Friday, 27 July 2012

It's never finished

A milestone was reached yesterday. After almost 9 months of cataloguing and sifting through well over one hundred hours of footage, I have finished editing my film Sleepless 'til Seattle.

Or have I?

I never actually thought, months ago, that I would actually be able to say "it's finished". Although, when I say finished, I do mean just the actual cutting of the film into a coherent story. I now have a long list of technical details to attend to, each of them representing days of work.

Currently I'm doing what's called grading. This is where I go through the film, shot by shot, and adjust the colour balance and exposure to ensure the entire film looks the same. There are occasions when I can't achieve that, mostly due to poor exposure at the time of shooting.

Then all of the transitions have to be finely adjusted. For example should I fade, or dissolve as it's called, between two shots, or just cut quickly, or fade through black etc. each one says a different thing and creates a different feel.

The audio all has to be balanced within particular parameters, so that when it reaches the cinema my film doesn't blow up the theatre's speakers, or the audience's eardrums!

There's various voice-overs that have to be redone. The story changes regularly for particular sequences, and this can then change the voice-over script. I've already spent 6 hours in a recording studio but looks like I'll be returning soon.

Virtually the last thing to do, and one that consumes most computer time, not to mention my electricity bill, is smoothing out a lot of the shaky shots. This was all filmed handheld from a bicycle after all, so there's a lot of bouncing around. I wouldn't want my audience to leave because of inducing motion sickness.

Then, once all these technical polishes are complete, I modify the entire film with a widescreen filter, so that it looks more cinematic.

Finally on 11 August it has its first public screening. This is a "test screening" whereby the invited audience then give feedback at the end. Depending on what's said the film will have parts edited again.

Hopefully, by 15 September, Sleepless 'til Seattle will be "locked" and will make it's way out into the world of film festivals.

But in the words of Woody Allen, a film is never finished only abandoned.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Base Camp Manager retires

On 6 July 2010 my friend Pauline left the UK to begin a great adventure; to cycle around the world, camping most of the time. I knew it would be a while before I saw her again, which was hard, but I was to be involved in the entire time she was away as her Base Camp Manager.

In the first few weeks, as she journeyed through France, I had my first task; to find a replacement or repair for her gas stove back here in the UK and get it out to her.

This was just one of many times I came to Pauline's assistance, another being in the city of Bordeaux. This time it was trying to find a cambio to exchange travellers cheques, and with the help of Google maps I was able to guide her right to the door.

And so it continued, all the way round, from locating and speaking to the hostel manager in Buenos Aires, sending her my Thermarest by FedEx to the western edge of Argentina, to getting a National Cycle Network map to the ferry terminal in Newcastle for her to guide her way home on the final leg.

A regular role was drawing maps for Pauline to include in her blogs as she picked her way through 19 different countries on four continents, more than 15,000 miles. Click the Bicycle Diaries on the right to read all about her entire adventure.

Twice my role would change dramatically as I became her travel companion. The first was in Spain when I met up with her in Logrono to cycle the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, and then we would meet again for the greatest adventure I've ever had; a 4,000 mile cycle from Plymouth Massachusetts to Seattle Washington.

Yesterday, on the 19 July 2012, Pauline cycled along the promenade in Portobello, Edinburgh, bringing an end to her adventure and my role as Base Camp Manager. I am just as sad as her for it all to be over. There are no more things for me to find, or source or maps for me to draw. There are no more opportunities for me to join her at a point on her route.

Retirement sucks.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


I'm a little late this week with my blog posting, but there's a good reason.

As many of you will know I have been busy these past few months editing a feature film documentary about the cycle adventure I did last year with my good friend Pauline.

It took from November last year to February this year to sort through all the footage, all 120 hours of it.

From there I started to cut it down, starting with the interviews. Not so much editing them, just cutting down the volume of footage. This part of the process took two months.

At the end of April I started the actual editing process, taking the cut down footage and creating sequences that told small stories. From there I had to then figure out how to make the connections between all these pieces, at the same time as telling the story of the journey. It seemed an impossible task.

Then, in the middle of June, I finally reached the end of a rough cut. Though running at two and a half hours, the hardest part was done.

Last week I finally had it cut down to 90 minutes, my target time. It was still rough, but this was the first time that a whole film, with a running narrative, was ready to be watched.

The next step was the most difficult, and nerve racking. Yesterday I invited 3 people who have an in depth knowledge of film making, to sit and watch the film and give feedback. The night before I had been up until three in the morning getting it ready. The screening went well, though there is now a long list of fixes to be done.

Today I was cooped up in a recording studio for 4 hours recording all the voice overs in high quality, and the process of editing that starts tomorrow.

The next screening is another milestone for the film. The co-star returns from her two year world cycle. I've not seen Pauline since we parted company after our epic cycle ended last October. I'm looking forward to her thoughts on the film.

Saturday 11 August is the films first screening. It will have to be 99% finished by that point. A test screening is crucial for any film going to market. At the end of that screening I will be able to tell how it will be received and then make changes according to the feedback of the audience.

By the time I'm completely finished it will have taken me a year and a half!