Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wayne Johnson on “The Nihilist”

What brought the three of you together?

WAYNE: Nick and I met a long time ago and had actually written a couple things together, including the short film, Breakables. Brendan Eddy and I met at The Minnesota School of Business when he hired me as an instructor there. After working together for a couple years we decided to make our first feature film, Ultro-Pep The Movie.

We all hung out together and when the time came for the next big project after Breakables, I suggested to Nick that we needed Brendan’s expertise to handle the major visual effects for The Nihilist and his creative input. So Brendan and I teamed up for the second time as co-directors on the film with nick as producer. Nick and I co-wrote the Script but all three of us had a hand in the final version.

What was the starting point for The Nihilist and how did you develop it?

WAYNE: I had actually had the idea for the story about 2002. I had initially decided to do it as a comic book story and had written a script and had laid out all the panels to be drawn. I just never moved on with it. The basic story was all there as far as events.

When I was talking to Nick about our next project we had both thought it would be cool to do that story and Brendan had liked the idea too, so we took the plot of my original story and fleshed it out. My goal of the story was to make a direct response to the end of Full Metal Jacket, where they state that the world is shit. So in response I wanted to put a person in one of the most horrible places in history and seeing no hope for himself or the world and have him find it in the most unlikely place, a World War I battlefield. I specifically called it The Nihilist to emphasis the worldview of the character.

What was the writing process like?

WAYNE: Nick, Brendan and I took my basic plot outline and wrote out a list of beats that we wanted to happen and what order we wanted them to happen in, about 22 beats, then I wrote a draft and Nick rewrote it and then we worked out about 10 versions.

Brendan re-worked the dialogue, which is good, because it’s not my strong suit. Then when Brendan storyboarded the film, he reworked it a bit more and as we shot it we tweaked it and of course the editing process is a final draft too.

What camera did you use to shoot the film and what did you like and hate about that format?

WAYNE: Panasonic SDX 900, DVCPRO 50 with HD lenses. The best thing about the camera and format was it’s low light capability. We could shoot at night in the dark with very little light and get a nice clean picture. The format is only SD but that camera makes the image quality look like HD.

I think the hate came from Brendan when he had to do color keys for the opening shot. I wish we could have done it in HD but the cost was out of range for that.

Your production design was awesome. What advice do you have for someone setting out to make a period piece like The Nihilist?

WAYNE: You must use reference! Brendan, Nick and I watched footage from the war. I have always been a history buff and loved WWI stuff, so it was very important that we got the feel right. There was some consideration for historical accuracy, but we defiantly found ways to get the right look.

World War I stuff is super rare and expensive, so we only had a few things, like the British coats, those are replicas made in India. The Machine Gun was a real one, that we rented in town. Also the British rifles are the correct type but newer models. Also building a real trench helped immensely. We used similar materials, as far as wood and the metal sheets.

What was the biggest lesson you took away from shooting the movie?

WAYNE: Fog, fog was a nightmare. We had to have a lot of it and in an open field that is hard. We lucked out and didn’t have much wind until the last night. Also having enough power for the fog machines was a big deal. With too much drain they would not heat up enough to work. We used 3 Industrial fog machines, a party fog machine and finally a Bug Smoker from Wal-Mart, that worked the best and kept the bugs off of us!

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

WAYNE: Time management. We shot 90% of the film in 4 nights and a Saturday morning. We had a few pick up shots for the opening scene and to rework a scene that didn’t work on set. But I have heard from most of the people on cast and crew that they had never worked on such an efficient shoot before in town. I think that is a huge achievement. Proper scheduling, proper time management, and have a plan for every scene. Organization is a must especially on a location shoot.

See the trailer to Wayne's new film:

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