“Checking The Gate” is a filmmaking term for checking the actual film gate on a film camera to see if there's any hair or dust that would cause the exposed film to be imperfect.
It's ironic that I chose this name for the first feature film I directed as it was shot entirely on digital video, not film. This was 2000, the very beginning of the Digital Era which has now all but overtaken film even on the highest levels of production. Shot on a canon XL1 and edited on Final Cut Pro version 1, “Checking The Gate” was a micro budget Crime/Fiction feature film made for under $30,000 and it shows. It was a B movie that had a heart, and while the central core of the story was compelling, there were a lot of elements that the executive producer wanted in it, like gratuitous amounts of sex and violence, that he thought would help sell the film. It did sell and get distribution, which is a miracle in and of itself for a movie of this scale with no name talent. But in my heart of hearts I really wished I had stood my ground and left most of those elements out. Nevertheless the story is still sound and well told -- if it had had a budget of a million or more it would have found a much bigger audience.
While I have grown tremendously as a filmmaker and a person, and have long since moved on to more worthy, non-exploitative endeavors, I have to appreciate having had the opportunity to direct CTG. It was my in-depth "film school" experience where I learned everything from writing a shootable script, scheduling and budgeting, shooting video, sound, lighting, effects, editing, to marketing and distribution. It was a small crew and we had to do it all.
In the many years since my first feature CTG, I've focused primarily on biographies and more inspirational, human-interest stories and I have been fortunate enough to receive several awards for these projects. I'm looking forward to doing many more as well as doing something for YOU.
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Jess Thomas – Writer, Director, Producer