Synopsis: An isolated Black woman struggles physically, mentally, and spiritually against the news of COVID- 19 and police brutality she sees online. An experimental adaptation of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Before I wrote a word in the script for my latest short film, Under the Sun After the Wind, a single, vivid image burned in my mind:
A Black woman dressed in all white, standing in a white room, hunched over a smartphone as the screen illuminates her face – doom-scrolling. And slowly, the disturbing images from her phone fill the room.
What were the inspirations for this? I wrote Under the Sun After the Wind during 2020; so, obviously I based the film on my own isolation and constant, unhealthy monitoring of social media during the COVID-19 lockdown. But not so obviously, that image was also born from my background as a professional colorist.
When I’m not writing and directing my own work, I color other creatives’ projects. Via my production and post-production company Bowman Pictures, I work for a variety of clients and their projects: documentaries, narratives, music videos, branded content. Each type of storytelling and storyteller requires a different approach to color. Through these different projects, I became a versatile colorist. All the while, I learned what sort of look I’m drawn to. So whenever I step back into my role as a writer/director, I bring along my knowledge of color. And as a result, I’ve become more prepared l, creative, and adaptable on set.
In this article, I discuss not just how I tapped into my post-production skills to successfully create my short film during a stressful time, but also how I tapped into my background as a small business owner to figure out alternative ways to get my film in front of more people – and be compensated.
I hope that this article serves as a lesson for those writers/directors out there who are also post-production professionals. There is real power in utilizing our post backgrounds. This article should also inspire writers/directors to learn the basics of some post-production skills so as to become better cinematic storytellers.
As a busy colorist (and, previously, an editor/colorist), I worked with A LOT of filmmakers – through cold calling, filmmaking organizations, job submissions and referrals. I built positive relationships with many people and, of course, worked on films to call in favors later. This all helped a lot when I filmed my short in 2021; it was crucial to hire quickly and efficiently because I never knew when another shutdown could end everything. Here are some ways my post-production skills made finding help easier:
– A director I color graded for helped me find one of my producers
– A director I color graded for helped me with pre-visualizing my film. We and an actress essentially did a test shoot.
– A director that I color graded for suggested actresses for my film; that made casting easier.
– I was able to get affordable VFX work from a director I color graded for
– I received essential audio consulting from a director I edited for. The suggestion to add sound in post-production and not in production really helped.
Earlier I mentioned that I did a test shoot for my film. I had to pre-visualize to make sure, when we actually started filming, I knew almost exactly what I wanted. During the pre-production phase, I edited together a montage of clips I wanted to project onto the performer and the white room she was in. The point was to see which clips would complement the stylized acting and voice-over that I had in mind. Again, I pulled from my background as a colorist (and, before that, editor) to figure out in pre-production how to best tell the thematic journey from despair to hope. It was from this test shoot that I made a “movie before the movie” and, as a result, was able to send screenshots (along with a standard look book) to better describe my vision to the director of photography and other department heads. Honestly, it was better than a straightforward storyboard. When it came time to shoot, I knew which clips I wanted to project – in terms of content and color. I knew which clips I would have to manipulate in post in order to achieve maximum impact – which clips would need more saturation, more contrast, more red, more glitch effects. After some camera tests, I and the costume designer decided that the actress should wear light gray instead of white. While the white would have better shown the projection, it also would have made the actress blend into her background too much. And I wanted to make sure the actress was distinct. All of this planning, plus the obvious remote pre-production meetings, meant that we avoided overshooting and undershooting. And when we wrapped, I knew that anything else I needed (shots of social media feeds, etc.) really could be “fixed in post.”
Flexibility During the Film Festival Run
Independent films can be difficult to monetize, short independent films even more so. Distribution for shorts is difficult, but not impossible. But during its time on the film festival circuit, I gained valuable connections with filmmakers and festivals. And important thing I learned was that there are more than a few ways to build an audience. I learned very quickly that my film was a niche one that didn’t appeal to all of the festivals I applied to. Neither strictly narrative nor documentary, with an obvious religious text alongside commentary about social justice and social media impacting mental health. So, here is what I did instead.
– Use my film to build relationships with film festivals that grew into paid opportunities for me to do workshops.
– Use my film as an example in paid color workshop lectures at universities
– When at the festivals, I promoted not just my film but also my company – which lead to more clients, which would support my business and future writing/directing endeavors
Because the film festival run has just wrapped for Under the Sun After the Wind, I am admittedly entering some new territory. But based on what I’ve learned and accomplished so far, I know that I can count on my post-production skills to help me figure out my next steps.
If you would like to learn more about my award-winning short film Under the Sun After the Wind, its filmmaking process, and how its topics of religious doubt, mental health, and social justice can be used as teaching tools, please visit: https://www.bowmanpicturesllc.com/contact
If you want to learn more about Bowman Pictures’ production and post-production services, you can learn more here: https://www.bowmanpicturesllc.com/
Patrice D. Bowman is an award-winning writer/director and colorist. She is the owner of the production and post-production company Bowman Pictures. She received a B.A. in Film and Media Studies from Yale University in 2015.