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Better Late Than Never

Better late than never.  It's a phrase we hear all the time.  I have no idea if it's true or not, but if I had to guess, (and since I'm the one writing this, I do), I would guess that when someone says "better late than never", they are most likely trying to by pass the guilt that tells them whatever is "late" should have been done long ago.  To this sense of guilt they reply, "Look guilt, I know I didn't do what I said I was going to do, at the time I said I was going to do it.  But look here, I did do something.  Things could be worse, you know.  I could have just not done anything.  Then where would you be?  You'd have nothing.  So why don't you just back up off me".

     So, the phrase is part acknowledgement of wrong doing, and part dodging responsibility by alluding to another trademark phrase, "things could be worse".  I suppose "better late than never" could be true in certain situations, and I'm hoping that is the case when it comes to this blog post.

     It has been over eighteen months since I last laid fingers to keyboard and gave your eyes something new to read, gentle reader.  Some might interpret that fact in a couple of different ways.  One possibility is that I have given up my dream of becoming a real life, honest to goodness, filmmaker, and this abandoned blog, with all of its cobwebs and tumble weeds, is nothing more than a relic of a dream long since dead.  Another possibility is that I am so busy chasing my dream, and so many things are happening for me, that I no longer have enough time to type words destined to spend eternity floating through the world wide web.  Of course, it is also possible that I just got lazy.  Days became weeks, weeks became months, months added up to year, and then continued to add up.  That scenario could lead one to think, "what would be the point of posting something now?  So much time has gone by, and I'd really rather take a nap".  I'll let you decide which of the above scenario's is most likely, gentle reader, but I will give you a hint.  My dream is still alive, and I'm not currently working on the next Batman franchise.

     So, a long time ago, in a galaxy very close to this one, I made the statement that all your questions would be answered.  I assumed, gentle reader, that if you followed this blog on a regular basis, you would have noticed a significant gap in the timeline between the making of my first feature film, "Wireless", and its completion.  I don't know if you actually have any questions, but these are the questions that I would have, if I were the one doing the gentle reading.

Did you finish "Wireless" in time to enter the "Big Break" film contest?

The short answer to this question is "yes".  The long answer however, is called the long answer for very good reason.  I will do my best to summarize.

     I had previously written a blog post about tackling all of the various phases of production at the same time, in an effort to complete "Wireless" to be submitted to the "Big Break" film contest.  Just to recap a bit, I had about twelve weeks from the announcement of the contest to finish writing my script, and make the movie.  I put together a schedule that gave me about one week to complete post production after finishing shooting the movie.  My promise to myself, and to the cast, was that no matter where I was in the post production process, I would export the movie and submit it.  My thinking being, that even if the movie was in less than perfect shape, perhaps one of the judges would see the inherent genius contained within, and couldn't help themselves but put me in touch with the powers that be that would get my movie career off and running.  I would, of course, do my very best to win the contest and though I knew a week was not near enough time to post a feature length film, I was editing all I could while shooting, to make the most of that week.

     Unfortunately, the idea of having a full week for post production was just a pipe dream.  Due to scheduling conflicts with the actors, and production mishaps (that caused an entire day's worth of shooting to become unusable), my week of post production was quickly whittled down to a single day.  However, even that whole day was not to be, as a company for whom I did part time work called me into work that morning.  Once I got there, I was told I needed to stay until late afternoon, and not just the couple of hours that had been originally agreed upon.  If I had to describe my face to you, gentle reader, it could not be described as sunny, or smiling.  It was more like the grim reaper after eating a batch of bad prunes.  My week dissolved into a day, and that day quickly disintegrated into a handful of hours.  So, after arriving home at around four in the afternoon, I had until eleven o'clock the following morning to put a finished DVD into the hands of a Fed-Ex driver to be sent overnight to the "Big Break" contest headquarters.  To make matters slightly worse, I had no real experience exporting a file of this size and burning it to DVD.  My computer was several years old, and I had no idea how long it would take the file to render and burn.  All I could do is be true to my word.  I would start at the beginning of the assembled footage, get as far as I could, start exporting at five in the morning, and hope that was enough time to get the finished DVD off by eleven.

     True to my word, five in the morning found me collapsed on my bed, while my computer continued to work through the sunrise rendering the DVD.  I had made it through one pass of the assembled footage.  I was able to trim the rough spots, find and place any basic sound effects, and film any inserts that I had previously filed under the mental heading, "I can always shoot that later".  This particular version of the film had no music at all, no kind of color correction, and only the most basic sound design.  It was the roughest of the rough cuts.  One could watch it and follow the story, but that is about all they could do.  However, that is how far I got in twelve weeks, so that is what I burned onto DVD and placed in an overnight envelope to be sent to the "Big Break" judges.

Did you win the "Big Break Contest?

No.

A day or two passed until I felt refreshed enough to take a look at the "Big Break" landscape.  As part of the contest, each submitted film was to cut together a trailer for the film, and post it to the contest website.  Since I was so pressed for time, my trailer was just ninety seconds of a scene straight from "Wireless".  For the first time I started to look at trailers made by other contestants.  My heart sank.

     When deciding to enter the contest, in my naive mind, I thought there would be less competition.  Making a feature length film in twelve weeks is quite an undertaking, and I figured if I was struggling with the task, then so was everyone else.  There are a lot of filmmakers who could pull off a short film, who wouldn't even come close to pulling off a feature film in that length of time.  This is what kept me pushing forward on days when I came home to find that the last twelve hours of shooting essentially found itself swirling its way to the bottom of the toilet bowl.  However, the "Big Break" contest was NOT about making a feature film in twelve weeks.  It was about submitting a previously unreleased feature length film to try and win limited distribution.  There was no requirement stating films needed to be made in twelve weeks.  In fact, films could have taken any amount of time and had any budget, as long as they had not been previously released in theaters.  This being the case, the response to the contest was HUGE.  The contest creators were overwhelmed by the sheer number of contestants.  So, as I sat at my computer and watched trailers of films that had recognizable mainstream actors in them, with budgets that easily exceeded six figures, I knew that my little bootleg, no budget, written, shot, and edited in twelve week, without a single note of music behind it, movie had no chance.  None whatsoever.

     I would faithfully check the contest website to find the results, and three different times contest coordinators pushed back the date when they said the results would be posted.  On the third time, the website did not even bother to list a new date, it just simply read "Coming Soon"!  However, after several more weeks the contest judges selected three finalists, for whom the public could vote to select a winner.  Just to emphasize the quality of the finalists; there were originally supposed to be five finalists, but two of the five had already acquired distribution deals since first submitting to "Big Break" and were disqualified.  In case you were wondering, gentle reader, "Wireless" was not one of the remaining three.

     At long last, after all of the public's votes were tabulated, the day came when a winner was finally announced.  The film "Cost of a Soul" was voted the winner, and received its "Big Break".

Was all the effort to finish by the contest deadline worth it?

     I did take a couple of hours one lazy afternoon and watched "Cost of a Soul", on Netflix instant streaming, if for no other reason, but to bring a final sense of closure to what had become a six month journey.  "Cost of a Soul" is the story of two war vets returning to their urban neighborhoods after completing military service Afghanistan.  Between you and me, gentle reader, I didn't think it was a good movie.  I didn't care for the characters, the story, or even the cinematography.  However, if I am completely honest with you, and myself, I must admit, it was far and away a better movie than "Wireless".  Even though I did not care for it, "Cost of a Soul" looked and felt like a "real" movie, while "Wireless" does not.

     Of course, the final version of "Wireless" is substantially better than the DVD I submitted to "Big Break".  But, even in its finished form "Wireless" and "Cost of a Soul" are not in the same weight class.  I could make excuses and say that "Cost of a Soul" had more money, time, and resources.  They had a professional cinema camera (the RED One), and I had a Canon Rebel.  They knew how to use their camera, while I was just trying to keep people in the light and in focus.  I even pulled that off most of the time.  However, many months later, when I walked out of the Avengers, (more like stumbled out after being exposed to excessive levels of awesome), if someone asked me what was awesome about it, I don't think focus would be the first thing to spring to mind.  "That movie was fantastic!  The characters were in the light, and not blurry at all!  How does Joss Whedon do it"?!

     As an objective observer of "Wireless", I had to face, that in most ways, it was not what I wanted it to be.  It did not look or feel like a real live, honest to goodness, film.  There were a few things missing.  But not to worry, gentle reader, this is not self pity you're reading.  These are merely the thoughts of an aspiring filmmaker looking at the ways he needs to improve, to remove "aspiring" from his title.

     At the end of the day, (and the end of this post), I'm grateful for the "Big Break" contest and for entering it.  Without the deadline that the contest provided, I don't even know if I would have ever finished writing the script for "Wireless", much less gathered some actors together and shot scenes.  The "Big Break" contest also gave me an honest look at where my film making skills were, and where they needed to be, in order to have a film on Netflix, instead of just on YouTube.  The contest provided a more critical measuring stick with which to gauge my work, and also gave me an incentive to get out there and make something happen.  All the while remembering those classic words uttered by Johnny Depp in the Tim Burton classic "Ed Wood", "what's that you say.... worst movie you ever saw?  Well, my next one will be better"!

     So there you have it, gentle reader, answers to all of your questions.  At least answers to all of the questions I thought you might have.  Still have more?  Well, don't be afraid to use the comment section, or hit me up on the Twitter or the Facebook.  You can find links to both on the top of this page, on the left hand side.  Let me know if there is anything I can answer for you, or anything you would like to talk about.  I'll get to it eventually.  I promise.  After all, better late than never.

Comments

  1. A Fan's Cut

    http://afanscut.blogspot.com/

    This is my blog on how Great Films Could Have Been Made Differently.

    if you have time then please take a look.

    I'm also looking to collaborate with a screenwriter.

    Comments are welcome

    Sorry for disturbing,thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for giving it a look, I will be sure and do the same.

      Delete
  2. This post reminds me of how I felt when I finished my first novel and started submitting it to editors and to major contests. It took a few months, and some hard-nosed feedback, but I finally realized it wasn't the book that would get me a publishing contract, but it was the book I needed to write to learn how to start and finish a novel. Every revision, every subsequent novel etc from that point on honed my craft until one day my ability caught up to my literary taste. :) Can't wait to see what you do next!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for the late reply, Google is supposed to drop me a line when someone comments, and I found no lines laying about, but I digress. I imagine that most artists of all types of mediums hit that same wall. The moment where the dream becomes a reality, and that reality doesn't live up to the dream. It can be a tough experience as it was not for a lack of hard work that things did not quite come together, there are just some lessons that can only be learned by going through the process. All any artist can do is pay attention, learn from the mistakes, and most importantly, keep creating. Thanks for taking the time to check out the post and comment, it's always encouraging to hear from talented people who recognize the struggle.

      Delete

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