BURBANK, CA — Nearly 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the documentary JFK: A President Betrayed, by filmmakers Cory Taylor and Darin Nellis, sheds new light on the pressures he faced during his presidency at the height of the Cold War. The doc focuses primarily on Kennedy’s leadership style and his quest for peace. AlphaDogs (www.alphadogs.tv), here, provided post services for the film, which also presents new facts about events that transpired during Kennedy’s time in office.
During the initial meeting with the filmmakers, AlphaDogs editor and colorist Sean Stack reviewed the technical requirements for delivery, along with the varied video formats and aspect ratios in the edit timeline to determine a suitable workflow for the project.
“It was a relief to work with a team that brings a personal touch and interest to the project,” says Taylor. “The facility has a serious yet relaxed atmosphere that’s neither impersonal or factory-like. This was was such a relief as post production often carries its own stresses and it was nice to work in a comfortable environment with people who give your project their full attention.”
Once the workflow was established, Stack focused on setting the tone for the film. The process began by completing a first pass on color correction to not only determine problem color areas, but to also view how the images play on the screen. A key scene shows classified documents being sifted through in a dark library, revealing new facts and information about events transpiring during the time of the Kennedy administration.
“This is where I found the look for what I wanted to do with the color grading by making the choice to surround subjects in the film with more shadows in the background, making them appear brighter in the foreground,” says Stack. “In JFK it was important to not oversell the color work, but instead create a consistent look and feel to the story overall.”
“Sean is a talented and hard-working colorist,” notes Taylor. “Certain images that previously lacked luster literally popped from the screen after Sean finished the color grading. This was particularly gratifying because we didn't think it was possible to get as much out of those images as he did.”
While creative choices of color play an extremely important role in storytelling, often there are other elements in post-production that require creative solutions. In the lock picture of JFK there was an original clip of a nighttime exterior shot of the White House, where the American flag was seen flying at half-staff. Director Taylor was concerned that it would be inappropriate, but didn’t have any other options.
“The one night we had a permit to film b-roll of the White House just happened to fall on a day when the president had ordered flags to half-staff,” Taylor recalls. “Since this is a sacred tradition for honoring the fallen, we felt it would be disrespectful to use it in the film.”
In post, Stack was able to set the flag to full-staff by isolating and masking off the flag within the scene, making it possible to move the stars and stripes to the top of the frame. Elements were then added to complete the missing section of the flagpole along with careful shading around the seams making it undetectable to the viewer that the waving flag had been moved from its original position.
AlphaDogs audio engineer Curtis Fritsch brought archival footage to life using the extensive sound library available at the facility, taking time to carefully select specific sounds conducive to the environment and time period. “It’s important to use historically accurate sounds,” says Fritsch. “For instance, the camera flashbulbs of that time period have a very different sound and feel than present day cameras. Although a bit more time-consuming, it was imperative that I conduct proper research to ensure the sounds used were as close to authentic as possible.”
Morgan Freeman provides the distinct narration, and attention was given to any background noise that might cause distraction. Fritsch used the Izotope RX Declicker to remove small nuances, such as the rustling of pages and the acoustics of areas with breathy vocal quality.
JFK: A President Betrayed (www.jfkapresidentbetrayed.org) will premiere Thursday, November 7, and 8:00pm on DirecTV's Audience network as part of the Something To Talk About documentary series. It will also have theatrical screenings across the US.