Doug Karr’s new film Art Machine is available on demand and through iTunes. I asked him to write up a post about his experience finishing it.
Nearly three years ago John watched my ambitious and rather complicated short film Ten for Grandpa and liked it enough to not only post it, but also ask me to write a first person for the blog.
This was mid 2011 and I had just gone through the roller-coaster ride of having that film premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, go on to screen at 50+ international film festivals, win multiple awards, and ultimately give me the juice to finish an achievable feature screenplay and finally crowdfund and source private equity to get it made.
That film was Art Machine, which I co-wrote with my friend and collaborator Nuno Faustino.
With the script finished and our financing in place, our rollicking crew of filmmaking maniacs went into production at a lightning fast pace for what I can only describe as one of the best directing experiences of my life. Thanks to the encouragement of my then girlfriend (now wife) Aimee Karr, who is a producer on the film, and the trust of a handful of amazing investors and producers, we undertook 18 glorious days of production. I got to work with some of the most incredible actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a set with, including, but not limited to, Joseph Cross, Joey Lauren Adams, Jessica Szohr, Christopher Abbott, Lucas Papaelias, the list goes on and on.
I quite literally had the best crew money couldn’t buy, and, hell, we even got to blow shit up and light a stunt person’s hand on fire. Sure there were complications, splitting time between living in a closet and a woman’s empty house who had recently died during the production to save money, the five hit and runs that occurred during the shoot that impacted our crew. Our favorite was when one of our own interns hit one of our other production cars…and then ran. Gotta love shooting in New York City!
And of course I didn’t sleep for three weeks. But that was all part of the crazed rock-and-roll caravan that is film production.
This was late 2010.
How three years vanish.
Post-production was magnificent at first. After a quick holiday I jumped into the edit suite with unparalleled enthusiasm. Editing has always been my first love. I learned how to edit on a pair of three-quarter inch tape-to-tape decks when I was 13, a quick progression after falling in love with the whole idea of becoming a filmmaker after seeing a 65mm re-issue of Lawrence of Arabia on the Champs-Élysées as a nine year old growing up in Paris.
Here I was, cutting my first feature. The dailies were terrific. I couldn’t have asked for better performances, the cinematography looked amazing, even the physical effects were working exceptionally well (from the explosions and flame gags to the grand finale).
What I hadn’t accounted for is the grueling drudgery that a long editorial process can bring on.
I’d had a flavor of it when I returned from a year in Africa back in 2001 with nearly a hundred hours of documentary footage to cut together (a process which ended up keeping me in dark room for over a year), but that was a documentary. This was narrative — my dream job no less. This was different.
A year later we were still tweaking, shooting little pickups, endlessly pushing the boundaries of our tight post budget to craft visual effects we were dreaming up after every screening.
Somehow, as that first year of post wore into the next and then some, the air deflated out of my tires, and I started to wonder if there would be an endgame to this process at all. And once you start allowing yourself to go down that mindset, everything around you starts to justify it.
- The film industry is overwrought.
- There’s nothing left to say.
- The rungs on the ladder just keep getting father apart.
- How can movies make money anymore?
- All anybody wants to watch is dirt-cheap serialized drivel.
- Cinema is dead.
I even wrote multiple drafts amounting to a 70,000 word document that some might consider a novel, hoping to find a way clear of the dreaded film industry. That’s how bad it got: I nearly wrote a book.
Luckily somewhere in there, the latest cut of Art Machine (the 12th? 15th?) was accepted to premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival, and distributors immediately began taking notice. We had six offers, and by the time Art Machine was the Closing Night film of the GenArt Film Festival a year later, we had a deal in place with the wonderful FilmBuff.
So now I’ve finally fulfilled my childhood dream, I’ve completed my first feature and it’s launching out into the world. Today the film becomes available to the public at large on iTunes and ON DEMAND. If you like it, throw up a review on iTunes, it would be a huge help.
Perhaps the splashy blanket-theatrical prize was elusive, but screenings were set up in NY and LA. Most importantly, the film is finally out there in the world.
Doug Karr is a New York based writer director. His twitter handle is @doug_karr