Joe Swanberg keeps this journal in an effort to document the LOL making process and figure out where all his time and money went.


  • May 2005
  • June 2005
  • July 2005
  • August 2005
  • September 2005
  • October 2005
  • November 2005
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • Wednesday, December 28, 2005


    Finishing a movie in December is a bad idea. Everybody is busy and nobody has time to watch it. Maybe it's just a bad idea to send people copies of your movie the week before x-mas. Regardless, I'm excited to hear what people think of the film, when they have time to see it.

    In the meantime, we're busy getting lots of other things in line. Kevin is working on some music and the trailer, and I'm redesigning the website. These things will launch at some point in January.

    Chris Wells is in Chicago for vacation, and we're going to shoot the final shot for the film, then I'll do the final mix and color correction.

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Music To My Ears

    The last 24 hours have been spent talking with Chris, Greta, and Kevin back and forth about the music for the film. We have finally come to some conclusions, and Kevin is frantically working on the music so we can get the film off to SXSW and a few others next week. It feels good to know what the music will sound like, where it will go, and how it will change the tone of the film. I can now visualize everything in my head, and I'm happy with what I'm seeing and hearing in there.

    On my end, I have to trim a few of the scenes to work with the music better, and I have to color correct a few things. Not too bad. Kevin definitely has it worse off this weekend. But the music he's producing is great, and it's really leaving a mark on the film.

    For a little peek at what Kevin has been up to in Berlin, take a look at this video, the latest in our Podcast series, which you can subcribe to by clicking here.

    Click on this image to open the video in a new window.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Phone Cards

    I got a call from Kevin just now. From Berlin. It's the first time I've talked to him in real time since he left NY in October.

    I sent him a frantic email this morning alerting him that a certian European festival was still considering the film, and wanted to see the final cut. I wanted to see how far he had come with the music, and if there was any way he could get it to me during the next day or two. We discussed it, and he's going to send me the tracks that he has finished for now, and I'll insert those into the new cut, but he's going to keep working on it more, and next week he'll send me everything he has, for the cut that I send to SXSW and a few other fests.

    If you're reading this, send us some positive vibes. It's looking like we have a shot at a really nice Festival run for this new film. We need all the support, friendship, and positive energy we can get.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Working Full-Time

    Last I heard from Kevin, he had been up 30 stright hours working on the new music elements for the film. That was hours ago. He might still be going. It's impossible to know. He had watched the film a few times, honed in on the areas he felt needed music, and set to work creating it. Knowing Kevin, it will be great.

    That leaves Chris and I here in America, starting to set a promotional game plan for the film. This will mostly be determined by where LOL has its World Premiere, but there are things we are starting to do right away.

    When I finished the new cut of the film last night, I somehow felt a drive to clean my room. This usually happens when I reach some sort of turning point. I usually cut my hair and I clean my room. This must be a primal instinct, because it happens without fail. As if I was possessed, I started going through the piles of shit that had been cluttering my workspace for the past few months, getting them in order, throwing things away. It was as if for the past 5 months I didn't want to upset any sort of balance I had while filmming and editing. Things piled up around me. I didn't throw much away. I just stacked it. My mind was elsewhere. I couldn't focus on the big pile of mail that was collecting on my desk. I couldn't pay any mind to the large stack on screeners gathering on my dresser. I couldn't deal with the pile of receipts growing in my coat pocket. It would have to wait.

    And then suddenly, yesterday, once the mental hurdle of editing LOL was cleared, I looked around and realized that my bedroom had turned into a total shit hole. I immediately set to work reclaiming my space. I couldn't believe the stuff that had been sitting around. Stuff that should have immediately gone into the garbage had been living with me for a month. Junk mail, credit card applications, old magazines I never had the time to read, new magazines I wasn't interested in reading, empty DVD spindles, broken CD cases, postcards and other promotional items from Festival, etc., etc., etc.

    Now I feel able to breathe again. I feel good. I'm at the summit of the mountain and now I just have to climb down the other side. That doesn't mean the climb down will be easy. There are still obstacles and dangerous areas. But it's a different challenge. I need different tools and a different attitude.

    The biggest change is that more people get to help during this new part of the journey. Editing is a solitary thing. I do it alone. I do it in my room. I live with the movie in my head. I make mental notes all day long about things that should change, and then I get home and change them. I watch and rewatch the footage in my mind. I think about ways scenes could be rearranged. I think about how I might be able to transition better from one thing to the next. I think about how I shouldn't go to sleep, how I should keep working, or else I will forget the idea I had. Sometimes I will capture footage, and I will be terrified to edit it. I will spend 3 days thinking about the footage, and all the possible ways to cut the scene, and I will not even want to open Final Cut Pro, because I know that once I do, I will not go to sleep until the scene is finished, and I don't know how long that will take.

    A lot of the editing process for me is simply psyching myself up enough to just sit down and do it. It's scary. It's horrible to realize the limitations of your footage. It sucks to look at a scene that was supposed to convey a million ideas, and realize that it doesn't convey any. Conversely, it's one of the greatest joys in life to cut something that I think is just a stupid throw away scene, filler, and to realize that it's full of emotion and life. But no matter what the outcome, getting up the nerve to make the discovery is tough. I dread it, and I live with that dread for as many months as it takes me to finish the film.

    But I don't feel that dread anymore. I feel like I finished editing the movie. I feel like the most I will have to do is fine tune it and clean up some rough patches. I am not afraid of it anymore. I know what it is. I understand it, and I understand how to make it better. I understand what works about it and what doesn't. Only when I show it to an audience at a Film Festival will I once again feel like I don't understand it. An audience will take it away from me and make it theirs. An audience will turn it into a stranger again. But for now, it is my friend.

    I'm happy to let it be my friend for a little while. When it comes time to market the film, I will have to pretend like I don't know it. I will have to assume the position of a stranger again. This is why I'm glad that I can have help during this stage. Chris has been out of the loop for a few months, while I was holed up editing, and now he gets to be involved again. My friends who haven't seen me in 3 months get to be involved. My parents and my family get to be involved. Random strangers who read about it on a blog get to be involved. It's great. I'm happy. I'm going to sleep tonight feeling satisfied.

    I should make a final note that for the moment, I am really excited about the fact that LOL has no real "cringe" areas for me. I'm sure I will notice plenty of cringe-worthy things as I spend more time with the finished cut, but it's nice a fresh right now, and I'm able to watch it and almost enjoy it. It's probably at the point right now where I'm most able to derive any pleasure from it. Soon I will be sick of watching it and I will hate it, but it's nice to have a little bit of time where I'm excited about it and eager to show it to people.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Three Heads Are Better Than One

    We have reached the home stretch. LOL is in the kind of shape where Kevin is going to take a pass at some music, I'm going to do some final mixing and color correction, and we're going to call it a day.

    With me in Chicago, Chris in NY, and Kevin in Berlin, the Internet has become especially crucial to this collaboration. We're relying on email for a lot of the communication, and files are constantly being transfered via our different websites. This project could not have been done in this way even 5 years ago. The storage and bandwidth would have been much too expensive for our tiny budget. But today, we can quickly send each other 35Mb files without hesitation, and everything is getting done much quicker. Kevin might as well be in the suburbs still, as we are tranfering files and communicating in much the same way we did then, though he is now on another continent.

    Though it may have gotten easier to transfer files over long distances, it's still a challenge to collaborate with other artists. The only hurdle we have left to face is each other. Between the three of us, we need to come to some common ground and make a finished film that we all like. This will be the task over the next week or two, as we put the finishing touches on the project that was supposed to be quick little summer thing, but has turned into a 6 month beast.