This interview was done as part of the Vermont Media Alliance’s coverage of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. This interview largely discusses the creation of the trailer for the festival. To read what composer Zackery Nicolosi had to say please click here.
What do you do (and how do you do it?)
I work for Middlebury College as the Video and Audio Technician for both the Film and Media Culture department and Digital Liberal Arts Initiative. A lot of my day is spent working with students, maintaining the film lab and equipment spaces, teaching workshops, and generally just making sure there are no terrible issues or fires down here.
What led you to working as a video & audio technician?
I graduated from Middlebury College in 2013. When I was a student I worked in the film department’s equipment room my junior and senior years and built a familiarity with the system and how it all works. After graduating I was hired by the college’s Communications office as their Digital Media Producer. I produced videos for them for about a year before this position opened up in the department. It provided an opportunity to work directly with students, assist with production courses, and do some form of teaching (something I hope to get into), so it was a no brainer to apply.
How did you come to be involved with the MNFF and editing their festival trailer for 2016?
Last summer I met Lloyd (Komesar) and helped the festival burn some Blu-Rays for presentation. This summer I’ve been helping out on the Blu-Ray front again, compiling files and burning discs. Lloyd knows that I’m a local filmmaker, and enjoy editing, so I think it just made sense to work on both things at the same time.
Had you created a similar trailer before?
I’ve created a couple showreel trailers for the film department at Middlebury. They live online primarily, but we sometimes show them before student screenings at the end of the semester. They’re fun to put together (with the right music) and do a nice job of quickly showing prospective (or current) students what their friends are making.
What is your process when working with so much footage (that is most likely unfamiliar to you) to create something so short yet cohesive?
I usually start with a song. It’s the driving force behind the video, so I spend a lot of time selecting the right one. Luckily for this, we had Zack Nicolosi composing a piece specifically for the trailer. I’ve never had that kind of luxury, so it was especially nice to work and collaborate with him. Then, usually simultaneously, I’ll go through each video, pick out good sub-clips, and organize them into different categories – wide shot, medium, close-up, action, dialogue, tracking, etc. These categories help guide the piece because you start seeing similarities in them, whether that’s dolly shots that flow well together or a cut on action that looks cool or whatever. Then, I get to work and just experiment with everything together – picking the best sub-clips, creating markers in the timeline for cut points, etc. I try to make sure it has a couple nice distinct sections and that every film is represented in some capacity. Finally, I watch it until I’m sick of it, knowing I need to send it out into the world.
Can you expand on your working relationship with Zack Nicolosi on this project? Was the song completed before you began? Did he modify the music based on his interactions with you?
MNFF connected me and Zack a couple weeks ago. He mentioned that he’d love to compose something specifically for the trailer and I thought that was an awesome idea. I gave him a couple reference songs that I’d worked with before or that I thought would work well and he went off running with them. I was a little concerned about the quick turnaround (this was July 19 and MNFF wanted the trailer released first week of August), but he nailed it, writing and mastering a great song in about a week. We didn’t make any changes to it after that. I went off editing then, just trying to do the score justice. Needless to say I hope Zack and I get to collaborate again in the future.
Your short film “Do Not Disturb” won a number of awards. Can you speak to what happened with your short film after the film festivals? (this is something we are trying to actively explore for the VMA membership, the life of a short film and what filmmakers can hope for).
We shot “Do Not Disturb” in early 2014 while I was working for the Communications office at Middlebury. I mainly wanted to shoot and edit something to prove to myself that I could continue to make content even after graduating, all while working a full time job. After the short festival run I released it fully online and pretty much just let it do its own thing. Not a lot has come of it since then – a couple views here and there randomly – but that doesn’t bother me much. My main focus at this point is to just churn out content and grow with each new project, so I didn’t really look back after it.
Do you plan to make more films, short or otherwise (do you currently have anything in pre-production, production or post production)?
I always like to have a project going in some capacity, whether that’s just in brainstorming or actual editing in post. It keeps me going. Last summer we shot a short film, “Dad’s 50th Surprise Party,” that I wrote and directed. I’ve been editing it all year and working with my composer in Colorado to finish it up. It’s been a little bit longer of a process than I typically like, but it should hopefully be finished in the next couple of weeks or so. I mainly just want it out there at this point.
And then ideally we will shoot something again this summer. We just need the right idea… It’s a bit easier to shoot something over the summer here before students get back in September.
How do you find the filmmaking community in Vermont? Do you feel connected to people throughout the state?
I think there are a lot of nice filmmaking pockets in Vermont. I see their work at festivals around the state all the time. I know some of them, but I also don’t know a lot of them. I probably have better connections with actors throughout the state than I do with other filmmakers.
In Middlebury we have a small group of staff, faculty, alumni, and students that try to collaborate at least once a year on a project. We also have recent graduates that think of Vermont as a second home and gladly come up for the weekend to act, DP, or do whatever on set. At this point we all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we’ve become a nice small team.
Finally, what (if anything) could the VMA do better (or begin doing) that would be helpful to you as a Vermont Filmmaker?
The VMA is a great resource. I can’t say that I’ve used it a ton myself, but I think as the directory grows it will become more and more invaluable over time. Of course, as a filmmaker I’m always looking for actors. I imagine most are (That’s not to say that the actors I’ve worked with aren’t great and amazing, because they are, and then some. It is always nice to have a solid list though). If there was a way to connect more actors to the directory I would see that being very helpful.
To see more of Mr. Lennon’s work visit – http://mlennon.tumblr.com/