"April 21, 2011"
It's a little over nine months since I last wrote here. A lot has happened in the last nine months since that last entry, film and life related, and I've been scared to sit down and try to. Its not because it was overwhelming to try and play catch-up but because I always meant for this place to be an honest detail of making a film and all that surrounded it; good, bad, ugly and always personal to the point of uncomfortable. It was almost a ritual of just sitting down and plainly stating what was going on with the production through all it's phases, sometimes on a day-to-day basis or simply putting up stills from production and letting images tell the stories I didn't have the time or the words to. It was meant to keep the information flowing and also help ring out some writing rust.
I can remember why that date where I last left off has significance other than being the last entry. It's because it's when I had my ultimate moment of weakness and came close to doing something I never thought I would. I almost gave completely up.
It was the tail-end of Week 3 of shooting "Things I Don't Understand" and I hadn't slept in ten days. Now normally when someone says they haven't slept what they're actually referring to is extremely minimal or poor sleep, maybe an hour here or there, or naps.
Nope. I hadn't slept in ten days. Not a nap, not a wink and there was absolutely no amount of caffeine, Red bull or drug stimulant that could fix how physically and emotionally exhausted I was at the moment that day. There was the usual expected and unexpected stresses of making a feature film, especially as complicated with as many nuts and bolts as this project in the time frame and for the budget we had, but I was also juggling a bit of a personal crisis at the time on "off-hours" (as if such a thing exists during production) that forced me to go above and beyond 24-hour man.
And so there I was sitting in this dark and damp corner of a bar in Greenpoint that had been our location for the past two days. I'd spent at least 12 hours daiy trapped in that little corner because of positioning of equipment and the tight space of the bar, in the dark, sitting and staring at a monitor and trying to keep focused and alert. I nodded off for the first time in ten days(passed out, really) during lunch time.
It didn't just make sense. I "didn't understnad".
I had an amazing cast and crew that were pushing daily to achieve the unachievable. I was pushing myself harder than I ever had, because I had to in order to lead and get things done, because this was a real chance for something great. We were here on the playing field with an opportunity to tell this story with all the players I wanted, to have faith in a friend to carry the ball and live up to their own promise and abilities, to make a home and a family for people to do their best work.
If the rumbling of anticipation and excitement for making this all a reality were any indication it should have been the most joyful month and experience. The hitch was I'd been depleted at this point and it felt miserable. It was grueling. Every day was hard whether it was dealing with some new issues, having to kick and push someone further and put them in uncomfortable situations because you knew they could overcome it, or just not sleeping and knowing all the things that were going on and being responsible.
Then something in me just broke.
I thought about calmly taking off my head phones, getting up from my little dark corner and walking out into the early afternoon April sunlight and not going back inside. I'd keep walking and not look back and figure out a destination when I arrived at it or when some body of water or landscape prevented me from moving any further.
I managed to walk back in and go a few more rounds and whole other week. I found a way to do the thing I always did, that an old parental figure once referred to as "being professional". It doesn't matter if you're beaten, licking you're wounds and want to throw in the towel. It doesn't matter how hurt you are, if you're going to make it through or whatever emotional molotov cocktail is brewing inside. It doesn't even matter if you're spirit is really broken. You go back, you put on a smile and you do it and do it well. Professional. Be a solider.
I did just that and put on the smile and fought through another week and any other incidents that popped up. The final "cut" had been called in the early hours of April 30th and it was over. I soon arrived home at my current apartment that still, even after a few months, looked more like an office then any kind of home and sprawled out on my mattress for an hour's rest before attending to a personal matter.
My eyes wouldn't close and there was a ton of fear that I hadn't done my job. I'd gotten through it and manage to hold my own but that the work wasn't there and it would suffer for it. I'd let everyone down in the end and crushed me a bit.
I slept-walked through a wrap party the following evening, fueled on muscle memory and prohibition styled whiskey. When I returned back to the "office" I sat at my lap top and prepared to update this page... the last date kept flickering at me and I couldn't do it. I didn't want to write or update or talk to anyone. I wanted to curl up into a ball or lay down on the ground and bleed through the cracks.:
I'd decompress the first week of May after the shoot wrapped, somewhere between mini-comas, gratuitous intoxication and reflection-land. A visit from a dear friend across the pond forced me out of my cave into some sightseeing and open dialogue I began cutting and reassembling the story as a form of catharsis to reconnect to it and reignite my love for it. And I found it in the performances and the work of the great crew. I cut and I cut and I cut and I showed it around and re-cut. I spent the summer working on that film and going back to construction in the Summer heat during the early hours. There was something oddly full-circle about my days digging and lifting with cool sweat down your back and then going
We had our first big test screening on June 30th and it went over great. Evaluation forms helped trim some more baby fat but overall the cut of the film connected with the varied age and gender audience and they all got the story and the meaning. I knew that there was still work that had to be done giving it a proper sound mix and color correct, but I was closer than ever despite all that had come earlier to telling a story exactly as I had set out to.
A post facility that was going to give us a gratis color correct found themselves temporarily imploding and unable to help us on any particular deadline or to the terms they'd implied months previously. Festival and personal deadlines were on the horizon and the flame out of a producer on the film had held up our SAG bond and various other funds that would have helped us.
The lovely and talented Grace came to the rescue as I probably had a bit of a mental breakdown in front of her. She, with a bit of an inspirational and motivation talk, prompted me to keeping fighting, so I'd reach out to anyone and everyone I'd ever known or helped in an effort to raise 5k to get a color correct done in time and make our deadlines.
I sublet my place and spent a month living and work "...around" and out of my old school's library, raising the money and working on the film with the über talented Blase Theodore of Contact-Post DI who gave us a deal and really knocked it out of the park. Because of the consistent and well-done job lighting the film the balancing of it took no time and at all and we were free to play with effects and do fine details on the film.
We raised the money we needed and then some thanks to the generosity of people involved with the film, old friends, strangers and those who believed in this story. We managed to get the sound mixed and the incredible score mixed in, the boys of Creative Mixing once again going above and beyond the job at hand.
I spent October, which should have been time to finally decompress, dealing with a bit of attempted extortion from one of the most sad, jealous destructive individuals I've ever encountered and made the mistake of ever including in this project. Because of some of the personal ridiculousness I'd encountered while making this film and and a bit of exhaustion towards the last leg of completing it I almost believed they had the power to ruin all the work and effort of so many good people.
Then I realized who I was. I was the guy who's been taking a sharpie marker to life's plans for me since I could remember, who bounced around train stations here and abroad, made any concrete floor my home, charmed the devil and stood up to every bank in the country. I'd taken some pretty big fish in my day so I held on to my resolve and fought them tooth and nail. They eventually undid themselves with their own bluff and insanity exposing just the kind of individual they really were.
Since then the flame out and bailing of a friend and person who worked on the film and the nightmare of undone paperwork and unmet responsibilities caused the holiday season to be one of going through an endless of paper trail or trial of will to get things done on time. I’m not even sure we’ve completely sorted all of it out yet and what that will mean for the immediate future, but I’ll handle it like I’ve handled the rest, with the support of those who are in my life and a little bit of old-school "Doyle" ethos.
We’ve been getting extremely positive reviews and it’s great to see your family being appreciated in that way, that all the hard work and belief you had is being understood and welcomed. I believe this the thing that’s going to open doors for a lot of people and I can only wish them the strongest faith and fullest hearts as they chose to walk through them.
On January 24th I celebrated my 29th birthday looking for a mellow night and was surprised by a gathering of a group of friends and family involved in this journey. It was maybe the best and most unexpected present I could have received and was better time and more appreciated then any of them could know. It’s those kind of moments that maintain you resolve in the face of all that’s daunting on the horizon and who you work for.
And on the same night the other grand present was testing the incredible Blu-ray of “Things” on the giant screen in Auditorium 1 of the Landmark Sunshine. I got to see my own work hold it’s own after a long war to get it done on a giant movie screen. It’s sounds were booming down the hallway long after I left the theater and I couldn’t contain the smile on my face when I realized I once snuck into that same theater, without a home or a reason, to see a screening of “Adaption” almost ten years earlier. A very odd full-circle.
Tomorrow night is a reunion, a celebration, a vindication and an end. It’s the end of a journey that I could say was the last four years of my life or the last ten, but more than likely it’s been my whole life. After the last year, the struggles and that particular day in April in that bar there isn’t a whole hell of a lot left that scares me, except maybe the moment I hit that stage to introduce the film. That moment is something I've been rapidly gravitating towards and maybe a bit terrified of my whole life.
Every ending is a new beginning and starting it right is the challenge and the goal. A swan song and a new road all in the same evening is what it’s going to be. A rebirth.
I'm going to change things up a bit with the re-opening of this page. I'll give updates on the film and it's upcoming festival screenings, promotion and eventual distribution. But I'll just be writing again... what's going on, old war stories and anecdotes and what's coming up next.
For the road ahead...