Make it look good first and how work in progress can destroy expectations

While I’m a film maker. More writer than director at this point, I want to make movies. However, until I can get paid to do that I write code for a living. More specifically I write C# code using the .NET framework on the Microsoft stack. To be even more general, I wrote back-end code. Still confused? Okay. You know how you are reading this? This “post” is stored in some database somewhere. Well how does it get there? Well some sort of process or function writes the data to a database. That’s me. I do that sorta thing. What don’t I do? I don’t make it look pretty. On Stackoverflow I remarked that web designers make a site look good, web developers make it work.

So I’ve typically been the guy who makes it work. I don’t concern myself with making the front-end look pretty. That’s a front end devs job. I’ve done some pretty niffty things with back end code as far as capturing data and manipulating it, but I don’t spend much time making it look pretty.

And in all honesty, that’s typically what people will care about and it’s what they should care about. While the functionality is superbly important, if it looks like crap, who cares? Think of MySpace. Why did they lose to Facebook?  Facebook created such a seamless and clean interface, and a uniform look that it was easier for people to navigate. How many god awful Myspace profiles were there? Almost all of them.

So this brings me to the studio building my animatic trailer. They really liked the idea of creating a trailer for a film that doesn’t exist yet, in the crime/mob genre, and wanted something like that for their protfolio so they cut me a deal. They initially sent me a rendering of the boss’ office which totally set my expectations high. It looked so good.

They then sent a few more sketches. Very rough sketches. Which seemed a bit out of place. A bridge in the trailer which is going to take place on the State Street bridge in downtown Chicago looked like a bridge you’d find crossing a pond in rural Vermont. So they corrected that. Then they started with the character sketches. While they were okay, they were far from what I imagined. They just didn’t look good. A buddy of mine quipped that “I hope you didn’t pay for that.” That really got me worried. This isn’t a massively expensive project, especially with the deal they’re giving me, but this whole trailer approach is somewhat critical to my Kickstarter appeal; and appeal to other possible investors and production companies. So, with the really bad voice over work and now the sub par sketches I was really alarmed. I let it be known that I was alarmed. They got back to me and let me know that with the low-budget nature of this, they were showing me a lot of work in progress stuff so that they wouldn’t need to do much revision once the animatic started being animated in After Effects. They offered to cancel the project if I didn’t like what they did after seeing the first 20-30 seconds of the animation they did.

I agreed knowing full well that there have been several pieces of software I worked on that if I showed anyone in the very early stages, they’d be appalled since nothing was lined up, the wrong font was being used, and the wrong colors were being used – even though it worked, it wasn’t close to being complete.

This whole “working on my film” has definitely been a coming to Jesus moment for me. I now realize what the creatives I work with see whenever I’ve shown them something that wasn’t to their exact spec. Even if I let them know ahead of time that it was rough; they know exactly what it should look like and it doesn’t they couldn’t care less how cool my validation script is or how I’m using AJAX to do something.

Last night I was sent the first 25 seconds or so of the animatic.

I was extremely nervous about watching it. Along with any VO auditions I’ve received lately, I’m hesitant to touch the play button because with each bad audition I am convinced more and more thatn my dialogue sucks and it’s not that I’m just getting bad reads, or under/non directed reads.

So I hit play.

It opens on the city, in all it’s glory.

Chicago in an animatic

Chicago

What you obviously can’t see here is the city in motion along with the music over it. The music currently chosen is “Just Like You Imagined” from Nine Inch Nails on The Fragile. Once the animatic is complete we’re sending it to Nine Inch Nails‘ licensing lawyers for their approval or disapproval. If they disapprove we can still use Ghosts Track 34 since it’s released under Creative Commons.

The second part of the animatic is when John gets on the train, sits down and stares at the photo of Natalie.

John Collins on the Blue Line

John Collins on the Blue Line

This shot is obviously a real photograph with some serious Photoshop filtering done to it. I was told they took the photograph, removed all the people, removed the outside world, and re-did the windows to add proper reflection. It really looks great in motion as you see the lights whiz by the outside windows.

The remaining parts of the animatic still need work, so again like the title says; seeing work in progress can really screw with your expectations. The next scene is Mikey in Vincent’s office. The character placement was completely wrong, the characters looked like agents from The Matrix and it was just all wrong. I’m not too concerned about it as it’s not done yet. It’s work in progress. And on this project so far, work in progress is going to give me an ulcer.

I will have more to come as the trailer finishes up and actual actors perform the voice over work.

One response to “Make it look good first and how work in progress can destroy expectations

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