Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An End and a New Beginning

I haven't posted in this blog for over two years now, I know. I've been 50% busy, 50% lazy and my blog wasn't getting many comments, so maybe I just didn't see the point of updating this blog anymore. That being said, I think I'm going to start updating it again. I enjoy writing, especially about my film work, so perhaps it'll be kind of therapeutic.
Alison in Wonderland is now complete. After the 25 months stretch of on and off shooting, it wound up taking around the same time to put the film through post-production and finish editing it. There was much work to be done. First I got all the actors with speaking roles back for dubbing/ADR sessions as I ended up using very little of the movie's onset recording. I couldn't really afford a boom mike, sound recording equipment and the talents of a sound recordist (though in retrospect, I should have invested in those as it would have made my job a lot easier), so much of the on set sound was riddled with background noise, peaking and reverb.
Further down the road, originally I was going to do the Caterpillar as a string puppet, but Dave Luce convinced me that going the digital route with CGI would be more economical and look comparable. So that's the route that we ended up going, with Dave both providing the voice of the creature and doing the animation himself. The rest of post-production included editing the HD footage to match the SD workprint cut, a shit ton of rendering and the recording and mixing of a good thousand or so sound effects. Some of the sound effects I collected from royalty free sources, most of them I recorded myself.
Several scenes actually ended up on the cutting room floor. I removed the dinner scene with Alison's parents, shortened the scenes with Derek breaking up with Alison, the Molly and Alison at the river scene and the Alison's mother scene and cut some of the Red Queen stuff down. The biggest complaint I got was that it took too long to get to Wonderland so a big part of the reediting was getting the "real world" opening to run faster and the movie in Wonderland quicker. I also completely recut and restructured the film's ending which I felt had a similar problem, in that movie took too long to end, as in, all Alison's trials in Wonderland are over, why is the film still going? The original cut has several scenes all occurring in chronological order. I ended up turning the ending into a far shorter montage of the four scenes that I felt flowed far better and ended the movie in a much better way. The hardest scene to cut was the President scene with William Bloomfield since I put a lot of work into that scene, but I ended up deciding that it had to go anyway. The scene, mainly spoofing George W. Bush, seemed relevant back in 2008 when I first wrote the script, even back in 2011 when it was shot it still seemed more raw, but seven years of Barack Obama have made the scene seem kind of dated and unnecessary. I was originally strongly considering making an extended director's cut, but now I see no need to as the shortened version is my preferred cut and I really think the film runs far better shorter.  I'll make the deleted scenes available either on the Blu-ray or online.
The music was something of a hodgepodge, akin to Romero's theatrical cut of the original Dawn of the Dead with its mix of original music by Goblin and stock library music. The amount of money left over for music was limited, so I couldn't afford a full score like I had for Little Red Riding Hood. I could only afford to have about 10 minutes of original music composed which mainly consisted of themes for all the characters Alison comes across in Wonderland. This music was done (and done exceptionally well) by Canadian composer Dave Klotz. He also re-orchestrated the Schubert and Bach pieces that I used. The rest of the more incidental music I took from Kevin MacLeod's extensive collection of royalty free stock music from this site called Incompetech.com. It's a very valuable resource and collection of high quality music that I recommend any low budget filmmaker use. There's incidental music for just about any mood you could want and it's all quite high quality and doesn't cost a dime.
I ended up making like five or six finished cuts that I thought were final but I ended up doing a lot of tinkering with. The first cut was a mess and came about basically because I was really weary after having been editing for nearly two years and I was eager to just finish the darn movie. But after showing it to a few people and watching it several times myself, I conceded that it was kind of a lazy, sloppy rush job and rolled up my sleeves and starting fixing it up. Cut #3, completed in late June, I was relatively happy with and started sending to film festivals but even that cut I realized down the road that I had problems with it. I fixed some of those problems with cut #4, but later I started to notice that that cut had some unresolved problems as well so I did a more complete overhaul one last time that just finished rendering yesterday: fixing everything that could be fixed, mostly in the sound mix, making a few edits smoother and even replacing Kendahl's screaming, which I was honestly never that high on, with much more anguished stock screams that I found.
So that's that, Alison in Wonderland is finally complete. While I still have a few problems with it, I'm a lot happier with the newest cut. Some things came out better than I could have imagined, other things fell short of my vision. It is currently in consideration in about 12 different film festivals.

Now for my next project, I'm not sure what's going to happen. I have decided to abandon plans to make The Witch's Castle. I've made up my mind that the subject matter is just too awful to make into a film and I never thought I'd say this, but I've largely lost interest in it. Plus it's a straight faced drama and I don't know if I'm an accomplished enough filmmaker to pull it off on a low budget. Last year I redid my script for Divine Comedy, which is an old idea I was green on making back in the 2000s (in fact I really wish I'd make it as Red's follow-up instead of Dream House) which involves Jesus Christ battling the forces of evil with martial arts. The real project I'd like to make next is my long standing dream project Coup D'Etat which has been now retitled Coup D'Etat [or the Rebellion of Young Ellen]. I started writing that script in 2005, scrapped what I had of the first draft and finished the first draft of the new version in 2012. Since then I've done a ton of revisions on it.
It's the story of Ellen Bennett, a 16 year old girl in an oppressive fundamentalist boarding school run by the domineering Principal Ragner and the awful Pastor Hill. Each day at school is a miserable struggle for her, made only bearable by her friends including Ryan Wallace and Jim Giovanni. We later find out that she's the daughter of an anarchist who two years earlier tried to blow up Congress. During Thanksgiving, she finds the journal of her now incarcerated father in her relatives' attic and as the oppressive environment of the school begins to take its toll on her, she starts planning something truly outrageous. Assembling the fellow frustrated misfits at the school, she begins plans to stage an armed revolution in the school and remove the oppressors from power. The current draft is around 172 pages and I'm having difficulty getting it down in length. I am, however, extremely proud of the script and very confident about the x-factor of the concept. It's possibly the most politically relevant script I'll ever write: an angry condemnation of the American right wing and also an exploration of the darker side of human nature and why most revolutions tend to fail through human corruptibility. There's little ground that the script doesn't cover: the controversial issue of school violence, religious fundamentalist hypocrisy, homophobia, racism, police brutality, etc.

The problem with making Coup D'Etat is that it'll cost a considerable amount of money and need some serious professional resources, but I'm seriously thinking "Why dick around making another low budget film when I should cut to making what I really want to make?". Of course, if getting Coup D'Etat made doesn't end up working out, I will probably make Divine Comedy. I also may well make a short film or two. I'm also considering making a documentary about the English dubbing industry in Hong Kong at some point. Meanwhile, I am planning to write several new scripts, the first is called Occupy Sherwood and is a modern day Occupy Wall Street-inspired re-imagining of Robin Hood, another is as of yet untitled and will involve the issue of human cloning and the final one is an anthology film about human corruption and greed through the ages. I'm pressing on, needless to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've followed your work for awhile. Glad to hear Allison is in the can. I am sad to see you abandoning The Witche's Castle. I am also glad. Like I said I've been interested in your work and you tube videos for quite awhile. When I read on your website plans to make the film I was a little bummed because I had a rough draft of a screenplay already written but no way to produce it.

Years have passed and I am a better writer and have a bit of money. I think I'll rewrite the sucker!