Ten Years and Going Strong

I’m in Los Angeles, about to screen American Made at USC hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core at their Interfaith Leadership Initiative conference. About ten years ago at this time, American Made was only words on paper – I believe I was about to start casting and was trying to raise $39,000 so we could shoot on film and finish on film.

Now, ten years later, I’m back in my second hometown showing it to students who were not even in their teens when I shot the film. It’s amazing and humbling to see how long American Made has lived as a viable, enjoyable, relevant movie to watch and share all these years later.

We’re sticking around LA for a few days for meetings, including a couple of producer meetings on various projects. At the same time, I’ve sent out the short Oak Creek film to Sanjeev Brar who is hunkered down, bracing for Hurricane Sandy, and about to do us a huge favor in quickly sound editing and mixing it for us. I sent him via Dropbox an AAF of the Avid project and he is going to edit from that and send back a completed .wav file for me to sync back up to the project.

So I brought our mobile Avid system with me to LA. Hopefully Monday evening I’ll be able to sync those back up and send it out.

Then back to New Haven to sync up the color corrected video track of The Worst of the Worst and prepare for the sound mix. It’s almost almost done!



We locked the edit of The Worst of the Worst on Thursday and shipped a drive to our talented San Francisco-based colorist, Ayumi Ashley. She just sent stills of her work in progress, and it’s looking good so far. Apparently, we had a lot of red in our original footage, and with that toned down the skin tones look more normal. Once we get the drive back and get our final music in, it’ll be on to the sound mix with Sanjeev Brar, sound editor extraordinaire (and also brother-in-law extraordinaire).

Meanwhile, this week I’m going to take another crack at the eight-minute Oak Creek short piece we put together. The short has been slated to be shown at the Sikh Arts Film Festival in New York, but I want to tighten it and also have Sanjeev edit the sound .

And also still waiting for an update about the NBC Directing Fellowship – will post about it when I know more details. They’re sending our directing materials to two shows. We’ll hear back soon if we’re staffed on either.

Locking Picture

As promised, I would talk about how the screening of our Oak Creek short montage and overview of the last two months since the shooting would be received at the SALDEF Gala in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.

Our short clip was going to be shown at the Sikh civil rights organization’s annual dinner fundraiser, where families from Oak Creek would’ve been in the audience. Two days before the fundraiser, we finished the film and handed it over. The night before the gala, however, we were told by the organization that they weren’t comfortable showing the film, which included audio of the 911 call on August 5 from inside the gurdwara, in its entirety. They were going to show it after that part, and after the montage of family members talking about where they were on that day – including inside when the shooting happened.

We disagreed with their assessment and we didn’t feel right showing the film unless it was shown in its entirety – from grief and loss to rising up from tragedy in solidarity. Without showing the grief (and the voices of family members) it isn’t a complete story. We decided to not show the film at all rather than an abridged version of it.

So that was disappointing. I would post the clip here for you, my two or three readers, to assess for yourself – but we’re going to fine tune it some more and have a proper sound edit. We’re also going to try to platform it perhaps in a large way online. We’re working on that now, so stay tuned.

My attention this week shifts to finally finally locking picture on The Worst of the Worst. One year ago right about now we were prepping for our first shoot. This week, we’ve been talking with our San Francisco-based colorist, Ayumi Ashley, who saved me in the week I had to deliver Worker Drone to ITVS in April 2011.

We have a few minor tweaks and one major one coming up – specifically the ending. We’ve been toying with a few versions but we really need to nail it down now. That will hopefully be done by the end of tomorrow. Anyway, it’s all very exciting, having had our last major meeting about the edit. I’m really happy with the film and it should make everyone who worked on it – and Yale Law School – proud.

In other news (and a blatant burying of the lede): I’m a finalist for the NBC Directing Fellowship. It’s the NBC version of the ABC Fellowship I did a few years back. I’m technically a “finalist” and not a “fellow” because there are five of us and there are two shows they’re trying to put us on, so I’ll find out if I get one of them within the next couple of weeks. But either way – pretty cool, and fingers crossed for the future.

Editing a Memorial

This past week I’ve been mostly working on editing a short montage-style overview of the last two months of Oak Creek and the aftermath. Taking the footage we captured in the week after the gurdwara shooting, combined with interviews of the mayor and police chief, as well as the trip to Washington DC and the hate crimes hearing, we put together an 8-minute film – or glorified recap sort of. We added some news footage to give the piece a broader context.

The idea was to make it part memorial, part recap, and part story of a community rising up from grief. I’ll post the video here next week, but we’re really happy with the way it turned out. We wanted to make sure we included the voices of each of the six victims’ families. A few weeks ago, Jonathan Smith – who went with Valarie to shoot a couple weeks ago – put together a montage on Final Cut Pro how people discovered that day what had happened.

Since I’m editing on Avid Media Composer, he sent the file to me as one long clip, which I imported and put into the sequence myself. The trick was making changes to his edited clip since I didn’t have access to his sequence/timeline. It ended up working out fine, but it’s a tricky workflow, especially for something longer.

I then added a sequence that is similar to the Groundswell video we put together in  August, but changed around and added words and images from the Oak Creek mayor and police chief.

One trick I had to figure out was how to get HD news clips into the edit. Fortunately, I had the foresight to TiVo a lot of the news coverage on August 6 – the day after the shooting – and that following week. Turns out, TiVo has a conversion software system that allows you to take your networked TiVo, select recorded clips, and convert them for play on your desktop or devices. So I did that an imported them into Avid and it works great – just a bit time consuming is all.

So we put together a pretty good sequence that we’re going to show tomorrow, Saturday Oct. 6, at the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund National Gala. SALDEF and The Sikh Coalition have been on the forefront of fighting the good fight for the Sikh community for more than a decade now, and have done some amazing things. The dinner (where Valarie is also receiving an award) is in Washington tomorrow and members of the Oak Creek Sikh community will be there as well. I hope we did them and their experience justice with what we’ve put together.

Will post next week with the clip and how it all went.