Well, I’ve delivered the tapes to Bravo.  As of yesterday at 4:30 pm, Little Theatres:  Homage to the Mineral of Cabbage, the film, is officially complete!

I am feeling:  tired, relieved, ecstatic, anxious, breathless, proud, sad, empty,  excited, listless.  When I dropped the package in to the Shipping and Receiving department of CTV, I was almost in tears.  OK there may have actually been a tear or two shed.  But I felt instantly lighter after the package was out of my hands.  Plus the cycling of emotions listed above.

I’ve spent the past 24 hours or so either conked out in a deep sleep or reflecting on the past 3 years.  Yes, it’s been almost 3 years since I first had the crazy idea to start this project.

I remember in the early days.  At first, while writing the proposal, I was enthusiastic, energized, high on the process of coming up with fun ideas.  Then, when I was awarded the grant, it finally hit me that there was a lot of work ahead of me.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I could handle it.  Well, in the early days I was pretty sure I could get through just about anything, that I could figure out whatever I didn’t know how to do.  I had an optimism, a sense of adventure, and a carefree idealistic belief that anything I put my mind to, I could do.

But as I started working on it, the reality of how enormous this project was started to sink in.  I started to scale down my initial ideas and techniques.

I used Google and animation forums like to find out how to make puppets.   I read tonnes of blogs, like Sven’s, and Shelley’s, and Mike’s.  I researched which sort of cameras and lenses to use.  I met up with strangers, friends of friends, and people whose work I’d admired, to find out how they did what they did.  I asked a lot of people for help.  When I didn’t know what to do, I would do everything I could to find out how to do it.  Sometimes I didn’t find the answers and was stuck in a frustrating place of not knowing how to proceed.  This happened quite a few times, but most memorably during the puppet-making stage… I really didn’t know what I was doing, and was finding the process really difficult.  Each solution led to a dozen new problems.  I didn’t know how to keep it simple.  It took two months before I found materials and methods that would work.  And they still had faults — my very first shoot had a puppet crisis… The puppets needed to be redesigned at this point.  But then, once rebuilt, they were fine, and they lasted throughout.

Then came the shooting.  Again, I was fairly ignorant.  The most important and complicated feature of photography is lighting.  Where to begin?  Here I was lucky to have a very kind friend (whom I hadn’t seen in years) come to help out… but still, couldn’t entirely rely on such generous favours.  So I would, at first, work on paid gigs between times when he was available, and just wait to set up the next shot whenever he had time… Trying to learn as much as I could as the process unfolded.  This blog came in handy for this — I enjoyed putting together lighting tutorials, to try and preserve and practice what I was learning.  But I still felt incapable.

Eventually I realized that if I was ever going to finish the project, I needed to just go ahead and light scenes myself.  Marcus had lit the most complex ones… so really, how hard could it be to take the bits and pieces of Lighting 101 that I had gleaned from him, and start lighting scenes myself?  How hard could it be to light a single object, a cabbage, on a stage?

Well it turned out to be difficult, but not impossible.  I was imagining a film of 2 or 3 awesomely lit scenes, amidst a bunch of really badly lit ones.  But to my eyes, anyway, it ALL looks really good!  I’m so, so happy with how the little film has turned out.  I could not be more proud of it, or more satisfied.  It feels really, really good to have put this little 3 minutes of imagery (and sound, and music!) out into the world.

I now know how hard it is to make a short film.  I know the feeling of being overwhelmed at the enormity of the project.  In the early stages, when building the sets, I was halfway excited by the ideas still, and halfway terrified of all the unknowns that were ahead of me.  The first two months of set-building and prop-making were easy peasy — I know what I’m doing when it comes to making stuff by hand, and painting little things, and planning and designing.  No problem!  The days flew by, and I got lots of stuff done.  But as I ventured into any sort of new territory, like puppetmaking, and eventually lighting, the doubting started.  What if I can’t do it?  How will I know how to do such-and-such?  And this is just the beginning… look at all there is left to do after that, so many more things I’ve never done before.  Panic!  Abort mission!  Let it drift away!  Go back to designing endtags for Product X!  Forget this artistic stuff, it’s too hard!  And where’s the reward?  Every day I panic and worry and sweat and I’m not even getting paid!  It’ll never get finished anyway.  Every day, there were more and more doubts.

I really don’t know how I stuck to it.  I’m not even really the sort of person who always finishes every project I start.  I have many unfinished paintings.  I have unfinished books, outlines for novels, screenplays, series of poems that have just died away.

A few things blossomed for me while working on this film.  The concept of just doing a little bit every day, and not thinking about the big picture all that often, really helped.  I learned that from my partner O, who realized halfway through his years and years of education that he didn’t want to stay in the world of academia.  How many people start PhDs and actually finish them?  All that work, meanwhile knowing that it isn’t going to be the right path?  Well, somehow he did.  Plus, he finishes books that he starts, pretty much every single one, even if he realizes on page 5 that the writing is horrendous or that he can’t stand the main character.  I mean, conceptually I can say that I get it, I know to take it a single, small step at a time and just do the best I can, but it really took making this film to learn how to actually do that.  How to not get overwhelmed and panic and give up.

I also learned how to ask for help.  I usually dive right in to any foreign element of a project, with the idea that I can figure it out myself… But a project of this size simply can’t be done alone.  So I am indebted to a lot of people, and grateful for a lot of talented offerings that came along.  Sometimes such offerings were in response the desperate cries for help that came out of my mouth, against my usual stubborn working-solo nature.  But sometimes people just offered to help, in any way they could, out of nowhere.  So I learned, as well, a sense of grace and generous creative spirit, that I intend to keep alive for others.

So, I’ve written a little essay here…  Obviously I have more time on my hands for blogging, now that the film is finished… Ironic?  Appropriate?  You decide.

A big, giant, ginormous thank you to you, and you and you.  I’m so happy to have completed this project, and so happy to be feeling so good about it.  I owe this happiness to a lot of people… So, thank you!

(BTW…  I know I have to get back to the working world, back to design, which I obviously enjoy as well… but I’m also starting to plan the next short film, to be worked on during my down time.  So it’s addictive, this filmmaking thing.

Also… going to try and show Little Theatres in some festivals — this is why I haven’t shown too much final footage here.  It’s only a 3 minute film, so every second counts!  I will, however, show off a few stills, as you can see in this post… though they may be somewhat familiar already…)

I will keep you posted here on festivals, the process of applying for them,  whether or not it will be showing at any of them; as well as on any sort of website or trailer that will emerge in the near future.  And of course when it’s airing on Bravo! I’ll be spreading the word about that, too.


9 thoughts on “Fin.

  1. Shelley Noble

    Now I genuinely love you even more! What a great, perfectly honest, post, Stephanie.

    A huge and hardy CONGRATULATIONS! on the completion of the marvelous jewel of a film. You so poetically described the trials and lessons that a sensitive, aware artist would have to learn from producing such a large project.

    One of my favorite statements you made was that you now know what it really takes to make such a thing as this. I can relate to that one already, and to the point about learning to ask for assistance.

    I love how frank you were about how your thoughts sometimes turning to letting it all fade, which any sane person would at least momentarily consider! What’s surprising is that you would be the last person I would have thought was having any doubts or serious challenges with the project.

    You are so superbly skilled and truly talented that I never had a hint that any of it even gave you a moment’s pause. You approached everything here with poise, generosity, and grace.

    I’m thinking these private, less than comfortable, feelings you shared must be universal regardless of ability or experience. Each at our own level. Perhaps the trick is to endure them, survive them, and win in the end.

    Deep bow. Total awe. Well done.

  2. stephanie dudley

    Hi Shelley,

    Thanks, for the congrats. It does feel good to be finished!

    I’ve been visiting your site even though I haven’t commented lately… Boo. I see that you have lots of people helping out these days! That’s great. The process is much better as a group effort, plus who wouldn’t want to spend their time making cool stuff in Halfland? If I lived near you I’d be there too!

    Oh I had lots of moments of doubt and times where the film was just on hold, cuz of work or whatever, and then it always felt like a huge uphill battle to get back into it. And though I wrote here about the frustrations, of course there were lots of times when I was just absorbed in what I was doing, with no thoughts or worries. Otherwise I might have given up!

    It really was just a matter of taking it bit by bit. I would get overwhelmed and then just go back to the tiny task at hand. The tough part about being a director (haha, the title sounds so strange) is that you have to still think about the big picture sometimes. Hard to do that AND keep focussed on all the details, AND not get overwhelmed…

    I’m pretty sure everyone goes through these doubts… They do go away though if you don’t listen to them. That voice is just the underbelly of the ego 🙂

  3. Pat

    I am so impressed and amazed and happy for you and the film (the film is now it’s own separate entity! it’s been birthed!!!) Great summary,looking forward to seeing you and celebrating!!!! hugs,
    ps…….soo the screenplay….

  4. Shelley Noble

    So well put, Stephanie. I’ve found a way to overcome the inertia to get back to tasks on the film, thankfully. It must be the regularity of people coming over that handled that. That’s a big drop of medicine that takes care of a lot of resistance. I’m still in overwhelm because I have no real deadline and because I’m indulging my taste of too much detail. That’s because Halfland isn’t about story so much as it about the world being made. One thing I got recently was to loosen up in terms of stylizing the characters, to go for the freedom of more distortion. Interesting development. Anyway, just love talking to you about all these things. You are so damn articulate! I am green with envy over your talents for design and other visuals. Your use of type is ravishing, from what peeks I have seen, such as the title card above. wow. Just wow. I can’t even imagine having your help in person–itstoomuch! But I so appreciate your support!

  5. stephanie dudley

    Aw, Shelley! Too bad you’re so far away; I bet we’d get along so well and have some super discussions. I am not the best at commenting or publishing stuff on blogs 🙁 So I hope we stay in touch. I like talking about all this stuff, too!

    (You use the word “Resistance…” Have you read ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield? I found it helpful for getting past the slow / unmotivated times… He uses that term a lot.)

    And of course, if you’d like to contact Bravo, I’d be super happy! Though, ultimately it is me who is holding them up from showing it sooner… since I’d like to take it around to festivals first. Here is the Bravo contact info…

    I guess it would help too if you encourage them to fund me again! Haha.

    But I’m not even sure this film will air in the States! I think the Bravo channel up here is different 🙁

    Anyhoo, don’t you worry Shelley, somehow you will get to see it. 😉

  6. stephanie dudley

    PS Yes I have had a screenplay idea that I started researching in 2003… maybe it’s time to start writing…

    and thanks, Pat! 🙂

  7. rich johnson

    congrats!! I loved following along as you progressed. the work you shared on this project has been amazing and inspiring. I have learned so much from you. thank you! Can’t wait to see it..and the next one 😉

  8. stephanie dudley

    Yay, that’s awesome Rich! It’s nice to know you learned from this adventure… I’ve sure learned a lot, too. And you don’t have to wait too long to see the next one, at least 😉 It’s posted in the next post 😀


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