This Friday is the big screening day! Wallbangers will be shown at 11 am and 2pm in Film Row. After the 11 am screening there will be a Q&A with the Directors. Later that day at 5:30 pm A Dance at the Graves will be screening as well. This will be the first time my family scenes one of my movies screened in a theater. I’m more excited for them to see what I’ve made than for my peers to see what I’ve made. They’re finally going to see in context what I’ve been doing for four years. My dream in life is to have this exact moment happen but instead of it being a short film playing in one theater, I want to sit in a theater with my family watching my feature film that is screening in 4,000 other theaters as well.
This past week has been hectic as hell. For a moment I thought these movies weren’t going to be finished. Last week, Prov, the new composer and I met for 30 hours last week trying to make a score in 5 days. We had a hard deadline for the score which was Sunday 10 AM because Kyara, the sound designer, only had 4 hours to mix the sound design and score. Her time slots were from 10-12 and 3-5. The score didn’t get to her until 3 so she only had 2 hours. She did as much as she could, but we’re planning on mixing more after the screening. On Monday and Tuesday is where they marry the picture to the sound and create a DCP (Digital screening package). This is what they use instead of a .mov file when screening in a theater.
Tonight, my editor and I are mixing the sound design to the music for A Dance at the Graves. That’s all that’s left but we’re absolutely out of time because at 10 pm I’m meeting with the guy organizing the screening to hand him the file.
It’ll be a fun weekend, the more screenings of my movies I go to, the easier it gets. I can’t wait to look back onto this weekend 20 years from now.
I’m never going to make a movie the way the school taught me ever again. (Post specifically) I did it, I followed their rules, I finished the program, and I’ll never do it again. This program is where creativity and individuality dies. Throughout my process of finishing the film, I had to come up with new ideas and concepts and ways of making the movie the best way. Throughout that process, normally I come up with a bunch of bad ideas before something sticks and I move forward with it. But in this situation, if I uttered an idea, it would be cemented with no way to go back. This is also because of the time crunch. For example, I thought “hmm maybe we could make this scene kind of experimental, maybe add some visual effects.” Next thing I know, we hire someone, we decide the length of the scene by GUESSING, we have to pick out only 10 shots he can use, I give him “ideas,” he takes them and comes up with random shit and by that time, Picture is locked and I have no choice but to go through with this. That’s not how I want to make a movie ever again. I want time to experiment. I want time to think and make the right choice. I want time to research before I hire someone and just tell them, “YOU’RE DOING A VFX SCENE,” with no context or explanation since I had no knowledge. This is only one aspect. A similar situation has happened with the sound design, the color, the score, the titles. I can’t compare this feeling to anything I’ve felt before in terms of finishing a movie. I hope this isn’t part of the process because it fucking sucks. To have your project feel like it’s being ripped out of your hands and you’ll have no way to rein it in is … shit. We’ll see how the screening goes next week.
There are only two weeks left before the screening for Wallbangers and A Dance at the Graves. I’m confident A Dance will be finished in the nick of time. Wallbangers I’m currently not so sure.
Actors are interesting people. They all have their own methods and preferences when it comes to acting in a movie. Some actors love the entire process, the rehearsal, on set, and coming back for any kind of ADR. Others never want to see their performance or see themselves on screen. My lead actress for A Dance is one is those people. I vaguely remember her telling me on set that she’s never seen herself in any of the films she’s been in. It makes sense now that she’s been ignoring us for weeks when we’re trying to get her back for ADR. Now I have to either decide if we’re good with what we have or if I need to put my own damn voice in there. These are some minor hiccups. Today I had to fire my composer. It was the first time I had to fire someone who had been working so close to me, but I knew for a while that it just wasn’t working. We just had style differences. But now my Music Supervisor and I are scrambling to find someone else and to be able to communicate fast and effectively what it is were going for. These are only the drama of the day. Something different arrises every day. I love problem solving on set but this kind of problem solving drives me insane. It’s way less exciting since it’s just emailing and texting people back and fourth. Setting something up then double checking it gets done. Post can be so ugh…but I’m so close. SO close. I’m excited for this process to be over. I’m ready for the next stage. Distribution.
Picture Lock is a big deal. It’s the moment where the Producer, Director, and Editor agree that the picture is done, no more picture cuts can be done. For me personally, this is one of the hardest places to get at. To feel confident enough to move on from what you’ve been focusing on for months. I understand why Picture Lock is necessary, it’s so that it can be handed off to sound (Design, Adr, Foley, Score) without creating extra work for them. If they were playing exact sound, and the next day I cut out a few frames here and there they would have to go back in and fix everything they had done. It’s about being productive and efficient. BUT…. This is really hard for me. Music and sound can make or break a story, so how can I know if the picture really works without having the other half of the story telling elements in the film? How can I promise a locked picture if the sound design potentially changes the pace of a scene? I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but it’s definitely helping me figure out my style and method. The more films I make the more I’ll understand my work flow.
That being said, I somehow miraculously picture locked A Dance at the Graves AND Wallbangers on the same day! I really thought I’d never get there. But of course it doesn’t end there. Next is everything that sound entails. This part is also challenging. It’s a level of detail and technicality that I just can’t supervise at this point. For the past months, I’ve been in the editing room every day with my Editor, overlooking, suggesting, etc. But now I have to just keep an eye out on my team, make sure they’re working, and get send drafts weekly. It’s a difference process but I trust my team and I’m excited to see what they come up with.
In January, my older brother took me backpacking through Asia. Specifically Beijing and Nepal. It took me months to have to energy and confidence to go through the hundreds of pictures I took. The experience was so surreal, I didn’t want to alter my memories with the pictures that don’t accurately capture the moment. It also felt like such a personal diary experience that I have not yet, and probably won’t ever post these pictures to social media. Throughout the trip, I kept short notes because of the large amount of info I was taking in. It’s more interesting to read these notes than to hear me reminisce.
- Noodle for lunch
- Lama temple. Prayed with incense
- Confucius temple. Frozen mote
- Shopped at mall. Got sketchers and uniqlo.
- Buns at the airport
- Transit hotel in Guangzhou
- Flight to Nepal
- Battle to get SIM card
- Cool ass hotel. Nice driver and tour guide
- Drinks at cool bar. Electric pagoda
- Course meal at Thamel house
- Monkey temple + Snake story that drunk tour guide guy told us
- Got sketchy medicine for my throat
- Kathmandu Dubai square. Strange tour guide who brought us to small Mandela drawing store. Kumari kidnapped 10 year old girl.
- Pantan museum. Lunch at the museum. Friends cafe
- Pashupatinath temple and crematorium. Somber vibes immediately. Felt like outsiders. Saw a woman’s crematorium, saw her face melt. Tour guide starting telling us about everything. Brought us to the most important Hindi temple. We weren’t allowed in. We saw a human sacrifice temple. Last human sacrifice was only 200 years ago. Still do human sacrifice. Mother Teresa’s old lady home. Saw high level government donating blankets for photo op. Saw beautiful sunset as the woman burned. We were blessed then cursed by the old wise man. Went to the buddhist caves where they achieve nirvana and smoke weed.
- Saw a monkey fight
- Crazy traffic. Honks are a language.
- Then quickly went to boudhanath. We came late. Did quick circle around. Big eyes staring at you.
- Day 5
- Left shangrila hotel. Take very bumpy road to go to sankou. Trek through very old village to get to Hindu temple. Walked up many steps. Lots of monkeys everywhere and one black goat. Our tour guide got a blessing from the temple and we did too. The old man was really nice and also told us to grab our bags before the monkey did.
- Then we trekked up the mountain towards nagarkot. On the way there we passed many houses. School children just passed their exams and followed us very far. Very cute. Went pee in a smelly squat hole. Lots and lots of potato fields with the steps. Had lunch at this beautiful view, saw the woman get the meat down the road. Brought it back in pink plastic bags. Theo was concerned for the baby. After that we got to the View Point Hotel. It was a little foggy so we couldn’t see too many of the mountains. We got to a better spot and watched the sunset behind trees. The Chinese couple next to us we upset about the tree so they decided to try and break into a building that was under construction for a better view. Then we had a “steak dinner” with puddling included.
- Then we slept and woke up for the sunrise. There was a dog sitting on the bench of our balcony and we all watched the sunrise together.
- After the sunrise we started trekking to go to bhaktapur. We walked down the mountain through more villages. They live in small huts but all have smartphones. Lots of cute goats, dogs, chickens, roosters, buffalo, cows. Saw great views of Himalayas. Walked down hill and saw new Buddha plaza statue. Kept walking…namaste with almost every person. Abandoned tourist bus stuck on side of road. Took short cut up huge ass hill. Had to walk through fire. We have lunch at changu Narayan. Our waiter is nice and is an actor. He made me direct a scene between him and theo. We’re fb friends now. Then we visited the temple. Very old and beautiful temple. Then continued walking towards bhaktapur. We were exhausted. Tour guide got lost, thank you google maps. We finally make it to the hotel and it’s getting late. So the hotel drivers brings us to the entrance of the bhaktapur dubar square. But the entrance fee was expensive and we had no money left. We had to find an ATM to get more cash, it was not easy. We made to the square and it was beautiful but empty as it was late. We were able to get into a closed temple thanks to our tour guide and he nice guards. Much of the square had been damaged by the earthquake. Our tour guide was visibly shaken as he had not been to the square since he earthquake. We then walked around the small alleyways and streets of the city. They were a beautiful maze and amazing at night. Adele started feeling sick, she did not want to puke in a holy place. We make our way back out of the city and say farewell to our tour guide. Upon arriving at the hotel, Adele paints the toilet with yellow ex dhal curry puke and diarrhea. It was not a good night for Adele. She puked all night as the wild dogs howled in the near distance.
- Next day we got driven to the airport. Took a tiny airplane with like 10 people. Saw view of Himalayas in the plane. Adele still not feeling good. Decided to do a shorter trek 45 mins instead of 3.5 hours. Got in a car and drove up windy windy road up mountain. Got dropped off at bus stop and we started the trek. It was all uphill with many many steps. 20 minutes in Adele throws up over a cliff. We continue on and make it to the Australian camp (thulaksarka). Adele took nap immediately. We went on the roof and had tea and watched the sunset. Adele ate pizza and she tried not to watch theo eat the dhal bat. Got extra blanket for bed.
- Woke up early to see the sunrise. Saw amazing view of the Annapurna mountain range. Was the best view so far. We swung on the swing. We started trek down the mountain. It was very fast. Then we got on the bus and adventured down with the locals. There was bus handler bringing people on and off. Chaotic but systematic. I was laughing the whole time. Then we start trek to Sarangot. It was fairly easy. Easiest trek we did. Got to the Mountain Garden hotel around noon. Had lunch and had to order dinner and breakfast in advance, our guide left after that. At the hotel we met two people. A guide and a woman from the Netherlands. They were really nice and we had a great long conversation. Then played a really fun card game all night. The bed was like a plank of wood and I was freezing all night.
- We see another amazing sunset of the Annapurna range but from a different angle. Then we say goodbye to our new friends, Janet and thakur.
- Then we go paragliding all the way to the lake. It was so fun and amazing. My guy was singing in Nepali the whole time. Amazing experience. Theo got sick 🙁
- The paragliding guys were typical bros driving in their jeep like crazy. It was funny.
Here are the pictures
I’m pretty sure the goal of making movies is to have people watch them. As an independent filmmaker the way you usually make that happen is by having a successful festival run. So for fun I’ve been submitting one of my old short films, Spin Cycle , to all the free festivals. To my surprise it got into two festivals. The first being the Brownsville International Film Festival in Texas and the second the Chicago Feminist Film Festival . Since the first one was in Texas, I wasn’t able to attend but on March 1st, I attended the Feminist Festival in Chicago. Here’s my experience:
I walked in on the 8th floor at Film Row Cinema at 1104 s Wabash st. They greeted me as I signed in and gave me a goody bag, I already felt like a star. They had a step and repeat set up, aka a red carpet with a background and photographer. The best part about attending a local festival is that all your friends can show up for support. So with a whole row of people in the audience supporting me, laughing at the jokes, and cheering for my film, I felt awesome. After the screening, the organizer called up the filmmakers and turns out it was only me and one other girl. I realized how under prepared I was to answer questions about my film. I started being weird and making jokes but overall I think I did an okay job. Next time I’m going to prepare some answers to generic questions like, “What was the craziest moment on set?,” or “What was the hardest part about making the movie?” I also realized that sometimes being completely honest isn’t the best. I may have thrown my actress under the bus but that’s okay…we can forget it happened. But after the screening, people came up to me and gave me their own interpretations of the film and I loved it.
Overall it was an incredible and exciting experience to see all my hard work put up on screen. Spin Cycle is now it’s own living breathing creature that has it’s own life and future and it feels good to know that I can finally walk away and work on the next one.
To be asked to write a piece that has personal truth frightens me. To make a fool of oneself, that is the very nature of every performer’s anxiety. Whether you are the lead actress, the director of photography, or a grip, you are performing. My role as a director is to make you feel safe enough to take a crazy chance, try for something knowing that I will have your back, and hopefully, arrive at the truth of the character in that moment.
I experienced this while directing my school’s practicum, the short film Wallbangers, a no-dialogue, one-location racquetball movie combining the minimalism of a Jacques Tati piece with broad physical comedy. I had to convince two middle-aged male actors to act BIG, in a way that was past their natural comfort zone. One actor needed long in-depth conversations about his motivations, the other actor wanted short to-the-point direction. But in both cases, by helping them connect with their characters’ humanity and relate it to their own experience, I was able to get them to leave their fear behind and to deliver the performance the film needed.
Another aspect to creating a safe, creative zone for your performers is by providing context. Creating and maintaining a “world bubble” around them, that keeps them in the reality of the role and in the right energy. I particularly found this to be true while recording ADR, knowing that in the abstractness of the booth, the actor needs context and an accurate energy level. Their talent and skill takes it from there.
So in the end, I find that directing is really about empathy. Empathy with your performers, understanding their fear of being led into a bad performance, and helping them move past it. Empathy with the characters as you try to bring the story into plain view.
As I find myself at the very beginning of my own artistic journey, I would love an opportunity to shadow an experienced director as they lead their team of performers, and watch them in the practice of their craft.
It was early in April, 2 am and cold as hell. We were given the keys to this historic and massive cemetery. There were 50 people working for me trying to get this movie made. It felt like our playground, we were safe enclosed inside the cemetery gates. Tensions were high as we were behind schedule, people were running around in the mud, slapping cables around, restarting broken generators. We were about to go for a take but everyone stopped. I don’t understand why so I look around. It’s snowing. Snowing hard and fast. Every single person stops what they’re doing and looks at me. Looking for a reaction. Within minutes inches of snow piled on the ground. There’s no way we could continue shooting, the shots wouldn’t cut together. Those 50 people stood there waiting for me to stop the snow. I stood there as total chaos ensued. The crew running around covering up lights, the producer panicking, the actors complaining, the AD begging me for answers. All at once they came up to me and asked “what do we do??” All I could do was laugh. It was so funny. I said “I don’t know just take it in! You’re in the middle of a cemetery covered in snow. When are you ever going to experience something like this again.”
Finishing this film has been really fucking hard. I’m exhausted being the only cheerleader. It’s hard to know what you want at all times. Always have new ideas if your old ones don’t work. Even just giving a fuck is hard. That being said in all my dramaticness… It’s actually going really well. Everything is coming together, it’s exactly everything I pictured it would be. So why aren’t I happy or excited? I don’t know lol. Maybe I’m just grumpy this week.
I’m starting to see my movie as it’s own thing and I worry how it’s going to do without me. Will it mean anything to people? Will it make an impact on someone? Was it worth all the work? What’s the point? What will be the outcome? This is probably part of the “emotional process,” I’ve spoken about in early posts. I haven’t experienced this yet so I can’t recognize it and call it what it is. This is the first film where I’m expecting it to go somewhere after I finish it. I can basically foresee the end of the editing and how it’s been going, it should be fine till the end. But of course, after one thing figures itself out, another worry comes along.
But to give you all a clear update; we’re 2 weeks away from picture lock, we have our visual effect scenes basically all worked out, and the composer is hard at work trying to create this crazy song I’ve asked him for.
Yesterday, my Editor and Professor were discussing how using temporary music in a cut of a film can be so detrimental for a Director. They fall in love with that song and then nothing else can compare. This makes me want to consider not using temp music next time because I’m definitely in love with the song that inspired the entire movie.