“Help me, I’m Amanda Berry.”
In just five words and the help of a good Samaritan, Amanda Berry was able to escape the nightmare that became her reality for ten long years. Her tragic story begins back in 2003 after receiving a ride home from her job in Cleveland. Fast-forward one year and the second victim, 14-year old Georgina DeJesus was kidnapped while walking home from school. Within the same time frame, Michelle Knight was also taken captive.
Over of the course of a decade, these women were imprisoned and tortured in a Cleveland home by Ariel Castro. His brothers, Onil and Pedro, were also taken into custody, but released shortly after with no evidence against them.
Though this case is only beginning to unfold, it’s becoming clear that Castro may be indicted with aggravated murder charges due to the extent of his cruelty. This charge is being sought for “allegedly impregnating one of his captives at least five times and forcing her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly.” These victims were raped, beaten, and only let outside the home a few times over the span of ten years.
It was on May 6, 2013 that Amanda Berry was able to change the fate for her and her fellow captives. A local neighbor saw Berry trying to escape her home screaming “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been in this house a long time and I want to leave now”. The neighbor ran to her rescue, physically kicking the door in and allowing her to call authorities. From there, she escaped with her 6-year old son that was fathered by one of her captors. Shortly after, the police rescued Knight and DeJesus from their entrapment.
Now reunited with their friends and family, it will be a long road back to recovery. These women were torn from their lives and forced into a hellish reality. Though their story comes to a happy ending, it will be tough returning after all this time. In 2006, Berry’s mother passed away without knowing her daughter’s fate. However, her family never gave up, praying everyday for her return and following police tips, some of which turned up fraudulent.
Today, the community is recognizing the miracle of their survival by establishing a trust fund for Berry, Knight, and DeJesus to become financially stable. Thousands of dollars have already been raised, ranging in size from $3 to $1,000. To make your own donation, click here. This case acknowledges the power of community. What if that neighbor did not see Berry’s attempted escape? Where would these women be now?
This case exemplifies the human trafficking that is present in our own neighborhoods and communities. It is hard to believe that three woman were held captive in this quaint home for ten years. It is harder to believe that, in ten years, no one noticed.
For more information, follow the links below.
Kyle Prince (Editor) and Geoff Levy (Director of Photography) proved to be a dynamic duo for color correction. In production, we used a picture profile called “Cinestyle” which produces images that are flat, with almost no contrast and minimal saturation. While this may seem unfavorable, it allows for the most latitude when color correcting. They spent ten days bringing out everything these images had to offer. Seeing the results makes me wonder how I was able to watch the film all these months as they were.
With this film, I have a penchant for low-key, moody and dark images and they applied that preference throughout while adding their own tastes. Geoff wanted to hide most of the qualities intrinsic to the “DSLR” image, yielding an image that seems as though it was shot with higher-end cinema camera.
We used Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Lite, which is free to download here. Don’t let the fact that it is free fool you; this is professional, powerful software that rivals Apple’s Color and Adobe’s Speed Grade. Kyle used a black magic UltraStudio Express box to run SDI to a calibrated CRT monitor and a Panasonic HD TV/monitor. The CRT, while standard-definition, had excellent color rendition, and was the best way to gauge each color grade. We used the Panasonic HD TV/monitor to check for noise. I found myself wanting to watch the CRT the whole time because the colors were just so vivid.
DaVinci basically works in nodes, which are the individual corrections that make a grade. A grade is the entire color correction applied to an image. Nodes are organized in flowcharts that show the order in which the corrections are processed. Some grades were so complex, that they involved over ten nodes.
A primary correction adjusts the entire image: blacks, mid-tones and highlights. A secondary correction isolates a portion of the image and is processed after the primary correction.
This scene was overexposed for a night scene and needed a lot of work.
The original shot:
The flowchart of the primary and secondary corrections:
The primary correction for this image included two parts:
We warmed up the image.
We also brought down the exposure and added more contrast.
For the secondary correction, we used a vignette to keep the Grace’s face at the same exposure as the primary but bring down the exposure of the rest of the shot.
The final shot:
A common filmmakers plight, we shot exterior under terrible conditions: overcast and dusk.
The original shot has overcast, looks like dusk (because it is!) and doesn’t match the rest of the footage (which was late afternoon).
Primary: Adding warmth to the image, matching the late afternoon golden look
Secondary: The sky was still grey so we isolated the sky to add some more blue
Secondary: The street was too grey and needed a more brown and orange to give the feel of “hot summer day”. Therefore we isolated the street.
Tertiary: Lastly, the house, especially in the windows needed some more golden sunlight, as since the sun is supposed to be setting to the left. We had to isolate the house to warm it up even more than the rest of the image.
The final result is night and day, almost literally.
A vignette allowed us to apply a correction to a portion of the frame. The portion inside the green oval is where the effect is strongest. It lessens as it approaches the yellow oval, allowing it to blend in with the rest of the image. Artful placement of vignettes seemed to be the longest part of the process; while it smoothed the effect out, you could sometimes spot the gradient.
This shows the correction that the vignette is doing without any softening
Here is the final soft vignette.
When we were able to hide it well, we were able to achieve extremely complex grades. For those of you wondering what the title means, in DaVinci Resolve, the keyboard short cut for vignettes is “option-C”.
Here is the original in all of its flat ugliness.
Primary: Adding contrast
Secondary: Fixing grass by bringing out the greens.
Tertiary: Fix the sky by bringing out the blues
Then option c to finish it off.
In rough-cut screenings, we often received feedback that the dreams didn’t stand out enough. Kyle and Geoff went through numerous looks and discovered a channel blur, which allows you to blur one or more of the RGB channels. Basically, we blurred the greens and blues, which meant that any part of the image with a green or blue hue would seem soft or slightly out of focus. We left the reds crisp, which created this jarring effect.
Primary: Crushing the blacks and adding contrast.
Secondary: Adding vignettes to darken the hotspots on the left and brighten her face.
Secondary: Adding of the channel blur was processed on top of the primary
The final grade has an otherworldly appearance, allowing the dreams to stand out.
In addition to color correction, we had a few minor visual effects shots. Ron Quiliche, a professional VFX artist, helped us out there. You can see a demo reel of his work here. His work is best told in pictures:
Adding video to a TV that was off.
Creating fake websites
The original intention was to replace the purple screen on the laptop with a fake website that we would create in post. However, the laptop screen that you see in the final shots was completely recreated after the fact. I wrote the content and supplied the pictures. Kyle designed the website using a hand-coded real website rendered in Safari. Ron then animated the website and added a bunch of filters to make it look like the laptop screen was filmed.
A brief update: Matt Bukaty is working on finishing up the score this week! I’m very pleased with his work so far and I’m excited to have an original score for Pembroke Circle!
This past weekend, Kyle Prince (Editor), our Sound Design team and I spent two 14-hour days recording ADR and music for the film. We were reunited with members of the cast, some we haven’t seen since the wrap party.
ADR (a.k.a. Automated Dialogue Replacement) is when you rerecord dialogue in a studio setting, essentially “dubbing” but we try to make it seamless. On set, you strive to get the best audio but sometimes it is impossible, so ADR becomes necessary. The difficulty is that the actors have to match their original performance as well as the timing of their delivery. The slightest imperfection will cause their lips not to match and it goes downhill from there. I’m sure you’ve spotted these errors in many films. Even the professionals have a hard time with it.
It is a very artificial process. On set, the actor has so many stimuli and they can play off another performer. For ADR, all they have is a monitor, headphones and padded walls. The audio recording in a studio is crisp and has to be manipulated to sound like it was recorded on set, another difficulty. Straight from the microphone, it sounds like everybody is on a radio talk show.
I always love a chance to incorporate music into my films. I recorded Debussy’s “La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin” for the end credits. The piece is heavily ingrained in the story. The main character plays it as a way to connect with her deceased mother. I remember a fellow MFA student and friend, John Goshorn (director of “Happiest Place On Earth”) told me, “there will always be a piano in your films.” … Pretty much!
Geoff Levy (Director of Photography) and Kyle have been spending this entire week color correcting. I’ve been stopping by after work, catching the tail end and giving my feedback. The film looks completely different. How did I look at the film like this for so long?
Moving forward: Color correction will be done this week. We have one more ADR session. A rough sound mix will be complete within the next two weeks and the final sound mix in early May. A DVD will be mailed to Toronto mid-May *crosses-fingers*. We are hoping to start mailing our Kickstarter backer rewards late May/early June. This all depends on how the next few weeks go. Screenings will be announced soon!