STEP 08: THE SHOOT
The shoot day started early.I love shooting. It’s a short period of time where you can put your theories to work. You get to play around for a few hours, and learn your craft. It was the main reason for to even shoot this project and it had a lot to teach me. Working with two different types of actors, trying to keep a full team motivated through a 15-hour day taught me so much about pacing.
We shot all day at the mills and covered all the dialog and gun scenes. Once the team found a groove we were plowing through what should have taken two days. I followed my shot lists and camera maps through most of that day, but when we pulled out the phantom camera, the shoot slowed to a crawl. That damn camera destroys light! Not only do you have to blast a subject with blinding light, but it also seems to pull out all of the subtleties in the shadows and light sculpting. It killed over two and a half hours for just one close-up! Hick-ups like that kill the crew’s momentum because most of them end up sitting around and waiting while the 10th hour starts to settle in. The shots we got did look amazing though and the camera was able to capture the gun blast and stop the empty bullet shells in mid flight! However, the camera trouble pushed us way over on time and forced me to throw out my shot list for the elevator scene. We had to just wing it. Moments like this happen all the time on set, and instead of letting it ruin my night, I embrace them. Often these situations create some of the most organic footage you shoot! We played around in a quick rehearsal and shot a sequence that I never would have pre-planned. It ended up being one of my favorites in the film!
The second day was planned to be entirely with the Phantom camera. After seeing how much time and energy that the one shot took the day before I decided to simplify my shots. All we needed were 4 setups. This scene was going to be difficult technically and required Evalena to be half naked all day, covered in blood, and sitting in running water for hours. Safety was key because we needed a lot of light and power and it all needed to jam in this small bathroom. I was up all night planning because a good plan will make an awesome day right? Wrong. The day was a disaster.
The Phantom was a technical nightmare. It kept over heating and crashing, took over 15 minutes to preview a 2 second shot, and the automated dolly was a bitch. The whole day was an exercise in my patience, and Evelana’s stamina. The poor girl was shivering for at least 5 hours, but she had a smile through it all! At the end of the day the camera crashed, we only got one Phantom setup and I had to shoot the others with my DSLR. The shots we got are beautiful, but I learned that the super cool techie shit takes way too long! I should have staged a damn gunfight that day instead. Lesson learned.
STEP 09: POST PRODUCTION
The editing on this film was a lot of fun. We did all of it at our office here in Boston and I worked closely with my assistants Jarvis and Tony. Jarvis assembled a quick rough cut that followed the script and then I sat in and basically changed it up. I love experimenting in post. I find myself watching the footage out of sequence and sometimes in reverse to try and see it from a fresh perspective. This also helps me develop the visual style for the piece.
Most of the Punisher books use internal dialog so I knew that there would be a lot of voice over work, but I also wanted to experiment with when the actors were seen speaking and when they weren’t. I wanted the whole piece to feel like a memory, so that meant messing with transitions in time and flashback effects. In the end, the piece is very emotional and focuses on Cole’s struggle. It’s on the edit that I feel a film is born and discovering it is by far the best part of being a director.
STEP 10: MUSIC
If photography is my passion then my second love is sound
design. I was fortunate early on in my career
to share studio space with an amazing sound recorder and designer. I learned how powerful sound can be to an
overall story, and how it can increase the scale and scope of your film. You can always call shitty visuals a style,
but no one will sit through bad sound.
When I’m writing I am always planning ahead of time for sound cues and hero moments with music. I like to have the music together before I start editing and, more often than not, I am sound editing while I cut the picture. I take pride in the way my films sound. The world of the Punisher is a perfect opportunity for cool sounds and music. I was still obsessing over that POWERGLOVE remix of Kristine’s “Modern Love” and I wanted it for the shower scene, but I had to figure out what the rest of the music would sound like. Enter DJ Voltran.
I have wanted to collaborate with Tran for a while now. His skills as a DJ are amazing and he was trained as a mixer and could master the films audio as well. Perfect. We had quite a few meetings before shooting started. He wanted to be on set, recording the dialog and grabbing cool sounds from the location. Having him involved from the beginning was the right choice because by the time he was writing music, he had a complete grasp of the films tone. I also exposed him to all the John Carpenter scores and the music in the early Nightmare on Elm Street films.
I knew that if he could capture the essence of those scores that it would give TDCBD a classic feel. Mix that with his taste in modern electronic and we would have the edge that a new film requires. I was convinced that we would use the Kristine track (even though we didn't have the rights to it yet) so he had to write in music transitions that would tease the vibe of her track. Voltran had a ton to do on an unpaid project, but let me just say that working with Tran and his partner Tim at Knox Productions were fucking amazing! They created a sonic world that appeals to the twelve year old kid in me while giving each of the characters the gravity and depth they needed in the moments without dialog. Together we worked with Nick to create the voice of the Punisher, one based more in reality while staying far from the Christian Bale "Batman grumble." It was hard work, but a ton of fun! Check out some examples of the score. Awesome!
STEP 11: PROMOTIONS
I am always very conscious of and very involved in the marketing of a project. Both Ian and I believe that you shouldn’t start a project without knowing where it’s headed. With this piece we knew the fans needed to hear about it early on. We don’t have big name actors or a budget for advertising; so it was just gonna require teaming up with fan clubs and bloggers. We needed our promotional material to look as good if not better than the studio stuff!
Photographer Gina Manning took the photos for our posters. She hung out on set with us all day, shooting behind the scenes stills and promotional shots. Her style is hyper real and color oriented. I knew with the right processing of her shots that we would get amazing posters. I cut a quick teaser that showed a few key shots from the piece while teasing the characters. It would also leak the title of our film “The Dead Cant Be Distracted.” I cut a quick teaser that showed a few key shots from the piece with teasing the characters. It would also leak the title of our film “The Dead Cant Be Distracted.” Armed with the teaser and posters, we sent out a few emails to comic bloggers and film websites who posted it as soon as they got it. We had the support!
STEP12: RACE AGAINST THE CLOCKOnce the fans knew about it, I was under the gun to finish the piece. The edit was locked, Tran was mixing the audio and Tony and I were tackling the digital grading. Coloring and picture polishing is one of the most magical steps in the post process. As filmmakers, we spend hours looking at the raw footage over and over again. It gets old to us, we don’t have the same initial reaction. Once we start grading, it becomes something new.
The colors pop, the focus shifts, and it starts to look like a finished film. We didn’t have to do a whole lot and most of it was just darkening backgrounds and pulling out a lot of the reds. It was also important to get the Phantom footage and the DSLR stuff to look like it belonged together. I love putting color on the lights when we are on set. This sets our color contrasts early on and it always looks better than trying to smear it on in post.
At this point the final edit still had the Kristine song playing during the shower sequence and this worried Ian. He knew that I had fallen in love with it and was concerned that the artist should at least be contacted. A month earlier I went through the process of trying to track down Power Glove. Those guys are notoriously hard to reach and after a while I gave up. Then it hit me - why don’t we find Kristine? After all it was her track that they remixed. Ian tracked down the label that put out her album and spoke to her rep. He loved the film and gave us her direct contact. A few emails later, Kristine granted us the rights to use the song for free! She loved the film and was really excited to be a part of it. See, if you keep pushing forward and stick to your guns, good things can happen in this business.
The music was done, the picture looked slick, and the promotional material was ready to ship. Then I heard from Marvel and everything came to a halt.