Archive for music

The Big Screen

Posted in Filmmaking, promotion with tags , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by Richard Diaz

The Distortion trailer plays on the big screen at The Music Box theatre.

For years I have been going to The Music Box theatre. They show many foreign and independent films. What I tend to love watching are the midnight shows. They show all kinds of films at midnight on Friday and Saturdays. Whether it’s cult hits like ‘The Room’ or even childhood favorites like ‘The Dark Crystal’ and ‘The Muppet Movie’. They also help put on these events put on by Movieside Film Festival which includes a 24 hour marathon of horror films done every October called the Music Box Massacre. In the spring time they do the Sci-Fi Spectacular which is a mix of science fiction and horror science fiction films which they just had this past weekend. This year’s line up included such classics as ‘Them!’ and even more recent cult favorites like John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’.

One big addition was the showing of ‘Q The Winged Serpent’ with writer, producer, director Larry Cohen in person. I have wanted to meet him for years because his way of making movies was a huge inspiration on me. He would write the script the way he wanted and then just go out and make the picture. Sometimes literally just showing up somewhere and start shooting without a permit or anything. That gung ho attitude was something I tried to emulate while making ‘Distortion’.In fact, it was a big reason why I think the film got made because I knew I needed to just plunge ahead and make it. As an added bonus a great store called Horrorbles had a discussion group the next day with Larry Cohen. It was a small affair of only about 20 people so I was excited to be among them. To hear him talk about his writing process and different anecdotes was just so great. I tried hard when I talked to him to not be overly fan boyish but how could I not be? The guy inspired me in so many ways.

Getting back to the Sci-Fi Spectacular – one last bit happened. The week before I was at a special screening at The Music Box of ‘North By Northwest’ which was part of the Turner Classic Movies film festival featuring Robert Osbourne and Eva Marie Saint in person(!). Such a great night. Afterwards as I was coming out I ran into the guy that puts on the Sci-Fi Spectacular as well as the Music Box Massacre. He asked me if I wanted the new ‘Distortion’ trailer shown. I was about to jump out of my socks I was so excited. The theatre that I go to all the time to watch all kinds of movies new and old was going to have the trailer for my film showing on that same screen. So after I meet Larry Cohen after the ‘Q The Winged Serpent’ screening they played my trailer (a double whammy if there ever was one) in front of what had to be at least 400 people.

The picture above is a bad one because it doesn’t show how big that screen really is. Nor does it show how big the theatre is. Nor how big the audience was. Trust me, the answer to all is big. I was both nervous and excited. Luckily I had a few friends there cheering it on. It didn’t exactly get an introduction so it played like any other trailer would have. While I couldn’t garner the reaction since I was in a surreal state at that moment I did notice one girl screamed out at the very last shot of the trailer when William’s face changes as he roars. The title pops on and there was applause. Some of it may have been just people being polite since I’m not sure they knew what to think. But for me it was a big moment. So many times have I sat there wondering what one of my films would look like playing on that very screen. Kind of funny how two of the big influences on me and the film were part of that evening. John Carpenter was a big influence on me and to see ‘They Live’ two hours later in the exact same spot my trailer showed was amazing. And to meet the man himself Larry Cohen right beforehand and the next day was just incredible.

As I said the whole thing was surreal but then again so is making a movie. In one day I shared the screen with two filmmakers I greatly admire at my favorite theatre. I’d say this is one of those moments when that little kid who dreamed of making movies one day would be proud.

Larry Cohen and I after the discussion at Horribles.


The Home Stretch

Posted in Post Production with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by Richard Diaz

Filmmaking is exciting stuff.

I can’t tell what is working and what isn’t at this point. I am desperately trying to get every last thingĀ  done to send out the film to festivals. The music seems to be working so far. I think two spots need to be either tweaked or redone but I’ll do that last. It’s not enough to hurt the film and I don’t want to spend time on it right now. I need to concentrate on the remaining visual effects. Mainly one big one which will be very complicated. I did a rough version of it for the earlier cut and that was hard enough. Can’t imagine what the final version will entail as far as complexity and even render time. The rough version took like 10 hours to render.

I know the film won’t be 100% done by the time I mail it out but I need it to be like 95% done. I know I will tweak the music and a few visual effects but overall it’ll be done. Enough so I feel good mailing it out as is. Luckily I am just sending out submission copies not screening copies so I do have a little time to work on a few things. However, I also can’t obsess over every little thing. At some point I need to walk away and just call it done. Otherwise I will work on it forever.

My main problem is I am pretty fried so it’s hard to determine what works and what doesn’t unless it sticks out a lot. My original goal was Friday to mail the film out but I do think I will take the weekend and mail it out on Monday (at a great expense especially sending it out to the Cannes Film Festival submission). I think the extra two days will help. Plus I can make my own DVD to test to see if there are any last minute things.

It’s been two and a half years since I started, in essence, PreProduction. I’m almost at the point where this will be out of my hands. The film will be out there and it won’t be mine anymore. It’ll be in the hands of the audience. No matter how much I tweak only they will decide whether it works or not. And whether my long journey to make this film will pay off.

A New Direction

Posted in Post Production with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by Richard Diaz

A close up of my mighty keyboard.

Some of you may remember a previous post (located here) where I talked about the music for the film. I decided at the time to go with a more synthesizer based score. I love synth scores and I have many in my soundtrack collection from all kinds of very talented musicians (some of them I listed in that previous post). Slight problem. The movie did not sync too well to the synth.

Some of the suspenseful scenes worked well. Afterall, sometimes all you need is a simple bass like sound to get the creeps going. Unfortunately it ended there. It wasn’t working and I knew it. I just couldn’t go back to the more orchestral score using samples. It was very taxing on my system (leading to several program crashes) and if it sounds bad it sounds really bad. But when it sounds good it sounds really good. Also means the score was going to be harder as I could not take short cuts with an orchestral sounding score. The film though called for it. I did some tests a long time ago but this time I went back and did another test. It worked. It worked too well. One thing I am doing is forcing myself to keep it simple. Not just for the sake of my computer crashing but also because music not being my main talent I know the simpler I keep it the more likely I will remain within my range. One scene specifically I wrote to be slightly tragic. The synth score made it scary but I lost a little of the tragic. The strings I added made the scene tragic for me again and I was sold. The fact that my original emotional intent was there means while it may be a harder route to go (much like the road less traveled I mentioned in the last post) it is the one that my film requires. I have not come this far to let a key part of the film be inferior and therefore make the film as a whole suffer. Now granted as of this writing some of the harder music scenes I haven’t gotten to yet. I may write another post lamenting the fact that I made this decision. But I doubt it. If anything I love a good challenge. Especially a creative one.

The next round of festival deadlines is quickly approaching so I have no time to debate things. This is how I am going and it may kill me but it is worth it. Not to say I won’t use a little synth here and there. Afterall, I can’t deny using the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

No Sundance

Posted in Film Festivals, Post Production with tags , on December 2, 2009 by Richard Diaz

Richard between scenes on the set of Distortion.

It is official. I got the letter from Sundance saying that ‘Distortion’ was not accepted. I kind of figured it wasn’t going to be. I think it was still a little too rough in form. Having watched it again recently I could see that. I knew what was going on in certain spots but it’s hard to ask others to when all you have is a title card as filler. I had to submit it though. Otherwise I would have had to wait another year to submit it and not be able to submit it elsewhere. Once you lose that world premiere status it is very hard to get into one of the more notable festivals.

I have no grudge or ill will. In fact, it encourages me to know that I really think the next film, ‘Killer Talk‘, will be something they will be interested in.

Now I don’t need to hurry with the remaining bits to do on the film. Especially the music. I felt like I was rushing it. I can take a little more time to put into it. Then I can submit it to other festivals. There are a lot of good ones out there. Can’t wait to get started.

No Sundance this year but I think next year I could have a shot.

And Off It Went

Posted in Post Production with tags , , , , on September 24, 2009 by Richard Diaz

Yesterday I mailed out the film to the Sundance Film Festival for consideration. It arrived in their offices this morning so now it’s all in their hands. In more ways than one.

The film is still in rough form. The visual effects are not finalized. Some of them are close. Just a little tweaking and they’ll be done. But the ending effects are in very rough form. In fact, one major effect is in animatic form. I was hoping I could have those closer to being done but it just wasn’t possible. The sound effects aren’t all there either. Most are sort of there. Maybe not the actual sound effect but a sound effect so that it’s not silent. The music is not completed. A few spots have some early versions of the score but mostly it has temp music. Temp music most of the time is music from other movies so that you can get a sense of how music will play its role in a certain scene. I did take out most of the music I thought was obvious because I felt it was distracting. The music from ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Batman Begins’ I thought was too obvious and it would even pull me out. Although I did leave one piece of music from ‘Batman Begins’. I left in or replaced music that was not as obvious. Unfortunately it’s still temp music and not scored to the film so while it worked in some places it doesn’t in others. In fact, the ending, as if the rough visual effects and a few missing shots wasn’t enough, doesn’t work with the temp music. It works in spots but some of the key moments it doesn’t work at all. I didn’t have time to go through every piece of music I have to find something that worked and that wasn’t recognizable. I hope it doesn’t take away from the film. Since all of these elements are not completed yet I also don’t have a sound mix so the audio is a bit all over the place. Some scenes are louder than others for example.

All part of the process.

While I got the film “Sundance ready” as I was calling it it’s still not done. If by the off chance it gets accepted then I will need to give them a final version to show. However, even if it doesn’t get accepted I want the film to be ready to be shown anywhere. I’m still set to have the film completed in the next month. I’d say the score might be the only thing that might take longer than expected. Worst case scenario it will be done by Thanksgiving. That will be a great moment when I know the film is done and ready to be shown anywhere. I can hope Sundance but we shall see.

Right now I’m taking a day to do nothing. Then I need to jump back into the short film to finish up. Then it’s back full on to getting ‘Distortion’ done. I’m already planning, depending on weather, to shoot some estasblishing and (visual effects) plate shots on Sunday. I’ll also be cutting a new trailer soon. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I cut the last one. If I remember correctly I cut it last January to be shown at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in Chicago. The new trailer will have a lot of the new stuff in it as well. That should be fun.

I feel like the next step in my dream to be a filmmaker has been reached. Many steps have been accomplished with many more to come. Having shot the film and close to having it done is one. Submitting it to Sundance is a big one. Of course if it got accepted that would be a huge one. Don’t want to get my hopes up though. Better to concentrate on finishing what is left.

Day Of Reckoning?

Posted in Post Production with tags , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2009 by Richard Diaz

Today is the last day to work on the film before submitting it to Sundance. I’m not sure how long it’ll take to compress and convert the film and put it on a DVD. When I did that before I think it took something like 8 hours alone to convert it. I need to leave a day open to make the DVD and test it.

So funny how it’s come down to the very last minute. Kind of nice working on a deadline however. My main regret is that I will have to submit an unfinished version. They let you but I only wanted it to not have a final sound mix or something. However, some of the digital effects won’t be finalized. A few will be a little rough. I figure if they are rough but not bad and the intention is there then I’m good. Also I will have to leave some of the temp music in. Some of it I think is ok because it’s not noticeable unless you really know the David Fincher film ‘Zodiac‘ really well. However, there is music that is much more noticeable (like music from ‘The Dark Knight‘) which I think would standout. I will be replacing all music that is recognizable.

I’ll send a very brief letter along with my submission just quickly stating this. The film will be done by November but I don’t want to have to rush through the digital effects and music. If I can leave those a little rough and have time to really finalize them then that will be good. And I don’t think this is the deal breaker. If they don’t like the film then it won’t be because a visual effects matte I have is shifting slightly.

My main concentration today will be the ending. It’s the one thing that isn’t fully working for me. It’s very anticlimactic at the moment and I think what I am adding will make a huge difference. I’m just not sure I can do it successfully in so little time. But it’s my main goal even if I’m up all night on it. If I save the ending I save the film. At least in my eyes. Hopefully in the eyes of Sundance as well.

William roaring before digital effect added.

William roaring before digital effect added.

William roaring after the digital effect is added.

William roaring after the digital effect is added.


Posted in Post Production with tags , , , on September 3, 2009 by Richard Diaz

First off …

I thought that was funny. Also true. Sometimes hindsight is 20/20 but nothing you can do about it.

Right now I am trying to do too much. Tightening up the editing of the film. Working on the sound effects. Doing the visual effects. Trying to do the music. Originally I was going to do a more traditional orchestral score using samples. I had even invested in some very amazing sample sets. The problem is the computer I have isn’t strong enough. Doesn’t take too much before the program crashes. After much lost pieces and frustated moments I decided that I needed to go back to my original option: do a synthesizer based score. I wanted to avoid it as I was afraid it would make the film sound cheesy. However, some of my favorite film scores are synthesizer scores. Some of my favorite movies have synthesizer scores. Granted it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I remember once watching George Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead’ and one guy mentioned the one thing he didn’t like about the film was the synthesizer score. I love the John Harrison music in the film. I guess because I grew up on films that mainly had them that they don’t bother me.

Without the option of running out and buying a new computer I let fate step in and make the decision for me regarding the music. What to do? Mope around over what could have been or dive in and make the best synthesizer score my feeble mind can muster? I dished out all of my favorite synthesizer scores (meaning I zipped through the iPod) and started looking for inspiration. So much to choose from. I started feeling better when I realized some of my favorite composers have all done them. A few names are:

Tyler Bates
Jay Chattaway
Harold Faltermeyer
Brad Fiedel
Jerry Goldsmith
John Harrison
Alan Howarth
Steve Jablonsky
Ennio Morricone
Fred Myrow
Robert Rodriguez
Arthur Rubenstein
Howard Shore
Tangerine Dream

Definitely a warming feeling. Of course one of my all time favorite film composers has done all of his scores on a synthesizer. I’m referring to none other than John Carpenter.

Director and Composer John Carpenter.

Director and Composer John Carpenter.

I’m not saying my score will be anywhere near what they can compose. In fact, I can honestly say it won’t be. It’s nice to know that there is a lot of inspiration to draw from. Now which one does that one sound? You know the – wwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.