Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Alec Gillis was born in Orange County, California. At the end of a childhood spent devouring sci-fi and special effects movies like the original Planet of the Apes, he found work at Roger Corman's New World Pictures in 1980. There, he worked along side future genre notables such as Gale Anne Hurd, Robert and Dennis Skotak, Rob Bottin and James Cameron. By 1983 he had finished UCLA film school and began working for famed makeup artist Tom Savini on Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter.
In 1985 he met Creature Legend Stan Winston and worked on Invaders From Mars, Aliens, Predator, Leviathan, and Monster Squad, among others. In 1988, along with Tom Woodruff, Jr. Alec formed Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. Their first feature film was Tremors, followed by Alien 3 (Oscar nomination), Death Becomes Her (Oscar win), Mortal Kombat, Jumanji, Starship Troopers (Oscar nomination) , The Santa Clause franchise, the Spider-Man franchise, the Alien vs. Predator franchise, Wolverine: Origins, X-Men: First Class, The Thing (2011).
Alec is also a 3 times published author, and his pictorial sci-fi book, which James has called, 'a visual masterpiece', has been optioned by MGM. He has directed numerous short films, Second Units, Creature Units and has written many scripts including the science fiction epic The Seventh Tear, currently in pre-pre-production.
He is the father of 4 daughters and lives in Los Angeles, California.
Why did you create Amalgamated Dynamics Inc?
Tom and I had worked for Stan Winston for a while, and when he decided to direct he stopped taking jobs. His plan was that we'd only work on his movies. That would have been fine if we were really busy, but there just were far less opportunities suddenly, and we were sad not to be working with people like Cameron and Zemeckis anymore. Stan was extremely loyal and he was keeping a handfull of us on payroll despite having no jobs. we thought maybe we'd get off his payroll and strike out on our own.
What is "HARBINGER DOWN" about?
On one level, it's about the crew of an Alaskan trawler trapped with a creature on board. On another level it's about giving fans an experience they felt they didn't get with THE THING (2011). On yet another it's to show the world that Practical FX still have a valid place in modern filmmaking.
Why use practical effects?
There's a tangible, visceral, intimate, tactile quality to practical FX. If you know how to design, build and direct it, it can be unbelievably impactful and emotionally satisfying. It's also 3 to 6 times cheaper than digital. This isn't about wanting to suppress digital FX, it's about standing up for our art form.
How did you get such a great team together?
The crew of ADI has been honed and built over 25 years. The Harbinger Down team of the Skotaks and Pat mcClung are guys I started with at Corman's over 30 years ago. They're guys I looked up to. Guys that taught me a lot of tricks. Taught me an appreciation for in-camera FX. And they're our friends!
What do you want your legacy to be?
There's way too much yet to be done to talk about legacies!
What makes your Kickstarter different from others?
Well, we're not the above-the-line Hollywood bigshots who have lots of traditional options. We're struggling artists. We have an art to save. Hopefully people see something worth saving when they watch the pitch vid.
What are some of the perks of the campaign?
Some of the prizes are blast. The death scene where you get to keep your dead body We have miniatures for sale, an awesome pice of prop Soviet space wreckage, creatures of various sizes, your own death effect, and of course all the standard stuff like script copies, downloads. Oh, and Lance H. will do a recorded message for you too!
What movies inspired you to make the film?
ALIEN and Carpenter's THE THING. Twin pillars of sci-fi horror!
How does it feel to win an award?
Stan Winston used to call them bowling trophies. Still. being a good bowler is cool!
What's one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Lose the center part in the hair. Oh, and don't rely on the studios to make your dreams come true. Savior self!
Will you talk about any shenanigans you've seen while working on a production?
Check out our youtube channel!
A Video's worth 1000 words! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP5Kq4DG0kU&list=UUbhiVDWG8wgg3v9cuH6DqEA&index=6
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Support Harbinger Down! Do it for the monsters!
Thank You Alec for doing the interview. I wish everybody on the Harbinger Down team all the best.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Writer/ directors Ian and Eshom Nelms are two brothers from California's central valley, who grew up with napalm sunsets and miles of endless farmland. They built raced-out Volkswagens, team-roped with their Dad and on hot summer days, tubed the St John's River. It's this upbringing that inspired the backdrop of their latest feature film, "Lost on Purpose."
What is "Lost On Purpose" about?
It’s really about where we grew up and the people who live there, but this synopsis will probably give people the best sense of what to expect.
“Fueled by gin and pure determination, Elizabeth James struggles to keep her dairy farm from being swallowed up by the region’s domineering co-op. To help with the workload, she’s hired five renegade ranch hands. Together they fight for love, pride, family, and their vanishing way of life.”
What was it like growing up with so much farmland around you?
It was nice, actually. It’s definitely a slower paced lifestyle, but it really is a place filled with some of the hardest working people on the planet. Farms and crops are 24/7 jobs, and they’re pretty thankless professions. We really wanted to highlight that lifestyle and bring some awareness to it!
Why choose to self distribute the film?
There were quite a few reasons, but mainly we wanted to present the film a certain way and the distributors we spoke with wanted to present it in a very different way. One example: they wanted to put a cast member on the cover who was only in the movie for 3 minutes and act as if she was the lead, because she won an Oscar last year. We understand it, they’re out to make as much money as possible, and of course money is nice, but we want the film released in the same spirit it was made. It’s a love letter to our hometown and we want to preserve that integrity. Changing the title to make it appear in a VOD queue earlier, and slapping faces on the cover to mislead viewers into thinking it’s a different type of film just doesn’t fly with us.
What are the pros and cons of working with your brother?
Lol. That’s a great question. Some people can’t work with their siblings, but fortunately we have pretty similar taste. All of our battles are fought and decided in the writing room. When we step out to shoot, we’re 99% in sync with what we want to see. I’d say the biggest pros are that we can bounce ideas off each other and motivate each other. The biggest cons, maybe that every idea you come up with doesn’t get put into the material, but that’s not always a bad thing. Some of those ideas were probably crap, and needed to be tossed. We feel pretty lucky to be able to work together. When we both like an idea, then we know it’s probably a pretty good one.
Why use Kickstarter?
Kickstarter gave us a unique opportunity to reach out to people and present our ideas and passions for the project. We looked at a few other options, and for us, Kickstarter had the best format. We like the all or nothing mentality, it definitely parallels making film and art. There’s no half-ass in creating, you can’t fail anyone but yourself, so why should fund-raising be any different.
Why do you think your campaign was successful?
We’d like to think it’s because the film is interesting and exciting, and that people are galvanized by personal stories with a lot of heart. We’re sure there are quite a few people that feel that way, but we also know plenty of people who just really wanted some cool signed schwag. Lol. Honestly, it’s probably a combination of the two. I think the people who backed us really feel a kinship with the story and us as filmmakers, and want to support a passion project and get some cool rewards in the process.
What was the casting process like?
It was a teeter-totter. We’d get a cast member, then a little more financing, then back and forth until it was fully cast and funded. James Lafferty was the first person to come on board. He read the script and said he was “in.” We started raising funds the next day. It was pretty carefully cast. We really believe that if you get the right person in the roll, then half the work is done, and we can’t say enough about the people we worked with. They all stepped up to the plate for pennies on the dollar and just swung for the bleachers.
How did you pick your crew for the film?
The key positions were pretty homegrown. Johnny Derango was a producer on the film and the DP. We’ve known Johnny for about ten years, and he brought in a great camera, lights, and grip crew. Michelle Lang was our set producer. She did a lot of the heavy lifting during production and found a lot of our other key crew members. Our amazing production designer, Nathan Carden, was suggested to us by another filmmaker friend of ours. Catherine Velosa, costume designer, came from our hometown. She was a friend of a friend and mainly worked in theatre, and she came on set and just fit like a glove. My Mom was the caterer, cooking 3 meals a day for 30 people. It was pretty intense, but by the end we all really felt like a family.
Were there any on set shenanigans?
Sure, I mean, we stuck 5 guys in a house with an endless liquor supply. It was definitely a recipe for shenanigans. We wanted to give the guys a real feeling of what it would be like to have a ranch hand lifestyle and they definitely made a go at it. Lol!
Can you recommend indie films and/or campaigns to check out?
A friend of ours, Dan Prostak, who worked his tail off on “LOST ON PURPOSE” is doing an Inidegogo campaign for his short film, “UNDER A BLACK VEIL,” it’s a psychological thriller. Very driven, talented guy. I say definitely check it out! Overall, personally, we’re really excited about this time in film. There’s never been a better time to create or release a film on your own. The production value that can be achieved on a low budget is just astounding, and the ability to reach and deliver a film to an audience has never been more readily at our fingertips.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
The musicians we worked with on the film were just incredible. Bands, “ALL THE REAL GIRLS” led by Peter Donovan and “LOST ON PURPOSE” (who’s name band leader, Will Vanderwyden, graciously allowed us to borrow for the film) were amazing collaborators. We wrote scenes to music they’d already created and they wrote songs to scenes we’d written. It was a very inspirational process. We’re just fortunate enough to be friends with Peter and Will. They’re some of the first people we met after moving to Los Angeles, and we’ve been friends and working together ever since. We’d encourage anyone excited about good music to seek out their other albums and websites. Such talented guys!
Thanks for doing the interview guys. I look forward to seeing "Lost On Purpose" when it comes to a theater near me.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Hailing from South Africa, Nadia Bassett married Canadian actor Rick Howland and now lives in Toronto. With over a decade of experience in running her own event production company TLATSOI (The Long And The Short Of It), her skills translate well in the film industry and Nadia successfully produced her first award winning short, “Underwritten” in 2011.
“Underwritten” was made for the international competition, the 48 Hour Film Project. As they put it, “A wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie - write, shoot, edit and score it - in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it screens at a local theater the next week.”
Nadia passionately supports the movement to bring PWD (Persons With Disabilities) to the fore in film and television – both behind and in front of the camera. She believes that stereotyping PWD serves nobody, and she strives to make entertaining and captivating work that present new ways for audiences to think about PWD. There are wonderfully talented directors, producers, editors, actors, animation artists, etc. that are PWD and anyone who ignores these individuals, is missing a truly special experience – it's a privilege I have had and I cherish. “I want the projects I work on (story, acting and the filmmaking) to be so outstanding that the disability becomes invisible to agents, casting directors, distributors, broadcasters and eventually viewers. It will be a brave few that support the inclusion of PWD in film and television, but I look forward to sharing the ride with them, one project at a time.”
You can follow Nadia on Twitter @virtuallynormal
What is "Underwritten" about?
In this heartfelt award winning western heist romantic comedy short film, a rich railway owner schools his naive son in insurance when a porter is accidentally kidnapped during a train robbery by an unwitting employee and his persuasive wife. It's a happy ending for all but one.
Th rules and structure of the 48 Hour Film Project meant we had to use four elements provided by the organisers in our film. It had to be a Western or Musical featuring a character named Chrispian Woods (a Passenger Attendant/Porter) and the mandatory prop was a magnifying glass, and somewhere in the film we had to use the line of dialogue "What's your recommendation?". Some would think that having to include mandatory elements is too restrictive, but for a competition with a tight turnaround time, it actually provides great boundaries.
Why did you want to do a "48 Hour Film Project"?
For years preceding the making of “Underwritten” Rick and his friends had been talking about making movies, and I had over 15 years of production experience. So when I arrived in Canada from South Africa, I ambushed them and just signed us up for the competition. It was a “put your money where your mouth is” challenge.
There were many reasons not to do it but I’m a firm believer that in all aspects of life, if you don’t just do it when an opportunity arises, you may never do it and then you have to live with regrets. We really had nothing to lose except sleep which is overrated anyway.
I also felt strongly that making a film this way would be a make or break experience. We all thought we wanted to make films and were talented enough to do it, but could we actually? This competition tests your skills and endurance without the pressure of budget, time and resources so it was an ideal experiment. And fortunately for us, it was affirming.
What is the independent film scene like where you live?
In Toronto, Canada it’s vibrant! There are many gutsy filmmakers here that are passionate about their art and are finding non-traditional ways to raise funds, rope in friends and get their films made. I take my hat off to anyone with that drive and resilience. In South Africa it’s probably even more exciting as even though South African filmmakers face many more challenges, they are able to find ways to and use their initiative to harness the energy of Africa and its peoples to make outstanding films.
What does it feel like when your film wins awards?
It feels really good, and it’s a real motivation for doing more! I think being recognised by peers and audiences is very important (if not critical) to creative people. On the other hand, the competitive perfectionist in me cringed at the minor imperfections and although I wanted the overall award and a screening at Cannes, this wasn’t the film that would take us there. I know that when a film I produce get’s to Cannes, it’ll be the perfect film and the perfect timing.
What's it like to work with Bernie Henry and Stephen Simeon?
Bernie and Stephen are extremely generous and talented people – it was a treat to work with them.
Stephen (our cinematographer) has had many years of experience in photography and also DIY which meant that when he came on board, he naturally built a camera jib right?! Well he did, and it worked – check out the sweet action in our opening shots and the “Oh Boy Pie” scene. The beautiful lighting in the film was Stephen’s touch, and it has received compliments from professional DOPs.
Bernie (our editor) is a true artist – a musician, an actor, a videographer, a writer and an editor. Editing is at the tail-end of filmmaking and often carries the most pressure, Bernie handled it, and us, really well even when the power went out and he lost some edits, he regained composure after some choice words, and got straight back on the horse. It was also great watching him and Anita Beaty work on scoring and editing the film together as they calmly managed to ignore the intensity of the looming deadline.
What's it like working with Rick Howland?
Is that a trick question? Rick was Underwritten’s co-writer and director and also my husband and best friend. I knew going in that there were risks to working with family and friends on a project like this, but I honestly believed that we all needed a creative shove and that we were solid enough to withstand the blows. Rick and I differ which is probably what makes it work so well, he is the vision engine that drives creativity and excites people and I am the analytical risk assessing do-er that makes those sometimes crazy ideas and people all come together.
Rick was really supportive and not a diva at all, he listened and gave input and never took any guidance, suggestions or critique personally. He worked hard at balancing the director’s vision with the producer’s constraints.
On a personal level, I was impressed by the quality of this film – I thought it would be good, but was really blown away by the quality of the final product. That success is attributed to everyone involved.
What is the key to a successful "48 Hour Film Project"?
Planning! I needed to know exactly how the weekend would run so I could plan and put everything in place to make it as enjoyable and stress free as possible which would ultimately give us the best chance of success. My questions were, how long would it take to write a script, what resources would we need, who was available and willing to be on the team, what technical equipment would we need, what risks and challenges would we potentially face, etc. So the best way was to do some dry runs. We had the production, writing, editing, camera and directing team (i.e. the 4 of us) come together to do a dry run. We pulled 4 fictitious elements from a hat and wrote a script, did a story board and drafted a props and cast list. We realised that if we didn’t put deadlines to each element, any delays would have a knock on affect and put the editor under pressure.
We sourced some shooting locations and actors ahead of time and had them on standby so we could craft the script to what we had available.
The dry run exercise was really valuable as we made decisions on roles and responsibilities and those carried through to the actual competition weekend so everyone was clear on their contribution.
In addition to the planning and our talented creative team, the fact that we had access to a phenomenal cast and crew that were so generous with their time, for free, made it that much easier to make the film.
What independent film should everyone see (besides "Underwritten")?
"Sex After Kids" of course. And follow Jeremy LaLonde on twitter @LaLondeJeremy, he’s a real treat.
Searching For Sugar Man – not only is it a great film with a subject close to my heart, but the fact that they ran out of funds and didn’t give up makes it a must-support film. Read the amazing story at http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/2013-oscars/malik-bendjelloul-talks-oscar-nominated-movie-searching-sugar-013547675.html
How was being a producer on "Sex After Kids" different from being a producer on "Underwritten"?
Very different! My credit on "Sex After Kids" is an “honorary” one – as the film was crowd funded, those that contributed a certain amount were credited as Associate Producer. Jeremy LaLonde is one of those gutsy filmmakers and supporting his projects is investing in Independent Film as a whole. It’s important for all Indie filmmakers to support one another, there’s plenty of room for everyone in the industry – and the more Canadian filmmakers make it here and internationally, the better for us all.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I would recommend entering the 48 Hour Film Project to anyone starting out in film, or those of us who need a fresh kick in the pants. It’s a weekend you will never forget!
I would also like to thank those bloggers and journalists and new media supporters who discuss and promote Indie Film/Filmmakers, it’s sincerely appreciated so keep it up.
Thank you so much for doing the interview Nadia. I really appreciate your passion for independent film.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
MICHAEL BROCKHOFF is a non-fiction producer with hundreds of hours of programming to his credit. He has a unique talent for solving creative and logistical challenges while pushing the quality of the content and production values beyond the expected parameters. Michael has been instrumental in expanding the programming slate of many production companies and creating shows for networks like TLC and National Geographic Wild.
Photos by Kevin Kane
[gallery type="slideshow" ids="3281,3280,3282,3283,3284"]
Why did you decide to make the documentary "Bronies: The Extremely
Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony"?
When I found out about this group of fans called Bronies, I was fascinated. I wanted to know why adults, and adult men in particular are fans of a show made for little girls. I knew the general public would also be fascinated and thought a documentary could offer them insight to the phenomena.
Why was the title changed from "Brony Con: The Documentary"?
As our crowdfunding campaign became successful, we expanded the scope from just the East coast BronyCon convention to Brony conventions and Bronies around the world. The title "Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony" is more inclusive and indicative of what the viewer will see in the documentary.
How did Tara Strong, Lauren Faust and John de Lancie become involved
with the project?
John de Lancie was my entry into the Brony world. I've known John for years. He was telling me about voicing the character Discord and how he found out about the Bronies. I suggested that we create the documentary and everything started from there. John was able to bring Tara Strong and Lauren Faust on board which was great since John and I were just being introduced to the fandom and Tara and Lauren had then involved all along.
Why do you think the show "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic"
appeals to adults?
There are a number of reasons adults love the show. They seem to appreciate the modern animation style and fully developed characters. One thing we discussed in the documentary is the fact that the messages you find in the show about friendship and how to be a good friend is something anyone of any age can appreciate and use.
How did making your other documentaries prepare you to make this one?
My background is in non-fiction television which can be a different than feature-length documentary film making. I was able to bring skills to the project that helped us make the film faster than most independent documentaries without compromising quality.
Why use Kickstarter to fund the documentary?
Rather than asking a third party financier or network to take a chance on an unknown subject, we thought Bronies themselves would like the idea of the documentary. The support was overwhelming and a great luxury that not all filmmakers have.
What do you say to people who criticize the "My Little Pony" fandom
and/or the documentary itself?
For those who criticize the fandom, I would ask them to first watch the documentary. The film will give you an understanding of why the fandom exists and what it's about. I would argue that society needs the messages of the show and it's a great thing that it's being embraced by a the fans. For those that criticize the documentary, I would ask them to keep in mind that a film can not be all things to all people. We set out to explain the phenomena of adult men who like My Little Pony and that is something we did in an entertaining and respectful way.
Do you have a favorite pony?
I tend to like Pinkie Pie the most. Of the main six ponies, she is the silly fun one and she makes me laugh every time I see a clip of her.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
For those who want to see the film, head over to bronydoc.com were we have a number of options from digital download to Blu-Ray and DVD discs.
[caption id="attachment_3290" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Photo Credit: BronyCon: The Documentary via Kickstarter[/caption]
Thanks for doing the interview Michael. I'm very new to the fandom. I've only seen a few episodes. I think the show fun for all ages. I'm going to watch the documentary ASAP. I think Rainbow Dash is my favorite pony.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Nick Peterson (Director/Writer/Producer) graduated from the prestigious Experimental Animation program at The California Institute of the Arts (Calarts).
Straight out of school Nick’s film “MuM” was accepted into the 2000 Sundance film festival and received numerous awards including a student Emmy. At that same time, he began working in the visual effects industry as a producer on high end national commercials, feature films such as CHARLIE’S ANGELS 2, and THE RING, and the TV shows “CSI:Miami”, and “HOUSE | MD”. In 2006 Nick wrote and directed the feature film DARK MIND, starring Christopher Masterson (“Malcolm in the Middle”), Lyndsy Fonseca (KICK ASS, “NIKITA”) and David Deluise. The film won several awards and secured domestic distribution and multiple foreign sales.
Nick has directed commercials for many clients including, CVS, Ford and Chrysler. And his latest music video has reached over 7 Million views on youtube in just a few months of release. Nick also recently finished the multiple-award winning short film “DRAINED” he directed and produced along with Jon Heder (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, BLADES OF GLORY)
Nick currently lives in Los Angeles CA
What is the current project your working on?
I'm currently raising the funding we need to produce the short film and video game for "The Visitant" Starring Amy Smart, and Doug Jones as the Demon.
Every time you make something -- anything -- in film you're a little bit smarter. I'm hoping that I've got enough smarts in me by now to make this thing really awesome.
How did Jon Heder, Doug Jones, Steve Wang. and Amy Smart become
involved with the film?
It was all kinda just putting people together that we know. Jon Heder and I have been friends for a few years now, and He knows Doug Jones, and I know Steve Wang, and Steve and Doug know each other. So once we put our heads together it all kinda made sense. Amy got involved because we just love her work. Jon and I reached out to her and she said yes!
Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund your film?
Unlike feature films, shorts don't make any money, and that doesn't give you many if any options of places to go to make short films. But with Kickstarter we can offer rewards to people that you can't get anywhere else and make something really great.
What was it like to be interviewed by "Ain't It Cool News"?
It's kinda like being on the cover of Rolling Stone, but for geeks.
What are the elements of a good horror film?
Feeling dread for your characters. If you don't feel for the characters and want them to live, you won't be scared.
How has technology changed the independent film industry?
It's allowed a bunch of really great things to happen. But it's still hard to make a good film, and talent will always rise to the top.
Which do your prefer making short or feature films?
I like features more cause I dig the marathon and being busy for long stretches at a time. Shorts are like music videos, they're fun cause you can have a lot more freedom to make what you want and they're over fast so you can afford to do them for no money.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I'm just grateful people let me make this stuff and I hope I can continue to do it for a long, long time
Thanks for doing the interview Nick. I saw "Drained". It was different & the images really stuck with me. I hope to see "The Visitant" at a festival near me and play the game.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With an MFA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University, and a Masters in Communication and film from Wake Forest University, British-Indian filmmaker J S Mayank lives the life of a Hollywood screenwriter, pitching his own ideas and reworking others’ work.
His first sci-fi feature – SLATE earned him a spot on the BLOODLIST, and he was invited by Robert DeNiro to the prestigious 2010 Tribeca All Access Program for his feature script - MARATHON. Most recently, his script for EMIT won a Grand Prize, winning him a trip to Sundance (2012) where a table-read of it was performed.
For his directorial debut, Mayank was granted an opportunity by the band Radiohead to create a concept music video for their song WEIRD FISHES/ARPEGGI. He's currently doing the film festival circuit with his short film EMIT, starring veteran TV actor Jack Coleman (Heroes, The Office). He resides in Los Angeles
1) IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3270768/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
2) Radiohead Music video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKsWH6x7HUo
3) EMIT Table Read Clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDiHoip1Fms
What is "EMIT" about?
EMIT is a sci-fi short film about a world where time flows backwards. In this movie,
an old man looks forward to greeting his wife for the first time, as her body’s
exhumed from the ground, taken to the morgue, and eventually the hospital, where
she takes her first breath. We juxtapose this moment of joy, with the man’s 7-year-
old granddaughter contemplating her looming mortality.
Why use Kickstarter to fund your film?
Kickstarter is an incredible resource to independent filmmakers. Not only is a
fantastic way to get funding from like-minded people, it also helps get the word out
for your projects, before they even exist.
Why do you think your campaign was successful?
Preparation, subject matter, and people’s love for sci-fi. Going into the Kickstarter
campaign, my team and I were very confident that our story was somewhat unique,
and that it had a built-in “hook” for sci-fi fans. Beyond that, my producers and I went
to great lengths to do as much work (put together a teaser, do storyboards, talk
about the rest of our team etc.) as we could, before launching our campaign. We
wanted people to know that they were giving their money to someone who had a
Is there a message in the film?
I’d like to think so. To me, all great science fiction strives to say something, to
examine a philosophical aspect, or bring new light to something we deem very
ordinary. Keeping in line with the great tradition of the TWILIGHT ZONE, I
constructed EMIT to be a short glimpse into a world where time flows backwards.
While the film has its moments of levity, by and large, to me – this is a very bleak
world. It’s a world of predetermination… one that lacks choice. You wake up,
and you’re told your name, introduced to your husband and children, assigned a
profession, etc. That’s not a very happy world. So I hope people watch this movie,
and think – our lives aren’t so bad. If we want to change something, we can actually
do it. We can try for a new career, or move halfway across the world.
Would you ever act in one of your films?
Oh, God no! Trust me. Nobody wants to see me in front of the camera! I’m very
happy having my worlds represented in the (waaaaaay more) capable hands of my
How has film school influenced you?
Film school was a great place for me to experiment. Having come to film school with
virtually no technical knowledge (I had more of a writing background), I was very
fascinated by cameras, lighting equipment, editing software etc. And while I still
don’t pride myself as too skilled in any of those departments, I have enough of an
understanding, and more importantly, an appreciation for what’s required in each of
those disciplines, that it helps me as a storyteller.
Beyond that, film school was also where I met most of my collaborators. To me, that
is the biggest reason for going to a film school. You meet like-minded, incredibly
talented people, who push you to be better. What more can one ask for?
Had you seen "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" before you started
writing the film?
I first had the idea for EMIT in 2006, when the movie didn’t exist. I hadn’t read the
original story either. However, when I officially wrote the first draft of the script (in
late 2010), I had seen the movie. To be quite honest, beyond the aging backwards
aspect, I really don’t see much other similarities in the two concepts.
What was it like working with Jon Chesson, Jesse Morrison, Maxx
Burman, Alexandra Creswick, and Antonio Lepore?
I’ll go by each department:
Jesse and Alex, my indomitable producer and co-producer respectively, were the
foundation of this movie. Without them, EMIT would not have happened. I had the
story and concept in my mind, but it was their unending support and championing
my vision, that led to us making EMIT. Jesse worked tirelessly, every day, for over
a year with me, and was the main hands-on producer. From location scouting, to
hiring crew, to rolling up his sleeves and doing craft-services if needed, Jesse did it
all. Alex was my consigliore at every step, solving problems left and right, keeping
me sane, and always talking me into remaining true to my vision. Together, they
were the perfectly balanced producing team I could have asked for.
Maxx and Jon are incredible VFX artists, and in my mind, in a league of their own.
From the first moment that I talked to Maxx about my vision for the movie, to the
day when Jon delivered all the final VFX shots to me, I had nothing but the best time
imaginable working with them. They are brilliant technicians, but also, gifted artists.
What they did in terms of visual effects in helping me create the world of EMIT, was
nothing short of magic. And being a relatively new director, I certainly learned a lot
from them about how to construct shots, how to talk to VFX artists so as to get them
the most flexibility, yet give them precise directions, and how best to handle the
work-flow in a VFX driven shoot. I had a blast working with them, and hope to get
another opportunity to do so, very soon in the near future.
Antonio Lepore is a consummate storyteller. He just happens to do so via music. A
brilliant musician, and an absolutely stellar collaborator, Antonio brought a level
of music to this film that was both seamless and yet haunting. As Antonio likes to
say: “If you notice the score, I didn’t do my job.” And that’s what’s so great about
his music for this movie – it fits so perfectly with all the scenes. It helps bring out
the eerie and unsettling qualities in some parts, while showcasing the beautiful and
moving moments in other scenes, without us paying attention to them. Antonio
composes music for the movie, for the story – he isn’t flashy just for the sake of it.
That kind of finesse and restraint, is the mark of competence far beyond his year, I
I would just love to talk about a few more people. I had the unquestioned support of two very important people – Kevin Chu and Anantshree Chaturvedi – my Executive producers. They were there at every step when we needed them, and I honestly couldn’t have made EMIT without either of them.
Two other key collaborators who helped me set the look of this film, were my
Production Designer – Derrick Hinman and my Costume Designer – Mandy Mitchell.
Both of them worked hand-in-hand on making the world feel authentic, yet askew.
Derrick did a phenomenal job with some very clever production design. He helped
me bring to life some very subtle things, like a TGI-Monday’s advertisement, or a
museum gallery banner that went from Sep 2013-Feb 2012. And while Mandy didn’t
have a lot of flashy costumes to pick out (we were trying to go for verisimilitude in
terms of clothing), she added little touches to each person’s wardrobe that made it
memorable to me – especially with Katelyn’s broach that was a timepiece.
And most of all, I have to thank one of my most key collaborators… my partner in
crime, my editor – Mark Sult. In terms of actually making the film, I think I spent the
most time with Mark, sitting at the edit bay, talking about the story, the characters,
the world, the themes, and the broad strokes ideas. It was so amazing to work with
someone who shared my filmmaking sensibilities yet didn’t necessarily look at
everything from the same perspective. He judged every cut in terms of story, not
continuity. As a director, I couldn’t ask for more.
Have would you live your life if time moved backwards?
Not very happily, I can tell you that much. As a storyteller, I live for invention,
imagination, and uncertainty. In the world of EMIT, everything is predetermined. I
would be very very sad, and most likely, out of a job.
Why did you decide to cast Jack Coleman, James Keane, and Katelyn Hunter?
I had been a fan of Jack Coleman’s for a long time. HEROES was such a great show,
and his character in particular was so interesting. What Jack brought to that role,
was so incredibly fascinating. When I first started talking to my casting director (the
amazing Jeremy Gordon, CSA), he mentioned Jack as a possibility, and I immediately
perked up. There were no second options. I asked if he could get the script to Jack,
and once he read it, the rest, as they say, is history…
James “Jimmy” Keane was another actor recommended to me by Jeremy. I watched
Jimmy’s demo reel, and immediately recognized him from an episode of MAD MEN. I
asked if I could have dinner with him to go over the concept, before offering him the
role. We sat down for a meal, and as he regaled me stories about convincing Francis
Ford Coppola to give him his first role (Apocalypse Now), or auditioning for Steven
Spielberg (for Close Encounters of the Third Kind), he did so with a childlike glint in
his eyes. I knew then that he was my character!
Katelyn Hunter was one of hundreds of little girls we auditioned for the part. She
was the only child who came into the room wearing glasses (she does so in real life),
and once I saw her perform, I just knew… I had to cast this little girl. She had a sense
of wisdom in her eyes – like she’s lived a life. And I went with my gut. Thankfully,
she turned in an absolutely riveting performance that still gives me Goosebumps
every time I watch the movie… (And that’s not easy, considering I’ve seen my own
film over a thousand times now).
How have you previous films influenced the way you approached
With every film you make, you learn what works, but more importantly, what
doesn’t. Having made short films before, I knew I wanted to do something on a
grander scale with this one. My big priorities were – working with more seasoned
actors and creating a world (by really playing with VFX). I think I’ve grown
tremendously as a filmmaker over the course of the past year, and look forward to
learning more as I continue my journey.
Is the Arri Alexa the best camera out there?
Not having worked with every single camera out there, I don’t know if I can say so
without question. But it’s pretty darn stellar! Besides, I defer to all camera related
questions to my incredible cinematographer – Patrick Meade Jones. He made my
movie look better than I had ever imagined.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
In closing, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to help me spread the word
Thanks for doing the interview J.S. I hope you will consider submitting "EMIT" to the 2014 Boston Sci Fi Film Festival. Please let the cast and crew know that I would love to interview them as well.
Why did you create "Ornana Films"?
Ornana started as an umbrella to make films under as a group of friends. Really, that is what it still is. We’ve all known each other for years and have become trusted collaborators through working on each other’s projects.
What is the current project you are working on?
We just self-released our first feature, euphonia, after premiering it at SxSw this March. It is available for free on Vimeo. We are working on putting together a little fall tour for the film to screen at film programs and be able to talk to students about the film, and how it was made.
We are also a year into production on a new hand-drawn animated short, Confusion Through Sand. It is story of modern desert warfare, done on gorgeous recycled paper. We are hoping to have it finished in time for next year’s festival season, as long as we don’t have to take any shortcuts in production or post-production. We believe deeply that you only make each film once, and you have to take that opportunity to do everything for it. Not that you can make something “perfect”—but I can’t imagine watching your own film and wishing you had worked a little harder.
How does it feel when your films win an award?
We always feel appreciative. When someone gives you an award, they’ve watched your work and had a genuine connection to the film. Making films is a little like driving at night, recognition can be a nice sign that you’re going in the right direction. I think it is the connection though, that is most satisfying. I deeply appreciate anyone who takes their time to give something we made a careful watch.
Where do you see independent film going in the future?
The digital world is a little like the wild west, but with no gold rush. I think there are going to be a lot of heroes and a handful of villains to come out of this transition. First hand, I’ve seen tremendous, hard-working, talented filmmakers that are creating staggering work. In the last year, I’ve cried more times in the movie theater watching small independent films (These Birds Walk, Call Me Kuchu, In the Family…) then I have the rest of my life combined.
The issue is how do we make sure these amazing creators can have viable, sustaining careers. There are plenty of great folks working on that problem too—new projects like Simple Machine and Elevision, as well as more established groups working on progress like Vimeo and everything involving Ted Hope. I think there is a lot of opportunity in the new independent film landscape, but we need to figure out monetization and how we can scale it. I hope these changes bring a lot more artistic freedom for the filmmakers and that we can narrow the gap between ourselves and the audience, make theses changes in community. Cultivating and growing the platforms will be as much of a challenge as building them. It will be all of our responsibility as filmmakers, media, and audience members to create the independent film world that we want to see.
What do you want people to take away after they watch your films?
On the wall at our office I put up a quote by the Portuguese poet Machado, “Wanderer—there is no path; the path is made by walking.” I think that message is in all of our films. If someone can walk out of euphonia and feel inspired to go home and do something genuine (in whatever their own polymath form is), then we have added into the positive feedback loop of creative inspiration. I just hope people can watch our films and want to create a path for themselves.
Thanks for doing the interview Ben. I applaud you and the Ornana crew for releasing euphonia for free. It's great that anyone, and everyone can see this film.