Thursday, October 29, 2015

Nick Matthews on "One Eyed Girl"

What was your filmmaking background before One Eyed Girl?

NICK: I grew up making films with my friends. Most memorable from the early years was a Kung Fu film called Revenge of the Dragon we made when I would have been about fifteen. It was inspired by Bruce Lee films. My high school friends and I went to charity stores and bought clothes from the 70s to replicate the look. I recall wearing a skin tight mustard body shirt and flares that were so tight I could barely walk, never mind do karate moves!

We all did everything back then. Film sets were egalitarian. We all just mucked in and wrote the script as we went along, based on what we could find on the day…a cat, a toy gun, my mum, that sort of thing. For the last few months of high school, each week we had a round of multiple choice psychology testing from a career counselor…Would you rather a) paint a wall or b)plant a tree….At the end of the year in the last session we were given the results. My counselor looked at me with a hamstrung expression and handed me a computer print-out that read FILM AND TELEVISION INDUSTRIES. I think she went on to say something about “a back up plan.”

I wasn’t sure then if I wanted to act or make films so I enrolled in a bit of everything. I did an honours degree in Film, Drama, and English literature at The Flinders University in South Australia. When I had completed my studies in Australia I took off to Europe as I was a holder of a British passport. I moved first to France, where, after a stint as an English teacher to fairly unreceptive French factory workers who had compulsory classes, I ended up filming fashion parades and industrial films. I then lived in London for a few years.

My first ever proper production was the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. I was the trainee video assistant. That’s the guy who runs the cables from the monitors (for the Director to watch the action) to the cameras. It was intense, muddy, freezing cold and very very poorly paid, but quite an introduction to the industrial filmmaking machine. It’s budget was around one hundred and fifty million US we were told. I got to watch some wonderful actors, directors and technicians at work. I also saw a lot of fighting and politics, and I got to understand that English film-sets are a microcosm of British society and its class system.

For the next ten years I worked mostly in camera departments in all the various roles until I became a Director of photography somehow. I also produced an independent feature called 2:37 that I photographed and co-edited. It was selected for Un Certain Regard in Cannes in 2006 which opened a few doors and first took me to the US, and to the world of agents and managers and the dangers of the Chateau Marmont.

The last feature I shot before I moved into directing was an American kids film entitled Broken Hill, that starred Oscar winner Timothy Hutton replete with Australian accent…with traces of Irish and Scottish, and Alexa Vega from the Spykids franchise.

When I started seriously thinking about directing, I luckily got into a drunken conversation at a bar with an Editor I’d worked with, David Ngo, who wanted to move into producing. We formulated a plan.


Where did the idea come from how did you and Craig Behenna work together on the script?

NICK: I attended an alternative high school in the hills outside of Adelaide, and I think without knowing it I’d always wanted to explore that experience. Don’t get me wrong, It was mostly a very positive, interesting, expansive, time but there was something about its relationship with the real world that has always been a source of tension for me and perhaps for the institution too. We would get eyed off on the buses to and from school. The name of the place was Marbury.  All the shiny looking kids in uniforms from regular schools would say stuff to us like “are you from that smoking school Malboro?”.

There was indeed something called “The smoking rule”. It meant that if you were sixteen (the legal age of smoking) you could have one per day. But you had to lock yourself into the toilet and smoke it whilst the teacher waited outside for you to finish. It was a wonderful way of de-glamorizing smoking. The school principal was smart and charismatic but also arrogant and stubborn and perhaps narcissistic. At times things got a little bit Lord of the Flies.

So one day I came to Craig and to Producer David with a notion of a thriller about someone in the push-pull of a cult. Craig and I had written together before, and we had, and have, a great system of sitting across from each other in the same room; “laptops at ten paces” we call it. We discuss story and then write scenes. We then send the work to each other, and we add or subtract and adapt each others work and we end up with a movie. Simple!…


Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

NICK: We were very lucky that we were accepted into a program called Filmlab in South Australia. It was a government funded system designed to foster key creatives in a small film industry that had in recent years, become simply a service provider of crews and locations for interstate and overseas productions. There were no creators coming out of our city.  The powerbrokers of our screen agency, the South Australian Film Corporation, set about changing that.

The scheme provided a modest budget to make an independent feature film. Our producer, David Ngo, then raised a little more money privately, and we were off to the races. We were also very blessed by the fact that our Producer also owned a boutique post-production facility that backed the film, in lieu of a traditional completion guarantor.

In terms of recoupment, put simply, we set about making a film that could be defined as a genre piece. Right from the beginning David and I said we wanted to make a film for an audience despite it’s fairly small budget.

Thankfully the reception has been promising so far. We’ve only just hit Australian cinemas in the last week with other territories to follow. We’re also very lucky that the budget is made principally of soft money and is sub-one million. That’s a very rare position to be in.

As a first time director, I suppose you have to be realistic that you might not make any money out of it. What you hope is that your investors get their money back and that you get another job, one you’ll pull a wage on. Things are looking promising.


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

NICK: Was it Woody Allen that said 90% of film directing is casting? Well I think there are a lot of things that are 90% of film directing.

What I know for sure is that if you get casting wrong, nothing can save your movie. Authenticity and suspension of disbelief are your currency. If people have that nagging feeling that they don’t quite believe, then you’ve lost them, and no amount of car chases or explosions will save your movie.

The weird thing is that when I cast One Eyed Girl I had no pressure to make commercial choices. The film’s finance was not attached to cast at all. So I set about trying to find smart actors that I could converse with, to create a group that could form the jigsaw puzzle; the world of the film.

It’s endlessly fascinating to me, making this puzzle. Sometimes great actors just don’t look right together…I suppose that’s why Hollywood has that tradition of the screen chemistry test. I didn’t have that luxury. Nor did I have a casting agent. I just went on gut feeling.

The first person I cast was Lachlan Wilson, a young guy who I knew from a local rock band in Adelaide. Somehow his face was a starting point for me. It was like the starter culture in the dish. Even though his part was small, his unusual outsider quality and charisma helped define in my head what the men on the farm (the cult) would look like. He’s only in the film for a couple of minutes (he’s seen force feeding the lead actor a herbal potion).

Strangely enough, the last character I cast was Travis, the protagonist. We got weeks away from shooting and I just could not find him. I was tearing my hair out and the Producer was having a go at it too! So many wonderful actors by this stage were keen too. But I tell you, I’m so glad I held out. I think Mark Winter who was referred to me by a mutual friend at the final hour is the real deal. I looked at his show reel and I thought it was terrible - full of horrible moments from quirky short films. But I remember just freezing the reel at one point and thinking; “I want to know this guy. I want to know what he’s thinking” (a terrible cliché I know) I remember showing him to the producer and saying “you’ll want to watch this guy getting kicked in the nuts”…which in a nutshell is what happens in the film…in a nut shell. He agreed.

It was about finding someone who has a kind of rhythm that’s off the beat a little; he’s one of those people that you have to sort of wind up and then just let him go.  

The script changed a hell of a lot along the way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The cast brought a fresh perspective to the dialogue. I think that’s one of the the tricky parts of directing…working out when you should listen to an actor who says “I don’t want to say this, can I say bla bla instead….” 

You have to work out when it can work well to have an actor say something he or she doesn’t want to say. Sometimes people say things that are self destructive. Sometimes people say that sound against type. I suppose it’s also one of the joys (and hells) of being a writer and director. You’re always tweaking. And your never obeying the script as gospel. I mean sometimes you hear something you wrote and you think to yourself “that’s just bloody awful, what the hell was I thinking?!”.

That’s what’s so great about working with people like Mark and Steve Le Marquand and Tilda Coham-Hervey and Craig Behenna (who co-wrote and acted), it means the conversation keeps going until the sun’s going down. I like the expression “twitching hour” for twilight. We used to say that when I was a DP; it’s that time when everyone’s getting twitchy. 


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

NICK: We used an ARRI ALEXA with a big box on top of it that recorded in raw. I forget the name of the thing. But it’s super quality and I suppose for someone like me that grew up with film, actually celluloid, it looks to me most like it out of any digital format I’ve seen.

For a start the camera fits with all the proper old film bits and the footage does have an almost organic feel if you put proper lenses on it like Cookes. But I miss film. I miss the smell of it and the sound of it whirring away in the camera. I miss hearing about gate checks…that wonderful moment when, as a first AC, everyone’s waiting on your word “THE GATE’S CLEAR!!!”. And everyone whoops with delight.

I suppose that’s very nostalgic isn’t it? I suppose it’s like old men talking about the sound of a WW2 Spitfire flying overhead or the clickety-clack of the horse and cart. God I’ve become one of those people. Well that’s what I hate about it. I hate that it’s not real, and that everyone hovers around the video split watching the television like the film’s ready. Working with film, people would be more present observing the actual set and using ancient knowledge to get things right. Now everyone’s jostling to watch the TV. It’s damn hard not to look but sometimes I tell myself that next time I’ll try and do a Peter Weir and just sit under the tripod and be close to the cast. Be in the moment!


Given your background  as a cinematographer why did you decide to turn that job over to someone else for this movie?

NICK: I find the headspaces are very different for me. I like working with DPs now. And I’m really happy to be free to run all over the set not holding that giant heavy damn thing all day long.

It’s great to know something about lenses and lighting and blocking. It’s a great start as a Director, but my headspace needs to be principally with the cast when we’re on set. I need to be able to talk that language of being, of identity, of rigorously hunting for the truth; ”what does she want..?” or  “what do you think he needs from her…?”  It’s all the internal stuff. It’s believing in the characters as real people and their moments. I find that’s a very different headspace.

As a DP you are looking at people in the world you’re creating. As a director you are looking with these people at the world you’re creating. I think the great thing about learning the mechanics of film-sets before you direct is that you can be efficient in that side of it when you’re on set which leaves you with more energy for performance and the big picture.

I was lucky to be working with a sensitive DP on One Eyed Girl. Jody Muston has an eye for the gothic. We would send each other mood photos for months before shooting. It’s strange how you kind of forget them when you’re on set, but they’ve somehow seeped in, without you realizing it. So later you look at the rushes and (in the case of One Eyed Girl) think “yeh we made a Scandinavian crime drama. We got there.”

It also helps to have amazing Production Design to shoot. Our first time designer Anny Duff and I spent about a year driving around looking for locations and sourcing clothes from charity shops and working out in our heads what this world feels like. She too attended alternative schooling and she used that understanding to create a really authentic, dark and beautiful look.

I used to have a running joke when I was a DP, that when people commended me on my cinematography, I would say “It’s not me it’s the production design and the music”…I maintain that view to a large degree; when the art and wardrobe is right and the music hits the right tone, people get swept away by a simple dolly shot and they say - “Wow amazing cinematography!”.

So I’d say that cinematography does not exist in isolation. It should be appreciated as a very tricky craft but it should be appreciated as a collaboration of many elements: wonderful design, an emotionally authentic score (in our case from Michael Darren) and an edit that makes the story compelling and puts the weight where it needs to be (done brilliantly by our Editor David Ngo)


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

NICK: Yes it’s always easy to look back. The smartest thing I did was read every acting book on the planet. I had to get myself into that head-space and remember what that’s like to be on the other side of the camera. I hadn’t done a great deal of acting for some time. I will never stop being fascinated by that craft. I am always in awe of actors…or “be-ers” as I like to think of them. Acting should be taught in school to everyone. To be able to know what you feel and then feel safe enough to show it…this is fundamental to evolved, realised, human beings. We’d probably have fewer wars if more drama was taught. I suppose I’m ranting now

The dumbest thing I did?…I don’t know but I’m sure some expert will tell me on the IMDB discussion forum or some such.

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

NICK: Well other than commercials I have not had another project yet. The producer and I have been busy releasing the film and all the palaver that comes with that.

I’m reading scripts from the US now that I have a wonderful manager there (Peter Dealbert) and I’m writing again.

The only thing I can really say to that is that what I hope is that the more work I do the more I will learn both in life and film to trust my instincts. They rarely lie. A psychotherapist from Portland that I read sometimes, the grandly named Robert Augustus Masters, says “don’t judge your judgments."


I need a t-shirt with that on it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Christopher Kelley on “Full Frame”


What was your filmmaking background before making Full Frame?

CHRIS: Filmmaking infected me in college & has been gestating ever since.  There was no film program at Quincy University, so I convinced professors to give me course & independent study credits in classes that hadn't existed since the '70s.  My filmmaking process was clumsy; I was like a newborn discovering how my own fingers worked.  But there was something there and I knew I wanted to keep exploring until it killed me.

From there, I graduated, shot news & commercials for WGEM - a local TV station, watched tons of movies, wasted a LOT of time, met my wife, started my own production business, and constantly talked about how someday I was going to make a living through motion pictures.

Then, one fateful evening, I was having a conversation with actor/filmmaker Greg Ellery (who played the sudden character Steven in Tommy Wiseau's classic The Room) when my genius, talented, beautiful wife Victoria said, "Why are we talking about making a movie?  Why don't we just make one?"  Thus began our foray into the world of practically-almost-no-budget feature filmmaking.  

We had been urged not to do it: "You can't make a movie this way.  Go to LA, go through the right channels, raise X amount of money, hire a proper crew."  But we weren't proper filmmakers and I had no interest in doing it somebody else's way.  We wanted to make a movie, we figured out a way to do it...so we did it.  

We made two features before Full Frame.

Our first was Hampshire: A Ghost Story - shot in 2008, released in 2009/10 on VOD & Netflix - the worst, yet most successful of our pictures!  Financed by a small loan from a local bank, we bought HD gear, cast some locals, and shot it almost entirely in a restaurant owned by a friend.  The HD gear paid for itself through hired work and VOD sales took care of the rest.

Our second feature was Villainy for the Lonely - shot in 2011, released in 2013/14 on Indieflix, Vimeo-On-Demand, & VHX.com.  It was more ambitious, very kinetic, and ultimately cheaper than Hampshire, but not as successful.  Because of its bizarre hybrid of genres and wacky style, the distributors who were interested in looking at it had no idea how to market it.  From that production, our "Villainy Family" - a collection of dedicated filmmakers - was born and continued to grow as we made Full Frame.


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

CHRIS: I remember being on a paid gig and wondering what would happen if I walked into the next room and found a dead body.  Would I scream and run away?  Would I be the next target?  Could I overcome adversity or would I take hush money?   My brain is always coming up with random, morbid thoughts like that.  The other thing that happened was that I spent a lot of nights watching the early, less famous Hitchcock pictures and decided to write something...not a Hitchcock movie, but maybe a movie that inhabits the slums of his universe.

I started writing the script as a simple story of an everyman (or woman) who sees something he shouldn't have and spends much of the picture in a game of cat-and-mouse.  My dark & absurd sense of humor took over and, what slowly emerged, were these wild & slightly twisted scenes that I couldn't wait to shoot.  The script was written in little pockets of time that were stolen between paid creative jobs through parts of 2013 and early 2014.

My wife & producing partner, Victoria, would give me feedback as I described scenes to her during the writing process, but she waited until the first draft was done to read it from start to finish.  Victoria hated the main character, at first.  I wrote him as much more weak and arrogant in the first draft because I wanted a dramatic transformation over the course of the movie.  Once Frankie came on board as the Photographer, he was able to put a likable spin on the character's flaws through his performance and ended up changing Victoria's opinion.


Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your distribution plan for recouping your costs?

CHRIS: Half of our whopping $8,000 budget was financed directly from mine and Victoria's bank account.  Since we mostly shot the movie on weekends around our actors' lives and schedules, we were constantly working hired gigs throughout the week to pay our own bills AND pay for the movie. 

The other half came from our executive producers - Michael & Kathy Bayles, Bill & Kathleen Birsic, and Chris & LeAnn Zwick - all of whom are extremely generous and want the picture to succeed almost as much as we do!  Money was spent on meals for cast & crew, props, wardrobe, music licensing, the first round of festival submissions, and other essentials...no cocaine.

We're pushing hard to build an audience with this picture...it's our best one, yet, and we're already getting attention with just one screening so far.  So, we have a self-distribution plan ready to fire as soon as our festival circuit ends, but we're keeping our options open.  The business of film is something I'm constantly learning more and more about, which is another way of saying I don't know much of anything.  But, luckily, I have people close to me who do and I'm at least smart enough to ask for help.

I remember with our first movie, Hampshire, we got a few distribution offers that were basically: "Sign this; we'll own your movie forever and give you nothing" but in fancy legal-speak.  A friend in the business translated the contract and we, thankfully, went in a different direction.


What drove your choice to shoot in black and white and impact did that have on production and your plans for distribution?

CHRIS: In our pre-production conversations about Full Frame, we talked a lot about thrillers and film noir from the '30s & '40s - everything from the exaggerated style of acting, to the tendency towards a long setup before the plot takes off, to the black and white look with hard shadows and heavy contrast.  We were looking to blend a lot of those classic elements with modern movie elements.  The black and white was a natural fit, though we DO have pops of color - not as intense as Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller's Sin City.

The benefit during production was that we could get away with using lighting kits with different color temperatures.  We mixed tungsten, LED, compact fluorescent, and available light - many times in the same shot.  You can imagine what a sloppy mess that looks like in color!  But after our color grade, which consisted of two different passes using FilmConvert, the mix worked to achieve the look we were after...a slightly tinted B&W.

There were feelings expressed how a younger audience might be turned off by the black and white...also by the way certain characters speak & behave, as well as the fact that we spend the first 20 or so minutes setting the stage.  Some people don't have the patience; they want immediate action.  We want the action and plot to hook you, so that when it finally takes off, you're invested.

But, anyway, regarding how all that will impact plans for distribution...we're not yet playing with serious money, so what the fuck; let's try it out!


You wore a lot -- a lot! -- of hats on this project (writer, director, DP, producer, editor). What's the upside and the downside to doing that?

CHRIS: It started out as necessity and just stuck.  When John Carpenter was asked why he scores his own films, he said, "I'm fast and I'm cheap."  Exactly the same reasons, as well as the primary upside, to why I wear so many hats.  I don't pay myself for doing any of it and, because I AM multiple departments, there are no additional meetings or conferences and each of those departments are on the same page...in theory.  

Everything moves fast, which is crucial because some days we only have a few hours to work and other days I've ambitiously scheduled 30+ setups on my shot list.  

Decisions are made quickly, especially when problems arise.  In both Full Frame and our previous movie, Villany, there were major issues that suddenly popped up leading towards complete shutdown, indefinite hiatus, or script rewrites.  In both cases, we quickly made the decision to move forward, I spent a brief hiatus rewriting scenes and structure, and we were back at it. 

But the upside can be as equally a downside.  Instead of fine-tuning performances on set, I'm busy with the lights.  If everything moves as quickly as it does, we're not giving everything the amount of scrutiny we should from shot-to-shot, line-to-line.  In the end, I suffer through my mistakes in the editing room...but at least it's me and not someone else who has to deal with it!

I love directing, operating the camera, and editing.  I hate producing; I just want to show up and create with the actors and not worry about HOW everything I need to create got there.  I would also like to partner up with a writer & turn over DP duties to a pro (as long as I get the chance to operate from time-to-time).

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

CHRIS: We shot on the Canon 5DmkIII.  The primary lens was a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8.  We also used a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (for crop sensors, so we kept it at 16mm for the full frame 5D), a Canon 50mm f/1.2, a Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8, and a Canon 17-40mm f/4.

Like a lot of filmmakers, I fell in love with DSLRs.  We spent so long trying to replicate the look of film with cheaper, digital tools - added film grain, filmstock color curves, 24-frames-per-second motion - that, when I bought the 7D in 2010, I thought I had found my soul mate.  Little did I know that my obsession with cameras would only grow from there.  We used the 5D2 for Villainy and bought the 5D3 the day it was released.

The 5D3 is great for how we make movies: lightweight, a complement to the speed we were working at, small enough to fit almost anywhere without tearing things apart, and it looks terrific.  No camera is perfect, though; however, the issues we had were fairly minor.  The internal codec is one.  I like to push the footage hard in post-production - it doesn't take much before the 5D3's image starts to crumble.  Also, the HDMI out is delicate.  Mine was damaged with a slight bit of use.  So, when the camera's positioned in such a way that you desperately need an external monitor to frame and focus, we had to get creative to make sure everything was correct.


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

CHRIS: Luckily, the story didn't change much in editing.  Our biggest change came midway through the shoot when an actor's family tragedy prompted a minor rewrite.  Beyond that, a few scenes were cut from the script before we shot them for reasons of time (meaning we just ran out) and pre-editorial decisions...where I just knew I was going to cut it anyway.  

Editing shaped certain scenes, gave them more life, or cut them completely.  I have never been more liberal with my proverbial scissors than this picture.  Does the shot or scene work, look good, further the story or develop the characters?  Even more so: Can the story live without this shot or scene?  If so, cut it.  Cut-cut-cut.  Get on with it.  

There was one scene where the main character shows a sign of strength when he's harassed by the big baddie's muscle. It was too early in his arc.  I needed him to hit the bottom before he rises back up.  So I chucked the whole scene.

There were others where chunks of dialogue were tossed.  Let's keep it economical and get to the good stuff.  Cut it!

After being away from the picture for a time and seeing it again with an audience, I could have cut so much more.  In fact, after saying that, I started considering it.  But, no.  Director David Fincher said movies "aren't finished; they're abandoned."  I'd like to say I've finally abandoned Full Frame!

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

CHRIS: The smartest thing I did was casting.  For being non-professionals who squeezed in the time between their normal lives, they really embodied their characters in a way I never expected.  We found a trust in each other that will only grow as we move forward with the next project; I have high expectations for the results!  Part of that has to do with creating a family environment with out cast & crew.

The dumbest thing I did was worry too much about people's interest.  Because everyone was a volunteer, we pushed very hard to keep things moving.  My assumption was that the cast and crew were only present because I asked them to be.  That was a stupid way to look at the situation.  Yes, everyone had lives and families and other responsibilities, but they were really into it.  Rushing things because I was worried the cast would walk if things didn't pick up tended to hurt the shot.  Finally one actor, Justin Goodwin grabbed me and said "Relax and take your time; we all want to be here, so don't worry if we're having fun every single minute...because we love this."  

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

CHRIS: Every project is a learning experience.  With every project comes another tiny lesson relating to one thing: Do More Preparation. 

Watching our previous pictures is an act of masochism for me...and this may just be wishful thinking on my part...but every shot I got wrong or scene that didn't work or story issue that didn't quite make sense WOULD NOT have happened had I just prepared more.  

In the next project, I'll tell myself: "Just when you think you've got it all planned out & rehearsed, plan & rehearse some more."  

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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