Since my last post (back in January, yeesh), we have wrapped production, started the long process of post-production, and – drumroll please… cut a trailer. I’ll ramble later down in this post about all the above, but before I make any further ado-age, it gives me great pleasure to present to you the trailer for First Kiss![vimeo https://vimeo.com/40345179]
I hope you enjoy it – and I hope those of you in Pittsburgh will join us for the film’s premiere early this May (exact time and location TBD). The trailer features original music by the incredibly talented James Wolpert (CMU ’13 – our campus is lousy with talent), whose work you can find more of here.
Day 8: Last Day of Production
Now, let’s travel back in time about three months to January 28th – the day we wrapped production on First Kiss. In a bit of scheduling serendipity, the last day of production was a shoot that consisted entirely of kissing couples. When I posted the extras casting call on the Pittsburgh Film Office site, I was surprised by a flooding of my inbox with a crazy number of local and outside couples who were interested in being a part of the film. It was like a violent Valentine’s Day of e-mail viruses. I say that with love, of course, because all these couples were wildly attractive and adorable together. In the end, we could only select three couples. They were all charming and wonderful people, but special props have to be given to Lauren and Colin (below), who roadtripped up to Pittsburgh from Maryland to be in the film.
“You understand this is a student production with no pay?” I asked.
“Yep, no prob!”
God bless extras. The last shot we took of the film was a two-shot of Lauren and Colin kissing in a stairwell (the same stairwell from 3x3x3: a love story, my directorial debut from about a year ago.) While we were setting up the shot, a campus acappella group gathered in the atrium. “Is that going to be a problem?” one of them sweetly asked. No, we weren’t getting sound in this series of shot. The result was, for the last shot of the film, we had two couples kissing at sunset in a stairwell, while the sounds of acappella filled the air. Couldn’t have been more perfect if I’d tried to orchestrate that myself.
Days 9 – uhhhh… right now: Post-Production
After wrapping, we started the long process of post-production. Trying cut after cut of the film, auditioning voiceover talent, finding the right balance between score and soundtrack. I thought production would be the hard part – but one of the hardest aspects of filmmaking is sitting in post and cutting out things you absolutely love. There were the minor things – cutting shots that were beautiful and sweeping, but mostly just gratuitous and slowed down the pacing of the film. Then there were the big things – the greatest difference between script and screen for this film is the voiceover. I originally wrote an “Older Adam” voiceover part, borrowing (or shamelessly stealing) from the tradition of works like The Wonder Years. As we auditioned voice actors for the role (among them, the wonderfully patient Paul Guggenheim of Pittsburgh’s Essential Public Radio station), I became more and more frustrated. Something just wasn’t clicking with the film we’d just shot. As a last ditch attempt, I called Cain (the actor for young Adam) to come in with his father, and recorded voiceovers by both of them. In the end, I decided to use Cain’s voiceover, changing the “Older Adam VO” to “ADAM VO”. The overall tone may have changed as a result, but I think it was a decision that gave me a better film. Funny how those things work out.
The glimmerings of a next project
It’s now been about a year and a half since I first penned the first draft of First Kiss, hoping against hope someone might like it enough to give me the chance to make this movie. As we’re winding down in post-production, it’s time to think about the next project. Granted, I’ve written/directed/produced a number of other micro-mini-short film works that wrapped production either before First Kiss or in the months after – those will all be completed and online between now and May. But First Kiss was also my first big passion project – it was a film that I wanted to make, with a wider range of resources and finances than I’d ever had at my disposal before. While filming, I thought to myself, “Once I’m done with this, I’ll be happy and it’ll all be finished.”
But I think part of the nature of this work is that you never quite get to the “finished” part. Back in December, when Steeltown Entertainment announced its call for submissions for the 2012 Film Factory, I decided to try my hand at writing another twelve-minute short. The Perils of Growing Up Flat-Chested, which follows a sixteen year old girl determined to improve her 32-AA bra size before hooking up with her lab partner, is a kind of follow-up companion film to First Kiss. While it’s not a sequel, it comes from the same emotional origins in a world of adolescent agony, and I feel the two pieces could complement each other on some level. The screenplay is currently in the running for the 2012 Film Factory Competition – tomorrow, I’ll be pitching it to a panel of judges who will determine the three screenplays that make it to the finalist round this year.
Going through the Film Factory Competition a second time has been truly a learning experience. Drafting up my budget proposal for Perils, I pulled up my budget proposal from last year for First Kiss, just for the sake of comparison. And I realized – a year ago, I really had no clue what I was doing. I had overbudgeted here, underbudgeted there, I didn’t know that working professionals often came in package deals with their own equipment, or that food would really cost more than $25 for a pizza at the end of each shoot (one cannot live on pizzas and bagels alone). That’s not to say that I’m wildly knowledgeable now – I’m sure a year from now, if I look at my pre-production documents for Perils, I’ll laugh at how much I underbudgeted for camera-ready bras or something (those things are expensive). But my point is this – you can read and research online and try making lists in preparation, but at the end of the day, there’s really no better way to learn than to dive right in and shoot the damn thing.
So that’s the crux of it. I’m looking forward to premiering First Kiss in a few weeks, and graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in just a couple more. After I graduate in May, I can officially drop the “student” from my “student filmmaker” title. Yikes, that’s actually kind of scary. Maybe I’ll try and calm the nerves by making another movie.
First Kiss – writer/director