Archive for category Entertainment

It’s done!

We have a completed movie!

It still doesn’t feel real. This movie has been in works for close to a year. That’s almost one year of this project…a project which is so big, it seems like a mountain that is so high that you can’t climb it.

One year of a project so insurmountable, that you can’t even think how to approach it. To work through this, I had to break it into segments, then break that into segments, then break that into segments. Then figure out each segment. Then put it all together. And *hope* that there is something there that people will connect with.

Did we accomplish it?

I have no idea.

I *hope so*!!!

Not only do we have a completed movie, we made it in time to enter the Sundance Film Festival this year. As of today, we have that entry submitted.

None of this feels real yet. Maybe six weeks ago, I had this moment of disheartened anguish that we were not going to have a Sundance submission this year. This Cattle Drive movie is unique. This is our best opportunity to say to the world, “Hey…we make movies!” or “We are artists!” or…”Let us entertain you!”

So, the thought of things being delayed, even further, just sank me to a new low.

Then whammo! It all starts to come together. When those puzzle pieces started falling into place, they fell into place. And made a pretty doggone good movie!

There is still a lot of work on this project to be done (need to build our short film for children, need to build a trailer, press kit, incorporate subtitles in the big movie, build a movie poster, work some smaller youtube videos utilizing some of the other footage.)

My biggest problem with this project – once the movie was actually done, is to figure out the DVD encoding, processing and compression.

Ick!

Why can’t there be a road map for these problems?

I *should* take a moment or two, and savor the “Look what we’ve done so far!” moment. But that moment hasn’t hit yet.

Maybe soon…

In the meantime…imagine your best Don LaFontaine voice:

“Chisholm Trail – Past and Present…..coming soon, to a film festival screening near you!”

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The end is in sight!

Have you ever put a puzzle together? And I don’t mean one of those easy ones with the picture on the box.

What’s the biggest puzzle you have put together – when you don’t know what the finished project will look like?

The editing on the Chisholm Trail movie is almost done!

Whew!

Woo hoo!

(Sigh of exhaustion).

We didn’t have a script. We didn’t a preset story in mind. We went out to film this, completely blind as to what the finished movie would be.

(See the September 2017 archives for blog entries about the Cattle drive and the filming.)

This is a documentary. We tried to tell a story. Did we capture the story of the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive?

When you see the movie, you can answer that question!

Editing a movie isn’t easy.

Let me say that again:

EDITING A MOVIE ISN’T EASY!?!?!?!?!!?!

That statement is not intended to be a complaint. But it is a statement of fact. I keep using the line, “If we were in Hollywood, there would be sixty people doing what we are doing.” In our filmmaking endeavors – we have two.

My partner Don and I work well together. We each have our strengths and they dovetail together.

I have to build the structure of the project. But once there is something there to work with, Don can come in and edit it/work it/tear it apart/make it better….and still have enough energy to make me a cheesecake!

…from scratch!

See…I TOLD you we work well together!! LOL

Once we were properly snacked up, fed, fueled up and ready to go…we dove in.

It took a lot of steps to get to this point. And I am not talking about the filming. This is “after” the filming is done, and we have the movie footage “in the can”.

Then what?

Log the footage. View the footage. Evaluate the footage. Make notations.

Then THINK. Think of what this will be. Think of what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the decisions you make about what not to do, are more important than what you actually include.

Develop an intro that will “grab” the audience.

Find *something* that will touch the human. What tells the story? What makes you care? What makes you want to know more about a cattle drive?

Plan your video shots that tell the story.

You don’t just put a bunch of video clips together and then be done.

Plan, build and create your audio track. This was the big job on this movie. A cattle drive happens outdoors – in the wind and bugs and weather (and the cars, humans, dogs, lawnmowers, planes, drones, trains). We knew that a lot of the on-site audio would be questionable.

Plan your music fills. I have a recording studio, so I worked that and built the smaller music myself.

Write the voice over track. Record the voice over track. Import that into the footage and sync it to the video.

So, let’s say that you’ve done all that. Let’s say that you have put months and months of your life into this project.

Let’s say that at some random point….say today’s random point…you know that you are close to showing this project (which you have carried so close to your heart), to the world.

You have to face the reality: what if the world doesn’t like it? What if I didn’t do my job? What if we didn’t tell the story? What if the audience doesn’t care?

You have to get up your gumption and your courage.

Being an artist is about putting yourself out there. It is standing on your feet and making a declaration: Hello, world! I am a filmmaker and I have something to say!

 

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The Stevens Sisters

When you are a writer, there is nothing quite like having an actor bring your stories to life.

This weekend, we went to the theatre to see our play, “The Stevens Sisters” performed.

The organizations that presented the play festival are the Town & Gown Theatre and Troupe d’Jour in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The proceeds from the festival went to benefit a local charity called Kickin’ Childhood Hunger.

Our play was directed by Sharyl Pickens, and it was acted by Shelli Aliff and Sharyl Pickens.

This was the finest acting that I have seen on one of our plays thus far. It’s wonderful to see how talented actors can bring words to life. Before this, the play only existed as black ink on white pages.

Then you see it live and see it embodied. I don’t care how many times you see your work performed…this does not get old.

Theatre people are fun people! It’s fun to get to be around people who “do what we do”. For a couple of hours this weekend, we saw stories come to life in front of our eyes. The outside world drops away. You forget your troubles. You forget your cares.

“The Stevens Sisters” is by Amanda Ball and Karen Ball. This was the first time that Karen has had the opportunity to see one of our works performed live.

As a matter of fact, it was the first time she has been asked for an autograph!

 

Actor Shelli Aliff, Playwright Amanda Ball, Playwright Karen Ball, Actor/director Sharyl Pickens.

Long live the theatre!

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In honor of World Poetry Day

Hope

Hope
…it’s elusive

Progress
…it’s backwards

Belief?
…negativity all the time

Concern
…insults

Kindness
…out the window

Connectedness
…divisiveness

Love thy neighbor
…me me me me all the time

Education
…budget cuts

Respect others
…everyone is wrong but ME ME ME

Joy
…long gone

Friendship
…tenuous connection

Information age
…selling fear

Stand up for one’s self
…mob mentality

Freedom
….shackled

What Should Be
…the way it is

 

#WorldPoetryDay

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“Kiss me”

My new single!!

 

It’s been awhile since I released any new music. I started working on this song during a huge creative spurt last year. I recorded a demo, and really liked it, but it need some tweaking.

So, what did I do today? Lots and lots of tweaking! LOL And paperwork. And scorewriting. And editing and editing and more editing. Proofreading. Computer work. Computer glitches. Computer file formats. Rendering. More computer glitches.

But here it is.

This is the first time I have released a song that was created in my home studio. If you recall how many times I complain about audio engineering…it seems like it’s amazing that I even got this far. (And yes…full disclaimer..I do comprehend how much farther there is to go – in terms of me learning and being adequate in audio engineering.)

But something about this song captured me from the beginning. It’s one that I play over and over. It touches me on some base level. For me…music is about generating a response in the listener – whether that response is to tap your toes, or dance in your chair, or make a tear come to your eye, or touch your heart in a way that says, “I have felt that way before!”

I guess that’s why I’m not at the top of the charts. It seems to me that modern music has taken away the emotion. Modern music (ie the ‘popular’  tunes that are controlled by mega media companies) has taken away emotion. It seems to have no human connection. It is a commodity – manufactured to the lowest common denominator.

This, THIS is my stand.

Music – no matter what the genre, is about capturing the human condition.

As to the song itself…

every artist needs a muse.

This song is both inspired by…and dedicated to…

my muse.

You make me smile.

 

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No vocal booth? Um…no problem

One of our voice over artists has attempted to record the voice over (VO) on his own – with his existing equipment. The quality of his performance was great! But the quality of the audio was lacking.

The solution is to record him with actual audio editing software, so that I could engineer the session, and try to record the best original source material at a clean audio.

We met at a hotel this week, and I had all my equipment with me. (It felt like I had more electronics in the car – than I had left at home! Ha)

Now…the problems: an unknown environment. This hotel has a heating/air conditioning system that has a continuous fan. You can turn the actual air conditioner off, but you still have a background noise. Who knows what kind of interference you might get from any electrical appliances?

And you have walls and objects that are going to bounce sound.

At first I set up a location for him to sit on a chair and talk into pillows. Nope. That ain’t gonna work.

There was a recessed area next to the cabinet where the television sat. I got a hotel blanket and we created a makeshift vocal booth. We positioned a chair very close to the blanket, so that he was facing a blanket and *hopefully* that is going to absorb sound bounce/block the fan of the air conditioner.

Make shift vocal booth

Then it took a whole lot of monkeying with the audio software to find the best settings. That just takes time. There is no way around it. Do an audio test. Adjust. Test again. Adjust.

Finally we arrive at  what…(I hope) is a good setting. Again, with audio engineering, there is no “one best way”. You make your best guestimate, and you dive in.

Voice over artist Tommy Ball.

When you engineer a session like this…it takes all your concentration. It takes all your focus. So rather than me running the alternate lines, we had a volunteer who, ever so kindly, offered to help (ie–she said she was leaving the hotel room for us to work and I am going…NOOOOO! You have to stay and read lines!)

Karen Ball feeds lines during the recording.

Her lines will not be used in the final recording. But it is critical to have someone help out in this way…to give your voice over artist something to play off of. You get a rhythm in your dialog, and having those lines spoken aloud really helps.

Bless him…Tommy Ball read take after take after take after take.

He put so much effort into this: first of all–being willing to take the gig in the first place. Then you learn your lines. Then you craft a ‘performance’ of how to sell your character. Then, you attempt to record your work in your own home on your own equipment. Whew!

Mind you – the other voice actor recorded his lines in my studio some weeks back. It’s not like the two voice actors were in the same room – working at the same time, and playing off of each other’s character.

No, it is that much harder – to work solo, to have no idea what the other actor is doing, and still “pull off” the performance.

What is the measure of a good performance?

Well, at our previous session – with different actors, we were outdoors, and the person who is on cam and on mike was so amazing. I glanced behind me, and one man had his hand over his mouth and his eyes were bulging out, trying to stifle laughter while we were recording.

This time?? Tommy “sold” that character soooo well, I had to clap my hand over my mouth to hold back the laughter, and hope like heck that I hadn’t made any noise that would ruin the take!

We have had so many volunteers, giving freely of their time and effort and energy – to help a movie get made.

But things are progressing.

“Head ’em up…move ’em out!”

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Cowboy poetry

Things are progressing on the post production of the movie.

A lot of the work involves us at a computer. Not a lot to blog about there, and that kind of work doesn’t seem to make for fun stories.

But…on occasion…you get to work with talented people who sure do make you smile.

Cowboy poet, Sam Wylie, entertained us with cowboy poetry. All along, I thought how neat it would be if we could include some of his poems in the movie.

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I asked Sam, and he said yes, he’d participate. We arranged to meet at 10 am. At 9am, I am out on my porch, and the weather was nice and the wind was calm.

Then the wind hit. And a cold front. And lots of wind noise. We wanted to film outdoors, so we went to Carmen’s (the trail boss) horse barn, and used it to block the wind.

Sam (on the left, above) reads a poem, while Sonny Harrison (right) listens. Both of these men were drovers on the cattle drive.

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Sonny gears up to read a poem.

We made it for an hour, working outdoors in that cold and wind. I didn’t want to stay out that long, but it was so much fun, working with these talented men, I kept asking them to do additional readings and additional locations.

We came back to my home recording studio, to record the cowboy poetry in some sort of controlled audio environment.

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Sam Wylie reads his poetry in studio.

The whole session went well. It’ll be fun to see how all this comes together: video, audio, music, sound FX, voice over, poetry…the list goes on and on.

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