How do you say goodbye, to the shit that’s not healthy for you?
Turn off the light, shut the door, and walk away in silent.
I still struggle with it.
Do you swallow that pride and weed out the demons in disguise,
Amongst the rest of the people in your life,
Even if your back is against the ropes and your hands are tied.
Take that bravery and let out the pain,
Tell your story to draw the picture on that paper,
For the next generation’s sake.
You can only be wrong for so long.
Adjust that fist, be ready to punch.
At the end of the day you can only take so much.
People be making me feel like I need to go live in my own world,
Off of a mountain or something.
Starting to get tired of society as a whole for their ignorance,
Hatred, and non-educational judgments.
There’s so many can of worms I could expose,
But I don’t.
I guess it’s a part of me growing and maturing.
It’s not how I want my fifteen minutes of fame,
It’s not how I want my character to impose.
The potential low blows for those
That slows my hope for our humanity…
Even though I have my days of feeling like a ticking time bomb,
It’s not how I want my reputation to compose.
This is certainly a first. A film recommendation becomes a two part with a interview feature with the director and writer, himself! Saul Pincus, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss the world of film! It’s truly an honor to be able to do this with you. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
How long have you been working in the film industry? What or who influenced you to dive into the film industry?
Saul Pincus: I’ve been doing this for the better part of four decades, roughly four fifths of my life. The first ten years were comprised of a lengthy string of experiments on Super 8 – experiments that grew and grew in challenge and complexity, thanks in part to the fact that it was the heyday of Super 8, and there was a lot of advanced gear available to get you results not possible with just a consumer camera and projector. I would cavort around Montreal, my hometown, with my camera, having a blast.
My dad, an astronomy buff, had played ball with William Shatner when they were in high school together, but no one in my family was in the entertainment field. The original Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind opened when I was seven. I went to the library to research how these sorts of films were made – but there was nothing available, only a book on “trick photography” with still cameras. But I was hooked – and at just the right moment, because for the first time in the history of cinema, science fiction was no longer a ghetto genre. We got rafts of films with new visual achievements every six months, and some of them had great stories, too.
For me, the thought of making films professionally was never much of a question. But when I left Montreal for Toronto in the mid-90s, I was starting from scratch.
What were some of the greater aspects working on the production of La Femme Nikita in the ’90s? What are some things on the production end that were difficult to do then, that might be easier now to do? What parts of the film industry hasn’t changed since you started in your career?
SP: LFN was a cool show, in part because it a show with a large international audience that was produced by American and Canadian minds hand-in-hand. It was also well-budgeted for an off-network show of that time, so it could look the part and not often look silly doing so. That was unique, and it helped lend the show the kind of character it has.
The difference between any series or film now, versus then, is the ease with which you can lend scale or realism to the images after the fact. But if you take a look at season two versus the first season, you can already see an improvement in the visual effects, which is less due to the artistry in this case, and more due to the availability of new tools – tools which were still evolving. The first season VFX seem a bit too “video-ey.”
But other than technology, the basic process of producing a series really hasn’t changed since the advent of the medium. You still need money, great writing, a great cast, a great crew, a supportive broadcaster and a loyal audience.
Could you go into detail on how your day went while you were an assistant editor on the show?
SP: When I was there, two assistants would alternate odd and even numbered shows, which meant we’d work with one editor though the season. LFN was shot on Super 16mm negative film, which meant that the previous day’s footage would be have to be first processed by the lab in a chemical bath overnight. Then it would go to Magnetic North, a post facility, and into the hands of Bill Holley, who would transfer it with care and a keen eye to Digital Betacam tape. This process would take till the early afternoon, so I’d arrive at work around 4pm.
I generally worked with Dave Thompson. When his episode would be shooting, I’d check his dailies and feed them into his Avid, ready for him to edit. There are many checks and triple-checks when dealing with film transfers to video, especially at that time, when you’d be shooting @ 23.98fps and wind up with 29.97 video. And it wasn’t just a one-way street, because Warner Bros. would want to archive a cut negative of the finished show. So you had to be certain the metadata of each and every piece of camera negative was correctly transferred to tape, and in turn, made it into your Avid intact. Otherwise you couldn’t instruct the negative cutter with confidence. Today, that process is much simpler, because we rarely use film.
It’s a technical job, yes, but it’s also a political job. And creative – though how much depended on the project and the editor.
So, you are not from Toronto, but from Montreal. What helped you decide to relocate to Toronto, from Montreal? Was it for work purposes? What helped you to decide to stay in Toronto, instead of returning to Montreal?
SP: I left Montreal largely because my girlfriend was returning home after going to school there. She and I later married, so I guess I made the right call!
But the other reason was the political climate in Montreal, which was in the throes of Quebec’s second referendum on sovereignty in two decades. It was not a healthy environment in which to seek gainful employment or a predictable financial future.
I always believe you can read a city by its food. Toronto was just starting to get interesting food-wise. On several levels, Toronto of the mid-90s was transitioning, getting more inviting.
You are still based in Toronto decades after shooting LFN. I understand access to budget for films in Canada differ than the access here in the United States. Could you share the difference between the Canadian film industry compared to that of the US and can you share the process that is done to get budget for a film project in the industry up there compared to what is done here in the U.S.?
SP: Well, that’s a really big question with a week-long answer. In a nutshell, the English-speaking film/television world is driven by the U.S. market. Traditionally this had meant we in Canada have taken the scraps, or produced alternative programming in a bid to secure what we consider to be our Canadian identity in broadcast or theatrical form. There are government agencies set up to ensure projects with a Canadian identity get made. But as with any project anywhere in the world, the total project budget comes from several sources. Cobbling all those sources together is the big challenge.
The US isn’t as concerned with its cultural identity per se in large part because the machinery to export American movies was set up over a hundred years ago, and is still functioning at top efficiency, in great numbers, with well-worn distribution channels allowing access into nearly every country on the planet.
I actually had the privilege to personally meet you with numerous cast and crew of LFN back in May 2017. When you walked into the reunion convention, what was your first expression and/or your whole experience like all weekend spending time with the fans and your previous coworkers?
SP: I was amazed, in part that so many had traveled so far to celebrate it. But I’ve gotten on planes to see the late Jerry Goldsmith and then John Williams (both widely considered the greatest film composers of our time) conduct concerts, so I get it.
I’ll admit though, that the first time I was approached to autograph Chris Heyn’s book on the show, it was a strange feeling. Strange because I didn’t create this show, nor was I a key creative force. I was more like red shirt #28576 at a Star Trek convention. But it’s all about love, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Do you feel there is more expression freedom in the art of film in Canada as a whole compared to the film art expressed here in the States?
SP: Not necessarily, because if someone trusts you with a million dollars, no matter where you live, very few people on this planet are going to ask you if you achieved maximum artistic expression. They just want to know if what you’ve made is exploitable and whether it will bring returns. It’s probably healthier to find an exploitable concept, but carefully craft it and then lace it with artistic expression that does not undermine the exploitable aspect.
Your most current project is the independent film, Nocturne. Was there a specific person or event that influenced you to write the story for Nocturne?
SP: Nocturne was borne from my desire to make a silent film about characters that struggle to communicate. Obviously it’s not a silent film, literally – but it’s a story lends itself to visual language and I hoped to stress that. It’s about an insomniac who falls for a sleepwalker, and how they eventually must come to grips with the fact that their intimate, almost myopic “relationship” has larger implications for them both.
How long did it take to create a film project like Nocturne?
SP: About a year to write, a few months to shoot, and several years to finish. The reason is because it was entirely self-financed, but also because the film contains five minutes of hand-drawn animation playing in tandem with the dominantly live-action portion of the film. That took a year to actually produce, but before doing so, I had to cut and shape the live-action very precisely to know exactly how much animation I really needed. So it took time to finish, for sure, but once we started getting invited to film festivals in the US, Canada, and in Europe (Nocturne had its World Premiere in the Free Spirit Competition at the Warsaw Film Festival), won awards for best feature film (at the New Jersey International Film Festival and at Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival, with an excellence award from the Rincon Film Festival), and landed our distribution deal with Random Media, it left me feeling gratified.
What was the difference between working on La Femme Nikita and your work with Nocturne? Do you feel you had more control as an editor or as a director/writer for a project?
SP: LFN was Joel Surnow’s vision; Roy, Peta, everyone – we were all hired to execute it. Your own project is just that, and you work with or hire people to help you execute it. Depending on what your arrangement is with your investors, you are answerable to them to some degree. But in the end, we make things for audiences, and you are always answerable to them on the basis of the work itself!
What is the difference between working on a film, compared to working on a television series in general?
SP: In the late 90s, you worked on a TV show for the better part of a year, there were semi-regular hours, each episode took roughly eight days to shoot, and you shot six to ten pages of script per shooting day. There were distinct limits as to how many locations you could visit in that eight day schedule, what caliber of guest stars you could cast, etc. And each episode had to run a specific length.
Even low budget features of the day shot for at least four weeks, often months. So you shoot less per day, meaning you can introduce more detail into the story and take a bit more time to craft the result. But the hours were crazier.
Today, the lines are a bit more blurred. A season no longer equates to a definitive number of episodes, and even the duration of individual episodes doesn’t matter as long as they remain under a certain length. In general, series work is much better funded across the board, with broadcasters (including the likes of Netflix and Amazon) having realized that to compete with features, their product must be as good as features traditionally were.
Do you have any new projects you are currently working on or a part of whether it would be in pre-production, production, or post-production phase? Can you tell us what to expect from you in the near future when it comes to projects or work?
SP: Well, oddly, Nocturne is still very active. Earlier this year, Nocturne was released on special edition DVD – which means that the two lead actors, Mary Krohnert, Knickoy Robinson and I, went into a studio to record a screen-specific audio commentary that describes how we made the film. And we had fun – but we were serious about it, too. If you’re curious about movies, it’s a great way to learn – sort of a film school in a box.
Also exciting for me is that Tribeca Shortlist, the digital arm of the Tribeca Film Festival, has just licensed Nocturne for a two-year run in the US. Tribeca Shortlist is a real home for the kind of “filmmaker’s film” that Nocturne has often been called. It’s also available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and certain broadcast networks in more than 50 countries across the globe. This is the thing about movies – they can go on for years, even after they’re done!
And yes, I have other projects in the works. Sorry for being coy, but that’s all I can say at this stage!
The film industry isn’t an easy career to pursue in general. What helps keep you motivated in your craft to help keep you focused and allows you to keep pushing forward in your career?
SP: The simple answer: it’s just what I like to do, and has been for as long as I can remember. I like to build things.
What is some advice would you like to share, based off of your own experiences, for those who are in film school or interested in the film industry?
SP: Another simple question! But seriously, the real trick is just knowing yourself, what you want to eventually be doing, and chart a path from there. And remember, it’s not so much about where you see yourself in a year, but where you’d like to see yourself when you’re fifty or sixty. Pick an area that will keep you passionate on little or no sleep, in horrible weather, even if your health fails. I’m being dramatic, but also truthful. If you can’t do that, walk away!
I don’t know about you, but I would love to see what other film art you have the ability to cook up in that articulate mind of yours. Any last words you’d like to share for the following readers before we conclude this interview?
SP: Well, I’m going to put in another plug for Nocturne. From the story, through the performances, through the crafting of the film, I never approached it as a date movie, never frivolously, but made it hoping it would satisfy in a similar fashion to the way you return to good book that’s been waiting patiently on your shelf, tempting you to return to it for another read. And when you told me you had to watch Nocturne twice, but still found that second viewing rewarding, you gave me hope that my plan may not have been in vain.
*Disclaimer – All photos are of courtesy and rightfully owned by Saul Pincus.
None of this shit was said. I guess none of that matters when you are in a small time slot to brainstorm, write, shoot, and edit a five to seven minute short film in exactly 48 hours, tops. Final editing being the final phase with figuring out the perfect score, sound, and/or music in the perfect slot in the film. Sweat spewing down your face, with anxiety and adrenaline pacing your heartbeat to that of a crooked thug running from the cops in a crime scene. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but you get the picture… …er scene image printed within your mind.
I was a bit nervous regardless of the research I did prior to the event. I never did one before, so where the fuck do I start? People. I start with people. The trick was to get just the right amount of dedicated individuals who were willing to be locked in an empty wing of the school over a whole entire weekend, where instead of going out and socializing and drinking with family and/or friends. I mean, it is summer… …isn’t it?
So it’s obvious that recruiting was a challenge. When I reached out to friends about wanting to do a 48 hour with me, I got only a few people interested, but only one fully committed. I felt defeated when we couldn’t get people interested. Especially individuals that were interested in film in the first place.
Then one morning I woke up for just another work day, look at my phone and BAM! A message from one of my mentors stepping in to help recruit a team endorsed by our college program and I was included! Faith restored! However, it was a damn roller coaster trying to keep those interested again. Of course even until the day before the kick off event, people would back out. It is what it is.
Five members of our team would show up to the kick off event. It was as hot and humid as a Vietnam jungle. Dripping sweat, adult beverages, and a crowd packed in an event room like a pack of sardines. What the fuck was this? How big are these six other teams? We have seven. Fucking seven! Producer, Michael Keeney, was NOT joking when he pushed the advice to RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT!
FRIDAY NIGHT: KICK OFF EVENT — …Shortly after I arrive, I was informed that the six teams we thought we were up against, simultaneously turn into 29 other teams!! Plus, producers’, Michael Keeney and Katherine Thompson, has a waiting list! Now that’s success in such a small city of less than a quarter a million. My question is… where the hell did these aspiring filmmakers come from and where have they been?!
Two genres, two characters, one prop, and one line later, we find ourselves at a local coffee shop, Collectivo, to start our brainstorming and the espresso inducing for the weekend.
(I am not going to get into the rules and run around on how the 48 hour film project works, so just check it out on their 48 Hour Film web site to learn more of this event. Especially for those who might be interested in doing one next year.) *smiling*
After we went our separate ways for the evening, I dove right into the Killer Tracks website to set the tone of the short film. Our two choices of genre were Spy/Espionage and Suspense/Thriller. There is nothing more soothing than to swing through sounds surrounding those genres on a Friday, the 13th evening. The irony, if I am even using it properly.
Let’s be real here, I thought irony was that of which came from Alanis Morissette’s song, “Ironic” growing up like majority of our population in North America.
SATURDAY: SHOOTING/EDITING – Day two was committed to shooting and rough editing. There’s not much to say, except that I did not expect to be a main character in this short film. In an odd sense, my anxiety decided to take a vacation that day. Not sure if it’s cause I was in such a familiar setting, or what, but I was in some kind of zen during the shoot. I can’t really explain it, other than it just felt right that I was there in the moment.
(I must note that the chemistry between the cast and crew was pretty epic. We had our fun, but we also kept the mission at hand; to get the shoot complete so we could get the rough edit done before Sunday.)
We were done shooting right around 8-830ish that evening. I was kind of daydreaming of being on NCIS, working late nights, ordering Chinese, while working to find other music to possibly use for the film. My mind goes to different places, to different scenes.
SUNDAY: EDITING/FINAL EDITS/SUBMIT – The final day was purely committed to editing, which I did not have a huge part in accept the title cards and the music choices. However, we did get our film turned in on time to be premiered this past Thursday.
As for my followers and supporters who actually read my blog, here it is! The web premiere for our short film, “Surprise Party!” I must also let you all in on that a winner for hour 48 hour film project has not been announced yet. The rest of the films all were done real well and props to any of the filmmakers that may pass through this blog post. The networking and connections has just begun! I definitely have found my calling when it comes to film. I am just not sure if I will continue the acting sector of the industry. We will just have to wait and see.
(One last note before we watch the film. My character has no manners at a dinner table, swears, and smokes like a chimney. Like she grew up with no direction in life, because… well, find out when you watch the film! I, as a human being, only relates to the swearing trait of my character.. Fucking military.)*smiling*
*Warning: Another long ass post with very low resolution photos from the memory bank*
I grew up sheltered beyond measure, not seeing much beyond Wisconsin and half of Minnesota. I never encountered anyone darker than the Native American skin complexion until my first cousin once removed, Maxwell, was born. I was eight years old. So, growing up with very little diversity did two things. One, helped me accept all Americans regardless of color and background, and two, it still blinded me from the reality of our very own country, because of experiencing my very own discrimination in small town USA.
September 11th, 2001, I was fifteen years old. I did not know what the World Trade Center was until this very day. The day that would change America and the rest of the World forever. It was my loudest calling. As any small town White American, we grow up ignorant, but proud of our safe haven we call the United States of America, the land of the free. This is a moment I realized I needed to sincerely reach out to the rest of the world and educate myself.
It didn’t take long to talk myself into taking the military route, due to my spiritual beliefs beyond the illusion of freedom. September, 2001 brought to light in my life of a black and white factor, good verses evil. Yeah, I also wanted to see the world and get the hell out of dodge, but also fight the evil that displayed itself at the very beginning of our new millennium. I didn’t want to just prove to others of my ability of being somebody, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind too regardless of everyone else’s doubts of my vision.
Before I headed to basic training after I graduated high school, I talked my mom and stepfather into helping me pay for a school trip to New York City my Senior year. I paid half and they paid half. I needed experience beyond the small radius I grew up in.
Luckily for me, they agreed. This was only three years shortly after the infamous date. I had to embrace ground zero, or what was left of it anyways. It was the reminder I needed on the reason I was serving. It pushed me to believe in the choice I already had made.
Now fast forward to my experience in the military. We served whichever was our commander-in-chief and we were NOT allowed to bring up our political beliefs, but instead focus on the mission right in front of us. Tunnel vision, so to speak. There are a plus side to it.
There was a plus side to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as well, regardless of how it was
flipped against those in the LGBT community in those days. We weren’t consumed of things out of our measures beyond what was right in front of us. I guess being a chameleon, so to speak, also has it’s advantages.
Unfortunately, I am well aware that not everyone has the same case as myself, but in reality with all the units I was assigned too and the individuals I met through the military, I never felt that no one gave a fuck about who I was sleeping with, men or women. The men I had relationships didn’t give a fuck about my previous ex-girlfriends.
Completely different from the environment I grew up with. I did felt ‘free’ regardless of the circumstances with the military. While, others were unlucky to have found themselves kicked out, at my time in the service, the most I got was a counseling statement for bringing up hardships with an ex while in Iraq (for those who don’t know what a counseling statement is, it’s basically just a slap in the hand for fucking up).
The military showed me a close knit crew outside a few episodes of soap operas and drama theater going on, but again, that’s everywhere in this world. There was maybe one instance where a douche-bag NCO was being racist towards our Puerto Rican brothers. He tried to write up a counseling statement for me sticking up for them.
Yes, I was very opinionated in the military and didn’t hold back if I witness something wrong and I didn’t give a shit about what rank that individual was. Ask any of my leaders of this factor of my persona (laughing). This dude was certainty on a power trip though. Still no regrets though. He wasn’t a leader in my eyes and that’s still my opinion today.
Other than that, I did not witness anything racism, especially towards my African American brothers and sisters I served with. Niave? Maybe. I was one of the few white soldiers always kicking it with my African-American battles though, when I wasn’t hanging with my Air Force guys.
Even at home, in my military environment, I didn’t witness any racism with my own eyes. Not saying there wasn’t, but I mean, I was going through my own issues to the point where it consumed my life, my small mind at the time. To the point where the civilian world, it was a complete stranger to me. I didn’t get what was going on due to my experiences in the military and my own discrimination growing up in small town, USA.
Even when the social issues were seriously rising, even under Obama’s presidency. I did not understand the issue. I wanted to, but I couldn’t help but question things like, “but we have Obama.” etc…etc… How is this going on? Why is this going on? I thought we got past this? Questions for days and days.
Like, I got completely uncomfortable and had lots of white guilt, because of how frustrated my friends were at me, and how mistreated they were with the system the country has in place. I will admitted, regardless of my life experiences, I was biased and uneducated as fuck to what truly mattered.
I wanted to understand, but my mind wouldn’t allow it due to my experiences in life. It didn’t take until a couple of my African-American friends actually literally dummy down the explanation for me, even with statistics. Somehow that helped shit click, which is weird, because I fucking hate math and suck at it with a passion (laughing).
Well now, it’s just beyond frustrated as fuck. I try to do my part to unify humanity and bring compassion in the world. Same as my original mission and purpose when I first signed up for the military, but it’s hard when over half of our humanity don’t give a rats ass about others than their own beliefs and themselves, especially Americans. Yes, I am calling my own country out. Look at the dynamic we are living in. We are not looked at as the best country in the world, we are a clown show for the world. Accept it.
This post also goes towards the ‘neo-liberals’ who want to categorize veterans as conservatives/Republicans/Trump-supporters, because of the trolls you see on social media that try to speak for us. This is why majority of Americans, not just veterans, hate political parties and association with the government, regardless of the choices we made in our lives. I don’t regret a moment of serving, regardless of my status of a soldier and the choices I made to retire the boots.
I am still proud to be from this country, this continent, regardless of our imperfections. I will not allow our history to define my patriotism as an American Viking. I will allow our history to endorse more compassion within to expose towards society to try to fix the now. We need to open up and realize, not all nations world-wide are not on our level of progression when it comes to laws and rights, but again we are far from perfect. It takes lots of years and change to see where we’ve been compared to where we have come. The only movement is forward.
One last bit, before I close this post. Believe it or not, plenty of us, veterans, are not brainwashed and can think and speak for ourselves. I still believe there are plenty aspects of this country that is far more beneficial than many nations on the world, regardless of the current shit show, but that’s another post for another time. Political rants exhaust me.
That goes for the current climate on both ends of the political parties. It’s time for a change, government. It’s time to give a shit about the people. It’s time for a change, people. It’s time to have less reliance on corrupt politicians who give no shits about anyone, but themselves. It’ll take a lot of work. It’ll be hard. Nothing is black and white, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
For those who are too far ignorant to see reality and truth beyond the propaganda bullshit, and are stuck in your own alternative truth, I’ll pray for you.