As 2017 comes to an end, I wanted to take some time to give you an update on all the progress we made this year on our film. To accompany this update, John and I recorded a podcast, which runs about 25 minutes and provides a little more depth about the topics in this email.
Nelson’s 20th Year Anniversary
On December, 20th 1997 I stepped out of the airport in Costa Rica and into the arms of my biological family. It was an incredibly emotional and overwhelming experience and one that forever changed my life. For the 20 year anniversary of our reunion I wrote a blog post about what this milestone means to me. Overall it has been a fantastic experience, and I’m blessed to have such a beautiful family. However, it’s also been hard, in ways that I could not have imagined 20 years ago. Wrestling with the challenges of being separated from, and being reunited with, my birth family is central to our film and my new project that you will read about in a bit. Despite these challenges, I am grateful for this experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
Making Progress on The Film
In my last email update, I explained how John and I had developed a comprehensive outline for the whole film, which identified the seven sequences and 22 scenes that make up the film. The first half of this year was spent turning that outline into what is called a “String-out.” I don’t want to go too in-depth about the filmmaking process but, if you bare with me, I would love to provide a little bit of context, so that you might have a better understanding of what we worked on this year.
You can think of a string-out as a rough draft, which focuses on getting the big pieces of footage in the right order. To create the rough draft, we would take a scene from the outline, find all the footage we were going to use in that scene, chop that footage up into one to two-minute clips, and then put the clips in the order they would appear in the film. Once the string-out was completed, we started working on an “assembly cut,” or first draft, of the film. An assembly cut is when the real editing begins and when our collection of clips starts to look like an actual film.
John and I rounded out the year by reviewing the assembly cut and making sure that each of our 22 scenes adhered to the principles outlined in the various story structure books we have been using. As we reviewed the footage, what stood out to us was the way that my week in El Salvador closely follows the principles from our books. As John pointed out on the podcast, the reason these models work is that they mimic the way we view and process the world.
Our next step is to prepare a 15-minute preview of the film that we can share with potential production partners. If we can secure more funding, then we will be able to finish the movie a lot quicker than if we continue on our own. With any luck, 2018 might be the year that we are finally able to share the film with all of you!
Nelson’s New Project, An Autobiographical Novel
I am very excited to tell you about a new project that I have been working on for the past two years. I am writing an autobiographical novel called Waking From Innocent Dreams , which is about my nearly twenty-year journey to get to know my birth family in Central America. It is a coming of age story that wrestles with the difficult aspects of family and managing two very different lives.
I began writing this story in January of 2016, but at the time I did not intend it to be a book. Initially, I started with the idea of writing a series of blog posts to explore some of the more challenging aspects of reuniting with my birth family. I wanted to use the blog posts as a way to practice the story structure techniques that I had been learning for the film. I hoped that by working on these two projects, I could switch between them, and this would help me learn the material faster. It turned out that working on both projects at the same time was one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent years. Work on the book helped the film, and work on the film helped the book.
The novel is still a work in progress, and I cannot say for sure when it will be finished. However, if you would like to get a sneak peek, I released the first chapter of the book on my website. I hope you check it out and I can’t wait to share the whole story with you when it’s all done.
I know I’ve said this many times before, but you support means so much to us. John and I are well aware of how long this process has taken us. Ideally, we would be done by now, but that’s not how life works. Every time we talk to someone who is eagerly waiting to see the film it lifts us up and provides us with renewed energy. While I cannot say for sure how much longer it will be until we are done, we are going to finish, and when we do, we are confident you are going to love it. Thank you again for all your support over the years, it means the world to us.
Nelson de Witt & John Younger