Wendy and Woody Woodhall, Co-Founders of the LA Post Fest, a competition for short films with a slant towards post production, enjoyed a successful run in their inaugural year and set the high bar for the future. Over 200 entries came in from many corners of the world, including Canada, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile.
Organizers say, “The success of L.A. Post Fest’s launch year was due to the overwhelming support of its technology sponsors, media partners, industry organizations and friends. Platinum Sponsor, Blackmagic Design, provided their Blackmagic URSA camera for the production as well as access to their DaVinci Resolve platform. Other partners for the competition included Sony Creative Software (music), PremiumBeat (sound effects), European Southern Observatory (video footage and stills), and Kollaborate (cloud and asset management). Other World Computing (OWC) and G-Technology were Event Sponsors for the Fest at the Aero Theatre.”Michael Kammes (@MichaelKammes), a well-known and respected tech guru who hosts a popular web series called, “5 Things,” and works as Director of Technology at Key Code Media, hosted the event and kept the crowd laughing while he was at it. Misha Tenenbaum won for Best Film, Best Editing; Aaron Phares was awarded Best Use of Music & Sound Effects; and Daniel Cota walked away with Best Visual Effects, Most Creative. The judges gave special Official Selection awards to Taylor Moore and Johann Martinez for their outstanding efforts. Each received generous prize packages including production and post products totaling $30,000. Visit the winning films on YouTube
Plans for next year’s competition to be held in May 2017 are already underway, with new footage in development. Wendy tells us that since this year was Sci-Fi oriented, next year will see a different genre.
For information on this year’s competition, including a list of the winners, visit the LA Post Fest website. Bookmark it for next year!
TRANSCRIPT OF WENDY’S INTERVIEW:
CIRINA CATANIA : Wendy Woodhall is the executive director of the Los Angeles Post Production Group, which is this amazing group that meets almost monthly right?
WENDY WOODHALL: Yes.
CIRINA CATANIA : To talk about technology and what’s going on here in LA in the Post world. This was the first year of the LA Post Fest. Wendy is the co-founder with Woody Woodhall, her husband. I had the good fortune of being one of the judges, so I was involved in it from beginning to end. Wendy, thank you, because we have some questions for you.
WENDY WOODHALL: Thanks for having me Cirina. It’s good to talk to you.
CIRINA CATANIA : Tell people who may not know, what is the LA Post Fest? What was your goal and where was it held and who attended?
WENDY WOODHALL: My group, the Los Angeles Post Production Group, LAPPG, has been around. We just celebrated yesterday, our 8th anniversary.
CIRINA CATANIA : Congratulations.
WENDY WOODHALL: Thank you. It coincided with my birthday so we had an extra special celebration with cake and it was a lot of fun. What we found over the last 8 years, is that tools have become so accessible to people. The price of programs and software, and hardware, has come down so much that a lot of people have access to things, but don’t necessarily have materials to use the tools with.
CIRINA CATANIA : Material meaning footage and music …
WENDY WOODHALL: Footage. Exactly, all of that. We wanted to create an opportunity for people in the post production field around the world to get some footage, to be able to be creative, play with it, see what they came up with. Then for us to sort of put up the top ones, the winners, so that we can really explore how post production plays such an important role in storytelling. So often we think the story’s over when the camera wraps and the light’s turned off. Now, “Oh it’s just going into post production” but the truth is, so much of the storytelling does happen in post production, that we wanted to explore that and highlight that. That’s what this competition really did.
We shot the film last May. It was a sci-fi short film shot on green screen. We shot 4K with a Blackmagic URSA, which was an amazing camera. We released this footage, or opened up the competition, November of 2015 to anybody who wanted to enter, anywhere they lived. We had entrants from … We had Australia, we had Austria, we had France, we had Chile, we had Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Canada and the US. We really had a full international competition in our first year, which is really exciting. We sort of opened it up and didn’t know what we were going to be getting. We were so thrilled that it was as extensive and as far reaching as it was. People who entered were able to download the script. It was a 4-page, like I said, sci-fi script, called Protocol. They were able to download the footage, and they downloaded additional assets. We had music tracks from Sony Creative Software. We had sound effects from Premium Beat and we had …
CIRINA CATANIA : The NASA footage.
WENDY WOODHALL: Yes, we had amazing footage. Video and stills of actual space footage from the European Southern Observatory. People could basically take the footage, take the additional assets and the script. Then they were tasked with creating their own version of the film. The only overlying rule was it had to be under 8 minutes. We got over 200 back, and this was just our first year, so we were ecstatic with that. After we went through all of them and we had several rounds of judging, we brought the top ones to the judges. Which of course you were a part of Cirina, and we had Tony Orcena, Editor from Modern Family. We had Jay Miracle, who’s an Emmy award winning editor. We had the wonderful Norman Hollyn, who we’re all fans of, professor at USC. We had Juan Cabrera. He was a colorist and stereographer, most recently won some awards for a little project he did called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
CIRINA CATANIA : Yeah a small little project.
WENDY WOODHALL: A small project, yes. We had Steven Saltzman, who’s a fantastic music editor. He recently worked on “The Revenant”. We had an amazing judging panel. They brought so much of their expertise and knowledge about the post industry to the judging. We were able to come up with the film. Misha Tenenbaum won best film and best editing. Daniel Cota won most creative and best visual effects. Aaron Phares won best use of sound and music. Then we had 2 winners, which we called official selections, because although they didn’t win specific awards, their projects were really fantastic and we wanted to honor them. That was Johann Martinez and Taylor Moore. It was exciting because we had everything from a 12-person team, international team, that did it. To a student who did it between semesters in his school’s computer lab. It was really interesting to see how different people attacked this challenge, and what they did with the footage. How they told their story. It was just an exciting opportunity.
CIRINA CATANIA : They were completely different when you think- The same visuals, the same music, the same special effects to choose from … oh they were all completely different. It was really hard. Judging was difficult. What do you think you and Woody learned from doing this, about the technique of creating a short film?
WENDY WOODHALL: When we set out to do this, we really wanted to make it as open ended, if you will, in terms that people really got to choose the story that they want. What happened was, our Director, Woody, my husband, directed the actors in specific ways, in 3 different ways, with 3 different emotional tones. For us that was really exciting and interesting seeing what the tones that were chosen, and how that changed the story.
CIRINA CATANIA : By tone, you meant relationship right? One version was, they were simply co-workers-
WENDY WOODHALL: Right, exactly.
CIRINA CATANIA : Another version was they weren’t getting along anymore. The third version was they were kind of attracted to a little bit to each other, am I right about that?
WENDY WOODHALL: Exactly.
WENDY WOODHALL: That was really important to us. What we found after doing this was that in year 2, we definitely want to continue with that, because it really does help make the stories just so much more interesting then them all sort of having the same tone. Next year we’re going to keep doing that. We’re still in pre-production on it, but just sort of more opportunities for things to get interesting, and have different levels, and explore relationships. I think, just in general, what we learned is there really is a huge hunger for content out there. For people to be able to explore their own skills, their storytelling ability, their post production skills. A lot of people really reached out to us afterward and said this was really a gift, that we gave them this thing that they’ve been working for. It would cost them a lot of money to go and shoot this film and all of that. We did that for them and then were able to give them the footage and let them run with it. That was really our goal, was to make it accessible for everybody.
CIRINA CATANIA : There’s a few specific things that stood out for me. One was, that no matter what you chose, it really came down to telling the story. It had to do with relationship, with pacing. One thing Norman commented on, and we began talking about when we were judging, was looking at the way the editors handled the reaction shots. I’m what they call a preditor, so I’m definitely not a full time editor. That focused me too, and actually made me better at what I’m doing now, because I’m paying more attention to the reaction shots. That is your Greek Chorus in a way, right?
WENDY WOODHALL: Yes. Absolutely. I too, since Norman had spoken about that, it was really interesting, I’ve been paying more attention. We had different videos of our judges, and one of them actually, Tony Orcena, from Modern Family, brought the same thing up. How important the reaction shots are. That’s what the audience is focusing on. I think with storytelling, so much of it is in that. This gave people a good opportunity to practice that skill. Norman was so great the whole time, he kept reiterating to us the story. How important the story was.
Last night we had Misha Tenenbaum come and speak at our group. He won best film and best editing. It was interesting, he ended up having a 10-person team across 4 different continents, and he coordinated it all. One of the things that he just kept beating on was the story, and how they had to really work on it. Even though it’s on the page, what was it really about? What was the through line? How he communicated with all these people, all over the world, to make sure that they were all telling the same story, the same vision. He showed us the notes that he sent out, and what shots really meant to the story. It was really fascinating. I just felt like I had a whole workshop just in storytelling, from his short presentation last night.
CIRINA CATANIA : Are you going to put that video up on your site at some point in the future?
WENDY WOODHALL: That’s a great question. Yes, we will be putting that up. Right now all the winning films are up, so you can go see those at lapostfest.org, under the winning films tab. You can see the winning films. Also we have these, like I mentioned, great judges tutorials that I highly recommend just taking a look at because it’s just wonderful insight.
CIRINA CATANIA : I think one of the things that was really interesting was, and Woody mentioned this I believe, when the entrants were starting to come in, he was getting emails from people saying, “I’m not finished, I’m not finished”. We just said, “Send it in anyway.” This short piece, which our listeners will see if they go on the website, I’ll link up to it. It had a lot of effects in it, and some people just don’t know how to do that. What comes to mind is, what Misha was saying last night. Film making is a team effort and many of us who are independent, and I’m guilty of this as well, we tend to do everything ourselves because we don’t have the money to hire other people, or we’re afraid to ask for favors.
Honestly I think one of the reasons their film was so good, everyone involved with it was very talented, but they had a team working on it, so that helped. The other thing is obviously we said story, we said reaction shots, pacing’s important. It was just wonderful to be in that room with some of the best editors and music editors. It was funny too, because I was in Berlin on my computer via Skype doing this. Everyone should know that these were blind entries too, we had no idea as judges what we were looking at, or who’s piece we were looking at, so it was completely blind. Wendy, I am so proud of both of you. You are going to do this again next year?
WENDY WOODHALL: We are. One of the things that we did find, was that we want to give people a little bit more time. It’s not that they didn’t have enough time, there was certainly enough time to do it. I think some people when they find about- They found out about it late. We want to give more lead time to people so that they can hopefully get onboard a little bit earlier. That being said, one of our official selections entered with, I think, 8 days left. Anything’s possible. He did the whole project in 8 days. It was a very, very big project. Hats off to him, that’s pretty amazing.
We just sort of want to get as many people involved as we can. We are hopefully going to give a little bit more lead time the second year around. Pretty much it’s going to be the same format and we are going to be doing- I can’t give too much away yet, but it will be a different genre. We did sci-fi the last time, so we’re going to be doing something different. We’re going to be doing it green screen again. It should be an exciting experience.
CIRINA CATANIA : Oh that’ll be so much fun. Let’s talk for a just a minute before we go, there’s some people to thank. You were using Kollaborator to move the footage for people right?
WENDY WOODHALL: Right.
CIRINA CATANIA : Who were some of your other partners?
WENDY WOODHALL: Kollaborate from Digital Rebellion was great. That’s the cloud and asset management system we used to get everything to everybody. We had an amazing assortment of prize sponsors. We gave away about $30,000 worth of amazing prizes. We had tons and tons of media and association partners. Also, hats off to Blackmagic Design, they were with us from the very beginning. They believed in this sight unseen. They knew, we’ve worked together. They’re one of our platinum sponsors. They thought it was such a great idea. They knew that we could pull this off. They were just onboard from day one. They gave us the URSA to use, to shoot. They also opened up and really offered their Resolve to anybody who wanted to try to cut with it, not just use it for color, but use it as their NLE. A lot of people did take them up on that, which was exciting to see.
We had Sony Creative software and we Premium Beat helping us. The other person who really gets a huge thank you is Michael Kammes, who came in and was the master of ceremonies. Didn’t he just make the room? It just had a great buzz, a great vibe. People were excited. He was so charming and he’s so authentic, and he really set the tone for just a wonderful afternoon. The event sponsors also were key, in that they helped us make this happen at the Aero Theatre. I don’t know if your listeners know the Aero Theatre, but it’s a really [short 00:16:14] theatre here in Santa Monica. It’s run by the American Cinematheque, and it’s just an amazing place to see film. G-Technology and Other World Computing helped make that happen for us. We can’t thank them enough as well, for supporting this exciting endeavor. We’re looking forward to doing it again.
CIRINA CATANIA : Yeah. It was great. It was really a fun day. A room full of excited film makers. Wendy, you and Woody are doing a great thing for the production and post production community. Thank you so much. I’ve been speaking with Wendy Woodhall, the co-founder of LA Post Fest and the executive director of the long running Los Angeles Post Production Group about the recent LA Post Fest. The winners and some tips and tricks for you guys, so that you have a better chance of winning next year when you register. Wendy thank you so much. We’ll be staying in touch with you. As soon as you have the dates and the place for next year, let us know and we’ll post it.
WENDY WOODHALL: You got it Cirina. Thank you so much.