Monday, January 6, 2014

Digital Filmmaking, The Encounter Interview

  Digital Filmmaking, The Encounter Interview

 When I decided to do a series of post on low budget scifi I had no idea that there was so much of it out there and that it would come in some many forms. Today the interview that I have for you will be with Chad Farmer, Director of the short film Encounter. This is a found footage film (stop that, put the bottle of pills down. This is a good one.) that fits with the theme of the last few post. I also have to say that it a very invented micro budget film. Shot using a Gopro, an iPhone and a Webcam, this is a case of using what the scene calls. So many times we get married to one piece of equipment and will use it whether or not it fits. I have seen too many low budget found footage films where the film maker loved the look that was provided by a Dslr camera that they overlooked the fact that a camcorder or a iPhone would have made more sense within the plot and would have made the actual filming process a lot easier.

Okay lets get to the interview. You can check out Chad’s other work on Youtube if you like this film.

Q) The first question has to be what is Encounter about?

A) Encounter is about a husband documenting his wife's sleepwalking which leads them to the unexpected. It's also about them repairing their relationship after losing their unborn son.

Q). I have always been a fan of using the best tool to get the job done. You used a webcam, a go pro and a iphone to shoot this film. Was this well plan as you were writing the script?

A) Yea, the gopro and iphone were always in the plan and the webcam came later in the writing process as it was just another variety and look to add to the story. and the webcam was kind of their place to talk to each other together and not so separated and they rediscover and repair their relationship on their journey.

Q) How did combining the different methods of shooting work out in editing?

A) It was a beast. I learned the hard way. Editing software likes everything to be the same size, framerate and codec and of course my three cameras were all different. haha. There are ways around everything which takes more time and work which is ok in this case because of the complete free way of working. I wanted the camera choices to serve the story and not the editing driving the camera choices.
So I edited in adobe premiere in a 1280x720 sequence which is what the webcam footage was and that was the most footage i would be cutting so i went with that size and format to edit in. gopro footage was shot at 1080 and scaled down to 720. The iphone footage was the real problem. I used a 4s but the problem with iphone footage straight out of the camera is that not every clip had the same framerate. some were 30fps, some were 24fps, some were less, etc.....Also, premiere did not like format. It was hard to scrub, playback, or do anything with the clips without freezing, chugging, etc. So I had to transcode all iphone clips in mpeg streamclip to make it easier to work with. If I used iphone to shoot anything again I would use an app like FilmicPro to lock in framerate, etc....

Q) I am from the less is more school of FX. The practical FX worked very well in this film. Was there any thoughts of using any CGI?

A) I'm totally with you. I actually had more vfx in there but in the end i decided to cut them and keep it simple and keep it about the characters. This was going to be a feature but it seemed like it was trying to hit a certain time and was more of a distraction from the characters.

Q) While some have attempted to shoot entire films and I am talking feature length using the iphone, I have looked at it as solid tool to be used under certain circumstances or when it is the best option available. Do you plan on using it on future projects? Also did the quality of footage it provided surprise you?

A) The quality was good but it served my story and would use it again if a story calls for it. Also, if it's all you got, use it.

Q) I am in the middle of writing an ebook on making found footage films. From the film makers I have interview about the subject no two of them approach it the same way. Some script it as if they are shooting a standard film right down to every word of dialogue. Others only provide their actors with the camera to be used and a basic sketch of what they are suppose to say and do.
How did you approach the scripting your film?

A) This was a narrative experiment. I wanted to do something different. So the script for this one was a list of about 35 scenes. For each scene I wrote a small description of a sentence or two of what needed to happen and any bullet points of what needed to be said or discussed in the scene.

Q) How much direction is involved in shooting a film of this type?

A) The most direction came from the editing process. Since a lot of it was a single shot on the webcam I could jumpcut through the scene to create certain moods or feelings. Dig through the mud to find the best stuff.
There was not a lot of camera direction while shooting since I wanted it to feel like real people were using and operator their own cameras just like in real life. We would talk a few minutes before shooting a scene to get the right mood and emotions and then the actors would shoot it. Most scenes were done in 1 take to capture that spontaneous energy. All scenes were done in 3 or less takes. Most in 1 take.

Q) When working with the actors how time did you have before shooting to rehearse them and get them use to improvising with each other?

A) I didn't want to rehearse at all. I wanted it to feel like normal people were filming stuff at home.
I did an audition process to find the best pairing of actors. I would have different actors do improv exercises with each other and then mix and match them to see what the best fits were. I got to meet a lot of new and great actors that I hope I can work with someday. I was so lucky to have 2 great actors. They did such a great job. It was really up to them to drive this project or it would not have worked.

Q) A few general film making questions. What film maker do you look to for inspiration?

A) I grew up on Spielberg so he will always be up there. but there are so many like Hitchcock, Tarantino, Alfonso Cuaron, Peter Jackson, Fincher, Kubrick, Scorsese, Mallick, Aronofsky, Derek Cianfrance.....I could go on forever....

Q) Is there a feature film in your near future?

A) Yes. I was just going through some ideas today.

Q) What is the advice that you wish someone had given you about film making when you first started out?

A) Just shoot. I love the latest and greatest cameras and all the coolest tech and we all get caught up in waiting for the best cameras and stuff but just shoot with what you have or can get.


That will be it for today. A topic that I want to touch upon in the near future is the Hollywood studio idea of replacing the Franchise model with what is called a Shared Universe. A universe of characters that exist in the same place and time while only coming together ever three or four years for a mega project. The Avengers is the best example of this. Where each Hero has a stand alone film and are brought together for a combined project to max out their box office potential.

Could this be done by a group of film makers on a micro budget level? I think that it could, but they call us indie film makers for a reason. That indie streak is hard to overcome even if there could be massive financial rewards waiting at the end of the rainbow. Not to mention the chance to do some grand arc story telling. Stories where villains and their origins can be explored as fully as those of the heroes. Where characters can be developed and transformed by multiple film makers that would lead toward something greater than a reason to level New York city again.

Something to think about. Please leave comments on the subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment