That Christmas Movie

A Day in the Life of Your Producers

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Published on Aug 9, 2018

Co-producer Katherine Botts in front of the big screen on the sound mixing stage. The film is projected so the team can work on replacing dialogue. 

A Day in the Life of Your Producers 

For those who are curious, here’s what Katherine Botts (co-producer) and I did yesterday, August 7, to get the movie one day closer to release. It’s a typical example of how we spend our day, taking care of the next tasks needed on the project.

We need to drop off a hard drive to the colorist with revised end credits, so they can add those credits to the final movie. 

[Colorist: that’s the artist/technician who will tweak every frame of the movie to make all the colors match, and to correct any flaws in the picture, and to make beautiful shots even more beautiful.  Every movie has at least one colorist, and often more. They are also in charge of outputting the final film by marrying the soundtrack to the picture and doing a bunch of technical stuff to give us the final file that can be distributed and shown in theatres.]

But as Botts was about to go deliver the drive, we got an email saying that they needed some o negs for the credits. O negs: It stands for “original negative.” Now, movies rarely use actual negatives from 35 mm film, so this refers to the original digital camera files, which are HUGE. Our movie takes up 35 terabytes of raw data. The colorist needed 5 of those files to finish the credits properly. So I had to dig those up off the hard drives and copy them over onto the drive that Botts was delivering. Now Botts can go deliver the drive.

While she was gone, I answered a million emails about:
-- Designing the poster for the movie. This involves getting cast together and scheduling a photo shoot. And the poster designer has to watch the movie so they can come up with ideas. So I have to send him a link to the rough cut that is password-protected and also has a big watermark on it so it can’t be pirated.
-- Foreign distribution. I had to send a bunch of emails to the dozens of distributors interested in foreign rights and put them in touch with our sales agent, who’s handling these negotiations.
-- The trailer editor who is cutting a trailer for us.

Botts returned from delivering the drive, so we moved on to watching the latest version of the movie to spot any last minute changes that need to be made.

Sound mix.
The mix was done a few days ago, but we discovered some errors had creeped in upon final delivery: 
-- For 10 seconds the dialogue was mysteriously lowered to be inaudible when our two romantic leads first talk. We can’t have that!
-- A very charming short piece of music by our fabulous composer had been mixed wrong — the harmony was mixed way louder than the melody.
-- Our lead actress’s voice had mistakenly gotten filtered like she was talking through a computer even though she’s right there in the room. (The filter should’ve been applied to another character.)
-- A mysterious *beep beep beep* was heard during a silent moment. We have no idea what that was.
-- The music was too low in one scene.
-- When a character closed a door, it sounded like a huge THUMP instead of a normal door closing.

Our sound mixer is great, but there are over 250 separate audio tracks in our movie, and well over two thousand audio cues! So these things will happen. We sent him a list of the problems, and he’ll fix them all tomorrow in a jiffy.

Then we watched the movie again, looking at the picture only for any final corrections that needed to be made:

-- A character holds up an iPad several times, and a reflection of a boom microphone can be seen in the surface of the iPad. They can digitally remove it, but it would cost about $650. Frankly, we’re on the fence about fixing it. We didn’t notice it ourselves till we’d seen the movie dozens of times. End the end, we decided to let it be. It will be fun for someone to point it out on IMDB. Also, that will save money!
-- 2 characters are talking inside a tent-like structure, which is a blue-gray color. It gives the characters a slight blue cast to their faces. We could have them remove that blue cast, but we decided to let it stay because it’s realistic. Also, it looks cool.
-- The camera moves a little bit during a few shots, so we decided to tell them to stabilize it, which means to take out all the camera movement, which I find distracting.
-- During one scene with a great looking Christmas tree, the colorist made the tree really beautiful! The greens and reds really pop. But his digital adjustments caused a funny color to appear on a few of the actors’ arms.  Now he has to go back and correct the arms.

The colorist has done an amazing job. The movie looks beautiful! These tiny issues I listed above are par for the course. It’s the reason movies take 6 months to a few years to finish post production.

Botts pointed out an awkward pause in the movie that one of our characters has after delivering a line. I think the pause is funny. But our exec producer, Jay Kogen, doesn’t like the pause, and several other people whose opinion I respect have pointed it out as well. (Including Marc Cherry, creator of “Desperate Housewives,” who kindly gave feedback on the script and the edit.) Now, as the director, I have the final say and I can do what I want, and no one is pressuring me to take it out. But after hearing the same note so many times, and then from Botts, I decided to try replacing the awkward pause with a shot of a different actor reacting and see how it felt. Well, after I replaced the shot and then we watched it, Botts and I both laughed out loud. In my business, laughs always win — so the awkward pause is gone now and replaced with the funnier reaction shot. After that, we saw another shot that we thought was good, but could be better, so we dug into the 52 hours of raw footage and found a better one. Replaced!

Anyway, that was our long work day. Not very glamorous, huh? Lots of painstakingly detailed work. But it all goes into making the movie as good as it can be. Normally, many of the tasks we did would be done by others on a post production team, but this is a lean and mean production, as promised in our fundraising campaign. Hopefully, our next newsletter will have some more exciting news that's less workaday!

Many Thanks,

The "I'll Be Next Door for Christmas" Team

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