The karmic goodness continues! As my Sonnyboo Fan Club of 5-6 readers no doubt already know, the sun is shining in Rossdonia these days. The future looks quite good, both short term and long term. The summer may be coming to a close soon, but the sun continues to shine its golden rays, good guys win, bad guys lose, and your faithful narrator has nothing but exciting news.
Last night at approximately 11:29PM, I put GOODNIGHT, CLEVELAND! to master tape. I finished someone else’s feature film. Even though it’s not mine, a level of satisfaction permeates.
Sadly, Micah Jenkins was not present for the momentous occasion. I would have bought us a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Micah revived this and brought it back to life last year. His interest, more so than my own, got this movie to be finished. Micah has been laboring on the audio fixes for close to a year, one night a week in my basement.
Part of what took so long was that I was only willing or able to donate one night a week to the project with some occasional weekends. Since GOODNIGHT, CLEVELAND! is an ultra low budget movie, there is very little coverage in many scenes, which means awkward pauses, extraneous dialogue, and everything else – you’re stuck with it. Another element, very often overlooked is AUDIO overall. Upon LISTENING to the movie, the audio levels, dialogue tracks, ambient sounds, electricity humming, refrigerators, air conditioners, crown noises, these are all cursed with this movie.
Most people simply do not put the time and effort into editing the audio as much as they do their picture edit. It shows in the work, especially if you’ve ever played your cheap ass audio in a movie theater’s sound system. There have been times where your sound is great on your PC speakers, but put it in a real Dolby rated movie theater and you can hear every single flaw at decibels you didn’t know existed.
With Micah having both finished his audio “fixes”, meaning making it as good as we can without re-recording or spending any real money on it, it was my turn to finish up. I always knew that from the rough cut and even picture lock last year that I wanted to do more music spotting. Spotting is the process of determining where music goes in the movie and “how” it goes in. Will it be ambient music, like a radio or TV in the movie, or the music only montage sound, or will it be layered into the scene’s audio, but still be a main player in the moment.
This past Sunday, because the clock stared me down like a barrel of a shotgun with the screening in less than a month, I dived in headfirst into my job of music. George Caleodis had given me 2-3 CD’s of a band he was in from the 1990’s called THE IDEA and told me I could pretty much use any of it, so I did. Since the film takes place in the 1990’s (since it was shot in 1996-1997 it’s considered a “period piece”).
I’m an amateur sound designer/sound mixer. I am in no way a pro or even necessarily good at it. There are some serious and real people out there, but I have no budget to hire the folks who I normally would use for this job. Micah & I had to do it ourselves with whatever off the shelf software we had available to us.
I put in a few songs to be “ambient”, meaning songs that are coming from unseen TV’s and radios in the scene. To make it sound more “natural”, you don’t just lower the volume or gain on the music. I used an EQ setting where I kill out the bass and it sounds a bit more like a small radio or TV would sound. In one case, I even started the music as “scene music”, meaning the song at full volume, mixed with the sounds of the scene, then slowly EQ’d out the bass to make the same song appear to be on the radio in the next scene. It made a perfect transition. Hopefully no one will even notice it’s there, but I’ll know I did something cool to get us from one scene to the next using audio to smooth it out.
In other scenes, like the “love scene” (if it can be called that), I added a song to it that plays into the moment and lifts the scene up some. Similarly, at a more “action” oriented scene towards the end of the film (it is a film, shot on 16mm), I added an upbeat rockin’ song that also seemed to elevate the tension and excitement whereas before there just wasn’t much there. In other cases, the ambient music just smoothes over the horrendous inconsistencies of regular audio in the scenes.
I had a new mantra with Micah these past few months as the deadline of the COWTOWN FILM SERIES premiere loomed. I said, “We can’t make it good, we can only make it better.” Striving for perfection is not a bad thing. I often do in my own works, as best I can, but with this project we just needed to see it finished. That’s all. It’s been 12 years in the making, 5 of which in my world. I checked my emails looking for end credits info and I saw that my first real emails to Miguel and George about taking on the completion was in summer 2003.
It took until winter 2004 to get the film out of DuArt labs in New York. Then I personally paid for the telecine transfer to digital video. We attempted for several months in 2004 to edit this and just get the audio synch to picture. It failed because schedules and what not didn’t allow anyone from the production to give us some kind of road map to link the sound and picture.
In 2007, Micah pushed to bring it back to life. Micah and I know several of the investors and even though we weren’t involved in the shoot in any way, we felt an obligation to try to give them a finished movie, even if it’s just a DVD. As one of the investors said, it would be “closure” to the whole thing. On September 11th, 2008, we’ll close the book on GOODNIGHT, CLEVELAND! and show people this flawed masterpiece.
I like GOODNIGHT, CLEVELAND! It’s a weird, yet strangely appealing movie. It has warts, like all movies, but I really like it. A charisma of story and character gets to me. I only hope it gets some other people too. I’ll find out September 11th at 7:00PM at the Screens at the Continent.
What a strange feeling this is right now. A giant albatross has been lifted from my neck, albeit a self imposed one. I can’t tell you why, but in the last week or so, I’ve just been getting more Shiite done. Life is setting up the pins, and I’m knocking ‘em down. The stars have just aligned perfectly for me so the next year or so will be BOO TIME.
Peace and Love and Good Happiness Stuff,
Peter John Ross