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The most important meal of the year
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1933 sci-fi horror classic
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Waiting for 'Laundry Day'
Director Randy Mack on Keeping Post-Production Local
In the post-production stage, Randy Mack's film Laundry Day has become a living thing.
"I look at Laundry Day as this little mammal scurrying between the toes of these Brontosaurus productions that are stomping down all the things little mammals need to survive," the director said.
The film involves a fight in a New Orleans bar-laundromat, then untangles the event and the lives of the four characters involved.
"The stories of the street-level life in this town is really what moves me as a storyteller. . . Plus the personalities that are attracted to it, and it's all this kind of perfect of - it's a place where, well, what's shocking to me its that it's a place where nobody is telling those stories," says Mack.
The director is looking to complete his local dark comedy using only resources he finds within Orleans Parish. However he says he won't scrimp on his film's quality because of the local focus.
"There's a famous indie-film triangle that's: Good, Fast, and Cheap. And you can only pick two at any time…and I prefer to go high-quality and cheap and go slower."
Mack spent 2011 and 2012 writing the script. He shot a teaser in May 2013 "to kind of kick the tires of local crews and actors and see what I could get out of them. And also to test my theory that given I know all the bar owners in lower Decatur that I might be able to have my run of the place, and that turned out to be true."
He finished principle photography (actors, lights, cameras - what people think of when they hear "making movies") in December 2013. He's needed patience, dedication, and ingenuity to get the film done. At one point, 22 Jump Street took every truck he needed. With everyone ready to go, he pushed Laundry Day's shooting back months. The film has had nine different producers. After shooting, a vital hard drive went haywire. Mack knows things like this happen to indie filmmakers. He worked for years inside the mainstream entertainment industry in Los Angeles. His company, Armak, Productions made Burning Annie and kept working on it until Lightyear Entertainment/Warner Brothers picked it up for distribution.
For all the trucks, lights, stars and film crews, the entire Hollywood movie industry hasn't descended upon Louisiana in one mass wave like one of their alien invasions or zombie apocalypses. Finding people to work with challenges filmmakers as much as anything else.
"I find the greater filmmakers tend to, they tend to have small groups of colleagues who are working at the same level, who they are in a, sort of, mixed collaborative/competitive relationship with," he said. That need lead Mack and other local filmmakers to survey the remade landscape of local post-production professionals and resources.
The New Orleans Video Access Center [NOVAC] has long been the interchange between people working in films and current film projects. As NOVAC Executive Director Darcy McKinnon puts it, "Part of our mission is to cultivate a sustainable film community We ring the bell when filmmakers get paid." NOVAC has networking nights, often on the third Thursday of each month, where you can, McKinnon says, "meet other people who are interested in doing what you are doing." People meet through NOVAC's educational opportunities such as technical classes taught at its Louisa Street headquarters and events like Web Weekend and Sync-Up Cinema. NOVAC also sends out job requests through its email network of filmmakers, and on request can even sort through responses looking for the best applicants.
When McKinnon looks at how the film industry has developed, she stresses just how new everything is.
"When I moved here 13 years ago, there were…four practicing documentary filmmakers and Glen Pitre [Belizaire the Cajun]," she said. While state tax incentives have been pulling down large Hollywood productions, editing and other post-production tasks involve smaller numbers of specialized talent, which can resist better a move forced by cost-reduction. Still, post-production facilities have opened here, and found a challenging economic environment. McKinnon notes the larger post-production facilities that opened over the last five years have now "contracted significantly."
Many of those facilities process dailies, which they send back to editors in Los Angeles. Editing seems confined to local independent features (like Laundry Day), documentaries, commercials, music videos, and filmed local live events.
“We've seen here a lot of post-production houses and effects houses open and close, grow and contract, and so I think it is difficult to create a culture of post-production... The whole industry is going through a major shift, so it's not as likely to pop up in the same way that production has,” McKinnon said.
With 47 hours of film in-hand, Randy Mack and his "scurrying mammal" of a movie needed an editor next.
"The number of editors in this town who have a narrative feature film credit is basically…you can put them on a single hand," Mack said.
He began advertising and then sorting through responses. He filled some other key post-production slots, but couldn't go forward until he found the right editor. Mack, a longtime NOVAC member, ended up writing up a job description for editing Laundry Day, and that went out over the organization’s network.
Film editor Eva Contis was living in Shreveport when she saw the NOVAC email about Laundry Day. Sitting next to Mack, she recalls, "What attracted to me to Louisiana is the fact that I've been looking for people like Randy. I've been looking for people who want to make movies here, and want production from within. And it took me five years to find you!" Contis moved to Louisiana from Los Angeles, where she had worked steadily as an editor after a year's unpaid tutelage. She worked as an assistant editor for last summer's Olympus Has Fallen and the mob-hitman movie The Iceman. She's excited to say that Laundry Day marks a rare project "that someone hasn't been impaled or shot in the head."
Mack couldn't be happier with the result of his six-month quest. "Her resume is easily four or five times as deep as anyone else's I've found in the City." Now living in New Orleans, Contis reflects, "I do know that post-production is the one area of the film industry that hasn't flourished. It's always imminent. It's coming; it's coming. And I came in 2009, and every job that I've gotten in this state I've gotten through my contacts in Los Angeles."
She's found the material in Laundry Day "resonates to my San Francisco growing up. You know, running through New York as a teenager, and the people that I hung around with in New York. So I think though it's uniquely about New Orleans, it not only resonates with other cities, it resonates with the parts of cities that's dying." Part of her joy editing the film comes from learning about it the way audiences will, because the action doesn't take place in chronological order.
"I didn't think you could tell a linear story in this town and have it make sense because of the depth of history,” Mack said.
Contis says she'll have a solid cut of Laundry Day ready shortly. Mack is aiming to having the film ready to be submitted to next year's Sundance Film Festival, and plans exclusive test screening in September. After editing, the next great post-production hurdles involve sound and color-correction. Mack notes the movie industry adage that "sound is 75% of what you see", and wonders if that's under-estimated.
"ADR is a vital part of the thing," he says of Automatic Dialog Replacement, where actors come into studios and repeat dialog they spoke during filming. Color-correction involves changing the color balance of every frame of Laundry Day, shot on digital cameras including Red Scarlets, to enhance the film's visual message.
"The middle of editorial is a very antsy stage for a director," Mack states. "There's a lot to be discovered and a lot of problems that have not been solved. I'm sure we'll be feeling great about it all in the end."
Meanwhile, both Randy Mack and Darcy McKinnon continue to seek means to expand and improve local filmmaking and filmmaking opportunities. NOVAC and McKinnon are actively involved in the assessing Louisiana's film tax credit and creating recommendations for the next legislative session. McKinnon emphasizes the difficulty in simply mandating or putting in place "an exact model" for a state incentive to develop or import "a community of production that leads to a community of makers that leads to a culture of creation." Still, that remains her ultimate goal.
Randy Mack has put forward his own proposal for "Above the Water Line" to bring together creative people and local financial support to, in Mack's words, "get some energy going around the idea that, 'Hey, you know, there are cinematic storytellers in this town that could do something really exciting for the culture of the community in the same way that a HBO TV show can and maybe more so." However he says the idea "needs a critical mass" to become viable.
McKinnon points out, "I think one of the struggles we have is that this industry in Louisiana is ten years old, it's ten years old. That's not a long time." NOVAC continues to produce programs, bring in internationally-regarded filmmakers and industry experts, and tries to encourage mentorships, which both McKinnon and Mack feel are a prime ingredient for a strong creative community. For both, proper funding of this branch of the arts remains a key, though elusive, goal. Mack further feels that bringing his movie to theaters will help encourage other local filmmakers and the support networks they need.
"Laundry Day is designed to be a blueprint for indigenous independent film in New Orleans,” Mack said. “It's suppose to be a role model down the line, and it will not be that role model unless it's really, really good. And not just local good, like, it's a fun time for locals to see their friends on screen, but it needs to move the needle on a national level."
To learn more about Laundry Day, written and directed by Randy Mack, visit: www.laundrydayfilm.com. Find out about NOVAC's upcoming programs, events, and the benefits of membership at www.novacvideo.org.
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