Nonlinear Editing Killed Them, Every One

At the Exploratorium, Tricia is raising her arm and creating digi-trails in real time.

We’re here at San Francisco’s Exploratorium to see Dutch artist Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest exhibition. One of his many kinetic sculptures struts its stuff. Jaw dropping!

Eventually we wander off to, dare I say it, explore the Exploratorium. We enter an empty room and see ourselves projected in posterized color with digi-trails following our every move.

“OMG,” I say to Tricia, “It’s SqueeZoom from the 1980s. You can’t do that these days.”

The Big Squeeze

At home, I dig out my old videos from the SqueeZoom days. The Molinare 1980 showreel is packed with them—trails, trails and more trails. Then, so hip and of the moment; today, crude and dated. But love is blind and I love them all. (Watch the 1980 Molinare showreel, hosted by James Smiley here. )

My Vital Industries SqueeZoom edit suite with four VTRs is £400 an hour. Booked almost seven days a week, it pays for itself in six months.

Tonight I Get High

From the Molinare showreel

Tricia and I live on the top floor of Molinare, our video facility. I love my new toy so much that on the rare occasion when it isn’t booked, I sneak downstairs with my own VCR and plug into SqueeZoom. Tra la!

I am the Wizard of Oz! Effect 51—trails galore. Effect 67—the image does multiple repeats. Finally I feed SqueeZoom back into itself and out comes endless streaming, changing colors, digi-trailing to infinity.

Where’s my copy of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown?

Ampex ADO

Four years after SqueeZoom, I buy an ADO (Ampex Digital Optics). Sadly, SqueeZoom can’t rotate the picture XYZ and can’t do perspective, but ADO can and more.

It’s $150,000 and as revolutionary as the SqueeZoom was in her short life.

Today, late 2016, I buy an ADO control unit on eBay for $29.99 including shipping.

Ballet Trails

From the 1985 Quantel Encore promo

My favorite trail video is the ballet dancer in my 1985 Quantel Encore DVE promo—$160,00 a snip but so beautiful.

Vintage Treasures

You can’t do these effects anymore—not in Adobe After Effects, Apple Motion, Boris FX, Apple Final Cut Pro X, GenArts Sapphire, Red Giant TrapCode, Tiffen DFX, you name it. Sure you can make wishy-washy trails and blurs and a zillion cute particle effects, but they don’t even come close to these real-time hardware-created babies.

Digi-trails—gone the way of Bakelite ashtrays, lava lamps, VW T3 vans, Sinclair ZX computers … and whatever happened to Arthur Brown?

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on WHERE HAVE ALL THE DIGI-TRAILS GONE?


Goof Off and Die

Ever walk away from your real-world obligations and just have fun? Be warned…

I’m co-owner and CEO of Molinare, the largest video facility company in London.

Clive Burke is a Molinare client. He’s always in with his twin carousel slide shows. He loves his Electrosonic ES3601 slide projector presentation system.

Enter the Elevator

“Clive, film is so much better than a two-projector show.”

“Funny you should say that. I have a job for Pearson’s Pottery in Chesterfield.”

I need time off from being a suit and tie executive to get back to my craft. Hey, it’s only two days.

Going Down

Clive likes our film and tells his famous brother, James Burke. James hosts a science series, Connections.

Down, Down, Down

A few weeks later—yes, I should be running Moli—it’s another shoot, a corporate about Perkins diesel engines. We are in the noisiest factory ever with brother James. The factory is so loud that I can’t hear him clearly on my headphones.

When I check, the sound is unusable; that’s never happened to me before or since. So bad that if Perkins has any sense, they will fire me and sue for Burke’s fee.

Ground Floor

Incredibly, the Perkins people are delighted and want me to do another job.

They liked my awful film! These Perkins guys are idiots, but then again, so am I. Alarm bells should be ringing. Ding! Ding! But no, I’ll do the gig. Not a two-day wonder but two weeks away in Scandinavia!

Rutschebanen roller coaster at Bakken

First day in Denmark, the two Perkins guys and I are on the Rutschebanen wooden roller coaster at Bakken, which is bigger and better than the one at Tivoli Gardens.

In the afternoon, it’s the Carlsberg & Jacobsen Brewhouse tour. At night, we do Copenhagen.

Next day, I check how many boatyard locations we are visiting.

“Let’s see, five in Denmark, six in Norway, six in Sweden and five in Finland.”

“OMG, that’s 22. I don’t have enough film to shoot them all.”

“Stefan, this is a PR exercise. They’re really excited about our visit. We don’t have the budget for more film. Shoot two in each country, pretend to shoot the rest.”

Six Feet Under

We arrive at a boatyard; the owner is pleased to see us. My 16mm Éclair camera has an empty magazine. The red light comes on. The Perkins sales rep does a long interview but nothing is shot. I’m faking it. I feel bad, very bad.

We leave Denmark and make our way up Norway. There’s a lot of partying, saunas, drinking and shooting with no film. Next is Sweden—yep, more partying, saunas, drinking, more no-film shooting; followed by Finland, did I say party? Then suddenly the two from Perkins have to leave.

I’m stuck in Helsinki. Whaaa!

Shame and Pain

If I had let Clive Burke stick with his beloved ES3601, none of this would have happened. These two shameful works of crap were the last films I made for eight years.

They got a name for the winners in the world,

I want a name when I lose.

Want to read more stories like thi
Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on CONNECTIONS


Kiss Your ‘Cinema Paradiso’ Goodbye

Cinema Paradiso (1988) is an Academy Award-winning Italian film about a young boy and his projectionist friend.

FYI: The world has changed. The movies you see at the cinema are no longer projected from 35mm film. Instead, the moving images are coming from a computer hard drive. The DCP (digital cinema package) stored on the hard drive is a collection of files containing digital cinema audio, image and data streams.

DCP is also a TLA. What’s a TLA? A three-letter acronym, like IBM, TSA and WTF.

A DCP has TIFF format video in (here come the TLAs) XYZ color space, with audio in PCM multichannel WAV encrypted in AES 128-bit in CBC mode, all wrapped in an MXF container. It’s TLAs from start to finish. Not for humble DIY folk like you and me.

Who You Gonna Call? Do Busters!

David’s double-width master has two SBS (side-by-side) 1920 x 1080 L & R frames.

My film WBAS (We Built a Ship) has been selected for screening at the NMFF (New Media Film Festival). They want a 3D DCP.

Before commissioning a DCP, I decide to get a 3D Blu-ray (BD3D) made.

I do a search and find Sony Creative Software DoStudio 3D. At $20K, I wonder who has bought Do software. I discover a link to user David Courtice, CEO of DC Creative in L.A.

I Need a BD3D

I USPS a PNY 256 GB USB 3.0 flash drive with separate left- and right-eye ProRes files.

“Stefan, I have your USB drive. The masters you sent are 1080i 29.97. The only acceptable frame sizes/rates for BD3D are 1920 x 1080 @ 23.976 fps progressive or 1280 x 720 @ 59.94 fps progressive. I suggest we downconvert to 720p/59.94 and then encode.”

“OMG, what a PIA! OTY, David, make the BD3D at 720p.”

MNG (Meet and Greet) F2F

A feature-length movie is about five 2,000-foot reels of 35mm film—all replaced by this single hard drive.

I have my full-length Blu-ray duplicated copies; now I need a 17-minute DCP for the NMFF 3D screening in Los Angeles.

I jet from SFO to BUR and meet David F2F. He’s running a boutique facility with editing, color grading and sound design rooms.

To convert my film to 24p, he makes and renders a 3840 double-width master in Adobe After Effects. It takes a day to cook. When finished, he breaks it back into separate left and right files. There follows a litany of XYZ, TIFF, MXF, PCM and WAV work—you don’t want to know. David speaks TLA like a native.

We go to indieDCP in Burbank. They make the final DCP. We put on our passive 3D glasses for the preview screening. No longer Cinema Paradiso, now Cinema DCP-o.

We Won!

At the NMFF, our DCP is presented on a huge screen. The 3D is great; folks in front of me duck as 3D sawdust comes spewing out. WBAS is awarded Best 3D. Yeah! “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World).”

My thanks to David (DC Creative), Bryan (indieDCP), Brandon (drone pilot), Tricia (producer and second camera), Alan and all the crew at the shipyard.

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on DCP BFD


But Let’s Make It Look Like a Movie

Janet Suzman as Joan of Arc falls through the floor and is burned at the stake. Bummer.

Working as a cameraman for director Ken Russell was scary. One mistake and you’re out. Pity the poor PA who quipped that a shot of Ken’s looked like one from Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries.

“Beam me up, Kennie!” Where’d he go?

Tonight I’m going to work as an editor with director Peter Hall and writer John Barton. Together, they founded the Royal Shakespeare Company. I’m nervous. Will this be my BBC swan song?

It’s 6 p.m. and they’re here in my cutting room viewing my week’s work. Peter couldn’t be more different from the irascible Ken. While he knows Shakespeare and theater backwards, film editing and postproduction are new to him.

Peter: Do you understand that we want it to look like a feature film rather than a stage production?”

Yes.” “Having seen it, do you have any suggestions?”

“The whole production could be tightened up. There are long pauses where actors walk in or leave the stage.”

“Chop away. Do whatever looks best. We’re in your hands.”

“Next, the rhyming couplets at the end of each scene don’t work. They reek of a stage production.”

“Agreed—cut them out. Shakespeare isn’t sacred.”
John: “It’s called the WARS of the Roses. There are wars going on all the time. We shot some real cannons and soldiers fighting, but with hindsight, not nearly enough. There need to be battles scattered over the nine-hour series. You could even interrupt a scene with one. Create new battles from scraps. Étonne-moi.”

Amaze me! What a challenge.


Orson Wells and Gregg (I need a fag) Toland line up a low-angle shot

I can’t wait to see my editing FOM, Simeon. Gleefully, he can’t wait to gossip about an RSC screw-up.

“They cut a hole in the expensive new stage to get low-angle shots.”

“Probably copying Orson Wells, who did the same for Citizen Kane.”

Janet Suzman as Joan of Arc comes running with her sword upraised, there’s lots of smoke and, whoosh, she disappears down into the camera pit. She sprains her ankle badly and limps right up to the time she’s taken away and burned at the stake.”

“Simeon, John Barton wants me to add mini-wars throughout the nine hours. I can do it but I’m worried about the number of film opticals. The lab costs could be in the thousands.”

“No worries. It’s below the line.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Below the line, like when you need a new chinagraph pencil or a replacement lamp. Film opticals are the same. This is Aunty BBC, not the real world.”

The nine-hour program is a great success. I am offered a full-time staff job. It would be safe and cozy. I pass, needing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—and friends, they were all there waiting for me.

Outrageous fortune indeed! I should be so lucky.

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE


Right Back Where I Started From

Yay! I’m back at BBC Ealing. I’m so happy! I run up the stairs to the room with all the FOMs. “Hi Fred, hi Derek, hi Simeon. I’m an editor now!”

Simeon is the film operations manager for editors. We go down the stairs to the BBC canteen. He can’t wait to tell me about the strange and wonderful ways of BBC editing.

“Stefan, we’ve got Ampex VR1000 videotape recorders. Right? Well, they cost £40,000 and are bloody useless. Video editing is a disaster. You can’t splice the 2-inch tape. They say you can, but in practice you can’t, and it ruins the tape anyhow. The show you’ll be working on, The Wars of the Roses, is a 35mm telerecording [kinescope or kine in the United States] from live cameras.”

Hey Bra’ What’s Da Kine?

“A telerecording [kine] is film. Film, we all know and love. A 35mm synchronized camera shoots a 405-line cathode ray tube. It shows a negative image so the processed film is positive. Are you following me?

“Peter Hall, the boss of the Royal Shakespeare Company, wanted to do it on the stage at Stratford on Avon. A bloody stupid idea, if you ask me. They had to pull out seating and completely rebuild the sloping stage to make it flat. Why? They could have done it in our TV studios. We had to run in land lines to the center and record it as a 35mm telerecording. Madness…

The Wars of the Roses aired on BBC1 in April 1965.

“To complicate everything, they shot each sequence four or five times, moving the six cameras to different positions. Each pass, the director called the shots, so the cutting is different. Eight weeks shooting with over 50 BBC staff on location and who knows how many RSC people. Did I say ‘madness’ already?”

Binge Television 1965 Style

“All that effort and it winds up in a room here in Ealing, cans and tapes from floor to ceiling. Three three-hour programs—a nine-hour marathon to be broadcast over three days. And it’s all yours, my boy!”

“Gee, thanks, Simeon. But don’t you have a real, full-time editor?”

“Frankly, no one wanted the job. We dumped it on Nobby Clark, but Shakespeare is not his thing. You understand Shakespeare, can do Shakespeare, can’t you?”

“Sure. ‘If she says your behavior is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus.’”


“No, Cole Porter.”

Fire Burn and Keller Bubble

Our edit room has a six-plate 35mm Keller flatbed.

I meet Nobby and look at the half hour he has cut. There’s a freeze-frame that stands out. I try to be tactful.

“Nobby, you can see the film grain suddenly stops on the freeze.”

“I know. I had to extend the scene.”

“Then what you must do is find a spot where you can run the film back and forward, back and forward. That way the film grain keeps moving.”

“Brilliant. You take over. I will look after labels and cut the M&E rolls. Peter Hall and John Barton will be in this Friday night to review our work—no, I mean, your work.”

Nobby has backed out, it’s my baby. I have five days to prove myself before they come.

Fear no more the frown of the great.

To be continued.

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on BRUSH UP YOUR SHAKESPEARE


My Secret Life as Jennifer Beals

My four-month holiday relief job at the BBC is over. One more visit to say goodbye to my FOM, Fred.

“You heard? He burnt my clapper.”

“Great story. Westbury said you tried to save it. You leave us in blaze of glory…”

“Very funny. Any chance of a last-minute reprieve?”

“No. In fact, I have to cut back on camera crews—25 to maybe 20. Tough decisions for me. But try Derek in sound. He might have something. Derek, ask him a few of your famous questions!”

Derek is the film operations manager for sound. He’s a desk away.

“So you think you know about sound?”

“I started in radio and did wedding recordings.”

“You’ll need more than that to get into film sound at the BBC. I’ll start with a simple question.” I am expecting him to ask me something like, What’s the difference between a VU and a PPM meter? But no. “Tell me all you know about power amplifiers.” It’s a below-the-belt question with zero relevance for film sound. “Come on. Power amps.”

Power amplifier with push-pull 5B/854Ms - basically slimmed down 807 tubes.

“Power amps! I love them—807s in push-pull. I prefer Class B, although AB has its merits. Shall I draw a circuit diagram and include the EF86 preamps?”

The other FOMs fall about laughing. A year before, I had built an 807 Class B power amplifier from a kit set. Derek has no choice; I start the next week as a sound recordist.

Forgive me if I skip through the next awful six months doing sound. I’m out in the freezing British weather holding a boom mic over people’s heads–naturally I get the flu. On my return, I’m in a small room transferring location Nagra tapes to 16mm magnetic film.

I work 12-hour shifts every two days: Mon/Tue on, Wed/Thu off, Fri/Sat on, Sun/Mon off, and so on. It’s hell in my little prison cell. I am no longer on holiday relief; I’m stuck here for good. Ugh!

I’ve been at the BBC almost a year and this is my annual review. It’s like the last sequence in Flashdance: a long table filled with respectable BBC executives and I’m Jennifer Beals.

Jennifer Beals in Flashdance

“Hello, Stefan. We’re delighted to meet you. You were a cameraman and then transferred to sound. Why did you make that move?”

“Not my choice. My holiday relief cameraman job ran out and I was offered sound, but I hate it. I’m just transferring tapes all day.”

“What would you like to do? Don’t say, ‘I want to direct.’”

“Take me out of sound. I can edit. I really can. I’ve made hundreds of pop videos and commercials in Australia. I can mark up 35mm film for optics.”

Me as Jennifer Beals flying through the air. The man at the end of the table picks up interest.

“There’s a mountain of 35mm film waiting for you to edit at Ealing Studios. It’s a three-part, nine-hour series, The Wars of the Roses. Report to your edit FOM next Monday.”

What a feeling, being’s believin’.

To be continued…

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on BLAZE OF GLORY


‘Z Cars’ It Ain’t

Stefan on speedboat with ARRIFLEX 35 IIC, foreground Ken Russell, inset Oliver Reed

I am employed at BBC Ealing Studios as a cameraman. Well, that’s what I thought until I met my FOM, film operations manager Fred, and I discovered I am just a “holiday relief” cameraman, grade C minus. A three-month temporary assistant…

Fred takes pity on me, and for my swan song he puts me on Ken Russell’s The Debussy Film. It’s to be shot by BBC staff cameraman Ken Westbury. I had worked with him before on the BBC television series Z Cars, shooting 16mm. We know each other and get on well.

The location is Beachy Head, near the seaside resort of Eastbourne. The call sheet says “Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian.” It is a long, difficult clamber over the rocks.

We have two ARRIFLEX 35 IIC 35mm cameras, tripods, batteries, a blimp, film magazines, boxes of film and lenses, including a heavy Angenieux 25-250 zoom. Slowed down by all the kit, we finally catch up with Russell, who has raced ahead with Oliver Reed and a bevy of tall blonde models who are practicing their archery skills.

Martyre de Saint Sébastien à la Ken Russell

Z Cars it ain’t,” says Westbury.

I set up a shot. Russell checks it and seems happy. Then, out of the blue, Westbury turns to me and says, “Would you like to operate?” I leap at the chance. “Yes, yes, please, thank you.”

A few months ago I was making films for Australian station TCN9. I had a wind-up clockwork 16mm Bolex camera and a crew of none. Today I’m shooting 35mm film using cameras I have never used before. I have two film assistants and four grips to help—and there must be 50 or more models, actors and technicians here.

The last night at Eastbourne is a big candlelit procession with hundreds of extras. I do close-ups on a 75mm and switch to an 18mm wide angle. I am walking backwards at night over wobbly, broken rocks. Maybe this is why Westbury asked me to operate…

We get to a cove with a campfire. Our star, Oliver Reed, is there. His fire is dying.

“More wood, we need more wood!” shouts Russell. “Stefan, I want your clapper!”

“No, Ken. I need it.” “Rubbish, you can make films without a clapper. Give it to me!”

“Z Cars it ain’t,” says Westbury.

“I can’t! It’s not for burning!” He grabs my clapperboard and tosses it onto the fire.

Russell has made Women in Love, The Devils, Mahler, Tommy and many more, while I have built sound and television studio Molinare in London. One Friday night, he arrives to be interviewed. I am waiting at our front door.

“Ken, I’m Stefan. Do you remember me? I was the cameraman on Debussy.”

“Of course. You’re the crazy Australian who threw his clapper into the fire.”

Russell Harty, the talk show host, appears. Ken disappears with him into the studio. Drat! I never had a chance to set the record straight.

“No, Ken, you’re wrong. YOU burned my clapper. You did it, not me!”

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on KEN RUSSELL BURNED MY CLAPPER



I’m working for ITN, the news station owned collectively by the UK commercial television stations. No, “working” is the wrong word. ITN is a union shop. No fault of mine, but I’m stuck in a dispute between the union and management. I’m not working.After three months of doing nothing, my boss has a solution: he will try to get me a job at the BBC.

“Phone me at 4:00 and I’ll give you the news.”

I just happen to be at the British Museum. It’s the summer of 1964, at 4 o’clock. Cell phones haven’t been invented yet. No worries, the museum has a pay phone. Just the one. Anxiously, I dial ITN. “John Cotter, please.”

“Good news, Stefan. The BBC has a vacancy. It’s not news but film productions. You start on Monday. Go to Ealing Studios and report to your FOM at the White Lodge.”


“Film operations manager. No need to come in here again—we’ll post you any back pay and holiday pay. Good luck, bye.” Click. So ends my so-called employment at ITN.


I’m at Ealing Studios, famous for its Ealing comedies like The Ladykillers (1955). The White Lodge front door is locked. I find a side entrance.

“Good morning. I’m new, a cameraman. I’m looking for my FOM.”

Up the stairs, second desk on the right. His name is Fred.”

There he is: my FOM, Fred.

“You don’t know how lucky you are. See that pile of envelopes? They are all job applications. Hundreds of them—and we have just ten holiday relief vacancies. Well, nine, now that you’re here.”

“I’m a holiday relief cameraman?”

“You’re employed for three months just to cover the summer holiday period. Didn’t you know? Sorry, they should have told you. When our guys come back from holidays, we let people like you go. Sounds tough, but it will be a good experience. You can add BBC to your CV.”

I spend the day with Fred. The BBC canteen is nearby and huge. Fred introduces me to everyone: cameramen, editors, electricians. I really like Fred. I love the buzz.

“Here’s the deal, Stefan. I will move you around. You’ll work on documentaries, TV serials, and if anything sensationally good comes up, I’ll put you on it. That’s a promise.”

One day Fred calls me into his office: “You have a month to go on your contract. I’m putting on a 90-minute feature to be directed by Ken Russell. He’s shooting on 35mm. Big-name actors like Oliver Reed …”

Director Ken Russell, left of frame, in my nighttime Debussy shoot. Actor Vladek Sheybal on the right.

Oliver Reed I know, but I’ve never heard of Russell.

“You know, he directed Mahler. You must have seen it. I’ve paired you with Ken Westbury—he’s one of our best cameramen. Oh, you’ll need a BBC estate car. Here’s a pickup slip. Go to the BBC garage in Hammersmith and collect.”

My dream come true. A few months ago I was in Australia shooting on a wind-up 16mm Bolex and now I’m shooting a feature in 35mm. And I have my own car.

Little did I know that Ken Russell would go on to make classic features: Women in Love, Sons and Lovers, The Devils.

And little did I know that one night, he would burn my clapper.

to be continued …

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on A FOM CALLED FRED



My artisan wife, Tricia, has made a quilt out of linen scraps. She brings it home.

“I should have filmed you making it.”

“I can make another with a different design. Film that.”

“Great, but let’s hang this one up as a background. You do a piece to camera and give me some VO. The sun is out, we should do it now.” I grab my Sony PXW-X70, plug the HDMI output into a very old Sony LMD-2020 20-inch LCD monitor.

X70 wide shot of big quilt

Shibui, our Himalayan puss and would-be film star, pricks up her ears and leaps onto the table at the edge of the frame. How does she know just where to be? She preens and prances around in the only corner that is in the shot. Talk about upstaging.

Tricia does her thing, but she is struggling with the coconut remains of a seven wonder bar in her mouth. I stop shooting.

Tricia goes to the bathroom for a thorough tooth clean and water rinse. Shibui loses interest and wanders off.

“No, puss, that was only take one. Mummy, with a mouth full of coconut, looked like Francis the Talking Mule. We have to shoot it again.”

Take Two

“First positions, please!” This is where you need a team of production assistants and cat wranglers. It was not to be—Shibui leaps off the table and comes around to watch Tricia on the 20-inch Sony monitor. Everyone wants to be a director.

The next day I’m at Tricia’s workrooms. I use the Sony HXR-NX30U for my handheld shots. Amazing image stabilization, a great wide Zeiss lens and excellent audio. Just leave the thing on auto-everything and it all comes out. For me, the choice between this little lightweight camera and the ubiquitous Canon EOS 5D is a no-brainer.

NX30 shot of Tricia choosing squares for smaller quilt

Sony, in its wisdom, has discontinued the NX30, but you can pick one up secondhand for less than $1,500.

For interviews, I use the Sony PXW-X70. Why? Because it has a 1-inch sensor that lets me throw the background out of focus, and on B&H it’s under $2K. It records 10-bit color at 50 Mb/s, but who needs that for a routine YouTube video?


OK, I know I’m odd, but I transfer in real time using a Blackmagic DeckLink HD Extreme 3D card.

Shibui sees me editing. In a flash she is in front of the FCP monitor and stomping all over myLogickeyboard. I lift her off the table. Whoosh! She’s back again.

“Puss, darling, Daddy is working. Get lost or no more Fancy Feast.”

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on SHIBUI IS A STAR


Here’s My First Acceptance

Congratulations! Your New Media submission, “We Built A Ship” (17-minute version), has been officially selected into the 7th Annual New Media Film Festival in the 3D category.

They’re going to run it in 3D. All too exciting—and that $45,000 prize would be a nice donation to the shipbuilding effort.

They want the film for opening night. I am asked to cut my 92-minute feature down to a mere 15 minutes. Gulp!


Fear not! As an old pro, I’m used to cutting things down. I’ll never forget “Amazing Amsterdam.” The city is a destination for the British Gas salesman of the year. A short film is needed for the sales convention. Each shot in the official Chamber of Commerce film is about 10 seconds long. I cut them down to one second each. Ten minutes to one minute and not a single shot missing. It looks great.

My own film reduction is a little harder. I leave in the opening sequence and jump to a longish piece about making the frames (ribs) and laying the keel. Another huge cut to frame 36 and hey presto, 92 minutes is chopped to 17. Quite Easily Done.

Tears in My Bedroom

That afternoon, next-door neighbors Sally and Martha come over. I’ve got to say that the New Media Film Festival folks had a good idea. You can’t ask visitors to watch 92 minutes, but “Hey, would you like to see my film? It will only take 15 minutes!” is more enticing. Sally and Martha say yes and are trotted into my bedroom, where the 24-inch JVC 3D monitor lives, right next to my bed. (Am I weird or what?)

They put on their 3D glasses. I start the movie, tiptoe out and close the door. I come back 17 minutes later and turn on the light. Martha is crying. Not just crying—sobbing. She is a mess. “It’s so beautiful, so beautiful.” Wow, that’s a good reaction. I’d better warn the New Media Film Festival people to have plenty of tissues handy.

Big-Screen Screening

A week later there’s a private screening at a local cinema. You have to be so careful about these things. Unless you want to disqualify yourself from film festivals, any screening has to be strictly private. Mine was organized by the shipyard and was for only the ship’s builders and donors. There are no tickets on sale but the theater is full.

I’m as nervous as a kitten. I’ve had so many bad experiences. The worst was at the National Film Theatre in London, where my 16mm film was so badly threaded in the projector that the sound was muffled and unintelligible. I was sitting in the center of the theater. I did nothing, just sat there wincing.


Back to my big screen event. My film starts and, as expected, it looks good. People in the audience see their friends (and even themselves) on the big screen. There is excited chatter and laughter.

After one sequence, the audience breaks into spontaneous applause. Have you ever been in a cinema where the applause is in the middle of the film? They do it again and again. This is heady stuff for me.

Is anyone in there crying? Only me. It’s so beautiful….

Posted in 2016, Production Diary | Comments Off on ONE DOWN: 49 FILM FESTIVALS TO GO