Thursday, October 15, 2015

Shannon Cloud and Kent Juliff on “Summer Night”

What was your filmmaking background before making Summer Night

KENT: Like most folks who worked on the film, and probably most folks our age in general, I grew up around little DV cameras. In middle school, following my older brother's model, I used these to make silly hip-hop music videos with my friends.

That turned into attempts at sketch comedy, and by high school, some very serious art films. Looking back, those were pretty silly too, but we took them awfully seriously at the time.  Haha, I'd say 17 was when I started losing sleep thinking about them. That's when I started saying "film," probably.

SHANNON: For me, I figured out my passion at a filmmaking summer camp in Dallas called Kamp Hollywood.

KENT: I was part of a, no-joke, "formative" audio video program in high school. Run by a dude who cared enough to actually let kids fall in love with cinema in his classroom. I'm so thankful for that time. To find out entire worlds of cinema exist is very exciting and I was able to share that with some other really sharp, inspired kids in the side hall of my high school by the Agriculture and 4-H classrooms. Big shouts out Scott Faulk. 

SHANNON: We were both fortunate to have programs that supported young people holding cameras and looking through them. That alone can inspire a lot.

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?  

KENT: I'm not sure. Lots of little things over time. Talking with Shannon and JD. Jokes, conversations, daydream stuff. Some wild stuff happens in life, man.

SHANNON: Kent would come over and talk through scenes he had in mind. Dialogue, shot structure, tone. I typed them as we went and before long we'd formed a pretty traditional script.

KENT: Very few people saw that though. Haha. 

How did you cast the movie and did the script change much once you had your cast in place? 

KENT: Much of the picture is inspired by conversations I had in real life, often with the same folks I'm having them with on screen.

SHANNON:  We're all friends and almost all of the actors do stand-up or improv in town. We love being a part of these communities, so it's fun to be able to show them off. 

KENT:  We did have casting calls for some extras.  Sometimes friends of friends that become friends pretty quickly.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it? 

KENT: We shot on a 5D. It's quick. You can move it around during takes super easily but it's heavy enough to not shake. Also we shot the whole thing on old SLR lenses, which are super fast and beautiful.

SHANNON:  We didn’t rent any equipment.  We have kind friends that generously lent us their equipment or would bring their equipment to the shoots. It's great to have folks who believe in what you're doing.

What was your process for capturing dialogue and mixing? 

KENT:  We pretty much had one mic for each scene. No lavs or anything. It wasn't attached to the camera or anything. Usually just between the folks talking. We wanted to capture the noise of a place. Films have a habit of sterilizing environments, I think.

SHANNON: Our friend Morgan Honaker mixed and EQ'd everything.

KENT: Shouts out Morgan Honaker.

How much did the story change in the editing process and why did you make the changes you did? 

KENT: We were lucky to be able to edit the film as we were shooting. We got to look at what we had, see what it was becoming, and follow that. We talk a lot about the importance of living with a film.

SHANNON: I think it’s interesting how on a traditional film shoot the filmmakers watch the dailies at the end of a day of shooting.  With our shoot, we’d shoot for half a day then Kent would edit all night and Snapchat me a video at like 7:15 am. It's 2015.

KENT: Haha. Editing was great. We got a lot of shots and sounds each time we filmed but not in a traditional "coverage" sense. In a way it feels like very little changed. The decisions that were made in editing were more about how to present the story, I think. A lot of feeling. One frame this way or that. Something just knows.

Have you considered expanding it into a feature and, if so, what is your plan?

KENT: Nahh.

SHANNON: We’re ready to do something new; we make an effort to be honest in our films and we learn a lot each time so it will probably be similar to Summer Night but better and dealing with new stuff.

KENT: I want to work with the same people but yeah we're looking forward. Stay tuned fam. It'll be free.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest? 

KENT: For me, surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me.  Keeping the set small and full of people who care about what they are doing. It was actually a ton of fun to make.

SHANNON:  During the restaurant scene we had a light person, sound person, three camera people and all these extras around Kent and J.D.’s table.  Kent came up to me after the first take and we asked everyone to sit down, eat, and chat with one another. Then it was just another two guys at a table. I wasn’t even sure when they were rolling and when they weren't! I think it got a lot better.   

KENT:  Haha. That was probably what we did dumb too. Sacrificing lighting and sound for atmosphere and performance. I don't know. I'd do it again. Sometimes efficiency isn't the best for art.  We went back to that arcade several days.  We could've gone fewer nights and gotten more done. But those scenes aren't supposed to have the urgency that comes with having 12 more things to shoot that night.

SHANNON: We were all just hanging out and shooting at the same time.  If we had rented equipment or had a tight budget or something, we’d need to change our attitude about planning efficiently.  

KENT: No budget is better than low budget.

And, finally, what did you learn from making this short that you will take to other projects?

SHANNON: We have confidence in what works best for us as a team.  We don’t naturally work at the same pace as other filmmakers. 

KENT: A lot of films we see being made are shot over three of four, back2back, 12-hour days, a lot which is spent waiting around for gaffers. (obviously no offense to the art.)  

It's inspiring to hear about Cassavetes or Godard living on set like they did and you can see that energy in their films but it's still hard. To do it ourselves and have something that we are proud of and people are telling us they enjoy is great.

A lot of cinematic philosophy never makes it's way out of preproduction. To receive the kind of recognition we have for a movie we made for like $26 is awesome. So yeah man. Keep a look out.

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