ED- As an audience we sit and watch a film appear on the screen before us, and most of us wonder what goes on for the making of that production. For the most part we only bear witness to the final product. Daniel J. Fiehtner is one of those people that work off-camera to make that movie possible for our viewing pleasure. Daniel, how did you start your career on the movie set?
DJF- I left the IT industry as a senior programmer/analyst after 22 years and decided to follow a career path in the production world. I have been a part time musician for over 20 years and have experience in the recording field. I was drawn to the “industry” because I realized I could perform many tasks with my talents. Computers, musicianship, audio recording and project management skills are a good fit.
ED- What training did you undertake to do the work that you do?
DJF- This industry relies on networking and word-of-mouth recommendations. I worked with friends and made new friends that had experience in many different areas of production from acting to directing along the way. As for training, I have taught myself by research, trial and error.
ED- In 2010 you worked on the set of ‘Blast and Whisper’. One of the hats that you wore for the film was that of a production manager. Please explain to our readers what that position entails.
DFJ- Wikipedia defines a movie Production Manager as “The production manager supervises the physical aspects of the production (not the creative aspects) including personnel, technology, budget, and scheduling. It is the production manager’s responsibility to make sure the filming stays on schedule and within its budget…”
My involvement included many creative aspects of the film from audio to assisting with set designer/decorator and props. I basically helped out wherever I could. My nickname on set was MacGuyver. Mark Moran’s directing style allowed many crew members to provide talent where needed without having “too many cooks in the kitchen”.
ED- You also were the sound editor for that production. Exactly what was the line of work that you performed in that capacity?
DFJ- I did about 70% of the foley work in my studio. I was involved with capturing ADR (Audio Dialogue Replacement) and created sound effects from explosions to scary cave noises. It was fun creating musical riffs to build up or end a scene using a Mac and a midi keyboard. Gene Hodson did a superb job with the creating the original sound track.
ED- Daniel, we have so many students of the Arts who wish to become filmmakers. Please give us the blow-by-blow description on how a movie set is assembled and what the work process is that goes on behind the scenes.
DFJ- It depends on the budget and scope of the production. Basically, a call sheet is sent out to the crew with all the information needed for the shoot. This sheet defines shoot times for scenes, location(s), crew/talent that are required to attend. The crew shows up first and starts to construct a set for the first scene, actors show up later. Some big productions have first, second and third units (crew teams) doing work at other locations on the same day. It can get complicated.
DFJ-The movie theme is a biblical fictional tale of Elijah the Prophet mentioned in the book of Kings and Malachi. According to the Books of Kings, Elijah defended the worship of Yahweh over that of the more popular Baal, he raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven in a whirlwind (either accompanied by a chariot with horses of flame or riding in the chariot). In the Book of Malachi, Elijah’s return is prophesied “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” making him a harbinger of the Messiah in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible.
Many special effects can be pulled from audio libraries containing digital sound effects. If an effect can’t be found, it can be created in a foley studio. I had a custom foley pit made just for Blast & Whisper. My brother Charles Fiehtner, assisted with some pyrotechnic effects on a few scenes.
ED- We understand that you also worked in the recent production titled ‘At the Top of the Pyramid’. Tell us a little about the film and the production differences between that an ‘Blast and Whisper’.
DFJ-“At the Top of the Pyramid” (Director Larry Jordan) had a budget over 1 million. Since “Pyramid” is still under post production and I signed a NDA, you can read about the movie’s premise on IMDB.COM. “Blast and Whisper” had a small budget and crew, so it was more personal than working with a big crew. I had a “blast” working on both productions.
ED- You had worked in this latest film as the ‘boom operator’. Tell us about the purpose of this position and the importance of control on the instruments that you worked with.
DFJ-Boom Operator is a physically tough role. You need to have good upper body strength to hold that boom pole over your head all day. Working with Jonathan Cohen, lead sound mixer of At The Top Of The Pyramid, enhanced my audio skills in the field.
ED- Please tell us about Fade In- Fade Out Productions and your position there.
DFJ- I started the Fade In – Fade Out Productions, LLC in NOV of 2009. I wear many hats here and I love it. We provide audio services in the field and the studio for various types of media productions ranging from movies and television shows to commercials.
ED- Daniel, so much goes on behind the camera to make a film production into a great movie, and we want to thank you for explaining some of the vital pieces to the puzzle that go into it. We know that our readers will now have a better understanding of filmmaking and will look at a movie through an entirely different viewpoint. We wish you much luck in all that you do, and look forward to hearing more about you in the future.