Production (or development) hell is a reality in Hollywood…. So much so that she has her own Wikipedia page. But did you know there’s also the hell of post-production? Or at least he should be!
The three phases of a film’s production are generally pre-production (planning, budgeting, financing, hiring, scheduling, scouting, construction, preparation of costumes and props, etc.), then production (the actual shooting), and finally post-production (editing, image and color corrections, visual effects, sound effects, music, sound mixing, etc.). Understandably, the first phase will take some time, and you can certainly spend weeks or months (or more) working on everything you need. And of course, sometimes these phases overlap a bit. But you would think that once the raw footage is in the box, as they say in the industry, post-production would go pretty quickly…., even on a project with a big budget. Especially for a project with a large budget, since you can afford to pay people to focus on finishing YOUR production instead of wasting their time.
Yeah, you’d think post-production would be nice and fast. And that may be the case for some projects…. but unfortunately not for me and my first fan film INTERLUDE.
In fact, I’m not the only one who suddenly extends the post-production time of his project. Some of Star Trek’s most ambitious fan films shot most, if not half a decade (!!) of their material before releasing the final product: STAR TRACK: FIRST FRONTIER, PACIFIC OCEAN 201, EXETER SPACESHIP, ROMULIA WAR, STAR TREK: TEMPORARY ANOMALY, many episodes of INTREPID…. to name a few. STARSHIP FARRAGUT’s latest series, Homecoming, was crowdfunded in 2015, filmed in 2016 and has not yet been released. And of course, fans were waiting for YORKTOWN: HEALTHY TIME to feel eternal. The last announced release dates are last Christmas and late January. (A serious illness of a relative of JONAH ATKIN delayed his release for some time).
And then there’s the interlude.
Last May, I learned a very painful lesson about announcing the release date of a Star Trek fan film when I announced to the world that my fan film Axanar Universe would be released on the day it was scheduled to premiere, unless the San Diego Comic Con premiere was cancelled. I even had the nice caravan in the style of the old Space: Concatenated pre-credits from 1999, with the fateful date of the 13th. September 1999 by the 25. July 2020 replaced….
Actually, it’s a good thing the SDCC didn’t take place last summer, because even without VIDOC, Interlude wouldn’t have been ready. Actually, it’s not ready yet!
That means it’s almost done…. and when I say almost, I mean that the music is finally done, that all the visuals are done and inserted, that the credits are complete (man, I’m going to have to write one of those Interlude Confidential blogs to get the credits right! We are literally (well, figuratively speaking) just inches from the finish line!
Then what took you so long?
Of course, different productions will always have their own reasons for ending up in post-production hell – whether it’s health/family issues, problems with the actual work, technical or equipment issues, scheduling problems, ongoing production issues (need to reset) or other unforeseen problems. And sometimes it’s just crazy what no one has ever seen before! I can’t speak for the other productions, but I can tell you what crazy things have stopped us here at Interlude.
Last October, I explained on the blog that our composer, KEVIN CROXTON, puts a lot of time and effort into creating our great music. And it’s not like he hangs around all day and has endless time to work on our fan film. This busy man teaches music at an Arkansas elementary school, edits his own James Bond fan film he made with his students last year (shot right before COVID), and has had health problems with both himself and other family members (some of whom had to leave the state for testing during the pandemic).
By the way, Kevin doesn’t just make music for Interlude. We covered almost the entire twelve minutes of the fan film in an almost uninterrupted stream of original (and excellent) music. And there are about 40 to 50 individual instruments playing at the same time! You’re probably thinking: Whatever. He only uses sampled sounds, right? Anyone can add additional digital layers from any instrument and easily get to 40 or 50 tracks. Kevin doesn’t. He played about a quarter of the instruments live, including a number of horns. A few months ago he accidentally hit a piece of horn (an instrument he has played for decades) with his front tooth and thought he had broken a tooth! The treatment was therefore postponed for a week – so as not to risk putting a corneal instrument in the mouth until the dentist was sure that the tooth had not suffered significant damage. (Don’t worry, it turns out that all of Kevin’s teeth are fine).
But add to that list the ridiculous things – river floods, woodpecker traps, stray dogs and wild tornadoes – that have somehow affected and/or delayed this project since we started it two years ago.
And the madness isn’t over yet! Remember the frost that hit most of America a few weeks ago? Well, the interlude of delay and post-production!
After the end of the year, everything went well. Kevin finally finished the music after making a few final adjustments I asked him to make, which probably drives him crazy because I’m a perfectionist! And yes, I also drove my director VICTORIA FOX, my editor JOSHUA IRWIN and my friend from VFX LEWIS ANDERSON crazy. I realize – with a huge dose of well-deserved guilt – that I asked a lot of each of these talented and hard-working people, and they have been very patient with my desire to get every detail of this fan film just right…. Even if I’m the only one who will probably ever notice!
And now it’s the last in line, MARK EDWARD LEWIS, to help me mix the sound.
I plan to write a full article on sound mixing after the release of Interlude, and then I can show you all the different iterations of the mixing process. But for Sense, the most important thing to understand (besides the fact that Mark, like my entire team, has other important things to do with his time and he can’t just check Interlude after a few hours) is that there can be a lot of complexity in the sound mix.
One of the first things I learned – and I admit it, it’s duh! The concept is that you can’t set everything to 11 to get a perfect sound mix (as anyone who has seen a Tenet movie can attest). If you have big loud explosions, your audience won’t be able to hear the music. If you want to understand the dialogue, you have to deny the music…. but not necessarily all the music. The female voices and the upper strings of the violins have the same tonal frequency, while the male voices and some horns cancel each other out. There is so much knowledge and experience involved in making a good mix…. So I’m very happy to have Mark on board.
In addition to the music and sound effects, we also had some voice-overs for the background talk on the bridge, which I asked some friends from the film fan club to record for Interlude. And getting all this gossip was a task for me that certainly brought poor Mark to the brink of insanity. At first, there was so much chatter everywhere on the deck, it was like J.J. Abrams and the objective missiles! So we cut back a little. Then I drove Mark crazy by asking him finicky things, like whether the Ares Bridge was not pronounced by the same person as the American Artemis Bridge. Of course, I’m probably the only one who would have noticed the voices of GEORGE KAYIAN or KELLY REYNOLDS on those two bridges, but like I said, I’m a perfectionist!
Anyway, we had the last set of mix notes for Mark, and they came from Kevin and focused on the music in certain places where the effects and the music collide. I’ll try not to give any major spoilers, but here’s an example from one of Kevin’s notes:
At 0254, when the photon torpedo hits, the music should be louder. (From 2:54 to about 2:57…. At 2:57, a slow descent to the 3:02 level begins…. When you get back to your level in those 5 seconds from 2:57 to 3:02, you hear the music on the screen just a little bit louder, and then at 3:02 it’s great.
Pretty cool, huh? Kevin had half a dozen different notes like this. The only problem was that Kevin wanted to write his notes right after he returned from a trip to his parents’ house in another part of Arkansas. But a winter storm struck, the roads were slippery, and Kevin was stuck with his parents for three more days. When he got home, he and his family discovered that a pipe had burst and flooded part of their house! When Kevin was finally able to write down his notes and give them to Mark, it was six days later than expected.
Why is that important, you ask? In fact, Mark had little time to make an interlude mix before construction workers arrived to tear down his recording studio for two weeks while they put 40-foot pillars in the ground to reinforce the foundations of Mark’s home in Tennessee (which was also recently flooded by another natural disaster caused by heavy rains). By the time Kevin’s comments arrived on Mark’s computer, the floor of Mark’s recording studio had been demolished, and Mark had no room left to properly finish the mix by the end of the first week of March.
Then, of course, Victoria (as director) gets her notes on the sound mix, which Kevin and Mark give her. I hope she likes what she hears, but if she wants to change anything, Mark will have to readjust the mix.
All this to say that I still don’t know when Interlude will air! But he is so close to completion. I literally watched it 50-60 times, analyzed the pieces carefully, listened carefully to how the music was added, then the sound effects, the background voices. I’ve been living, breathing and eating this fan film for months now (well, that and four cheese tortellinis with extra ToMAHtoes). And I can’t wait for you guys to finally get a chance to see what we made!
Unfortunately, due to a crazy sequence of events that no one on our team had control over, we all have to wait a little longer. But believe me, it’s worth it!
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The main difference between patience and perseverance is that patience is the ability to endure difficult situations without irritation or fear, but perseverance is the ability to keep doing something even when it is difficult.
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