The theatrical branding trailer for DWF:LA (2023) has over 150 films represented. I love this piece for the ways I turned my creative process upside-down and also for of the cutting-edge techniques it took to produce it.

This year's theme was 70's influenced, and all about coming together. The terrific team at
#APMMusic found this absolutely perfect vintage 70's era track for my main theme. This gave me a vision, right from the jump I knew what I wanted this trailer to be. The focus was on uniting the hundreds of filmmakers participating in the festival to celebrate the joys of independent film. Sometimes having a clear mission makes a project more difficult. I wanted the cut to build up a head of steam then plunge into black to make thousands of audience members sit for just a second with the message: "You know we'll be together... if we try"

That's indie film. That's the DWF spirit. It was going to be amazing. I got shivers thinking about it. Except that it wasn't going to work at all.

In a trailer, every frame counts, so spending 30+ frames showing nothing but black felt absolutely heretical. Plus the bridge cue was tonally perfect, but didn't cut together either. Plus the orchestral track was in the wrong key. Plus, stems didn't exist for the track. Plus the copy run wasn't working. Did I mention the song structure was fighting the trailer structure? And most importantly, without stems, the song as arranged never gave me the clean chorus I needed. Without that, my big moment was never going to work.

I was stuck on this for a full week. I recut the music over and over again and got nowhere. Then, thanks to the ongoing writer's strike, inspiration struck. With all the fighting over AI, it hit me that it could be a useful tool. I found a website that made stems for this 70's track. I got my clean vocal. I cut the emotional coda in minutes. The first cut was the final cut. It was amazing. I backed in the orchestra. Cut the copy run completely. Recut the music at the top. Got a critical assist from composer Robert ToTeras who synth'd up a little bridge to mix mis-matched keys. Got another giant boost from audio mixer Jeff Ross, who dialed it in for the theatrical screening. In days, it all clicked together.

It was, to be modest, absolutely magic in the theater. That last little bridge ripped from an AI powered website sounded absolutely immaculate in Dolby 5.1. I watched it screen for days and never got tired of it. Hope it brings you the inspiration and joy that drives every indie filmmaker to push forward, no matter the odds.

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