I invited about 200 people to the screening. A lot of people were on vacation, which is understandable, considering how close it was to July 4th, a U.S. national holiday. I had about 120 people confirmed to show up. My wife told me to send out a reminder email, which I didn’t do because I don’t want to bug people. About 60 people showed up to the 07/03 screening. Maybe my wife was right. I don’t know. I’m more on the side of providence: whoever was supposed to be there was there.
My wife and I got to the screening location, Raleigh Studios, 2 hours early. The guards at the gate told us that the screening had been rescheduled to Sunday night. I told them that no one had told me. We called a few people and while we waited for those people to respond, we waited in the car.
My wife was getting pretty tense. She’s not used to production. She’s in the medical field. For her, problems of this magnitude tend to not happen without a really good reason. I watched her tension rise until the guards returned and the people called back and let us know that everything was as we had planned.
While I watched my wife freak out, as I stayed calm, I had a realization. This stress, compared to a lot of the stressed I’d felt up until then was pretty minor. I didn’t even react to it. The realization is that making movies isn’t for everyone. It’s not about talent or skill, or even having a good story to tell. It’s about demeanor. Some people just aren’t built for the inherent ambiguities and changes that happen during the whole process.
Here are a couple examples:
1) In the movie, there’s a scene where Will meets Dempsey where Will gets the job that would be the inciting event (if we followed the standard Heroes Journey model). That meeting was planned by us to happen at Crepevine, a really great crepe store in San Francisco. We had scheduled all the crew and cast for the location. It was supposed to be an evening scene and we shot based on the time of day because we didn’t have lights. We didn’t have permission from Crepevine management until about 4:00pm that day. The filming at that location started at around 7:00pm, right after the sun set.
2) There are three operatives whose job it is to kidnap people. We had one operative cast when we started filming. The other two still had to be cast. It was as much about finding people with the right look/size/intensity as it was about acting. And, we couldn’t afford to bring anyone else up from L.A. We managed to cast one of them with the husband of the Production Coordinator. He also happens to be a genetic engineer. The other one we didn’t have until about a week before. He was from L.A., but was willing to pay for his own travel and shelter while in the bay area.
3) Bitchan is a major character. We didn’t have her cast until after we started shooting. I had my eye on Paulina, but I was told she wasn’t interested. Chris, the actor who played Will told me I should give her another chance. I called her, she said yes.
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While all the aforementioned crises were real, they were all resolved. However, while they remained unresolved, the tension was real. If they hadn’t been resolved, the movie would quite likely fail as each of them was a critical piece. it’s not easy to keep going with a level head with those kinds of uncertainties unresolved. It takes a certain kind of person. My wife isn’t one of them. I am. But, at the same time, I couldn’t do her job. I’d come home weeping every night. She doesn’t do that. So, we’ve both got our skilled areas.
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One of the cast’s parents who was at the screening visited www.thehackermovie.com and was looking for a place to donate and didn’t find one. The actor contacted me and let me know. So now there’s a Donate button. I don’t know if or how much money will come in. But, it’s there.
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I tried transcoding the latest edit and uploading it to Vimeo where it will be hosted, but the export failed. It’s got to be up by the 07/14 because that’s the date where it’s going to be free to watch. I guess this is another one of those ambiguous aspects of production. The file might have been too big, or it might have just been another one of Final Cut X’s bugs. I know how to fix the bug and how to make the video smaller, so I’m not that worried. It’s just annoying.
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Nic Baisley, the guy who hooked me up with Raleigh Studios and was the projectionist for the screening spoke with me before the screening. Prior to becoming a studio projectionist, and a whole lot more, he was pretty much the only critic in the ultra-low budget independent film world. He has also been a screener for festivals.
I told Nic my perspective on festivals and how I, and most other indie filmmakers I talk to, think that most festivals don’t actually watch our movies before they reject them, that, in order to get in, you really have to know someone. I also told him that every festival programer with whom I spoke said the opposite, that every single movie gets watched multiple times.
Nic told me that both are true, depending on the festival. Some smaller festivals screen everything. Other larger festivals, such as Sundance, don’t and can’t. He told me someone had done the math and based on the number of screeners Sundance says they have and the number of submissions they get, there simply isn’t enough time between when they open submissions and when they announce who got in, for the screeners to watch even 30 minutes of every movie, let alone the whole movies.
That’s just hearsay. But, based on my experiences, and coming from Nic, I don’t know what to make of it. Maybe it’s just another opinion.
For me, its really about people on the outside of the industry trying to break in somehow and not being able to. How the festivals run themselves, how the studios run, how the distribution companies run should only matter to us if and when we’re interacting with them. The world has changed to the point where the distributors are no longer required to get movies anywhere in the world.
Another thing I talked with Nic about is why people even want their movies in movie theaters, since these other distribution models exist. He agrees with me, that it’s ego, conditioning, and advertising.
EGO: For most people, it feels pretty good to watch something you made be presented in a venue similar to the one that inspired you to create in the first place. It’s a powerful emotional experience, as though we’re now a part of something bigger than ourselves. In fact, after the screening, Earl came up and said to me, “You’re now among as few as 100k people who have had their movies play in a movie theater in Los Angeles.”
I appreciate the encouragement from my friends, but the screening for me had a purpose. It wasn’t about my ego. In fact, the theater really only let me see some of the errors I’d made in the editing. Mostly with sound, but also with some dead pixels. Those have been repaired and won’t be in the 07/14 version.
CONDITIONING: Some people need to see their movie in a movie theater. Again, someone for the aforementioned ego reason, but also, seeing it in the theater gives it a sense of completion, of having arrived. While I didn’t anticipate this feeling affecting me, it did. I felt, after showing it to the cast/crew/family/industry that I had reached a milestone. But, that feeling quickly came with consequences.
I did feel like I’d reached a milestone, but it was milestone 2/3, which means that I’ve still got 1/3 left to go. Whenever I reach one of these milestones, I want to rest. But, the schedule I’ve set for myself doesn’t really allow for resting. The only time I ever have off is when Final Cut is rendering. Times like right now.
But, as you may have guessed, that time can easily get filled with the other tasks that need to be done. It might be contacting press, or people who will work in the place of press. It might be scheduling various other screenings or submitting to more festivals. It might be planning and implementing all the necessary aspects of distribution… What I’m getting at is that there always seems to be something else to do.
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I don’t know when I’ll get rest again, if ever. If it isn’t ALGORITHM, it’s life. If it isn’t life, it’s something that’s already started to happen: people asking me what’s next. I still don’t have an answer for that.
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ADVERTISING: That’s really why I rented the theater at Raleigh Studios. I wanted to advertise the fact that the cast/crew put trust in me and that I didn’t let them down. I wanted to show the actual hackers I invited that I made a movie that accurately portrays what they do. I wanted to get the attention of various industry people so they’ll see what I can do and have faith in my when it’s time for the next project.
I also wanted to check the quality of the edit, to make sure it was ready to go out to the public. It wasn’t. I had to make a few minor tweaks, but those have been made.
I also wanted to see if I had set the colors right for a theater-quality projector. I’d been running into a problem with screening it on various people’s TVs. Most people have their TVs brightness turned up way too high. But, my editing screens have been calibrated. So, the edit looks amazing in a theater. In other words, if it looks bad on your TV, your TV is wrong. Feel free to use ALGORITHM as a calibration tool.
The great thing about the screening was that everyone involved was proud to have been a part of the project. The hackers even liked it. And, they’re a much tougher crowd to please than the people making independent movies.