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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Day 5, Kickstarter

What a rally!  What support!  We have raised over 30% of our hefty goal on Kickstarter, in the first four days.  So today, let’s keep up the momentum.  Everybody counts.  Your support counts!  We need your help, and appreciate your service to independent film.  Be a patron of the arts.  It will come back to you.

Contribute to our Kickstarter campaign today!

Day 5 on kickstarter.com

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Day 3, Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a go! How amazing!  In three days, we raised well over two thousand bucks for our feature film, Triumph67.  But we have to make it to $10,000, or its bust!  Can we do it?  Go GO GO!

Check out the video on our kickstarter page.  There you’ll see a few precious clips from Triumph67, along with me humbly asking for your support in raising finishing funds.  I truly believe that with your help, our ambitious goal to raise $10,000 can be achieved.  I am so thankful to my friends, family, and to folks who are coming out of the woodwork to help make Triumph67 possible.  Every contribution helps, every person makes a difference, and everybody is welcome to help support us finish our film.  Be part of our family.  Contribute today:  Contribute to Triumph67 on Kickstarter

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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 2

The status of postproduction for Triumph67 has advanced to a place much closer to finishing by our self-imposed deadline of the end of the summer.  After working with Reid Kruger at Waterbury Music for an intense week pouring over every scene of the film, I have signed off on the score of the film, and am leaving him to mix it to perfection.  Reid is a master at dynamic piano playing and sprucing up a melody with a luscious symphony sound from his string machine.  The music brings a sweetness and sense of hope to the film that will serve as counterpoint to the heaviness of the content.  It also beautifully brings out a sense of inevitability that compliments the themes of family cycles and the father-son relationship.

Reid’s energy and expertise were a windfall for our project, and I should probably thank Dena Gad (who played Doctor Elfouley in the film) for steering us in his direction.  I met Reid at Dena’s house gathering over half a year ago.  Dena had mentioned him as as someone she respected the first time I met her in 2009, and believed that he could do a good job with the score.  I was impressed with his work from scoring the Listening Project, as were Mohannad and Jeremy, and we were lucky that he could squeeze us in before our deadline when we were finally ready to address the score.

Meanwhile, Dominic Hanft is working on mixing the sound, which covers everything from smoothing out the dialogue to adding the distant sound of waterfalls and the faint chirping of crickets.  Dominic is recording foley into a handheld Zoom recorder, making fixes and replacing mic noise.  His most important job will be to make sure the dialogue is even and clean, and the audio transitions from scene to scene are smooth.

While Dominic works on sound mixing, we will spend today at Crash and Sues in downtown Minneapolis, where the film will be spruced up with state of the art color correcting technology.  Sue, herself, is working on the color.  Her job will be to bring each shot to life, making it pop where it is supposed to pop, and settle into the background where it is supposed to settle.  My job will be to sit at the polished wooden desk in a thousand dollar office chair, eating muffins and sipping a bottle of orange juice and coffee.  They really know how to take care of you at Crash and Sues.  I’ll be sure to be on time.

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Director’s Journal: Scoring Triumph67

It is the last week of July, 2010.  One year ago we shot Triumph67, and now, I’m staring at the footage that has been seared into my brain and scrambling to finish the film in time for application deadlines for Sundance and Dubai.  I have been meeting with the talented and personable guy who is scoring the film, Reid Kruger, who operates out of his home studio, Waterbury Music.  Reid agreed to take on the job, and we have been watching each scene, marking the places where music should and shouldn’t appear.  Given the time crunch, I am apprehensive about whether the score can be finished with the level of quality that the film deserves within the deadlines that we have set for ourselves.  That being said, the alternative is to miss the regular deadline cycle for Sundance.  Between producers we have been debating on the role that music should play within the film.  Though we love the idea of a sparse, understated score, the question becomes how sparse can we get away with, given the deliberate pacing and several dialogue-free scenes.

Though I think Reid initially anticipated drawing from previously recorded material from his extensive collection of recorded work, we end up playing live along with the film after initial attempts to drop in canned music leave me wanting.  I am much happier with the live music, and much of it is piano based.  After the third day of meeting, we find a sonic mood that suits the film.  The music varies from apprehensive, slow tempo R&B progressions to minor key classical harmonies that evoke a moody, baroque vibe.  At the right moments, reflective, almost childlike melodies are sprinkle throughout.

This morning we work on the opening sequence and Reid tries three or four different themes that have already appeared in the film.  We lean toward one that seems to be emerging as the film’s main theme (a melody taken from one of Reid’s older songs that I felt worked with the Sami character), but discover that the rising piano run of the last idea that we try is perfect for the transition between the title sequence and the memory sequence that introduces us to our narrator, Mohannad.  After this development, we move quickly through the first several scenes with relative ease, laying down the appropriate music where necessary.

We break at lunch for giant Chipotle burritos which we breathe down in about five minutes.  No time to dilly-dally, and we jump back in the car for the second half of the day.  My stomach is killing me as we drive back.  Reid doesn’t seem to be phased by the brick that is sitting in his stomach.  We resume work, and make as much progress as possible before I have to leave at 7:15pm to make it home for a meeting with my parents and Lisa’s parents about our upcoming wedding in exactly one week.  After scrambling all day to try to at least get something down for the whole film, I am tense and jittery.  The burrito has worn off hours ago, and is replaced by the jitters from the cold press I had at around 3pm to stay conscious.  My mom takes pitty on me and brings out a plate of food.  Tamales.

As my brain transitions from score mode to wedding mode, I accidentally eat all of the tamales.  My mom asks: are you okay?

By Dan | Posted in Journal, Postproduction | Comments Off on Director’s Journal: Scoring Triumph67
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