Emmanuel Tenenbaum's excellent short film Two Dollars is this week's Vimeo Staff Pick. It was edited on Final Cut Pro X on a 2013 MacBook Pro.
Two Dollars (Deux Dollars) is a Canadian/French shortfilm that has been selected in 85 festivals around the world, won 8 awards, and been broadcast on a dozen TV channels worldwide. It is this week’s Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere.
Those who have been here for a while might remember that in 2017 I posted an article about Sans Plomb (Unleaded) for its Vimeo Staff Pick. It was the first episode of “the office trilogy”, a series of 3 true stories that happened in an office, a collaboration with Canadian scriptwriter Guillaume Fournier. Two Dollars is the second episode, and it takes a much more “daily life” approach to irony and cruelty than Sans Plomb.
I will not tell the story here, the best is that you make your own opinion! All I will say is that it is based on a true story that happened not once… not twice… but three times in different parts of the world !
The film was shot within the Kinomada lab, an organization in Québec City which invites around 100 filmmakers with different skills (directors, actors, editors, sound engineers, etc.) and provide them with food and lodging, giving them only one objective: make shortfilms in 10 days, from writing to first cut, in a non-competitive way. The event is an explosion of creativity, but as you can imagine there is almost no time to produce the films: so 2 days prior to the shoot, we still had no location and no actors!
We were calling local actors that we had never seen and who had never heard of us and asked: “do you want to act in a short the day after tomorrow?” Luckily most said yes, and I met the actors for the first time the night before the shoot for a quick rehearsal: I was very relieved to see they were so good!
The shoot itself was fun but made in the same very limited conditions: we had only a couple of lights, the cinematographer and sound engineer had not slept at all because they had shot 2 other shorts the night before, and we had less than a day to shoot the whole story.
The editing was one the craziest thing I have ever done: 36 hours straight editing, with no break and no sleep. I remember falling asleep constantly in front of the screen. My friends would keep me awake by talking to me, and occasionally had to remind me where this or that button was because I couldn’t remember a thing.
We finished the 1st edit at the exact deadline for the screening, and frankly if I hadn’t been editing on FCPX, I don’t think I would have done it
. All NLEs are good, but in those conditions, you just want to use the fastest one available, and regarding speed of editing there is nothing comparable to Final Cut.
The screening was great and the film well received, but once the whole event had finished, we didn’t really know what to do with the film: we surely had a strong story but there were some severe technical issues, and there was no way any decent festival would accept it.
We almost threw the film away, but then a miracle happened: Bien ou Bien Productions, a really good French Production Company founded by Zangro, stepped in and offered to finance the post-production: we’d get the opportunity to re-edit, a proper color grading, and a very much needed sound repair and mix.
For the re-edit, I wanted to have an editor to step in, because it’s really great to have someone alongside you to look at the film with a fresh and professional eye. Jean-Baptiste Guignot, a talented filmmaker & entrepreneur from Bordeaux, offered to do it.
The funny thing is that he had a strong bias against FCPX, like, unfortunately, a lot of people in the industry. He had never really used it, and each of his former attempts had ended with frustration because he was used to the Premiere Pro way of working (the infamous adoption barrier we all faced at first).
I reassured him and promised him everything would be OK: and guess what, the editing went flawlessly!
The rest of the post was done partly in FCPX, partly in Resolve, and the audio was done in ProTools (thanks to X2Pro).
I want to share here that the round-trip with Resolve was done in an unusual way: as I mentioned there were some issues during filming, one of them is that we had a lot of flickering from one of the lights.
I was first a little worried but then I remembered I had purchased a couple of years before a plugin from Digital Anarchy called FlickerFree: I applied it to each clip and it really made miracles. I also did a lot of patching and hiding with Coremelt SliceX, as well as some cropping with FCPX. The consequence of all that is that almost every clip had some FX applied to it, and that information would not be forwarded to Resolve.
Of course I could have first graded the graded clips in Resolve and then re-apply the effects afterwards as I did with Sans Plomb, but I had to deal with another issue: everything had become very heavy in terms of rendering, and I was only editing on a 2013 MacBook Pro.
I felt the need to work with a lighter project, and therefore I opted for a different path: exporting each individual clip with their FX, grade them in Resolve and import back a simple timeline with all the clips next to each other.
For this, I needed a solution similar to what Resolve would do, e.g an exporter that could export individual clips from my timeline with sequential names. And I found one! Do you remember ClipExporter, the app from Thomas Szabo? It had been discontinued, however Thomas had since been hired by Frame.io to build their FCPX integration, and he had taken his code there. He showed me that you could use the frame.io app to export your timeline with individual clips on your hard drive, a fantastic feature I have used many times since!
Before finishing the film, I also had to deal with subtitles for the DCP, and once again I didn’t know how to get it done the best way until our formidable Andreas Kiel helped me on the fcp.co forum with all his tools. He even changed the code of his app to suit a need I had. Where else do you find such a community?
I want to end this post here, but before I want to thank once again Peter, the generous editor-in-chief of this site, and Ronny Courtens, who is dedicating his life to the adoption of FCPX. They too have been helpful for this film but in general in the last years of my filmmaking career. We are really lucky to have such people aboard!
Emmanuel Tenenbaum is a French filmmaker based in Montreal and Amsterdam. Two Dollars is the second chapter of his "office trilogy", a collaboration with Canadian scriptwriter Guillaume Fournier.