Firstly, I must apologize to those following this blog for the huge gap in posts. One of the reasons for this is that it has been very difficult to write about this next stage in the production of the film. Secondly, for those just joining the blog - please do return to the first entry to read about the making of the film in sequence, right from the start.
After shooting Shutterbug in November 2006, I felt we had accomplished a huge feat. The dailies looked great. No one could have guessed that we were shooting a no-budget feature film out the back of a van. The film has a 'few-hundred-thousand-dollar-look'. But there were some very big holes in the film and in early 2007 when I returned from our holiday vacation, these holes were gaping at me.
1. One key plot point scene was totally wrong. Wrong writing, wrong casting, wrong location, wrong atmosphere. It obviously had to be re-thought and re-shot.
2. The film was an amorphous lump of difficult to manage HD footage and an incomprehensible tangle.
3. Many small scenes were missing.
4. I had not shot the ending.
This all meant more shooting. I called Nando and we figured out a shooting plan. About a couple of weeks of work. Most of the small scenes that were missing we shot just ourselves, Nando and I. Parking the van on the side of the street, grabbing a few exterior shots and jumping back in the van. I actually enjoyed the process of shooting without a crew, just me, Nando and the camera. We were relaxed. These scenes work very well because of this. But I must give huge credit to Nando for being able to just walk through busy downtown locations, with a camera shooting him across the street, and give a subtle and engaging performance despite the distractions of the city, curious pedestrians and noisy traffic. It's a big deal for most actors to just get up there and work in the middle of the street, exposing themselves with no support other than the guy with the camera at a distance. We were bare bones and no fluff.
For some other scenes we had some assistance from Brett. The key scene I had to re-shoot was a bigger production. I gathered a select few of my colleagues to help and we shot in a basement location dressed to look like a psychic's parlor. It was a two camera shoot, with detailed set dressing, make-up and a lot of dialogue. We spent the whole day on it, and got some great material. I had re-cast the psychic to be a darker, more absurd character - and for this I turned to
Anna Gutto. Anna and I had worked before on some short films I had directed photography for. She had impressed me with her utter professionalism and understanding of the process of working with a camera and was very trusting and giving in her performance. She also totally got into the role.
We then had to tackle the ending, which was not only another production issue, but it was an aesthetic choice. In the script I had written an ending that offered closure and contentment to the audience. In short, I didn't like it. I wanted something more ambiguous. Something that would leave the audience with a good feeling, but at the same time a "but, wait..." thought that would linger with them. This decision was interesting as it brought out one main underlying theme of the film: telepathy.
We shot the ending in a gorgeous location, and I handled the scene like an epic - wide angles and a moving camera. The shoot was successful - finally we had a real wrap. That's when the nightmare began.
The process of organizing and logging hours of footage is the Assistant Editor's job. This was my 15th hat and I launched into it. This work is very tedious but essential in order to familiarize yourself with the material. However, I was back in the movie. The disassociation I had achieved with the trip to Italy had totally disappeared. So I put the film down again for a few weeks - worked on some shooting gigs, scraped some money together.
When I went back to the film, I finally finished a rough cut. It was an excruciating three hours long. It was full of fat, slow scenes and a strange twisting plot that had to be clarified. Disheartened, I put the film down again. By now it was mid 2007.
I got a call from my father around that time saying that he was going into production and wanted me to shoot his new film, which would be an HD production. Because of my recent experience with the format, and knowing the light and environment in Cyprus, I was the right guy for the job. So I got involved with the production of Little Ulysses and the Cyclops (coming soon...) and flew to Cyprus for what would be a 2-3 month pre-production & shooting period. That production is a long and intriguing story in itself and I can't really go into it here, but by the time we were wrapped and I was ready to return to NYC, it was January 2008.
Upon my return to NYC, Rossana and I had separated, I had to move to a new apartment, and was trying to pick up the various pieces of my life in New York. My first priority was to set up shop and start working again. At this time I returned to one of my old jobs: Cinema Village.
Throughout my college years, and for some time after, I was working as a projectionist in movie theaters. Initially at The Screening Room (now the Tribeca Screening Room), and then later at Cinema Village. I had always kept ties with the theater, but before I left they had a supervising manager who was controlling the venue - and he had recently quit. So I stepped back in as GM. I spent a lot of time re-organizing the theater and hiring new film-savvy staff. By film savvy I mean a bunch of film-geeks who can list all of John Hughes films in order of production date. The favorite down-time game of the staff is 'guess the movie in 20 questions'... I could go on. In any case, Cinema Village was my baby and I put a lot into it. I also picked up quite a bit of production work in the summer and was basically back on the scene.
Time to turn my efforts back to Shutterbug. I started cutting and rearranging the scenes in the film. I dropped a few scenes that were obviously not working. I also stuck to my father's advice - he had seen the rough cut and basically told me that the film had to be 'distilled.' The word 'distilled' stuck with me and I stopped editing and started my cinematic distillery.