a bit myopic because of this. The question, though, is whether anyone will want to see it. I suppose that's the eternal question for filmmakers anyway.

So, I'm picking through the mounds of debris left from shooting this film. I guess progress takes time, but I hope this is just the very beginning.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The tyranny of distance

I've noticed that there's a pattern I've taken with this film: work, become disgruntled, put down for several months, work, get disgruntled, etc. I haven't really touched The Drift for months and for good reason. As it stands now, the film is terrible: full of jagged, unrelated (thematic or film) L-cuts and references, horrendous exposition, and a fractured, jazzy editing device that comes off as juvenile at best. Why can't I work with this material very well, or rather am I destined to never finish this film?

In the past month, I shot, edited, and exhibited a short film for a gallery opening. The length of the film was 13 minutes. I've been working on this film, off and on, since 2005, yet it remains wholly unfinished, unedited, and nonexistent as far as I'm concerned. What do I do?

I've also changed as a person from when I began the film to now, so my thoughts on the material have also changed. I look at it as a series of memories, in Final Cut Pro bin folders, much like one's articles in a filing cabinet. I don't see light at the end of the tunnel.

As I've stated before, I have no filmmakers to work with on this. I know I need editing assistance, a questioning co-director to constantly berate me on why I included what I did, and where things are going. As it stands, I'm still going at this alone, not knowing if what I'm doing is amounting to more than merely finishing this damn thing.

As a first time feature filmmaker, this is a nightmare. A nightmare of terrible sound, queasy camera work, shaky editing, with no end in sight. All funding I've applied for, with would allow me to hire an editor, fell through, so I'm left adrift (no pun intended).

So, where do things go from here? Well, I'll give it one last shot, and I mean that. If, in the coming weeks and months things don't drastically improve, i.e. I get my ass in gear and try or somehow figure my way out of this mess, I am ending the production of the film and shelving it indefinitely. I have other ideas I'd like to work with and am stalled, both artistically and professionally. This is it, I'm afraid. I like so much of what I shot, feel that the material is strong enough to sustain itself, but I am stuck in the editing, unable to think clearly about the material at all. Looking back on what I worked on for a few months last year, I'm filled with a crushing disappointment.

I hope the next post will be filled with a joyous relief, that things have moved along, and the film is beginning to feel like one. As of now, however, I'm close to letting this one go and starting over.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Notes after a long absence

Six months down, nothing to show for it. I took a (better than) minimum wage job, which drained me physically and mentally. As I am no longer working (which won't last for long), I am finally picking up the debris of that time.

Well, reality set in. I cannot edit audio at all and as for video, I'm no better than your average high schooler syncing Linkin Park to Vampire Hunter D. Maybe it can be pulled off. I realized that I can't do this alone and considering my locale, I know no editors or sound mixers. I have little or no connections to the filmmaking community, adding insult to injury.

But with time misspent, mistakes adding up like debt, I'm hoping to have The Drift finished by the end of the summer, with work starting now. It begs for completion. I need to finish this damn film before it's too late.

So, I suppose this is an open ended question for the few who may frequent this blog. Do you have people who work in sound who could help? I would like every avenue paved to make the best film possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Honey or tar

One month down, once again.

Having just moved two weeks ago, adjusting to things, I haven't picked up the slack of the past few months. I'm afraid that I'm further removed from finishing this film than I ever was.

Though I've been inactive (or apathetic), the subject of this film is currently visiting. It's good to see him and seeing him in the flesh has (at least) had me reconsider my approach to The Drift. I'm hoping to thin things out while he's here, filming wise, and maybe I'll be inspired to go further.

I don't expect to update for some time and hopefully I'd have made progress in that time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ways of seeing

I'm not sure what happened, but between early September and now, I've felt all ambition and drive to finish this film decrease dramatically. Whether it's due to not being able to meet (realistic) deadlines or being overly frustrated with my slow, mawkish editing skills, I've felt less and less able to finish at all.

So what now, then? I thought some time away from The Drift would've suited me well and it's been nearly a month since I've touched anything. I looked at the opening half hour today, as it stutters its points across, and was a bit dismayed. The sound is terrible, only a handful of the edits work or feel justified, and I still have over two hours to complete.

Much of my problems have to do with where I am living and how I make a living. To give some of you an idea, I live in a shoebox outside of a living room, with a sliding door and no privacy. It's simply impossible to concentrate at all. I'm also unemployed, so I'm not valuing my day as much as I did before, looking forward to things and such. So I have no privacy, but freedom to work whenever I feel like it.

When filmmakers hit slogs, what do they do? I have no film friends nearby to confide in or get advice from, no filmmakers left in town to talk shit over with, and not a dime to spend on anything else related to this film. I wish I could afford an editor more than anything. I also feel freed of the stress I had before because I put things aside for a bit. I no longer care if this film never sees the light of day and aside from a handful of people involved in the film, who else does it matter to?

I hate to use this venue for such bitchy rants, but I don't know what do anymore. I don't feel empowered to finish and life moves along as usual. I'd like to put this project behind me, but right now it's impossible to devote myself to it as I'd like.