Bill Boll's an interesting cat, an attorney who has taught law, only to leave the world's second-oldest profession to follow his muse: filmmaking. Working with zany auteurs like the Troma Group and attending high school with Hollywood commodities like James Gunn and George Hickenlooper, Boll's had a range of experiences in the art form, from scoring to props work and everything in between. Until recently, though, he'd never seen the release of his own, full-blown feature film.
During the recently completed St. Louis International Film Festival, Boll got that chance, unleashing his 93-minute debut, "April is My Religion," shot on video and processed during a lengthy editing session, in which he picked up the tools of the trade on his own.
Through the miracle of email, Boll discussed his recent work, his upcoming work and his work in the kitchen. Here's how our November 21 e-discussion went down:
Here you go!
1. Can you take me through the day of the premiere at the Tivoli? How excited were you? Any nerves? How did the day differ from what you may've imagined?
A lot of people asked me if I was nervous about the premiere, which I couldn't understand. I was nervous that the film wouldn't get finished. I was nervous that my cast would quit or get mono during the shoot; that my locations would fall through; that my basement would flood during the editing; that lightning would strike the phone lines and fry my PC; that I wouldn't be able to mix the sound well; that SLIFF would not accept it, etc. But once the process of creation was complete, I had nothing to be nervous about. It wasn't like a live performance. (Actually, I did get jitters about having to speak afterwards, but those went away once I started talking.)
In terms of seeing my expectations for the premiere realized, I have to say that it was pretty much the way I'd imagined, except that I was unprepared for the quality of the image when it was blown up to the Tivoli 1 screen. It was mind-blowingly fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. It was low-contrast, which bothered my DP more than anyone else, but that was a projector adjustment that could have been made. The resolution is what really floored me. And it sounded good. And the performances even looked better on the big screen.
2. How did the process of editing the film change your approach towards it? In effect, did spending that much extra time learning digital editing bring you closer to what you shot, or did it make you tired of your own project?
The way editors sometimes talk about the way they created this or that film during editing (as if they'd started from scratch), you get the impression that a lot of otherwise bad movies get saved by the editors. In my case, I just put together all of the scenes and cut the ones out that hampered my enjoyment of the movie. For the final cut, I just tweaked whatever was necessary to bring out the pacing as I'd imagined it to be. (Two focus group screenings gave very helpful suggestions in that respect, too.)
I didn't really spend much time learning digital editing. It was pretty easy and intuitive. It took me a solid year to get the first rough cut primarily because I shot 28 hours of footage, and because I edited entirely around the performances. Don't get me wrong I had great actors who put everything into
their performances. At the same time, I felt that the film would fall absolutely flat if the viewer didn't care about what happened to the characters, and so the performances were of paramount importance.
3. What happens to the movie now? What aspects of work lie ahead? Other fests? Smaller screenings around town? Any chance for a limited video release around town?
I'm sending it to other festivals and a few distributors who've contacted me since the premiere. It's too early to think about a video release, but SLIFF has hinted that they might want to hold a screening at Webster next spring. We'll see. I'd love to see it on the big screen again.
4. What type of filmic/video work are you engaged in now? Have you been a support person on any other projects? Any acting gigs?
Right now I'm splitting my efforts between promoting "April" and developing my next project. I've got several different ideas, each with a different budgetary range, but the most promising concerns a local rock figure having a mid-life crisis. I don't really have the time to work on other people's projects right now, except to do underscore or source music. I always have time for that. No acting, though. There's not that much demand for a "Bill Boll" type these days, what with the death of irony and all.
5. What's next for Bill Boll?
I have to start thawing a 15-pound turkey. The label says I need three days, and I only have 18 hours. Except for the risk of food poisoning, it's really not that different from filmmaking.
Thanks Thomas! Feel free to email or call me. I'll be here cooking!