Thoughts on my current film, “Father Soldier”…

Posted in Documentary, Editing on August 25th, 2014 by Dave

dave's portraiMy most recent film, Father Soldier, a profile on the life of Father Leo Hetzler, CSB, has been available live on the web for the past week. So far I’ve gotten some very nice responses from online viewers. The one most interesting came from my older brother, Joe, who said he screened the film, went to bed, and woke up near dawn after dreaming that he was hearing and thinking about Father Leo’s voice…

Early this past week, my wife and I were invited to the Basilian Home here in Rochester, which is where Father Leo and a number of older priests are in retirement. We were treated to a really nice meal, and then we screened the film. There were ten priests total in attendance. As usual, I stood behind the audience with one eye on them and the other on the screen. Most of the priests are retired academics – they’re a very bright and sophisticated bunch – and they’re all still quite sharp. I felt a bit intimidated at all that brain power in the room and wondered what they were thinking about while watching the piece.

When it was over, four of them were plainly moved by the film, their affect ranging from mistiness, to tearfulness, to outright sobbing. The sobbing, for me, was really disconcerting – actually it was a bit frightening. I checked on the priest immediately and put my arm around him. His name was Father Paul, 88 years old, and the same age as Father Leo. I asked him if he was OK, he nodded, and I moved away. I found out later from Father Leo, that the scenes of boyhood really got to him. He said to Father Leo, “that was my childhood!”

Another priest, Father Al, a retired mathematics professor at St. John Fisher College, walked over to me quickly, gave me a big hug and cried, “God Bless you, God Bless you!

Father Leo himself was tearful, but quiet. I asked him why he was emotional at this screening, since he had already viewed the film twice previously. He said that the first two times he was watching it to see how it hung together, whether there were any problems with it factually, etc. This time he said he could just let it wash over him. He told me he was deeply honored by what I had done.

Tim, a philosophy professor from St. John Fisher who I had interviewed a couple of days earlier for my next film project, was also in attendance. He thanked me for the screening, didn’t say anything in particular about the film, but the next day emailed me with names I should call over at the college in order to arrange screenings for larger groups. Action not words!

The biggest surprise of the screening was in my own reaction to the film. Being the person who had filmed, edited and watched the film literally dozens and dozens of times as it came together, I had thought that I would never be able to view it with fresh eyes – except perhaps after a long break. At the time of this screening I felt completely unable to evaluate it, except from my own skewed perspective of course.

Well, as I stood behind the audience and felt the vibe coming off them, I saw the film, if not with fresh eyes, at least through theirs. And it was great – in fact it was thrilling! My wife and co-producer, Ann, told me I caught her eye during the screening. She said I was moving my right arm and leaning towards the screen as if I was conducting an orchestra! I just vaguely remember being caught up in the moment…and hoping people were riding the wave with me.

I think the most wonderful part of a successful screening, or any presentation of one’s artwork, is coming to the realization that you actually had an effect on the audience, not by talking or interacting with them directly, but through the third party of a piece of artwork that exists separately from you. It is something to be savored, though never taken for granted. I’ll call on it when I’m in the throes of my next production, which will be on the theme of friendship.

Agricola Media’s Latest Production, “Father Soldier,” now online…

Posted in Documentary on August 19th, 2014 by Dave
Subject of the film of "Father Soldier", a film by Dave Esposito

Leo Hetzler, subject of the film  “Father Soldier”, a film by Dave Esposito

 

I’m happy to announce that my latest film, Father Soldier, is now available for screening online. Shot and edited over the past year, and with a running time of 27 minutes 20 seconds, the film explores the life of Father Leo Hetzler. an 88 year old Catholic Basilian priest.

Leo Hetzler fought his way through Europe in World War II, survived the Battle of the Bulge, had his best friend die in his arms, came home and went on to become a Catholic priest and educator. I tried to capture the soulfulness of this remarkable  human being…and to portray what profound experiences a single life can hold…

 

If you feel this film was worthwhile, and would like to assist in the continuation of similar film making projects, please donate by using the button below. Thank you, Dave Esposito 





The Golden & Guilded Age combined…

Posted in Documentary, Editing on August 11th, 2014 by Dave

I’ve been watching my hard-drives fill up over the last few months. Not just from my current project, “Father Soldier“, but from the material I’ve collected making my  five previous films. I currently have over 2 terabytes of data accumulated over the last 2.5 years. Nothing fills up hard drives faster than video, and the rate of data is soaring as new higher quality video formats are coming into widespread use.

To give you some idea, I have two cameras I film with, One is the Panasonic Lumix G6, which is primarily a stills camera that just happens to shoot amazing quality video. I bought mine for $600.00, which considering the picture quality is absolutely astonishing. g6

The G6 shoots in what is called AVCHD, which is a highly compressed, but still high quality recording format. It uses data at the rate of 2.8 megabytes per second or 10.8 gigabytes per hour. That’s a lot, but it’s manageable. It runs cool, and batteries last at least an hour – and they’re cheap to buy.
bmpcc

 

 

It’s  nothing compared to my new baby, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, (above), which is an infant in physical size only.

It’s a monster in the amount of data it eats up: At full High Definition resolution, which is 1920×1080 pixels,  it chews up 17.9 megabytes per second or 79 gigabytes per hour. It get’s hot in your hand  when you’re shooting. I use it as a hand-warmer in cold weather:) . It eats a battery in twenty minutes.

What sets this camera apart from my G6, (the one that shoots AVCHD), is that the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, or BMPCC for short, shoots in a very high quality format called Pro Res 422 HQ, (it shoots in other formats too, but I use this one ). Being able to record in this format  makes it a true cinema camera – think of it as digital film.

What does this buy the Director of Photography, or Cinematographer?

The camera shoots a “flat” image. It’s dull and washed out. It actually looks bad! But,  the images contain the raw material for gorgeous images. Because there’s a tremendous amount of information in this crappy looking image which can  be  unleashed in the post-production process called color-grading.

On the other hand,  when you shoot AVCHD, you get a decent image right from the camera. That’s if you expose properly, and get the color of the light you’re shooting accurately recorded. But if you’re off a little, particularly in exposure, and the lighting conditions you filming in have a high dynamic range, meaning high contrast- harsh sunlight with lots of bright areas in part of the image and shadow areas that are very dark in comparison – then you’re in trouble.

Your eye can handle extreme dynamic ranges but cameras shooting in AVCHD struggle.  Exposure mistakes  can’t be fixed in post production to any great degree.  In comparison, the  BMPCC’s, and it’s Pro Res format,   has the amazing  ability to provide information and detail within nearly every part of an image. It doesn’t  record an  image that is any sharper than the G6, but it’s image is far more filmic. Because there’s more information in the image that can be brought out in post-production – and which can be manipulated not just to fix mistakes, but to give the film a “look”.  Just like the way Hollywood does for its features. For an independent  filmmaker, this is  wonderful. We love gorgeous images, even if the majority of our audiences don’t place a high degree of importance in upgrading from Standard DVD, which has a resolution of 720×480 pixels, to Blue Ray which is 1920×1080 pixels.

But I’m a convert to theses new formats and it looks like I’ll be buying more hard drives…in fact,  I’ll be doing it gladly. I’ll still use the G6 for interviews that are lengthy, it’s quality is still darn good. And if I expose properly and adjust the camera to the color of the light in the scene, it will look very, very good. And it will edit together OK with the BMPCC. Not perfect but only other film maker pixel peepers like myself will notice or care.

The BMPCC is soooo nice. It’s my  go-to camera when I want maximum quality.  Or when I want to “push” the color of an image around to create different looks and moods.

I bought mine new a month ago when the camera went on sale…for 500.00! About the cost of an IPhone … which puts out a pretty amazing picture too come to think of it.

It’s a golden age for people creating digital media, no question about it. I will use these new tools to guild my films in luscious beauty.

There, I sort of wrapped up the title of this post thingy.

 

“Captain – Story of a Fallen Soldier”, now available for free online…

Posted in Documentary, Filmmaking on August 8th, 2014 by Dave

Captain – Story of a Fallen Soldier (23:30)

 

I’m delighted to make this film available for online viewing! I was lucky to have it screened on PBS and I’m proud of this piece. I had a great film-subject and storyteller in Dick Updaw, who was incredibly cooperative during the production. I hope you enjoy this piece if you haven’t seen it in it’s HD glory!

Broadcast on PBS, Captain – Story of a Fallen Soldier is the moving story of one veteran’s mission to remember and memorialize a fallen warrior from a previous war – a man he never knew…

“To Have and To Give”, a film about living organ donation, now free online.

Posted in Documentary, Informational Video on August 6th, 2014 by Dave

I’ve decided to make a number of my films available for online screening. My first release is To Have and To Give, a  film about about my experience of having been a living organ donor.

My brother-in-law, the violinist Sung Rai Sohn, was in dire need of a liver transplant. When it looked like he would not receive a liver from a deceased donor I was able to donate a portion of my own liver to help extend his life. This film is a moving depiction of our family’s journey through a tough time – a time of great stress and crisis – particularly for my wife Ann, who bravely “green-lighted” the transplant… We were very lucky; medical science was there for us and provided a means, through live donation, to help keep our family intact.

If you found this film worthwhile viewing, please donate below.

Thanks,
Dave Esposito




Going deep….

Posted in Documentary, Editing, Filmmaking on August 4th, 2014 by Dave

Timmy Underwater2 copy

Tim O’Hare, (Go Pro waterproof camera  in hand, but out of view),  films himself playing young Leo Hetzler in the golden childhood summer of his youth…

 

As Father Soldier nears completion, the excitement, (positive), and the anxiety, (not as positive as the excitement), grow.

I’m in the “combing” through phase of the editing, lot’s of technical tweaking, but also adjusting edits, timing, pacing. My combing, (revision), process starts with rendering a high quality video file of the program and then sitting in a dark, quiet room with a notepad. I view the program and take notes. Then I go back into the actual program and make my changes. Then render, view, take notes again, make changes. I’m at iteration number ten as we speak and I’m down to about a half a page of changes per revision. Sometimes I’m changing things to make them different, sometimes to revert to what I had previously done.  The technical issues are all taken care of at this point. What I’m really going and hoping for  now is coming to each viewing with fresh eyes. I’m doing this because I’m still hoping that I’ll see something that strikes a spark that I can act on before saying good bye, good luck to the film…

One of the things about living and breathing with a personal film project, or anything that you’re intensely involved with I imagine,  is not just maintaining objectivity with each viewing, which sounds obvious enough, but approaching the thing you’re trying to do  in a state of even mood. For me at least, I’ve noticed that one day I’ll look at my film and be moved, caught up in it and surprised at what I’ve accomplished, and the next I time I view it I think it’s horrible, hopeless, and futile. And of course whatever your reaction is, it carries through into the rest of your day.

I think at a certain point almost anyone trying to create or express something loses objectivity about their work. With this film, I’ve seen it so many times, I know it so thoroughly, that I worry that I won’t be able to tell what’s working and what’s not. So my fallback is to ask myself whether I’ve been true to my subject. And I’m not just talking about the person I’m filming. I mean did my own projections onto the subject play out in a way that seem truthful and honorable. Is the relationship between the subject, the film maker,and the film a good one.

I cleared a major hurdle this Saturday day morning when I showed my co-producer and wife Ann, the film for the first time.  My work on the project  had just past the one year point – and I haven’t shown it to  anyone.  But the time had arrived and I had the “screening room” all set up just so, nice and dark and  quiet.

She was crying very early on, which is typical for her as she will cry at weddings, graduations, grace before a meal at a family gathering…She was crying at the end of the film as well. Of course the crying could mean anything, like this was a total waste of my husband’s life for the past year – what a loser, why did I marry him in the first place…you know, doomsday scenarios like that were running through my head. Not really though. I knew that something good was happening, but I was hoping that the somber, serious nature of the film wasn’t driving her into a state of clinical depression.  As it turns out, she looked at me at the end of the film, shook her head, and said this is really, really good. Or maybe she said great. Good,  I thought, would be good enough…

This week, Father Leo will see it.