31 May Coming To – Part 2
howdy my fellow intertubonians!
how fare thee today? things are alright here in sunny, sunny California. I’ve been busy these last couple weeks. first with a rewrite of my Supernatural-Action-Road movie – NIGHT HAUL, second with a new round of edits on THE PERFECTIONIST and finally with a Behind-the-Scenes documentary I’ve been editing. luckily one of these is paying me. haha.
but as promised, I’m going to continue the discussion of my Thesis film from SFSU – COMING TO (part 1 here). it’s amazing that it has been a DECADE since I made this film. I have a tremendous amount of memories and emotions associated with this project. I formed some of my strongest, long lasting friendships through it, I spent a considerable sum more than I should have, and I learned and grew as a filmmaker in a multitude of ways
there’s something to be said about the friendships that come from film production…or any other intense, stressful activity where you spend long hours in close proximity with the same group of people. it’s a form of “trial by fire” and it can either make or break relationships. some of my closest, long lasting friendship came from working on COMING TO. this was the time where my friendships w/ Angel Vasquez and Christian Routzen were really cemented.
I’d known both of them before the production, but it wasn’t until we were actually struggling and striving to make the film that we became close. it probably helped that I shared a room with Christian at the time too. heh. it was a very ambitious project and would not have been possible without their (and many others) hardwork and dedication. over the last ten years we’ve worked together on many, many projects. we’ve crashed on each other’s floors, partied nights away, shared our triumphs and been there for each other’s roughest moments. I’d like to think we would have become such close friends even without COMING TO, but I’m sure it helped speed along the process.
Of course, it wasn’t just Christian and Angel, many of the other people that helped make the movie are still a part of my life: Brian, Paul, Asako and Hiro just to name a few. looking back at these photos it’s really great to remember where we were and to see how far we’ve come.
in addition to the friendships formed making the film, there was another lasting effect. the DEBT.
the making of COMING TO was made possible by two main sources of money.
1.) Student Loans
free money, wooohoo!!!
2.) Uncle VISA
more free money, woohooo!!!
now neither of these is really the best way to pay for a film. and while it could be argued that the Student Loans were perfectly acceptable to use, as I was a “Film Student” there was a certain recklessness and irresponsibility in which I used them.
in the years since then I’ve definitely thought a lot about the amount of money I spent. it’s caused no small amount of stress and worry.
but in many ways, college is the time to make mistakes – both in life and art. of course, the trick is to not be too damaged by them AND learn a lesson. I think I’ve done both.
I was a very stubborn and bullhead college student. ever since I left high school after 10th grade, I was pretty confident that I could do things “my way” and with a successful college academic record – it would have been hard to argue otherwise. this um…”character trait” helped and hindered me in the making of COMING TO.
my script was too complicated. it was too long, had too many locations, and required shooting on too many days. each time I shot not only was I paying for the film – but I was paying for food, gas, equipment and so on… no one at the school told me I couldn’t make this film. but even if they had – I would have still done it. after all, I did “know” what was best. since I was unwilling to compromise my “artistic vision” and I had a VISA card with waaaay too high of a limit – I felt free to spend and continue spending without any sorts of defined limits.
this left me with debt that took almost 10 years to pay off. and if my folks hadn’t taken out a personal loan to transfer the debt from the high interest credit cards…I’d probably still be paying it off (thanks Mom & Dad!!!).
luckily for me, there was a good side to being that stubborn. there are several things I did on the film that helped me soon after in my career. first off, I did my titles digitally. at the time my university and my peers all did their titles using an “optical printer.” I had a specific visual style I wanted to achieve, so I used figured out how to make convert my film to video, make my titles in After Effects and then “film out” the sequence. it probably cost me over $2000 to do my opening titles…which is INSANE for a short film. but I learned how to do something that none of my peers could do.
the second thing I did was that I cut the film digitally. at the time, all students at SFSU were cutting their thesis films on “flat beds.” basically these machines were giant reel-to-reel players for film prints. I thought this was antiquated technology and asked to cut mine on my computer. when the school said “no” – I just didn’t take the 2nd part of the Thesis class. I found an instructor who would give me an independent study for finishing my film – and I did it my way. once again, I was learning something that was beyond what my school and peers were doing.
and the combination of those two skill are what led me to my first Assistant Editing job in Los Angeles…working on a low budget horror film called “Horror 102.” and it was through working for that company that I met the people at the post production company I worked at for several years. and by having that job, I not only paid off my VISA debt, but was able to afford to make CERTIFIED.
so could I have still learned what I needed to learn and spent less money?
but it’s tough to say – would I have been able to curtail one part of my stubborn nature and not the other? would I have been as careful to make the “right” project with CERTIFIED if I had not made the “wrong” project with COMING TO?
not to say that it was a mistake making my thesis film – only that in hindsight I could have learned many of the same filmmaking lessons with a project much smaller in scope. still, these are the things that college is for. making mistakes, trying new things, and failing.
in the end it’s fun to look back at the film and remember all these things. I also enjoy seeing how certain themes are present in my early work… for example there’s a strong supernatural element in COMING TO. I wonder if I knew that when I added that dissolve into the film, it would represent a theme that would last all these years?
well, that’s enough from me…here’s the 10 minute film. enjoy!
as always, many more pictures from the production on my Flickr, right here.
what are some of your early filmmaking or college lessons? what did you have to learn “the hard way?”