Coming together

And we march on to public release….we now have an official date for showing the film publicly at the University. It won’t be a final version, but it will be a rough cut. Which means we have assembled the film start to finish. Which means we’ve actually seen it start to finish. Perhaps this thing will actually be complete!

The practical side of filmmaking has been the least, well, glamorous by far. Contract discussions over ownership rights, getting a crash course in media legal-ease, obtaining copyright permissions…these are not the fun tasks of making a movie. Likely when everyone daydreams about becoming the next Spielberg or Coppola, they don’t think about all the great times they’ll have reading over copyright laws and wondering how they will pay these incredibly outrageous licensing fees. But it must be done to have a finished product that you can actually do things with, like show to public audiences.

I’ve had to do a little prodding to get the machine back in motion (such is the director’s job, I’ve found) and we are on track to be complete by semester’s end. We recently watched the assembled film start to finish. Still missing some cover shots, the music track, and without titles and such – but the basic content beginning to end. It is the first time we’ve seen the idea actualized, to find out if this concept actually works. I think it will – but I’m a little biased.

I’ve been asked a few times now how it felt to see the whole thing. Does it feel like an accomplishment? Is it exciting to see a dream realized? Oddly I found myself not having any of those thoughts. I don’t think I’ll be able to take in the scope of the whole thing until it truly is DONE and being shown to an un-committed audience. The first time I hear an applause (or perhaps even boos) I think it will become real. In the mean time, I find myself looking at it all with a critical eye; what else needs to be cut or switched in order to make it flow better, what will grab the audience, what is the piece that is still missing? Which shots are annoying and which work…will my current solution be too “artsy” or will it help the piece?

And as usual in this process, the problems we encounter feed the process – and out come some unexpected solutions. At this point it is clear to me that this film works better without me in it. That’s not ego or shame talking, I really just don’t see where my video contributes anything new or additive. It is just much more impactful to have the “non-expert” talking freely. And I thought we’d need more “lead in”, to guide the audience, but now I think it works fine without it.  So we’ve cut a great deal of content information that we planned on putting in (my graduate assistants will probably be pissed that some of their time went to finding things that we’re not going to use) to let each person really speak for themselves. And in re-reading about parrhesia, I found some great quotes to put at the start and end to help frame the film. And now we’re considering a radical cut of the beginning…but have paused to think about it and watch it again.

It’s brought up an interesting debate about who the audience is – I don’t think the film is meant for those who are already decided, meaning the person who has no interest in, or perhaps denies completely, oppression and its related topics. I also don’t think those who have already committed to social justice are the prime audience. I think for the latter, the film would hopefully bolster the spirit, and if the former ever found themselves watching the film hopefully it raises some questions. But really the audience is the general, uncertain public, those who probably have some ideas of fairness and recognize that there are inequities, but who haven’t really explored it fully or seen themselves as contributing or benefitting in any particular way. Basically, it’s the audience I find in my classrooms on a regular basis. And the hope is that the film leaves the audience wanting more…more story, more understanding, more action, more something…I want to generate an atmosphere with this film, and I’m just realizing what that means and what kind of a task we really embarked on.

No wonder most people at the start had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t think I really knew what I was talking about either.


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