Cheers to a wonderful, ARFON-filled year: A 2018 Roundup

2018 comes to a close tomorrow and it's hard to wrap our heads around how much progress has been made on this project in just 12 short months. Thanks, specifically to your generosity, this is what we accomplished this year:


this was the first shot of the entire shoot!

this was the first shot of the entire shoot!

We shot at 12 locations on 13 days in January. We saw our Hero House, The Beach, The Institution Theater, A Neighborhood Park, Brock/Allen Casting, Counter Culture Cafe, Art.Work Austin, Monahans Sandhills, A Private Swimming Hole, Lake Travis, A Country Home, and A Backyard Pool. My incredible crew jumped all in when I asked them to take literally one day off (since a skeleton crew traveled on a couple of our official off days) in 2 1/2 weeks and only called me crazy behind my back.



We ended up saving what has become the first shot of the film (THIS) for the final Martini.

We ended up saving what has become the first shot of the film (THIS) for the final Martini.

Due to ice storms early on in production, we were a little behind going into February. The owners of our Hero House graciously let us back in their space and we added two more days to production. So, in total, February saw 2 locations (The Woods & Hero House) in 4 days.


And then we partied.

Top: Cast, Crew & Donors / Bottom: some of our core crew

Top: Cast, Crew & Donors / Bottom: some of our core crew



To be honest, March was kinda boring. Duncan spent a looooong time sorting and organizing files since our DIT was doing double duty on set and pretty much just had time to dump/back-up media and that's about it. We also worked & attended SXSW where we made some amazing contacts that we're still in contact with about the movie today.



Just imagine how many of these photos I have...

Just imagine how many of these photos I have...



In a very special and surreal moment, we got to look them in the eyes and thank them for giving us a grant. They asked us if we had already used it in an "Oh Shit!" moment and we could hardly keep from laughing at how many Oh Shit moments we had to look back on.




Clocking in at just about 2 hours, we had a beautiful, messy picture cut. After this, we had new cuts basically weekly, that we shared with our dedicated creative team who gave thoughtful notes which got us to our 105-minute cut that we eventually showed to other trusted eyes.


Duncan also started work on the two rotoscope-style animated scenes and at this point we have no idea how crazy time consuming this was going to be yet.




Mike Sempert is a Los Angeles-based composer (our only non-Texan on the team) who has an impressive resume and, even more importantly, a brilliant sound that just felt like ARFON the moment we listened to his stuff. Now that the score is complete, it's just really hard to put into words how much he added to our little movie, I'm just so in awe. I guess you'll just have to see it to believe me. :)

Charlie (DP), Me (Director) & Duncan (Barry) setting up our first pick-up shot

Charlie (DP), Me (Director) & Duncan (Barry) setting up our first pick-up shot

There were a few shots we left out of the production schedule on purpose like big lonely wides of the empty city and after our picture edit we realized we wanted a little bit more coverage in specific spots, so we spent a few days shooting some more stuff. Our tiny little skeleton crew volunteered their time to make this the best picture edit possible and I'm still trying to figure out why they trust me, but oh boy, I'm so grateful that they do.



Duncan & I asking people to give us criticism to our faces. It was scary as hell.

Duncan & I asking people to give us criticism to our faces. It was scary as hell.

Austin Film Society hosted us where some of our friends, crew and a bunch of complete strangers (AFS members) interested in giving thoughts showed up to watch the 105-minute cut. To be honest, we knew we were looking for a final picture lock at around 85 minutes but we had been looking at this for so long that we didn't know what to cut. Luckily, our generous test audience gave us some amazing notes and we ended up cutting about 20 minutes off of that cut. I will forever remember this as the scariest screening of my life and I'm so glad it happened before we jumped into a festival run. There is truly nothing like sitting in front of an audience and asking them to tell you their least favorite parts of your art. It is so scary and helpful and if we hadn't done this, I don't know that we would have made the best possible version of this movie.




As I mentioned above, we cut about 20 minutes off of the version we showed to the WIP test audience and officially locked picture - aside from detailing on our 3 animated scenes. We hired our post-production sound person, Tim, and he started on the first of several sound mix passes. Will, our sequential artist, also began the four paintings required for the animated sequence we needed to create from scratch.




Duncan had the outlines for these scenes done for the work-in-progress screening so that our audience got the vibe, but continued to work diligently on them to add color. This is a tiny sneak peek of what these are currently shaping up to look like.

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We utilized Buda Treehouse Studios just south of Austin where Tim, Duncan, Ivy and I worked through two late nights of ADR to clean up some of the dialogue. Turns out, when you write a movie where everyone in the world disappears, there's a lot of little sounds you have to eliminate too. Who knew?

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Charlie started experimenting on color back in the summer, but he really dove in once we were picture locked. He worked hard to get the first color pass done for our SXSW submission (mid-October) so they would have an idea of what the color will look like, should they choose to screen our film.




This is where the progress started getting tedious and slow. It's taken a lot of patience on my part (not my strongest suit) while I supervise the post team putting the finishing touches on the film. I know it's worth it, but whew, I'll be honest, it's an anxiety-riddled existence at this point.


But, here's what we accomplished last month:


-Will finished all four of the paintings for our 3rd animated scene and Duncan began chopping them up in After Effects and put them in the 3D space.

-Duncan continued work on cleaning up the rotoscope animation

-Tim achieved another pass on the sound mix

-Duncan started on VFX work




Yep, you guessed it: we're still pushing through the final steps of post-production and it's driving me crazy. (And I'm so, so grateful to Tim, Duncan, and Charlie for taking so much time and care to make sure this movie is as perfect as it can be) Here's what's happened:


Remember when I said we had to do some ADR to eliminate the sounds that would happen when there are people left in the world? Well, yeah, turns out you have to get rid of people, moving cars, etc when that happens too. We did our best to get shots sans people and cars (hello early Saturday mornings!) so we'd have minimal VFX work to do, but we did have to clean up a few shots. Here's a little before and after peek at what this kind of work achieved (The Silver Car is Barry & Phyllis', for context):

I created our closing credits sequence and Duncan, Mike and I decided on the songs for that sequence. Here's a screenshot with some of your names in it!

I have since fixed many many spelling errors from this pass, I promise.

I have since fixed many many spelling errors from this pass, I promise.

I've done one pass on our opening credits sequence and am about to spend the rest of my day exporting options to send to the creative team for opinions. Suffice to say that this will be done by the end of 2018.




Well, we've still got some post-production stuff to do. By mid-January, we plan to have another pass on both sound and color done as well as all of the animations finished. We're working to secure a screen at a local movie theatre where me, Duncan, Tim and Charlie can sit down and watch it in a theatrical setting for one last round of notes on sound and color. And then, we complete those two tasks. Hoping for end of January final cut news to send y'alls way.


I've also begun design on our official poster and when Duncan is done with animating, he'll start on a trailer to be ready for our festival premiere. We don't have any word on that premiere yet, but y'all will be the first to hear when we do (besides my parents, probably).


I hope y'all have had as much fun following our progress as we've had making it. We'll be back here next month for another update, but in the meantime, follow us on the socials for real-time updates. We're on FacebookInstagram & Twitter. While we're in consideration for festivals, it's important to us to represent well on social media. The more followers and engagement we have, the better we look. So, during the season of giving, we ask you to visit at least one of our social media pages and like and/or comment on a post, particuarly some of our original content like screen shots and BTS photos. It's free and a great way to show your continued support!

TurtleDove Films