Friday, June 11, 2010

Blast From the Past-Adventures in Post Production

Nearly 10 years ago I torpedoed a mediocre career as an director's assistant by posting info to a message about the post-production process. I see it as an interesting look back given A)the people I worked for never though to ask for an NDA B)Leaks and info hemorrhage from film productions more now than it ever has.

The original posts can be found here:
Adventures in post production Part 1
Adventures in Post Production 2
Adventures in Post Production 3a
Adventures in Post Production 3
Final Adventures in Post Production

Topic: Adventures in Post-Production Part 1.
Registered: Jan '01
Date Posted: 2/26/01 11:31am Subject: Adventures in Post-Production Part 1.
The story so far....

This gig began the first week of January this year. My girlfriend had actually been approached about it but does not have a driver's license so here I am. Before Christmas I spoke with the Post supervisor and co-coordinator and was the only candidate and thus began work early in the new year.

I had trepidations about meeting the director for whom I'd be working. All I had heard from the post team was that he wanted a certain kind of car of a certain kind of color. Finickiness usually does not bode well as that can translate into every aspect of the person's life and as their assistant it would directly impact me. Moving furniture, buying stuff for them; if they are finicky by nature they will not settle for anything less than what they want, even if they don't know what that is.

Thankfully this was not the case. Director Ronny Yu arrived in fine fashion and all was well. Ronny is a very nice man and though he does want what he wants, he is not overt about it. He is very good at manipulating things in a quiet way in order to get the results he wants. Very interesting. More on that another time.

Ronny is a Hong Kong director who has made such films as Bride with White Hair and others. His first L.A. film is Bride of Chucky. This film is called The 51st State and stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle. It was shot in London and is posting here in T.O. because the film was co-funded by Canadian and British companies.

Tech stuff: the film was shot on Super35 and is being cut on an Avid. A film cutback is happening alongside because the film is to be screened pretty soon. There is no distributor outside of Canada yet for the film and they want to make Cannes. More on this below.

The first few weeks were a feeling-out period of recognizing Ronny's needs and wants down and setting a regular schedule. During this time I met his wife, who I took shopping more than once. What could have been a horrible experience was not because she is a great person and very open.

Notable events:
I met Samuel microscopically briefly and he signed my Mace Windu action figure. Very cool.

Ronny asked for and got a $5000.00 flat screen anamorphic display for the editing suite so that the editing would feel more like a movie. I told him he could give to me as a present when we're done.

The post schedule of the film was to last until early May as the film is being conformed from the Avid edit and then a negative cut must be finished. At the same time, music and sound effects would be recorded and edited into the final mix. ADR or looping is to be done in London as most of the cast are English. For that I am useless to Ronny as I do not know London at all so it means a week off for me sometime.

Sometime now means March.

Because of the need to get the film into Cannes, the post schedule was severely truncated. Thus, Ronnie is to supervise all the sound editing on three different stages at the same time. Gee, I wonder how they'll do that.

Everyone is running around like a maniac because what was a regular post schedule just lost 2 months. We've hired 5 assistant editors just to keep up with the work. The producer, who has (roughly) known what the schedule would be since before shooting last year, now wants to rush things for Cannes.

How much money has been spent to make this film and now they want to rush it?

One word of wisdom: rushing post never makes the film better.

It stuns me that no one with the title Producer or Studio Head understand this.

That basically brings things up to speed. Saturday the director's cut is being screened and I think Sam will be there. Hope I get to say more than 2 words to him.

Expect a new post next monday.

Registered: Jan '01
Date Posted: 3/6/01 4:40pm Subject: Adventures in Post Production - Part 2
Greetings from the trenches.

The news to date:

Last week was hectic as everyone scrambled to have something, if not an online avid assembly, to show the producers Monday the 5th (today). It was madness. I was in the eye of the storm as none of this really impacts me or my work. Ronny continued to do things the same way he has with the same schedule. All is well, except....

Ronny was here three years ago shooting Bride of Chucky and was staying at a hotel in town. He had his hair cut at the salon in said hotel and wanted to have it cut again--by the same person.

This is a middle aged woman whose name and appearance he does not remember. Find her, he says. Phew.

Well I found her, she still works there and Ronny's haircut happened as planned. He also met Robin Williams at the time and Ronny was giddy as a school-girl. That shows you what kind of guy he is, not the jaded La-La-land type you expect but someone who finds meeting stars cool.

As the week went on, things got crazy and the first real pall fell over me on Friday.

Ronny wasn't going in to the office until the afternoon and then a technical screening of the director's cut was scheduled for 4:30pm to make sure there were no glitches for Monday.

The day before I had been summoned by the accountant to go and get two cheques in Canadian and US funds for the various per diems for Monday. As I have the vehicle rented for Ronny, I am also the unofficial unit driver which fucking sucks. But anyway,

The accountant is an anal freak and makes me turn the cheques over to the post \coordinator for the night so I can take them in to be cashed the next day, (Fri). Why? So if it goes missing I won't be blamed. That's all well and good but if I'm not cashing the cheques until fri and I'm not supposed to start until I pick Ronny up at 1:30 why the hell should I have to drive all the way into the office to get the freaking cheques whereas if I had them on me I could do it on the way to get the boss. Jesus.

The Co-ord. calls me at 11 am Fri, as I am heading out from home to deal with another errand dropped in my lap and asks me to come get the cheques so I can cash them. Long story short, if people would listen to me and let me do the job they hired me to do, my day would have been happier.

Example. Had I been allowed to go handle my original errand (resulting with a total 15 mins added to the trip) before going to pick up said cheques, it would not have resulted in a terse exchange of "when can you do this?" "It will take 40 min roundtrip" "No it won't" "Yes. It will. I was going to do it on the way here, however..."

Then the boss calls to say that the 2 hour window I had before getting him is now 45 mins and-- AND the screening is now at 3pm not 4 so the 2 hour window between getting him and taking him to the screening is now a bit over an hour.

Off I go.... and you now what. The trip I did do took exactly as long as I estimated. That, my friends, was my trip to cash the aforementioned cheques.

$5000.00 US. $3000.00 CDN. The equivalent of $10-11 000.00 dollars CDN sitting in my pocket on the way to the accountant. More money than I have ever had at a single time. In cash. Plagh.

I hussle and everything happens as it should. The screening, ah the screening.

There was 8 of us in this mixing theatre at Deluxe, watching them set up the video projector. For some reason the letterboxed beta tape of the film was not projected at its proper ratio of 2.35:1 but more like 1.85:1. The contrast was off. Ronny was unimpressed. For what Deluxe charges you'd think they'd have their shit together, wouldn't you?

Finally the movie screens. And you know what? With only a few temp effects spotted and a totally temp track it played real well. It is a fun, entertaining romp. Not great. Not art. But funny.

2 complaints. Meat Loaf is in it. He is terrible. I can't tell Ronny this, not until I no longer work for him. Meat is only in the beginning and the end of the film and it is almost, but not quite, enough to ruin it.

Emily Watson is also in it(Breaking the Waves). She is not terrible, she's just not good. Her eyes are dead, like a doll's eyes. As an actor she doesn't know why she is saying and doing the things she is.

Good things: Samuel L. and Robert Carlyle are great. Robert owns the movie while Sam is Sam. If the film does well Carlyle's career as a leading man will sky-rocket.

Like I said the movie played well with little or no dry boring parts. It moves and is entertaining. What more could you ask?

Ronny came out of it very happy and relaxed. He likes the movie and knows others will like it. I'm glad I know him, even this little bit, just because it's cool to watch someone you respect and admire have the same likes and dislikes as the rest of us. I am learning a great deal about the LA movie biz. It makes me doubt whether I really want to do this.

But only sometimes.

The weekend is a blur. On to why I am posting this late in the week.

Producers screening is monday morning 10 AM. Same place as before. WINTER strikes and snows like hell. Samuel does not make it and thus I am robbed of shaking his hand a second time. I could care less about the rest of the producers as they have little or nothing to do with the actual film at this point. The writer is a producer and a nice enough guy, but he doesn't have much to contribute right now.

The real producer is a short, high-strung Hungarian, ex of many David Cronenberg films and a story all to himself. More about him later but suffice to say, having met him twice now, I can't stand him. He seems to have little or no concern for the actual physical reality of making a film. The answer is throw money at it to make it faster.

Yeah, that works ALL the time.

The producer is now in conference with the writer and Ronny to make "his" changes to make the film more "commercial". Being a devotee of commercial films I have no idea what he is going to change but it ought to be very interesting to watch.

More on that next week.

Thanks for reading.

Registered: Jan '01
Date Posted: 3/22/01 8:16am Subject: Adventures in Post Production prt 3-UPDATE
Well, my frustration grows as my desire to meet Mr. Jackson again has been thwarted!

Sent to get Mr. J. barbecued duck I was well prepared to hand him his suculent fowl and chat him up but NOOOOOO!

Simultaneously, the directors wife calls to be picked up so I must fly to get the food, return to the studio, fling said food to the P.A. as I pass and go pick up the wife.

Crap. Before and after this 45 minute period I spent hours sitting around doing nothing.

Such is my life. So, epsidoe II answers go unfound.

Date Posted: 3/20/01 11:46am Subject: Adventures in Post Production prt 3
I was on hiatus for a week last week so thus no report to make. This week started on Sun. with picking up Ronny (the director) at the airport as he was in England for the week doing ADR. (Automatic Dialogue Replacement).

The weird thing is that before he left and the day after he gets back he does more ADR through an ISDN link to england. Ronny and the sound supervisor sit with a recordist watching tape here while the talent and another recordist work in England. Buh-zarre and yet another example of the workings of the film industry. As in, why did he go to England in the first place?

Beats the crap out of me.

The pisser of this job is that I was hired to be Ronny's assistant, nothing else.

As that entails me sitting around alot waiting for him to need or want something, the post-supervisors have taken it upon themselves to find work for me, including taking up the slack for other departments that are "too busy" to do things for themselves (like the bank thing in post #2).

I feel like the town whore the way I am being passed around.

This was not the job I was hired to do and I am getting sick of it. MY time here might be growing short, dear friends.

Emily Mortimer (not Watson as reported earlier) is doing ADR as I type and Sam Jackson is back in town tommorrow. As I have lunch detail I should be able to meet him again and share more than a syllable with him. Emily is super nice and hot too.

That is all for now.

End Transmission

Registered: Jan '01
Date Posted: 3/29/01 11:25am Subject: THE FINAL Adventures In Post-Production
Hi Guys,

Well, I got fired today, or more correctly, "asked to leave", for posting my irregular missives about the vagaries of the film industry and the lowly trials and tribulations of an assistant.

Hoist upon my own petard as it were.

While it is a shame, this experience has taught me some important things--

--when working 10- 12 hour days, but actually only doing stuff for 4 hours, message boards are a horrible lure.

--cover your tracks better

--trust no one, even with people who you believe burgeoning friendships may be forming.


--I do not want to be a part of this cold, greedy, egotistical and infinitely parnoid industry.

The manipulations and machinations within even the "small fish in a small pond" aspects of the canadian film industry are at once sad and yet laughable. There is a reason why it is such a inclusive and mysterious industry. I have said it before I am sure and I will say it again, there is no glamour in the movies.

The thing is, though, there is the occasional nice person who doesn't believe they are changing the world with the work and realizes its just grownups playing make believe with obscene amounts of money.

Perspective is everything, my friends, remember that if you are all rich and famous one day. Remember that what we do is not who we are.

Onwards and forwards though, and I will be attending the april movie night, so look for me, buy me a drink and we can chat about--


I very much enjoyed my time with Mr. Yu and his wife, as well as the editor, Mr. Wu. They are good people and, while I am sure Mr. Yu will never again want to hear or read my name, he is a talented man who should be allowed to make the movies he wants to make.

If only because he is good at it.

When the movie is released I do encourage you all to see it, as I will, if only because it is very entertaining.

Below is a an unfinished post that was the smoking gun in fact.

>You need to not do this. It is quite >unprofessional and if anyone knew that you >were talking about the movie in such a >manner [edited] you’d be out of here. >Especially mentioning the[edited]which >nobody needs to know about
>and you’re not even supposed to know about. >This conduct is un-befitting of a member of >a film’s crew. When hired on, there is >assumed that you will maintain a certain >amount of integrity where the film and its >progress is concerned.

>Follow my advice. Don’t say anything else.

In my defense I offer only this, I was told about the [edited] by a fellow office mate first, and by the 2nd Unit Director later. So much for something I wasn't supposed to know about and never shared, even to this hard-to-find-used-by-the-same-few-people-message-board. What information I might have had was limited at best.

Good thing I never contacted Aint-It-Cool-News where more than 50 people might read it, huh?

Oh well. These are the lessons we learn.

I hope you have enjoyed this small look into the Canadian film industry, kids.

I know I did.

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