Refuge The Movie
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From Houston, August 31  

Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 31, 2009.

We're on the sixth pass at the movie.  I think it is almost one -- a movie.  As the Frishbergs and I look at it over and over, we have to remind ourselves what was funny a few weeks ago, what was moving, so as not to start cutting good material out of complacence or boredom.

Ginger came in for three days with a great fresh eye, and Stephanie and members of my family continue to keep their heads clear and their judgments useful.  They also seem to earnestly like the movie, which is gratifying and frightening.

School started.  I remind myself that I continue to teach because I enjoy it.  And once I'm in the classroom, I do.  Teaching playwriting at NMSU to six graduate students in the Creative Writing MFA program, plus one world class prose writer, Robert Boswell (whose new collection of short stories is on Oprah's summer reading list).

Meet that group on Wednesday, get them started, and fly to Houston on Thursday where I have a combination of grad and undergrad students in a playwriting course at the University of Houston.

The boys sent me the movie in a Quicktime file.  From Houston, I send 60 or so tweaks back to them.  The boys want to "lock picture" before they head home this coming Wednesday.  Won't happen.  One of our students at the Creative Media Institute at NMSU, Eric Cameron, will continue editing with me.  We'll begin by putting in a series of pick-up shorts Reuben's going to shoot this coming weekend.  These are mostly insert shots, that is very specific shots close up of one thing or another -- a photo, a sunburned finger, the RV moving toward us, a night time "beauty" shot under the full moon.

Reuben has begun color correcting and The Dave has begun a sound mix.  Both have already provided a glimpse of how much better the flick can look and sound.  The software and what different ones can do boggle the mind.

We haven't made our composer deal yet.  Couple of options.  We're not to the point where we have a cut to show the composers, but we're very close.  In the abstract I have a clue what I want the music to do and where.  I can't hum it; will have to speak it in words and wait for the composers to translate the words into notes.  Ah -- so that's what I meant!  How do they do that?

It's all a mystery.

From Houston, August 31

Amelia's image of knight in shining armour.



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FIRST AUDIENCE, August 17  

Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 19, 2009.

Saturday and Sunday were about Tucker Medoff Harrison, two days old now and as yet unemployed.  Rachel and Bobby took The Friar home last night.  I got in a little holding and staring at him on my knees, facing me just the way I used to set his mom on me for her middle of the night feedings.  Alone in our dark house 33 years ago with tiny Rachel on my knees, taking a bottle, was as good as it got.

Scrapped the showing of the current 1:56 version of the movie for last night.  Will show Stephanie, Debra, Rachel (and Tucker) Monday morning at 10AM.  Will report later.  Go to gym, meet the playwright Richard Atkins for coffee, steel myself for myriad suggestions about this thing that exists in whole only in my head.

Stephanie, Jessica, Michael watched the cut.  They had a wealth of suggestions, opinions, and, inevitably, they disagreed on various of one another's opinions.

Editor Harry, of the editing Frischberg brothers, asked all the right questions as I became mute in an effort not to defend against every criticism or suggestion.  Though I respond in the end very well to criticism, I do not do well in the initial listening to the persiflage live.  To the contrary, inside I am seething.  I know -- makes no sense:  these critics are family -- very smart, totally supportive.

Harry, Max, and I talked for several hours after the showing, sifting through comments, deciding on which suggestions we'll act, and how.

Tuesday, August 18.  Saw a slightly revamped first 40 minutes last night.   Some substantial, though, subtle refinements to the opening/credit sequence, adding more information by way of the drama between Amelia and Jack (at the end of which he dies, though we don't know how), without giving away the fullness of what happened between them that precipitated the gun going off into Jack's sternum.

Big debate over whether Helen should give the finger to a competing lawyer outside the courthouse.  Woman adamantly against, men adamantly for.  I am swayed finally to cut the fingers because of the fact that Lena Georgas raised the same issue a month ago.  Would her character do that?  Actors often know their characters better than the creator or the interpreter.  Don't want to alienate the female audience at the outset.

Age old issue in my house with Stephanie about the likability of characters.  She wants to like them from the beginning.  I maintain that characters can be difficult to like when we meet them, then change as we go.  The essence of writing fictitious people is to take them through crucibles to change.  Helen is tough, but there are moments, even right in the beginning, where we see that she cares for Darryl.  I think.

Show a cut tonight to The Dave so he can do a preliminary sound mix for a showing tomorrow (Thursday) to Reuben, so he can do some color correction before this coming Sunday when Ginger and a few (yet unnamed) strangers will see where we are.

Some issues with our temp track.  Differing opinions among family viewers as to what music was helping/hurting.  Took grandson Kagen (15) with me last night (let him drive; has learner's permit) to look at the re-cut first 40 minutes.  He made a point to say he liked the music.  Also fascinated by the editing process.  Like many kids of his generation, he knows a lot about movie-making instinctually without knowing what he knows.  He is like a rep from his generation come to check for his brethren whether this is a movie he might recommend to them.  My mid-teens it was Dick Clark and "American Bandstand."  "I give it an 95, Dick; I didn't like the beat, but I'll buy it because of the message:  'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog, cryin' all the time.'"

Family wanted more sense of what happened in RV between Amelia and Jack.  We don't want to give away the whole scenario, though, until Amelia shares the truth with Darryl at the beginning of Act 3. Delicate balance, interesting challenge.  The boys got close; we discussed some alterations.  We get very excited at the moments of group enlightenment we hit now once or twice a day.

List of pick-ups for Reuben -- mostly inserts to clarify.  We can't afford to bring any of the actors back for re-shoots, so will hope to do with what we have and can pick-up without them; several people in the actors' costume pieces pretending to pick up a Bible, change a license plate, look in a rearview at a cop.

Last night, we stole an Amelia moment from a later scene to stick in an earlier one where we needed a rearview glance.  Exterior landscape a little different; banking on fact audience will be watching her and not looking out the window at the terrain.  Much magic is based on making people look where you want them to.

I hear -- or read -- a lot of missives from friends, former students, new acquaintances about our website and the blogs.  I am grateful to all for following our progress.

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AUGUST 15, WELCOME TUCKER  

Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 17, 2009.

The Chase!  Of?  The instinctual but ultimately arbitrary number we have in our heads for the proper length of the movie.  Used to be that a 2 hour movie was the standard and teaching screenwriting broke down to:  Act 1, 15-20 minutes; Act 2, 80-90 minutes; Act 3 and denouement, 15-20 minutes.  The 2 hour standard has shrunk some; so many movies in the one hour and 40-50 minute realm.

I live in terror of boring people.  What people I don't know.  Boredom doesn't have a demographic.  We're on our second pass through the roughed out movie.  Harry, Max, and I are starting to speak the same language, to understand each other's point of view.  So disagreements have a context in which to be judged now.

We have worked through a little over half the movie -- through the central set piece in the middle of the movie -- the mortuary where Jack is cremated, a strange cop shows up, and Darryl disappears to play basketball for money.  A delightful section to put together.  The supporting cast -- Amy Lanasa and Brandon Brown -- are real and funny.  The hoops tilt cuts together well and Chris PG was hot on the night we shot, really scoring 3 times in a row with a drive, a jump shot, a pass behind his back to his cutting teammate for the win.

We have cut deeply into the early Overlook scene.  Like losing an appendage at this point to cut most of a set piece, but I had to agree with the boys that we didn't need the scene.  Finishing last night, we debated losing a section of the Book Store scene where the Singing Woman recognizes Amelia as the hospice nurse who took care of her late father.  Got into a discussion with the boys about how I view the movie as the anti-thriller:  We have all the accoutrements of a thriller but purposely don't do much expected of a thriller, especially where cops are concerned; try to defy the audience's expectations.  Could be good, could bite us in the ass.  But so it goes, of course.

Finding the performances that seem rightest in a particular scene is fun, though it often creates matching challenges for the boys to edit.  So far, though, they have proven themselves capable of every challenge.  I'm happy to say that, in retrospect, we actually shot a sufficient amount of coverage in most cases.

Though we are developing a list of pick-ups.  Several of which seem unnecessary to me but necessary to the boys.  I would have thought they would be the ones telling me how intelligent and observant audiences are today, schooled as they are in a collective movie structure awareness (and of course EVERYONE can write a screenplay, as in my youth everyone was going to get to writing THE BIG BOOK).  But I'm the one saying we don't need this or that -- traditional movie-making reminders and inserts.  I will probably get cold feet and have Reuben shoot all the traditional reminders to be inserted briefly at the proper places to remind audiences of what, when I wrote and we shot, I didn't think they needed to be reminded of.

May show a rough cut to a small audience Sunday night.  The trauma of that already has blood pressure rising.  I am not good at inviting people to criticize something I've been an intimate part of; to the contrary, I have been known to behave hostilely.  My theory:  When you invite people to find fault with something, THEY WILL.  Am frankly willing to show it to no one, ever, until we send a version off to the Sundance competition, end of September.

Big event today:  Daughter Rachel will be induced around 11 AM -- 3 hours from now.  Heading down the street to the Old West Town, where the boys are staying, for a few hours of editing before all the Medoff/Marks/Harrisons descend on the hospital to welcome Tucker Medoff Harrison to the world.

I am reminded that when Tucker's mother, daughter Rachel, was born, a friend sent a telegram (Remember those?) that said:  "Welcome to the world, Rachel Celeste, homage will follow in due course."  From which came the title of my play THE HOMAGE THAT FOLLOWS, which became the movie HOMAGE with Blythe Danner, Frank Whaley, Cheryl Lee, and Bruce Davison. Is there nothing that doesn't find its way into the stuff I pretend is made up.

8:43 PM.  Tucker was born at 4:45.  Amazing.  Really.

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