On Thursday evening, my brother and I sat in the clammy bedroom of his Latham, NY apartment and mulled over the final edits of Wings Over Arda: The First Age, which had in the last six months undergone an assiduous metamorphosis from a disconnected reel of raw footage to a coherent, colorful, mellifluous chunk of mostly-edited data. The sound effects had all been dropped in, the music had been finalized (as of the previous night), and the color grading had been completed after hours of sedentary work. The film was to have a private premiere (with invited guests, friends and family of the cast) in two days. Travel plans had been made by cast members and family in Manhattan, Boston and Rochester. 36 gigabytes worth of special effects, which would need compression to 1.5 or so, had yet to be delivered to us. Philip sat on the phone with Jack, our special effects expert and camera operator, uttering intermittent “Oh”s and “yeah”s as my chest did cartwheels. “There’s no way I’m rescheduling the premiere again,” I thought. It turned out Jack’s computer had taken longer than expected to export the effects. He came through, like I knew he would, but by the time the effects were done and the film exported in its entirety, we had about twelve hours to figure out how we were going to show it. The DVD-making process, for whatever reason, failed.
While getting dinner with cast members/musicians, less than two hours before the film was to premiere, I received a call from my brother, and there came the first time I’ve ever answered my cell phone in a restaurant. It was just like I’d imagined: the dismayed stares from the wait staff, the attempts of my companions to shield their faces, all of it. The call itself lasted roughly nine seconds. My brother had only one sentence for me, a sentence which came out as a single word: “GotthemovieworkingbutSeedwon’tworkgottafigureitoutseeya.” Seed is my brother’s short film, which was set to screen before Wings.
I arrived at the Key Auditorium with friends at my heels and half the cast already present. The congratulations began and I made sure my handshakes and hugs were firm, despite not knowing whether our planned double-feature would even be happening. When I finally entered the theatre, a still frame from Seed‘s Gung-Fu action finale was spread across the screen, and my brother worked away on his Mac computer, which he’d MacGuyver’d to the theatre’s projector system. Deep breaths were taken by all. Anna and Laura, who had come with me to dinner, took turns laying hands on my shoulders and insisting that I’d been worrying about nothing. The cartwheels inside wouldn’t stop, however, until the end credits rolled.
The initial response to the premiere-version of the film was what I’d hoped for. Nearly the entire cast was able to attend. Audience members who knew the source material expressed support of my adaptation, and those who had never even heard of it claimed they were able to follow the story with no trouble. My father even breached his usual 9PM bedtime to attend.
It wasn’t until midway through the laughter-coated cast party, during which we watched the behind-the-scenes featurettes I edited together, that I realized what this project really was. Amid my sadness about such a fun, thought-consuming project reaching its inevitable end, I forgot to look around the room. Once I did, I realized that more than half of the attendees, now some of my closest friends, had been strangers to me a year earlier. Working on this film did more for me (and hopefully others) than I ever anticipated. As I move into the DVD-burning process and flirt with the idea of film festivals, I can only hope the adventure will continue.
Thanks to DG for letting me host the film diary here.
Click here to see Tolkien Gateway’s article on the film