Pieces of April only had 16 shooting days instead of the original 30 when the project was a big-budget film. "The movie is about running out of time, so the shorter production schedule fit the spirit of the film," Hedges says wryly.
Conceptualizing the look for digital video, Reiker worked closely with production designer Rick Butler and costume designer Laura Bauer. "One of the few tools you have with DV is the color palette. You know you can't shoot in bright sun and that there are certain colors that look bad," says Reiker.
Using a Film Composer, editor Mark Livolsi cut down 70 hours of tape to make this 80-minute feature.
"We picked locations that worked," she continues. "April's apartment had huge windows that gave a lot of available light. We painted the walls dark colors so they would absorb the light and make the image feel richer." And for lighting gear, she says, it was mostly Chinese lanterns, KinoFlos and white cards.
"With the PD-150s, the focus is very tricky," cautions Reiker. "To judge focus you have to use a 13-inch monitor," she insists. "We had an assistant glued to the monitor all the time to check focus and contrast."
Reiker notes that she spent more time in post production on Pieces of April than all of her movies combined. First she spent a week at The Tape House in NYC - now doing business as Post Works (www. pwny.com) - color correcting the D-5 master, with colorist Joe Gawler, for the Sundance screening.
After the movie was sold to United Artists, she spent another week color correcting the picture for a tape-to-film transfer at Moving Images (www.mipost.com) in NYC with colorist Milan Boncich. He employed the Pandora Pogle.
Zurich-based Swiss Effects (www.swisseffects.ch) won the opportunity to do the tape-to-film transfer. Then that negative went to Michael Hatzer at Color by Deluxe in Hollywood (www.bydeluxe.com), who color timed the internegatives and prints.
"It was time consuming," recalls Reiker. All the shots had to be timed separately. There were also scenes that had moier patterns that were sent to The Mill (www.mill.uk.co) in NYC and corrected frame by frame within Flame.
However, in spite of all the hassle, ultimately the beauty of this system, says Reiker, is that the films get made, get out there, and everyone gets big checks on the back end.
Editor Mark Livolsi (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous) says Hedges and Reiker handed him around 70 hours of footage to cut into the 80-minute feature.
"The film was tight," says Livolsi. It had a strong narrative drive and blending the three interconnecting stories - getting the turkey made, the family in the car and April's boy friend's mysterious meeting - was a good challenge.
Hedges says that, with Livolsi, he succeeded in finding an editor that had worked on films that were a like-minded balance between comedy and drama, and that he could pleasantly spend copious amounts of time with.
Livosi was cutting scenes almost as soon as they were shot, no developing required. "We slammed right away," he says, from the moment his assistant digitized the miniDV tapes into the InDigEnt-owned Avid Film Composer.
Hedges was in the edit room with Livolsi the day after shooting wrapped. Often Hedges would shoot multiple takes without cutting the camera, sometimes repeating individual line readings, creating takes within takes. "Joe Hutshing [editor, Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous] taught me a good Avid trick," says Livolsi. "Mark every line of dialogue so I can punch straight to it."
Stylistically they took a minimalist approach, making standard story driven cuts, no dissolves, no flashy two-frame edits. "I told Mark that I wanted it to feel like life," recalls Hedges. "This would be a story about people told as humanly as possible."
"We didn't talk about it that much, we just did it," says Livolsi. "We altered some sequences, changed the order of some things," says Hedges, but most of the edit was in the script, except for one scene in the beginning that Hedges shot improv. "We banged out a first cut about a month after shooting wrapped," says Livolsi proudly.
They did their online editing at The Tape House. On Pieces of April, they did an online PAL edit on the Henry Infinity. They output to PAL D-1 and did tape-to-tape color correction on the Pandora Pogle. That master went into the Quantel iQ where high-resolution titles were added, field merging applied and then finally upconverted to 1080i D-5. An HDCAM dub was made and sent to the Sundance Film Festival.
SAVING AND SUCCESS
Winick can be legitimately proud of what InDigEnt has accomplished. Their first five films sold to Lions Gate. Winick's Tadpole got picked up by Miramax, and Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity was also acquired by United Artists. Alan Taylor's Kill the Poor just screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and IFC has authorized InDigEnt to make four more films. InDigEnt's Web site lists Gregory Harrison's November and Mark Christopher's Pizza as currently in production.
According to The Numbers Web site (www.the-numbers.com), InDigEnt's films have collectively earned over $4 million in box office grosses alone. Winick hopes that Pieces of April will be the big crossover picture that gets big box office.
The InDigEnt production pipeline is constantly changing. Pizza is being shot with Panasonic 24p DV AG-DVX 100 cameras. InDigEnt producer Jake Abraham is in Los Angeles in preproduction on InDigEnt's twelfth movie, a Wim Wenders film with the working title of Angst and Alienation in America. This co-production is being shot the with the PAL version of the Panasonic 24p DV AG-DVX 100 so Wenders can edit in Berlin on a European system.
However, logically one still wonders why stick with miniDV when you could still economically shoot with Digi Beta or even HD.
"It's not just a cost thing," says Abraham emphatically. "The day an HD camera fits in my palm is the day [Elixir] will be there. There is an intimacy in that hand-held approach that you can't get with even a shoulder mounted Digi Beta camera."
"Pieces of April is a great case study on how you can re-conceive the method of making a film," says Alexanian.
The InDigEnt system of filmmaking, she explains, is not about cutting budget or axing scenes. More importantly it proves that if the material is inspiring you can get the people to rally around your project and get the film made.