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iPontificateFilmmaker Gives Sundance Wrap Up Of "Oh My God"

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- February 24th, 2005

The short film Oh My God recently screened at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. I was the Director of Photography for the short and joined Director John Bryant and Editor Andrew Fisher at the festival last moth. I caught up with John recently for an interview on his thoughts and experiences during the festival and working with the Mac during post-production.

TMO: So John, tell us about your experience at the Sundance Film Festival, how was the reaction to the film overall?

John Bryant: It was great. People we're laughing in all the right spots. Really great crowds who asked a lot of great and sometimes challenging questions in the Q&A sessions. Shorts program #1 (the program Oh My God was in) was very strong overall. In fact, a review on Ain't It Cool News gave it 4 out of 4 stars and called it "Hands down, the best shorts program I've ever seen."

TMO: How did the film compare to the other shorts included in the program?

JB: Oh My God was completely different than any of the other films in Shorts #1. It looks different, and, tonally speaking, it's the complete opposite. Oh My God was the only short film I saw at Sundance that was shot on mini-DV. You can get away with that when you're shooting a comedy. It only has to be funny for people to appreciate it. All the films in Shorts Program #1 were shot on 35 mm (except Spelling Bee, which was shot on HD ... and again, was a comedy).

TMO: How did the 35mm print look when compared to the other shorts?

JB: I think it's a matter of taste as to whether it looked as good, better, or worse than the other films. I think it all depends on story. Story determines the look of the final product. It motivates the choices you make: Noir vs. flat? Locked down vs. hand held? Cinema-verité vs. Hollywood gloss?

I'll say this without equivocation -- the shorts in Program #1 had incredible production value. They all looked beautiful. They were all incredibly well-produced and well-directed.

Oh My God wasn't a big production. It's the opposite, but that doesn't matter. It's funny, and that's all that it was supposed to be. Most people judge and define it on those terms.

I think the print looks good. But, it doesn't look like it was shot on 35 mm. It never will. It's not supposed to. Mini-DV can't handle very much in terms of contrast. You're also not working with lenses that cost 25K. So, the two will never look the same.

However, I think 24p mini-DV has a lot of advantages beyond the most obvious one -- money. I don't think it looks like video ... or film. It's something new. A hybrid. It looks like it's REAL. And the [content] you are recording is really going down.

So, for projects that are geared towards a realistic/cinema-verité/documentary style aesthetic, it's a completely legitimate format. If you're going to shoot Lawrence of Arabia, it's probably not the best choice.

TMO: Describe what it was like to attend the festival for the first time as a Director for people that may never be able to go?

JB: I attended the festival in 2003 because my friend's short film had been accepted (This is John, directed by Jay Duplass). It gave me an idea of what type of stuff was programmed at Sundance. I was really surprised. There's a lot of different stuff -- many different styles. But, generally, one thing remained consistent -- very clear, distinctive voices. The films weren't trying to please everybody.

I would definitely tell any aspiring directors/screenwriters/producers to attend the festival just to watch the films. That, in of itself, is worth it.

TMO: You also went to the Clermont-Ferrand International short film festival in France immediately after Sundance. How did the European film festival differ from the Sundance experience? Was it better/worse/ or just different?

JB: It was completely amazing. It's THE FILM FESTIVAL for shorts without a doubt. I sold the TV rights to France (maybe Spain). The audiences are HUGE. Every single screening is sold out ... and the screenings range from 500 to 2000 people. Oh My God received the Prix de Canal+ award. They pay for your hotel. They pay for your food. It's really a fantastic festival/market. Highly recommended.

TMO: What was the reaction to the film like in Europe when compared to the US screenings of the short?

JB: They laughed. They got it. They loved it. I was a little concerned about how it would translate with sub-titles and all, but it totally worked. I'd have to say the reaction was pretty similar, overall. The tonal shifts seemed to play a little better in France -- where the audience was continually shifting gears between reverence and irreverence. So, in that regard, it seemed to play a little better.

TMO: How did the film hold up to the competition we were up against in France?

JB: Again, there were about 400 films programmed in the Clermont-Ferrand festival. I think I saw only two films that were produced for less money -- both of them in the Lab competition. 95% were shot on 16 or 35 mm. All of them had incredible production value. All of them had very unique voices. But in the end, it seemed that every film was judged by its own merits.

TMO: The film was cut by Andy Fisher on a Macintosh using Final Cut Pro. How was the editing experience using the Mac?

JB: Andy is awesome. There were some technical issues, and Andy resolved them all. More importantly, Andy knew exactly what I was going for, and was able to add great ideas. It's important to have another brain in there ... a sounding board to bounce ideas off of that compliment your own sensibilities.

Andy Fisher: I had never cut using 24P, but everything - including the 35mm conversion went off without much of a hitch. We also did all of the effects on the Mac - using Photoshop and After Effects, and produced promotional DVDs using DVD Studio Pro 3. Don't forget the film was also shot with an anamorphic adapter - again I had no problem dealing with the footage. FCP 4 actually interpolated the anamorphic footage for me. I really expected quite a learning curve on this project, but really the whole edit couldn't have gone smoother.

TMO: Could the completion of the film been possible without using a Mac, and how integral was the Mac in the production of the short?

JB: I'll never cut anything on a PC. Too many horror stories from too many of my friends who have tried this route. Mac is inherently a more stable system. It's hard enough to make a movie ... who wants to deal with system crashes and glitches?

Final Cut Pro is great for small projects. For features, it has some problems, and my personal preference is AVID ... again, because it seems to be a more stable program when handling huge amounts of digitized footage.

Final Cut Pro integrates a lot better with other programs, such as After FX (which Andy used for our title sequences) and also handles the reverse telecine for the AG-DVX100 advanced 24P with no problems. This is why we used Final Cut Pro for Oh My God.

I have a friend who used an Avid on a PC for editing a feature. He spent about 6 months dealing with all sorts of technical problems. Literally, 40 hours a week working with tech-support to get all the kinks out. For me, that was a problem I never wanted to deal with, so we edited on a G4. I recently purchased a G5. It's really the only way to go.

AF: I think we had a rough cut in just a couple of days and all be told we didn't spend more than a week for final sound and everything. Of course that week was spread out over several months as John had to return to Vegas intermittently to pour more concrete. Now John has his own G5 with FCP so he won't need to work with me ever again. Soon we won't need people at all.

TMO: What is slated next on your plate? What productions can we look forward to from you John, and what other festivals might the film be playing at?

JB: Oh My God will be playing in a lot of festivals this coming year. Next, we're at the New York Underground and then Cleveland International. As a result of Clermont-Ferrand, we've been invited to numerous international festivals.

I'm working on a feature right now called 'The Little Secret.' Hopefully, that will move forward in the months ahead.

Also, I'm writing a couple of other shorts. I'll probably produce one of them sometime later this year.

Visit the Oh My God Web site for the complete credit list and to find a festival selection near you.


With five years in the entertainment industry, and three years writing for The Mac Observer, works passionately on various genres of film, including documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. He has two feature films under his belt as Director of Photography and Camera Operator, and his current role at TMO is to cover digital media and the film industry.

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