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How to Earn Your “I Survived Post-Production” T-shirt

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JessicaSonneborn2You did it. You wrote or found the perfect script, somehow put together financing, put on your war paint and fought through handling the barrage of emails and phone calls, all the pre-productions bumps. Next came the filming ups and downs, and temperamental artists, the stress of getting the scenes shot just right in cold rooms under hot lights. But it was a blast and you did it! Everyone seemed to be calling you, cheering you on, “liking” your status on social media. Your parents told everyone their daughter was practically Spielberg. You felt on top of the world, and against all odds, your movie was “in the can!”

As you woke up from that wonderful ride, feeling like you’d accomplished so much, and you had, you began to realize the journey wasn’t close to being over. Actually, it had just begun. If you’re an indie filmmaker, like me, most of post-production is going to land on your shoulders, because there is probably little budget left, and let’s face it: as the smoke settles, you are the only one who can see your movie through. Whether you are doing some or all of the jobs yourself, you as the filmmaker are the one that believes in your project the most, and this baby isn’t going to get finished without you.

Now on to earning your t-shirt. Welcome to the wonderful world of post-production: where through magic, luck, hard work and talent, we indie filmmakers fight to make everything we’ve recorded into the best movie possible (while our family and friends wonder why the movie we just finished filming isn’t in theaters yet. )

Post-production can be a very lonely place, and it certainly isn’t glamorous spending hours and hours a day, getting all the pieces you’ve shot shaped into a movie. Here are some tips to making post-production as smooth and fun as possible.

1) Make solid plans!

Well, duh, you may be saying. I write this because often times we filmmakers go into the process of making a movie, only planning for production. Pre-production is spent feverishly planning the shoot, with no thought or focus on what comes afterwards. Ladies, post-production is just as vital as production and without it, you don’t have a movie.

Plan ahead, and plan ahead well. Understand that your post-production crew (editors, post sound, composers, etc.), expect to be paid. If they are taking a pay cut, they will most likely put your project in second position to any other higher paying project that comes along, which means it may take a long time for them to get their job done. Budget and plan for post-production. Try to hire post-production crew members during pre-production, which will mean you won’t run out of money at a crucial junction and the whole process will move quicker and smoother.

2) Don’t forget you are human.

During post-production, one moment you will be running around like a mad woman, while at other moments you will be sitting at home, wondering why your phone isn’t ringing and why no one seems to love you on social media anymore. The cast and crew have moved on to their next projects, and you, as filmmaker, are still at work on your movie, which is seeming to take a lifetime! So let’s not forget you are human.

Honor your sensibilities, as you may be feeling a little left out, let down, over-worked and stressed at this moment of your movie’s creation. Take care of yourself! I would highly suggest giving yourself set hours of work during the day. Although you may feel like a robot, treat yourself kindly and take breaks for meals and set an end to the work day. We all work and feel better when we fuel and treat our bodies properly, and doing so can help prevent post-production blues and burnout.

That being said, it’s also important to keep yourself busy! Keep your beautiful female brain moving and don’t be afraid to have another project (or several) in the works. You know the old saying, “It’s either feast or famine.” Keep yourself feasting. Don’t let post-production work keep you isolated from other wonderful opportunities that may be out there. I’m not talking about over-extending yourself; I’m talking about multi-tasking. If you’re a writer, set aside time during the week to work on a script. If you’re an actor, keep auditioning, submitting for work, networking. As a filmmaker, think about what project you want to do next. If you feel overwhelmed and can’t even think about starting something new, then join a networking group, take a class, revisit a neglected hobby. Do something that’s not directly related to your movie. And don’t forget, you ARE human, right?.

3) Be prepared for the fact that your actors might NOT promote your movie.

Hiring actors and working with them is one of the most amazing experiences in filmmaking, and many of the actors I have worked with are now close friends. Being around these wonderful artists, who are bringing the characters that you care so much about to life, is magic. This being said, be prepared for them NOT promoting the movie you worked on together. They may not like the trailer on Facebook, or share it with their friends and fans. Do not take this personally. This is a pattern with a lot of actors I have worked with.

Actors are artists, and most likely when they finish production on your movie they are looking for more work, i.e., they don’t always understand, or really give a crap that you are going to be spending the next several months/years trying your best to get your wonderful project completed. So when you excitedly post that new poster or trailer, from the depths of post-production hell, don’t despair if this grand achievement isn’t met by actors with the same exuberance you got from them while casting. Remember, they may not have “liked” or “shared” material from your movie you made together, because they didn’t like their performance, or the way they looked; maybe a boyfriend told them…“you sucked in that…” (this actually happened). Fine. They’re not right by your side in the post-production trenches, and some of them may be terrible at promoting their projects. As actors, they may not understand how much work goes into making a movie from start to finish, and that is why they are actors and not filmmakers.

4) Don’t be afraid to finish.

We are all artists and as such, we strive for perfection. This movie, this performance and this art, is a reflection of us, and we want that reflection to be the best it can be. That being said, let the movie get finished. Understand that with each project, if we can only learn from our mistakes, we grow and get better and better. So, do your best, and then let it go. If there are things you would do differently, but for any number of reasons can not achieve now, spend some time reflecting, then decide to make the changes in your next project.

I hope that my tips on surviving post-production will help my fellow female filmmakers out there. Sometimes when I’m feeling like something is totally unachievable, I look up to the sky and think, if we can fly airplanes through the air, then I can do this! You can too! Smile, reflect, claim your t-shirt, and be the best that you can be.

Jessica Sonneborn

About Jessica Sonneborn

Jessica Sonneborn grew up in Connecticut and earned a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and a graduate teaching degree from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. After teaching in Boston for a couple of years she turned her attention to acting in Independent movies, eventually deciding to make a serious try in the film industry by moving to Los Angeles in 2005. Jessica has had leads in a variety of genres from thrillers: "Lure", which she also wrote and produced, Sci-Fi: "The Witches of Oz" (Christopher Lloyd, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin), comedy: Kevin Smith’s Movie Club presents: "Money Shot" (Jason Mewes), which she also wrote and produced, Horror: "Alice D." (Kane Hodder, Al Snow), which she also wrote and directed, "Bloody Bloody Bible Camp" (Reggie Bannister and Tim Sullivan) and just released: Leigh Scott's, "Piranha Sharks" (Kevin Sorbo). She is in numerous other independent productions including: "American Girls" (Bai Ling), "Rabid Love", "Alpha House", "Never Open the Door", "Red Sleep", "Love Squared" and also had guest stars on Stephen Merchants', "Hello Ladies", Diablo Cody's, "United States of Tara", and Charles Shyers, "Him and Us" (pilot). Most recently she plays the lead in dramatic thrillers, "Silence", written and directed by Nelson Reis and produced by Carlyne Fournier, and "The House Across the Street", surrounded by Eric Roberts, Alex Rocco, Ethan Embry, and Courtney Gains, directed by Arthur Luhn and in the up coming Leigh Scott comedy, "Extra Curricular Activities". Jessica has several movies lined up for 2014 and early 2015, including the horror remake: Psycho a Go Go, mutant horror, Contaminated, and was just cast in the military drama, based on a true story: "Light Wounds" and horror: "One Night of Fear".