VEGAS Interview: Faith Granger

What motivated you to get into film?

I have always been very artistic and was in the music business for several decades (singer/songwriter/recording artist/producer) but I actually got into filmmaking by accident (and what a wonderful ‘accident‘ it was!). In 2006 I decided to take a break from music and bought a hotrod. I fell in love with the history behind these amazing cars and was disappointed to find out no hotrod film about the early days of hotrodding had been produced… Since the fifties! I felt that someone needed to step up to the plate and bring back to the big screen the golden era of hotrodding, tell the old timers’ story. I had met many of them while attending car shows with my 1932 Ford roadster… So basically, falling in love with an old jalopy was the catalyst. To make the film I would have to become a self-taught filmmaker… Literally overnight… The rest is history…

You are most known for being the one woman crew behind “Deuce of Spades” because you essentially worked as every crew member at some point during filming, but how do you summarize yourself to the professional world and how do you think of yourself as an artist?

I became famous as a solo filmmaker and received critical acclaim for creating DEUCE OF SPADES (www.deuceofspadesmovie.com). I tackled this very challenging period film with zero filmmaking experience, a zero budget and no crew. Basically the perfect recipe for failure… Yet ended up with a multi-award winning cult film. DEUCE OF SPADES has earned many awards including BEST FEATURE (3 times winner), BEST SCREENPLAY, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY and BEST EDITING. My success story has inspired many people. How do I summarize myself? I am a “move mountains” kind of person, a filmmaker who can create high quality content literally out of thin air. Having almost nothing to work with… I call it “ Making lemonade out of rocks”! Maybe I was a magician in a previous life! … As an artist I rely on instincts and feel much more than knowledge. I am a purist, refuse to compromise my art and most of all I am FIERCELY INDEPENDENT.

If you’re working on a project and you have assistants to help, do you miss all the other work you did while working on “Deuce of Spades”?

Wish I could answer this question but I can’t, because when I tackled the next project it was even more solo than the first one. My 6 episode mini-series documentary “AGAINST ALL ODDS, THE MAKING OF DEUCE OF SPADES“ (see: http://www.deuceofspadesmovie.com/online_store.htm?Iit=87&Ict=3) is possibly the bible for self-contained filmmakers/ indie filmmakers. And so of course, I made it entirely by myself, I mean literally NO ONE was involved in ANY aspect of making this 3.5 hr docu – other than final master file output for DVD replication, done at a post production facility. I honestly couldn’t imagine not being the one writing the script, the one auditioning the actors, the one directing them, the one behind the camera, the one editing every scene, etc etc… The list goes on and on… I LOVE being entirely submerged in my creative process, from A to Z.

What was the most frustrating aspect of being the one person behind the scenes?

Having only two hands HAHA! Otherwise, I actually work better on my own, I can then be in my own creative space without distraction or interferences from others. The one thing I do not like about doing everything myself however, is how physically exhausting it can be. I mean, I literally ran my body into the ground when I made DEUCE OF SPADES and suffered from serious sleep deprivation side effects…

What was most satisfying about successfully solving problems during the production of “Deuce of Spades”? Did you learn something that you feel changed you as a person?

I love a challenge, and what a great challenge making DEUCE OF SPADES was! It was very satisfying proving I could overcoming all adversity, proving that making a two hour period drama, with no experience, money or crew, could be done successfully. Proving you don’t have to go to film school, or have investors or have expensive gear to produce a quality film. All you need is PASSION, talent and a little help from above ;)… I learned to not let my fears stop me from going after my dreams and that nothing is impossible, with a little Faith and a whole lot of HARD WORK.

You directed and edited “Deuce of Spades”. Did you already have experience with editing beforehand?

Not really, no. VEGAS was a great editing software for me because it is so user friendly. Even a rookie such as I could get up and running in no time. The learning curve was easy to tackle and the results speak for themselves. My first time editing a film and it landed me a BEST EDITING award! I couldn’t be happier!

Can you tell a little about the technical set up you are using? What’s your editing software?

I edited DEUCE OF SPADES on a basic, but fairly fast, PC with 4 internal hard drives and VEGAS PRO 10… My last project “AGAINST ALL ODDS, THE MAKING OF DEUCE OF SPADES” (a 3.5 hr mini-series documentary) was edited while I was on the road, on an even more basic set-up: A compact “all in one” desktop, 4 external drives connected via basic 2.0 USB and of course… VEGAS!

Will you continue to edit your own footage?

Well duh! Of course!! Always and forever!

Which features made VEGAS Pro your choice for editing software?

For starters, VEGAS is very easy on resources, so it runs well with very little. In my case this is a very valuable asset. It is also very stable. But most of all I enjoy the speed with which VEGAS shows me any changes in my edits (instant replay!), and its very user-friendly interface. I am fast when I work, fast when I edit so I need a software that can keep up with me! VEGAS allows me to forge ahead with my projects, full speed, pedal to the metal, Faith Granger style.

What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned through directing and editing your own production?

Lesson One: Direct and shoot with editing in mind. If you really understand editing, you will direct and shoot so to have the coverage needed for seamless edits. I really believe all filmmakers should be editors.

Lesson Two: Do enough takes to capture the best performance, but also know when to move on. Always make sure you have one extra “spare” take, even if you think you won’t need it. Sometimes It’s that extra take that saves the day in editing. It’s a lot easier to do an extra take than it is to do a pick up shot, and have to line up the location, actors, wardrobe, props, vintage cars again….

Lesson Three: A film is a living organism that never stops growing, evolving and changing… All the way up until it is finally released. There are three vital stages of shaping a film. A film is first shaped by the writing of the story and dialogues (screenplay). Then it is reshaped by the performance of the actors and the vision of the director. Finally the final shaping (and oftentimes most drastic one) is done in post, during the editing process. I have sometimes altered a scene’s dialogues so much in post, that the scene took a completely different direction (which was the goal) without having to reshoot anything. Simply by editing… Having a lot of coverage really helps.

Have you learned any lessons from working on “Deuce of Spades”, which have inspired you to try new work? If so, what?

Working on DEUCE OF SPADES was one long continuous lesson! I mean, I learned how to become a filmmaker while making this film, I had to learn EVERYTHING from SCRATCH, a daily “swim or sink” challenge. DEUCE OF SPADES was my film school. This has inspired me to produce AGAINST ALL ODDS THE MAKING OF DEUCE OF SPADES: My experience was so unique, I felt it really needed to be shared. I hope it will inspire many to pursue their dreams and never give up, no matter how hard it gets.

I understand you’re also a photographer and I think I’ve read that you designed some of the costumes as well. What do you think is important to know to train your eye for detail?

Ok so here’s the bad news: You either have “the Eye” or you don’t. It’s a gift, and those who don’t have it probably never will, no matter how many books they read on it, how many classes they take and how much they practice. But assuming you do have “the Eye” there are many rules that help people make the right esthetic “choices”. As for me, I don’t know what those rules are. I follow my instincts 100%. When I look at a shot I instinctively know if it works or not. I can spot “the little things that kill”, it’s like my eye immediately zeros in on any problem area. Wish I could tell you why, but I can’t. I think that one important thing to know and remember is that you must look at every single element in your frame and make sure all are as they should be. Then you must also look at the sum of the parts, the whole, and see if it works. They say the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts, and that is so very true. Sometimes all the elements are fine but the sum does not speak eloquently, or does not work, or does not evoke the feeling the scene is aiming to convey. So look at the parts, then look at the sum of the parts, and above all, follow your instincts more so than the “rules”.

Do you have any advice on how to frame a striking shot?

Yes: Aim the camera at the subject, look at the monitor and SEE the striking shot … I guess what I’m trying to say is that once again it’s all in “the Eye”. It’s good to know the basic rules (like the rule of thirds etc) but I encourage you to break them if things “feel right” when you look at the frame. Find your style, your “signature” sorta speak. Most of the time you want things to feel balanced in the frame. But sometimes you want them completely unbalanced to convey a feeling. I’ve been known to shoot crooked, do extreme close ups, scalp my actors (no head room) and it all can give personality to your shots. Sometimes “unbalance” is actually the right balance.

What projects are you working on at the moment? What can we expect from you in the future?

I just got back from a third U.S. tour after the release of my documentary and of the DEUCE OF SPADES 6-disc collector’s edition box set. So right now, I am regrouping. Catching up on rig repairs, base camp relocation, and unfinished business. I’m also free lancing here and there for extra income. My next step is to get started on the second installment of DEUCE OF SPADES, so basically tackle pre-production of the sequel. My fans are eagerly waiting and it’s time to get back in the saddle. The storyline is already finalized and the script underway. I have also been shooting a road trip series called TALES FROM THE ROAD in which I share my travel adventures, camera in one hand and hot rod steering wheel in the other. It’s very raw, organic and a candid look at life on the road, four-walling, discovering America and what’s around the bend… I’d love to get that on TV if I can. I have a lot of episodes in the can and in the process of editing them.

Do you plan to continue taking on multiple roles of your film crew, or will you be stepping back and focusing mainly on one role?

No stepping back for me, I love being submerged in the creative process, from A to Z. I would not have it any other way… I would like however to delegate a few small tasks such as loading / unloading / hauling the gear, and doing hair and make up… But I want to continue doing everything else otherwise. There are many advantages to that. I’ll just share one example: When you have shot your own shots and directed your own actors and then you edit the resulting footage, you can work very accurately and very fast because you already intimately know the assets you are editing. You know each shot, which was the best take, best actor’s performance, so that saves you tons of time and ‘trial and error’.

Do you have any advice for young or first-time filmmakers?

I encourage each one of you to not let your fears and doubts stand in the way of your first film. Take that first step and do it all yourself if you have to! Filmmaking is a journey, a challenging journey, but one well worth making.

We’d like to thank Faith Granger for taking the time to talk with us about her films and filmmaking in general. Faith Granger’s 6 episode mini-series documentary AGAINST ALL ODDS THE MAKING OF DEUCE OF SPADES covers every aspect of making a film yourself (including pre-production, production, post production and four walling). It can be purchased on Faith Granger’s website at: www.deuceofspadesmovie.com.

If you’d like to try out her choice video editing software, you can download a free trial of VEGAS Pro 14 here and experience the tool behind Faith Granger’s films.

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