Monday, September 25, 2006

Right... so, where should I start? Last night, I guess -- it'll do, anyway.

Last night I was up at the Co-op doing the final check on the video: tightening up a few cuts, playing with the color and contrast of a few shots (I'm still not sure I'm happy, but it was the best I knew how to do), making sure there weren't any breaks in the video track, that kind of thing. Detail work. Then I managed to export it and master a simple DVD without too much difficulty -- I think I'm gradually figuring that part out, though I'm not doing much.

Anyway, I took my fresh, warm DVD out of the burner, popped it into my dinky little DVD player, played it on the Co-op's crappy monitor -- and it looked like dog barf.

I don't know what the issue was. It looked fine on the computer monitor (though everything looks a bit crap on a computer.) I was going to go try it out on the Co-op's projection system, but one of the other Coopers suddenly arrived with about thirty close friends for an impromptu screening, so I couldn't. Like I wanted to screen my dog-barfy DVD in front of all those people.

So I took it home in a state of agitation and tried it again on the big TV at home (though still on the same crappy DVD player), and it looked somewhat less dog-barfy, but still a little vomitous. But it was midnight, and there was nothing I could do, so I tried to get some sleep. (FYI -- Ambien is some seriously good stuff.) After getting up this morning, the first thing I did was race back to the Co-op to try the disc out again, and on the projector it looked fine. I tried it a few other places, and again, it looked fine. I'd tried it in my computer's DVD player, and it looked fine. So that was four or five votes for "fine" and one for "dog barf" -- and the pro-dog-barf vote was from a very suspect corner. Still, it scared me.

Anyway, I fixed the disc up and ran it by the office of the folks running the festival, explaining that I'd had one bad experience, and to please check it and let me know if they had any problems with it, but that I was probably just being over-anxious. At this point, all I can see are the problems anyway, so I should really leave final judgement up to an impartial observer. Mercifully, I haven't gotten any dog-barf calls yet, so maybe things are cool.

The point is, I began my day in a state of anxious agitation. The good news is, apart from some simple titling work (which will be done on a strictly no-rush basis,) I'm done with this video. I guess I feel okay about it -- I mean, I think I can do a lot better, but god help me the day I stop thinking that. And I'm not the best person to ask about that anyway; I'm a roiling mass of self-doubt even under the best circumstances. Here's something I didn't mention to anyone at the time, with one exception -- at the outset of this edit, I went through a serious crisis of confidence. Watching rushes is horrible anyway, without doubt the most depressing part of the entire filmmaking process. Your vision is gone, replaced by flawed, ugly reality -- it's the moment where your fantasy of what a film could be hits the ground with a painful thud. Everybody hates rushes.

But this time around was especially hard for me. The shoot was a bit lumpy -- basically, it was a one-day shoot, which is hard going. The first day of any shoot is always kind of a loss. You spend your day finding your feet and getting into it; nothing really good can happen until you've wasted a day. Except that this time, the first day was pretty much it. That was a surprise to me at the time -- I hadn't actually been told that it was a single-day affair until the afternoon of said single day. Finding that out threw me off a bit, but I did the best I could. A one-day shoot, however, can make for some particularly painful rushes.

The two or three days after the shoot were horrible. This sounds melodramatic now, but at the time I was completely sincere: I was seriously considering quitting filmmaking entirely. I thought to myself, "I've let myself and everyone else down, and I should just acknowledge that I suck at this and quit." I spent a couple of days playing out scenarios in my mind in which I humbly admitted to the band how badly I'd fucked up, how sorry I was about... everything, apologizing for wasting their time. I was in a pretty bad way (all self-inflicted, obviously.) The only thing I wanted to do at that point was quit. But there was enough sober experience behind me (barely) to understand that quitting was the last thing I should do at that point, that the only way out of this mess was to go through with it, and that I should commit to editing something, no matter how bad it turned out to be. So I kept dragging myself in to the Co-op, banging my head against that damn computer screen, trying to find anything that could make a cohesive sequence.

And then, like it always does, it started to come together. Only a little bit at first, but enough to make some of that footage looks slightly less dire. From there on, it was just a matter of going in and doing the work. I feel okay about the video now -- not completely satisfied, like I said. There's a lot I would change or do over if I could, though at this point it's probably best just to let it be what it is and save that energy for the next piece. But it's not horrible. It's not perfect -- there's one mistake in particular that I can't believe I made, though nobody else has mentioned it yet -- but it's okay.

I read a quotation a couple of days ago -- I don't know if it's legit or not, and I haven't been able to source it accurately (I've found several competing versions), but in the end it doesn't really matter. It was attributed to Andy Warhol, and said (I'm paraphrasing), "don't worry about whether or not it's art; just do the work." I'm going to post that on my wall; I'm going to laminate it and carry it around in my wallet. If there's one thing I need to get through my thick head, it's that the most important thing is just doing the damn work. I know that I would do much better work if I stopped wasting so much energy worrying about whether I'm doing the "right" work or if my work is good enough (how fucked-up is it to judge your work as inadequate even before you've done it?), and just do whatever it is I need to do. I'm still at a stage of figuring out how I work, and the only way I'll ever get there is by doing it. It's an obvious thing, but I struggle with it.

Interestingly, of everything I did for this video, the parts I like the best are the parts that were the least set-up. The firmer my shooting agenda, the less life there was in the resulting footage. There's an important clue in there somewhere.

Anyway... there's that.

Once I got home from all of this, I got a phone call. For the first time, after nine months of fruitless struggle, I've got my first serious job interview tomorrow, at the local NBC affiliate. It's not for a glamorous, high-paying job, but it would pay me enough (barely) to start acting on plans and schemes, and I'd be in a setting where I could pick up some new, more marketable skills. I don't know if it'll come to anything or not (after all the rejections so far, I'm very reluctant to get my hopes up), but maybe I'm finally catching a break. Wish me luck.

Update: I got word from the video showcase organizer, and she says it looks good. So I guess that worked out okay. Phew.
6:06 PM ::
Amy :: permalink