I suppose people (people who haven't long ago forgotten about this project) are wondering where I've been. If it's any comfort, I've not stopped thinking about you, nor ceased to agonize night-and-day over this film since its conception. I do want to thank my backers though, both for their initial faith in me, and for their patience during this entire ordeal. It means a lot, truly.
On to the burning question. Why in the hell do you people not have a DVD in your hands yet? The answer is multi-faceted, but basically boils down to the following: I'm cursed, or I'm incompetent, or perhaps I'm a bit of both.
Let's start at the beginning. I hear that's a good place.
It's May. I've just gotten married. President Obama has just announced Bin Laden is dead (which is one of the better wedding gifts a guy could ask for). Vampires Don't Sparkle has just met its funding goal. There's a fantastic team behind me (in particular are Skippy and Gunther, who are going above and beyond anything a director could hope for). We are set to start shooting in a week. Things are going well.
There are some complications. My wife and I are moving to NYC in a few short months. That means an unforgiving cutoff date for shooting, and production will have to be juggled alongside moving plans. All this makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I'm confident in my ability to multi-task and improvise.
After shooting has been underway several weeks, it becomes apparent I've written too much action into the script (action takes far longer to shoot, more camera setups, more choreography, etc..). There's no way we'll be able to fit it all into our remaining time in CT. I come up with a new plan. I'll rewrite the script on non-shooting days, so that half the film is told in flashback. This will allow me shoot half the footage for the movie with just two actors and one location, something I know I can accomplish in a single day. I quickly type up the changes, and am actually quite happy with them. It gives the film (which I found to be taking itself too seriously) a bit of a comedic edge. I send out the new draft, completely oblivious to the fact our first tragedy is about to strike.
It's the night before we're set to shoot a lead's final scene when they email me insisting we speak on the phone. I call them and discover they're very upset about the script changes and my leadership. This surprises me, as the script changes do not affect their character in any way, and they have never voiced their concerns about me personally until now. They say they don't want to speak on the phone anymore. They want to continue the conversation via email, contrary to them insisting via email we speak on the phone. This strikes me as erratic. Erratic people are dangerous to have on projects, so I start to get worried. I ask them if they'll be at the shoot tomorrow. I only need this last day. They say they don't know. I tell them this makes me nervous, as there are people driving very far to be there, and I would like a definitive answer. They say they'll call me back. Hours later, eating dinner, I receive a text. They're quitting the project.
And this is where my unprofessional approach to filmmaking comes back to bite me. You see, I haven't had anyone sign release forms yet. Professionals will tell you how foolish this is. They're correct. Maybe you think everyone is there for art. Maybe you think everyone is there for fun. It doesn't matter. The legal angle needs to be covered. I hadn't done this, and now I'm paying for it. The lead won't allow me to use the footage already shot, and they and I both know that, because of my negligence, there's nothing I can do about it.
At this point, the move to NYC is truly looming. There's simply not enough time to reshoot everything from the original script. After an obligatory night of hard drinking and unadulterated panic, I decide on my next course of action. I will write a new script, in one week, and in such a way that each actor will only be required for one day of shooting, none of them on the same day. I'll play the lead (a loathsome idea to me, as I far prefer to be behind the camera, but these are desperate times), so we'll only have to coordinate my schedule with the actor for any given day. Logistically speaking, it feels brilliant. Creatively speaking, unfortunately, my skills are not up to the task.
Now, the script is finished very fast, but I am deeply unhappy with it. What's to be done though? Time is limited. We shoot, again, very fast, but not fast enough. The clock runs out. It's time to make the move to NYC, and half of my scenes, along with the lead villain's, remain unshot.
There I was, finally living in the city I'd dreamed of living in since I was a boy. Only that dream didn't include me being there with half a movie in the can, and a script that I truly, truly loathed.
The cold weather sets in. Trees are barren. Exterior shots (which are the only kind the script calls for, this being a microbudget film and all) will have to wait until next summer. Even that is assuming we can afford the additional train trips to CT. Cassandra is doing well for herself, but I struggle to get steady freelance gigs.
Regardless, this gives me a season to rework the script into something I can view with less disdain. This task is hindered by the fact that it must somehow incorporate everything that has already been shot, not featuring any two actors on the screen at one time. Several drafts later, I have something no less horrific and so far removed from the source material it doesn't even feature vampires.
We're broke. There's more money going out than coming in, and the truth is that it's on my head. A sort of cycle sets in. If I'm working on the script, I feel guilty for not hunting down the next job. If I'm hunting down the next job, I feel guilty for not working on the movie. I'm spending far too much time wallowing in depression. Before I know it, the summer is nearly done.
I'm a year past the date I'd set for the film's completion. I can't make any progress during the cold season, and I have only my own neurosis to blame for being stuck in this position. Briefly, I consider giving up the film aspirations entirely, settling down in a typical nine to five, and saving up until I can at least pay back my supporters. The thought doesn't last though. You see, I'm cursed with the artist's affliction. I'll never be satisfied without this. And so, I'll continue on until I succeed, or until I die. With that in mind, I form a new plan. I'm going to stop beating myself up about the shortcomings of the new script. I'm going to save up some money and shoot the remaining scenes, as they are, next summer, get something I can show to my backers. It won't be the love letter to the vampire genre that I promised, but it will be something. I figure the DVD can go out with an apology for subverted expectations and a promise that my next film will feature vampires, and be sent to the Kickstarter backers free of charge. It seems like a good plan. I just need to start thinking less and acting more.
Things are going swimmingly. I pick up some decent gigs, and have money to afford train tickets and props. I manage to find a willing actor with IMDB credits to his name (production value!). A good friend has a great location available free of charge. We jump on the train, head to CT, and shoot the actor's scenes in a single day. I still have an enormous amount of pickup shots for my own character, but with a couple months left in the summer, that will be no problem. If it comes down to it, we can even shoot some of the exteriors in Prospect Park. It's happening. This thing is finally going to be finished.
And then the drive fails. The drive with half the film's footage on it.
There's an icy sensation as I check my backup drive and, inexplicably, find it empty. I don't understand. I always back up my files. With raw terror rising in my throat, I search through every drive I own, thinking I must have misplaced the folders. But no. The files are just not here. I've ruined things badly this time, and another winter is coming.
It's now two years past the date I expected to have a finished film by. The season gives me time to reflect. I realize now that, by all appearances, I am a grossly incompetent filmmaker. The honorable choice to make is seppuku. However, I'd decided last winter that filmmaking was something I'll never give up on. I intend to stick with that conviction. There is no choice but to continue. Statistically speaking, I'm bound to succeed over time.
There's a silver lining as well. I now have the perfect excuse to start over, writing a new script (with vampires) and having the luxury of taking my time with it. I spend the winter with two primary goals. I'm going to find steadier work, and I'm going to write a script worth waiting two years for.
Not surprisingly, I fell somewhat short of my dreams, but overall did moderately well. I doubled my efforts to get my resume and reel out there. As a result, freelancing steadily picked up, and I eventually managed to secure a position as an in house editor, which means stability. Stability means less mental energy spent on gig-hunting, more spent on the film. The script was written, then rewritten. Now, it is going through it's second revision (thanks there to the invaluable feedback of my writing group), and, in my estimation, it's far better than what we were working with when this all started. Whether or not it was worth the wait is up to the audience, of course.
So, where does that leave us?
It's still the early days of summer, and I'm determined to polish the remaining two acts in the coming month and a half. This would leave me with three months of good weather to shoot (this new story has exterior locations in the city, which means we can shoot during the winter and not worry about the backgrounds not matching, but that's not a safety buffer I want to use).
Editing, color correcting, and doing VFX for a monster like this is going to take some time. Elm City Wuxia was ten minutes long and required a week's worth of all-nighters during post production. A feature length project will take considerably longer, but could realistically be accomplished by the time it gets warm again.
Giving a specific, or even estimated release date, after so many delays, seems comical at this point. Instead, I'll be posting regularly at this blog, so everyone can follow the project as it progresses. With any luck (and I think we're due for some) you'll have the DVD in your hands before long. Until then, thanks once more to everyone for their patience and support. I'm working hard to get you the movie I think you deserve.