Wednesday, February 22, 2023

"A crazy tale..."

The Legend of MEXMAN screened last weekend at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I was hoping to attend in person but my flight was canceled last minute (as in... 9PM the night before a 6AM flight). The window for the trip was so short I would have missed the first screening with no guarantee of making it to the second (or returning from California).

Sadly I missed out, but I've been able to live vicariously through director Josh Polon and producer Steve Bannatyne, who've kept myself and co-editor / co-producer Jason Wehling updated on the screenings and the response to the film. 

We've collected a few reviews so far, all positive. Alan Ng from Film Threat heaped effusive praise on the film, calling it "fascinating and heartbreaking." He writes:

Writer-director Josh Polon’s The Legend of MexMan is an incredible behind-the-scenes documentary, particularly for emerging filmmakers. It’s an essay, of sorts, about the war-like tension between art and the business of art. It also serves as a not-so-typical discussion on mental health.

Ng really nails what we were hoping to achieve with Legend of Mexman.

Unseen Films also review Legend of Merman, describing it as "a crazy tale of a filmmaker in over his head." 

The Santa Barbara Independent notes that "Polon concocts a hard-to-describe adventure in which documentary truth, neo-non-fiction and film-about-film qualities collide."

If you have some time, there's this video review by Team JVS:

It's always gratifying to see audiences connect with your work and see the intention so clearly. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Legend of MEXMAN

The Legend of MEXMAN is a madcap documentary about obsession, creativity and finding your voice. When director Josh Polon screened it for producer Steve Bannatyne, he told Steve he thought it was close to finished, but something was nagging at him. A sense that with some fresh eyes and one more pass on the edit, the film could reach new depths. 

Steve introduced Josh to my creative partner, Jason Wehling, and me in hopes we might become those fresh eyes. Jason and I provide story consultation to filmmakers and companies. We rely on our two decades of experience working in independent film, television, commercials and online content to help clients more effectively tell their stories. We thought Josh had an entertaining and engaging cut but we agreed we thought maybe there's more. 

So Josh, Jason and I notecarded his existing structure. We looked at some footage he hadn't found a way to use in the film but he always found compelling. We re-shuffled the cards and created new beats & scenes based off this raw material he showed us. Then we did what we do: we started editing.

Once Josh was happy with the changes, we helped manage his finishing and delivery. This February, The Legend of MEXMAN screens at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Big Sky Documentary festival over back-to-back weekends. And more festivals will follow from there. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

HI, I'M TRAVIS MILLS now streaming on Discover+ and HBO Max

Retired Staff Sgt. Travis Mills lives by one mantra: “Never Give Up. Never Quit.” It's the cornerstone of his motivational speeches and the philosophy he applies to every component of his life: family, work, health, philanthropy. Sounds straightforward, right? 

How he came to this philosophy in the wake of unimaginable tragedy is the story we tell in Hi, I’m Travis Mills, the first episode of season 2 of Magnolia Network’s “Hi I’m…” series.

Hi, I'm Travis Mills official synopsis:

After surviving an IED explosion in Afghanistan, Travis Mills became a quadruple amputee—one of few to recover from this injury in US military history. While grappling to find purpose in the aftermath, Travis and his family band together to recover and help others along the way.

Director Jon Michael Simpson established the look and tone of the series when Magnolia adapted his feature length documentary Hi I’m Blake into one of the first installments of the show. When he started interviewing editors for Hi I’m Travis Mills, I was recommended to him by a mutual friend of ours (whose own film I did some work on last year). Our first meeting was virtual. It was a lengthy first meeting where we talked about past projects, how we like to work, and Jon Michael’s vision for the episode. 

When I watched “Hi, I’m Blake” I was impressed with the way it effectively intercut between verite, interview and archival. It also had a ton of heart. Jon Michael's sense of structure was strong. I felt like we’d work well together. So I was excited when I was offered the chance to join the team on Hi, I’m Travis Mills as its lead editor.

For post, that team included: co-producer Ben Hanks, co-producer and director of photography Jeff McQuitty, additional editor Ryan Vaughn, and animator Victor Maestas.

The shoot was broken up into two legs - one in the spring and one in early summer. We also received traunches of archival - a mix of family home videos, media appearances and footage from the Travis Mills Foundation. About 16 weeks of post production had been budgeted with 12 dedicated to the edit, which is aggressive for a TV hour long but achievable with a good team in place and a well planned workflow.

Ryan processed the footage as it arrived. We had worked together on The Russian Five so he and I already had a short hand in place for working together and how we wanted to organize the project. We worked in Adobe Creative Cloud and edited on Premiere.

Jon Michael and I didn’t begin working together until after the second leg of shooting was complete. It was a 4 week sprint from our assembly cut to our first true rough cut. From there we received notes from Magnolia and completed two more cuts responding to their feedback. Somewhere in that time we managed to shoot an additional interview, staged atmospheric b-roll, and we also received some late-arriving (and critical) archival that had a dramatic impact on the final piece. 

TBD Post in Austin, Texas did a tremendous job with color correction, sound mix and final delivery. The score was composed by Hanen Townsend (who also happened to score a previous project I edited, The Sensitives). Both the production and post-production teams got to finally meet face-to-face at a small crew screening the night before Hi, I’m Travis Mills began streaming on Discovery Plus. 

Our team gelled amazingly well together. This was a fun one to be a part of - even with such heavy subject matter. at times. I think Travis' sprit and sense of humor rubbed off on us. We felt a great deal of responsibility telling his story and put a lot of thought into translating his emotional journey into this specific format. 

This is a brief overview of my role on the project. I look forward to elaborating on specific aspects of the post process in future posts.

Monday, July 5, 2021

And the nominees are...


Thought I'd dust off the old blogger to share some good news: The nominees for the 2021 Daytime Emmy Awards were announced in June. Small Business Revolution was nominated for Outstanding Lifestyle Series. 

This nomination is for season five of the show which had already been under way in the spring of 2020 just before the coronavirus spread across the U.S. and states instituted strict lockdowns and public health safety measures. Season five chronicled the impact covid had on the participating businesses.

Since season three I have served as a story producer. Just like the featured businesses, we had to pivot operationally, changing both how we shot and edited the series. Suddenly scenes that would normally be shot on location were screen captured as zoom calls. Normally our edit stations would be at the Flow Studios offices and tied together via a server. Like many other productions and industries, we devised an entirely new workflow that allowed our editors to work remotely.

It was a challenging season, so it's a pleasure to be among the shows recognized. We have one of the best teams in the business! Congratulations to Amanda, Deluxe and Flow Studios. Season six is already underway - can't wait to share it when we're finished!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

THE RUSSIAN FIVE begins its theatrical rollout this weekend

The Russian Five begins a screening in theaters this weekend, including in Michigan and at AFS Cinema here in Austin. It will begin in 25 theaters and gradually expand from there. As word of mouth travels, hopefully we'll be able to add even more dates and locations throughout the spring, leading up to an eventual digital release.

For now, though, if you're near a theater where The Russian Five is playing, check it out on the big screen. As director Josh Riehl puts it:

"I think that the communal experience of watching a movie in the theater together with your friends and family is especially important for 'The Russian Five,' " he said by email. "We watched and cheered on our Red Wings together at the Joe, so being able to watch the film in a theater full of Red Wings fans, with everyone reliving these memories together, really is the ultimate viewing experience." 

For a list of initial Michigan theaters, go here.

For more information on the film, please visit

If you're in Austin, the film will screen Saturday, March 23rd at 5PM at AFS Cinema. For more information, please visit AFS Cinema.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

See the trailer for The Russian Five

The Russian Five is the story of how the Detroit Red Wings - desperate to be a symbol of hope and triumph for a city suffering the effects of dramatic economic upheaval - scouted Soviet hockey players before the fall of Communism and in some cases, helped them to defect to the United States so they could play in the National Hockey League. With the construction of what became known as the "Russian Five," the Red Wings ushered in a new era - and changed professional hockey forever.

Part spy movie, part sports movie, all underdog story, The Russian Five is a fun, twisty and emotional ride featuring a wide range of never before seen archival footage and animated sequences created by Russian artists. It marks the directorial debut for Josh Riehl and I feel so fortunate to have been part of the team as the film's editor.

When Josh brought the film to Austin, he had a solid assembly cut that laid out the main beats of the story. Working out of Arts + Labor with producers Steve Bannatyne and Jason Wehling, and assistant editor Ryan Vaughn, we worked with Josh to reconstruct the film's narrative arc and elevate its key emotional beats. This is a densely packed story that spans decades and Josh had spent six years on research, shooting interviews, gathering terabytes worth of archival footage and beginning the edit. It was a team effort to bring all these elements together in a matter of months so we could make our debut in Detroit to over two thousand Red Wings fans at the Fillmore Theater.

Since its festival run, The Russian Five was picked up for distribution by FilmBuff. Check out the brand new trailer below, and visit The Russian Five website to keep with news on how to see the film.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

From Moscow to Detroit to... Alton, Illinois? End-of-Summer Updates

It has been a particularly hot and muggy summer in central Texas. Luckily, when you work in post production, you spend a lot of your time indoors. While working for Flow Nonfiction, an Austin-based production company that specializes in documentary storytelling, I shared a space with three other editors. The only down side was whenever we had to take a phone call, we stepped outside. The shade from a cedar tree can keep you cool only so long.

Small Business Revolution - Main Street

Flow Nonfiction produces the reality series Small Business Revolution - Main Street, which streams on Hulu. I worked with Flow last summer on a series of videos for the Minneapolis Museum of Art. That was my first time working with director Matt Naylor and it was a great experience, so I was excited for the opportunity to join the Flow team for the third season of SBR, working (for the first time) as a Story Producer.

Small Business Revolution - Main Street was created by host Amanda Brinkman and is sponsored by Deluxe. Before each season, small towns across America compete for a revitalization grant and to be selected as the feature town on the show. Once the winning town is determined, six businesses are featured on the show as they receive a small business make over by Amanda and her marketing team at Deluxe. The town featured this season will be Alton, Illinois.

Myself and Senior Story Producer Daniel Tarr reviewed dailies and make selects for the editors. We identified the story beats we wanted to focus on and worked as sounding boards for the editors while they assembled and shaped the cuts. We also reviewed cuts and provided feedback at each stage of an episode's development.

It was a collaborative process start to finish. And while every episode has specific conceptual beats in common, the show is shot in a documentary style that invites the unexpected. This season, SBR explores some topical and challenging themes that might take fans by surprise. I'm looking forward to seeing people's reactions once it premieres in October.

Being a Story Producer combined several different roles into one: post-producer, writer, editor, even a dash of directing here and there. It's a position I could see myself taking on again in the future. It was a nice change of pace from strictly editing. On SBR, I was able to look at the story from a bit further out, which awarded me new challenges and new opportunities for growth as a filmmaker. Most important, I was lucky enough to work with one of the best crews in Austin.

Season three of Small Business Revolution Main Street launches this October on Hulu. I'll be sharing links and promo material on Twitter as we get closer to the premiere.

The Russian Five

The Russian Five continued its festival run this summer, including the Seattle International Film Festival (where it was a finalist for Best Documentary) and the Traverse City Film Festival, where it received the Audience Award for Best Documentary. We set out to make a crowd pleaser of a film, so an audience award is a testament to that vision, as well as to director Josh Riehl's tremendous and pain-staking work bringing this story to the screen. I'm really pleased it's getting seen and receiving some recognition!

The Russian Five has a few more festival dates this fall, including the upcoming Montreal Film Festival. Keep up with Russian Five news here.

Poster by Yen Tan