Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Good Hands Interview, Part 2

                    Good Hands Interview, Part 2

The response to the first half of the interview has been great. Today I will not waste much time getting to the interview. Just s quick reminder that I will be getting back to the found footage series very soon and it will be followed up with an ebook shortly after.

Part 2 of the Good Hands Interview begins here.

Q)You mentioned Vegas. I assume that you are editing with Sony Vegas. Which version of the software are your using and does it do everything that you need it to do?

A) I have always loved working in Sony Vegas, its a very straight forward and powerfull programme. Its a software with very few limitations which enables me to be more creative with my work, everything i need in one package.
I currently use version 11a, Im very pleased with it apart from the all time Vegas problem with freezing and abruptly shutting down for no reason, which i must say can be somewhat annoying.

Q) Many film makers who have used the canon t2i have talked about problems with what is called rolling shutter. Where the image blurs when the camera is moved too quickly. Did you have any issues while filming action scenes?

A) When it comes to action scenes I have never been a fan of the "Jason Bourne" style of shooting with 10 different clips for one single punch and the chaotic camera movements. I prefer a slower rhythm in the camera and editing while letting the choreography play out wisely in more simple yet harmonic compositions.
So the rolling shutter has never been something i have considered a problem.

Speaking of shutters I made a huge mistake... It was during the first week of shooting. We shot the fight scenes in january 2013 in a freezing cold abandoned warehouse and time was not on our side. I dialed the camera shutterspeed to 1/30 while shooting 24 fps, not knowing at the time the GREAT importance of the right shutterspeed according to the frame rate. The results was a great deal of smudge wherever there was movement, and what can possibly involve more movement than a fight scene?

I wish had known better at the time but I've learned from my mistakes.

Q) You said that you did own stunts while playing the lead. That is Jackie Chan territory. Where there every any moments when you were about to do a stunt when you thought about who will finish the film if this stunt goes wrong?

A) The stunts was not all that dangerous so I've never actually thought about that, however if I was to break my leg for instance I would have just shot the other scenes with the other actors while limping around like an old man behind the camera I guess.

Q) It has taken you a while to finish this film. This of course was something that Christopher Nolan had to deal with. It took his almost a year of shooting on weekends to finish his film Following and there is of course Peter Jackson who worked on his first feature, Bad Taste for over three years. Have you managed to keep the entire cast and crew together?

A) The crew consists of good friends of mine settled in the same town, we keep in touch, hang out and occasionally work together in the industry.
My only concern is continuity I guess... Lets say one of my actors decides to get a mohawk or gains 30 pounds, that would be a problem.
Appart from that I have no concern about losing my crew, they love working with me despite all the things I've put them through (at least I hope they do).

Q) Looking back on the production so far is there something that you have learned along the way about film making that you wish you had known when you started?

A) Absolutely... The magic of the right shutterspeed.
Apart from that the importance of pre-production and planning is really worth mentioning. And being the director, writer, DOP, editor, prop maker and lead actor in your own film can be very challenging, but tremendously educational at the same time.

Q) In the US. there are many ways to distribute a feature film when done. Part of a film makers job these days is to work on ways to monetize their work. So many film makers try to build a following through social media even before they record the first frame of footage. Have you thought about marketing the finished film and if so what are some of the options?

A) In my opinion we live in the golden age of independent film making, anyone can pick up a camera and make a feature film, giving that they got the knowledge of how the process works. This simple fact has been my prime motivator on this project.

When it comes to marketing I strongly believe using social mediums is a great marked strategy, and for our film spanning over years we can hopefully build interest or a fanbase gradually as the film progresses.
And if we succeed with that we will hopefully be able to use the fanbase as proof of public interest and value when we go about getting the film distributed.
DVD and Blu-ray is my ultimate goal (accompanied by a limited VHS edition release).

Q) In your country are there options like crowdfunding to raise money to finance a film?

A) There are lots of ways to finance a film in Norway as well, and crowdfunding is one of them.

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Q) The obvious question that I have to ask is, since you are shooting an action/revenge film have you planned for a sequel?

A) If Good Hands succeeds the way i hope, you can bet you ass there will be a sequel.
More action, more explosions, fistfights, synth, one-liners and more babyoil.

If given the possibility and funds I would make it into a trilogy accompanied by something crazy like a videogame in 16 bit resolution.

Q) I have this dream project where I would do something set in the world occupied by Mad Max. Doomsday, end of the world cars and roads populated by over the top villains fighting for water, women and gasoline. Is there a dream project in the back of your mind?

A) Good Hands is my dream project in many ways, I have always wanted to make a movie like this and now I've finally got the chance to make that dream come true.
Appart from Good Hands I would also love to make a doomsday picture, an apocalyptic world with limited resources, cyborgs, cold acid rain and wastelands.
A kickass mix between movies like "The Terminator" and "Cyborg" as well as some George Romero elements, with a sinister and industrial synth like soundtrack throughout the whole film.

That is it for this post and interview. I would like to thank  Geir M.V. Andersen for doing this interview. I wish you the best of luck with your film.

If anyone you who have read this interview would like to be involved. The best way to help the film makers that I spotlight here is to share the interview and to follow the film maker. Social media is going to be our most powerful tool in the years to come. It will even the playing field with the major studios. During the past week there have been over a thousand views of the first part of the interview, but I doubt if there has been twenty shares on facebook or twitter. So I am asking again that you guys take a moment to hit one of those share buttons and to join me on google plus.

I would like to preview what is coming as the major topic for the summer to come. The topic will be building a Universe. I am going to be discussing the concept of a few indie film makers combining their talents and social media connections to do what has been done with what is called the Marvel Universe. Multiple films being shot at the same time, featuring characters that will be incorporated into one mega film. Think about the possibilities.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Hands, A Canon T2i Action Film

                Good Hands, A Canon T2i Action Film

This post will be a break from my series on Found Footage. I have been waiting to do an interview with Geir M.V. Andersen about his film Good Hands. The interview below will be part one of a two part interview on the making of Good Hands. I have been searching a long time for someone who has shoot a feature using the t2i and the second part of this interview will, I hope, focus more on the pros and cons of using that digital camera to get the job done on a feature.

Q) I interview film makers for my blog because I wish to learn something new with each interview. While most indie film makers are going for an ultra crisp and digital look to their films, your film has more of a grindhouse look. Visually it looks a great deal like one of my favorite films of the last few years, Hobo With A Shotgun. The first question is what inspired the look of the film?

A) I grew up watching a lot of action and martial arts movies from the late 80s / early 90s, and most of them where B - movies.
This was in the VHS days so these films where usually a 3rd generation copy of a copy before it ended up in my hands.
I remember watching them in poor quality, but it did not matter, i still got blown away by these films.

Films like No Retreat no Surrender, The Perfect Weapon, Bloodsport and The Terminator inspired me to make this movie.
I still love watching these films, the use of lighting, bright colors, cheesy heroes and the over the top use of synth music and baby oil makes my day.

My movie is both a tribute and a parody of those movies from that era. And that called for the same tricks with lighting and cinematography as well as the use of synth music.
I wanted the style of my movie to look more like a 80s film with a slightly more subtle look rather than going the full distance with the grindhouse look.
So i did lots of trial and error prior to shooting before i had determined the right look.

Q) What did you use to shoot the film on and if you had a larger budget would you have made a different choice in cameras?

A) I used a Canon 550D (or Rebel T2i in the US).

I enjoy using DSLR`s they are reliable, light, easy to use and has a nice shallow depth of field.
But the H264 compression and limited dynamic range (even with the Cinestyle preset) of the 550D can be challenging, especially if you`re going for the film-look.

But since my film was supposed to look like a worn B-movie from the late 80s this camera turned out great.
However if i had a big budget i would have shot it with Red Epic with 4K resolution.
A more future proof choice because of its greater dynamic range and better resolution.

Q) What is the film about?

A) The film is about a young easygoing man called Angus, with a gifted set of hands with a great future and a seemingly loving girlfriend. His dream to become a professional guitarplayer is really close, suddenly he gets a call from his older brother who got himself tangled in with the wrong people.
He meets up with him in the shady parts of town to help him, but they end up trapped by the sadistic gang his brother owes big money.

His brother gets killed and Angus barely survives seriously injured with his beloved hands destroyed, he falls into a coma and wakes up months later discovering his brother is dead, his girlfriend took off with someone else and his hands are destroyed.

Angus swears revenge for his brothers death. With the help of his strange friend Naley, a thrill seeking local security guard who've seen way too many action films.
They embark on a life changing and dangerous journey with explotions, training montages, fist fights and lots of comic reliefs.

Q) I notice some CGI effects in your trailer for the film. Are you pleased with using CGI for your effects or given a larger budget would you have used more practical effect?

A) I have always been a practial effects kind of guy, I've done work as a propmaker in the industry, i build miniature sets to be used as set extensions instead of resorting to CGI and i generally think practical effects always looks better especially on a tight budget.  So if i where given the choice and funds I would definitely go for practical effects.

Q) Good Hands looks like a very violent film. Did your actors do many of their own stunts? If they did do their own stunts how did you balance the risk vs. the reward? If a lead actor gets injured then the film can shut down for weeks.

A) The total budget of the film was 12 000 NOK, thats approx 1500 dollars. These modest funds where to cover lighting equipment, audio equipment, costumes, props, smoke machine and much more. That meant we had to do all our own stunts.

I played the lead role myself and luckily I got a martial arts background as well as some experience in fight choreography and stunts.
Safety first has always been my motto. We would rig the stunts then carefully practice them in a safe way until everybody felt confident about doing them.
So the balance between risk and reward where always accounted for... At least most of the time.

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Q) On your Youtube channel you highlight many of the tracks from the soundtrack of Good Hands. Most low budget digital films have to use some free music or find a composer who is willing to work for the film credit. Who did your cool soundtrack?

A) I knew exactly the kind of music i was looking for, it had to be a kind of dark and suspenceful synth score. I've always been a DIY kind of guy, I made all the props in the movie so i decided to make the soundtrack myself as well.
So I started experimenting with a lot of different sounds, in the begining it was mostly guitar tracks. But then i discovered "Garage Band" for ipad, and i was immediately hooked. You could even play individual notes on the touch-keyboard, this was perfect for me.

So I recorded the synth tracks in Garage Band, then I mixed the tracks in Sony Vegas and added some real guitar tracks as well as some custom drums from a programme called "Beatcraft". I got very pleased with the results and i own the rights to the music myself. Also it was free as well as tailormade for the movie.

Q) One of the things that has always surprised me from one low budget film to the next is the amount of time it took to shoot the film. I have interviewed film makers who have shot a feature length film in less than a week and I have interviewed one film maker who took more than two years to finish his film. How long did it take to shoot your film and looking back at the process knowing what you know now was your time well spent?

A) We set out to make this film as a weekend project since everyone involved had to work at their daytime jobs during the weekdays. And i knew from the start that this would be a project spanning over years rather than weeks or months. To be honest the film is not yet completed, we still need to shoot the opening as well a very complicated action scene early in the movie.
Its a long road no doubt, but its been an incredibly fun and educational process that I'm glad to say is not over yet.

Q) Every film maker has the that one film maker or film that inspired them to get started. Who was that film maker or what was that film?

A) The film that has inspired me the most was a film i first saw when I was 10 years old, a film i watch at least once a year every year. The cinematography was incredible to me, the special effects blew me away, and the plot had me on edge of the seat all the way. Later i learned this was also a low budget film, which made it even more awesome. This film inspired me to pursue my dreams of becoming a filmmaker (still a work in progress but I'll get there). "The Terminator" 1984 by James Cameron

This concludes part one of the Good Hands interview. If you would not take the time to share this interview on Twitter or posting it on your facebook page that would be great. This site grows through sharing. I get my encouragement from the number of views each day and the questions and comments that come in. The next post will be about film trailers that I have seen recently and answering a few questions that have come in. Then I hope to have the second half of this interview as the following post before we get back to the found footage topic. Good luck with your projects and did I mention that my first book On Low Budget Filmmaking is now available at Createspace(Amazon) . To those of you who teach film classes this little book would make for a great basic teaching tool. Also for those who know a beginning film maker this would be a great starters guide.  Hey we all have our own favorite film making book. For me it was John Russo's  Making Movies, The Inside Guide to Independent Movie Production.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jessie’s Girl, The Interview

    My series of post on the subject of Found Footage films continues today. I would like to say that there is good and bad in ever genre of film making. Not since the days of the slasher film has there been a genre that has attracted so many low budget film makers. One could compare the found footage craze to that of the gold rush. Films have been shoot for less than fifty thousand dollars and gone on to make over one hundred million dollars. Those films are the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. The problem with this craze has been that far too many film makers have been copying rather than innovating. Films like End of Watch and Chronicle have taken the genre in new directions, but they are the exception and not the rule.

    The interview that I am going to present to you today is with AJ Forehand. She produced a great short film that I really thought stood out from the crowd.

    This is my interview with AJ Forehand. The subject is her Film Jessie’s Girl.

Q) I wanted to do a series of interviews on the subject of found footage style films. As we all know that during the past few years found footage has become a genre all its own. In preparation for this series of post and most likely an ebook to follow on the subject I have watch more than two hundred found footage films during this past year. Your movie Jessie’s Girl was one of the few that stood out regardless of budget. The first question I have to ask for those who have not seen it yet is what is the film about?

A) Jessie's Girl is about a camera. In the beginning of the film, a man named Allan gets a video camera from his friend (he gets it for the purpose of filming his son's birthday party). He immediately begins filming Butterfly from afar, a girl he's never met. He eventually builds up the courage to abduct her. She remains in the back of his van, going through various moments of torture and assault. In the end, after hours of being abused, Butterfly is tied up in the back of Allan's van awaiting her fate. When the true test of courage (and sadism) arrives, Allan underestimates Butterfly, and the camera is the only witness.

 Q) I have argued for a while that the genre will kill itself if it does not explore other areas that horror. Your film is a thriller. Was this a concussion choice or was this where the story took you?

A) That's a good question. In all honesty, the film evolved into what it became without any conscious choice of whether it would be a thriller or a horror film. I knew I wanted a strong female character and a large brute of a guy. I had never worked with these actors before and I wasn't sure how it would all come together in the editing booth, so as the script developed, I just went with it. I wanted to make my audience uncomfortable. By the way, did it have that affect on you?

Jessie's Girl from Amanda Forehand on Vimeo.

 Q) It has been said that cinema is a visual medium. It is an exercise in the art of showing rather than telling. You film stood out from many others because you told a story that was understandable even without the dialogue or sound. I watched it once with sound and then I watched it again on mute. The visual story telling in Jessie’s Girl is excellent. You achieved that and I want to know about the editing choices. Was it totally scripted this way or did it all come together in the editing? I should also ask who did the editing?

A) I edited the film. I love editing and every aspect of it. However, with Jessie's Girl, the script was carefully adhered to. I did not cut any of the dialogue. I work-shopped this script with my film production professor who was trained and educated at USC. From the day I met him, he beat it into my head that films are storytelling with pictures not words. He would say "This is too much dialogue; try to convey the same idea without words." Also, Allan's situation was not one that could be presented through too much dialogue, as it would have been him talking to his self, and though he clearly has some issues, I certainly was not trying to present him as irrational or insane. The scene with Allan's wife was added later and it was to create some inference of a motive, but I'm not sure it did that. It was filmed (weeks later) because in a screening of dailies, my fellow filmmakers said they couldn't see why Allan was doing this and without dialogue, motive was a bit difficult to create.

 Q) If I do not ask the camera question, then I will get a dozen emails asking me why I did not. So what did you shoot the film with and looking back on it was it the right camera or cameras for the job?

A) First, let me make it clear that I wish we had better equipment, but most filmmakers say that. I was still a film student so my resources were more limited. That being said, the film took place in the 90's and I wanted a cheap-camera look. The reason the film was set in the 90s was because it was more practical to gather props that were 20 or less years old (cars, clothes, furniture, TV's, etc..).  I knew I didn't want to make present-day film because I wanted the challenge of a period piece, even if the period was not so long ago. We did our best to stick to it, but there are flaws. The camera was a Panasonic AG-HMC150 AVCCAM. Also, though it appears that Allan is holding the camera in many shots, he never held it once. My DP was in the first scene and plays the character that gives Allen the camera. He's in every single scene, even when Allan steps up in the van with the camera. I really feel that the artifice of film is where the real art is. I love the efforts and allusions that create a world that doesn't exist.

 Q) The two most over looked areas of the film making process by those who are just starting out are lighting and sound. In found footage films this usually becomes a nightmare. The lighting was well done in the case of your film and the sound quality was good. How much time did you spend on these two areas before shooting?

A) We spent a lot of time on sound. In my opinion, sound really divides one film from the next, and I wanted to make sure it was organic. We used a boom mic and a Sony zoom. It was very challenging to create certain sounds of the film, so many of them were done in post. The radio music is all added. No music was playing in the van. The radio DJ came in and recorded his lines- all in one take! There are points where the van sounds like it's running but it's not. The death of Allan (which is brutal if you've heard it) was created with various vegetables and meats. We recorded at the location about a month later. We beat the hell out of some melons with a hammer and a rock. We used a large piece of beef with a bone in the middle and sawed that for the sound of Butterfly sawing Allan's head off. We broke up some carrots and celery for the sound of broken bones. When mixed just right, we had a nice brutal killing. :)

As for the lighting, I'm a big fan of practicals. We studied the language created by cinematic lighting. We understood rim lighting, key lighting, etc. The challenge was to get all that into the set of a found footage piece. For example, in the van when Allan is torturing Butterfly, we had to run a power converter in order to use cinema grade lighting. It had a hum so loud, we had to use pillows to insulate between it and the van. We had a large soft light box, but it was never appropriate for the scene. Overall, the lighting was about half and half between practicals and the film making standard. I think the practical lighting is more organic- especially for a found footage piece. 

 Q) You also managed to do something that I thought was very clever. You took the camera out of the actor’s hands in many of the scenes. Far too many of these films weld the camera to one actor and from that point on it is literally until death do they part. You allowed your camera in many scenes to remain stationary?

A) We actually discussed this point before filming. We wanted the camera to be the character the audience followed, not Allan. We don't see Allan all the time. For example, during the son's party, his aunt actually has the camera for a few minutes. I felt that the audience is forced to consider who Allan is, who his family is, even if it lacks his perspective. The camera can bring two polar opposite moments right up next to each other and as a viewer, we're forced to consider it.

 Q) We all have our favorite film makers. Readers of this blog know that I am a Hitchcock and
 Takashi Miike fan. Hitchcock because of his amazing attention to detail and his constant focus on always putting the audience first. Takashi because of his amazing ability to direct films in every possible genre, from action, to horror, to western to musical. Also, he shows his love of film making by actually directing on average three feature films a year for the last decade. Who are your film making heroes and why?

A) Wow, I'll TRY to keep this short. My film making influences and heroes cover a large spectrum of genres. I am first and foremost a lover of film watching, which led to a love of filmmaking. It's always been clear to me which one came first. For this reason, I can not isolate any one film maker that influences me as a film maker, I can only name the ones who I have watched so much that I am sure I can not deny their affect on my own work. From Stanley Kubrick to Paul Anderson, and Wes Anderson, Rod Serling and Quinton Tarantino or JJ Abrams... I have watched their films dozens and dozens of times. More than I care to admit. Though these names represent the authors of work that I will always be inspired by, I know great films only happen when the perfect combination of film maker, writer, director, actors, editors, etc. get it right. There's no doubt that a poor delivery will make even the most influential director's work cringe-worthy. There are too many greats to name just a few. I could go on forever...

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 Q) How did you learn the craft of film making and when did you decide that you wanted to be one?

A) My path to film making is unique. I learned the craft of film making from my first film production professor, David Burkman. I was studying film studies (mostly theoretical stuff) and I was forced to take production class for the major. I learned every aspect of filmmaking in a short semester and realized a lifetime wouldn't teach me everything. So I did the rational thing, and took another class, and another class, and so on. My husband fell in love with using the camera and has become and avid collector and loves shooting EVERYTHING from home movies to short films. He's always coming up with new ideas. I, however, have really gravitated to the pre and postproduction side of things. I still love to write and I love to edit, but the main photography part of filmmaking is really stressful for me. He really took to it like a fish in water. Now my eight-year-old son has a camera and makes his own short movies. He even has costumes and production value (very little though). It's a family affair at this point. No interest in making money- we just love beautiful images that convey an idea or story.

 Q) I suppose that I should return to the subject of found footage films. What do you think that this genre has to offer in the future?

A) I think the found footage film genre's days are numbered, as you might have already theorized. I think it's a new unique way to tell a story. It offers a limited, and sometimes privileged, POV to the viewer. This is turn frees the filmmaker up to tell as little or as much of the story as they wish. The issue I see with it is the limit. The moment people understand something to be found footage; they know many of their questions won't be answered. They know, inevitably, they'll be unable to see a particular moment, and instead they are forced to build the scene inside their own imagination. Though I think it's a genre that commands respect and recognition. I think it may be equalized to the value of a slasher B film. On the other hand, because a found footage film can parallel technological advances in cameras, camera phones, etc. perhaps this is only the beginning. I guess we shall see.

 Q) Are you working on any projects? Do you plan on shooting a feature someday?

A) I am always working on something. A writer writes. A filmmaker makes films.  I have written several pieces, three of which are features (a sci fi, a drama/ thriller, and a comedy). Just last night my husband and I had a great idea for a sci-fi romance. We live, breathe, dream, and speak films. It's who we are.

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. Good luck with all of your future projects.