As outlined from day 1 of this ambitious feat, Mother of Us All was completed on May 14th in it’s final form and presented to the Senior Project Class of 2013 at Northwestern College. While I was certain my efforts and my 384 page book detailing the filming process for this short piece would guarantee me a good grade, I was more anxious for the responses from my peers, family, and other critics who would eventually see my film. If I still wasn’t 100% confident in my final product, would others see value in it?
Allow me to re-wind a bit before I get too far ahead and catch up on the tales from the final days of shooting and editing. With each project I pursue, I have come to expect some sort of “catastrophe” which would define the project among the cast and crew. For my last big project Charioteer, this was the wide-spread food poisoning episode, which we dared not repeat. This project never saw epic happenings like that, but we were not shy of of fair share of challenges. As aforementioned, weather continued to be a massive complication, so much so that we not only had to re-locate most of our outdoor shoots to indoor locations, but we even had to brave a watery, icy, snowy, and windy storm early in the morning on one occasion. After that incident, we worked extra hard to avoid shooting outdoors. We also apparently wore out our lead actress Pauline, causing her to get a high fever in the final week of shooting. Nevertheless this incredible woman pulled together her last bit of energy to perform one of the most intense scenes of the film in a last-ditch effort. Our younger lead actress, Hannah, experienced a small sprain in her wrist, hypothermia, and much smoke inhalation throughout the filming process. But she, like Pauline, laughed off each situation and moved on with more intensity than before. As locations and schedules began to complicate themselves, we had to split our remaining two shoot dates into a week’s worth of shooting, fitting them in wherever we could. There were times when it looked as though some scenes were never going to get shot and if it weren’t for my hard-working and creative-thinking producers, we probably wouldn’t have finished.
As I pulled together the final pieces in the editing process, which I did myself because I don’t trust any editors to handle my work (something I will have to get over in the future), I grew incredibly weary with the project. I feared that there would never be a day where I would fall in love with my film. But once I finished my final picture-locked cut of the film and got a chance to remove myself from that process for a while, I had some time to reflect on the positive aspects of the project. The moment that my feelings really began to turn however was when I handed the project over to my audio editors. This is when new life was breathed into the crevices that had caused me to dislike the film. We created the most complicated audio design that I’ve ever come to work with. I wanted to play with space and focus on where dialogue and sound effects were coming from. We also had the insane task of creating montages from scratch which featured battlegrounds, television shows, and a re-creation of the California Primary in which Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I wanted these pieces to come directly from Leo and Virginia’s own imagination. They would prove to be more powerful and more telling than the visuals within the film.
The final piece of this elaborate puzzle was in composing the soundtrack. I began this process back in January as I started developing the aesthetic with a local musician who also possessed a degree in film, Zach Lemmens. We toyed around with ideas of blending a futuristic sound, featuring elements reminiscent of the 1960s, with sounds of the past. Essentially we wanted the music to dwell in the punk rock/modern energies of the 1970s and present day with the wailing pop music of the 1950s. We looked to bands like the Yardbirds (1960s), Bad Brains (1970s), Grizzly Bear (2000s), and The Platters (1950s) for inspiration. While Zach couldn’t continue in the writing process, I still used his ideas for influence. I teamed up with my brother Brett Carey who is also a local musician (https://www.facebook.com/brettcareymusic?fref=ts) to finish scoring and recording the project. What seemed like a hodgepodge of sounds translated into an energetic, dissonant, woe-is-me underscore which nearly perfectly fit the tone of the film. This rushed effort turned out to be the favorite element for most who watched the film. And with that, the film was “finished.”
This brings us to May 15th 2013 which will forever stand in my mind as one of the most wonderful days of my short life. It was this evening which premiered Mother of Us All in front of an enthusiastic audience at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Folks got all gussied up in their gowns and suits and waited in anticipation for the film’s start; even my family came out in support by wearing hints of yellow on their clothing. As people continued to file into the theater, the lights dimmed and the film began to play. Audiences laughed, more than I expected, I believed they even collectively gasped at one point. I never thought I’d even have the opportunity to experience that in my lifetime.
And that marks the end of the production stages of Mother of Us All. Crazy to imagine that after a year and a half of work, I would tell the story that I had strongly desired to tell in an effective manner. Some people merely enjoyed the film, which is more than I could ask for, while others had the film impact them in some way. Few recalled memories from 1968 of the fallen, the oppressed, the fearful, the fearless. One woman recalled how fortunate she was to have a job during that period, where most of her capable friends were unable. Even my own grandfather who could care less about film has watched it nearly every day since it’s release, though I’m still unsure if that’s a good thing or not. But as this chapter closes, my film still has a new life to pursue.
This final stage is what I will call the post-post-production process. I would not be content if the film were to premiere and sit on a YouTube or Vimeo account to only muster up a couple hundred views. Though I’m not completely satisfied with the final product of this project, I still believe wholeheartedly in the story and questions driving it. Therefore I have decided to continue to premiere the film in various capacities. First of all, I would like to do more screenings so to encourage questioning of the subject matter and the film making process. Secondly, I will submit the film to festivals across the United States. This means that this is not the end of this blog either! I will use this to keep my readers informed of where Mother of Us All is headed next and hopefully when you will get a chance to see it for the first time or possibly a second time!
I am truly excited for this next stage: it’s uncertain, anxiety-filled, and thrilling. Who knows what God has in store for this little film of mine?
Until then, enjoy some of the photos from the film’s premiere. More photos and updates can be found on the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MotherOfUsAll
Me with my film professor Ann Sorenson. (Photo by Peter Guth)
The lovely Abby Anderson who played the role of Mitch (Photo by Peter Guth).
Ryan Vanasse who played the role of Steve (Photo by Peter Guth).
Me with my principal actors: Dave Jensen & Pauline Gates (Virginia and Leo Donaldson). (Photo by Peter Guth).
Me with the stunning Hannah Cox who played the role of Marina (Photo by Peter Guth).
My incredibly creative and supportive family (Amy, Bryan, and Brett) (Photo by Peter Guth).
One of our hard-working producers, Erin McGregor.