BLAME by Quinn Shephard In Post-Production: Catch Up with the Filmmaker

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quinn1.jpegMM caught up with filmmaker/actor Quinn Shephard as she completes her work on her first feature film, BLAME, shot this summer in and around Metuchen, starring Quinn and Tate Donovan and Chris Messina. The film is in post-production now so here is what Quinn told us about how it's going. Best of luck, Quinn!

1. What state of post is the film in now?
We are currently assembling the edit. I have just completed the first director's cut--from here we will hold a series of screenings as well as be advised by a consulting editor on how to tighten the cut. Following picture lock (the term for when a film is locked into the exact assembly of shots that will be used for release), we will send the film out for color, graphics, sound mixing, and score.

2. What has been the toughest part about the post-production process?
I have always found post-production to be the most satisfying and calming part of making a film. Pre-production is not very creative and a bit overwhelming--production is hands-on and thrilling but also very stressful (production is the only part of shooting where something going wrong can actually ruin a scene, which greatly affects the film). Post-production, specifically the editing process, is very creative and therapeutic. It tends to remind me of writing or completing a puzzle. It's all about shaping the story, tuning into nuances of performance, and building a strong mood and tone. It's also something I can do while traveling. My first pass of many scenes was done on other sets, working between scenes, or in a hotel room. Now my mom and I work together on notes each day, refining the cut.

3. How did shooting in Metuchen help you achieve the look and tone you wanted?

Films like this can only happen in small towns. Nowhere else would I have been able to have the support of so many different people who helped make our locations possible--especially Mr. Peragallo, who championed our project to the Board of Ed with us so that we would be able to shoot at Metuchen High School. I had originally drafted my ideas for the screenplay back when I was only a Sophomore in high school as part of an independent study under the supervision of Mr. Wag. It was largely inspired by my experience doing a local production of The Crucible. Going into production on the film five years later, we had the support of the school system, the custodial staff, Booster Club, teachers, students and alumni! Without that location--as well as the beautiful houses that we shot inside, all lent to us by generous Metuchen-ites who welcomed our crew into their homes--we never would have been able to produce the film. Many of the people who allowed us to film in their homes also ended up helping out on the film in other ways as well--it was a community effort that made it all possible in the end. 

Aesthetically, it was important to me that the location of the town and school felt distinctly wholesome, close knit and all-American. The blue and white color scheme of MHS, with its classic football field and stunning auditorium, was the perfect setting for our story. I was able to rediscover a place I had spent three years (I graduated a year early) of my life in a totally new way. 

4. How difficult was it to direct yourself and are you finding the post process difficult because you are both actor and director?

It was important for me to play the role I did in Blame because the character was so close to me (as an FYI to those who don't know--I make my living as an actress and am pursuing directing alongside that.) Thankfully the film was an ensemble piece and there were a lot of scenes that I was not in. I probably had the most fun directing those because I was able to wear 'one hat' in a sense (and also pants, as opposed to the 1940's wool dresses my character almost always had on!) A lot of the challenges came in big group scenes that my character was a part of--classroom and hallway scenes especially. I would be trying to keep an eye on multiple actors and elaborate choreography while simultaneously staying in character. It was much easier to direct the quiet one-on-one scenes I shared mostly with Chris Messina, because I could just concentrate on him. We did all kinds of crazy stuff to get into the right energy--tons of improv with two cameras, listening to music, even yelling at each other to bring up our anger in a fight scene. He gives great notes too--he just directed his first feature, "Alex of Venice" as well. He is an amazing person to work with--it was so crazy generous of him to come work on my first feature. He's definitely one of those actors who means it when he talks about championing indie films. We were honestly so blessed with our cast--from Tate Donovan, who came to cameo after playing my dad in 'Hostages', to Nadia Alexander, a NY actress who blew everyone out of the water as our lead antagonist. They were all such giving, warm people. Everyone gave it 110%. They made my job so much easier!

It also helped a lot of have my mom, who coaches me and produced the film alongside me, on set watching me on monitor. We share an artistic perspective and she's the only person I'd trust to keep an eye on my vision when I couldn't myself. We make a great team, and having someone with good taste watching your performance is very important when you're multitasking. 

As far as post, I'm very detached from myself as an actor while editing. I edit myself as I would any actor--I want everyone to look  the best they can! 

5. Are you rewriting at all in post?

Yes, a bit, but not significantly. We'll reorder scenes, cut scenes, maybe add a few pickups. But it's a very tight cause-and-effect script, there's not room to disassemble it too much. 

6. When do you imagine being finished? What plans do you have for the film's future life?

We will be starting festival submissions in the Spring or Summer--whenever everything comes together. I don't like to rush post, especially while I'm balancing my time with another career! I want the film to be perfectly polished when it gets submitted to fests--I cringe when I have to show off unfinished work. 

7. What's next for you?

Well, Blame is still taking up most of my time outside of auditions. I've shot two films since the summer as an actor that should be coming out in the next year--'Midnight Sun' and 'Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl'. So look out for those!

Also, you can follow updates on Blame on our social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and tumblr) under the hashtag and handle #blamethemovie

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