Christy Price Pagano deserves the best photo for ending up on the cutting room floor!

INTERLUDE is finally out and already has 42,000 views on YouTube! Did you see that? (If not, click here.) Did you like it? Is that all you hoped for? Personally, I am very happy with the result of Interlude. So many people put so much effort into making a great fan film.

But I really feel sorry for CHRISTY PRICE PAGANO (pictured above) because his only recording in Interlude ended up on the cutting room floor.

Christie appeared on the second day of recording Interlude at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA (Sunday, November 3, 2019) with her good friend Lisa Burgess (pictured below). Both moms live nearby, in a suburb north of Atlanta, and one of our actors, Jay PLEEBURN, who played an American science officer with a cool ’70s mustache in Ares, told them about the filming and our need for additional funding.

Lisa Burgess

If you have seen Interlude, you will have noticed that there is in fact only one very short shot of the American Ares, in which we see most of the extras on the bridge…..

There are other close-up and center shots, but this is the only one where almost all members of our Ares team were involved at the same time. The only two officers not pictured were the aforementioned Jay Plyburn and Christy Pagano, who exited the turbolift. But we cut the doors to the turbolift before they could be opened.

This is what the entire scene would have looked like if the decision to cut had not been made (note that there are no sound effects or music in the clip below)…..

That’s Christy coming out of the turbolift. And although we can barely see it, the name of the injured engineer is JOSE SEPEDA from the STAR TREK series: NATURES HUNGER, and the man behind it is CRYSTAL RAMOS, who was very happy to be part of this production. And now we can’t even see their faces! But I’m going to correct that right now (at least on this blog page, because we can’t restart the scene without costing a lot of time and money)…..

Crystal Ramos and Jose Cepeda

Anyway, back to more general matters. As you can see in the full 11 second clip, a lot has happened! The ship shook, the panels flickered, Garth gave orders, people crossed the bridge, some got up from their seats, others sat down, the doors to the turbolift had to open and close, and not only did Crystal have to pretend to take Jose to the elevator, but Christy had to run out of the turbolift without running into Crystal or Jose, and then sneak past the communications chair without looking like she was shrinking (because it’s so narrow!).

And that’s exactly what happened on camera!

Out of frame, people were standing behind the bridge turning on the lights while the first officer was on the bridge. Assistant director Josh Wilcox called in all the stage directions, Josh Irwin filmed and operated the camera, Earl Hale recorded the audio from Alec Peters’ microphone, director Victoria Fox, Dana Weiner and Scott Little opened and closed the elevator doors.

That, my friends, is a lot of choreography to keep under control! Even those 11 seconds took the team almost twenty minutes of rehearsal and filming! Want to see for yourself how much work went into this sequence? Guess who had nothing better to do in the meantime than take pictures with a Panasonic Lumix camera? Yes, it’s fun to be a producer! (You don’t have to watch the whole video if you don’t want to. It will give you an idea of how long it took to get those 11 seconds….).

 

So much work, so few pictures.

Josh Irwin cropped this photo to almost match the first panel with American Ares in the original comic version…..

Indeed, such a complex and intricate sequence, even if only 11 seconds long, would be an impressive triumph of fan cinema! Think about it: even STAR TREK : NEW VOYAGES and STAR TREK CONTINUES have never been able to film their bridge from such a wide angle or have so much happen at once in one shot. This whole series could have easily meant bragging rights for Josh and Victoria in the fan film community.

So why reduce it to 2 seconds?

As my experienced directors told me when I worked with them, a director should never fall in love with what he is filming. And if Paul Jenkins gave me some friendly advice: The real boss is not the director or the producer, but the film. You do what you need to do to make the final product the best it can be.

And the truth is that Interlude couldn’t afford an 11-second sequence. That was way too long!

It seems a little odd that the duration is 11 seconds, but the opening interlude immerses the viewer in the heart of the battle, as two ships flee from an ambush and three Klingon cruisers pursue and shoot them down. The cuts must be made quickly to maintain tension. During the first bridge sequence, no shot lasted longer than 4 seconds. For example, 11 seconds without camera movement would feel like an eternity to the viewer and distract from the speed and intensity of the opening.

It broke my heart to lose that footage and to see all the hard work of those 18 people banished to the floor in the digital editing room. But Victoria and Josh were right. The final scene is much more powerful and compelling for the viewer. Another shot in that direction would have softened the blow.

Josh and Victoria’s courage, confidence and professionalism in dropping so much amazing material in the service of a finished film is one of the many things that impressed me so much about these two.

The next piece left on the floor was the result of an accident. Here’s an important sentence from Jakanda that you haven’t seen yet…..

Instead, it was the last sequence …..

So why did we leave out the part where Jakand informs the viewer about the situation? After all, this was an important exposition for the plot: this was no random attack; Garth and Jakand were transporting someone important (which we later learn is Admiral Ramirez), and their mission was top secret. And that’s how Garth knew there was a spy.

The editing problem arose during production, when Alec made last-minute changes to the script. It is quite normal for an actor to suggest changes to the script until the director acts! Actors know their characters and often have a better idea of how they speak than writers do. Actors from the various Star Trek series have always said in interviews that some directors and writers are very open to suggestions to change certain lines.

And most of the changes Alec made were good and quite small. But just before the shoot, an adjustment was made that I wasn’t aware of. And if I did, I would point you to something. Here is the page as it was originally written….

Alec picks up the line where Garth responds to Jakanda and says: Think about it. Three D7s come out of nowhere, deep, and start blowing us up. They knew we were coming. You know who’s on board.

I suspect Alec thought Jakanda’s leadership had two big exposures PLUS Garth’s during this exchange, making those few seconds of information tight in the middle of a tense battle. And Alec wasn’t necessarily wrong. But it was also vital information for the viewer, who now wonders who is on board and why they are so important.

When it came time to cut the design together, I noticed Garth’s line was missing. And as you can see in the first clip above, we go from Jakande to Jakande….. and it’s just embarrassing.

We tried to fix it. We asked Alec to go to Dana Wagner’s recording studio to record the missing line in audio. But we had no idea how Garth said it. Instead, we tried to make a mix of a shot of Garth looking at the screen (you couldn’t tell that his lips weren’t moving), a few shots of the reaction on the bridge, and a few close-ups of the console screens. But by the end of the day, it looked like a mess….. It’s such a mess that I don’t even have a clip of the sequence Josh edited, because it came across as so forced and awkward that we decided to delete it and not talk about it anymore (so far, anyway).

This is what you see in the final version, Garth says: I do not believe in coincidences, captain… …and Jakand will answer immediately: Do you know what you’re saying, Garth? So yes, we are losing visibility. But ultimately, I don’t think it detracts much from the film.

In the final documentary, we made line corrections to replace this lost exposure ….. perhaps a little later in the film than I would have liked, but present nonetheless. And honestly, by leaving that exposition during the fight scenes, everything speeds up and the big torpedo gets there. So, again, it turned out that recording on the cutting room floor was more of a plus or minus.

The last bit of footage left on the cutting room floor always makes me sad, and my directors and I disagreed. Hey, it happens. And frankly, I’d rather work with people who are just as passionate about optimizing my project, even if they don’t agree with me, than have team members who are just talking: Oh, forget it… I don’t care.

So what led to the great Clash of the Titans? It all started here with a rough cut….

I immediately noticed that Yakande seemed to go from sitting in his command chair to standing in the blink of an eye, using his tunic to perform the Yakande maneuver. It wasn’t true. Fortunately, we got a nice shot of Jakanda’s back, showing the screen where he gets up from his chair and lies down. And what was great was that we had a 360 degree deck that we used! Most other TOS gateway kits do not have a full display and associated front consoles. But we had a chance to start the sequence….. to start

I thought it would be perfect. We see Yakand rising, moving forward, and we see the American Artemis bridge front and the American Ares bridge front in consecutive shots. What could be better?

Well, according to Josh, it’s not much worse! Well, maybe it wasn’t so bad, but he was adamant about the two reasons why he didn’t want to put this clip on Jakanda’s back….. to put it

First, Garth’s angle on the screen was not framed correctly. Josh created two different types of compositions by recording the crews on both decks. The first was what he called a narrative recording. These wide shots are taken from more visually dynamic angles, with the characters not necessarily looking directly at the camera.

The other type of recording is what Josh calls a visual effects board. It was composed and cut to fit the rather square dimensions of the window itself. The angle was more direct than off-axis, and the characters looked directly at the camera (as if they were talking to someone on the other side of the screen). In these two pictures, you can see examples of framing…..

The problem is that Josh didn’t do a reaction shot of the Ares deck as a visual effects board. Josh didn’t expect to make such a cut and just didn’t think to take the time to set up a new camera angle for Ares while Garth and Jakand said their final goodbyes.

As a result, Josh was only able to bring a narrative panel featuring Garth and his mate to the screen, and Josh felt that this looked wrong and out of place.

Josh’s second problem was that the clip of Jakand leaving the chair took three extra seconds that the scene didn’t need. He weighs the film.

I now realize that in cases like the opening bridge scene, an 11 second sequence in the middle of a series of much shorter cuts would be completely overwhelming. Only 3 seconds during the slowest part of the movie? I wasn’t sure. The narrative panel didn’t really bother me either.

So what do we do? I struggled with this problem. Victoria agreed with Josh (she often did), and of course they are professional filmmakers, I’m just a beginner. But I was really worried about it. We always disagreed on things, and usually compromised or let one of us go our separate ways. And yes, I sometimes put my foot down as a producer…. and sometimes I follow Josh and/or Victoria’s recommendations.

But it was very important. Josh was as convinced as I was, and the decision was binary: Either we keep the shot or we don’t. Was it a moment because I say so and I’m a producer? If you play this card too often, you run the risk of alienating your team members, as they will feel like work drones rather than employees.

In making this decision, I sought the advice of our composer KEVIN CROCKSTON, who has collaborated on many productions on a studio level. I asked him to look at both publishers, without telling him which one I liked better, and tell me his favorite of the two.

He loved them both.

Well, that didn’t help! !! But it really helped me because Kevin told me something that allowed me to make a decision that I could live with: None of them are wrong, Jonathan. They both work in their own way. Whoever you choose, you’ll have a great fan film either way.

I went back to Josh and Victoria and told them we could do whatever they wanted. But Josh realized that my biggest problem was always that Jakande seemed to teleport from a sitting to a standing position without enough time in between. I’ll tell you what, Jonathan, Josh said. I’ll see if I can tweak it to solve your problem. ….

And he did. Josh blinked at a shot of Jakanda coming from the Artemis engineer, who responded with a slow realization that it would be suicide. Then Josh didn’t cut it to Jakanda. Instead, he cut to Garth and held him a little longer than he had with the first cut. This gave Jakande enough time to walk back and forth next to the control panel (all out of frame, of course), where he appears in the next shot. The final version of this sequence worked perfectly at the end. ….

Together Josh, Victoria and I worked on perfecting the editing for about four months until we finally settled on picture blocking, an editing that took time. A snapshot cannot be added, deleted, lengthened, shortened, moved, shuffled, or altered in any way that affects editing. The VFX shots have yet to be rendered in their final form, but there are placeholders for each effect that indicate exactly when the final CGI shot will be made.

The reason everything is kept in the second version is that this is the version for which your composer will create music. And if you change what happens when, your composer will have to completely rewrite some musical cues and rhythms….. and that will NOT make him or her happy!

In the end, I learned an incredible amount about the post-production process – and it wasn’t the fun hobby of putting the puzzle pieces together that I thought it was. It was hard work, very hard work. There were long discussions and debates, disagreements, compromises, heartbreaking cuts, the frustration that we didn’t have what we needed to play the sequence the way we wanted, and countless times revisiting the same sequences.

The editing got better as it went along and that made it worthwhile. When we were finally able to fix the picture, the three of us agreed that we had a very solid fan film. Nothing has been overlooked. Everything turned out fine. And even though none of us got everything we wanted, all three of us went through the same long tunnel and finally came out happy, satisfied and relieved – in the light and ready to hand everything over to our composer to take it to the next level.

 

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