Recovery from Recovery

This is an open letter to the members of DAFT Theater – an excellent UC Student Group with whom I’ve been working with in creating a series of short films. Regular techies, check out this blog post to tide you over.

Hey everyone,

It’s Danny here, going to give one final status update on the video progress for a while.

As most of you know, this weekend we began and finished shooting of Recovery, the third and by far the most ambitious short of the three we started at the beginning of the year. With 26 pages in its full form, it was longer and much more complex than the others, serving as the tie-in, zombie-filled finale to an anthology story. For each of the two nights, we had more people on set as extras than we typically had on set at all before. Should a client ask me a rough estimate of how long a script of our size and complexity would take, considering monetary and budgetary constraints, I would say that for on-set time alone, the production could safely be done in 100 hours.

We did it in less than 48.

I’ll be the first to admit that production can sometimes leave a bitter taste. It was stressful. It was irritating. Tensions ran high, tempers got up there, poor Cat nearly froze to death, and I had such a high fever that I had a full-blown conversation with a stuffed animal. It was big, it was difficult, and it had a more than likely chance to explode in our faces… It was entirely new ground, a real chance to spread our wings and fly.

So fly we did. All shorts included, we came in at just above 300 gigabytes of raw video and audio. Shot from different angles, with different gear, in various locations, spanning months (and technically years), bringing us to a grand total of approximately 13.5 HOURS of recorded footage to use. Our script is calling for 45 minutes – we’ve got a lot to work with, and all of that is due to the excellent cast and crew.

I’ve worked with students and professionals alike, but there was something very different about the DAFT video crew – some of whom went above and beyond my wildest expectations. Pulling repeated all-nighters in crappy weather, hauling 120+lbs of generator into god-knows-where darkness, going to bed when the sun was coming up, and ultimately stepping up to the plate when things were looking down, these select few are what brought the idea of a DAFT video feature to reality. In video production you’re lucky to get to work with a group like this once in a lifetime, so we should all extend a special thanks to the DAFT Video Crew for making everything happen – without them, we wouldn’t have gotten a light off the ground, and we wouldn’t have been able to showcase the talent we had.

Of course, the other side of the coin is the talent. Most of you are recreational actors – although you might be in business or in design, you have a passion to perform, and you all performed wonderfully. Each of you had entirely different takes on your character which often HUGELY impacted your role – taking a character I had initially written to be a basic betch into a prophetic crazy person, a quiet preppie into a professional zombie-dicer, and a comic book fangirl into a goddamn action hero. This was, hands down, the best and most interesting cast I’ve worked with – and I’m not just saying that to be sappy, either. One time I had to mail in daily SAG-AFTRA logs of when the ‘talent’ took their breaks, and you guys powered through breaks, meals, and everything in between. Something special there.

Stop rambling and get to the point.

The ever-present question – what’s going to happen now? We’ll go into editing, where we hide all of our (very likely rushed) mistakes. We’ll start editing and cursing our past selves for getting a shot just a little off, or letting the camera drop too dark. We’ll hate our voices as we hear them played back, and we’ll be nervous until the inevitable premiere, but I can promise you all one thing:

The audience is going to love it.

The greatest thing about small productions like ours is the heart that goes into it. We aren’t showing up for a paycheck, but for a passion. We’re not competing, we’re learning and collaborating. We’ve created something really amazing here, and know that any faults you might see or changes you would have made are on my shoulders for a rushed timeline and not on yours or anyone elses – you guys were the team that carried this to completion, and once it’s all done and over with, believe it or not, you’ll want to come back and do it again.

Every good speech has to end with a quote, but it also needs some ass-kicking, so let’s take this one from Bruce Lee.

Don’t fear failure.
Not failure, but low aim, is the crime.
In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.

No matter the turnout, no matter the shots, and no matter the performance, none of you failed. You all came together and created the best year that DAFT has ever seen – with momentum like that, there’s no other end in sight but the glory.

See you guys at the premiere. 🙂

Danny

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