Post (Traumatic Stress Disorder)
I wanted to write more here during preproduction and mainly during production, but in both cases the things themselves intervened. Now we are in the endless grind of post, so there is more time. There’s a lot I want to get down before my brain distills it all into “the time we made that movie.”
Today I am alleviating the tedium of transcoding footage and syncing audio files with the relative excitement of beginning to get the house back to itself.
The footage is hard to deal with, both for the technical tedium of the transcoding/audio marrying processes and having to watch it. You use a program called 5dtoRGB to make files Final Cut Pro can read. You use another program called Dual Eyes to “automatically” sync and combine your external sound with your video footage. In practice it’s a lot of hunting down matching files and then babysitting the computer while it churns. It’s gotten a little less stultifying since I realized I could use the patches of downtime to learn Cinema 4d on lynda.com, which will come in handy when I am somehow doing all the film’s special effects, a task I lied to myself and others about being up to. Still, I am averaging one day’s footage per day, which means this wildly, wildly dull process will end up taking about as long as the film took to shoot, provide of course that I don’t shoot myself.
I’m transcoding etc. the footage in shooting order, so the first days‘ stuff was up first. All I can say is yikes. It feels like some other know-nothing child version of me directed those scenes. It doesn’t help that the first days were all greenscreen either — it’s hard enough to be sure not to cross the line and keep on top of proper eyelines when there’s a set to use as a reference — try it in a green void sometime.
Additional anxiety comes from the fact that the camera we used for this movie recorded onto compact flash cards instead of tape or a hard drive. The cards are too expensive to not reuse, so you have to transfer them to your computer at the end of every day, then the next morning erase everything on them and fill them up again. That last step never stopped being terrifying, and I remain fearful that somewhere in the shoot I deleted a full card without downloading it. We’ll see!
Meanwhile getting the house back together, in theory, should be a much easier task this time around. For the first movie I pulled out all the stops — we repainted every room, nailed wood panelling onto the fireplace, turned the pool green, on and on. It took months and many thousands of dollars to get the place back together. This time I don’t have either — in fact part of the reason I wanted to make the sequel now is that I’m selling the house and SPOILER!!! it takes place here. Hey, would any of you like to buy the “Girls Will Be Girls” house? Sure it’ll be expensive, but just think of it as a really, really big Kickstarter premium. You wouldn’t be the first — Seth McFarlane bought the house down the street just because we’d filmed the scene where Varla orders Bob Hope Nachos in its backyard. Well, I don’t know that’s the reason, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. He could certainly afford something nicer.
Anyway, my point was going to be that I might as well have intentionally torn my house apart, because it happens anyway when you make a movie in one. Which makes perfect sense, when you think of it. The same thing would probably happen if you turned your home into a sewing machine factory for a month. The things are made for families to despair in, not light industry.
Jack just came by and we returned all the artwork we’d borrowed from Suzanne, another neighbor of mine. She’s a Hungarian art dealer and Holocaust survivor, a card she plays kind of a lot — wouldn’t you? One time when I was under some deadline she took an annoying houseguest off my hands for an afternoon, and later said it was the second worst experience of her life. She’s lent me amazing art for all of my movies, and for the first “Girls” her Hungarian-only-speaking housekeeper Ilona made all of our meals in Suzanne’s kitchen, then brought her exotic creations down the street for us come lunchtime. Everyone loved it, though no one ate the salad because she kept putting out a bottle of chicken marinade thinking it was dressing.
Those are the kind of the stories I like best about doing movies this way. The films don’t quite look as good as “real” movies because you don’t have the usual production firepower or safety nets, but the experience of making them is full of small special moments.
Come to think of it I also kind of like having none of the usual resources or safety nets. The truth is, on a Hollywood set the one person who on any given day could not show up without affecting a thing is the director. Everyone knows their job and how to do it, so mistakes do happen but most often there’s a department head of some sort to prevent them. It’s why Leonard Nimoy, for instance, can one day call himself a director and turn out perfectly passable films. With us there was no one to assure us we were lit right, or that we were in focus… or (more than once) actually recording the take unfolding on the set. So if the movie actually comes out, we can all be that much more insufferable.