This past Wednesday, two days before White Frog’s theatrical opening in Los Angeles, when I was helping my DP Yasu Tanida shop for a blazer in the Beverly Center, I got a call from producer Ellie Wen who told me that they were having problems with the DCP of White Frog at the Laemmle’s Pasadena Playhouse.
That sent me into a panic so I called the manager of the Playhouse who indeed said that they couldn’t read the drive the DCP was on.
What is a DCP? It’s short for “Digital Cinema Package” and it has replaced the use of 35mm film prints in the exhibition world. Apparently over 80% of the world’s cinema screens now project on DCP.
Essentially a DCP is just a bunch of encoded files in a hard drive. That’s really all it is.
“Garrett,” I called my DCP maker in a frenzy, “what do you make of this?”
“Yes,” Garrett said, “I know it has been a problem with the DCPs that we made earlier. But since then we’ve fixed the compatibility issue. Just bring back the DCP.”
And off I drove to Pasadena to grab the DCP from the theater manager who said, “We couldn’t even read the drive.”
When I took it to Simple DCP, Garrett’s company, he took a look at the drive and pointed out to me that the screws on the drive have been stripped. Did someone open up the drive? He couldn’t even mount it. He said it would take a couple hours to fix and it was already five o’clock.
Stressed, I got home and Garrett called again.
“So I was curious and I opened up the drive. It wasn’t even the drive we gave you. We would never deliver a 1 TB drive. I have a feeling that someone might have opened up the drive and swapped it with another one. Your movie could be floating around out there…” said Garrett.
In a frenzy, I immediately e-mailed the distributor and my producer. I felt like I had to be a detective now.
What happened to the DCP?
“To be honest, I don’t even know what a DCP is,” said Betty at Wolfe. “It has been sitting on the shelf since you sent it on December 6 last year. It was sitting there for six months with the original Fedex bill and we’ve never even opened it.”
When I went back to Garrett in the morning, he said that someone had definitely tampered with it. The drive was non-functional.
And our movie opens tomorrow.
I knew no one wanted to pay for a new drive, which could cost up to $400. Garrett offered to swap it out with a used drive for a discount and I took the deal.
At noon, I took the DCP back to the Laemmle’s Pasadena Playhouse and walked into the bowers of the theater where the projection chamber was located. A few years back, I was in the bowers of the then Laemmle’s Sunset 5 testing out the projection for The People I’ve Slept With.
And here I am again.
The manager plugged the drive into the server and on the screen appeared an error message about not being able to find the port.
“See, it wouldn’t even read the drive again!” exclaimed the manager.
I called Garrett immediately and he spoke with the manager to have him plug the drive into its USB port.
And voila, the server was reading the drive and began to ingest the film. I shook hands with the manager and left Pasadena with a sigh of relief.
As I was driving back on the 110, I was overcome with a fearless calm. How often does a filmmaker get to nurse a movie from script development all the way to working on the exhibition print and putting it in the theater’s hands for projection?
That’s the life of an independent filmmaker. That’s my life.