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Confessions of a Working Director - 1/29/2010

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This past holiday season, Wicked Pixel Cinema presented a Holiday Raffle for the fans.  The impressive prize package, to be won by a single lucky individual, included Wicked Pixel Cinema DVDs, soundtrack CDs, t-shirts, and the crown jewel of the raffle: A brand new XBox 360 Elite, complete with five games.  Not too shabby!  We drew the winning name last week, and captured the momentous occasion on video.  Watch the video to see who won!

To take part in the Holiday Raffle, you could buy chances to win in blocks of twenty, ten, or four.  You could also, of course, purchase a single chance.  The vast majority of chances we sold were in blocks of twenty - I guess because those who wanted to win REALLY wanted to win!  We also sold a few blocks of ten and four.  Very few single chances were sold.  What is awesome about the winner we drew is that they won by purchasing a single chance!  Against all odds, they won a prize package valued at about $650 ...by purchasing a single $2 raffle chance!

As post-production of Ratline lumbers forward, we endured another day of pick-up shots last Saturday.  This day was slated as our final day of pickups, but weather and a small stack of other problems prevented us from getting every shot on my list. 

The final seven shots, the ones we didn't get last Saturday, are pretty simple.  We can probably bang them out in a half day with a skeleton crew here at the Wicked Pixel Cinema offices.  Still, this represents a pain in the ass I'd rather not be dealing with.

Last Saturday, our greatest enemy was the weather.  Half of our shots were inside, and those turned out great.  Shots I needed to get outside, however, were either compromised by the rain, or scrapped entirely.  The rain started shortly after sundown, and it rapidly escalated to a full-blown downpour, and this continued throughout the night.

For one of our indoor shots, a dual-1K light rig needed to be placed outside, shining in through a window.  The storm was in full force at this point.  Electrician Ben Burke and grip Robb McCleary were outside making the final adjustments for this light rig as sheets of rain pummeled them and lightning cracked overhead.  Jim Wayer and I saw the lightning and - understanding that our crew was handling a sizable metal light stand - simultaneously decided to pull our guys outta there.  Quickly.

After getting all of the indoor shots on my list, we were forced to wrap.  Then came the next challenge.  We had six crew vehicles on location.  By the time I called wrap, the solid ground we'd all parked on was nothing but mud. 

Trevor Williams, Gus Stevenson, Robb McCleary, and I all got stuck in the mud.  So there we were, in the freezing rain, splattered with mud, taking turns shoving vehicles out of their mud-traps.  Two vehicles, mine and Trevor's, had to be cabled to Jim's truck and pulled out.  Wrap had come early, thanks to the rain, but the night went on another two hours as we pried our vehicles, one by one, from the muck.

Drenched and filthy, we finally hit the road.  Ahead of us was an hour and a half drive back to St. Louis.  But that drive time was extended considerably.  Jim Wayer's alternator was dead and his battery was dying. 

After about twenty-five minutes of driving, Jim's truck was seconds away from sputtering to a stop.  He pulled over at a truck stop, popped his hood, and recharged his battery from Jason Christ's truck.  This took a half hour.  Jim, Ben, Jason, and I stood around waiting for Jim's truck to get fully juiced, hoping that the charge would get him all the way home.

It didn't.  Just as we were entering the St. Louis area, Jim's vehicle had to stop and be recharged again.  The night just kept going and going!  The shots we got that night look great - they should, as we earned 'em about a hundred times over.

This never-ending night of pickups shooting feels a bit like Ratline's post-production overall.  Time after time, Ratline post-production experienced sluggish periods throughout 2009.  Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because we were broke, and sometimes for other reasons. 

It does not feel like we're limping across the finish line, lungs on fire from the run... this feels more like we keep collapsing on the finish line, only to have some jerk grab us by the ankles and drag us back a quarter mile, forcing us again and again, each time more exhausted, to crawl toward that finish line. 

I must be driven, stubborn, or obsessive (likely all of the above) to continue duking it out with Ratline post-production this long.  Weaker - or more sane - men would have given up by now.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze

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