One of the many mistakes I made in drafting contracts was a deletion rather than an omission. Angel told me, “We will never have the money to do ADR [additional dialog recording], so take that out of the actors’ contracts.”
I understood that ADR was done when the voices recorded lacked necessary clarity, but I didn’t have a solid appreciation of what caused the problem. Well, it turned out to be any number of things, including a hum of a refrigerator in the background, mistakes by the sound man, an inoperable boom, or a problematic microphone. But I learned all of that in retrospect, after the film was shot. Not knowing it in advance, I listened to Angel and took it out of the contract that actors would have to do ADR.
As it turned out, we had very substantial problems with sound. There was an entire sequence shot in a car that took the better part of a day to film. The camera work wasn’t very good, but it was useable. The audio was so awful it was unusable. I really wanted to use the scene because the dialog was important, but not integral, to the plot and the banter between the characters helped develop their relationship. To boot, the imagery out the windows revealed Dallas and had good production value.
There were other sound issues as well, including a humming refrigerator that couldn’t be turned off in a bar where we shot an essential scene, a dysfunctional microphone in a murder scene, voices drowned by passing vehicles, and absence of key human noises in a host of scenes such as the victim praying, a dying man choking, a woman pleading, and a voice over the telephone. These turned out to be so crucial that they required ADR.
I tried to do as much of the ADR as I could myself. I made the choking noises for the dying, the whispers of prayer, and recorded the telephone voice. My masterful sound engineer, Johnny Marshall, was able to manipulate these recordings to make them fit the circumstance. For example, he lowered the tone of my voice so that it sounds like a male speaking on the phone.
The way it works is that the relevant scene is played on a screen and the speaker stands in front of a microphone with a headset on. You hear three clicks and then the film rolls. You watch the lips of the person onscreen to synch your speech with their movement. For some people, this is as easy as bouncing a ball; for others, it takes many repetitions.
I toyed with the idea of getting some friends to come in and ADR some of the isolated voices that we needed. But then it occurred to me that the extras who played the roles might enjoy the ADR process and learn from it as well. I decided to forthrightly ask them if they’d like to do it for free, with the understanding that there was no obligation or pressure. They all jumped at the chance. After all, having not only your visage, but your voice, in a movie is great fun.
A rather humorous thing happened in regard to the extras. A very tall, hefty man played the medical examiner. The trouble was that there were two extras’ names by the role in the log. So I called the first guy and asked him if he played the medical examiner and he replied yes.
When we opened the studio door to let him in, it was not the big man who played the medical examiner at all; it was a small, slim fellow with a decidedly “wrong” voice for the role. Not wanting to offend him since he’d shown up, I let him do the ADR. But I resolved to call in the person who’d really played the role. The second name was the right one and he came gladly to do the ADR as well.
In cases where a known voice was needed, we had to bring in the relevant actors. But I was willing to do this for only a short amount of time, not the lengthy sessions that would be required to re-do the entire in-auto scene.
A dead body is not just a still body, it has a certain color. Not colorlessness, color. If you have seen one, depending on the length of time since death, it has a progression of losing (in the case of a Caucasian) pink and taking on grey. And there is almost an artificiality about it, as if the body never really lived. You can almost imagine that someone took away the carcass that used to be living and replaced it with a less-than-adequate substitute that is somehow not quite right. Without the life of the person that once inhabited it, the body loses more than the life it held; it loses its realism.
So often movies do not capture the appearance of death, particularly in the case of murders. The film may portray a body that is bloody, but that blood appears applied rather than shed; the body may be still, but not obviously absent spirit; it may be laid out, but lacks the seeming obscenity that accompanies one who is splayed ignominiously after having been felled.
I wanted the death of the young girl in the movie to be portrayed in a way that would capture the horror, sadness, and unfairness of murder. So many things had to come together just right to make that happen. The actress had to be willing to act, purely act. In other words, she had to abandon any attempt to “look good” and allow herself to be what she was to be….murdered. Director Roger Lindley had to arrange for her to be laid out on the bed in a convincing manner. The male on-looking actors had to be totally professional, because one simple jocular remark could have marred the seriousness with which the scene was laid out and played, and thus how it would appear on screen. And the camera work had to be exceptional, with the angle capturing the scene without being prurient or grotesque.
When I first viewed the takes of the death scene, I was silent and sad. It was that good. I stared for a long time, considering how much time should be on the body, and then on the action around the body. The balance needed to be struck with enough time on her to show that the scene was ever so serious, yet also sufficiently on the investigators to keep the action moving and the dialog relevant. It took a lot of thought and time, but in the end, it felt right.
But it had to wait until coloring to make the scene whole. By that I mean that the “dead” body was still pink, still alive.
When Colorist Justin Warren and I got to the death scene, we spent a lot of time analyzing it. I was the one who knew what hue of grey we were after for the body, so we worked until we got that. But we also needed to subdue the other colors in the room as well as the lighting. It had to inter-mesh.
In the end, we achieved a color correction for the scene that I think goes very well with the somberness of murder, with the loss of a young life. The effect on the viewer is subtle, but that is the way it should be. No one should know that the mood is being set; it should just happen.
But all of that effort at making sure that death is properly conveyed almost went for naught. It was during the final sound design review, after the coloring had been completed, when Johnny Marshall, our Sound Designer, said, “Hey, are you going to fix the heart throb?”
“What heart throb?” I asked. I felt that odd mix of adrenaline you get when you are at fault, coupled with a high level of anxiety over whether a serious mess can be righted. I guess the best description is that I was overcome with dread. Here we were, finished with editing, special effects, coloring, and in the final run-through of sound and there was a big problem.
“You know, Maria De La Cruz. When she is lying there dead, you can see the blood pulsing in her neck.”
Shit. My editor hadn’t seen it. My colorist hadn’t seen it. But most importantly, I hadn’t seen it. I am well aware of where the buck stops.
I went back to Justin even though we’d finished coloring. “Hey, let’s fix the heart throb.” And he did.
But the event really unnerved me. If I had missed that, what other obvious things had I missed? It is okay if I saw something and chose not to fix it, or couldn’t fix it. But the throb was in a scene for which I had pulled out all of the stops on the amount of time and level of attention I’d been willing to devote to getting it right.
But, thanks to all those who put so much into making that scene, I think it came off very well. And, thanks to Johnny, it wasn’t blown by having one stupid mistake, a heart throb.
To his credit, Angel said soon after production ended that we didn’t have either enough B roll or the right shots. He said it would be best if we could hire Sparky Sorenson and his drone for one more day. Specifically, we knew we needed: more daytime shots of the exterior of the police building and of the Mesquite Arts Center (aka our “college”); the boathouse on the lake; and nighttime overhead shots of traffic.
We spent more time than anticipated getting the college, so we were in a bit of a hurry when we got to the police department. I already had permission to shoot the exterior of the building, although I hadn’t specified any shots being taken from a drone. Since I didn’t think we would be very close to the building, I decided not to bother anyone inside with a notice that we’d be doing drone shots that day.
In the parking lot, we discussed with Sparky that we’d like to have film going from one end of the curved building to the other, filming in an arc, at about the level of the top of the building looking down. We didn’t want to get any directly overhead shots or to get close at all. So, Sparky programmed the drone to go from point A, to point B, to point C, then back again to achieve the rounded shot of the Department.
It was the first shot of the police building from the drone that day. And the last.
Sparky programmed A, B, C, A instead of A, B, C, B, A. That meant that the drone would cut across the building rather than following the same arc on the return. And, because the drone was not too high up, it clipped the edge of the roof, which was flat in that section, and crashed onto it.
Part of the police department roof was flat, where the drone crashed. But part of the building was actually higher than the flat portion and had office windows overlooking that part of the roof. As you can imagine, there was a flurry of response as police officials inside witnessed a drone crashing onto their roof.
Those who know what true dread feels like will understand when I say that my adrenaline kicked in and my heart raced as I realized what happened. It was a mixture of concern about the poor drone, a bit of “oh no, we won’t get the shots now”, but mostly a fear of what the police would say and do. Would there be a fine? Would they give us the drone back? What on earth will I say to them?
I told Sparky we had to go in right away and try to claim the drone. Angel said he didn’t want to be any part of it all and walked away. So into the building I went and talked to the Sergeant on duty. “Yes,” he said, “we already know about the drone. Stay right here. Someone will be down shortly.”
I thought to myself how quickly he’d been notified, as it had been only a matter of a couple of minutes since the disaster. And the scowl that accompanied that “stay right here” made me very apprehensive.
Sparky and I were put into a small room to wait, where I began to rehearse what I would say to try to get the drone back. We stewed for about 20 minutes before a plain-clothes officer came. He said, “Well, you certainly caused some excitement.” I explained how the mishap occurred and he told us that they were not yet sure how to retrieve the drone because the roof was sealed and they hadn’t yet found anyone who had the ability to access it. He told us to wait while they tried to locate someone.
At last we were taken to go onto the roof. We had to climb a very narrow set of stairs that were unlit and whose risers were so high that I struggled in absence of a handrail. At the top of the stairs was a very heavy hatch that had to be pushed upward.
While the policeman waited, Sparky and I went across the roof to retrieve the crippled drone. It was sad to see Sparky examine it. But I was very, very grateful that they allowed us to have it back.
It took some time before Sparky could get replacement parts and we could go back out. Although I wished we could get more shots of the police department, I decided not to try. Instead, we concentrated on getting some shots of the boathouse at White Rock Lake and traffic at night.
Truthfully, I didn’t appreciate the importance of relevant B roll (film that is not the actual scenes of the movie, but is used to transition between or add to scenes) until I got well into the process of editing. To help you understand what B roll would have been helpful, let me give you some examples.
In some cases, a daytime scene is followed by a nighttime scene. Going between the two would be confusing unless there were some visual clue to help the audience make the leap. For example, the transition might be traffic at dusk filmed at one place followed by traffic at night filmed at the same spot. It would be best if the two shots were at the same spot because evening traffic in one place followed by night traffic at another place might set up the audience to focus on locations switching rather than the lighting change.
Although almost all of the B roll for RIK is traffic, it was mostly either day or night, not evening or transitional taken from one spot. So it had to be used for transitions of scenes that were day-day, or night-night. We had only two really good day-night transitions, neither of them shot by the “red” camera as straight B roll. One was a drone shot that was done of the skyline. Our drone pilot, Sparky Sorenson, shot the scene both in the evening and at night, which makes for a beautiful passage in time. Another transition was shot by Angel from the balcony of my apartment. He did a time lapse with my SLR camera on a tripod from afternoon to after dusk. It is the only other spot-on day-to-night transition.
Had I appreciated the importance of B roll more, I would have assured that a number of shots of scenes without actors were filmed. I already mentioned in Part One that it would have been wonderful to have footage of the two professional kilns at the artist’s studio. Similarly, it would have been helpful to have film of the length of the bar in the bar scene (where we had extras that are not in the movie as a result of not shooting it), several close ups of the marionettes in the villain’s apartment, footage of the outsides of buildings that were used for interior filming, and so on.
One case in which there was an excellent example of B roll that we did have was the outside of the “college”. It shows the exterior of the building and several of the crew members are milling about as extras. You can see this film used as the lead in to the scene where there is a lecture at the college. We needed more footage of the building, however. So one day well after production had ended, Angel and I got Sparky the drone operator to do a few shot of the same building from above. I chose not to use much of this, however, because the season had already begun to change the trees’ leaves’ color. This limited how far we could photograph from the building and how widely, so as not to show the trees being different from the way they were when production was shot. This is why it is so important to get B roll at the same time as you film production.
Another way I got B roll is by cribbing some bits from scenes I decided not to use in the movie. For example, one unused scene was filmed at the villain’s house. I used a very eerie view of the house at night as the lead in for a short scene with the villain, and another of a marionette from the same unused scene when the villain is lying on his bed.
My advice to anyone contemplating making a film is that they go through the script in advance and mark where it is likely to require B roll and to specify what type of shots and lighting would be ideal. This is certainly what I’d do if I could do it all over again.
One of my early discussions with Kays was about source music. Although it was clear to me that certain types of music fit some scenes, there was also a lot of leeway in what to choose. Kays helped narrow the selection criteria. For example, we agreed that there be country music playing in the gun shop scene. When I told him I preferred a female singer there, he said, “Look for a female Hank Williams,” so I did.
I scoured the Internet looking for Texan female country singers with a perfect, polished voice and style. I finally found her—Kayla Ray. I loved her from the start. I sent a sample to Kays and he was equally impressed. But how to find her? I sent an email to her website contact form, to which there was no response.
As I waited to hear from Kayla, I tried to figure out how could I narrow the huge number of musicians down to those who’d be interested in trading inclusion in the movie for use of their music. In a huge stroke of good fortune, the answer was provided by our drone pilot.
Sparky Sorenson, drone pilot extraordinaire (about whom more later), used to be a country music artist. As a result, he was familiar with a wide range of Texas bands and solo artists. He offered to send out an email to his contacts asking for interested people to send me some of their audio files. The response was amazing. I had dozens and dozens of wonderful musicians to choose from, all of whom were interested in the trade I’d offered.
But Kayla Ray was not among them. I asked Sparky to try to locate her, so he did. And she said, “Yes.” I was overjoyed! I decided to push my luck and ask if I could use two of her songs, not knowing where the other would fit, but knowing I would find a place because I liked her so much. She agreed.
Then I began my review of the musicians who’d emailed me per Sparky’s request. I tried to match songs and instrumentals to individual scenes in my mind, and then would email Kays my suggestions. In some cases it was easy. The opening notes of Shaun Outen’s Señoritas and Tequila were an instant match to the bar scene with one of the villains. In other cases, I agonized and took weeks to decide which song would fit where. And, ultimately, there were some source-music needs for which I had no musicians yet.
One example was the scene in the apartment of the detective who was from Hawai’i. From the 13 years I’d lived on Kaua’i, I knew there were some fabulous ukulele players and I really wanted to showcase ukulele music, which can be so much more complex than the simple chords most people associate with it. So I returned to the Internet to look for just the right instrumental.
The first one I found was ideal, but the musician had the lackadaisical attitude of “I’ll do it tomorrow” that used to drive me crazy when I lived in Hawai’i. It would take him days to answer an email. I decided to keep looking.
The second musician I found was a young man who was willing for me to use his music, but told me that I had to go through his dad, who would handle everything. That turned out to be great because his father was business-minded and we soon had agreement to use two of Andrew Molina’s instrumentals.
One of the most unusual pieces we used as source music was by Fredrick Chopin. Kays came up with the idea for it in the art gallery scene. He arranged it and it suits the scene very well.
The final example of source music that required more time than I’d expected was the song for the taco shop. Kays suggested we get an upbeat, Mariachi sort of song. When I kept running into obstacles finding someone local and who could speak English, I finally asked one of our Spanish-speaking cast members for help. He sent me some songs from a couple of his friends and one was perfect.
Selecting the source music took many, many hours of work that was mostly fun. The parts that were not so enjoyable was preparing a template for the License Agreement, sending it to my attorney for comment, getting it signed by everyone, and obtaining information about royalties. Through it all, I was lucky to have an interested and helpful partner, Kays.
I’ve already told you a bit about my preoccupation with the music for RIK. I had listened to a huge amount of music and had made some selections of pieces I’d like in the movie. And I wanted to write the lyrics for the theme song, for which I would need a composer.
In August, I emailed a few composers whose music I’d found on the Internet and liked, to ask what their prices would be to use their work. The composer I’d tentatively chosen as my favorite wanted $800 per minute of music, which was out the realm of my budget, so I began to look at less expensive licensed music. But I kept running into the problem of congruity. I didn’t want the music to be choppy; there needed to be a thread of similarity throughout, with dramatic differences restricted to source music—the music that would be coming from radios or over speakers in bars and restaurants. I decided to take a closer look at composers who’d sent in emails asking to do RIK’s score.
I focused on two composers whose music I liked and asked if they’d read the script and send me a sample of what they envisioned. Also, I asked a very talented musician friend of mine to help me evaluate the music they sent in. Even though either of them would have been acceptable, I was not truly happy and put off the decision repeatedly. Then a new option presented itself.
Zubi had a friend who is a composer in LA, Kays Al-Atrakchi. He sent me some samples that I liked. Unbeknownst to me, Zubi also shared them with Roger and Angel, who took the initiative to call Kays before I was ready for such a step. I called Zubi and told him that, as music supervisor, I was still in the process of evaluating Kays’ work and that no one else was to become engaged in the decision.
I then got a call from Angel, who was shocked that I had taken on the role of music supervisor. Admittedly, I’d never conveyed my intent to him. He and Zubi had apparently thought that they would select a composer, who would then be responsible for all music—composed as well as source. I told him two things: I alone would select the composer and I would select all source music. This was not only something I wanted to do, but also we couldn’t afford to pay someone else to find free source music, as it would be very time-consuming.
When I finally called Kays, I was delighted with his take on the script and his proposed direction for music. I liked his professionalism, his experience, and his attitude. Although his price was higher than I’d intended to spend—well above the other front-runner—I chose him. Never once was I sorry and repeatedly I was glad.
The choice of an editor ideally should be made prior to filming so that they can be involved from the start of production. In our case, I didn’t choose anyone until after production was completed. The reason boiled down to two issues: money and the degree of control I’d have over the process.
Angel held out hope that somehow we would have enough money left over after production to afford an editor experienced in feature films produced by studios. The nearest of those that we knew about was in Austin and they cost more than five times the money we had allocated for the editor. Also, Angel wanted to turn over the film to someone with fresh eyes, whereas I wanted to edit the film to the vision of it that I had in my head.
We were in the final week of production when I had a sort of meltdown—a conniption fit with tears and gnashing of teeth. By phone one night, I told Angel I could no longer bear the indecision and I planned to move forward with choosing an editor myself and that I had decided upon Charles Willis. Charles was keen to fulfill my vision of the film, was local so that he could meet with me, and was willing to meet my price. If Charles could handle the editing software professionally, that was all I needed to know.
Angel agreed that he and Zubi would interview Charles in a conference call to make sure that he was up to the job technically. That was followed by an in-person interview which resulted in an “okay, but with reservations” verdict by Angel.
As it turned out, Charles had many good attributes, one of which was patience. I had a very slow, unsure start to the editing process. A key problem was my hesitation in cutting people’s roles and air time, and in deciding to omit scenes. Charles was always ready to try a different approach and never complained when I changed my mind, which was fairly frequently at the beginning.
Although we started the editing in late October, I didn’t feel that we hit our stride until December. By then, we had a routine down in which I would provide notes and Charles would upload edited scenes with which we’d work.
I want to share with you some of my considerations in editing. First let me tell you why I axed a couple of scenes even though there was very high production value to the location.
It is hard to exaggerate how hard I worked to obtain permission to film in the Mesquite Police Department gym, which is a fabulous place. It is ultra-modern and has a sort of blue aura to the lighting. The first scene we would film there was designed to be when the lead detective and the police psychologist have their first interaction—let’s call it encounter 1. Encounter 2 was to be when they were more advanced in their relationship, getting more personal.
Encounter 1 had been rewritten and, although I agreed to it, I was dubious. Originally, it was to be a scene in which the detective admired the psychologist as she worked on karate, but it had become one in which he was irritable toward her, even disdainful. I was bothered by this because it seemed out-of-character for him to be rude and I couldn’t see the point of having antipathy injected when it was to be reversed only a few scenes later. So, to be honest, I was unhappy with the content, but was ready to let it happen and see if it worked.
During the rehearsal, the lead actor was exercising and doing pull-ups. I asked to have him stopped to save his energy, but was told, “Don't’ worry, he won’t get tired.” I knew better, but didn’t want to make an issue of disagreeing in front of personnel.
Then began a series of takes in which the actor bench pressed. With each take, his effort was more and more strained. Later, when I watched the best takes, it looked ridiculous, like he was trying to work on weights that were way beyond his physical capacity. So I axed the scene on two counts: its incongruity with the character of the person and of the film, and the silly looking iron pumping.
Encounter 2 was when the psychologist and detective are working out together, talking face to face. I had left the set during its filming to go do managerial work when it was shot, so didn’t know until later that it had a very serious flaw: the lead actor had injured his wrist in the exercise filming encounter 1. Now it was wrapped in white tape around the wrist and hand. It was glaring, distracting, and begged the question of what was wrong with him.
The bandage was not only white, it was bulky. To remove it with special effects would be too much of a challenge and would cost more than our entire effects budget.
I considered having the entire scene be a conversation with his voice in the background, but only showing her. But that raised a different problem. She was working on a machine in which her arms were bent beside her head, pressing forward against weights. But there was no weight on the machine. So it looked totally effortless (and was), like she was playing, not exercising. Again, it looked silly.
There are important lessons I should have already known. Don’t allow actors to exercise on-set and use minimal physical effort prior to actual filming so as to guarantee fresh energy. Don’t allow bandages or other distracting elements to costumes. Also, if there is supposed to be physical resistance, make sure it looks real. And the best was to do that is to have it be real.
In looking back, one of the most difficult and lonely times I had was after production had been completed and post-production began, specifically when the editing process started. All of the support I’d had during the previous months was instantly gone. I knew I could turn to others for help, but that doing so would be at the expense of the independence I required in order to make the film fit the vision I had. To ask others to weigh in would have made the decision-making a shared effort, something that would require compromises I was not willing to make. So, I began the journey alone, with the help of Charles Willis, the editor I had chosen. And, true to his promise, Charles was committed to going where I wanted to go with the film.
Our first effort at a cut was very, very long. I had trouble omitting any scene from the film and wanted to use pieces of way too many of the takes. As a result, when Angel saw the first cut, he lambasted the “assembly”, saying that I was taking on a role for which I was neither trained nor experienced. He argued that for the sake of the film I should not undertake “supervised editing” and should spend the money (that I didn’t have) to get a new editor to whom I should turn over the film.
In a way, this criticism set me free. The next cut, I didn’t share with him or anyone else. But I was still having trouble with moving forward on a sure path. I realized that the problem was that I didn’t want to cut actors’ air time. I didn’t want to take out parts that were good, but which did not fit the overall emerging form of the movie. And I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I was stuck. It was like having writer’s block in the middle of drafting a novel.
At this point, I had a very crucial unplanned conversation with my composer, Kays. I told him about the hesitations I felt about cutting, the fear of hurting people. He graciously spent about an hour talking with me to get across a single notion: I needed to do what was for the good of the film, not what was good for any single actor or set of actors. Actors, he said, ultimately wanted to be in a great film, regardless of how much they appeared in it. Yes, they would like to be maximally seen, but it was more important to them that the film be a success. If the film weren’t good, and not a success, the amount they appeared on-screen wouldn’t matter much. And then he said something else very important. He told me that I could do it and that it was obvious that I could. I just needed to knuckle down and make decisions wisely.
That pep talk was seminal. I went back to the drawing board and re-outlined how I wanted the film to proceed, how each character was supposed to play, and where I wanted fast versus slower pace. This allowed me to cut any scene, take, or sequence where someone was out-of-character. It made me ruthless in cutting parts that were not in focus, poorly conceived, or inconsistent with my vision of the film.
I continued to rely on Kays for the remainder of the editing process. He was always positive and I could count on him to share his vast experience in a constructive way.
I am a professional photographer who takes color extremely seriously. This is perhaps why one requirement for RIK was crystal clear for me from the outset: I didn’t want a dark or unnaturally hued film. The film would not be de-saturated, heavily contrasted, or look as if shot through a colored lens. I conveyed this to everyone relevant. Anyone who did not fulfill these objectives would at some point be overruled.
I had selected Justin Paul Warren as my colorist for several reasons. His reputation and credentials were superb, I liked him the moment I met him, his wife (our DIT) was a fabulous person, Angel recommended him highly, and he lived in Ft. Worth. This meant that I could go and personally work with him on the film. I can honestly say that my coloring experience with Justin was nothing short of exceptional. He is not only a true professional, he is a creative and knowledgeable person to work with.
One of the first questions Justin asked me was whether I understood that there was a disconnect between my preferences for color and those that had been developed during filming. I explained that I was paying for the entire movie and that I intended to supervise the coloring the way I wanted it. Justin understood my position as was glad that I had clear ideas about the way I wanted the film to look. So we dove right in.
I went to Justin’s studio every workday and some weekends for a couple of months for 6 or 7 hours a day. We would watch each scene and discuss what, if anything, needed changing. The usual problem was skin color, which was fairly easy to adjust. And there were a host of situations where the coloring needed changing due to imbalance. For example, an actor’s shirt would rivet the eye, but de-saturating it made it innocuous.
Then there were what I think of as “middle” problems, ones that took some time to fix, but which were not as challenging as the “bad” issues. Many of these resulted from odd lighting. For example, one of the first scenes in the movie is in a bedroom. The light from one lamp was warm and from the other, cool. And one was brighter than the other. The adjustments had to be made not only to the lamps, but the areas onto which they cast light. If I had the movie to over again, I would make sure that every lamp have the same type of warmth and that each be put on a rheostat.
But there were two sets of problems that were very time-consuming to fix. The first involved some scenes with back-lighting and which were badly underexposed. These required that Justin go through and “tint” the background frame-by-frame because actors were moving and continually exposing the brightness behind them. It became so complicated and such a time-sink that at one point I said that we should just forget it and let it be what it was. To his credit, Justin said, “You don’t want that kind of low quality in your film. We need to take the time to fix these problems.” Thanks goodness he had extra patience when mine wore thin.
The second problem was over-lighting. The worst case was a house in one of the final scenes. It was like it had a set of searchlights on it—so unnatural and unreal. It was difficult to fix because it entailed greying the light, which risked looking artificial. It still bothers me when I look at it, but it is a ton better than it would be if we’d left it alone.
In addition to the problem-fixing, there were the creative aspects of coloring. Justin made sure, for example, that a gunshot flash cast just the right amount of light on the face of the shooter; that the movie being watched on an iPad reflected just right on the face of the viewer; that a flashlight shone down a hall appeared at the correct moment and intensity.
One of Justin’s suggestions that I liked very much and which we incorporated was a tonal shift in tint when the lead actor comes to understand the magnitude of the problems he faces. The hue we used from this point forward is slightly yellowed and a bit de-saturated. I think it adds tremendously to the emotional shift of the viewer of the film, yet it is subtle enough not be obvious.