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James Kelty: Indie & Documentary Filmmaker

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James Kelty: Indie & Documentary Filmmaker
A Creative COW Production Report



James Kelty
an interview with
James Kelty
James Kelty & Associates, Cambria, California USA
Article Focus:
James Kelty has always considered himself more of a writer-director than an editor. But in today's ever changing production world, Jim recently found himself without the editor with whom he'd worked for years. It was at this point that he began calling longtime friend and Creative Cow co-founder, Ron Lindeboom, asking which way should he go to remain competitive. Ron encouraged Jim that he was a great storyteller and that editing would come natural to him using today's tools. Jim, as a writer-director whose past projects have included "mega-wall" three big-screen spreads for the California State Museum in Sacramento and whose recent projects have included documentaries with Danny Glover narrating, found that editing has come naturally thanks to his friends at the Cow. Today, Jim participates in a wide range of Cow forums and helps lead in our Indie Film & Documentaries forum. Here is his story...




James Kelty, a writer/producer in Cambria, California, does not consider himself a technical person. "He's a storyteller, someone very gifted in finding the essence of the humanity in the stories he communicates," says longtime friend and Creative Cow co-founder, Ron Lindeboom. "He also has a great eye for catching the shot and with these skills, he brings his stories to life. It's one of the reasons that he's been able to enlist the help of some rather big names in some of his productions." But when the editor with whom he had worked for years moved and began working in another city, Jim realized that he better learn some of the technical side if he wanted to stay competitive among clients aware of dropping technology prices. He knew he’d have to purchase an affordable system and learn the ins and outs of the system well enough to add “editor” to his list of skills. So, after researching the many options available with Creative Cow users and leaders, Jim finally decided that for him, Pinnacle's CinéWave was the way he'd go. "I am more of a storyteller than a compositor and the editing features of the CinéWave and Final Cut Pro combination made great sense to me," says Jim. "With advice from the online forums at Creative Cow I soon taught myself Final Cut and in talking with the users it only confirmed that CinéWave was the piece of the puzzle I needed to make a professional product that I could deliver to my broadcast and government clients who make up the bulk of my work,” adds Kelty.


Producer:

Kelty is an award-winning producer with a solid list of credits in museum media, documentaries, and instructional programs. He produced a series several years ago called “America the Bountiful,” that was hosted by Ed Begley Jr. It traced the history of American food production from Indians domesticating crops to the latest bio-technology issues. The series aired on the History Channel and PBS. His most recent documentary, “Allensworth,” features Danny Glover as host. He is also a published author currently seeking partners to co-produce his environmental thriller novel, “Ragged Point,” into a full-length feature film.


Writer:

"Jim's story 'Ragged Point' is a great piece of work," says Ron Lindeboom. "It takes place here in Central California along the southern end of the beautiful Big Sur coastline where we live. The story starts in the days of the Spanish Padres and the early missions and moves across the centuries into the present. It's a murder mystery that weaves together ancient Salinan Native American beliefs and modern thought. It's a wonderful story that one day I hope to see on the big screen. There's nothing like it and the scope and depth of the story is stunning."


Technician:

In a recent "refurb" of an existing project that Jim had created for the Golden State Museum in California, he was asked to update a giant three-screen project he had created five years earlier. When he did the project the first time around, he was responsible for the writing and the producing of the piece. When it came time to update it, Jim was now a one-man shop -- without the collaboration that naturally springs from a team environment -- doing all his editing on the FCP/CinéWave system. This meant he now had to figure out how to do it all himself. That’s when he turned to the most collaborative environment he could find – the Internet. “I got great help on the Creative Cow Final Cut forum,” said Kelty. “I posted my question, and that night I got two posts back explaining exactly how to do it. In the space of one day I had it done in terms of understanding it.”

The project entailed three programs running in sync side-by-side across three large screens to create a single massive videowall presentation. The overall aspect ratio was 8 feet high by 30 feet wide, and each screen was 8x10 feet.

“You’ve got archive photos you do moves on, and as you move, the images have to move seamlessly from one screen to another if you really want to take advantage of the format,” explained Kelty about what he learned from the forum. “The overall aspect ratio is 3x12. If you want to treat it as a 3x12 show -- and not three individual 3x4 shows -- each screen has to have a portion of the entire 3x12 show on it. It’s just cropped so you’re only seeing one part of it. Everything’s all there, all the time – it’s just cropped.”

Kelty had to shoot new footage for the piece, so he also had to adjust the way he usually shoots a scene to account for the different display format.

“We went out with a 35mm camera and pointed it at a mountain range. We started by shooting the left third of the 3x12 space, then panned to the center, then to the right. We tried to have visual markers for the edge of the frames. When we got those images and stacked them up on the timeline, they made one complete 3x12 picture. Although we realized, perceptually, that there are three separate vanishing points, it still seems to work. Other people use an anamorphic lens for this type of project, but I like my approach because I got more resolution onto the screen.”

Kelty was able to acquire and edit everything without a hitch in CinéWave and the output on the giant screens looked exactly the way he intended. “There were no problems doing it all in CinéWave once I learned how to do it,” he said. “People have worked with up to 5 screens this way. It’s pretty amazing.”

Online collaboration proved to be a successful alternative to working with a team of people, but Kelty is still looking for other producers, editors, and writers to work with on current and upcoming projects.


Projects:

He has made a name for himself by doing historical projects that give viewers some insight into the stories and people behind events in California history. His most recent project, "Allensworth," is a 40-minute documentary about a town in California founded by the children of former slaves. Danny Glover provides the voiceover, and the program presents re-enactments and historical evidence to re-tell the story of Allensworth’s settlers. It is specifically designed for the visitor’s center at Allensworth State Historic Park near Bakersfield, but Kelty also hopes to develop it into a TV program.

The documentary was shot on film and telecined to Beta. One of the more difficult effects Kelty created using CinéWave with Final Cut Pro and Knoll Light Factory was chromakeying a night sky with a girl looking up into it. “Getting stars to twinkle realistically – you can’t believe how hard that is,” he said. “They don’t all blink at the same time. It’s really hard to do a night sky, I found. But I finally did it. I think it looks as good as any of the night skies I’ve seen in the movies.”

His ability to continue doing the types of projects he was doing before he took on the editing responsibilities is a testament to the professional output and powerful capabilities of the CinéWave/Final Cut Pro combination and his own eye for what works visually. “I’m not a technical person, but I’ve been able to do a lot with Final Cut Pro and CinéWave,” said Kelty. “All I know is it works and the quality is good.”

To learn more about Jim Kelty’s work or to contact him about possible partnerships, visit www.keltyassoc.com or email him directly at jkelt@charter.net.

###


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