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Meet Victoria Sampson – Award-Winning Sound Editor and Director

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Meet Victoria Sampson – Award-Winning Sound Editor and Director

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It has been a true honor getting to know Victoria Sampson over the years as both an LAPPG member and a master presenter. Vickie’s enthusiasm, her interest in sharing her expertise and her drive to continually learn is inspirational for us all.

Los Angeles Post Production Group: First, let me say how much we appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and insights with us and how much we appreciate having you as both a LAPPG member and presenter. To start things off we should probably find out how you began your long career as an award-winning sound editor and what influence your talented mother, Kay Rose (the first woman to win an Oscar for sound editing) had on your decision to get into sound.

Victoria Sampson: Since post-production involves many hours of work, I never saw my mom during the week when I was growing up. Her work (as a sound editor on such TV shows as The Rifleman, The Big Valley and others) kept her from getting home before my bedtime during the week. And because my mom loved movies, she instilled that love to me. We often went to screenings of old films at the museum. Story was always the most important part of a film. When I was about 15, I started hanging around the studio after school and got to understand what my mom did; how she created mood, tension, comedy, drama all with her sound choices. I got to apprentice with her and editor Verna Fields (Jaws editor) in the pool house at Verna’s house in Sherman Oaks. I loved sitting with my mom, feeling the film go through my fingers, learning the process. I loved listening to her stories and learning about the famous directors and producers she worked with. Then I got to work with them too! I realized that I loved films too, though I saw myself wanting to be a writer and director. I always wrote stories from the time I could write and my mom’s love of films and stories influenced me a lot.

I had a chance to work on a show that would get me into the union as an apprentice when I was 20. When I realized that in addition to being able to work with my mom, I was also making a whole lot more money than my friends! It’s one thing to go through a door that opens for you and it’s another thing to be good at what you do, enough to go through doors on your own. My mom had an uncanny way of allowing young people the chance and support of training them without judging them. She took many people under her wings and was always positive about them being their best selves.

After apprenticing for about 3 years, I went onto being an assistant editor and then an editor. It took years! My first union film was Cinderella Liberty directed by Mark Rydell. I would learn that Mark hired my mom on ALL his films, often before he even knew who the actors were going to be. She worked on his first film, The Fox and continued on all his films, The Reivers, The Cowboys, The Rose, On Golden Pond, The River, (for which she got her Oscar) For the Boys and the last film she did with him, “Intersection.” She had that kind of relationship with other directors: Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Alan Pakula, Richard Brooks, Martin Scorcese, Peter Bogdanovich. I was privileged to be around these truly remarkable filmmakers and learn from all of them.

LAPPG: For the past 40+ years you’ve worked in sound editing and now with the new documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound people can get an up-close look at this world you’ve lived in for so long. What was it like participating in this incredible film and then getting the chance to sit back and see it and not only know that you were a part of it but knowing that many people will now get a look at the often misunderstood and overlooked part of filmmaking that you’ve dedicated so much of your life to.

VS: Since Midge Costin, the director of Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, is the Kay Rose Professor at USC, where George Lucas and Steven Spielberg donated an endowed chair in my mom’s name, I’ve been a part of this film for the 9 years it took Midge to film and finish it. I’m happy that now, finally, movie lovers as well as filmmakers will be able to understand and appreciate what it is we do. There are filmmakers who don’t even know or understand our jobs. My mom-in-law, whom I have known for over 30 years saw the film at its premiere and said, “I’ve never understood what you did before!” She was very impressed. I’m very happy for the success of Making Waves and can’t wait to be able to get it to more people. Every student of film should see this film. It’s now available on Amazon Prime and in DVD and Blu Ray at Amazon.

LAPPG: Because we are all obsessed, can you tell us about the type of work you did on Star Wars?

VS: I supervised the ADR of all the English actors in London for Return of the Jedi. I was in London for a couple of weeks recording Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor) and Sir Alec Guinness and a few others that I don’t remember! We ADR’d in an old cow barn across from Hyde Park which was the recording studio! We broke for tea and toast with marmite at 4pm everyday – no matter what! I edited in San Francisco during the week and Lucas would give me vouchers for flights back home to LA every Friday night so I could be with my family. I’d be back in San Ramone, at my editing room, by 10am on Monday!

ADR back then was a bit different than it is now. It was done on 24 track tape. The recording started only AFTER the 3rd beep. So if an actor inhaled in order to speak his line BEFORE the imaginary 4th beep, it wouldn’t get recorded. It’s very hard to get actors NOT to inhale before the line and you can’t really program them to hit an inhale and then have their line be in sync. So I made notes about anywhere I heard the actor inhale DURING the take but none could be found.

There was an actor, in a medium shot, who clearly inhales before he says his line, which we were looping. His shoulders heaved up. When I couldn’t find an inhale to steal, I requested that we program and then record the inhale in order to give the ADR’d line more validity. The director said, “I don’t hear his inhale in production and we’re in this big spaceship hanger, there’s going to be lots of noise. No one is going to notice an inhale!” I “argued” gently, that even though we may not hear the production inhale, when you ADR something, it already has an artificial feel to it so having an audible inhale at the front of it kind of takes the curse off of it. Then I said, “Trust me.” And we recorded it.

A few weeks after I was already back in LA while they were doing the final mix, I got a phone call from the director telling me that no one could believe the line was ADR…all because of that inhale! Success. I also learned on Jedi, that if an actor uses any prosthetics that he or she should use them while doing ADR. Like prosthetic teeth. It affects how they speak. We also didn’t have Pro Tools so everything had to be the right sync, close enough to cut it by a frame, no time stretch back then! It had to be the right projection, the right performance, the right levels, the right sync. It has to fit in and around existing production lines, unless you need to ADR a whole scene.

Of course, the most famous story of my time on Jedi, was that the film boxes I was taking with me to London, were stolen out of my car the night before I was to be on a plane to London! I had to call Lucas Film at 10 pm to tell them. They sent detectives down from San Francisco to search through the trash bins in Hollywood, where my car had been broken into. They had to send an assistant in to work to DE-CONFORM a version of the 35mm dupe prints we had BACK to the version I had programmed the ADR to (otherwise, it wouldn’t have sunc up) Nothing was on computer. All my programmed cues were hand-typed. I was met at the airport the next morning with a very tired assistant editor handing me two boxes of 35mm dupes. Such a different world now.

LAPPG: Your work has spanned the market from big blockbusters to indie films and everything in between. Is the quality of the sound recordings that you receive at all proportional to the size and budget of production?

VS: Certainly, lower budget productions tend to not be able to afford a top-notch mixer. However, there are things EVERY filmmaker can do to insure that their sound is the best it can be no matter what the budget. I actually teach a workshop on that for film festivals and did one for LAPPG! [View highlights from her presentation here.] I have seen that the quality of feature film production recording has gone down. I don’t think production mixers are being taught the tried-and-true techniques as much as they were in the past. I also see that hardly any production mixers ever follow through with how their sound recording worked for the sound editor. I’ve received some great production sound from very low budget films because they cared to find out how to do it right. You could have the best equipment in the world but if you don’t use your “sound sense” you will have nothing usable.

LAPPG: Of all the films you worked on, which ones were the most challenging for you?

VS: I talk about the challenges my mom and I had working on Ordinary People back in 1981 in the feature documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Basically, they chose locations which weren’t the best for recording sound. As in an aluminum warehouse near an airport for the psychiatrist office, where delicate dialogue scenes took place. So the production mixer turned down his recording volume in order to mask the noise of the warehouse/airport. So when we were editing the production sound, we had to TURN UP the volume by 13 db in order just to hear the dialogue! So it revealed all the noises even more so! And in that movie, there aren’t explosions or car chases or anything that you can “hide” behind. So it took a lot of time to clean up all the little revealed noises that appeared once we turned up the volume.

Today, of course, we have lots of tools (like iZotope) which would clean up production sound problems that we encountered on Ordinary People in a jiffy! But back then, we had to edit out the little clicks, pops and noises and of course, FILL them with the same ambience sound so there wouldn’t be drop-outs. With iZotope, I would just highlight the area that had clicks, pops, etc. and tell it to “repair” it and boom, bang it’s done! Amazing what we can do now.

Each film has its own challenges, which is why I like to preach “PREVENTIVE” sound techniques so that an editor can devote their time more to creating rather than triaging! One of the most common challenges is at the film editor’s level. If separate lav and boom mics are not ingested properly, then it doesn’t trickle down to the sound editor. Then an investigation must ensue! I have to track down to see if separate mics were part of the recording. Then those must be sunc up again in order for them to be included in the OMF (or AAF) so that it will come to me in a proper Pro Tools session. As in production filmmaking, one must know where things are heading. For some reason, sound is left out of that part and it costs the production more money down the line.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was challenging because of the amount of lavs and booms that were used and because of all the noise-making machinery (pulleys, wave-making machines etc)

The most challenging project that I supervised myself was probably the film Ironweed with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. It was set in the depression in upstate New York. I had to find recordings of steam trains and non modern environments (backgrounds) to create that world. I found a photographer named O. Winston Link who knew that steam trains would be disappearing and he went out to both photograph and record them before they disappeared. He did large format photography. You’ve probably seen his photos of a train whizzing by a drive-in theater, for example. In addition to the photographs, he recorded the sound of these trains! My Foley editor tracked him down for me and we secured all his recordings to use in Ironweed only!

The other “hard” thing about that film was a scene where Nicholson and Streep are walking down a street but since they didn’t want to record modern traffic, the mixer pointed his mic up from the street so their footsteps were just the grittiest things you could imagine! It was only about a minute scene so I programmed it for ADR because their gritty footsteps were louder than their dialogue in their walking/talking scene.

When Nicholson came in for the ADR session, he was very upset when he learned he had to ADR that scene. He told me, “That was the best work I’ve ever done! It was my 50th birthday and I was drunk as a skunk and I was brilliant I’m not going to do this.” I explained the issue with the gritty footsteps and struck a deal with him. I would do my best to get rid of the grit if he would also ADR it.

Of course, he didn’t do a very good job of ADRing which he knew that if he didn’t do a good job, it would force me to have to use the production sound. I spent hours (again, not in the digital world yet!) making little cris-crosses with a degaussed razor blade in order to reduce the volume of the grit while retaining the word. This is what it looks like.

Imagine that I would have to do that for every footstep! I ended up with a little roll with lots of white tape (if I had to cut out snaps/pops) for that minute and a half sequence. If I messed up the scratches and took too much off the mag, it would make the word sound funny so then I would have to order a reprint of that take, wait for it to be transferred and start all over again. Nowadays, I would use Spectral Repair in RX 7 by iZotope which looks like this:

 

Click identified in region:


Click identified in spectral repair:

Click repaired and rendered:

 

LAPPG: What type of person do you think succeeds in the sound editing world? And what aspect of sound editing to you enjoy most?

VS: The type of person who is best able to succeed in sound editing is a person who loves films and stories and working with some people who are egotistical! The emphasis is on the story. The best editors think outside the technical boxes. Yes, you must be technically savvy but more importantly is that you know how to use sound to best tell the story. The sound follows the story. Is a person sneaking down a hallway to get away from the bad guy? Then why would we want to hear his/her footsteps? Or do we? Does hearing them support the story or detract from it? You need to develop “sound ears” – how to listen and what to listen for.

When I first learned how to listen it was sitting with my mom and having her play parts of the scene over and over until I FINALLY heard what she wanted me to fix! A little click or pop that isn’t part of the scene – it’s an off-stage sound that shouldn’t be there. My mom believed that these kinds of non-diagetic sounds subconsciously take you out of the film because it’s distracting on a non-conscious level. But you first have to hear them in order to take them out!

Directors need to hire good production mixers and take an interest in the sound recording as well as understand what a good sound editor gives to a film. You, as a sound editor, have to have a personality that can deal with immense egos both of directors and from actors you may have to work with on an ADR stage. As a “line” editor, you may never have to interact with the director. Like a Foley editor (or Foley artist/walker) or an editor who cuts backgrounds. You also have to be willing to give your all in order to get and keep work. By that I mean, be willing to work overtime, weekends for weeks at a time. You may not see your family much. If you’re a woman editor, it’s all the harder because you won’t see or be able to be involved with your children if you have them. Sound editing is very hard on relationships!

Editors must be able to think ahead and be a “sound detective.” You must be somewhat of a self-starter but also be a team player. But I think what will set you apart as a good editor is showing how passionate and committed you are to your craft. That may mean working extra hard and long in order to deliver. That passion does not go unnoticed. In fact, for me, when I hire editors for a project, I’d much rather hire someone who may not have the experience yet but who has passion and commitment. I know that person will work really hard to deliver what I’m asking for.

My favorite part of editing is editing the production sound and making it work. I like the challenge of solving the problems that invariably come up during shooting. Is something off- mic? I’ll look in other takes for an alternate that may not be off-mic but still retains the performance. I may program it for ADR after I’ve exhausted all other production sound options. I like solving problems because most directors prefer the production sound and usually don’t want to do a lot of ADR so I’ve become known as someone who can pretty much fix all the production sound problems without ADR.

I like preparing the edit session so the mixer can mix it easily, using techniques I learned when we worked on 35mm film. Because mixing is more expensive than editing, it’s better to use my time laying out an edit session than it would be for the mixer to use stage time to move pieces around in the session.

I also love ADR because I love working with the actors directly. Sometimes, I’ve even “written” lines of dialogue that end up in the film because I’m always thinking of the story. Yes, I’m usually just a go-between on the ADR stage between the actor and director but often, especially on foreign films that I work on, the director isn’t available so it’s just me, the re- recording mixer and the actor. I also love directing ADR groups and shaping all the off-stage performances of the group in a film.

LAPPG: What advice do you have for people wanting to break into the field of sound at this point in time? Are there resources that you think are important for people to know about?

VS: First of all, watch Making Waves! It’s an excellent documentary feature showing all the different aspects of sound. Be hungry to learn all aspects of sound editing and mixing. Be persistent. Be passionate. Put yourself out there. Learn and practice all you can. If you have to edit for free to get more experience, do that. Talk to re-recording mixers and ask to sit with them. They can teach you more about how to lay out a good edit session. Apprentice with a sound editor. But make sure you’re learning from good, experienced “in-the-field” editors. Take classes if you can.

Filmmaking is about relationships. Most successful sound editors have developed relationships with directors, some from college, that have continued throughout their careers. Think of Spielberg and Richard Anderson. George Lucas and Ben Burtt. Francis Coppala and Walter Murch. Mark Rydell, the director of On Golden Pond, The Rose, etc. always called my mom first to do the sound on ALL his films since his very first feature film The Fox. This is what the business is all about – relationships. Alan Murray has done all of Clint Eastwood’s films for over 30 years. We all tend to want to work with people we’ve worked with before. There’s a shortcut to understanding – dialogue that doesn’t need to be said because each knows what the other wants from him/her.

There’s a great book that I use for my dialogue editing classes and it’s one I would have written myself but John beat me to it! It’s called Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures 2nd Edition by John Purcell. The 2nd edition has some quotes by me, which was awfully nice of him to include!

For people wanting to do more sound effects and sound design:

The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects by Ric Viers.

And this one: Sound Design by David Sonnenschein

There are many people competing for a smaller amount of jobs now because we can all edit so much. A lot of jobs have been combined so there are fewer job slots available. There used to be an assistant editor PER FILM. Now, assistant editors are often working on more than 1 film at a time. We used to have apprentice editors. The ADR Supervisor used to have his/her own assistant editor. With digital technology, we get by with using 1 assistant editor for the whole film!

Think about what sets YOU apart as a person, as a worker, as an editor. What do you offer? A good personality? A team player? Are you a good listener of both sound and people? An excellent technician? A film lover? Always talk to the creatives (i.e. film editor, composer, director, producer) about the STORY first. Always use the CHARACTER names, not the actor names. Talk about the story – and how the story inspires you to add some fx no one thought of. For example, I was just editing a little 2 minute piece about a woman remembering her old horse. I added a distant train to the backgrounds. The director loved it and I explained it as the train may have helped trigger her memory of her beloved horse from long ago. Think outside the box but think within the story.

LAPPG: Have you seen any kind of shift in the sound field in terms of opportunities for women and what was your experience as a woman working in a male dominated industry?

VS: I’ve actually seen less women getting into sound editing, though it seems that there are more visible women re-recording mixers happening! Most of the women sound editors I know are not married and if they are, they have no children. As I said before, it’s VERY hard to balance the intense schedules we have in post with family. I had the experience of working with my mom, who was the first woman sound editor to win an Oscar in 1985 for The River. We had many women editors who worked with us. I wish there were more women editors but unfortunately I’m not seeing that! Women do have better hearing! But I really think it’s the long hours that is keeping women away. As a woman editor, I’ve been passed over a lot by my male colleagues. They’ve made almost twice as much money as I did AND I usually ended up fixing their work. I even lost out on receiving an Oscar for my work on Speed because the male supervisor didn’t want to share the on screen credit even though the Academy thought I deserved it! It’s been frustrating to say the least.

LAPPG: What was your journey like for you going from the world of sound to the word of directing?

VS: I was accepted as one of 12 out of 600 applicants for the AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women back in 1987 where I made my first short film Last Chance Saloon. Back in 1987, I thought my directing career would take off but alas, no! I continued pursuing my sound career in addition to trying to direct when I could. I also started teaching post sound in 1992 at UCLA, then at Video Symphony and AFI and USC. Since 1974, the Workshop has “graduated” hundreds of women from their program, many of whom have gone on to have very lucrative careers. The program has changed over the years, of course, and it still is one of the best programs/workshops for women wanting to be directors. And anyone wanting to be a sound editor should contact AFI to work on the sound on one of their projects! It’s real world experience and good for developing relationships, which is what this industry is all about.

It was 5, almost 6, years ago that I officially retired from UNION sound work in order to pursue a possible directing career and that’s what I’m doing now! I have made 4 short films and about 20 spec ads and commissioned commercials. The DWW also birthed the Alliance of Women Directors, when, in 1997, a group of us from the DWW decided it would help us as women wanting to be directors so we met at homes in order to encourage, teach, advocate for women directors. We’re still going strong and remain the ONLY group dedicated to women directors. We are officially a 501.c3 group and have a paid CEO. We offer workshops, Works-in-Progress screenings twice a month at both Foto-Kem and Canon, shadow and mentoring as well as film festival discounts and special events. Our biggest contribution in getting women directors work is our CAP – Career Advancement Program. We also offer the database of our directors so that production companies can find us and hire us!

As a director, I’m able to utilize my years of experience working on and watching films in order to craft good stories.

LAPPG: Now as a director, do you have any more empathy for tracks that you received that weren’t high quality over the years or do you feel that directors just need to be more cognizant of sound in their filmmaking?

VS: No! I don’t have empathy for badly recorded tracks! Just the opposite. Why weren’t/aren’t more directors like Mark Rydell who knows enough about what everyone does on his set and in post so that he can encourage his crew. When a director respects the contribution of each and every member of the crew, he/she will get better work from that crew member because they are respected and appreciated. If a director respects the production mixer, he/she knows that the director will understand “holding the roll” as a plane goes overhead. He/she will give the mixer a rehearsal take so that sound levels can be adjusted and planned for. He/she will not yell at the production mixer when the mixer asks to move the generator away from where the actors are talking! A good director honors all the aspects of production in order to have the smoothest, happiest of working environments which, I think, makes a better film.

LAPPG: What were the biggest mistakes you heard over the years that could be rectified if a director was more conscious of sound?

VS: A great thing I learned from working with Mark Rydell on all his films from 1973 to 1996 was he would always say, “And………………………..ACTION!” and “And…………………CUT!” When you edit production dialogue and you find a click or pop or need to replace an eventual ADR line with “fill” (ambience from that particular scene and take with no dialogue in it) you can only find it when someone pauses in between words of dialogue. His answer to that was to separate “and” and “action.” That pause of maybe 5 seconds was often enough for us to use and duplicate over and over when we needed to fill a line of dialogue that would be replaced with ADR. ADR has no background ambience at all so you can’t just put in an ADR line without using what used to be in that particular take. Maybe it’s traffic or room tone or the beach – whatever ambience lives under that dialogue in that particular take. You have to find the exact same ambience to replace that line of dialogue otherwise it would stick out like crazy. Recording “room tone” after every take is impossible. No one wants to hold still for 30 seconds while the mixer records room tone that nobody will use till 2 months down the road! But when the director says “And……..action!” you get precious seconds of clean, (no dialogue) sound that is indigenous to that scene and take without making anyone feel anxious. In fact, it really helps the actors, especially at the end of the take. When they hear the director say, “And……………..cut!” They freeze. Everyone on the set freezes until the “Cut” is heard. It’s a great thing for us dialogue editors. How did Mark Rydell know to do that!? He never edited his own production sound!

He was so conscious of how sound adds to his films that he sent my mom and another recording mixer to Tennessee while they were filming The River (the film my mom won her Oscar for) so that they could record a library of sounds that were exactly indigenous (and fresh). They recorded the corn fields, the farm animals, the machinery, the trucks, the smelting plant, the sounds of the river and water. This was so crucial because it gave the film the real feel of the actual place. Not every film can afford to do that but there are ways to do that on a budget. It’s called consciousness and inventiveness!

Anyone can record environments with a $200 ZOOM digital recorder. Just takes thinking ahead and providing resources.

LAPPG: I think one of the things that sets you apart from most directors is the sheer number of films you’ve worked on. With 220 sound department film credits under your belt you’ve seen and heard more than many. How has your work in sound impacted the way you direct?

VS: I think the way it impacts me the most is just from story telling. Yes, I think about sound – mostly to get the best sound recording possible. I think about the locations when I choose them. I shut my eyes and LISTEN to what’s around. I think some directors get too impressed with the visuals of a location or set and forget that they will be stuck with their sound in the edit bay for way more time than they shot on the location or set! When you shut your eyes, you can really hone in on what’s around you. Is there an airport flight path overhead? Is there a school that lets out at 3 pm everyday? Are there lots of dogs in the neighborhood? Or lots of traffic just outside that cool building you want to shoot in?

I’m also aware of how costumes affect the sound. We always say, “Silk is your enemy. Cotton is your friend.” Barbra Streisand wore a leather skirt and sat on a leather couch. You do not want Barbra Streisand to sound like she’s farting every time she moves! Think about how the recordist is going to plant that mic in your actor’s clothes! Does the actor gesture with his/her hands a lot? Will he/she be hitting their lav every time they talk? If you shoot two cameras – a master shot and a closer shot – be aware that the boom mic (which is the preferable one to use) will have to accommodate the WIDER shot – meaning if you use the closer shot, your shot will be off mic! I think about where the generator is pointing. I think about the shoes the actors are wearing and if we don’t see them in the shot, why should we chance hearing them mess up the dialogue! I remember that I can always ADD sounds later but I can’t always take them away. If my mixer says, “We need to stop.” I listen to her. I don’t yell at her! I know he/she is looking out for the quality of the film. It’s like if an actor is doing a great performance and the focus puller messes up, you cannot use that take at all! There is no program for making out of focused shots in focus. NONE. Thank goodness there are options if someone is recorded badly. (ADR!) But that is never preferable. The more time you can put into your sound in pre-production, the more money and time you will save later.

I’ve also learned, as an indie filmmaker who relies on the money of family, friends and co- workers, if you make a fundraising video, put a mic on whoever is talking! Don’t rely on camera sound! You’re asking for money to make a professional looking and sounding film. You cannot use camera sound!  Even if you’re shooting on an iPhone, you can record professional level sound. Bad sound makes good images look bad. Good sound makes images look better!

LAPPG: We loved your films Shelby’s Vacation and You Drive Me Crazy, the later of which you shared at one of our LAPPG meetings. Both have garnered lots of awards on the festival circuit so congratulations! There was a substantial amount of VFX involved with You Drive Me Crazy. Are there any key takeaways or advice that you can share about working on a VFX heavy project on a budget?

VS: Yes there was a ton of VFX on YDMC! I knew we were going to have some because we had to use green screen so that the actor wouldn’t be in any danger driving with his hands not on the wheel! We had multiple cameras set up as well which involved using VFX to get rid of visible GoPros that got into the shots. I also used my iPhone to film all the slo-mo parts of the film as well as filmed scenes in the car where the phone was actually mounted in the car. So anytime the phone was mounted, it was recording “Glen”, the character, as he drove. So we had to replace all of those shots with actual GPS map footage, via VFX.

 

Note the GoPro mounted on the left and what is on the phone that is mounted on the right.
Here is the shot in the film. It’s blown up a bit and the map is on the phone screen.

All the shots done with green screen were replaced with “plate” shots that my DP and I went out and shot after I had an edit of the film to know what angles we had to capture.

Original shot in my driveway with green screen. I learned that the closer the green screen is, the more spill there is on his face!

This is the final color corrected shot with plate. This is a combination of both visual fxs work and color grading.I knew that I could help with the truthfulness of these static shots with green screen using sound effects! Knowing that you will be using visual effects means you have to plan ahead WAY in advance.

This is the actual angle from the iphone which was recording every time he was driving. Note the camera on the outside window over his left shoulder. The white spots on the backside of the steering wheel (visual fx took them out)

 

Here is the finished color corrected and visual fx work.

I also used miniatures for the car crash sequence. That was challenging as well. Since this is a dark comedy, it’s okay if people think it’s a cheesy miniature sequence!

 

Here’s a shot of what’s in the movie as the car goes off the cliff. You can, of course, see my head in the shot as I just threw the miniature car off “the cliff”!

It’s all about perspective!


Los Angeles Post Production Group: Where do you want to head next in your career. Is there a feature maybe in the horizon?

VS: I am hoping to do at least one feature before my time is up! It’s all about money and timing of course. As I write this, we are in the midst of the coronavirus lock-down. The time doesn’t feel very inspiring to be creative but I’m trying! For over 5 years now, I’ve actually been attached to direct a $10 million feature film, “Revolutionist“, but we’ve been stuck on getting the right star power for it despite having already attached Sally Kirkland, Dennis Haysbert, Erica Hubbard, Beth Grant, Virginia Madsen and others. The sales agents have all said we need bigger name actors!

I am working on a few screenplays. One I’ve been working on for over 15 years that I want to direct. We’ve got a proof-of-concept short to film in order to raise funds for the feature but all that’s on hold for now. Hopefully with this imposed distancing, we can finish writing the feature script. I love doing shorts since they’re relatively easy and lower budget. I figured that even shorts are about $1000 per screen minute to shoot. At least, that’s what it’s been costing me and I get a lot of stuff for free or that I don’t have to pay for! (Like film and sound editing!)

My dream is to get into the Directors Guild and have someone else pay me to direct something! I have a lot of projects to make! (I have a great Christmas story that I will present to Dolly Parton’s company when all this virus stuff calms down.) I just wish I had endless money so I could just make whatever I want, whenever I want!