What We Do in the Post Production Shadows

Shining Light into Darkened Editorial Lairs

Originally printed in the New Zealand Film and Video Technician’s Guild national publication, “NZTECHO 65 WINTER 2015” as Jen Metcalfe. (Previous name.)


Whilst us souls in post-production don’t have to worry as much about safety regulations as we sit down all day, we do have our share of concerns.

There are issues such as how to get someone’s attention with headphones on. Lessons in patience, spending endless hours watching little blue progress bars travel from left to right as footage exports. Mastering Vampiric skin care regimes to prevent bursting into flame after not seeing sunlight for days on end. Keyboard tippity-tappitings gone wrong via repetitive strain injury. Or, most embarrassingly, having sleeves caught in the security swipe door: most of our domains are in sealed, windowless bunkers. (Perhaps the Guild should investigate a ‘Singlets for Safety’ regime for post-production workers after all.)

We spend inordinate amounts of time in the dark, but it seems like no one really knows the minutia of what we do there. This is an industry publication, so I’m not going to patronize you and explain that we put the movie jigsaw together to showcase the story and all of your hard work. There aren’t many of us shadowy workers in the Guild, however, so I do hope that I can explain a little bit more of the post world to you. We all function together, so it’s important we’re on the same page.

Firstly, editorial rooms are quiet. To the observer, they are actually quite boring places: folk sitting at desks, not saying much, watching a screen, beavering away. As if workers have taken a vow of silence. A monastic work place.

…Until the screams set-in. Not from workers – well, it depends on the day – but more from repeatedly playing on-screen action to iron out cut points. By the end of the film, one knows every line by heart and every blood-curdling scream or battle-cry right down to exact pitch and pace. Sometimes your day will go by and you’ll feel as if you’re stuck in a time loop watching the same thing over and over. A monastic wormhole.

Secondly, we’re an endless hub of material pumping in and out. Footage in, footage out. Sound departments, music departments, visual effects vendors and colour graders all work together in a massive data tennis match. If you add in our cloistral work environments and hermit-like dedication, the simple post-production explanation is that really it’s just a load of monks playing tennis in a wormhole.

There are multitudes of different codecs, frame-rates and aspect ratios to contend with. All have their upsides and downsides to form a vast technical pros and cons list that is always being upgraded and outdated with new software. This often scares off the less technically minded, but please remember that it’s all ways of doing the same thing. When in doubt, remember that if you add any three letters together and say them with enough confidence, anything can be an acronym to represent an awesome new-fangled codec that nobody has heard of yet. Or, should I say – no one has heard of .YET*.

*(Fresh off the press!)

There is nothing to be scared of with post-production, so please, talk to us in the darkness. Whilst the classic line of, “fix it in post” does prove true, many productions would benefit from having a post coordinator on board early to save time, money and frustration spent. After all, the joke only works if there is some footage that we can actually fix from.

Our monastic data tennis matches make for jobs that are a good mix of technical and creative knowledge. This is fantastic – as really, isn’t that what we love about working in film? All aspects of the world and ways of working are represented. Provided you don’t feed workers after midnight or get them wet, darkened post- production lairs are fun and safe places to be, assuming we implement the “Singlets for Safety” regime.



Self Love


It’s important to be comfortable enough with yourself to live your dreams – let alone eat at a restaurant alone without feeling weird. It’s important to love yourself.

(This isn’t a dodgy innuendo.)

If we seek friends that are like us – then why can’t we like ourselves? Why do we date people that look like us – is that the only ‘acceptable’ way to give self love?

Poppycock. You have value.

(According to sources, it costs $30,000 to hire an assassin: so, you’re worth at least $30,000 to someone out there.)

Sometimes, it’s so hard to believe this.

(Not the assassin thing. But the thing of you deserving love from yourself.)

Please learn to realize that you matter. You are matter. You’re made of particles, and are in fact, matter. SCIENCE!

Sometimes, it’s so hard to believe people when they say that they love you, or say nice things about you too. You think – if they can see it, then it must be really easy to spot: so why can’t you perceive your own value and your talents when you’re the one who spends the most time with you? Frustrating. You are worthy – to complete strangers. Millions of people want to help the impoverished and the neglected. Why should you be any different? (Yes, you’re not starving right now. But your soul is. Here’s a cookie. A soul cookie.)
You’re not a useless human-sludge-piece that isn’t worthy. And don’t think that you’re being selfish by realizing this – loving yourself and being selfish are two totally different things.

Love is a flow – a giving, receiving flow. If you give care to yourself, you can give it to others – tenfold. How is that selfish?

Criticism isn’t effective: especially not on yourself. You’re not going to pull yourself out of your slump by whimpering and rocking back and forth at the bottom of it analyzing how horrible you are. You’re going to pull yourself out by moving up and climbing up and stepping up and going up into the light, appreciating what’s great about you and loving you for you. It’s hard, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But when you love yourself, the world around you changes. When you love yourself, you know what you deserve. When you love yourself, you accept who you are. There’s only one of you.

We feel the best when we love ourselves – and life is about feeling good. It’s about enjoying the things you love and being with those you love – yourself included.

If you think about it, the odds of us existing are pretty small – so, well done, everybody!

Remember that you matter and that you are matter.

I love you.

(Oh dear, I said it first. But you should love yourself, too.)


How to Attend a Film Festival with Purpose

Originally published on Wipster.io here. (As Jen Metcalfe.)


Film festivals are a rollicking cinematic good time, and regardless of your filmmaking specialty, they’re also brimming with opportunities to learn, be inspired and network.

To get the most out of them you need to do a little preparation. (Remember the 5 Ps: “prior preparation prevents poor performance.”) Tailor your film festival experience to get the most out of it for your professional development and inspiration.

Step One: Consult the Schedule

For me, the fun part of a festival is sitting down beforehand with my highlighters and calendar, feverishly rifling through the festival booklet and drawing up an expansive colour-coordinated schedule of what I’m going to see, when I’m going to see it, and who I could potentially meet at these screenings. It’s a Tetris organizational delight, and it’s the key to maximizing your film festival experience.

These films have travelled a long way to see you: don’t miss out on seeing them. To avoid disappointment, channel your inner Leslie Knope and book your tickets well in advance.

When selecting your films, think about the people you want to meet at the screenings as well. Keep an eye as to which filmmakers are travelling with their creations, and keep your other cunning eye out on who else you think will be at their sessions. If you’re a documentary maker, a Werner Herzog screening could lead you not only shake the hand of a pioneer, but also meet the cameraman for your next project.

Meticulous organization doesn’t really embody the festival image of attendees breezily strolling into an event and partying, which I think is quite appropriate as it reflects how much hidden effort goes into making a film in the first place.

Step Two: Say Hi

Say ‘hi’ to those you are in line with or sitting next to. You never know whom you could meet, and you’ll find that you’ll end up developing your own mini community of collaborators and friends. Producers, directors, actors, designers and editors all attend film festivals, and the opportunity to network with these people is half the reason people attend.

Before the festival, develop a couple of pitches so you’re not thrown by the classic “so, what do you do?” question. Once the festival is over, make sure to follow up with everyone you met. This is crucial: it’s one thing to have a scintillating conversation at the event, but entirely another to grow that into a relationship. To jog your memory for staying in touch, write down a couple of points about each person (either on their business card or on your phone). If they’re a fan of Edgar Wright’s crazy camera angles, or were wearing a spectacular plaid jacket, drop this into your follow-up conversation with them when you invite them to coffee.

Step Three: Share the Love

Film festivals are often the only place for independent films to shine. If you loved a film, make sure to shout about it (just not during the session: don’t be that annoying attendee who gets pulled out by the organizers). Tweet about it and tell people you meet. Often, rave reviews and positive word of mouth is the only way for an independent film to get traction and hit a DVD release so this is a fantastic way to share your thoughts and opinions with the filmmaking community.

(And who knows: helping with reviews and sharing the love may pay dividends when you’ve made your masterpiece!)

And don’t forget to tell the filmmakers themselves. Creators will often be at the festival, eagerly awaiting audience reactions. Don’t be afraid to laugh and clap during a screening. (When appropriate: don’t be that annoying attendee with the awkward reactions.) If you see a beret-clad person nervously standing to the side of the aisles after a session, or if you recognise their face from your pre-festival research, be sure to share quick and respectful thanks with them.

Step Four: Pick Those Brains

Question and Answer panels are another huge component of a film festival. As an attendee, use the opportunity to ask intelligent questions. Make sure to research the filmmakers: watch their previous work and think about what you’d like to salute them for.

If you’re a filmmaker, use the opportunity to connect with your audience. Establish rapport with your fans so that they will support your release. At the 2014 Mill Valley Film Festival, I helped Vladislav, one of the vampiric subjects of ‘What We Do in the Shadows” (from established documentarians Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement) Skype in from his coffin to talk about his experience making the documentary: how filming could only take place at night, the process of giving every crew member a crucifix for filming, and, sadly, the devastating loss of one of our cameraman during a full moon and encounter with some pesky werewolves.

Jemaine Clement talks with audience members while 'Viago' (Taika Waititi) Skypes in at a similar panel event.

Jemaine Clement talks with audience members while ‘Viago’ (Taika Waititi) Skypes in at a similar panel event.

Doing such a fun and unusual panel meant that the audience really connected with the film. A little creativity in how you present yourself will help establish a loyal fan base to spread the word about your creation.

Step Five: Say Thanks

As well as thanking filmmakers or panel members for their work and time, please also make sure to thank your festival organizers. They’re often slightly overwhelmed volunteers, just helping out for the love of the art form. I’m sure they’ve had their share of dealing with that raucous attendee shouting during the session, who also spilled their chocolate sundae all over their seat. (Don’t be that attendee.)

Of course, if you’re still working on getting your foot in the door, being one of these volunteers is a great way to make connections.

Step Six: Be Creatively Renewed

Make sure you set some time aside for pure play and enjoyment. Go to a couple of sessions just to watch. These films are an opportunity to be reminded of why you love movies, and why you wanted to venture into the crazy filmmaking world to begin with.

Film festivals are a great opportunity to watch great films, but don’t forget the other major reason for attending: networking and developing a community of your own. Follow our advice above, and keep an eye out for your next festival. Then bring out your highlighters and Tetris together your schedule – let the fun begin!

I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to watching in the comments below, or tweet us @wipsters.


Saying Goodbye


Goodbyes are awesome.

I hate them, as they’re sad, but they’re actually awesome.

They’re an end to a chapter, yes, but a welcome to so many more chapters.

Goodbyes are awkward.

Sometimes you say one to someone and then you both walk off in the same direction.

(You then have to jump into a nearby pot plant and pretend it’s your home to prevent further awkward interaction.)

Goodbyes are useful.

They’re the syntax for closing your greeting loops so you don’t become a broken hello record driving everyone bonkers.

Goodbyes are hard.

Because: feelings.

And sometimes when you say them it’s struggle to connect as you’ve already changed shape in preparation for the next step on your path, and you don’t fit in any more, and it’s like being in a bittersweet limbo soup, where you’re the bitter spiky broccoli, unable to have any poignant mushiness with the sweet soggy carrots.

(Hopefully the carrots aren’t soggy from crying. But, crying gets the sad out – so, maybe the carrots should get it all out in order to feel better.)

(But maybe not. That’d make for really salty soup.)

Goodbyes bring people out of the woodwork.

You find yourself inviting your hairdresser and that one weird dude you see floating around your building sometimes to your leaving thing, and that’s pretty incredible. You don’t do that when you do your tax return.

(Side note! Can we please invent “Goodbye Agents”? Someone who takes stock of all your friendship earnings, files address claims and refunds poor life choices?)

Goodbyes make you realize people actually like you.
(Nya ha haaaa! The fools!)

(Or they’re just being nice to get rid of you.)

(But they probably like you really.)

Goodbyes happen all the time.

We’re constantly saying goodbye, with every breeeeeath we taaaaaake.

(Each exhale is a farewell. Who we are now isn’t who we are next week. And that’s true, because, science. Every five days our intestinal lining is renewed. Every fifteen days our white blood cells are replaced. Every six months we have a whole new bloodstream.)

Goodbyes are needed to maintain space in your kitchen cupboard.

Please don’t be that one annoying person who always leaves muesli packets in the pantry with mere smidgens of sustenance remaining.*

* (I may be this person.)

Goodbyes are unable to be said by vampires.

The origin of the word is from 15th Century txt-speak. “GodBweYe” stood for “God be with you” when signing off in telegrams. So – as well as not being able to have most Italian based food, the ability to say goodbye is something that vampires also miss out on.

So, maybe not saying goodbye is a good thing, if it means you can live forever, as long as you avoid sunlight and pointy table-legs to your chest area.

(Nope. I left for school one morning and came back to find my mum gone. There was no nagging for if I’d eaten my lunch, and there was no farewell. There was a note, but it’s not the same. Closure is important.)

Goodbyes make the cliché of “tell people you love them whilst you can” ring true.

We don’t know when it will be the last goodbye.

(But – if we’re always fare-welling and expelling feels, doesn’t it water down the effect slightly when it is the end and you do have a designated time to offload everything and be all “SHAZAM! Look at how much I appreciate you! Go away more often so I can tell you this without me feeling weird and vulnerable!”)

Goodbyes are almost impossible in this connected world.

Skype is a blessing. After teary goodbyes at the airport you can then text your beloved to say you arrived okay.

(But this also makes it really hard to know when to say goodbye for real.)

(See above.)

Goodbyes see people bequeathing goodbye gifts upon you.

(Don’t do that! I’m making you sad. Why are you rewarding me?)

(Also, I’m trying to cram my life into a suitcase. And your token of friendship probably won’t fit.)

(Or are you purposely giving me some cruel representation that I’m abandoning you?)

Goodbyes are important.

Hollywood, please take note. Please stop with all the sequels.

(Otherwise, what will we remake in 20 years time?)

(Also, please stop giving us “the same but different”. No one wishes to see a new Mulan, except this time she’s called Yulan and has to defeat the puns. Disney, follow your own advice, and let it go.)

Without goodbye, we can’t say hello again.

And sometimes, lack of absence makes the heart want to stab absence in the eye with a really hot french fry as absence just won’t stop hanging around leaving toe-nail clippings all over the place.

Sometimes, you’ll come across a goodbye that brings tears to your eyes.

And that’s when you know who to stay in touch with.

But most importantly: our vampire population has vastly decreased with the development of the word since the 1500s.

Which means that we must be saying more hellos. Which is awesome.

Goodbyes aren’t necessarily the end.



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…Hi. Welcome to overthinking!

It’s a bit horrible.

Normally, overthinking rears its head when a Whatifski comes into your noggin. Common triggers are attending social gatherings, or figuring out how to get to work on your first day, or figuring out how to compose an e-mail IMMACULATELY with the PERFECT phrasing – but then second guessing whether or not it is actually perfect – or maybe it IS perfect because it’s not quite perfect as you don’t want to be THAT person and make it look like you put too much effort in, so it’s deliciously divine in the end, and it being not 100% stupendous gives it a desirable kitsch or wabi-sabi quality – no, no, actually, that can’t be right – as it’s not perfect – actually, wait, maybe – or –

It’s easy to see why it comes about: checking in to see if we’re doing the right thing and ensuring we have the right words to say what we mean and mean what we say are all good things.

Words are powerful – words are very powerful. I think this is why I stay quiet so much of the time. With a simple sentence – too simple – you can affirm years of toils, triumphs and tortures from thousands of people.

A throwaway sentence by a parent in a blip of frustration can hurt for decades afterwards and result in many occasions of telling people in suits about your childhood.

I find this power terrifying, to be quite honest.

It’s almost as terrifying as pokes and quibbles from a Whatifski, like,

“But what if you fail?” “But what if they don’t like you?” “But what if you’re wrong?”

…But why do we ascribe such importance to those buts? Surely, they are in fact called ‘buts’ as the Whatifski’s talking out of his butts?

There is no booty to be found in those burblings. But instead, a noxious gas.

Smelly overthinking spirals don’t get you anywhere. We suffocate ourselves through but.

I’d be fine if these buts were trumpet “OBJECTIONS!” A Phoenix Wright justice bomb with a point. But it’s actually more of a simpering, seeping Dementor, sort of a, “buuuuuut” that impedes action and slowly strangles.

But, the crazy thing is, you’re the only one that can see these objections. Really, it’s fine. Often when I try to explain what’s paralysing me, people laugh. When I was told to arrive at work for “after 9am” my response of “do you mean 9:01 or ten past?” was met with mirth.

I had a fear when I was little that passersby could see a little green cloud from my behind (clearly too many cartoons for me) but the truth is, unless there’s a security officer looking through a thermodynamic camera at an airport, you’re safe, and should pay no attention to the self doubt gasses, and get to work for any time after 9.

That’s why I like driving: you can’t overthink. If you do, you never pass any junction, ever, or you get so caught up in over-analysing the last turn that you crash.

As for perfect word selection – well, if you don’t quite say what you mean and upset someone, it’s okay. Talking is a first draft, and humans do possess such superpowers known as “ignore” or “selective memory”, so ultimately you will be dandy.

Art majors also demonstrate the magnificent human skill of interpretation, waffling on about almost nothing, the Dada movement giving great importance to R. Mutt and his loo. So, even if you do say exactly the PERFECT thing, it could be interpreted as wicked and woeful. And vice versa – something daft could be dastardly genius.

And there are 7 billion people on this planet: why do we let our failed interactions with one ruin our day?

It’s still ridiculously hard to stop the panic, though.

If you figure out the answers, give me a ring. ACK! No, don’t propose, not an ACTUAL ring. That doesn’t work.

If you figure out the answers, give me a bell. ACK! No, I don’t want to steal Quasimodo’s thunder.

Give me a buzz, then. Nope. That doesn’t work either.

If you figure out the answers, we should talk – let me know a good time. …But not THAT good of a time!

OKAY – how about this –

If you discover the answers to preventing overthinking spirals, please do get in contact with me and we shall exchange words into each others .

Yes. Good. (That’s a bro-fist, not me punching you in the face.)

Stella out. (That’s a peace sign, not me putting my fingers up your nose.)


Nonsensical Microactions

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What if, maybe, we’re all wasting our time agonizing over questions like: “what does it all mean and how can I live my life and how can I make the world a better place” when really, we should be asking, “how can I make someone’s day?”

And that day brightening doesn’t have to be hard. The little things add up.

Smile at someone.

Nonsensical wisdom and whimsy can brighten someone else’s day – which in turn will brighten YOUR day and make for a HAPPINESS SNOWBALL to topple everything boring and gross – like taxes, foul moods, smelly socks, prewarmed bus-seats, politics – you know, reality in general.

Micro silliness snowballs to macro wonderfulness.

Small daymaking acts make you feel useful.

Small daymaking acts give you superpowers.

(Plus, if you’re keeping other people happy, perhaps they can’t beat you up.)

The world can be changed, and you can change it in small ways.

Most people don’t know how to positively impact the world, so they get a charity to do it for them. Micro-actions allow you to take matters into your own hands.

(I’m not saying to not donate to charity. I’m also not saying that a smile will heal a gun wound. But that smile will help ease the healing process and encourage other happier acts. Imagine healing with a scowl? Not possible.)

Start with a compliment – call a stranger a delicious dumpling. Put googly-eyes on a parking pole for a traffic friend. Leave someone a whimsical note. Give another someone a pickle. (Two pickles if you must.)

These daymaking microactions are like tapping into the single largest natural resource in the world – the pool of human good intentions – and adding a dollop of whimsy to translate it into action and spread that happiness snowball further.

(You’ll also find, that, if you’re in a really bad slump and brightening up yourself seems impossible, that by reaching out to brighten others, their happiness will show you that you do make a difference and that you should hang on. Micro-actions give you something to do. Something totally silly that somehow makes your sadness OK.)

Once you start to view the landscape of your every day life a little bit differently, and the more that you express yourself with whimsical nonsense to make things magical, you participate in designing not only the way your inner world works, but the way the world works.




Life Advice

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“There are two things you must know about the wise-woman. First! She is a woman. And second, she is –“

– Black Adder, “Bells”, 1986.

But! The wise-woman doesn’t know everything. She has to die at some point, and I’m pretty sure no one can tell her how to do that.

In principal, we know how it comes about:

“How To: Death”
Step One: Have a heart attack whilst hang-gliding the Himalayas with a cat – Mr Miggens strikes again!

But really, we’ve got to learn for ourselves.

(In good time, please! No doing research for Wikihow articles.)

I’ve often wished for an option to gather all the various human tidbits of advice into my head. To read and download ALL the knowledge, courtesy of the McMegatron Yore Advice Service Station. Life, done, passed, A+.

But – if this magical brain McMegatron Yore Advice Service Station (MYASS) existed, would it be of any use?

The majority of wisdom crystals contradict each other.

Round #1: “Look before you leap” vs. “Just do it”
Round #2: “Better to be safe than sorry” vs. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”
Round #3: “Opposites attract” vs. “Birds of a feather flock together”

Friends are also great at dishing out advice, but adhering to their own advice is another issue.

“Friendship Advice Graph” X Axis: Times Advice Given / Y Axis: Times Heeding Their Own Advice

So! I propose the following solution:

Step One: Do away with MYASS.
Step Two: Open a shop.
Step Three: Get a cloning machine.
Step Four: Go to your shop.
Step Five: Get advice from yourself, with no quibbles or qualms that it’s the right thing to do, as you’ve paid for the advice, and the little sticker (and puppy) in the window assure you that your shop is a verified, quality retailer.

(Though, this may lead to a clone war, as the clone listening to your advice would do really well, but technically, you should be doing well, because it’s your advice, not your clones, and there would be tears.)

(But business has never been better.)


The Noble Noogle


The Noble Noogle
Is full of noble NOPE.

He’s your boundary enforcer –
A goodly good good sir.

He tells you to say noo.
(No, too.)

He knows that no might hurt –
(Feelings or dealings.)
It might make a Grumpert –
(Say no to their weaslings.)

He knows that no to a bad request –
Is amazing self love, a YES quest.

So prop up those boundaries, kiss Grumperts adieu –
Changed the Noogle, say nope, no, noo.

(You can say it with a cup of cocoa.)
(Don’t let those Grumperts drive you loco.)


The Positivity Ray

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There’s this thing that I like to call the Positivity Ray. It sounds all sparkly and amazing, but I actually think it’s a bit detrimental.

I have awesome friends. Always there for advice and extra shoulders if I need them. But sometimes, I just want to sit in the dark and cry into my nachos, and whilst their invitation to watch Godzilla to get me out of my salty, mincing, sour (cream) funk is appreciated, I actually think it can be better sometimes to let humans feel. And be. And have a good cry.

Perhaps part of the reason why we’re unhappy is because friends are so quick to lavish help and we’re so quick to proclaim that we’re good.

“How are you?”
“Good. You?”
“That’s good.”

These conversational conventions really don’t help: our parrot rotary response of portraying having it all very-much-together means we don’t check in with ourselves to see how we’re feeling.

We need a new, polite, jovial social recognition system.

(I propose, “I see you.”)

Sometimes, no-one’s actually interested in how you are, and frankly, it’s awkward to break-down in front of them.

(And sometimes they seem just as bewildered when you ask how they are. Plus, it really hurts when you say through gritted teeth, tear stains still on your cheek, “good”.)

And of course, because of this conditioning, when someone actually genuinely, really IS interested and the situation is appropriate, we still blurt out “good”.

(Though, sometimes you encounter people with a slightly wider vocabulary who will respond with “grand”, “marvelous” or perhaps even “super good”. I admire these people.)

This phenomena of always portraying ourselves as having-it-together is an element that contributes very much to not-having-it-together some days. It’s a lot to ask. We’re all human.

Why can’t we show that we’re human?

(Until, of course, aliens invade us, and then it’ll probably be a mad scramble to get all of the latest swanky-swank tinfoil suits and portray ourselves as being OUT OF THIS WORLD!)

(Though, there is already a theory that we’re the aliens to this planet already – so maybe that’s where the phenomena of portraying ourselves as perfect beings sprang up, because it isn’t a phenomena, we’re NOT human, and are, in fact, the aliens: who are very much indeed, “good”.)