It might surprise some to learn that the most important part of post-production for an independent film is the pre-production phase. Before shooting a single frame or pixel, the first decision any independent moviemaker should make is to scout an indie-friendly, post-production facility. Achieving success cannot occur without tediously planning for the end of the production. It becomes increasingly pertinent when working with tighter time constraints and the budget of an independent film, where the margin for error can make the difference between an enormous success or a disgraceful failure.
The Right Fit
The independent full-service post house, unhampered by corporate politics and ancient policies, can provide personalized levels of end-to-end services that indie moviemakers need. While large, amalgamated entities may also provide similar services, maverick moviemakers will take a back seat to the larger “tent pole” studio features and won’t have the same access to talent and time that an indie-friendly house makes available.
It is at the very beginning of the process that moviemakers can avoid the “fix-it-in-post” exercise and maximize their limited budgetary resources. An experienced indie post house can help the moviemaker (during pre-production) navigate his or her way through myriad production details—camera choices, film or data, visual effects planning, green screen details, lighting and color design—to ensure an efficient post-production and digital intermediate process. This is a convenient and necessary part of the indie post culture.
Kim Bass, a veteran Hollywood screenwriter, has worked with indie post house Digital Jungle on all three of his films (Succubus: Hell Bent, Junkyard Dog and Kill Speed). He first capitalized on the small company when working like a dog on an audio fix with the larger houses.
“When I was working on my third feature film, I went with some of the larger post houses for parts of the critical work—going to one place for FX, one for editing, one for DI,” says Bass. “I found that while I was able to eventually make it work for the money, the project suffered from ‘little guy’ syndrome. Basically, the post-production was getting done through favors and back door-like deals where I would show up, often after hours, get snuck through the back door and told to ‘bring cash.’ As a small fish in a big pond, you bounce around from place to place so many times trying to make a financially feasible deal that basically squeezes you in during some post house’s down time.
“That’s where working with a full service indie-friendly post house really pays off,” continues Bass. “The biggest time and budget savings come in right from the start. The secret is to get post houses involved from [the] concept and script stages. Post is the last thing you do, but I’ve learned it’s one of the first things for which you should plan… Bottom line (which, ultimately is what this business is about): Pre-post-production planning can save you a lot of cash while increasing your project’s on-screen quality. Go somewhere where the post-production pros do everything well. They will make your picture work. Make the best overall deal you can afford with that one post house and they will do the best job possible because they don’t want a sub-par product coming out that reflects badly on their facility.”
As mentioned above, an important component to successfully completing an indie film is to align with a post house that can provide as much of the creative and technical services possible in order to finish your feature. These services include, but are not limited to: Post supervision, digital dailies, digital intermediate, visual effects, audio and all of its deliverables. Allowing one facility to safeguard your project saves a lot of time and money. You’ll have a dedicated team knowing your endeavor on a very intimate level. It also mitigates any “finger pointing” and squarely obligates the post facility to take full responsibility of your project’s finishing and delivery, helping to eliminate any ambivalent possibilities.
From pre-planning, production logistics, post supervision to final deliverables, choosing the right indie post house is vital to the success of any indie film. In short, it’s the closest thing to having a completion bond without paying for one.
I give kudos to any independent moviemaker who has the drive and wherewithal to finish their film. Powered by the moviemaker’s conviction and passion, indie features—both large and small—deserve the best completion possible. To that end, indie post lies in wait.
Dennis Ho is the president of Digital Jungle Post Production in Hollywood.