After learning of the editing disaster I ran a couple of errands and bought some more tickets to the gala for people who had helped us, then went to fuego’s hotel to hang before the ceremony. I took the laptop down to the gardens, where a crew was busily setting up for a wedding. I found a table in the shade, settled in, then went to fetch a beer.
I tried not to think of the upcoming festivities. From this point, far distant, I know I wrote, editing one of my works in progress, but I have no specifics. It’s not important. It was a pleasant afternoon, and I was in a pleasant place. I roused myself to go share an early supper with the folks, who are as excited about this whole thing as I am, and from there I went down to the Kiva, a big ‘ol theater at the Albuquerque convention center. There was no way we were going to fill that place. Not with the price of entry at eighteen bucks plus fees, twenty-five at the door.
I heard that fuego was on the way; they had finished an “exhibition edit” of Pirates only half an hour before. I cornered him when he arrived. He was near-delirious from sleep deprivation. “The cut the judges got,” he said, “has problems. Chippie never rendered all the title graphics, and there’s a couple other holes.” I was dismayed by the title graphic thing, as whole disaster had been when they copied the files to the master machine. Everyone had assumed they were done. Chippie just had a different definition of “done”. The version the crowd would see was much better than what the judges got. At that moment I wrote off any hope of carrying away the grand prize.
Each crew got a block of free tickets. The number of tickets for our crew was far from adequate, so I had bought a bunch more so everyone could get in. I stood near the ticket window, intercepting our crew members and giving out tickets. The show was starting, time was running out, and I still had a couple of tickets. Effin’ Genie had asked for eight tickets, but I had held the line at two and a DVD. She was a no-show, leaving me with two extra very expensive tickets.
Meanwhile, the line stretched across the lobby. This was a hot ticket indeed, and my days of bitching about the ticket price seemed unfounded. People were coming. They were excited. This was a Big Event.
The show was starting, but I needed to get a beer before I went in. By the time I got inside it was dark, and I couldn’t find the rest of my people. I missed the introductory speeches, boo hoo, and groped my way to a seat as the first of the sorts, Sympathy for the Devil, began. It was good. There was not nearly as much to the script as we had, which gave them the time to show some beautiful scenery. The movie is, at heart, a single joke, and they did it well. They got a big round of applause and deserved it.
Next came Confessions of a Reluctant Bra Buyer. This flick was a sweet story of a girl coming of age, and the whole production lived or died on the girl they could cast in the lead role. I had been around for much of the casting and I was worried for them. Not a problem. The lead was on it, sincere, and cute as heck. She was natural and easy in front of the camera. A couple of the supporting roles were weaker, but overall the movie worked. Big cheers, well deserved, etc.
Between flicks I had been trying to find my people, but at the start of the third movie I was still standing in the back, just behind the sound guys. The third movie was Pirates of the White Sand. I stood, rigid, nervous, as the camera moved from the pirate flag flapping in the breeze to Captain Moab, for his first line. People were laughing. There was a buzz about Pirates, and people were ready. I wasn’t thrilled about the audio in the first bit, but things were working as we hammered into the opening titles, Bird and Dway’s fucking awesome music launching us into the movie as we watched the Crusader roaring down the empty highway.
Then they turned it down. I was all over the sound guy. “Can you turn it up? This is rock and roll!” he pointed to the next booth over. “It’s their call.”
I popped over to the next booth and there was Smithers. “I need it louder!” I said, and he hopped out of his seat to talk to the sound guy.
By the time he got there, the titles were over and the dialog had started. “Oh, Hell,” Ruthie said, booming though the auditorium. Good thing they hadn’t turned it up. “Que?” asked Miguel, almost inaudible. “You know those guys?” I stepped back from the sound console and leaned against the back wall for support. The editors had spent long hours before the disaster trying to compensate for terribly shoddy sound work on set, and most of that had been lost. I stayed for the whole movie, but just barely. The audience was still reacting well, getting into the whole pirate vibe, but I was dying. It wasn’t just the audio, the lighting was unbalanced and harsh. Some of the acting wasn’t up to par. The last was my fault. Ruthie had been steadily improving during the shoot, but Miguel never showed on set what he had in his audition. Maybe in the future, when fuego as director doesn’t have all the other shit to worry about that an AD would normally handle, he will be able to spend more energy on the performance of the actors. There are times when I decided to keep out of the way when a choice comment – “Jimmy! Give me more! Show me what you had during casting!” may have made a difference. In this way I failed fuego, the crew, and myself. Sure, it’s easy to say in hindsight, and hindsight is the devil’s currency, but there it is. I could have done better.
A tougher time when I knew things weren’t going the way I wanted them to, but sat back and relied on the experts: I came to the set to find a very subdued set of pirates. They were trying as hard as they could to put out, but the sound guy had told them they were too loud. I sat outside, head in hands, listening to quiet pirates. These were the same guys that had swept me along with them with their shouting during rehearsals, soaring on the joy and unfettered exuberance. Right then I should have had a smack-down with the sound guy. “Buddy,” I ought to have said, “We’re all here to serve the story. And in the story people are shouting. Your challenge is to make it work.”
I didn’t say that, but on the last day of shooting we set up the boys again and let them holler. A lot of that footage is in the cut. We needed more. We needed more even miking. We needed fewer boom shadows ruining sweet takes. We needed a sound pro on set. Our main guy may have known sound, but he lacked leadership, did not tutor or demand the best of his crew, and I found myself listening to an emergency cut with audio problems that, in my ignorant opinion, should never have made it off the set. “Cut,” says the director. He looks at the Director of Photography, he looks at his sound guy, and he says, “Print it.” He is counting on his crew to tell him if there were problems. Sound guy’s biggest flaw was that he was quiet when he needed to make noise.
As the showing of our little flick ended I ran into Dog Bone, who had played one of the pirates. He’s been in a big movie or two, and only reluctantly joined our scurvy crew, based on his belief in the strength of the script. He was pissed at the result. I was pissed too, and neither of us did anything to diminish the other’s pissedness. He went off looking to beat up Charles the First. I just wanted out of there.
More flicks came and went, and many of them were good. Coppola’s work was, frankly, tedious, but a lot of people ate it up. I must have missed something.
Blah, blah, blah. On to the awards.
Moab got best actor. He is the single reason that we couldn’t fit our little story in twelve minutes. There was just so much of him, and it hurt to cut any of him out. He deserved it, and let’s all raise a toast to Cap’n Moab. Toooooooooooooast!
The audience did not see the same film the judges saw, and that is part of the reason we won the audience choice award. We had a lot of shouting on our side. We stood up on stage, fuego and I, holding our little plastic trophy in sweaty hands, as they announced the grand prize winner. It was not us. Nor should it have been. It is possible, when we get the real cut together, that ours will eclipse the other entries. We certainly have the most to gain by throwing off all the other restrictions – we have footage wew couldn’t use, and we have the time to tell the story right. I’m really, really anxious to see how it comes out.
Coppola’s film was just too … too … can’t think of a good adjective … sort of a combination of artsy, political, and incomprehensible. Since a comedy seldom wins an award, and there was only one other drama, that one won.
I agree that the sound quality was uneven, but to me, an outsider, it did not seem to be such a glaring defect. I was, however, surprised that Ruthie on screen looked so very much older than the actress playing her looks in person. The camera seems to have added 15 years or so. Yikes! But then, it would have been harder to imagine a twentysomething girl running a bar than a fortyish tough broad, so maybe that’s to the credit of the makeup people, that they could convert the former to the latter.
Ruthie would be very, very happy to hear you describe her as a twentysomething.
It is important to note, also, that the Judges did not see the same version you did. You saw one with several hours more work fixing audio issues, but I still was grinding my teeth through the showing. Ruthie’s instant age-o-matic was partially a lighting issue, and when the colors are balanced in the directors cut she will look somewhat better, or so I’m told.
First, congrats on the awards. Secondly, what is the moral of the story? What I am hearing is that DukeCitySO hires professionals to help aspiring, amatuer writers, and in the end the “professionals” suck.
They provide a crew, but not all the crew is pro. One of the backdoor ways they fund the festival is to use students from various film classes. There is even a class specifically oriented to working on the set of a Duke City Shootout project.
The problem with this setup is that the shootout serves multiple masters – it is sold to the muckey-mucks as a way to build a skilled workforce to draw movie productions into New Mexico. Unfortunately for me, this has little to do with making the best possible film. Our project was especially complex, and we were not getting feedback early on that the audio going to tape was bad. The slow feedback is the result of many factors: limited useful time in the editing bays during shooting, a slow assistant editor, and a sound guy who wasn’t picky enough on set.
Congratulations. It sounds like you did tremendously well for your first time out and, probably more importantly, learned a lot.
We head back into the editing bay soon, and will have time to fix the problems in sound and lighting, as well as put back all the great moments we had to cut to fit it into 12 min. What we had for the show, even excluding the computer problems, was nothing more than a rough draft with limitations. Now we are ready to edit the real film.
Just wanted to thank you on a great script. I auditioned for pirates but didn’t get a part. I knew during the reading that I wasn’t doing my best, I was actually nervous because I wanted the part of Moab so blindly.
After pulling myself together I read for “Sympathy for the Devil” and I nailed it. I told myself, “I’m not going to fuck up two auditions in one day.”
When I read your script for the first time I was really excited. I’ve worked on “flicks” for several years, directing a film myself. Your script was…is funny, brilliant. It had all the makings of something that would win…and I just don’t mean awards. It had emotion, it had a fucking story.
It’s with a sad heart that your script, I feel, didn’t really come to life on the screen. I claped hard for you to win the audience award but also wept for you inside as all that was brilliant about the black and white on page…wasn’t succesfull in full color on screen. That is what happens sometimes with a movie.
What I wanted to say is this, great job with your usage of words and characters and expressions. You are talented. Congratulations on the success of making a film. That, after all is what this festival is all about. And I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs about the movie.
“The writers life is a curse, but you know how we love cursing.”
aka. Crazy Chester
Some really fascinating juxtapositions currently displaying themselves on your blog: CRC and Crazy Chester, Bob and Keith, Carol Ann and the CMOH….
Sterling brings up an excellent point with promise vs. realization. Maybe in addition to actually screening the movie for those of us lucky enough to be in San Diego, you should publish the screen play here so we can all understand Pirates in something more than the abstract…
Hey, the Duke City Cut is finished! It’s still not what the script could have been, but, with what we got, it’s pretty good. We took care of a lot of the audio / color problems, and a couple of the shots accidentally became longer…it’s actually worth watching. Now, back to work on the Director’s Cut!
And look at that, Jerry, other people are already quoting the Pirates!
Hey, thanks, Crazy Chester! Kind words indeed. I thought you nailed the other audition as well, an by dang if you didn’t get that part. Congratulations. I thought you brought a lot to Sympathy.