NEW YORK — Technicolor-PostWorks New York (www.technicolorpwny.com) recently completed post production work on Not My Life a powerful and profoundly moving documentary about the problem of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Produced and directed by Academy Award-nominee Robert Bilheimer and narrated by Glenn Close, the film depicts the horrific practices of a multi-billion dollar, global industry, including appalling examples of forced labor in Africa, street begging in India, sexual trafficking in the United States, and child enslavement in North and South America.
Shot on five continents, the film took more than four years to produce. Initial post work began at Technicolor-PostWorks New York (then PostWorks) in 2007. This past January, the facility completed a theatrical master in advance of the film’s premiere at Lincoln Center. More recently, PostWorks re-mastered and re-mixed the film in advance of its television debut as part of The CNN Freedom Project, the news network’s special series on human trafficking.
“Not My Life is the first attempt to look at the problem of human trafficking and slavery on a global scale,” says Bilheimer, whose previous documentaries have examined such problems as apartheid in South Africa and the global AIDS epidemic. “We look at the world through the prism of global responsibility.”
As Not My Life was shot primarily on Super 16mm film, Technicolor-PostWorks New York’s initial task was to process original film elements and produce video dailies for use by the film’s editor, Anthony DeLuca. That process continued on a periodic basis during the four years the film was in production.
“We coordinated the workflow and made sure everything proceeded smoothly,” explains J.D. Marlow, project manager for Technicolor- PostWorks New York on the project. “Anthony DeLuca, the editor, deserves a lot of credit as it is challenging to manage a project over that period of time, keeping it organized and making our job easier. The whole team was very thorough and passionate about this project.”
Once editorial was complete, the project moved to final post. In late 2010, Technicolor-PostWorks New York senior colorist Roger Doran colored the theatrical master, working under the supervision of Bilheimer and co-director/cinematographer Richard Young. (Tragically, Young, a legendary documentary cinematographer, died during post production.) This fall, Doran re-colored a re-edited version of the film for the television release.
“The look of the film was natural and beautiful — Richard could do a lot with natural light,” Doran explains. “Despite the sadness of the topic, we tried to preserve the beauty of the environments wherever we were — Mexico, India, the Czech Republic or the United States. The beauty leant dignity to the subject.”
Although the overriding purpose of the film was to explore and expose a serious human rights issue, it was also important to the filmmakers that they not rely on the power of the film's message alone, but adhere to the highest standards of quality filmmaking that audiences expect.
"Our aesthetic is driven by a sensitivity and concern for defining human rights issues,” notes Bilheimer. “But we are equally sensitive to the enormous power of the medium itself. Thus we put a great deal of time, effort and care into the craft of filmmaking, so that our subjects, so brutally dehumanized, be seen as dignified human beings that an audience can relate to and empathize with. So, what you wind up with in Not My Life is a beautiful film, about a terribly difficult subject.”
Sound design and sound mixing were performed by Technicolor-PostWorks New York re-recording mixer Paul Furedi. In the interest of authenticity, Furedi used production elements wherever possible to produce background soundscapes. His biggest challenge, however, was to create a uniform sound from dialogue elements that were recorded over many months in different parts of the world, often under unusual circumstances.
“We wanted to be sure that it was easy for audiences to understand everything that was being said so that they weren’t jolted out of the narrative by dialogue that is unnatural or unintelligible,” says Furedi, adding that part of the challenge was the sheer variety of people who appear in the film. “We were dealing with African accents, European accents and Southeast Asian accents — a lot of different ways of expressing things in English, each of which can be difficult for people from other parts of the world to understand.”
Not My Life has drawn critical acclaim and left a lasting impression on everyone who has seen it. Given the importance of the subject matter and the time and effort that was put into the production, its success has been gratifying to the team at Technicolor-PostWorks New York. “It is shocking to see some of the things that adults inflict on children,” says Doran. “As a result, Not My Life can be difficult to sit through…but also essential.”