Making a Feature Film in Dallas

It all started with a challenge from my husband.
We were watching a movie with a scene of an attack against a woman that was so disturbing I left the room. When I returned, I complained that movies never seemed to show women getting the upper hand or taking revenge.
My husband asked why I didn’t just write a movie myself. That sounded so interesting that I decided to do it.
My screenplay, Revenge In Kind, is about Sarah Scott, a detective fed up with men who get away with crimes against women and who clandestinely metes out punishment herself. The cases stump her fellow detectives, who seek her help to solve them. But when Scott falls in love with her cohort, Detective Chris Coxon, she contemplates giving up her crimes. Before she can, however, Coxon unmasks Sarah as the killer. The movie ends with a very surprising twist, so I won’t spoil it for you.
I finished the screenplay in 2004. Then it began to gather dust. I had no access to filmmakers and had no ambition to make the movie, myself.
Years later, my husband died. I fell into the deep abyss of grief. And I began to have severe health problems that led me to believe my own life would end soon. I wanted to do something wild and creative with my remaining time: Make my movie.
I wanted it to play onscreen just as it was playing in my mind. So, I decided I wasn’t going to hire people to make my movie. Rather, I was going hire them to help me make my movie.
Some thought I couldn’t make a feature film myself without first going to film school. But I never once doubted myself. Not only do I have extensive experience managing people and projects, I am steeped in theater and the arts. And I knew that even if I were to fail, I would have a blast doing it.
In 2016, I hired a producer, cast, and crew to film in Dallas, where I was born and still live. We scouted for locations and did myriad tasks to prepare for shooting, which began in late September. We filmed for four weeks, working 12-hour days.
There were times I wanted to give up. I cried, got angry, and gnashed my teeth. Yet there were exhilarating moments, too, like the first time I saw equipment trucks laden with cameras, scaffolding, and lighting. Or the first day of filming, when I watched actors reciting the lines I’d written. Or the last day, when I held the hard drives with all the footage on them.
But the filming of the movie was only the middle portion of the project. As filmmakers often say, a movie is made three times — when it is written, when it is filmed, and when it is edited. While filming was a thrill ride, the true art and fun for me came after, in post-production.
One of my favorite post-production jobs was selecting music. This had two elements. The first was to find “source” music — the tunes heard playing in the bar or the in the restaurant. I was super lucky there are so many fabulously talented musicians in Texas who were willing to let me use their tracks.
The second music element was working with the composer I had hired to write a score for the movie. Not only did he write several compositions from which I chose, but we also collaborated on a theme song for which I’d written the lyrics.

Each scene of a film is usually shot multiple times to make sure you have clean footage with different angles so the editing can, for example, focus on the speaker or a particular action. My first order of business was to go through all of the footage.
Then my editor and I worked on which take or takes we’d use to construct each scene. It was glorious fun, like working a gigantic puzzle. We developed a strong cut of the movie, then honed it down to less than 90 minutes.
Next came the coloring process. I met with my colorist in Ft. Worth daily for several weeks. We went through each frame, making changes such as turning a dead body grey or desaturating the clothing of a distracting person.
After that, it was time for my sound engineer to add the music and some sounds — little noises like a light switch or footsteps.
The movie was finished a year after filming had started. Then it was time to figure out what to do with it. After some work, I hired a company to make it available to stream for anyone who wants to view it.
I have so many wonderful memories of making the film, but I am left with one overarching impression: the sense of having compressed the experiences and accomplishments of many years into just months. I met more people, learned more skills, and did more tasks in one year than I would have in more than a normal decade of my retirement.
I will never make money off of the film. Still, I can say it was one of the best investments I ever made. It was a joy ride and it pretty much plays as it was conceived in my mind. Will I ever make another movie or take on such an enormous project? Probably not, but I’m now convinced that, for myself at least, a path to happiness is being busy and creative. To watch the film, search Revenge In Kind within Amazon or iTunes.

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