Monday, April 11, 2011

SNEAK PREVIEW is right around the corner!!

After nearly two years of blogging about this film, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution.... it's exciting to be able to announce the film's unofficial PREMIERE.

DATE:  Friday, April 15
TIME:  8:30 pm
LOCATION:  The Starry Plough, Berkeley
3101 Shattuck Avenue

What started as a writing project on the front lawn sitting in the sun with Mick Erausquin (my co-writer) evolved into planning, fundraising, producing and directing.

Some interesting tidbits learned along the way:
  • I love writing, but after years of trying to pawn the film off to a director I found that I absolutely LOVE directing. Who would have guessed that? Try it all because you never know what you might have a knack for.
  • I knew I would be a good producer, but it's still producing and it's still business. I can do it, but I wouldn't wish it on you. Unless of course you're a screaming negotiator.
  • Two things you should never ignore: makeup and hair. Wow.
  • Trust the advice of your caterer. People need food. It makes them happy. A happy crew is a good crew.
  • Lights can create magic. Plan around it. It takes time to set up. And then be grateful you took the time.
  • Think it all through. Every step, every shot, every angle. THEN try it. Don't assume anything.
  • A wise person once said to me, "You have three films. The film you wrote. The film you shot. And the film you edit." Do you hear the angels singing with this one? I sure do. 
  • Do your homework. Read other writers. Study other directors. Listen to soundtracks and composers. I spend most of my free time watching movies and wondering how they got that shot, why they cast that person, and why the director decided to go uptempo on the music in the slow scene.
Making a movie is like conducting an orchestra. All the musicians have to do their part or the piece falls apart.

In the end, I'm not ecstatic about the film truthfully. But I am quite proud. It's a charming little piece, with some laughs, some melancholy, some gravitas, and it comes from a real place of heart and history. We will do more films and they will be more -- more powerful, more funny, more insightful, more paced. But it's a good start. I'm okay with that.

Ultimately, this event is really about showing gratitude for all the people who helped make this happen and believed in this project. It may sound trite to say that it does take a village, but in truth we can't do anything of real substance alone. In the words of Yoko Ono, "We are all in this together. You and I, we are married to each other."

We all need to be grateful for the angels in our lives. And this film had its share of angels, cast and crew in particular. But the biggest wings go to those people who were there for nothing but FAITH.
The Driver (that's Sam because she pushed me to do it, and she did it with love, charm and creativity. Her style is all over this and I could NEVER have done it without her)
The Coach (AD, who always had my back and kept encouraging me and stood beside me throughout)
The Saviors (my investors, especially Jason, Jim & Mary, who believed ALL THE WAY)
The Captain (Matt, the captain of all things post production and one of the most generous and kind people I know)
The Carpenter (this means Scott our fearless editor, who cobbled together moments that I only had in my head with very little direction and a huge amount of nerve)
The Visionary (Mike, because in the end he stepped up when none of us could and made all the best suggestions when I couldn't)
The Candy Man (for the music from a real pro, Douglas couldn't have been sweeter. He added sugar to a very dry cookie)
and The Baker (Mick, who wrote this story with me, let it cook, then swooped in at the end when everyone else had moved on, to continue to contribute to its final shape)

The party will be a good one. See you there!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bringing in the hired guns

Monday night I drove to Oakland and picked up the Master Drive. We're officially done. Beyond doing a re-cut, re-shooting or diving into days of anal color correction, I have corrected every little thing that could be done. It's almost surreal, but that big nasty cloud in the back of my brain is gone now, that haunting list of tiny things that needed to be fixed to make it the best it could be. (10 points to anyone who knows which movie I'm referencing here)

Reviewing the opening credits in After Effects

I've watched the film probably as many times as the editor. Each time there was always something nagging at me, the same scenes, the same little moments that looked a wee bit off. I took the time and figured out how to re-link the files, capture stills and do some minor color correction. But my pathetic attempt at correcting those horrific yellow mirror scenes was hopeless. The images turned into gray scenes from a rainy day. No bueno. And then I realized that the entire opening credit sequence needed correction as well, which meant that I had to pull Matt back into the process to re-render and pull up the edits since he had created the sequence in After Effects. It was like being trapped on the freeway by a gas truck and a bus. All I wanted to do is change lanes and move forward, but all I could really do was spin my wheels like a slow-moving pace car.

Aaron Fischer making color corrections
When this process started a couple of months ago, Richard (our illustrious sound editor) recommended to me an editor who's a real pro at color correction, Aaron Fischer. I had emailed Aaron at the time but with limited investor money left there wasn't much we could do. So now I called him and we talked. We realized that we could do those few scenes over 2-4 hours. So I negotiated a price and made a couple of phone calls to raise the money. A check was in the mail and we set the date for January 29. We were on. And no delays were allowed because Miss Claire (Matt's wife) was delivering their first child sometime during the beginning on February. Nothing like finding the last possible window to open before going down in flames.

Matt & Aaron figuring out the workflow
I sent Aaron a link to the film and on Friday night I watched it again. I took notes on every flicker that I could, all those moments that stood out from the rest of the film. And the credits. I reviewed everything and made sure that those people who supported this film were given their due, and was able to fix one of the songs that didn't have the first names listed (much gratitude to the power of the Internet here).

It was great being back in director mode. After settling in with fine wine, crackers, cheese and some tasty mustard, Matt and I powered through in 4 hours. Aaron was done after 3 hours. After another day to render all the files, we were done. So I bought some cake and celebrated.

It's always the little things that teach you the most... like knowing there are layers to color correction, and you either have to delete the old one or add to it, like knowing sometimes you gotta bring in the hired guns to get the job done... 

And now we're ready for prime time showing. The premiere is set. It's gonna be a rockin' party.

WHEN:  Friday, April 15
WHERE:  The Starry Plough, Berkeley
3101 Shattuck Avenue
TIME:  Doors open 8 pm
Film starts at 8:30
Film Q&A starts at 9 pm
Two Sticks plays from 9:30-10:30

For your enjoyment, a copy of the DVD cover. Kudos go out to our designer LeeAnn Nelson, who creates magic for us. It looks fabulous!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sundown For A New Day

In 7 short weeks the world has changed... and today we solved the biggest issue:  relinking the media files. My wise and generous editor came by this afternoon and we sat at my counter -- doors open, me with a frosty frappuccino, he with a tall soft drink, and Sagan on the floor munching chips and playing with the light saber -- trying desperately to figure out why the files wouldn't link properly and, most importantly, why his files (which he created the film with) had time code and formatting data embedded in the video. Even he was baffled, and he's the master. I paced until we found our solution and now I sit here patiently while Shooting Days 3 and 4 are re-transcoded and re-linked. THEN on to the issue that got us here in the first place -- color correction to the mirror shots.

But I'm jumping to the end here, because yes, I did successfully screen the film to multiple audiences in Europe. Glowing praise, rave reviews, kind generous words. However, I quickly realized at the first showing (in Dublin, Ireland) that 2-3 scenes, plus the credits, had not been color corrected. As the director, I take full responsibility for this lapse. Although Scott and I went through the film pretty thoroughly over a few hours for the color correction, I did not stay to review the final film in its entirety, something a true director would and should always do. But I raise my hand in my defense: Scott was sick with a terrible cold. Sneezing, tissues, nose blowing. And we had been sitting in a small room, tight quarters, close together, for more than 3 hours. I was leaving in just a few days for Europe.  I don't think I need to say more. And yes, for those of you wondering, I was 100% healthy during my European trip.

Matt graciously re-created the closing video credits with the color corrected video and now the ball's in my court to make the final corrections, insert the new video footage, render the whole thing, and burn the DVDs. *whew*  I can do this without too much thought, just some babysitting, so maybe I'll make it a little party this weekend -- wine, beer, mexican food, editing and rendering.

Chinatown 7D Color Correction Example from Stu Maschwitz on Vimeo.
color correction example

My great friend Paul Alvarez once told me that if you keep on smiling and being nice, one day you wake up and you're it. I'll work on that... although I'm feeling more like an exploding star than the "it" girl I used to be. Some people get juiced from drama or the pain of life. It's probably good (and healthy) that I get inspired by love, peace and fun, but it would be great if I could harness the crap too. Maybe that's why I'm in a rock band. Get your juice where you can, I guess.

The film festival submission list is short but focused. We're considering submitting to at least one festival in France, which will force me to write my own subtitles. Perhaps I have some sort of mental illness, or maybe I just enjoy little challenges like that. Not committing to that though, just mulling it around. For you crazy people interested in my festival list, here it is, in no particular order:
* a quick note here, I already submitted to Sundance with the uncorrected version, so I have a little time to replace it with the new one... uhhh hopefully

I'm also perusing the list of short film festivals... ahhhhhh
In the meantime, I'll be making margaritas and rendering. 

Sun has set on the summer
A new day dawns for the fall
Go forth and conquer

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keeping the Faith: Surreal Endings and Exposing Yourself

It's now Wednesday July 28. Monday I got the music for the intro. Yesterday I sent my last note to Scott. That was the day he also received the final sound files from our sound editor Richard Ross. The film is now complete, and needs no more direction from me or anyone else. By Saturday July 31, I will have 4 DVDs in my hand. And on Sunday August 1, I will be on a plane to Dublin, Ireland.

While most people might think this is a moment to celebrate, I'm only pondering how and when I'll get the rest of the work done.

Things I still need to do:

  • finalize and send out the licensing contracts

  • complete list and schedule of film festivals

  • prepare film festival marketing material

  • write and distribute press release

  • plan cast & crew screening

  • burn DVD's for cast and crew and investors
These are the little things, but they are still part of the process. As a creator, whether writer/artist/filmmaker, it is our obligation to not only create the project, but to make sure it is seen, that it speaks, and it's allowed to breathe in the light of day.

It would be easy enough to take a photograph, write a book, paint a masterpiece, and let it lie dormant in the closet, gathering dust, left alone and frozen in time for posterity. And in many cases that's what we do and there's nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, just sometimes, our creation takes its own journey and we follow along, or drive the train. It craves to be exposed, revealed.

I don't feel like I'm quite done with this film yet, because it still has an unknown destination, a destiny if you will. So my happy ending is surreal... fluid, unknown, and floating freely forward.

After my return, when I've had some time to digest the production of it all, perhaps I'll be able to write then what I can't write now. Lessons learned. Gratitude unleashed. Goals and forsaken dreams. Promises and commitments. And directing, dear lord, directing.

It has, thus far, been a sweet voyage. And now I shall leave for my own travels - secure in the knowledge that I have accomplished what I set out to do, met my goals, and (hopefully) properly acknowledged and shared the journey with a team that I admire and love.

One thing I can say... I could not have done this film without the team of creative people who pulled together beside me and offered their time, talent and trust, dedicating themselves to this film while asking very little of me. That, my friends, is faith.

Keep the faith, and the world is yours.

p.s. Don't get me wrong. I'll be celebrating -- in Dublin, Oslo, Avignon and London. And I'll keep you posted about our progress later in August. For now, I'm making new memories.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Museworks Logo Intro

It's official. Love it.

Notice the details... logo gets bigger as it moves up the tree. First you see "muse", then there is a flash, then you see "works" as it fades out.

Superb music - nice rhythm, subtle crescendo, sweet dissonance, and a shift in key at the crescendo. It makes me feel like there are possibilities in the world.

In a word, Magical

Outstanding work by composer Douglas Pipes, artist Jennifer Downey, and special effects master Matt Rhodes.

The image can change, but this is the theme that's mine, for any film I do.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Today, we got the email from Richard Ross, our sound designer. The film is locked. What does this mean? It means, my friends, that all video/pictures/frames are set. We are making NO MORE CHANGES to the film.

At this point we are "laying off" the sound, cleaning it up, mastering the levels, adding sound effects, adding music (so that it fades in and out at the appropriate times visually), and general scrubbing the sound so it's squeaky clean. Sound sweetening. Oh yes, this is a good place to be.

Once all this sound sweetening is done, then we will "lay on" the sound track (all audio files) and the entire film will be completed. Oh, and while the sound is being worked on, Mr. Scott (editor extraordinaire) will be working with me to complete the color correction process. Some scenes are white, some scenes are darker, and some scenes are shadowed. Nothing's perfect. So we will perfect what we can and try to create a uniform look and feel.

After these two Very Important Final Tasks are done, we will create our Master DVD file.

While it may seem like the end, or near the end, I still feel the weight of the work in front of me, probably even more so than ever. Each of these last steps is harder and slower than I could even have imagined. It's like dragging yourself through thick, goopy mud, when before you were jogging sprightly through the grass. Tough stuff.

In the midst of this madness, I have purchased a new bed (replacing both the mattress and box springs at least once), bought a new car, dyed my hair, and started re-training for an October triathlon. Maybe I need to find myself a nice poppy field to lay down in instead...

I leave August 1 for Europe. 15 days. Dublin, Oslo, Avignon, London. And I will be taking 4 DVD's with me. That's my goal and I'm sticking to it.

I hope everyone has a FABULOUS weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creating the Brand... courtesy of Artist Jennifer Downey

It's been over a month since I've written a real blog posting, but oh, it has been one long journey. We are, my friends, nearing the end of production. Final edits have been completed. Versions have been posted. Effects have been added, changed, re-added, edited and changed again. Credits writted and changed. Music composed. Licensed music edited, cut in and laid on the video. Conference calls with the composer. Meeting with the sound post-production guru (aka Richard Ross, AES). And, totally unforeseen, we had to create an intro graphic announcing Museworks. As soon as I saw the rough cut, I knew it was wrong, so wrong, to have my logo, or any logo for that matter, laying on top of the first scene of the film. That's a core rule of branding and something I do know a little about.

Spent a couple of hours yesterday at the studio of our effects master Matt Rhodes. Yesterday, June 30, was Film Lock Day. And although we didn't officially lock it, we did indeed lock the direction and changes to get there. I drove over to Oakland and sat down with a big fat glass of red wine (yes, it was quite delicious) and we started tackling all the little finishing touches remianing to be done -- which effects to stick with, which to dismiss, at what point we fade out the effects, etc. Then we hashed through the credits -- how to pace them, which to de-emphasize, changing the order, adding new names, adding music credit details, on and on. Then we headed into unknown territory: the graphic intro.

This is a little project I've been tackling for the last 10 days or so. Once I realized that I needed the intro, I flashed back to Jennifer Downey, our original storyboard illustrator. She's a talented artist and has a lot of really great art that we could choose from. So I perused her website and selected two images that I thought would work for the intro. But talented often means busy and despite multiple phone and email messages back and forth, we never connected live. But she made it happen. She was able to access the electronic file of one of the paintings and emailed it over, cropped exactly how I needed it. I thank God here for the blessings of technology (again) and for all the years of extended love shared among my friends. As Jennifer was getting ready to board her flight for vacation, she emailed me the image and went on her way. That's trust AND love right there. Doesn't get any better than that.

The image:  Old Wise Limbs
Oil on Canvas
24 x 44 x 1.5 in

So with our film composer on the line (again), we reviewed the intros used by Paramount, Universal, Dreamworks, and 20th Century Fox. Each was almost exactly 22 seconds. Weird. So we stuck with 15 seconds and created a little graphic "pow" moment for Douglas, because he's a musician and he'll like that.

The intro looks fabulous. Mucho thanks to Jennifer for making the time to get us the artwork. It's just beautiful.

Jennifer Downey
A native Californian, Jennifer lives and works in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco. After graduating from UC Davis with degrees in English and Economics, she pursued a "sensible" career in business. However, after finding office politics, hour-long commutes, dress-down Fridays, and cubicle confines anything but conducive to creativity, she quit, packed her bags, and left for Ireland. In the small, coastal town of Galway, the Atlantic wind cleared her head and she rediscovered her original love: art.

In her illustration work, Jennifer combines bold, graphic color with clean line. She is interested in how line and color interact--how an image transforms as one views it from a color-dominant perspective and then from a line-dominant one. She strives to create images that engage the viewer and make the accompanying text or message memorable.

Jennifer is inspired by wilderness, mythology, activism, travel, salon-style conversations, trail rides, the changing of seasons, live music, and people who see no choice but to follow their passions.

You can view Jennifer's art on her website or at
Check out other studio intros on youtube.
Dreamworks Intro