Spring 2015 Was Good to Me

It's been a month or so since I've last written, and it's been a complete whirlwind of work, learning, and awesome experiences! 

Those last two projects I mentioned in my last post turned out better than I could have hoped, and I have a theory as to why. My goal for this semester (besides becoming a better filmmaker) was to always start my work long before deadlines so that I could have the time to put my whole heart into creating and to get as close to my initial vision as possible. Since I have to take more than just film classes and also plan around the schedules of other students I work with, juggling time is often extremely difficult and we end up turning things in with just moments to spare. I despise doing this, and it leaves me feeling unhappy with the final product. So, at the start of this semester, I decided to crack down. 

I whipped out my planner whenever assignments were given, and decided right then and there when the earliest date for filming could be for each one. I was extremely lucky to have ended up with such fantastic groups for my last two projects this time around. Everyone was 200% committed and put in more time and effort than was required of them.  I am extremely pleased with the results of our hard work on these two films, and I can't thank everyone I worked with enough. 

Without further adieu, Acid. 

Acid is my final project for Cinematography.  It emulates the style of Kristoffer Borgli (one of my favorite filmmakers), while maintaining my own style and personal touch.  There are many aspects of this film that are style-hybrids, including the story itself.  For weeks prior, I struggled to write the script, getting caught up on ideas where I was trying to do nothing but make a carbon-copy of one of Borgli's previous films. Finally, I had a breakthrough during a Theatre History lecture (I still got an A on the final, not to worry) and scribbled everything where I should have been taking notes about Brecht. 

The new script meant I was going to have a line or two of dialogue, something that I don't have too much experience with since I tend to be a very visual storyteller. Andrew Zah volunteered to record and master the dialogue, and brought those crisp lines to life in a way that was absolutely perfect. 

The other challenge of this film was some intense color correction and tinting. I needed to achieve a very specific look without the benefit of the soft, Norwegian light where Borgli shoots. I learned a lot messing with color software, and can't wait to try it out again on something new. 

Lastly, I would like to mention that the music I used was from a band from my hometown of Myrtle Beach. Using local music is something I've wanted to do for some time and I'm so happy it worked so well. 

Now here's the big one. 

A Helping Paw began as a "community engagement" documentary, but as we kept meeting people and learning more and more about their lives, it became something more. This film means a lot to me, not only because it's the biggest film I've made so far, but because of the experiences that came with it.  

Initially, we picked service dogs because there was a group in our area and dogs are cute. We set up three interviews without much direction or expectation, and headed out.  We met Becky first, and l learned things I never would have known about her and her life.  It's truly amazing how close you can get to someone just by listening to them, by being interested in who they are. We didn't ask any of our subjects to open up to as as much as they did, but it just kept happening.  And I think that's the power of documentary, to share these little intimate moments and make connections that teach the audience something.  At the end of filming, our whole group was very invested in bringing the knowledge we gained and the feelings we felt to the screen and to viewers. 

Editing this film may be the biggest challenge I have taken on since I began making films.  I had to plan, shoot, and edit both this film and Acid simultaneously during a short two weeks. Acid's editing took me two days, then the next two days were filled with A Helping Paw. I had to pull two all-nighters in a row, but it was worth it. Again, Andrew Zah recorded audio, but this time he also edited audio for the entire film (which gave me the opportunity to take a short nap, thank goodness).  There are still some little improvements to be made, but overall I'm extremely pleased with this film. 

The screening went very well, and the film has since been shared around the internet quite a bit with an overwhelmingly positive reception.  At the encouragement of my professor, Andrew and I have been entering A Helping Paw into a few film festivals. So now we eagerly wait for good news!