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Magical Music

Because the folks at Concentrix Music and Sound Design made Saying Goodbye sound so beautiful, we of course wanted them to work their musical magic on High Heels and Hoodoo.  We jumped in the car for another road trip up to Charlotte to meet with Fred Story and Anthony Fedele for our spotting session, where we watched the film together and talked about options for the score and sound design. 

Fred Story with Emmys - picture by his wife Becky StoryWe presented Fred with a tougher challenge this time.  With Saying Goodbye, it was obviously a drama, so it was easier to pick a sound for the movie.  But High Heels and Hoodoo doesn’t fit comfortably into a genre.  It’s too light to be a typical horror movie, but it’s not funny enough to be classified as a comedy.  But as expected, Fred and his team were up to the challenge.  Last week they delivered a score that provides suspenseful texture, while acknowledging the playful moments, and ending with a rockin’ credit sequence.  We think it sounds great, and it’s exactly what we were looking for even when we weren’t sure what we wanted.

We do know we’re not the only ones who think the Concentrix crew does great work.  We were thrilled to learn that at last weekend’s 26th Annual Mid-South Emmy Awards the Concentrix team was honored with two statues.  Anthony won an Emmy for sound design and audio post-production, and Fred won an Emmy for music composer/arranger, both for the documentary North Carolina’s World War II Experience

Congratulations, guys!  We’re thankful to have such talented gentlemen on our team!

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Sneak peeks of High Heels and Hoodoo

One of the fun things the SC Film Commission's Indie Grant Program does is showcase the six grant-winning films in several South Carolina films festivals.  The films will play in a block as works-in-progress to give us filmmakers a chance to gauge the audience reaction – kind of like informal focus groups to help figure out if we need to make changes before we finalize our films.

The first showing of this year’s Indie Grant films will be at the Charleston International Film Festival.  We had an amazing experience there last year with Saying Goodbye and are excited about being part of the festivities again with High Heels and Hoodoo.  The screening will be on Saturday, April 14th at 11:00am at the Sottile Theatre located on 44 George Street, Charleston, SC.  You can learn more about the six Indie Grant films and purchase tickets by clicking here.

* If you buy tickets online for CIFF before April 7th, use the code "5bucks" to get half off the ticket price! 

Then just a week later, the Indie Grant films will be showing at the Indie Grits Festival in Columbia.  In 2010, MovieMaker Magazine name Indie Grits one of the 20 coolest film festivals, so we’re looking forward to participating.  The screening will be on Saturday, April 21st at 8:30pm at the New Nick theater located at 1607 Main St., Columbia, SC.  You can learn more about their schedule by clicking here.

We’re excited to have the chance to show High Heels and Hoodoo to a wider audience, and we hope you can make it to one of the two screenings!

High Heels and Hoodoo

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The Goldilocks Conundrum

High Heels and Hoodoo has a scene that’s a memory and a scene set in the spirit world, and we wanted to make sure those parts looked different.  So Brian bought this snazzy program called "Magic Bullets Suite" to manipulate the images. The software has all kinds of filters and effects, and Brian was like a kid in a candy shop trying out all the options.  In addition to the distinct looks he could add to the different scenes, he also used the software for color correction.  He spent hours making sure the colors were consistent across all the shots, but when he was sure he had it right, he ran into the Goldilocks issue. 

He sent the final version to Jocelyn, and she complained that it was too light - when she watched it on her computer, it almost looked bright enough to be daytime.  When Brian burned a DVD and watched in on his television, it was too dark.  It’s supposed to be midnight in a cemetery, but the viewer has to actually be able to see what’s happening.  And of course when he watched it on his computer where he’d done all the color tweaking, it was juuuuust right.  So which of those three outputs should we believe?

That’s why we’re so glad we have the upcoming sneak peeks.  This is one of the types of issues a work-in-progress screening helps evaluate, so we can discover if we need to make changes.  The film will be playing in two different theaters with different projectors and screens, so we’ll be able to see whether it looks too light, too dark, or just right on the big screen.  

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Beaufort Screening

Beaufort International Film FestivalWe now know our screening day and time for the Beaufort International Film Festival where our star Rebecca Koon has been nominated for Best ActorSaying Goodbye will be shown on Thursday, February 16th at 1:40pm.  It’s kind of an odd time to go see a movie, but we'd love for you to join us if you’ll be in the Beaufort area.  The films are being screened at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort, Center for the Arts 801 Carteret St. Beaufort, SC 29902.  You can see the entire BIFF schedule here and purchase your tickets here.  Hope to see you there!

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A Very Stuffy Holiday

Season’s Greetings!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!  Happy Solstice!Stuffy under the tree

Stuffy the Stand-in loves the holiday season, and he’s perched himself under the tree convinced all the presents are for him.  We don’t want to disappoint him on Christmas (or lose a finger trying to make him move), so we’ll let him open all of them.  Besides, we got all the presents we needed this year, since 2011 has been especially kind to Death Cat Entertainment.  We had the world premiere of Saying Goodbye, which then screened at several festivals and won a variety of awards.  We also won another grant from the SC Film Commission to film our new short High Heels and Hoodoo, which is currently being scored.  We’re very grateful we’ve had opportunities to bring our stories to life and share them with others. 

We hope that 2011 has treated you well, and that you have an even better 2012!  Happy Holidays!

And since it’s now a tradition, here’s our holiday animation from two years ago:


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Way to go, Rebecca!

Rebecca Koon as Alma in "Saying Goodbye"More terrific news out of the Beaufort International Film Festival!  We just found out that Rebecca Koon, the star of Saying Goodbye, was nominated for Best Actor.  It’s a richly deserved honor.  Not only did Rebecca bring Alma to life in a way likely to bring tears to your eyes, but she was also a great help on set and has been an enthusiastic supporter at several screenings.  We are so thrilled for Rebecca and hope she takes home the award come February.

And while we’re sharing good news about Rebecca, we also wanted to mention that she had a part in Showtime’s fantastic new series Homeland.  If you watched the show, Rebecca played Faisel's assistant in the episode where Virgil and his brother search the suspected terrorist's office.  It was such a surreal experience to be watching the show and see her pop up on screen.  If you haven’t been watching the show, make sure to put it in your Netflix queue – the story is twisty and suspenseful and the acting performances are phenomenal.  We’re excited for Rebecca that she got to be part of such a critically-praised show.

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Putting the Pieces Together

Mixing the magic...Editing High Heels and Hoodoo was a team effort – Brian did the actual editing in Final Cut, while Jocelyn hovered over him offering her pearls of wisdom.  We were lucky that because we had a fantastic cast and crew, we got so much great footage, but it actually makes it really tough to decide what to use.  Our DP John Reynolds got a variety of interesting angles, so we wanted to use them all.  And then our actresses (Johanna Jowett, Joy Vandervort-Cobb, and Sandra Lafferty) made it even tougher to decide: one would deliver the line in an especially snazzy way, but then one of the others would have a priceless reaction shot – which to choose, which to choose?!?

But we muddled through and got our rough cut put together.  Then it was time to turn it over to our expert advisors.  As part of the Indie Grants program, short film expert Roberta Munroe is helping at all stages of the process.  Brad Jayne, the coordinator of the program, has also been offering his sage advice along the way.  They both had some great suggestions for tightening the cut and using different shots to tell the story.

So we made some changes and delivered a new cut to them.  At that point we also brought in another past Saying Goodbye helper – editing consultant Ann Collins.  Like Roberta, Ann helped so much with the Saying Goodbye edit that we also wanted her practiced eye on High Heels and Hoodoo.  She had really great things to say about High Heels and Hoodoo and suggested some ways to further fine-tune the edit. 

After more tweaking and a few more back-and-forth rounds with our team of experts, we now have picture lock - yay!  Time to pass it off to Fred Story and the Concentrix sound team to truly make the film sing.

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Beaufort Bound

Beaufort International Film FestivalIn August we mentioned that our aunt and uncle threw a viewing party where the power of networking earned us a waiver to submit to a film festival.  Well, we just found out that Saying Goodbye was accepted into that festival - the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF).  The official email actually says we’ve been selected as a “Finalist,” but we’re not really sure what that means or if everyone who was accepted is called a finalist.  Whatever it means, we’re excited!  Click here for the list of films.

The festival will be held February 15-19 in Beaufort, SC, but we don’t know yet when Saying Goodbye will be screening.  We’ll update Facebook and the website when we find out the specifics, so keep an eye out for further details.  We hope to see you there!

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Friendly Favors

When it comes to making low budget films, especially shorts, you end up depending on the kindness of friends and family to get you through.  We already gushed about our amazing family, so it’s time to tip our hats to our friends. Steve and Kathleen Fox having fun serving coffee. Photo by Joanna Rish

First up we have Jocelyn’s writing buddy Kathleen Fox.  In our first scene, Tiffany pulls up in a fancy car, but we didn’t think Jocelyn’s fifteen-year-old Saturn or Brian’s Prius would be the type of car our rich party girl would drive.  So we put out a call for help on facebook, and while we had several people offer cars or suggestions about where to look (thank you!), the one that worked out from a timing standpoint was a friend of Kathleen’s.  Emma Souder has a sporty convertible and was willing to let us kidnap it for the entire night.  Emma, you saved our bacon – thank you so much! 

Making the deal even sweeter, Kathleen volunteered to get the car to and from the cemetery, so we didn’t have to worry about it.  And as if that wasn’t enough, Kathleen manned the craft services table on Saturday night to give our parents a break.  She even dragged her poor husband Steve into it, and we are so thankful they were willing to spend the night in a chilly graveyard to keep the coffee and snacks flowing. 

John Reynolds making the shot pretty. Photo by DiDi HendleyThen there are the friends (both old and new) involved as professionals on the production.  They all agreed to work for below their usual fees, yet still bent over backwards to make this an awesome short.  We've talked about all of them in previous posts, and we are so grateful for everything they have done, although we did want to give our DP John Reynolds an extra shout out.  Not only did he make the graveyard look awesome on camera, but because John has been involved with the camera/lighting for seemingly every project filmed in Charleston, he had the contacts to help us get the equipment and manpower we needed.  The most beneficial of these contacts was High Output, Inc. - not only did they give us great deals on equipment, they also let us film a scene in their warehouse.  The flashback scene needed to be filmed inside, and since High Output was just around the corner from St. Lawrence, it was the perfect place.  It would have been tough to pull this off without the generous help of both John and High Output, so thank you very much! 

And lastly, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive – asking about our progress and wishing us well.  Your enthusiasm helps keep us energized. 

And now we should probably stop with the thank yous before the music starts to play us off the stage!

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The Family Business

Joyce Rish prepping a midnight meal. Photo by Joanna Rish

During the filming of Saying Goodbye, our family was a huge source of emotional support; but although they stopped by the set one day to see all the excitement, they weren’t really involved in the actual process.  It was a very different story for High Heels and Hoodoo, which turned into a true Rish family production.

We already mentioned how our parents helped with all the food shopping, so we might as well dub them the Official Food People - they helped man the craft services table, and they catered dinner both nights.  Although is it still called dinner when it’s served at midnight?  Our dad Robert prides himself on his homemade bar-b-que, so he grilled a giant hunk of pork for Friday night.  And then for Saturday night it was a different kind of bar-b-que with hamburgers and hot dogs.  Our mom Joyce made all the delicious side dishes for both meals. 

Robert Rish cookin' up some dogs.

But they didn’t just help with the food.  In the days leading up to the shoot, our mom helped Jocelyn make sure everything was organized.  Between the two of them, the OCD list making was in overdrive.  And once on set, she kept everything shipshape at base camp (the trailer).  Our dad served as handyman on set, keeping the generators running (the hairdryers kept tripping the trailer’s circuit breaker) and taking care of other odd jobs.  We also tasked him with driving the U-haul truck full of TTC equipment, since neither of us felt comfortable with it.  And when we ran out of tiki torch oil, who do you think we sent out on a 2am Walmart run?  Dear old Dad, of course!

Rounding out the Rish family production was our younger sister Joanna.  She has a super fancy camera and loves taking pictures, so we sweet-talked her into being our onset photographer/videographer.  She took some fantastic photos (along with TTC student DiDi Hendley) which you can see here.  But as older siblings, it’s our duty to make life tough on the youngest, so once shooting started, we immediately turned her into the set production assistant, bombarding her with “Go and do…” “Tell so-and-so…” “Bring me…”  And as usual for ungrateful siblings, we fear we forgot to preface most of those requests with “please.”  But Joanna has the patience of a saint, and she wanted to help us succeed, so she did everything we asked (with only a few dirty looks). 

Joanna and Jocelyn Rish. Photo by DiDi Hendley.

Besides taking pictures, her biggest job turned out to be set chauffer.  Since the trailer was parked a good distance from the graves where we were filming, she drove the actresses back and forth.  And after it ended up being so cold, she turned her car into a heated green room for the actresses to stay warm during lighting adjustments, which we know the ladies really appreciated (as did Jocelyn who occasionally snuck a few minutes in the car to thaw out!).

We can’t thank our family enough for all of their help.  Without their support and willingness to do whatever we needed, we’re not sure we would have been able to pull this off.  Thank you so much Joanna, Joyce, and Robert!