Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Test Screening

A nail-biter --- you're showing the completed film to a room full of strangers for the first time. They're not your friends or your family, they've never heard of you or the film, most of them have never heard of Fermilab and none of them has ever heard of the Higgs boson. Will they like it?

The answer, as we found out a couple of weeks ago at a small theatre in Chicago at a test screening organized by the Chicago branch of the IFP, was yes! We were quite relieved. There was a question and answer session afterwards, and there was a lively discussion about the film that lasted about 20 minutes. Overall, it was very gratifying.

Well, I should be honest. The answer was yes, they liked it ... mostly. We heard some excellent feedback.

At the stage where we're at (nearly complete) there is feedback you like to get, and feedback you dread. The feedback you dread is the kind that sounds like "hmmm..... I didn't really understand it. What were they doing?" or worse, "so, what was going on?". The worst of all, though, is just a room full of bored people who don't even have a question. It just didn't work, they weren't interested, and they were just ready to leave. That's the kind of screening directors have nightmares about.

The good kind of feedback is, happily, the kind we got. People are truly engaged by the film --- they're asking question after question about the content ("did they see the budget cut coming?" "when are they all going to make the move to CERN?"), which means they were hooked by the story and the characters. And their critiques about the film itself are specific and small: "I saw that one shot of that piece of equipment twice" or "I think you could cut out that part about Intelligent Design. We got it, and that was a little repetitive." Those are clear, easy things to do, and by and large we agreed with every one of them. Altogether, they gave us smart, concise suggestions that could help us shave off nearly 8 or even 9 minutes of the film, which would bring us from a (slightly) big 97 minutes to a (perfect) 88 minutes.

We've set early January as the date for the final FINAL cut, reflecting these last changes...

Monday, December 10, 2007

The latest

So, it's been a while! Apologies for such a long delay in writing.

We've been working hard in two areas: first, the post-production. We have enlisted the services of Kate Simko as our composer, and she and I have had many hours of meetings to discuss the soundtrack, which she is composing for our film. She's an electronic/ambient composer, and you can check out her work here. We've wrapped it up and I'm feeling really good about the work she's done.

I've also been spending a lot of time in the studios of Mosaic Music where Rich Rankin has been doing the sound mix. He's done wonders with balancing the EQ, making sure the room tones sound the same, and making sure the music doesn't drown out the voices and vice versa. Such a pleasure not to have to do that myself.

And I've been working closely with Tyler Roth who has been doing the color correction to the film --- making things look as good as they can. Makes a huge difference.

Second, we've been working hard on the long list of contacts and potential relationships with groups we made while at the IFP Market in New York. Several people requested copies of the film, so we sent out quite a few in the two weeks that followed the Market. We got a few more requests after that. We made one round of follow-up calls, to remind them and encourage them to watch it (of course they hadn't yet). I've just finished making a second round of calls. I was encouraged --- this time they had all watched it and there were some expressions of real interest (knock on wood). Everything is going to grind to a halt at this time of the year so we'll pick things back up in early January.

We also have some legal things to do: we have quite a few people on tape that appear in the backgrounds of shots, or for just a few seconds, that we don't have signed releases for. We're in the process of talking to lawyers, etc. to decide how aggressively we need to pursue their signatures.

So, it's a different kind of work than the creative kind. But it's still fun, because now we have a (nearly) completed piece that we're working with --- it's always nice to be able to hold something in your hands rather than just discussing it in the abstract.