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Blog Posts

Confessions Of A Working Director - July 31, 2009


Here at Wicked Pixel Cinema, many fine human beings are workin' hard to both push Ratline through post-production, and to keep this whole machine moving forward.  Jim Wayer is on this list of exceptional human beings.  Jim functions as business manager of the company, overseeing areas of promotion, distribution, and website maintenance. 

For the production of Ratline, Jim wore an insane, crushing number of hats.  He headed up BOTH the grip / electric department AND the special effects department.  He also contributed in the art department, performed a few stunts, ran b-camera for a few sequences, was a stills photographer, and is now involved in the post-production of the movie.

Another Ratline duty of Jim's was working with me to design the title logo.  Wearing so many hats on a project is one kind of pressure.  Wearing so many on an Eric Stanze project is, evidently, another kind of pressure.  Jim has taken time out of his busy schedule to shed some light on what it is like to work with obsessive-compulsive me, and he has used the design of the Ratline logo to illustrate his points.

The production resources available to me have always been incredibly limited, but I've never used that as an excuse to half-ass it.  Whatever it is we are making, whether it is a gritty exploitation flick or an atmospheric, gothic horror tale, I aim to make it the best it can be.  Despite my budgetary limitations, I've never said "why bother - it's just a cheap b-movie."  To some people I've worked with, this can be infuriating.  I know perfection can never be attained (no matter what the budget is) but aiming for perfection always nets the best results.  So I push myself and my team very hard.  Some crack under this pressure and slip away as soon as possible.  And some, like the people I'm surrounded by today, find this constant drive for perfection thrilling.  I push Jim pretty hard, and yes, sometimes he frays at the edges, but he delivers impressive results.  And I think he is proud of the work he does, which is important.

To understand all this a little better, please read Jim's own words below.

Thanks for reading, from both of us.

Eric Stanze

Tales Of Working With Eric Stanze - By Jim Wayer

Let me first start by stating that this whole blogging thing is a very different side of the world that I am not used to, but starting to love. I help Eric Stanze out every week by gathering and prepping images for his FEARnet blogs.  This can sometimes get insane and result in hours of a day spent on nailing down the appropriate imagery to go along with the most recent blog he has written.

A good example of this is a recent blog in which Eric talks about the roots of his love for horror and creepy things. This seemingly simple story of childhood innocence resulted in hours upon hours of digging through old photos of Eric, capturing them and treating them. I could have hurriedly grabbed some photos, tossed them in a scanner, and send them off - but here at Wicked Pixel Cinema we do not do things the fastest way ...ever.

When I first came to Wicked Pixel Cinema a few years ago, and started doing graphic design and web design work, I got to witness the "anal side of the force." This aspect of our way of doing business guarantees that nothing goes out to the public without being checked again and again, in our attempt to make sure it is without flaw.

I have witnessed new people, who come in to help, run away pulling their hair out because of the attention to detail that Eric Stanze has. It is a miracle that I am not bald and completely scrambled in the brain... ok at least I’m not bald. I grew to understand the reasons why we were spending countless hours obsessing over a publicity image, tweaking small attributes that most likely will not even be noticed on the final product.

I have had many moments where Eric was insisting on improvements, and in my head I was screaming “This doesn’t matter, it’s fine the way it is!” - but I ultimately knew that it was better to aim higher. As Eric once said, we are “painting with subtleties,” which is a quote I often repeat in my head to make sure I am not rushing through a project. After many years of working next to Eric, I am now able to think through his eyes and produce something that will already be at the fine-tuning stage when I show it to him. A perfect example of this is the title logo design for Ratline.

From the start of production on Ratline, Eric and I were discussing a logo for the movie. Many ideas were tossed around, and Eric sketched out some rough concepts that he had for the logo. He wanted it to have a military feel and incorporate the "Death Head" that was used by the SS in World War 2.

So I set out and studied many insignias from that era, as well as old machines and vehicles in their present-day rusted and decayed condition. After working on this project off and on for a few weeks, I finally had a design that I was happy with, and I felt would be very appropriate for the movie. All proud of the job I had done, and excited to show Eric, I printed out a proof of the logo and set it on his desk for review. A day later, the proof arrived back on my workstation at our studio with every inch of paper filled with notes for changes. I learned a very important lesson that day - trim the paper down before giving Eric the printout!

It truly didn’t surprise me to see a ton of notes on the proof. By that time, I was pretty used to it. The great thing about Eric Stanze, and all of the workers here at Wicked Pixel Cinema, is that no one has the mentality of "I'm right and you are wrong!" The notes Eric put on the proof were his thoughts - not demands. I looked over his notes, then sat down in a meeting with him, and argued against a few of his suggestions.  We hashed it out until we both were in agreement about alterations to the logo. 
Then I went back to my station to finish this sucker up! The last leg of the journey was to sit down with Eric, post-alterations, and tweak the tiny specks and splatters until we both were comfortable calling it done. After both Eric and I were satisfied, I sent the logo out in an email to our whole team, so that all of them could put their eyeballs on it as well, and give feedback. After Eric and I poured over all that feedback, we made a few additional alterations - and then we finally called it totally done and ready for public consumption.

Although some steps in our process may seem ridiculous and unnecessary to some people, I fully understand that they are needed. If I don’t take the mentality that every promo image I make needs to be the most awesome thing since socks -  and not simply something rushed through really fast to get it done and out the door - then it’s not worth doing. I must always remember to paint with subtleties and to make sure everything is the best it can be. We take the same mentality when making our movies, when putting a picture of a young Eric Stanze on this blog, or when designing a logo for Ratline. It’s always better to take your time, pay attention to detail, and do it right.

-Jim Wayer