Triumph67 screens at the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival

Triumph67 screened at the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, which I’ve been told is the second longest running Arab film festival in the country. It was well received and we had what I thought was a highly enjoyable question and answer session after the film with Mohannad Ghawanmeh, Jeremy Wilker, Heidi Haaland, and myself (Dan Tanz). It felt particularly gratifying to screen the film for an Arab audience and get their reactions. It was a true honor to be able to show the film in this setting, discuss how Arabs are portrayed in cinema, and how are film breaks that mold.

It was wonderful to be part of such a prestigious, yet also intimate setting, and I want to thank the board of Mizna everyone they brought on to make the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival happen, bring film makers together with the consumers of fine cinema and culture, and establish a setting where alternative voices can be heard outside the mainstream cinema.

Hey, and also, the coffee was great, and location was cozy at the historic Heights Theater, the films were moving and provocative, and the company was first rate. Experiences like this make me want to make another film…

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3 Years since “wrap”

This summer marks the third anniversary of wrapping the Triumph67 shoot. So much has happened since then for the filmmakers, the cast and crew, and in independent film as a whole.

Triumph67 won an honorable mention at the Minneapolis St. Paul International film festival, and screened to sold out crowds. Lavish praise for the film was mentioned on MPR, and the producers had a great interview on KFAI staple, Art Matters. Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press had great things to say about the film, going so far as to call it “poignant and moody… recalls Blow Up…” and “a handsomely shot psychological drama, respectively.

So where is Triumph67 now, and when will it be screened next?

DSLR filmmaking has made independent film even more accessible to up and coming filmmakers, the market has been supersaturated with DIY films, and festivals have become more competitive than ever. Where did this leave Triumph67, a thoughtful and understated work with a focus on characters who have been misrepresented traditionally in Hollywood?

These are all questions we have been pondering. We are sending the film out to the next round of festivals, preparing to launch into the promotional campaign necessary to build an audience and convince people of what we already know: Triumph67 is a film that sticks with you, and begs for a dialogue between viewers, long after its last image fades from the screen.

We’re looking forward to the next round of festivals, and to upcoming new projects from the cast and crew. Until then, remember to keep checking back for when the official film release becomes available for our dear fans and supporters.

Dan Tanz

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Kickstarter Success!

Thanks for your support of Triumph67!

With 33 hours yet to go, Triumph67 has blasted past its goal of $10,000, as folks just like you realize the value of independent cinema, and the importance of contributing to film that matters.  A huge thank you to those who have contributed!  We will always remember your kindness when we asked for your support.  Funds raised through this campaign go toward hard costs that are involved with finishing our film, and bringing it to its audience.  It means so much to have so many people come out of the woodwork, and demonstrate their excitement, support, and enthusiastic willingness to PARTICIPATE in the process of making films happen.  Thank YOU!

Dan Tanz,

Driftless Pictures.

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Reflections on Flyway, Part 2

I wish I could go back and live the day one more time that we got to watch Triumph67 at the Flyway Film Festival, as a work in progress.  What a great venue (next to the wonderful pie shop), and what great company!  Many thanks to the filmmakers who stuck around and gave feedback.  The Lake and drive up were so beautiful, and I truly recommend this film festival to anyone in years to come, filmmaker and audiences alike.

I want to thank Rick Vaicius again for his interest in our film, kind words, and for his accommodating our film as a work in progress.  Rick has really forged a special community of filmmakers and artists in the Driftless Area.  Entrepreneurs with an eye for art and its place in building and sustaining community are so important in keeping the Midwest relevant, and I am very impressed with Vaicius’ knack for the business, and his cultivation of a place for artists and film enthusiasts to come together and find one another.  I think everyone involved agrees how special it was to be part of the experience, from the opening night kickoff party to delicious coffee and pie next door.  My experience with the Flyway Film Festival is one I hope to revisit and reflect upon further when I fully come down from the joy of sharing my work with such an intimate and appreciative audience.

I want to also thank the cast and crew for coming out, and our wonderful friends and families for such amazing support and understanding over the last two and a half years during the making of Triumph67.

Dan T.

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Reflections on Flyway

It is the day after the work in progress screening of Triumph67 at the Flyway Film Festival.

I drove down to Stockholm, Wisconsin with butterflies in my stomach, and had to stop at a Freedom station for something to soothe myself with.  I felt like a rare and endangered bird, stepping into a Freedom station on the boarder of Minnesota and Wisconsin wearing a fancy suit jacket, on the eve that the Vikings and the Packers played.  I bought a Lime Crush on a passing fancy.  I sipped it, and it wasn’t as sweet as I had anticipated, but it washed down the Advil.  I drove down 35 along the River, and the trees were exploding in red clusters all along the bluffs ahead of me.  White birch skeleton fingers jutted this way and that through the color, as I drove toward the town of less than 100 people where my film would be screened (as a work in progress).

I made it there with a few hours to spare, and immediately found the venue where our film was showing.  I dropped in for a cup of joe, and brought it with me down the street to the Amish furniture shop, where I found a comfortable rocking bench made with the finest craftsmanship my arse had sat in for a long while.

After fifteen minutes I felt as though I should give someone else a chance, though there were seldom sidewalk guests at this time of the day.  I walked down to the river, and a ways along the train track.  I felt awkward walking in my fancy shoes along the uneven rocks, amidst rusty railroad nails and a trickling gutter under a metal bridge that said: CAUTION, AUTHORIZED PERSONS ON BRIDGE ONLY.  I turned back, and walked to a cafe table near the theater.  The afternoon was relatively mild for this late in October, and if I hadn’t been so nervous, I might have even found it relaxing.

At last my film partner, Jeremy answered my texts, and I met up with him when he pulled into town from neighboring Pepin, Wisconsin.  I had a hot chocolate, and he had a chicken burger, probably his fourth of the weekend.  We went over to see the afternoon screenings of a short and a narrative film, and I was impressed by both.  When I made my way outside at about 4pm some of the Triumph67 crowd had started to filter into town.  Of course, many were friends and family, and it was a pleasure to chat them up.  A number of surprise friends came too, and I felt very grateful that they made the treck on a Sunday evening.  It was quite amazing after a while.  People just kept coming, and a sizable crowd had formed outside the theater entrance.  What a feeling.  I felt like a should pay attention to it, because it was almost surreal, and I could hardly believe that so much effort was about to pay off… sharing the film for the first time with so many people.  Anxiety about the state of the film started to fade, although it was not really done yet, it was close enough to watch, and it was being billed as a work in progress after all.  But when friends and family gathered around, it occurred to me that this might be the most supportive audience I would ever experience.  So relax… enjoy yourself.

Cast and crew poured into town, and it was a great feeling to see the people who had forged such a strong bond in the making of Triumph67.  The film before us let out, and our crowd started making their way up the stairs into the building where our film would show.  It was a slow moving line, and I was glad that someone snapped some photos from across the streets for posterity.  I made it up after most of the other folks had found there way in, and sat down with my wife, Lisa.  Rick Vaicius, the man responsible for the Flyway Film Festival gave an introduction that made me proud and humbled at the same time.  We had brought in record numbers to the theater, and he gave us some much needed praise for our first effort, Triumph67.  I was quaking in my shoes when the lights went down, and “a driftless pictures production” appeared on the screen.

My icy hand found my wife’s warm hand, a complete role reversal for our usual hand holding routine.  She was shocked, but did her best to warm it.  Should I have asked for a DO NOT RESUSCITATE?  I would find out.

The film played, and I noticed lots of things to fix, but that is probably what every parent notices about their children.  Mine was up there in front of me, almost as though it didn’t need me anymore.  How can art move and live without the artist?  I wondered. I relaxed.  It had taken on a life of its own.  Independent film, if you will.

Out of the corner of my eye I searched through the dark to see if I could sense reaction from the audience.  It was a quiet crowd.  Barely a chuckle, even when I anticipated there might be some movement.  I held my breath.  A whirlwind of thoughts.  Times passed.  After a while, I realized the film was about to be over.  The lower half of my body was numb, and I remembered the scene in The Producers when Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel leave their show to have a drink in anticipation of what might happen when the curtain closes.

Fade to black.  Total silence.  Then the credits.   awaited applause, and when the last word vanished from the screen, the applause came, and I exhaled with more than  a little relief.

Rick Vaicius called Jeremy and I up to the stage to answer questions and talk about the film.  I followed Jeremy, who took a great photo of the audience from center stage.  I called up the other producers, and then the cast and crew came up onto the stage.  It was a night I’ll never forget, made only more special by the understated and intimate surroundings that were so much part of the Flyway Film Festival.

Dan T.

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Director’s Journal, Postproduction, Part 3

Looking forward

As we approach the end of the summer (nooooooooo!), I reflect back across the last three summers, and the long road that has been the making of Triumph67.  I have been in a working relationship with some wonderful people over the course of these last few years, and wouldn’t trade the experience for any amount of success.  There are so many challenges that we have hurdled up to this point, and everyone who has lasted this long is as excited as me about the project.  This excitement increases with the impending completion of the film itself, as we wrap up the postproduction stage, and prepare to enter the part of the process where we reap the rewards, people throw money at us, and we achieve levels of fame and success unimaginable to modest folks such as ourselves.  Thoughts of hundreds of thousands of dollars course through my mind.  Dare I say millions?  Stacks of money.  Suitcases full of dough.  Enough to finance my next big picture.  A moment goes by and the opposite scenario runs through my mind.  Mediocre reviews.  Slander, a whimper of a response.  Bankruptcy.  My brother’s friend’s dad is a famous bankruptcy lawyer in Minneapolis.  I used to baby sit for his kids.  I shun the negative thoughts out of my mind.

The reality is, most films don’t make money.  The other reality is, this film was made with the noblest of goals: to make a good film.  It wasn’t made to sell cereal.

So here I am, about to go back to my teaching job, and about to let go of my baby’s hand.  After all this writing, scheduling, rehearsing, fund raising, shooting, editing, coloring, music making, sound tweaking, planning, and fretting, I am about to do what is the equivalent of sending my teenager off to college:  shove the film in the mailbox and send it to Sundance.  And Dubai.  And SXSW, and Slamdance, and others…

The last couple months has involved a whirlwind of work, both scheduling and creative, to accomplish the feat of nearly being ready to send off this film.  When I last wrote, I was sitting down to watch color correction happen at Crash and Sues.  This was a gratifying process.  Their facilities are beautiful, and every shot started to look the way they should.  Consistency of appearance was achieved, as well as bringing colors to life the way I had wanted to see them.  Sue was wonderful, and really listened to what we wanted as we proceeded through each shot.  Several shots that I disliked before suddenly became among my favorites.  The film is so visual, and so much time and effort was placed into making every shot just right, that it was wonderful to see it being treated so nicely in post.  Meanwhile, I had finished overseeing the musical score development, and felt good about how the film had found a matching voice through the talents of Reid Kruger at Waterbury Music and Sound.  The music making process happened in a fraction of the time that was spent on editing, but Reid was wonderful and a hard worker.  I love the music in the film, and believe that it matches our visual style in tone, mood, and color.

All of this was going swimmingly, and the other element of postproduction had been happening outside of my everyday participation.  This was the sound design.  The producers had decided that we would give the film to one of our interns to work on sound design, mixing, etc.  He had been at it for a few weeks, and I had met with him a couple times to talk about what I had in mind.  So with about three weeks to deadline left, I paid him a visit to check on the progress.  He said that he was wrapping it up, and I came over to his house expecting to be blown away by solid sound treatment of dialogue and even room tone.

As I watched the film (over the sound of his roommate’s TV blasting), I began to question to myself how this fellow had been able to hear the intricacies of the film well enough to address the hundred’s of major issues that I knew needed to be fixed.  As I watched scene after scene, it slowly dawned on my that he had put a lot of effort into this project, but the dialogue was still very uneven, and room tone was distracting and scratchy as the day we recorded it.  When I heard tropical birds begin to sing (and they weren’t the ones floating around my head), I realized we were in serious trouble.  To make matters more ridiculous, the upcoming weekend happened to be my wedding to my girlfriend of six years, followed by our honeymoon to the North Shore.  How was I going to make this happen?  Breathe… Repeat.

As I drove home, I counted the days till the deadlines for festival application submission.  We had around three weeks.  Three weeks to find someone to completely re-do the sound, mix it with the music, put it all together with the color-corrected picture, and press copies to mail to the festivals.  And all of this with how much money?  I wondered where my bank account was at.

After talking with Producers, Jeremy Wilker and Mohannad Ghawanmeh on the phone and trying not to sound too panic stricken, I called my buddy Reid Kruger at Waterbury Music and Sound.  Miraculously, Reid had four days open the following week, and agreed to do our sound design and mix for a somewhat reasonable amount of money (though I had to put my big plans of having my house painted onto the back burner).

So I tried to put everything out of my mind except the wedding, and the weekend came, and I got married to my wonderful girlfriend… I mean wife, Lisa.  Then I tried to keep everything out of my mind for a few more days while we went on our wonderful honeymoon to Tofte, MN, where we rented a beautiful little cabin on the lakefront.

When we returned it was back to Crash and Sues, and then to Reid’s to make sure everything was okay.  As the week went by the sound was completed to standard, and the color was looking great.  Mohannad had left town for a three week trip to Europe, and Jeremy had gotten very booked.  So by myself at Crash and Sues, I reviewed the film with Mark Anderson, the online editor who had put the picture together with the sound.  It looked good, but needed a couple more tweaks in sound (a thunder roll here, a bump in dialogue there), and I realized I needed to add one more shot toward the end.  So I scrambled, and got what I needed, and met with Jeremy on the weekend to start the application process for the film festivals.  I paid the fees, filled out the forms, and scheduled one more day to bring the updated film changes to Crash and Sues where they would put it all together and give us a DVD for festival release.

Which brings me to this afternoon.  It is my last day of summer vacation.  Three summers ago I had the idea to make Triumph67.  Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), I’ll go to Crash and Sues during my lunch hour and give them the data that they need to, in turn, hand me a DVD for the festival applications. We’ll have to review the DVD to make sure there aren’t any issues, and then follow the rest of the directions for submission on the festival websites.  I’m not sure when this will happen (Jeremy’s on a photo shoot all week, I’m back at school, and Mohannad is gallivanting in Europe), but one way or another, it has to get done.

As I prepare for another school year of due process and high standards, I’ll dream of flickering film.  Dream with me.

By Dan | Posted in Journal, Postproduction | Comments Off on Director’s Journal, Postproduction, Part 3
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Director’s Journal: Postproduction, Part 1

Postproduction.  What would it mean for Triumph67?

We wrapped production of Triumph67 in early August of 2009.  Immediately after production, the producers sat down and bludgeoned our way through numerous meetings on how to proceed into post-production.  The first question at hand was how we would approach finding the right editor.  The three of us producing at the time deliberated for several weeks to determine the best approach, often coming up against disagreement.  We eventually landed on an interview process in which we would figure out who would be the best candidate for the role of editor.

After all the fuss, two editors (including Jeremy Wilker, who was the director of photography) were available to meet to interview.  We met with both, and both seemed quite capable.  After a couple weeks we chose Jeremy Wilker to edit the picture.  Being new to filmmaking, I hadn’t heard until recently that conventional wisdom frowned upon the cinematographer editing the film, but our budget, needs, and personal experience with Jeremy left us most confident with him for the job.  We decided that I would co-edit (also frowned upon amongst the traditional approach to filmmaking), and we began meeting at his home in Golden Valley.

It was the end of summer, and we worked in the shared home office space with Jeremy’s wife Meghan.   Eventually we would move to the basement where Jeremy set up a makeshift office where there would be more room and less distraction.  We worked on Jeremy’s two year-old Mac Book Pro, and viewed the progress on an external monitor.  We backed up all of our data on various external hard drives, and used Final Cut Pro to edit.  In our first couple of sessions we crafted an unofficial trailer for our wrap party.  Jeremy’s wife, Meghan gave us some brutal but much needed feedback, and we ended up scrapping the original for a second trailer that worked significantly better.  We set it to a Nick Drake song for ambiance.  The wrap party trailer was a success, and set a mood for the film that we felt was appropriate.

The next couple of sessions were spent projecting all of our developed Super8 footage in Jeremy’s projection room, where we captured the projected Super8 footage on Jeremy’s Sony EX3.  We discovered that the capturing of this footage looked brighter and better without the adapted lenses.  We went through somewhat of a hassle trying to figure out the best way to shoot it, and in the process, Jeremy’s projector bulb blew.  Luckily I had mine (the one that appears in the film), and we successfully were able to move all of out Super8 into Final Cut.  This was satisfying, and opened up a new palette for us to paint our picture with; the soft and chunky, fluid images from the real-life film camera.

We began editing the project based on the script into a large, rough file.  The idea was to construct each scene as it appeared in the script, and then come back for adjustments afterward.  The method to our approach always involved Jeremy at the keyboard, and me at the script.  From our three week shoot in July, the handful of days we shot B Roll, and the handful of days we shot Super8 before summer, we had over 20 hours of footage to work with, half of which had been organized with descriptions and notes of which take was best by the interns from during our production period.  This helped us move a bit quicker, but we still often looked through other takes not marked as suitable to weave scenes together when complications arose.  Overall, most of the footage came together well, and it quickly became clear which scenes were working with minimal scrutiny, and which needed a lot of thought and resources.

We spotted numerous minor production errors, many of which were fixable with CGI.  It turned out the Jeremy was a total wiz with visual manipulation of images.  It helped that almost all of our film was shot with a stationary camera, no pans or tilts, dolly shots or zooms.  Jeremy’s prior experience with photo manipulation and technical prowess, along with both of our imaginations opened numerous doors toward supporting the illusion of reality.  Time and again, we saved shots and made up new ones from what we had that was well beyond expectation.

Looking back, I entered into the process holding my breath, not sure if we would be on the same page when it came to pacing, use of B Roll as transitional space, or willingness to “kill our babies,” which describes the reluctance of someone who is intimately involved in shooting a film to eliminate favorite shots that don’t work in the context of the larger film.  I was amazed as to how much we saw eye to eye, and I wondered if the process for deciding wasn’t partly due to the limited choices we had, or if it was because we were on the same wavelength in regards to what the story called for.  In either case, I enjoyed my days with Jeremy immensely, and though editing cut my weekends in half month after month, the time spent was certainly entertaining and enlightening.

Our first rough cut was completed, and we decided to call our intern and script supervisor, James Jannicelli for a viewing and feedback session.  We made it through the cut, which was well over two hours, and immediately realized we had to make significant cuts on numerous levels.  The next several months involved making increasingly hard decisions (but never in disagreement) about what could go, and what couldn’t.  In this period we also began reworking the scenes, eliminating our weaker material, and doing everything that responsible editors should do.  But responsible to what standards?  Hollywood?  Independent film?  Art film?  We decided to be responsible to the mood that had been cultivated.  At times we questioned the clarity of the story, and often to juggled how much we could take out without losing clarity.

Toward the end of the winter, I bought a full HD camera, and the necessary lenses to shoot beautiful filmic shots with adjustable levels of depth of field.  I was able to schedule additional time to shoot some inserts that we missed during production, including a few close ups of hands, some B Roll, and whatever else I could do to help enrich the film.  This process was wonderful for me, since it forced me to learn the skills needed to shoot film-like footage with a digital camera, at a standard of quality that met our requirements.  After becoming proficient on the camera, I scheduled pickup shots (second unit type stuff) with actors.  I shot some close-ups of Flora’s and Mohannad’s hands, some fire kites, and some scenery.  We integrated this second unit material into the project, and it helped quite a bit.  At the same time, I began recording ADR with the actors, syncing up cleaner and better vocal performances where it was necessary.  Several scenes were dramatically improved following this process, and the actors were very gracious, many coming in almost a year after production to re-record some of their dialogue.

The summer had returned, following a long winter and spring, of editing on most Sunday’s and whenever we could squeeze in additional time.  Anxieties and impatience for completing the project became part of the factor in the editing process.  The fact was, we had been editing for almost a year, and had sacrificed a lot of time as a labor of love.   But our love for the film was competing with paid work, weekends with family and friends, and time to ourselves.  I had become a regular fixture in Jeremy’s home, tromping through the house to the bathroom, taking Jeremy into the basement for ten-hour days.  Jeremy’s two year-old son thought I was part of the family.  He was speaking my name after a while.  The time away from his family was hard on Jeremy, and it was hard on his family.  This is the biggest price of the independent film; the sacrifices of the people in the real world for the ones on the screen.

Since our meetings at the beginning of the summer, Jeremy had become an equal producer, and we were making business decisions together on how to proceed with everything form completing editing, to building connections facebook and twitter.  Deadlines were nearing, and we needed to make hard decisions about rushing for the deadlines, or going at our current pace, in which the end always seemed near, but never seemed to come.  After some meetings between producers, we decided that we had to finish the film in time for the deadlines.  We made a number of interim deadlines, which addressed all of the creative and technical steps that needed to be reached before we could submit to festivals, and set about putting those into action.

We had a small group feedback session with Kitty Aal, Associate Producer, including Melody Gilbert and her husband, Mohannad Ghawanmeh, Producer, and Clever Kate who was working with us on PR.  We showed an almost completed film, and got some mixed feedback, which widely varied from person to person.  I was surprised to find that Melody’s husband (a sports writer for the Star Tribune), caught almost every subplot of the story, vague as they were.  Melody told us to rework the middle section, and rely more on what she considered our film’s strengths: Mohannad’s memory sequences and the poet narration that he delivered so beautifully.  I was most nervous about what Kitty would think, as I have been in collaboration with her longer than anyone else involved on this project, but she surprised me by not lambasting the film.  Our confidence was greatly improved after this feedback session, but none confidence improved more than Mohannad, who was a self-proclaimed nervous wreck at the onset of the viewing, since so much of the film revolved around his character.

Though Melody suggested we take a few weeks to work out the middle section, we decided to stay on schedule to meet the festival submission deadlines.  We only had one more scheduled day to edit, and did our best to interpret and address the feedback provided, along with preparing the film for the next stages: sound and color.  We locked picture late at night, and I drove home feeling like I did my best.  A film doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  There are deadlines and all sorts of constraints that factor in to when it will be considered finished.  If I sat on the film for another year, then would it be finished?

So we locked picture, and called Dominic Hanft who began mixing the sound and sweetening the rough spots.  We called Reid Kruger at Waterbury Music, and he agreed to squeeze us in to his packed schedule in order to finish a score by the deadline.  At the same time, we dropped our picture off at Crash and Sues, and they began the process of color correction.

Part 2: Coming Soon

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