MANCHESTER: Prior to making The Things We've Seen, I was directing short films and commercial work. I founded my own company with a few colleagues while in film school, and was continuing to push through the festival scene, eventually seeing our work land on HBO as one of the Top 200 Finalists of Project Greenlight's 2015 season.
About a year and a half before we would begin filming the feature film, I wrote and directed a short scene study using the same characters that would later appear in the feature.
Where did the idea come from and what was the process for writing the script and getting the script ready to shoot?
MANCHESTER: The idea stemmed from my desire to really hone in on character, an element I was consistently looking to improve in my work as I grew as a filmmaker.
I was drawn toward the idea of a boy who comes to realize that the people around him are not who he thought they were. I wanted to tell a story about someone moving from one moment of their life to another, stepping into a larger world. That coming-of-age was something I was experiencing in a sense in my own life, leaving film school and moving out into the world on my own. You begin to see life through a different lens, which also changes how you perceive yourself. All that was something I felt connected to, and wanted to try and capture in this story.
The process of getting the script ready to shoot was quite extensive. I wrote the first draft in three days, and spent the next year refining it and adding flavor with details. There was a lot of collaboration with the cast once they were on board. We all turned the mirror toward ourselves and began to add certain truths that helped elevate these characters off of the page.
MANCHESTER: Casting was pretty painless. I already had a majority of the cast in mind from working on the short scene study with the same characters. I knew I wanted Jarrett Maier as Reagan, Noah McCarty-Slaughter as the brother, Neely, and then of course Shani Salyers Stiles and John Carver as Ivory Joy Boem and Sheriff Pascal, respectively.
I also knew that I wanted to bring in some talent from Los Angeles. I had met Randy Ryan many years before when he was working on Public Enemies in my hometown. When the time came to cast Rayford Boem, the father to this fractured family, I reached out to see if he had any interest in the story. We began to talk back and forth for several months until everything clicked in place.
MANCHESTER: We filmed everything on BlackMagic Design products. Our A-camera workhorse was the full sized URSA, and our B and C cameras were Production 4Ks. BlackMagic was an easy choice for us because they were affordable, and delivered the quality images we were looking for.
MANCHESTER: If anything, we found a lot of hidden gems in the editing process. I have always felt that a story gets told four times: once when you write it, twice when you film it, another when you edit it, and finally when the audience views it.
Editing for us was a chance to really let this story burn at a steady pace, and allow the subtleties of the performances breathe. There were some scenes that we shifted in terms of the timeline, but a lot of what we shot ended up in the final cut.
MANCHESTER: In December of 2016 we signed with Crogan Filmworks, an international sales agency. The film will be hitting all of the major film markets around the globe where our goal is to be picked up for VOD and perhaps a theatrical release.
MANCHESTER: I would say the smartest thing we did during production was to ensure we had proper time management. We only had twelve days to shoot the entire eighty minute film. That meant everything had to be run like a military operation.
With my directing style, I like to give actors the opportunity to improvise on set at times. I feel that is where you truly find those beautiful moments. In order to allow for those moments, however, we needed to make sure we were hitting our time tables and not running over schedule.
The dumbest thing might have been us thinking we would finish a film in twelve days. That adds a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. However, it was all we could afford, and all the time we had. I stand firm on the belief that when you have the tools and the talent around you, you can make time work in your favor...to an extent.
MANCHESTER: Cast and crew are so important. Having professionals who care just as much about the product as you is critical. True success relies on the ability to work as a team, and to me that is a big lesson to take forward.