Thursday, May 26, 2016

Edreace Purmul on "The Playground"

What was your filmmaking background before making The Playground?

EDREACE: From a theory perspective, I'm a continual student of film and cinema since the age of 16. In regards to application, I directed a feature called Mozlym in 2008 right after graduating film-school. The film was well received in festivals around the world, and won some local awards.

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

EDREACE: I would say it would have to have been around the time of the atrocious consecutive mass killings that had happened here in the US. I listened to the conjecture from different people about why and what would cause a person to take this course of action and it sparked something in me--which led to almost a year of research into what we as a global community perceive evil is and where it comes from.


What was the casting process like and did you adjust the script at all to fit the cast?

EDREACE: The script was slightly reworked to fit the actors natural course of speech. The casting process was a blessing wrapped in the cloak of a nightmare (which really applies to the entire production). Being on such a limited budget and coming to the realization of not having access to union actors right off the bat, you have to hedge your expectations in potential talent. Also, being in San Diego is deceiving as an independent filmmaker; as geographically you expect to have access to talents from the neighboring city and industry of LA and Hollywood, however in practicality you aren’t within radar of “the industry” and can even say it’s almost as if you aren’t even in the same state.

We were forced to see opportunity where perceptibly there was none, which is always a rewarding process as unlikely things begin to happen. We realized after some scouting that San Diego had an abundance of stage theaters and a rich gradient of stage actors. I’ve always believed that stage acting pushes acting to deeper depths as it does to audiences as well. You can’t replicate the air of a powerful stage drama in a playhouse with a screen in a cinema, they are very different feelings.

This ironically worked perfectly for the film and we ended up with an incredibly talented cast of local stage actors along with some local screen talents which were an even bigger surprise, as they carried the screen just as well. I found myself in a basket of incredibly rich talent when I had initially feared we may end up filling roles with trusted friends and family members! Best surprise any director can have.


What type of camera did you use and what did you love (and hate) about it?

EDREACE: We shot in 4K digital on a RED camera. After working with it so intimately, it was definitely the way to go, as after the learning curve, it progressively made life much easier for everyone. Digital is already actor, DP, gaffer, AC, production design, make-up, and director friendly. The RED made it that much more easier, as naturally our challenges on set came from all sides and angles, so I valued its reliability and was very impressed by its potency.


Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, why did you make the changes?

EDREACE: Get ready for the secret....The film was actually written as an episodic in five parts of thirty minute chapters.

Once we started looking at it in the editing room, thirty minutes on paper turned into forty-five minutes on screen. Also, I realized that even though the film had suspense and intrigue, the earlier chapter segments by themselves didn’t have enough meat on them to segment off as a complete episode. We then had to adjust halfway through and add some more bits of filming in order to be the glue to stretch this out as a two-parter, each film being an hour and change.

Once I saw the momentum of part one fizzle out after being cut by a credit sequence, I slowly began to listen to my gut feeling about it as one complete feature. This was something I felt from the the first draft of the script but I ignored it. Eventually, once we started cutting a lot of fat off the film (and I mean good fat and even some bits of top sirloin!) the film shed some weight and we were able to get it all into a two and half hour full-figured film. The transference of medium was almost meant to be told this way.


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

EDREACE: Probably keeping an industry-friendly timeline. We literally crammed an honest 2-3 months of filming into 30 days.

The biggest challenge was definitely the balancing act of the amount of work we had per day, trying to maintain a professional atmosphere, and keeping it light enough to foster enthusiasm and morale.

On the learning lessons, we had a few very rough nights many hours into the AM that tested everyone’s patience and ability to focus. There was one night I had to succumb to the crew’s consensus that it wouldn’t be in our best interest to setup our last shot - they were burned out and exhausted, and we were in the most precarious part of town.

Each location presented its own challenge as we really had to adapt entirely to it, we didn’t have a controlled studio to adjust to us, it was the other way around. I’m still incredibly impressed on how we managed to survive some of the days we shot under such incredible pressure and unstable environments. Only prayers could have consistently bailed us out of these situations, luck doesn’t hit that many times.


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


EDREACE: Trust your gut. Know when to cut your losses. Listen to opinions, especially the smart ones :) Sweat saves blood. Prepare, prepare, prepare, put your faith in God, and then execute. Can't go wrong with that recipe.

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