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Confessions of a Working Director - 6/9/2009


The post-production of Ratline is moving along nicely.  It is going very slowly, but that is the norm.  As the movie's editor, I'm doing the work that 20 or 30 (or more) people would be doing if this were a big-budget Hollywood film.  Because so much work falls on so few people, in all phases of an indie motion picture (pre-production, production, post-production, distribution, marketing) the turnaround on an independent film is always ten times longer than on a studio film. 

I remember that Spielberg's War of the Worlds was in production about the same time that we were in production on Deadwood Park.  By the time I was in the final phases of post-production on Deadwood Park, War of the Worlds had made its millions theatrically, made more millions on DVD, and had already hit the used-DVD bargain-bins at the rental chains. 

Keep in mind that this is my full-time job.  I'm not just editing on weekends and for a couple of hours here and there on weeknights.  When I was in post-production on Deadwood Park, I was working on that movie 80 to 90 hours a week. 

Part of the issue is that I am really trying to accomplish something special with each movie.  When I'm editing, I pay close attention to performance, pacing, sound mix, sound design, and how the music score ties it all together.  I'm also doing everything I can to elevate the movie above its poverty-level budget.  I do not think: "Well, this is just a crappy low-budget movie, so I'm not gonna bust my ass on this."  Instead, I think "I'm going to bust my ass to make a great movie, instead of using the low budget as an excuse for mediocrity."  I don't assume I'm going to make a perfect movie, or a classic movie, or a huge mega-hit.  But if I still aim for those things, the movie will turn out much better than if I had not.

Each movie dictates how much time all this will take.  Scrapbook required only three or four months total of post-production.  Ice from the Sun required a year of post-production, as did Deadwood Park.  If I were cranking these movies out just to scam a quick buck from you, sure, I'd spend a lot less time in post.  However, because I'm aiming a lot higher, on an independent project, its gonna take a lot more time.

I'm not entirely alone in this phase of Ratline's birth.  Gus Stevenson is working on the music score.  He'll also be taking on various additional post-production duties later.  Trevor Williams, the production designer for the movie, is also pitching in and doing a lot of work in post, mostly by administering the computer systems being used to put this project together.  Jason Christ is here nearly every day, doing everything he can to help me keep the company functioning while I'm up to my eyes in Ratline post-production.  Jim Wayer is not only designing all the advance promotional materials for the movie, he is also assisting in the post-production - all while functioning as Wicked Pixel Cinema's business manager.  Jim created the official Ratline website, which just launched today.  Be sure to visit the site, and check out a behind-the-scenes video from the set of Ratline by clicking here.

Even with all this help, Ratline post is going - and will continue to go - very slowly.  We are each doing the work that multiple people would be (should be) doing on a properly financed movie. 

Years ago, when I was more involved in the realm of corporate video, we used a bit of wisdom to illustrate harsh realities to our clients.  When a client started getting picky or pushy, we would calmly tell them: "There is cheap, good, and fast.  It is impossible to get all three, so pick the two you want." 

Feature films are no exception to this.  I was forced to make Ratline cheaply.  I am working my ass off to make it good.  So it ain't gonna get done fast.

Thanks for reading.