Etherium Sky Sapa “Office”: Finishing the film…

[two_col]The production of my latest feature film focusing on the Khau Vai love market and the people living nearby is taking longer than I planned.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the project has truly evolved beyond even my own expectations, but I feel somewhat obligated to update everyone who supported the film on my progress and I guess I also want to tease those who keep asking me when the film will be out.

So – one thing that’s still not ready is the actual ‘title’ of the film.  Sometimes the title just pops into your mind in sudden, unexpected inspiration, other times you beat your head against a wall for weeks with no result.  Well, at least I do, and I have been unsuccessfully doing so for some time.  Standby on that, please.  I’ll get there soon.

Secondly, I am in Vietnam’s Sapa, which although picturesque, is probably only still considered ‘remote’ by the Lonely Planet.  It’s been a pleasant stay and I’m happy to report that I have just finally completed the last bit of translations on the film.  Don’t mean to sound redundant (I’ve been complaining about this a lot) but those translations have been a nightmare and a process that most other people would’ve probably long given up on already.  Finally, as of just few hours ago, they are done, though, meaning that I can now complete my picture lock on the film, hopefully in the next several days.[/two_col][two_col_last]


And yeah – check out the view from my surprisingly cheap “office” in Sapa!


As I just noted, I am hoping to lock picture on the film by next Wednesday.  Tomorrow I am shooting just a couple very final shots for one scene which has still been missing some B-roll, before heading back to Hanoi to complete the final touches.  As I type this, my composer is working on an original musical score in Hanoi, combining exotic and ancient mountainous ethnic minority sounds with more contemporary, electronic and acoustic tunes.  Also – I have brought on a talented VFX artists who will help me complete motion graphics and some animation elements on the film.  Later this month, I have a tight time slot for completing sound design as well as mixing all the sounds the film.  I am pressed for time by crew and facility availability, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing – most of the film is ready, it’s just final touches now, so having a deadline actually helps me focus on what I need to get done as opposed to endlessly ‘perfecting’ different parts of the edit.

Next weekend I am planning to hold a private test screening to see how the film does with a general audience, after which there will probably be a few final adjustments and yeah…  It’s very close now.

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There are two things though which are probably most important for me to mention:

The story

The film has evolved and the story I set out to tell has grown and taken a life of it’s own.  That’s expected, it’s good – if there were no ‘discoveries’ throughout the film, then it probably wouldn’t be a very good film.  Well, the film evolved from essentially what started as a “documentary about an annual festival” into a story of massive cultural discovery, with the sometimes touching, sometimes harrowing tales of the local people turning out to be much more fascinating (even if at times disturbingly painful) than the largely questionable and shrouded in conspiracy ‘tradition’ of the love market…

I’m obviously biased and after nearly 14 months of work I may lack perfect objectivity – but I have never felt stronger about any of my past projects.

The Release

This is the big question…  I’m getting closer and closer to needing to find an answer and I still don’t know.  I want to release the film online, I want to go against the traditional way of “making something for profit” and I want the film to be available to everyone.  However – more and more I’m turning against that idea.  First of all – giving my film to google so that they can make profit at my cost is not really getting away from capitalism at all – it’d just be me willingly allowing corporates to take advantage of me yet again.  Aside from those socio-philosophical concerns, last week, waiting for my dentist appointment, a TVC came up on a screen in the lobby – I looked closer only to see that the key VNese national broadcaster (VTV3 this time) yet again STOLE footage I shot for another project some time ago, using it for their own purposes.  Of course – my credit was removed, shamelessly replaced with their own names.  I’m out of words for that.  It makes me too upset…  It happens too often and it gives me yet another reason not to make my film so easily available for theft (not by individuals at all, but by the very companies that bitch about copyright abuses the most…)
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Then also – well, it would be nice to make some money, I won’t lie.  2 weeks ago, $5,000 of my most important camera gear was stolen from me during a shoot in Saigon.  I was saving cash all last year for it, almost new camera, lens, accessories…  Not that it’s the only reason I want to make money, but damn – I have other, good film ideas, other films I hope to execute someday and I’m getting no closer to getting any of them done when I have to scrape together every penny just to complete a project.  I’ve been fortunate to have a great crew willing to work for next to nothing, but I also want to be able to compensate people, especially when they pull of damn good work for me.  And yeah, if i could make a few extra bucks after 14+ months of work, that’d be nice.  Would help me finally fix up my bike and get it ready for the big solo biking adventure (well with my dog…).  But that’s another story.

In short – i’m not sure where/how/when exactly I will actually release the film.  I will most likely start with big festival submissions in the next few months, then smaller festivals.  In the meantime, I’m starting to pursue distributors – although I get easily discouraged when rejected and ignored, so it’ll largely depend on their responsiveness.  As for a public youtube release – I haven’t ruled it out but as of now i’m leading towards ‘no’.  This may still change down the road, especially if PirateBay agrees to support me again…


Anyways, still lots of ‘ifs”, lots of maybes, lot’s of me thinking out loud.  If anyone has any other good ideas, feel free to share!  Otherwise, thanks for being patient, I am working tirelessly on finishing the film and post-production will be completed within a few weeks!

– Matt


PS.  Ah – and I’m also starting work on a proper trailer for the film!  Expect to see it (along with personalized teasers for the people who financially supported our crowd funding campaign!) in July!