Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Post-Mortem: "Final Hour" and the 48 Hour Film Festival

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Chuck Windham here with the final few paragraphs of tonight's blog post..."


That's a photo taken during dress rehearsal for Final Hour, the play I've been bombarding you about for the past couple of months... well, we put in our 6 weeks of prep, and had our three shows!

From the day we cast the play (back at the tail end of June), I was in full Enjoyment Mode. I loved working with the cast. I told them from the outset that my focus was going to be on the journey to the stage that we all took together, not (necessarily) the final product that ended up on stage... and those first five weeks were thoroughly enjoyable... we played theater improv games, experimented with the text, had great times of discussion, etc...

But it ended up being a pretty tense final week leading up to our performance dates. There were technical details that were difficult and time-consuming to sort out - which caused my plans for the tech rehearsal and dress rehearsal to need modification on the fly - something I'm not very good at (it turns out, lol)... by the time we got the kinks and details worked out, it was time for opening night - and we still really hadn't had a solid complete run-through yet! Opening night ended up being the dress rehearsal that we really needed to have...

But the show was very well-received, and ultimately, I stressed out over nothing. The cast pulled through and delivered, and the crowd loved it (for the most part). Apparently, no one really knew what to expect from the evening, and were pleasantly surprised at what they saw.

The Saturday show was even better. We were able to make further adjustments based on notes and observations taken from the opening night performance, and it really showed on Saturday. Randy Davison (the lead) gave an outstanding performance, and the supporting cast (Megan Gunsorek, Bailey Shaine and Joe Hurley) were right there with him.

The Sunday show (our final performance) is where I really dropped the ball, as the director. We were riding high from the success of the Saturday performance, and so I decided against keeping the focus ratcheted up, and decided to ease into Sunday, assuming all would go well. I didn't take proper care to keep my cast in the zone before the show, and the performances suffered because of it. Again, my fault, not theirs. Lesson learned.

Overall, I'm really glad we did it. I loved the script and the cast, and the journey to the stage was just what I'd hoped it would be. Great fun and a learning experience. But honestly, I really wish we had been able to take an extra two weeks for additional preparation and polish. There were things about each of the characters that we didn't really have the proper time to explore, which I feel would have elevated the performances even further.

If we ever get a chance to stage it again, I'll know what to focus on!

Here are some more photos...

It was a fun, tense ride and I'm glad we took it. Many thanks to the Great Andrew Ian for making it all possible. Also many thanks to Lamplighter's Community Theater for letting us have access to the venue. We had between 50 and 60 people per night (the place seats 98, I believe). My first foray into professional theater was, I believe, I solid success.


We also did our film for the 48 Hour Film Festival this past weekend!

So Ryan Etzel and I formed a film team called Operation Kino for this year's 48. Ryan had created a film for last year's event, and I contacted him after I saw it, and we connected, and after a series of meetings earlier in the year, decided we'd combine our efforts and make a team. So I brought on my Eldest Daughter as our Assistant Director/Make-up artist, and Middle Daughter as our Director of Photography, and Middle Daughter's Significant Other as our Sound Guy. We then assembled a strong team of actors, and met at my mother's house in Ramona to make a movie!

Ryan and I hammered out the script Friday night, Ryan made some revisions Saturday morning, and we all convened on the Ramona location late morning to begin.

All things considered, the day on set was fantastic. Our cast consisted of Kate Schott, Laine O'Connor, Megan Gunsorek, Andrew Kearns and Ruslan Khanaferov. They were all fantastic, and watching them work was a real treat. We got all of the footage we needed within the space of 8 hours. We then sent the cast home, packed the gear up and headed home to begin the post-production part of the weekend (read: editing).

Ryan busted his butt to get the film finished in time, but we were faced with a series of unforeseen challenges that limited what the final film could have been. It was a great script - but we had only 7 minutes tops to tell it... the film we wanted to tell really needed closer to ten. A lot of good, important content had to be left out in order to try and tell the story in seven. As a result, there were some issues with the final result which really couldn't have been avoided. HOWEVER! We learned what we needed to about our team and where we are strong, and where we need to focus, as far as improving things. So that, in and of itself, made the whole endeavor worth the effort.

We turned the film in (calling it Lost and Found), and it will screen with the rest of the films in Screening Group C on September 7th. But for our own benefit and education, we will be re-cutting the film, without reference to the running time limits, so that we can have a version of the film that works better. And THAT VERSION is the one I will post here for you to watch, whenever that is.

But in the interim, again, I loved the experience. Working with my daughters was amazing. I'll remember it forever.

Here are some photos!

Our Cast: Megan, Kate, Ruslan, Laine, Ryan's arm, and just off the photo to the right, Andrew!

Ryan filming Kate in the blazing heat - a shot we ultimately couldn't use...

Andrew playing with weapons, while Megan looks wistful...

Some of my grandfather's WW2-era items we used as props in the film.

Ryan Etzel: Fearless Director

Andrew Kearns: Fantastic, endlessly-amusing actor.

Andrew conquered the back yard as well!

Ruslan and Kate working on the ending scene, with our 2-camera set-up in play...

Katie and Jon, enjoying their time on set. (I'm photobombing in the mirror...)

Again, I loved the experience, and I look forward to the next film we get to make together. We're working on new ideas already...

Now that the play and the 48 are behind me, I can re-focus on BTI-related filming, and finishing up the Momentum script with Rob Dey. Plus, the Christmas play at Mt. Zion looms!

Maybe we'll do a Christmas film instead...

All that to say, these are great (though busy) days! Can't wait to see what comes next!

Take care, y'all.

Dave the Dave

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