By Emory Parker
French dramatist Charles-Guillaume Étienne coined the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This seems to be the justification for the resurgence of the auteur-style of filmmaking. Young filmmakers, especially those fresh out of film school, believe they will become successful by performing as many roles as they can on set. It’s not uncommon to see one person’s name appear several times in the credits of a film. But, what if that person is not the most qualified for one of the jobs she has given herself?
Last summer I helped a friend get over a bad break-up and was inspired to write a song about it. I sat down at the piano and my fingers kept returning to the same four chords. I began to hear different patterns emerg from the chords and play simultaneously in my head. I have been singing my whole life but have little experience writing music or playing instruments. I penned the lyrics, plucked out notes on the keyboard, and later added instrumental tracks and harmonies. Completing the song, I was determined to make a music video and to bring justice to my friend’s story.
I then searched for a crew for Things Are Not As They Seem. Two of my friends, Tyler Mitchell and Owen Smith-Clark, showed enthusiasm for the project and became my directors of photography. Tyler, Owen, and I spent countless hours listening to the song, throwing out ideas, and visualizing the video. We came up with a concept, and our NYU classmate Vanessa Mendal came on board as a producer.
Production went well because of our preparation. Being students at NYU, we were able to cast talented actors and borrow some equipment and props. I bartered to get locations for free. Since we only had three days to shoot the project, we worked as quickly and efficiently as possible. Because I wrote, directed and performed the song, I knew what I wanted to convey. I was lucky to have a cast and crew who took this project seriously. Every student involved in the production also had many other responsibilities, but they were generous enough to donate much of their time and talent.
Cut to the edit suite and post production: crickets. Post can be a lonely road. While the production team moves on to other projects, I am staring at a monitor for hours trying to make sense of the lengthy footage. Don’t get me wrong, this was my passion project, and I looked forward to editing the video. I took a risk by using a new program, Adobe Premiere, instead of the familiar Final Cut Pro or Avid. After adjusting to the interface and keyboard shortcuts, I finally got the hang of it. It was as user-friendly as Final Cut and as flexible as Avid. I had a rough cut done within a few days of wrapping the shoot, but I could not finish the video without the digital compositing and color correction, which I had no idea how to do.
I reached out to a few people to see if they’d be interested in doing some simple motion tracking, screen replacement and coloring, but everyone was too busy. I realized I had to teach myself Adobe After Effects and the color correction tools on Premiere to get the job done. I spent hours trying to understand the program by watching video tutorials, reading articles and fiddling around, but I needed more. As a technical assistant at NYU’s post-production center, I contacted my supervisor to see if she could recommend anyone to help me. I was referred to editor, colorist and colleague Nicole Benoit, who generously took the time to sit down with me and show me the basics of the program. She also sent me links to advanced video tutorials that helped me take the project to the next level.
Once the compositing was finished, I was finally able to color correct. Because I did not have time to learn DaVinci Resolve, I used the coloring tools in Premiere. I got used to the layout and became familiar with the vocabulary. After spending days at the computer, I finally finished the video.
I did not plan on doing almost every aspect of this production, but as a young filmmaker with limited resources, a lot of the responsibilities fell on me. To revisit Étienne’s phrase, there is another translation that is perhaps more fitting: “One is never served so well as by oneself.” While this may sound egotistical, Étienne is really encouraging us not to hand off an opportunity to another person just because we feel we are not adequately able to do the job, but to accept the challenge and learn from the experience. I’m actually glad that I could not find someone to finish my post. It forced me to rise to the occasion. Not only did I become acquainted with new software like Pro Tools, Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, but I also learned how to make my vision come to life. Check out the result here.
Emory Parker is studying film and television production at New York University. She began editing with iMovie at 15 years old and switched to Final Cut Pro X at 15 when iMovie could no longer handle her projects. While she still uses FCP X from time to time — and she recently completed her first project in Adobe’s Premiere — at NYU she is being trained in Avid Media Composer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.