Indie Diaries: Vashti Anderson, Post-Production with a New Baby in New York City

For the “Film School, Film Careers” special in our upcoming Summer 2016 issue, we asked three indie moviemakers to chronicle week of their lives in April: of work, family life and yes, endless emails.

Vashti Anderson shot her feature Moko Jumbie in rural Trinidad during her third month of pregnancy, with grants from Bahamas International Film Festival, Film Independent, Canon and NYU. After a session with the footage at The Edit Center, she is working on the edit with her new son, Zev.


DAY ONE

5 p.m. I have a friend in the film industry who actually really loves film. He’s also aesthetically on my vibe. I reached a point in the edit where I specifically wanted his straightforward, honest comments. I sent him the cut, and we talked over Skype.

7 p.m. Met my sister at Elizabeth Nunez’s book launch at the Center for Fiction. She is fun to hang out with because she worries a lot about appropriate behavior. She was really thirsty, but nervous about bringing in water. I brought her one, but she was too polite to drink it. Elizabeth’s book is set in the Caribbean, but it’s based on King Lear. I like her work because it’s about hyphenates, being in-between worlds, having multiple identities and cultural influences. I saw a painting by Nina Chanel Abney at the new Whitney earlier this month and had the same feeling.

I made a portfolio of references for my feature in this way, by going to art, film and literary events. It’s been so crucial in communicating with my collaborators. After the signing, my sister loosened up and had about three glasses of wine.

Vashti Anderson (center) with baby Zev

Vashti Anderson (center) with baby Zev and her sister-in-law (right) at the Whitney Museum of American Art

DAY TWO

6:30 a.m. Shlomo (Godder, my partner and DP) left for Montana to for a shoot. Baby and me for the next few days. Our freelance work so far has fallen on alternating blocks of time, so one of us can parent while the other is working. The baby also has grandparents who visit often and save our lives.

9.30 a.m. Had a mess of a time with Adobe Premiere. Opened my project file and found that in updating itsomething I had to do to work on another projectseveral clips were offline and unable to reconnect. Spent inordinate amount of time with sullen customer service trying to figure out why I was having problems certain clips. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have any experience with edit workflow. There was a long silence at a certain point. Me: “Hello?” Customer service rep: “I’m thinking!”

12 p.m. Figured out what was happening with the edit by myself. The files themselves weren’t corrupted. For some reason, it wasn’t reading the in and out points correctly in the sequence. Started recutting some scenes.

6 p.m. Enthralled my baby with online nursery rhymes. He gets really into them. One goes: “See the little bunnies sleeping til it’s nearly noon/Shall we wake them with a merry tune?/They’re so still/Are they ill?/No, wake up bunnies!/Hop little bunnies, hop hop hop /Hop little bunnies, hop hop hop/Hop little bunnies, hop little bunnies, hop little bunnies, hop and stop!”

DAY THREE

10 a.m. I’ve been looking for an editor who can see my footage with new eyes and bring creative ideas to the cut. I set up some phone meetings, with headphones on, taking notes with one hand and rocking the baby with the other. He’s very demanding of attention when it’s just me, and I’m a total sucker.

2 p.m. I got a friend to watch the baby while I caught a couple of films in the New Voices in Black Cinema series at BAM. I follow Tambay Obenson’s blog, Shadow and Act. He co-curates the series. I’m very interested in representations of race on film.

DAY FOUR

11 a.m. Read some of Steven King’s On Writing. Once I started editing my feature, I began to need a mental break. Reading and writing other stories cleared my head.

2:15 p.m. Conference call with a creative agency I freelance with and a potential client. Agency didn’t end up booking them.

7 p.m. Wheeled baby through the misty evening, on a short but industrial walk under the BQE to my friend’s video art exhibit. He soaked in the evening, and gazed at me in the new light as we walked. Once we got to Standard Toykraft, friends helped me carry him up the stairs. Another thing that keeps me sane is to take breaks from post and the regular routine and see other filmmakers, especially if we don’t talk about film.

I think the smoke machine, heavy top lighting and dank industrial space weirded my baby out, though. He kept shouting until we went back out into the night.

Anderson takes the New York City subway

Anderson takes the L train in New York City

DAY FIVE

6 a.m. Night of nightmares, poor baby. Rough morning.

10 a.m. Finally ended my search for the right composer for my film. It took a really long time to find the right person, and then in the end, as was the case with my last film, I found his name randomly on a listserv. We met, I showed him some scenes, and then he scored a scene based on our discussion. His aesthetic was dead on. I really believe in these random paths for filmmaking. I found my lead actor for my feature similarly. I saw him in an MOS art film by Per Huttner at the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival.

1 p.m. Took baby for a walk around town and ran some errands. Got out of the apartment to a coffee shop where they don’t mind if you sit there for hours with your computer. Tried to make it to a ridiculous 1,000 words of writing, but only made it to around 600.

6:30 p.m. My baby finally fell asleep after barely napping all day. He repeated the same action in several series: He would doze off for a second, and then, as if hit by a jolt of electricity, snap open his eyes and flail his arms and legs wildly. I was so tired that I… zzzzzzz.

DAY SIX

1 a.m. Shlomo’s flight got in late. We lay in bed, whispering, catching up.

7 a.m. Woke up to the sound of my baby twisting and sighing sweetly in his crib. I put my hand on his chest and he pressed his little hands over mine, giving me the lowered eyebrows, charming smile of his.

8 a.m. Drank coffee while returning emails.

9:45 a.m. Directed an educational voiceover recording. Learned about a 3,000-year-old map carved into rock at Val Camonica. Cool. After the session, I spoke to the sound mixer about his feature work. He introduced me to the colorist. We talked about different color grading software, workflow and working with a wide range of skin tones. He showed me some examples of what he was working on. Having these conversations with as many people as possible who actually know what they’re talking about helps me wrap my head around post.

vashti web 2

A view onto midtown Manhattan from Anderson’s workplace

DAY SEVEN

2 a.m. My son let out this baby dinosaur jungle cry that he does once in a while in his sleep. It makes me really confident in his survival skills. He settled down, but I couldn’t fall back asleep til around 4.

7 a.m. Hit snooze a million times. Sang to my baby before I headed out.

10 a.m. Worked at the creative agency. I love makeup, and they booked me for makeup commercials.

7.30 p.m. Sang to my baby until he fell asleep. MM

This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Summer 2016 issue, on newsstands July 2016.

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