The road to LSFF!

  Hey guys,

   So, as you may have seen on Facebook recently, I have received some very good news. We've only just started submitting Night Owls to festivals, and we've already had one acceptance; the film will have its public premiere at London Short Film Festival, a conditionally BAFTA-qualifying festival!

  Of course, everyone involved is delighted at this news. It's a great achievement that came completely out of the blue. Even if, worst case scenario, we don't get accepted into any more festivals, we've still got a damn good laurel for our poster and our CVs!

  But while we've been celebrating this news (a lot of us have known about it for a while, but we'd been waiting until the screening date confirmation to announce it), what you guys won't have seen is all the effort that went into making this screening a possibility. You see, a lot of the crew had to work very hard to make this happen, and we even faced a couple of unexpected challenges - so I wanted to do this blog post to thank the relevant people, and to make you all aware of their efforts.

  For starters, I wasn't prepared for us to be accepted into a festival this early on. I'm never certain my films will get into festivals at all, and after Stop/Eject (which I produced) and Ashes took a long time to catch fire on the festival circuit, I didn't think I'd have to prepare any screening materials for a while. 

   So, to go to the beginning of this story: we found out the good news way back in September, towards the end of the month. The edit had been locked just under two months before that, and I'd planned on getting a DCP (digital cinema package) created, but I wasn't putting any pressure on getting that done. As far as I knew, I wouldn't need it until the cast and crew premiere in December.

   But with the acceptance came a minor bombshell: LSFF needed all screening materials before the 31st October, which gave us less than a month to get everything together. In LSFF's defense, they did say I could send a digital copy, which would've been a bit quicker, and even offered to make a DCP for me. But me being the perfectionist I am - and since I needed a DCP for the cast and crew premiere anyway - I immediately pulled the crew into action to create one ourselves.
Connector gone!

   Night Owls DOP Neil Oseman kindly took on the duty of creating the DCP. He's done this before, and you can read his guide to making DCPs on his blog. All he needed me to do was send him the files he needed. Which would've been easy, if it weren't for our unexpected hurdle. I got the project hardrive, went to plug it in to export some files, and this happened... (see right). 

   What we have here is what my family calls 'the innate hostility of inanimate objects'. With less than a month to create a DCP and post the materials over, the USB3 connector of my hard drive decided to fall off!! What's more, it fell inside the case, leaving it completely inaccessible.

  Cue (after a lot of panicking on my part) some technical computer advice from Tommy Draper (the film's co-writer) and Steve Giller, some fast services from a local technology recovery company, lots and lots of driving back and forth by my Dad, and a lot of money spent on replacement hard drives!

  Once I was finally able to export the files I needed (having lost a week due to the broken hard drive), there were file format issues - small things such as checking bitrates and other settings, and larger issues, such as being unable to export certain file types on my computer. Cue the services of the film's editor, Theo Leeds, and local filmmaker Chris Newman, who both exported various bits and pieces for me. 

  While the guys were doing this, I focused my attention on something I'm better at - making creative, reasonably memorable DCP packaging!

My homemade USB DCP box and tag, ready for contact details to be written on

  More expenses mounted up at this point, and more time was lost. Two more hard drives were bought (one to send to Neil with the DCP materials, and one to transport files for conversion back home), plus USB sticks, and back-and-forth postage costs arose.

  Through some very speedy skills, in spite of the file-format-and-broken-hard-drive related setbacks, Neil managed to finish the DCP the week before the deadline. Then Sam Jordan and the team at Derby Quad kindly tested it out for me. It worked fine, and I managed to get it in the post just in time. It arrived at LSFF's relevant offices the day before the deadline, and then I slept properly for the first time in all of October.

   So what is the moral of this story, and the point of this blog post? Firstly, I wanted to write it to thank all of the wonderful people mentioned above (as well as Edward Harvey, who worked hard to mix and re-mix the surround sound audio for the DCP at the start of October). Everyone was properly on the ball, and I wouldn't have made the deadline without each and every one of them.

  Here's the other reason for writing this post. Whenever I make mistakes, I like to share them with my blog readers, so that they won't do the same. So here's my advice:

1) Get all your screening materials ready before you start entering festivals. Plan for success even if you don't expect it - you never know what might happen!

2) Don't leave the cable connected to your external hard drive when you're not using it. This can weaken the connector over time, particularly in transit.

3) When a festival offers to make a DCP for you, and says you just need to send them a digital copy... let them! This is much less work for yourself and your crew, and it saves you a lot of money.

4) If you're the director of your film, don't try to do everything yourself; particularly if it involves working with file formats you're not familiar with.

  So, now you know how hard myself and the crew worked to get the film into LSFF, why not check out the film? The screening is at 14:00 on the 10th January, at Hackney Picturehouse, as part of the 'Girlhood' themed line-up of films. You can read more about it and buy tickets here.



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