It was June. I was looking forward to finishing my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, based on my musical adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story.
I was feeling good. Post production was coming along steadily. VFX work had been completed. The final task was color grading. Everybody expected the film to be done in a week, two at most.
So I confidently submitted the film to about a dozen film festivals, whose final submission dates were imminent. I uploaded an unfinished work print of the film to qualify, with the expectation and promise that the finished work would be available for viewing in just a week or two, time enough for festival adjudicators.
It was an act of blind confidence I would come to regret.
The first pass at the color grading was completed. But something went wrong when processing the data for me to view on line.
The film files were “stuck” in the hard drive. There were delays as we tried to figure out the problem.
The hard drive holding the current version of the film was not responding anymore. The hard drive had to be brought into the “shop”. For analysis.
We waited for answers.
I had stopped submitting the film to more festivals as soon as the first delay arose. But meanwhile festivals I had already submitted to only had the unfinished work print but no final film to view; and started to reject our submission one by one …
Finally we learned the hard drive’s “partition” was corrupted, which essentially walled off all the files inside. My film had been walled in alive, like another hapless character in another gothic Poe story…
Experienced tech geeks would tell us that what we were experiencing was very unusual, quite the freak problem, especially with a brand new hard drive. Well, that made me feel special, if not in a good way.
It would be another several weeks to recover what could be recovered and reconstruct what would need to be reconstructed.
And then there were other issues, personal, existential and otherwise random that plagued the production team. Time kept stretching and the festival rejections kept trickling in, punishing me for my earlier hubris…
Oh God! We were so close! Will you ever let me finish my film?
All throughout August you teased me with intimations that this week, and then the next week, we would finally get back to where we left off in June. But now it’s September and I am still waiting…
How long must I wait, God! You will not take my film from me! I shall finish it!
You hear me?!? I shall finish it!!!
OK. Let’s take a breath.
No good getting all “mad” like a certain character in a certain Poe story and its musical, cinematic adaptation…
It sucks that we had problems. That they added weeks and weeks, doubling our post-production length. It’s unfortunate that several festival submissions were for nought because of that delay.
But it’s just a matter of time. Calm down. Patience.
So it will take longer. So I will have to wait to submit to festivals. So I had to swallow those rejections. The festivals I missed out on so far will still be around next year. The film will still be finished.
And in the last weeks we finally got back to work in earnest. Final color grading recommenced and polished and perfected. Other bits got attended to and completed.
I approved the final version.
There’s still work to be done, but a finished film exists.
“The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” is completed. I can start submitting to festivals again.
“My film had been walled in alive, like another hapless character in another gothic Poe story…” This is too Poe-tically Perfect. You couldn’t make this up. Clearly the ghost of ol’ Edgar had something to do with this.
Meanwhile, will your team ever forget to back up their work at every step in the process? I would hope – Nevermore.
There were back ups and such, which is why everything could be reconstructed. But first we tried to fix the issue with the hard drive, not realizing that process would ultimately take even longer. The whole thing is technically and logistically a lot more complicated than I conveyed, and a lot of it is IT stuff way above my ken, frankly. But how could I resist that Poe metaphor, even if a poetic simplification?
Imagine if you will, a low budget film. 10+ Terabytes of data. Now imagine all the raw footage being triple redundant, even though money was tight. An artist receives the hard drive and begins working vigorously on the material for two weeks; but alas! the drive has catastrophic failure because a read/write head died unexpectedly. Imagine having your own personal backups of project files, and them meaning nothing without the assets! Woah is me! Immediately, we shut down the hard drive to prevent further loss or damage and immediately take it to professionals, the recommended procedure. The days tick on, steadily, steadily, when suddenly you get a response! The data could not be recovered fully and would have to be send to a neighbor!… ing data recovery facility if we wished to recovery anything further. (If you know the musical you will appreciate those little asides) In short, yes there was redundancy, even among individuals working on the project who were many states apart, but with resources and money, backups could not be done daily on every type of media related to the film. Maybe, just maybe, when you have the actual full picture, and attempt this scale of a project on a shoe string budget, you will have a better understanding of how this all works in actuality. “Hark, mad men know nothing!”
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It was the Russians! No, it was the Ukranians! No – Hunter Biden!
Seriously, thanks for the schoolin’.
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