Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mindy Makes a Movie

So I made this movie...

It all started when Aunt Chris had her movie transferred to DVD, and then showed it at my Dad's birthday party.

Well, to back up even more, it started in 1971 when Uncle Fred was taking a film class and shot a silent movie on 8mm film starring his young wife (Aunt Chris) and best friend Byron. The story of the film is that a man breaks into an apartment to try to rob it, and ends up getting shot by the occupant. As kids we cousins used to spend our time during family holiday parties in my Grandparents basement watching Grandpa's old home movies, and this one. It got to where we knew every scene by heart and would shout out sound effects and commentary on the background images (look at those gas prices!) on cue every time. Then time and technology changes took over and the movie was lost but for our memories of it, until now.

So with the whole family gathered we watched the movie once again and everyone shouted out the same old lines, and the new generation of young cousins were mesmerized. And then it was said: "We should make a sequel!"

Next thing you know I am writing a screenplay of a CSI/cold case type story that included many of the props from the original movie that are remarkably still in the families possession, and begins with Cale finding a bone on the beach. I cast most of the family members in the various roles, and sent out emails with their lines and the day we would be filming.

We shot all of the scenes in two days using my father's 12 year old hi-8 video camera and the video feature on my Kodak. The lighting design consisted of a shop light clipped to the camera tripod, and an extension cord. It all took way longer than I expected it to. There is so much involved in setting up every scene such as camera angles, getting good sound, arranging the props and rehearsing. There were lots of mistakes and bloopers making for an entertaining outtake reel that is as long as the movie!

Almost every family member readily agreed to appear in the movie, with the exception of my two brothers-in-law. So we put their names on missing persons files to be added to the background props. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and we changed the script to fit the situation. Matthew got a new puppy? Write it in! Even my dad got in on the action, and completed his scene in one flawless take. We joked that was because his background as a Lawyer was acting all along.

As we lugged equipment and props across her house Mary Beth commented that "Normal people aren't doing this today." Very true but normal people weren't having this much either!

The difficult part came when I had to transfer the videos to the computer. There was much more involved than I thought when I noticed our computer had Windows Movie Maker that came with Vista when we got it. I had to use special cords and a converter box, and Timmy downloaded a free trial of Sony Vegas that would accept all of the different formats we ended up with.

Vegas turned out to be a very powerful editing program that is extremely difficult for a newbie to learn and use. With the help of my brilliant son I eventually got to the fun part of selecting and arranging the scenes, and adding sound effects, transitions, and music. I very much enjoyed working on it until the project got so big and complicated that the more I did the more I messed other parts up. That's when it was time to call it a wrap.

After even more ado we were able to format and transfer it to a DVD, ready to show the family at our Easter party.

I was so excited to watch each person straighten up a bit as their scenes came along, and to hear everyone howl with laughter at all of the inside family jokes we had thrown in. Of course they were all full of compliments for the almost professional quality of the production.

Looking back, it does seem a little bit crazy to go through all of this just to amuse the family for a half an hour. But it was really more than that. Just like the original film, this movie and the experience of making it are now part of our legend. Each person is forever preserved exactly as they were that weekend, digitally immortalized into a silly story that's as entertaining to watch as it was to make.

My mother commented that it was a shame that I wasn't in the movie, but I don't see it that way. This thing, the whole project of it, is my creation, from a part of me that is more personal than the image of my face or the sound of my voice. It is my art. I have found that I have a need to create, whether its through my profession, or scrapbooking, or even this blog. I made a movie!


Anonymous said...

Dear Creative Mindy- thanks again for all of your time and effort making a home movie with a story line that was a sequel to the one made the winter of 1970-71. My sister in law Carol's 4 kids and their spouses or live-in friends, plus all of the kids, are coming over Sunday night for viewing the Sequel. Carol could rarely get them all together but they are so eager to see the sequel as they enjoyed the original in their childhood, much like our side of the family. They actually changed plans now so they could meet here. I'll start with the trailer and end with the bloopers.
If the compliments for your work go on and on, I'll get out paper and have them write them, and send it to you. If there is challenge that they could make a better sequel, we shall see....if there is any discussion of it, I'll tell them my idea on how to end the sequel, since you preferred a shot of "me" in a
1950's fake flower shower cap and ugly purple bathrobe ready to jump into a lake. love, Aunt Chris

Nancy USA said...

Make it easy: put it on YouTube for everyone you choose to enjoy it! Include me!

I've put some there myself, so if I can do it, I know YOU can!

kid_curry said...

You just have to youtube it.

Heather Leigh said...

You ABSOLUTELY have to youtube it...I SO want to see this!!

Anonymous said...

Dear friends of Mindy:
Please don't encourage You-Tube. I feel that the movie is strictly for family and the few friends who would understand the nuances. I refuse to give up my viewpoint that there is something very personal about the films for me alone and that I should make the decision about YouTube.
All of you seem to know Mindy well enough to be in her home in the future- see it there! She keeps a copy and I have the only other copy. It takes less than a half hour.
Mindy's Aunt Chris

Nancy USA said...

Dear Aunt Chris,
I suspect you are not familiar with YouTube. You can make it visible ONLY to the people you want, or public.

That is why I suggested Mindy post it for "everyone you chose". Whether it's family for friends.

Nancy USA said...

Whether you share it online or in your home, Mindy, what a wonderful present you have created for your family!!


Mindy said...

Nancy, I did try to use the private feature for youtube for the trailer, and I couldn't get it to work. The movie is a little too long for that, and I do want to respect Aunt Chris's wishes, so you'll just have to imagine that it's really good.

My book club happened to be at my house last night so I showed them the movie, and I think they found it entertaining. It was interesting to see the reactions of people who had never seen the original film, made me realize again how well done that was.

Heather Leigh said...

Got to see this last night at Mindy's house! It was SO fun to watch!! And in another 38 years, Tim, Jeff, Ramona, & Cale can make the next sequel!! Yes, I'm using a lot of exclamation points. And I must say, that the viewing of this movie, as good as it was, was the second biggest highlight of the evening. The first, of course, was when our book club author CALLED IN to our book club at Mindy's house and we chatted with her on speaker. Mindy- I can't WAIT for you to blog about that!!

Anonymous said...

Note to book club: 9 years ago I worked at a small bookshop for a few months. Their bookclub was interesting- the ladies liked to vacation together to go to book conventions or book signings and meet some authors. Only local authors would have book-signings at the bookshop, except for Nora Roberts who met them at a convention. Anyway, all of them told me that authors love e-mail and fan letters and are quite responsive to it. Book jackets and publishing houses might indicate an e-mail address. Aunt Chris

Rebecca Binno Savage said...

Great editing and directing job on the movie Mindy! You did a really great job with that - and the technology.

Just think - in 39 years someone will have to put it in a different technology to watch it!