Getting to the Premiere!
My new feature film Notzilla, an affectionate send-up of old monster movies, had its world premiere last week! Cast, crew and invited guests gathered at a vintage movie theater, to watch our dinosaur, a not-so-scary Notzillasaurus Partiontilldon from the Late Bodacious Era, wreak havoc on Cincinnati. And we all had a roaring good time! But how did we get there? First some stills from the movie, and then the story (below).
If you don’t make movies you may not know that shooting is actually the shortest part of the process. More time is spent preparing to shoot (pre-production): writing and re-re-re-writing; scouting locations; honing the budget, and then re-writing the script to make it fit that painfully low budget; hiring department heads (camera, lighting, design, more); creating sets, props and costumes; casting actors; renting lighting gear and tons (literally) of grip equipment and vehicles; assembling a crew; and scheduling the shoot while juggling dozens of often conflicting factors.
Even more time is spent in post-production. First, there’s an assembly edit of all the pieces. It’s clunky and awkward and the director (me) has a well-earned panic attack: “I’ve created a monster!” (Which in my case was actually the plan). Then the editor begins calmly massaging those pieces (shots) to make them fit together better, adjusting the timing (quick cuts for action, breathing room on emotional moments). But even after a meticulously planned film shoot, some holes will appear. E.g. We’re in her office and then we’re in his living room—how did we get here? Solution: We need a shot of his apartment building. So we assemble a skeleton crew to go out and do pick-up shots.
And Notzilla has a whole other layer: Special effects! Even though we shot our film in cheese land—with a guy in a rubber-suit on a miniature set projected behind gloriously over-acting actors—there were tons of post-effects, as well: fire, explosions, blending separately filmed layers together, erasing wires (some we proudly kept), and removing wrinkles from painted skies!
What about sound? We shot many scenes MOS (“mit out sound” = a term coined by an old German director). Our creature’s roar, stomping feet and swooshing tail, along with the zoom of toy jets, boom of tiny tanks, and marching of plastic soldiers, all had to be added in post. And finally, of course, there’s the wonderfully over-dramatic score! Music completely alters an audience’s perception. In a famous test, an audience was shown an expressionless man reading a newspaper–with no music. Their reaction? Meh. But when they were shown the same clip with tense music added, they insisted they’d just viewed a different–much more exciting–movie scene!
And so on it goes, tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak…until finally, somehow, we get to…