Filmmaking is not what you think.
For one thing, film is now defunct. I have sat in the basement of the University of Michigan, helping a friend go through reel by reel of old classics, some of them early prints of the original film. Singing In the Rain. It’s a Wonderful Life. The Road to Morocco. We are wiping each frame clean of lethal mold as the reel whirrs and spins and the strip slides obligingly onto another spool, only to be packed away into the can, labeled and shelved for an indefinite era.
Meanwhile, just like Spielberg, Hallstrom, and Ridley Scott, the amateurs are switching to digital media. For the wannabes, sometimes even a phone can improvise a scene, for a piecemealed documentary or indie effort destined for Netflix or even just YouTube.
I am determined not to talk too much about my film. In a situation like this, it can get to be all talk and no action. Plus, I have been collecting footage for years. It started back in 2003. After a while, it gets to be old news. My love letter to a place called Drummond Island. My story about a horse named Clifford. How an equine changes from a sassy, crooked-legged runt to a road warrior who goes into classrooms and helps disabled kids.
And the answer to the greatest mystery: How you prevent a horse from pooping indoors.
So I quietly keep accumulating footage and time passes. I write the treatment, gather the interviews, working with one cinematographer after another. I have hours and hours of footage. Most of it is collected on a single external hard drive.
I am ready to progress into the editing phase. I know how to use the software. The issue is getting a computer that can handle the job. It has to be able to accommodate a really big file. Unfortunately, my work horse laptop has died. I have to find the replacement, but I can only afford a refurb: One that has been used and revamped. I want a Dell, like my old one. It is equipped to handle the editing process. So I get a decent discount through a Groupon offer. My old one was pink. This time I order a purple one. I get it for about a third of what I paid for my old one. I am on Cloud Nine!
The day it arrives is a great day. Finally I can begin the painstaking process of piecing together this culmination of years. I plug the hard drive into the new purple laptop. The computer sends me a signal that not one of the USB ports on this computer is functioning.
What follows is an excruciating series of episodes intended to solve the problem. Well, is there a problem with the hard drive? No. It’s the computer. There isn’t a single USB that this laptop recognizes.
I call Dell. They are sorry, even though Groupon has claimed this computer comes with a warranty, Dell does not honor the warranty because the computer is used.
A friend loans me a computer. Before I purchase the editing software, I try the free trial period offered through the site. When I attempt a sample edit, the computer makes a coughing, dying whirring sound, like the Millenium Falcon when there’s a malfunction in the hyperdrive.
I will spare further details about the various glitches in the series of computers. Suffice it to say that I am now on my fifth laptop in an attempt to begin the edit. This one is making me suspicious because even though it is brand new, it is a cheaper version of a more heavy-duty machine. It currently is not recognizing Word documents unless I load them through a flash drive. At least the USB works.
Time will tell.
It appears that with computers, you get what you pay for. In trying to do a big job, you really shouldn’t skimp on your tools. However, for some of us, there just isn’t a whole lot of choice. So, we do what it takes, knowing that no matter how much time passes, we will prevail.