My latest video project, which I’m extremely proud and excited about, is my band’s music video! Making this video feels long overdue, as I had wanted to direct a music video for my band (The Family of Man) for a while but never had a song and concept come together. After creating our third album “The Way” it finally happened. The video is for our single “Bittersweet Relief” which is a song that Wilfred wrote for the especially collaborative album.
We always create our albums deep in the woods on week long retreats from the city life (you can read more about that HERE), so it only felt appropriate for it to be the setting of a music video. As far as the concept, I wanted it to really reflect the spirit of the band. There’s a certain magical element to the process of us getting together and making these albums. It often feels like an alternate reality. getting away from the constant buzz of the city and leaving electronics by the wayside ends up having a regressive effect on the mind to where we are able to act instinctually, freely, and childlike. It only felt natural for us to play the song on instruments that could perhaps grow from a tree trunk, or are a little larger than life.
Shortly after proposing the idea to the band, the logistics began to fall in place. With the help of two extremely talented Fellow Filmmaker Friends (FFF’s for short) Jaena Sta. Ana and Alexander Collins we were able to realize the project seamlessly…and have a great time while doing it.
Wilfred Galila (Co-Director / Bandmate / Creative Partner for Life), Jaena Sta. Ana (Producer / The Eye in the Sky / Skywalker Gangsta) and I went out to location scout near Muir Woods about a week before shooting and found some excellent locales rich with forest greens and large behemoth rocks. A week later, with Aliyah Cline (Third Bandmember / Life Long Friend / Insane Other Half) and Alexander Collins (Director of Photography / Visual Extraordinaire / Fellow Videogame Nerd) we set forth to shoot. Through tons of laughing, mediocre burgers, and an occasional rap came the music video. The entire day felt like an extension of the trip to Humboldt which made the album – and the result was a video that captured the same spontaneous energy found in the music. I couldn’t be more happy with the result. I hope you enjoy it as well. If you like it, you can download the entire album for FREE right here.
Thanks for watching! Stream the full album below.
I’m very excited to announce that anyone and everyone will soon be able to view my latest film “Nuclear Family” for FREE and online starting on Sunday June 17th 2012 (exactly 1 year from its last public screening). “Nuclear Family” is a film that has been a long road for me starting all the way back in August 2009 when I began to draft characters, summer 2010 when I wrote the script, Dec 2010-Jan 2011 when we shot the film, March 2011 when it screened for the first time publicly, and now, finally, June 2012: when it will finally be viewable online for anyone and everyone to see and share.
You might be wondering what has gone on with the film for the past ENTIRE YEAR since it was last seen publicly. Over the past year I have submitted Nuclear Family to 13 (unlucky, I know) Film Festivals across the US. During this process, its common practice to not let your film be publicly seen in case it does get accepted into a film festival. They want to have your ‘premiere’. Well, recently I heard back from the last one, and after 12 rejection letters, the 13th one didn’t really feel so bad. In fact, what I now feel most bad about is holding this film hostage on my computer for an entire year. It is a film I’m extremely proud of, and I don’t make films so that they can sit on my hard drive at home. I make films to share them with as many people as possible.
As a director, there’s a lot of control you have in making a film. One thing you can’t control is if your film will please the judges of film festivals and subsequently get a film festival run. In many ways, it can be luck of the draw. I’ve focused so much on getting the film seen by this abstract “them” (all the people who attend film festivals) that I’ve forgotten about “you”.
In the interest of keeping the sappiness level of this post somewhat low, I will sum up what I’m trying to say in a nutshell: I care about you. If you are reading this right now then you are supporting independent filmmaking and I want you to see this film and be able to share it with whomever you want. Love it or hate it, If you have any desire to see it, you should be able to.
Thank you for your support, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Check back on Sunday to watch “Nuclear Family”.
UPDATE: WATCH THE FULL FILM BELOW!!
When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought to myself “looks sorta like that TV show ‘Skins‘” (of which I mean the original British version…don’t even get me started on the American MTV bullshit remake) and I wasn’t entirely off base. This film is sex, drugs, and rock and roll – plain and simple; but it does so with heart and searing visual flair. It all made sense in the Q&A after the screening when writer/director Alexandra McGuinness explained that she had a background as a stylist and a large interest in fashion, because the way this film is photographed is a bit reminiscent of classic fashion photography. “Lotus Eaters” follows a group of young upper class brits living their life in that aimless cycle that we all at some point or another fell into in our teenage years. At the center is a blooming yet turbulent relationship between two of the main characters Alice and Charlie, the latter of which has a bit of a drug problem.
The movie spirals around their lives as if a fly on the wall taking you from one situation to the next, whether it be a wild party with vodka-baths, or buying ridiculous clothing accessories. The movie is lean at just 78min, and is pretty light on plot but heavy on character. It was the last act of the film that really just had me hooked. Once the wave finally crashes down on the never-ending party these lads live, it begins to take a more pensive route. One that ultimately ends up making this film a wild ride. Top that off with Alexandra’s seriously kick-ass taste in music (I’m talking best soundtrack of the year) and seemingly instinctual mastery of blending visuals with music and you end up with a fascinating gem of a feature debut.
I would just as quickly warn people to never watch this film almost as much as I would plead others to. Its glacial pacing, stream-of-consciousness structure, over two-hour runtime, and minimalistic story will probably have unsuspecting filmgoers instinctually reach in their pockets for a quick few rounds of Angry Birds as they pan it for being too artsy. I often wonder if films of this nature will slowly become extinct as our collective attention spans dwindle into the length of adorable-kitten videos on YouTube.
At any rate, this film propelled me into a rather pensive funk for the proceeding few days after seeing it. What ended up being so note-worthy was its unbelievably accurate depiction of how we remember our lives, and more specifically our childhood. Textures, smells, inconsequential moments, or snapshots of seeing the world when you were two feet tall. These moments bubble to the surface, often without too much context of what came before or after it, or even what age you were. ‘The Tree of Life’ plays out much in the same way. After the introduction of a 1950′s family grieving a loss, we are transported back in time…you know to the big bang. Upon witnessing the very formation of life itself, we eventually catch back up to what most would consider the main ‘plot line’ of this freeform existential journey. The film is visually astounding. I mean serious eye candy. Captured images of profound greatness. Do you get what I’m saying? Pop this one in after a nice bubble bath, or perhaps a few hours of meditation because this isn’t a film that’s gonna quiet a restless mind.
It’s not often phenomenal filmmakers have turn around time between films as quickly as Fincher. After releasing “The Social Network” in October 2010, he’s already back with his next project which slides snuggly in next to other Fincher classics like “Se7en“, “Fight Club“, “Zodiac“, and “Curious Case of Benjamin Button“. Yeah, this guy has certainly been busy making some of the greatest films of the last 10 years. It’s well known that ‘Dragon Tattoo’ is a remake of a 2009 Swedish film, leaving many to wonder just why the film is so necessary. While I more often than not join the rally of ‘leave great foreign films alone!’ (as I did when they remade the brilliant Swedish film “Let The Right One In“) I can’t help but make an exception if the film is helmed by a visionary director such as Fincher.
But enough about all that, this movie is badass. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, the damaged and strong anti-heroine, glues your eyes to the screen and demands your attention in one of the years best performances. As far as tone goes, this mystery thriller focuses much of its drama on the slow unraveling of the murder mystery at its core and refrains from loud set-piece-destroying action sequences. It’s very much akin to Fincher’s more recent work of “Zodiac” and “The Social Network” where he has been seriously flexing his ‘make long dialogue scenes way more gripping then any standard action scene would be’. To top it off, his frequent cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth paints stunning visuals into each frame with his uncanny eye for visual perfection. Trent Reznor’s score is yet again a perfect pairing to the visuals, and keeps the sense of menace and dread up even when really all we’re watching is our main characters flip through old news articles and investigating every corner of a photograph. That is what filmmaking is all about.
OK, I can’t argue it. We’ve all seen a quirky coming-of-age love story before, however ‘Submarine’ manages to rise above its own framework to offer a comedy with outstanding characters, emotional depth, and a so-british-it-hurts style humor for the 2011 generation. The film sinks its teeth deep into the visual medium its presented in with a fresh and lively style. Consistent across the writing, cinematography, directing, and editing the film hits its tone so perfectly on all ends it becomes hard to not be swept away in its heightened reality. 15-year-old Oliver Tate is wise beyond his years, and his hilarious introspective internal rants give us a great sense of the depth of his character. Character is something this film packs in by the tons. Each player in this tale has a perfect array of flaws, quirks, and oddities that make each scene a joy to watch as more layers are peeled back. A classic love story told in an unconventional way. Its odds and ends make this an addicting watch.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about this depraved dark comedy I found just so outrageously hilarious. In many ways, it’s the sum of its parts, but truly the comedy orbits the hysterically straight-faced performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the aimless stoner metal-head deadbeat Hesher. His unapologetically don’t-give-a-flying-fuck attitude accidentally finds its way into a grieving family of three mourning the loss of mama-bear. It’s dark tone is played for laughs on just about every turn of the story, and does so without shame. Despite its mostly bleak tone, Hesher keeps things energetic and entertaining with seriously fantastic performances, killer writing, and well-rounded characters. Hesher is filmmaking turned up to 11. In fear of over-complicating things, it’s easiest to say: this film fucking rocks.
Don’t call it a cult film. OK, you can if you want, but interestingly director Sean Durkin prefers that the misguided and reclusive group that begins molding Martha’s mind to do the ‘right’ thing unconditionally not be so attached to the classical definition of a ‘cult’. I think really what he’s getting at here is that “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a ‘cult’ film without the over the top cheesy elements involved. Don’t expect any sacrificial lambs, speaking in tongues, and velvet robes in this one. This is a group that could very well exist in our modern world, and is unnervingly easy to see how someone in a vulnerable state of mind (i.e. Martha) could find solace and a sense of community among her new-found brothers and sisters. This is crucial in understanding just what makes “MMMM” so powerful and truly chilling. Powerhouse performances from Elizabeth Olsen as Martha as well as John Hawkes as Patrick, the ‘cult’ leader, make this a serious knockout of a feature-length directorial debut. The film is firmly grounded in reality, while Martha struggles to understand her own. smoothly transitioning between her life since escaping the cult and the deep-rooted memories from when she was still a part of it make you as the audience sometimes question what is a dream, memory, or is really happening. The audience is constantly trying to make sense of the events and what it will mean for Martha’s transition to life in our normal society. You never really know more than Martha, down to this brilliant film’s final frame.
Miranda July is odd. If you haven’t seen her video blog, watched her interviews, listened to her audio-stories/spoken word albums, or seen her debut feature “Me and You and Everyone We Know” (which along with ‘The Future’ she wrote, directed, and starred in) then it may be a bit hard to judge whether “The Future” is going to be your thing or not, but suffice to say it’s another addition perfectly in line with her off-kilter humor mixed with child-like wonder. In other words it’s brilliant. Describing the plot of the film actually doesn’t do much good in enhancing your understanding of what this film is truly about. Sure it involves love, modern-day dilemmas of technology, existential mid-life thoughts, and a talking cat – but really this film is more about then that. Absorbing the film into your mind offers you a rather insightful tale of…well…life. despite its abstracted fun-house mirror presentation, this film at its core is a grounded and relatable human story. Miranda July has often been discredited to just being ‘weird for weird’s sake’ but in truth what makes ‘The Future’ just so inciting is wondering just how it is that Miranda July is going to present the next scene. Her unique penchant for storytelling makes her work less about trying to figure out WHAT will happen next, but more so HOW it will happen. Call it weird, but I call it transcendent.
‘A beautiful film about the end of the world’ is this films tagline, and there truly isn’t a better way to sum it up. When was the last time you saw a film about the end of the world that doesn’t show people rushing into stores to stock up on supplies, frantic newscasters warning people to stay inside, the Golden Gate Bridge being destroyed, impossible scientific experiments like lasers that can destroy asteroids without any debris entering earths atmosphere, or Bruce Willis. In Lars Von Trier’s (Antichrist, Dogville) latest film, he explores the real emotions of a handful of characters as they begin to come to terms with the fact that their lives, and the lives of all human beings on earth might soon be coming to an end. The uncertainty of the situation and the wide personalities of the four main characters here cast a relatable shadow in the audiences direction. Would you be the one to doubt it until the last minute? Accept it and enjoy your final moments? Panic and convince yourself there must be a way to stop it? Fantastic performances from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg blended with the unmistakable cinema-verite style of Lars Von Trier’s eye as well as his latest obsession with super-slo-mo imagery make this film remarkably powerful and existential.
It’s always refreshing when films are able to take you beyond the simple presentation of a story, and Life in a Day does just that while still remaining captivating and interesting. ‘Life in a Day’ essentially boils down to being a 95min video time capsule of what life was like for humans around the world on June 24th 2010. The result is both fascinating and deeply thought-provoking. Pieced together from thousands of clips that were submitted by people from around the world filming their day, this is a project unlike any other before it. By eliminating the arguably invasive film crew from this documentary, and handing the camera over to the subjects themselves (i.e. everyone on earth) we get undeniably candid and personal moments that would otherwise be stifled by a bunch of film dudes making sure the shot looks good on the other side of the room. When I say this film is beautiful, I’m not talking about the camerawork, lighting, or visual effects – I’m talking about the deep undercurrent of human feeling this film has sewn throughout its running time. In watching this film, you’re sure to find connections to your own life and raise some questions about how you’re living it. It’s an experience that will happen for those willing to open themselves up to it. This film rewards audience members who allow this film to absorb into their minds. It turns out it’s one of the most rewarding experiences that film has provided this year.
This film is impossibly twisted, unmistakably unsettling, and far beyond just ‘dark’. Often picking my ‘favorite’ films just comes down to the visceral feeling a film gives me. After all, a truly effective film is the kind of film that literally gives you chills, or overwhelming emotion that lingers hours, days, sometimes weeks upon seeing it. So it was a no-brainer for me to place “We Need to Talk About Kevin” firmly at the top after experiencing what can only be described as a ‘my skin is crawling’ moment during the closing credits. This film is NOT for everyone. For example: children, people interested in seeing movies to escape/feel good, or people who would not like to be aware of the irreversibly fucked-up scenario of raising a child that has serious psychological problems. So its audience is a little limited.
The deranged insanity of the demon-child in question ‘Kevin’ is actually played by three actors at different stages of his life. toddler, adolescent, and teen. While the adolescent Kevin does have the most screen time, it will undoubtedly be the teen Kevin (played by Ezra Miller) who will give you death-stares in your nightmares. In fact it’s not just his performance that stands out as exceptional, but his mother Eva (played by Tilda Swinton) as well. The complex emotions of Eva that drive the fractured narrative through its depraved story of the constant search for a normal life catapult this film into territory of universal fear and doubt of ones abilities as a human. It’s a rough ride for your psychological state, but this film is dementedly visceral and unmissable for anyone willing to stomach it.
It’s been a bit since I’ve updated about Nuclear Family – but the project continues to be my number one priority. Since the March 25th screening there have been a couple exciting things to have happened. Heres a nice quick-fire way to catch up:
April 23rd – Twitchfilm.com features an interview with me discussing the film (READ IT HERE)
After a lengthy discussion in a coffee shop in SF with film writer Michael Guillen, the interview was published to popular film site Twitchfilm.com
April 27th – Nuclear Family submitted to first film festival
it has since been submitted to a few other SF Bay Area prominent film fests. I won’t name names as to not jinx it.
May 24th – Nuclear Family now on IMDb (Check it out HERE)
Due to the submission process, Nuclear Family lands a page on IMDb!
June 1st – Brand new full-length trailer for Nuclear Family (Watch HERE or above)
A full length official trailer which reveals much more than the first ‘teaser trailer‘.
June 17th – A second FREE sneak peek screening of the film in SF (RSVP on Facebook HERE)
This will be the final screening of the film until it begins it’s festival run late this year.
So it’s once again the eve before a screening of “Nuclear Family”. I feel drastically different then I did before showing it the first time. For one, I’m not currently biting my nails with nerves about what people will think. Through the last couple months I’ve found a great deal of confidence with the film and personally cannot wait to show it a second (or third, or fourth…) time. This screening feels like another opportunity to let people see the film I’ve worked the hardest on and the one I feel most comfortable with. As I stated above, this is indeed the FINAL time I will be showing “Nuclear Family” publicly until it potentially makes it into the festival circuit this fall. There will be NO DVD RELEASE until sometime in 2012. This is simply because a DVD release disqualifies me from submitting to festivals. What all this means: If you wanna see “Nuclear Family” – this is gonna be your only for sure chance to see it until 2012.
FOR THOSE ATTENDING: make sure to show up early! I would suggest getting there around 6:30pm. The Viz is not large (seats about 150) and will fill up quick. At the previous screening it was full by 7pm – and this one is sure to be no different as there are more films and more people invited! Here is all the info you’ll need:
WHERE: Viz Cinema – 1746 Post St, SF (between Laguna and Webster) CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS
WHEN: Friday June 17th 7pm-11pm
“Nuclear Family” will show with 6 other great short films – one of which, “Catch The Clock” (written and directed by Jaena Sta. Ana), is a film that I’ve been editing the last couple months. The film shares many of the same tonal qualities and themes as “Nuclear Family” so make sure to stick and around and check it out!
See you tomorrow!
Last night marked the first time “Nuclear Family” has been shown to anyone beyond a small handful of classmates – and the support for the film is quite simply overwhelming and humbling. Before discussing the night, I just want to thank every person that was able to come out last night and fill the Viz Cinema in SF’s Japan Town to the brim. Seats went quick, and many people stood through the whole screening. You guys made the night what it was. As I’ve said before, YOU all are the reason I make films. It’s for nights like last night.
Looking back on yesterday makes it feel like it was weeks ago. The anticipation and nerves before the screening made the day go by at a snail’s pace. As 7pm approached – the seats of the Viz Cinema began filling up extremely quick. By the time the films began the theater was completely filled and people were beginning to stand in the isles waiting eagerly to see the 5 short films of the night. From my end of things – my heart was racing, and I was clenching my plastic water bottle with extreme force. Yeah, I was pretty nervous.
The screening went on with a great crowd who was receptive to each film.
Between One and Two by Matt Rome – A love story of a couple who meet over the course of a night in SF
My Sherri by Carlo Barot – a twisted love tale almost void of dialogue. truly a visual film.
Forever, ATM by Wilfred Galila- A quirky tale of a man who falls in love with an ATM machine and in the process learns how to feel again.
Keeping it Reel by Dana Shaw- Four legendary San Francisco filmmakers examine the art of filmmaking and debate digital technology’s affect on their craft.
After the other four fantastic short films, Nuclear Family began playing on the screen and I immediately felt the strange sense of nerves and excitement reach the boiling point. Watching the film on the big screen was an extremely exciting and overwhelming experience. The audience responded well to the film, and it was a fascinating experience to see how certain moments of the film played off the audience.
When the film finished up there was a Q&A session, which I was pretty nervous about, but after a few questions was able to calm down and give more in-depth answers to the questions. Got asked things like where the film was shot, how many days it took to shoot, techniques I used for working with actors, the process from script to finished product, and if the film was autobiographical. After the Q&A I was able to talk with people on an individual basis about the film, and received a great amount of feedback about the film.
Last night was one of the best nights of my life. This movie is the closest to my heart of all my films, and to finally be able to share it with others is what I’ve wanted even since beginning to chart out the characters back in Summer 2009. It was inspiring to see so many people there, and receive so much positive feedback about the film. It makes me eagerly await the opportunity to create my next film.
For those unable to make it last night, there will be future opportunities to see the film. Most likely the next one will be in Mid-June. Check back to this blog for all the updates along the way. Last night is simply the first step to getting this film to the eyes of as many people as possible.
IF YOU ATTENDED THE SCREENING and would like to rate the film from 1-5 stars and optionally write a short review of the film – I strongly encourage you to do so. Simply click HERE and let people know what you thought!
There’s no need to remind me this film is finally going to be seen for the very first time tomorrow. Dreams of the screening have been frequent the last few days as the big night approaches. Is it nerves? Excitement? Relief? The truth is it’s all of those things. This project, quite simply, represents over a years worth of work from conceptualizing characters in the Fall of 2009, to writing outlines in January 2010, to finishing the script in Summer 2010, casting in Fall, shooting in Winter, and editing / post-production until…well a couple days ago.
Up until this friday only people directly involved with the production have seen any footage (beyond of course the online TRAILER). I’ve always been rather protective of people seeing my films until they are complete, and this film has been no exception. Friday’s screening will also be the ONLY time to see this film until June. I do not plan on releasing the film online or DVD until at least late this year. The film will be submitted to festivals around the US immediately following Fridays showing.
Nuclear Family runs at 28min and was shot completely in the SF Bay Area with the Canon 7D – the buzzed camera of the current Digital Filmmaking Evolution. The film was truly made out of love for the craft of Filmmaking as both the cast and crew were paid only in pizza. Because of this extremely generous donation of time and talent, the film features high production value and quality performances while keeping the production-budget under $500. I feel very thankful to the amount of help and support the project was given from my fellow classmates and friends at The Art Institute of CA – SF. It’s always difficult for someone who hasn’t made a film to understand just how much work goes into it – and if it weren’t for the amazing cast and crew this film just wouldn’t have turned out like it has.
This anxious feeling due to Friday’s screening reminds me most of how I felt just before screening my feature-length film “WE HEART ELIE“. That film as well represented a large amount of time (over 2 years). That screening back in December of 2008 resulted in one of the best nights of my life. Quite simply – this is why I make films. The feeling of showing a representation of ideas, thoughts, images, and sound compiled and crafted meticulously into one solid, unchanging form has always been what drives me to completing each film project I do. It’s the audience. It’s the communication that can be shared from me to you. It’s you.
I hope you enjoy it.
RSVP and get all the details of the screening of “Nuclear Family” HERE
My good friend Wilfred Galila and I have collaborated on many creative projects in the past year and beyond, and so I was very excited to have him on board to be the Director of Photography for ‘Nuclear Family‘. I knew he understood the concept of the film as much as I did which would make the imperative communication between director and DP that much easier. The whole process from initial conversations about the visual style I wanted to achieve, to now the final tweaks to color correction have been a smooth process – and one that has resulted in ‘Nuclear Family‘ looking the way I had imagined it back in the writing stages.
Wilfred answered some questions about the process of creating the ‘look’ of Nuclear Family, working with the Canon 7D, and the state of Digital Filmmaking:
Q: How would you describe the look of “Nuclear Family”?
The look of Nuclear Family is one of decadence that is almost devoid of soul. It is a watercolor sketch of the story that is told.
Q: How was this ‘look’ achieved?
It was achieved in different stages and through other cinematic elements such as production design and wardrobe. The house that was used as the location amazingly had the right color palette that worked to our full advantage. Dominic, who wrote and directed it, wanted some sort of desaturated look with a certain amount of contrast. By shooting it with this direction in mind and doing the appropriate color correction during post production we were able to achieve this look.
Q: Describe your process for conceptualizing how you were to visually approach this film.
By painting with watercolor in my mind. The frame is a piece of paper and the images appearing on it are, in some parts opaque and some parts transparent as with the consistency of mixing pigment with water.
Q: What thoughts and/or emotions motivated you during the creation of these images?
Watercolor as it is being absorbed on paper.
Q: How was your experience working with the Canon 7D?
Working with the Canon 7D was an interesting experience. I have worked with it on another project prior to shooting Nuclear Family and have become used to it since then. I’ve enjoyed filming with it and would use it again. At first I had to get used to shooting a moving image with a still camera. Not that this process was something that was entirely new to me. It also included getting used to the shape of the camera. I have been used to shooting moving images with cameras specifically made for shooting motion pictures. It was a paradigm shift.
The usual answer would be that I enjoyed shooting the whole film and while this is true, there are a couple of scenes that come to mind right away because they were also, at the same time, an adventure. One is the opening scene in the car. We shot this with a mount for the camera that we stuck to the hood of the car using the suction cups that came with it. I have never done this before and I thought to myself that with a camera that size, I guess suction cups would suffice. We shot the master shot and a couple of close ups of this scene in several takes. The car with the actors and the camera stuck to its hood followed another car where I was with my camera operator riding in its open trunk. During every take we would try not to imagine the camera falling off the hood of the car. That car mount rig worked really well in the end. Another scene is the one that involved non-human subjects in the form of a beetle and a caterpillar and Dominic has already told this story before.
Q: Has this project offered any new challenges to you as a Cinematographer?
Yes, the challenge of coming up and achieving the look that is specific to this film.
Q: What is your take on the current Digital Revolution of Cinema?
I do not know if we should call it a revolution if what it means is to revolt. To revolt against what? A certain medium of telling our stories? Then we would just be revolting against our heritage. If what is meant by this revolution is a change in ways then I would rightfully call it the Digital Evolution. We are evolving in our ways of telling our stories through the medium of the moving image. Advancements in technology have given us access to an alternative medium. A medium that is also readily available to anyone who can afford to buy the equipment. Just as oil paint in tubes made painting accessible to the masses or roll film made photography available to everyone. We do have to remember that these are just media that are at our disposal and that the plethora of choices that is available to everyone does not make the entire planet full of Picassos nor does the accessibility and supposed easy nature of digital filmmaking has spawned a million Kubricks. On the other hand, and this can be the only thing that is worthy of the term revolution, this accessibility to the digital medium, including the internet, has freed the storyteller from the clutches of the powers that be that regulate the stories and dreams that each and everyone of us could potentially share and have access to. Finally real stories can be told and a myriad of dreams can be shared. Whether the medium is film, digital video, or, possibly in the future, holography; as we evolve with our ways of telling our stories it should always hearken back to our purpose of sitting around the fire to listen, to see, and gain insights into what it is to be a human being.
Q: Having seen a close-to final cut of the film, do you have a favorite shot and/or scene from the film visually speaking?
I really like, what I would call, the cerebral interludes of the main character in the film. The juxtaposition and layering of images that instantly makes sense.
WHAT – “The Moving Picture Show” A Screening of Short Films
WHERE – Viz Cinema in San Francisco 1746 Post Street (between Laguna and Webster)
WHEN – March 25th from 7pm-9pm
PRICE - FREE!
Just a matter of a couple weeks now from the very first opportunity for you to see “Nuclear Family”. Over on the left there is a picture of the Venue. It looks a bit like a space shuttle – but I promise you that is actually how it looks. It’s pretty cool. Also their toilets clean you. If you’re into that.
The film has also just recently reached picture lock, meaning no further adjustments will be made to the edit of the picture. It’s now in Sound and Color world. Simon Raistrick is heading up the Sound Mix, Director of Photography Wilfred Galila is handling the Color Correction, and I am working on the Sound Design. The last couple weeks have been pretty hectic, but little things from various friends helping me on Post-Production have all been coming together in a really fluid way. There’s a couple small visual effects shots one that is a practical effect done with milk and food coloring from Dana Shaw – and another is a digital effect done by Jerome Chagnon that is a screen replica of an iPhone. You probably wouldn’t even know it was an effect if I hadn’t said that.
For those of you following the film on Facebook – you’ve probably already seen the Facebook Event page with all the details, but this is an exciting night for several reasons. The film will be premiering alongside 4 other short films made by some good friends of mine that have been alongside me through the post-production process giving me valuable critique and advice. All of the films are fantastic productions utilizing the digital revolution of cinema by using the Canon 7D and it will make for a great celebratory night of SF film. If you’d like to get to know a bit about the films check them out on Facebook:
I really hope to see you all there. This film has been my focus for more then a year now and I simply can’t wait to start letting people see it. Also I want to stress that this will be the one and only time to see this film until at LEAST June 2011, so please get out and support Independent Cinema on March 25th! It’s FREE after all.
Nuclear Family is a film about the importance of music – so it was fittingly important what kind of music would be included in the film. When initially writing the film I envisioned music that would appropriately match the dream-like state that main character Marc Benheimer feels he is in. The problem was I simply couldn’t find an artist that fully matched up with this hope for the music.
It was only after beginning casting that I finally found that artist – or really the artist found me. At the time I was doing a weekly music blog that featured reviews of new albums – and NY minimalist / ambient / orchestral-drone composer Kyle Bobby Dunn sent me his album for review. I loaded it up in iTunes and saw this was a 2 hour double-album. Daunting. I slipped on my headphones, and about 2 hours later it became apparent this was the music for my film. I wrote the review (you can read it HERE) and later contacted him about the idea of me using his music in my upcoming film.
It’s with great excitement that I can tell you now that tracks from Kyle Bobby Dunn’s 2LP “A Young Persons Guide To…” and his EP “Rural Route No. 2” make up nearly the entire soundtrack of the film. Below you can listen to several tracks from his album. Almost all of these songs make an appearance in “Nuclear Family”:
While Kyle Bobby Dunn makes up almost the entire soundtrack of the film, I wanted a slightly different mood for the credits. Upon playing around with some songs I found the ideal candidate to match the mood of the ending.The film’s credits song is from one of my favorite local SF bands Honeycomb. Honeycomb is a fantastic orchestral-folk group that plays some truly incredible live shows around SF and beyond with a very distinct sound. Front-woman Emily Ritz has graciously allowed the song “Flesh and Bone Machine” to be used from their excellent self-titled debut EP. Here is a live in-studio version of the track:
I cannot be happier about this selection as both artists were my first choice. Music in film is something I focus a lot of thought into, as I am of the belief music can make or break the mood and emotion of a film. Some of my favorite cinematic moments have very much to do with the marriage of visuals and music in a unique and interesting way and I am always very cautious when approaching how music is used in my own films because of this. I am hoping the selections for “Nuclear Family” help elevate the film to a place where the audience can feel as Marc feels. Distant, Contemplative, and Layered.
Don’t forget to “like” the film on Facebook to continue to get all the updates on the film as we near the first screening on March 25th!
Here we are, the final CHARACTER PROFILE will focus on the main character of Nuclear Family – Marc Benheimer (to read the others here is Ezra, Henry, and Melany). Main characters are often the first piece of the puzzle when writing a film, and Marc was no exception. Marc is the center and heart of this story. He is 17 years old and born into the upper class world that the rest of his family embraces with open arms and credit accounts. Marc, however,feels a large emotional disconnect from his family. His interests and overall perspective of life have grown to be drastically different from theirs. Longing to live a more grounded, less materialistic and artistically focused life – Marc has simply found himself to be a fish out of water. It’s not surprising then that Marc has just shut down around his family and focused on living his life through the transportive qualities of music. When the story of “Nuclear Family” kicks off the family has just suffered a loss of a family member. While the rest of Marc’s family grieves by distracting themselves by buying material objects, it becomes clear that Marc is quite possibly the only one REALLY grieving.
The origins of this character stem out of my own feelings of the upper class lifestyle. Many times when creating the character I asked myself what I would do if I were born into the upper class. I am far from rich, but have known a few people who are extremely rich quite personally and it has always seemed to me there is more problems that stem from having too much then having too little. When you have everything at your fingertips, why would feel the need to work for anything? Marc serves as the bridge between this family and the audience who primarily will not be as rich as the characters in the film. For the part of the audience that IS as rich as these characters, I hope Marc, and the story of “Nuclear Family” as a whole, will help them to see another perspective of some of the negative side effects of having all the “things” you want but losing touch with life and even with your own family.
Often when I make characters It’s only after they’re finished that I begin to see where I placed pieces of my personality into them. Much was the case with Marc’s need to have time by himself and his deep interest in music – along with other traits. I am a musician along with being a filmmaker and have always found it to be a medicinal artistic expression – and only got into music by obsessively listening to it when I was younger and banging on my brothers drums along with my favorite songs. Whereas I had an opportunity to explore my connection with music – Marc has never been given the platform to do so.
Casting for this role was rather strange. The character only has 3 lines in the entire film. I knew this role would need someone willing to portray an introverted character almost solely through facial expressions and body language. It’s said that the majority of communication is made through body language – and this role really puts that to the test. Joe took this challenge and really ran with it. On set it was clear he didn’t see the lack of lines as a reason to slack off – but rather to read into whats really going on in Marc’s mind at any given moment in the story. Joe’s performance is something I’m very excited to get audience reactions to. Acting is too often perceived as delivery of lines, and I hope this role will show the other side of that coin. Joe plays a 17 year old in this film, but is actually 23 years old. This was actually a huge plus. It meant that we could talk about the role from a perspective of not actually still being a teenager but being able to understand the motivations from an outside lens. In between takes Joe felt like part of the crew. He shared a lot of common ground with all of us and it kept things really comfortable and open on set which helped us all be able to have fun while making the film.
I asked Joe Stricker some questions about portraying Marc Benheimer, along with his experience working on “Nuclear Family“:
Q. What drew you initially to the role? Is this different from most roles you’ve received?
JOE: When I saw this project posted I was interested in being a part of a very stiff, conservative family. My parents are very liberal/hippy San Franciscans that have always been very encouraging and chill with whatever I want to do so Mr. and Mrs Benheimer are completely different from my family in that regard. I was excited to find out what it would be like growing up in an ultra-suppressive environment. I’ve been playing a lot of angsty, suppressed teenagers lately in films… I think I found my type!
Q. What were your first impressions of the script / story?
JOE: My first impression of the story was that it was going to be difficult to pull off. It’s one thing to simply make a film about a screwed up family and a suppressed teenager, but to create that dysfunctional world and then resolve it, at least partially, in a different light is ambitious. This is what I am hoping we accomplished.
Q. How would you describe your character? Any similarities to yourself or someone you know that you found to draw on?
JOE: I think Marc is a late bloomer. He is still figuring out who he is and what he is passionate about. He finds an energy and potency in music that is completely lacking in his own life. Though he is not yet sure of himself, he is confident that he wants to incorporate the same vitality he hears in music into his world. I definitely can relate to Marc’s love for music as I am a musician and find great joy and relief in music. I believe that if everyone in the world at the same time experienced the same inspiration I experience in 2-3 minutes of a really (really) good song the world would be better off. I think Mark is also trying to share his musical experience with the world.
Q. Did you do any special preparation for the role?
JOE: I watched Little Miss Sunshine again before we started filming just to see how actor Paul Dano played a similar character to Mark. I then thought about ways Mark exists in silence. Even though Mark is quiet, he is not indifferent to the world. He actively thinks, listens, and forms his own opinions even if he isn’t voicing them.
Q. What was your favorite scene to act out? Did you expect it to be your favorite based on the script?
JOE: The dinner scene was my favorite scene to act out which I was not expecting. I thought everyone was really able to get into the “meat” of his or her character. This scene made me realize how much of the individual manifests itself in words, gestures, and style of eating around a dinner table. As a result, everyone’s colors came out and we were able to create an almost unbearable amount of tension.
Q. What was your favorite moment on set?
JOE: My favorite moment on set was also the dinner scene. I naturally like to joke around and laugh over awkward situations, and the dinner scene was no exception. Eating in quiet angst for so long I usually had to laugh off the tension during the breaks between shots. Sometimes James and I could not help breaking out of character if we looked at each other for too long during one of our arguments.
Q. How was your overall experience working on “Nuclear Family“?
JOE: I had a lot of fun working on “Nuclear Family.” I am the same age as the rest of the crew members and it felt good to be around a lot of people my age also doing their best to make it in film. All my friends back on the East Coast and at home all have corporate jobs and this project served as a great reminder that there are others out there like me with creative ambitions. I’m sure I will see and hear a lot more from many of the crew and cast in the coming years.
The third character in this CHARACTER PROFILE series (the others were Ezra and Henry) is Melany Benheimer played by Julia Prager. Melany is the 10 year old daughter of the family. Melany has been spoiled her whole life, and knows how to manipulate her parents to get what she wants. She follows their rules, and trusts their views on things – as long as it means she stays on their good side and continues to get praise and love from them. She has watched her alienated older brother Marc continually distance himself from the rest of the family, and as a result – he doesn’t get whatever he wants. Melany has made her decision – sacrifice exploration outside of the rules for comfort and love from her parents. Melany is really a product of her environment. She simply has made the environment start to work for her. She loves to mess with her brother Marc in whatever way she can. She knows how to push his buttons, and will go out of her way to find that reaction she’s looking for.
This character was based on a couple of people that I know well and was a character I was very excited to see come to life. Julia Prager was one of the first girls to audition for this role, and her natural delivery of the lines really impressed me. Julia is a young and extremely talented actor that pulls her performance from a very genuine place. She listened to feedback, asked questions to help herself understand the character, and was very determined throughout the whole film. I had never worked with a young child in a film, except for my previous film “Frank’s Mug” which had a very brief scene with a young girl in a non-speaking role. Working with Julia to help her understand her character was an really insightful process. Julia never seemed nervous, and her acting through the production just seemed to come naturally. Julia is only 8 years old, but wise beyond her years. I’m confident she will have a great career in acting as long as she remains interested in it, and I can’t wait to see her in future productions.
Julia answered a few questions about her character and her experience on “Nuclear Family“:
JULIA: The fact that I already have an older annoying brother who plays piano.
Q: How would you describe your character? Any similarities to yourself or someone you know that you found to draw on?
Q: What was your favorite moment on set?
JULIA: Hanging out with the other actors.
JULIA: I had so much fun! I hope for Nuclear Family 2!
Julia started acting at age 2 putting on puppet shows and dancing around the house. Since then she progressed and has become an actor at Julia Morgan’s Berkeley Playhouse theater. As well as a dancer at Genesis Dance school in San Francisco. She performs with Dancing with the Stars champions yearly at The Zellerbach Hall. Julia loves writing and reading. She appeared at various TV and commercial productions. She is an avid traveler. Russia, Thailand, Bali, Jamaica, Mexico, France and Italy are some of the places she has been!
The second character I would like to introduce to you (the first was EZRA) is Henry Benheimer played by James Allen Brewer. Henry is the father of the family, and a harsh one at that. If I were to have to say there was a villain in Nuclear Family – It would be Henry. This was a character that really evolved out of the script. I had an idea of who this person was, but mapping out the events of the story it became clear this story needed someone like Henry. The arch his character goes through in this story is probably the most fascinating to me. It’s easy to see Henry as a completely terrible person, but what I find more fascinating about working on this character is he really just doesn’t realize what is wrong with how he lives his life. All people have some good in them but many have a harder time accessing it. Henry truly wants the best for his son Marc, but has become so wrapped up in the success or failure outlook that I feel many people have in America that he fails to see how Marc is already succeeding – just not in the way Henry had hoped. I suppose I’m being rather vague, which is mainly due to me not wanting to reveal the story, but Henry is truly more than just an asshole of a dad.
Casting the part of Henry was going to be a crucial role. The movie feeling realistic I feel is dependent on the performance of the father due to him carrying a lot of the set-up dialogue scenes of the story and truly painting Marc’s world for the audience. Luckily I didn’t have to worry after finding James Brewer. James was extremely enthusiastic about the part from the audition and constantly asked me questions about the character so that he could fully understand him. His excitement about the role and his understanding of the character from the get-go was a major part of my reason for casting him. I later found out he had been involved in the music industry, and really could appreciate the music-minded message of the film. After the rehearsals and talks about his character – it was clear to me going into filming that James fully understood who Henry was. Inside and out.
James answered some questions about his experience working on Nuclear Family:
JAMES: I found the story very moving and the screenplay thoughtful and well written. Dominic has a very bright future ahead of him.
I based Henry on my late father, an overworked, overwhelmed rage-aholic, with whom I never had a close relationship. Henry’s son Marc is not unlike me at his age. Preparing the role of Henry allowed me to see my father from a different viewpoint; hence, I eventually remembered him in a more sympathetic and generous light. These realizations prompted me to soften the character of Henry just a bit, when we finally shot the pivotal scenes.
JAMES: This was a very positive experience, with a fun working environment and a minimum of tension and off-camera drama. Thanks, in great part to Dominic’s vision, the barre was raised quite a bit higher than most other short films on which I’ve worked.
James Allen Brewer Bio: Beginning his professional career as a singer and dancer at Disneyland and on TV, Brewer segued into songwriting. He had toured nationally and internationally, performed in Las Vegas, recorded for numerous major record labels, and appeared in regional theatre when he was tapped by Pulitzer Prize-winning “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau to be “Jimmy Thudpucker,” co-writing the music and lyrics and providing the character’s voice for an animated film based on the comic strip. The film led to a tie-in single for Warner Bros. and an album for RCA (“Jimmy Thudpucker’s Greatest Hits”), with the film receiving an Academy Award® nomination and winning the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival®. Segueing into film and television, Brewer received kudos for his send-up of Simon Cowell in the theatrically released film, “Ryan and Sean’s NOT SO Excellent Adventure”; will soon be seen in the sci-fi thriller, “Red Ice”; and has had the pleasure of hearing his voice dubbed into Japanese in 8 breathlessly exciting episodes of “The World’s Astonishing News,” one of Japan’s top-rated TV shows.
Welcome to the first introduction of the 4 main characters / members of the family in Nuclear Family. We’re starting off with the mother of the family Ezra Benheimer (pictured above) played by Keely Dervin. Writing the character of Ezra was a really fun experience. In many ways this character is at the root of the comedy in Nuclear Family. Before writing a script I work hard to develop the characters – but this one came rather naturally. I got to take aspects from multiple people I know (or briefly meet at my job at Starbucks) and mash them together to make a character that is fun, exciting, upbeat, and really enjoys her life.
Keely Dervin brought this character to life in a way that just felt perfect. When I was auditioning for this role, I saw her headshot online and immediately knew she had the exact look for the part. Her audition was something I was really looking forward to because I knew if she also was able to act the part well – the part was hers. When It finally came down to it, she embodied the character perfectly. There was simply no other choice. No other actor brought the energy to the character the way that Keely did. Keely was great to work with, receptive to feedback, and a true energy on set. She stayed focused with a great attitude even on some of the longer days of shooting.
Keely Dervin started acting professionally when she was 16. Her first role was on the TV show “Crazy Like a Fox”. Through the years she has produced TV shows, and special effects around the world and at Industrial, Light and Magic. She returned to her first love “Acting” in March of 2009 and never looked back. In the last couple of years she has been cast in 4 commercials and 7 films including Nuclear Family. She can’t wait for more.
Q: What drew you to this role?
Keely: Ezra is such a fun person. Traditionally, I have done drama after drama, so to be able to cut loose, jump up and down, and squeal – I could not resist.
Q: What were your first impressions of the script?
Keely: It could have gone in so many different directions. Sitcom to dark comedy. I just jumped and saw the comedy, and loved it.
Q: How would you describe your character?
Keely: Ezra is someone everyone has to like. No matter how naïve she may be, her love for her family and husband is always shining through.
Q: Did you do any special preparation for the role?
Keely: She runs on a high energy, so letting all my worries go and just being delightfully happy with life.
Q: How was your experience working on “Nuclear Family“?
Keely: Dominic and Wilfred were great, and the crew worked so well together. We need to make a “Nuclear Family 2″!
Last night closed another large chapter of “Nuclear Family” – Production. It was about a year ago that I was beginning to write the script for this film, and now I can see the visuals that have evolved from that writing. It’s actually a rather surreal experience. When I visualize a film as I write the script it feels much like how you remember a dream. You can picture images but they feel frayed at the seams, with details that are fuzzy and a bit disjointed. The images often feel like sketches. Some scenes feel so concrete in my head that i could easily name off the shot list, while others have much more breathing room. After now experiencing the production of all those scenes that were once fuzzy – I realize that wiggle room can sometimes lead to the most interesting parts of production and consequently the most intriguing parts of the final film.
Yesterday was the 7th and final day of production. Completing the filming process is a bittersweet feeling. Of course now I feel much less stressed about the project and a bit relieved there’s no more major scheduling to be done. I’m also gonna miss the on-my-toes feeling of being on set and being able to be form the footage in a fashion that feels spontaneous. It now rests mostly on my shoulders in my bedroom editing suite (which also doubles as a desk with a laptop on it). Editing boils down to shaping up the clay, but if your clay is too runny you can’t really make a very good sculpture. Some people say you make your film in the edit room, but I’ve always felt it’s simply another step of a much larger series of stages that can either make your film better or worse. I have worked on the cut throughout the shooting process – and I am feeling extremely optimistic at this point about how the film is shaping up.
Yesterday we shot from 9am to about 9:30pm – which marked the longest day of shooting. Despite the hours, it wasn’t as grueling as it may sound. The nighttime shooting felt rather jam-packed – but during the day was a pretty relaxing shoot that started off with probably the luckiest thing that has ever happened on any of my film shoots:
This story takes a small amount of back story – generally when I am in the brainstorming / conceptualizing stages of my films they begin with a single scene. working outwards from there, a lot of the times I build a story based around that scene simply so that scene can be in the film. Well that’s exactly how Nuclear Family started to take off last January. After conceptualizing a scene involving an insect the main character finds and interacts with – I basically constructed a movie leading up to the scene, which in the final film, takes place near the end.
Well going into yesterday – we still had not been able to track down a reasonable place to find a beetle. A realization I almost certainly knew would mean the scene might not make into the film. The hour was approaching on our schedule in which the scene was to be shot – so I informed the crew the scene was likely to be cancelled unless we someone were to randomly find a beetle around the yard of the house. Having some downtime – a few members of the crew began searching around the yard of the house for the treasured insect, including myself. This was not my first time searching around yards for this elusive beetle that would make or break this pivotal scene from being shot – so my expectations of actually finding one were pretty low. My instinct of course went to turning over rocks. Much like I had done earlier in the day, week, and month to no avail. This time was slightly different. slightly different in the sense that the first rock I turned over contained a beetle. There was a moment of complete shock where I just sorta sat there staring at it, contemplating if it was real. Did that really just happen? After seeing it begin moving its legs I quickly dumped out the closest coffee near me (sorry to whoever’s crew cup that was) and guided the beetle into the cup.
Walking back into the house I announced to the crew dumbfounded-ly “I just found a beetle”. The news was quickly followed by the entrance of our main actor Joe Stricker. After being filled in on the preceding events, he let us know he had just seen a caterpillar just outside the door (another bug that could work perfectly for this scene). We quickly grabbed our back-up insect-actor and let them duke it out for the performance of their short lifetimes. Much like the ongoing battle of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the greatest band of all time (by the way – it’s The Beatles) our insects had a one on one battle for the role in Nuclear Family. The qualifications were rather simple – move. Well, the beloved Beetle of the hour (who we named Juice) seemed to be rather close to dead. Not quite the way to get a role of a lifetime I might add. This turn of events however led to Caterpillar snatching up the starring insect-ular role. Probably his biggest break in the film industry. The shots were gathered with the insect and Caterpillar was set free unharmed much to the happiness of PETA.
Moral of the story: FATE IS REAL.
Just the other night I finished up a very rough cut of all the scenes we’ve shot so far. The cut has some scenes missing since we still have 1 more day left to shoot, but it currently rests it’s rather large head at 25min. Don’t get too attached to that number however. The scenes certainly run slow, and definitely could use some tightening up. The film is beginning to feel less like soup and more like a gelatinous jello-like substance. I’d imagine this is what it must be like to raise a child. See your creation slowly form from a thought in your head to a very tangible being. This baby is still in early adolescence, but it’s birth has been rather smooth. I still don’t feel comfortable showing anyone this small child though. I want to protect him from any outside influences, but I know that can be a rather unhealthy way to grow up. One needs some social interaction, and once my film feels solid enough for some social critique, it will be shown to my peers for feedback. The film will most likely be done in March and get an exclusive pre-screening at the Viz Cinema theater in SF for all of you eager to check it out before it begins to be submitted for some film festivals around the Bay Area and beyond. I also have some exciting news in regards to the films soundtrack that I can’t quite reveal yet until documents are set in stone…
Running time is actually much more important to the film than you may think. Many festivals will not accept films over 15min (and sometimes 10-12) for the “short film” category. It’s something I have been deeply struggling with as I don’t know if this story can properly be told in that time. If the film doesn’t naturally work its way down to that length, I’ve considered the possibility of having multiple cuts. A “Directors Cut” featuring every last moment with these characters that I’d love for you to spend together, and a slimmed down streamlined “Festival Cut” which would probably have to shave off some of the more revealing / insightful character moments in favor of moving the plot forward like a speeding train. Not something I will probably be too fond of considering the tone and theme of the story. It will feel much more natural for it to have a slower pace.
Progress continues at a steady pace for this project. If you’ve been following the film on Facebook you probably already have a sense of the daily schedule of events, but to catch you up to speed, I’ve decided to implement a fan-decided release schedule for the series of short Behind the Scenes videos. Upon reaching 50 and 75 fans on Facebook I have released them, all of which you can check out HERE. There is one last video set to release when the page hits 100 (currently at 90) so invite away to see it sooner.
Recently got some more production stills from my photographer / behind the scenes cameraman Kyle Lester. Some of my favorite shots have made it up to the Facebook, and here’s just a couple (check out the rest HERE)
I feel as if I have just come off of a centrifuge ride at one of those terrifyingly unsafe traveling carnivals. I’ve exhausted a large dose of mental energy and cannot be more happy because of it. My next film “Nuclear Family” has just shot its first full weekend of shooting and is about halfway done with production. The footage is looking incredible, the actors have a full sense of their characters, the crew has been extremely helpful and focused, and I have no doubt that this film will be my best film yet.
This shoot has been a huge learning experience for me. My previous film “Frank’s Mug” was a crew of about 6 over 2 shoot days. This weekend had a crew of 9-10 (depending on the day) and will end up having 6 shoot days and is a larger production in just about every way. My mind was being juggled around. Now in the aftermath it has become a bit easier to understand what exactly happened.
The cast and crew spent the weekend with me on location in the SF peninsula hills. Without complaint they went through a shoot completely on the payroll of ‘love for the craft’. It was a humbling experience to see so many people push themselves creatively to the limit and I feel honored to have had that sort of devoted help.
Friday and Saturday felt like similar days. They were well-paced relaxed shoots. My favorite shot from Day 1 involved an elaborate set-up for a long take that took us from the backyard all the way through the house into the living room for a well-timed character action. With the help of cellphone communication, well placed lights, and Dakota’s tireless shoulders we got the shot in just a few takes. The shot is about a minute and a half and is gorgeous. Saturday, without giving away too much, involved an untrained dog (my dog). There’s something they tell young filmmakers: avoid using animals. Going into it, I warned the crew we may be up for a challenge of patience to get the shot we needed. In a sort of culmination of factors on our side, the shots took about an hour and were mostly painless. Unless someone scraped their knee and I was unaware of it. The shots, also, look incredible.
Sunday was a bit more challenging. Through the day we shot a scene in a moving car with a car mount, getting our last shot within 5 minutes of sunset. Blood vessels were popped. Through the evening, we shot the films most intense dialogue sequence featuring the full family and tons of angles. Pushing through the long day, the cast and crew stuck with it and stayed focused. While we didn’t stay on schedule as we had with Friday and Saturday, the Sunday shoot was still an overwhelming success. I got home in a daze, and passed out (well after watching the latest episode of “Dexter”. I can’t miss that).
This weekend has been incredible, and is the first tangible feeling that this film is really coming along. It’s been over a year since I began plotting out this film, and it will still be about 6 more months before it’s completed, but I couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming together. You will see it as soon as I can get it to your eyes. For now, enjoy a very brief behind the scenes look at “Nuclear Family”:
As of today I will begin to update this blog as a way to communicate the entire process of the making of my next film “Nuclear Family” from Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production I will keep you informed every step of the way and deliver insight into the filmmaking process along the way. You’re probably asking yourself ‘but Dominic, what the hell is Nuclear Family?’ Well It’s pretty reasonable that you don’t know, so just take a deep breath and let me tell you the basics:
A Short Dark Comedy Written and Directed by Dominic Mercurio
Coming Spring 2011
Nuclear Family is a short (15 -20 min) dark comedy / social satire about a 16-year-old boy named Marc Benheimer living in the modern American upper class. As the emotional distance from the family he was raised by grows, he finds solitude in music. After tradegy strikes the Benheimer family – Henry and Ezra, the parents of Marc, buy a comforting distraction: a brand new limited edition grand piano to fill out the aesthetics of their living room. Marc is told he is not allowed to touch the piano, but what’s really on Marc’s mind is what would happen if he began to deconstruct the walls of his family’s values.
The film, which is currently undergoing some final tweaks to the script, weaves themes of belonging, artistic passion, and monetary value into a twisted presentation of modern satire set in the upper class lifestyle in America. That picture you see above is the house that we will be shooting in.
This is my Senior Thesis project for my Bachelors Degree in Digital Film and Video Production at The Art Institute of CA – SF. I will be Writing, Directing, and Editing this film and will set off into production with an extremely talented crew of fellow local filmmakers from The Art Institute and beyond. The film will be shot with the leading camera in the current Digital Revolution of Cinema – the Canon 7D. I cannot tell you how excited I am to make this film and share with you the process. My goal for this project is to far exceed the quality of all my other films and present to you a film that will not only make you laugh, but also contemplate. Thanks for your interest, and I hope you’ll check back soon.
Last night my new band The ElectroSonic Chamber finally played our first show / event.
To add a bit of history, before talking about the show, this is a project that had been slowly cooking up since December. After me and Wilfred worked together on the short made-in-an-hour stream of conscious psychedelic / musical shorts “Grandpa From Beyond” and “Incident at the Center of the Universe: The Cosmic Triathlon” we began to work on a longer film idea that would share the same spirit as these shorts with real production value and time put into it.
MGMT’s first album “Oracular Spectacular” is on a short list of amazing albums of near-perfection for me. Upon saying that, “Congratulations”, their follow-up, is an album that stands on its own in the MGMT catalogue (you can call it a catalogue after 2 albums…right?) and will disappoint some, and surprise everyone.
This movie completely surprised me. i went with no expectations and really didn’t think i would love it. i left the theater nearly exhausted from laughing and found this to be one of the best comedies of the year. it has an off the wall humor that i love and deals with very real and entertaining characters that all have some fantastic quirks. The comedy comes fast and often in this film and is relentless. also i must say i HATE “larry the cable guy” or whatever his real name is, but he is ACTUALLY funny for the first time ever in this film. thats a plus right? a must see off-the-wall comedy.
9. Avatar IMAX 3D
this film has just recently become the highest grossing film of ALL. TIME. surpassing Titanic. yes this actually means that the 2 highest grossing movies of all time are BOTH by James Cameron. you lucky bastard. well unlike titanic, this movie is pretty awesome. the story is a bit painfully cliche in how it plays out and the dialogue is particularly bad from the humans in the story (especially the walking cliche that is the evil military general). well those are the negatives that i had to get out of the way, and once you get those out of the way in watching this film there’s still a lot of positives that make this worthwhile. of course, visually this is the most advanced thing you can see to date, and it really is remarkable what it accomplishes. the world of Pandora he has created has some extremely rich and creative ideas in it that absolutely should be seen. i particularly enjoyed the way the blue people physically attach themselves with the other animals to become one with them. really beautiful and imaginative work. you may have noticed i put “IMAX 3D” next to this, because honestly i feel that this movie would not have been in my top 10 if i hadn’t seen it in AT LEAST 3D. seeing it in IMAX was a wonderful addition too, but do not see this movie on your computer in 2D. its just too visually and aurally overwhelming to watch in such a small way. overlook its shortcomings (there are definitely some) and enjoy its profound message of relevancy to our modern culture.
8. Pirate Radio
this film, which is about an illegal british radio station broadcasting from the seas in the 60′s is brilliant. the film cuts between our main story on the boat to the big-wigs at the corporations trying to shut them down. the back and forth is brilliantly paced and offers a an awesome sense of rooting for the little guy. the cast of characters on the boat are very colorful and hilarious. they enrich the whole film making every scene comic gold. the acting is superb, and the film is absolutely beautiful. of COURSE the soundtrack is full of some of the best 60′s music you can find and will keep you tapping your foot through the whole ride. i loved how realistic the main character was and the very british style humor found throughout the film. the story is awesome, but let me tell you…the ending to this movie is just the most kick ass thing ever. just when you think everythings gonna end happily ever after…think again. in a brilliant double-take this movie fakes you out in a way that had me smiling all the way back to my car. totally brilliant way to conclude an already awesome film.
7. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
the latest Terry Gilliam film is also the last film starring Heath Ledger. in case you don’t know, he died while this film was in production and Johnny Deep, Colin Ferrel, and Jude Law filled in the rest of the scenes so the film could still be completed. the amazing thing is, they worked around it brilliantly. it works perfectly with the logic of the film and is something you’ll barely notice. despite all that this film is the most visually awesome film i’ve seen in years. wonderfully colorful (especially when characters enter their own imagination) with amazing acting all around (minus Mini-Me…he sucks at acting. what the hell is he doing in this film??) Tom Waits plays the devil in what is probably the most perfect role ever, and kills it. my favorite performance from Tom Waits ever. every scene he’s in is overflowing with life and character. this film also has some VERY monty python-esque humor in it (in case you don’t know, Terry Gilliam was part of Monty Python) with one moment which involves can-can dancing police officers that had me crying with laughter. the story doesn’t really fully come together in the most perfect way at the end, but it was something i easily overlooked as Gilliams movies are always a bit open ended. if you don’t mind not fully understanding the conclusion, this is an absolutely must-see film.
6. Taking Woodstock
wooooahhhh man. this film is, like, totally groovy man. a film starring Demitri Martin (yeah i know i look like him) as the guy who actually helped get Woodstock a place to host the festival after being misplaced is a visually exciting film with deep characters and very well acted scenes. its a drama / comedy so don’t expect to be cracking up the whole time, but there are definitely some laugh-out-loud moments in this film. its more serious tone really works well though for our main character who begins learning a lot about himself and who he is. the films climax of course involves the festival…and well…acid. and. its. awesome. one of the most visually interesting scenes of last year and something that needs to be seen. this film has a pure 60′s vibe and lots of heart.
this fairly small movie that premiered in Cannes is a unique and creepy film that has an awesome simple concept and a killer story. A man is sent to the moon by corporations to help mine out resources that our helping our diminishing supply on earth. after up there all by himself (and a robot that he talks to) for 3 years he begins to see things on the shuttle. is he going crazy, or is there more to it? oh come on you KNOW there’s more to it. and the “more” im referring to is something worth checking out. creepy, wonderfully shot, a great story, and brilliantly acted which is a must for a film like this that really only has one character. the unique twists that begin unraveling results is some very uniquely written scenes that shouldn’t be missed by any film-lover.
4. 500 Days of Summer
this is one of the most creative and inventively fun films i’ve seen in a long time. it has an undeniable personality and clearly has a deep love for the audience. this movie will just make you have a good time watching it. its fast paced, written extremely well and with a sharp sense of honesty of human relationships. i loved the visual style and the way it constantly played with new and interesting ideas. i particularly enjoyed the split screen sequence that shows you the main characters “expectations” and “reality” simultaneously. you see what he wanted to happen and what really happens in a brilliant, and sad series of events during a party. totally brilliant. there is also a brief song and dance moment that cracked me up. complete with cartoon birds flying around and interacting with the main characters. this is inventive filmmaking that is a breath of fresh air. also worth mentioning is the KICK ASS soundtrack to this film.
3. District 9
I do not like sci-fi or alien films. well, generally speaking. This film changed my perspective on that. Extremely thought-provoking, outstanding story, and a relevancy to our modern world that is the scariest part of the film. This film is a massive achievement for being outrageously entertaining and extremely deep. the area that is District 9 is a character itself. slummy and disgusting and it is extremely rich in backstory. because of all the backstory and the documentary-like setup this film feels very gritty and real. if aliens did come to earth, this is probably the most accurate way to describe how we really would treat them. like shit. a metaphor for where we have gone as humans and how little we care about anything but the bottom line. THATS some scary shit.
2. Worlds Greatest Dad
This film is the most fucked up comedy i think I’ve ever seen. to say it’s a dark comedy is an understatement. Robin Williams stars as the father of a truly messed up son. I love Robin Williams as an actor and he of course steals the show in this film. I can’t tell you what happens about a third of the way into this film, but i can tell you it changes the whole film and is seriously unpredictable. and once it happens you may think to yourself “well that was fucked up, i don’t think it could get much worse then…” BUT YOU’D BE WRONG! this plot turn has the film progressively get more and more fucked up as we see the lengths our main character goes to and how truly deranged, yet human he is. if you have a dark sense of humor (like me) and like messed up characters and stories (oh yes, me) then you absolutely need to see this film. one of my favorite performances by Robin Williams to top it off.
1. Inglourious Basterds
Oh Quentin Tarantino. you seriously kick ass at making films. this film is jam packed with absolutely killer scenes. this film was the only film i saw multiple times in theaters last year was a film that i can’t wait to watch again. from one of my favorite opening scenes of just pure tension that ends in an astounding climax that starts the film with a bang (somewhat literally) to the final chapter that is an extended scene in a movie theater which is set up so well you know it couldn’t be bad, and it just relentlessly exceeds expectations. Anyone who says Tarantino has lost his touch must really desperately want to think that, cause this is on par with all his other films. a classic film that absolutely needs to be seen to be believed. as always, the use of music is some of the best in the business, and the dialogue is not only engaging, but the most cleverly paced writing you’ll find in any screenplay. do yourself a favor and see this amazing film.
Almost Made it:
This Richard Kelly film (the director of one of my all time favorite movies Donnie Darko) is a very good film with an absolutely brilliant concept. a couple is offered a chance to get 1 million dollars for pushing a button at the cost of knowing one person they don’t know will die. of course that is only the beginning of the story. the movie is thoughtful and goes some very unexpected places. visually its astounding and offers some very unique ideas on humans morals. unfortunately the story seemed to lack something towards the end. very ambiguous much like “Imaginarium…” but i felt in “Imaginarium…” there was much more to latch onto and a message i felt more involved in. still a worthwhile film to check out.
A visual masterpiece. Going away from the CG mentality of modern films, this film was actually a stop motion film. almost unheard of nowadays. because of it though there is just a soul that the film has that is undeniable. the story is your typical childrens imagination story, but it’s a proven formula and it works perfectly well for the film. the “real world” is filled with an ugly color palate of browns and greys, while the imagination world is colorful beyond belief AND (if you see it in 3D) has much more depth to it. There are a few memorable scenes in this film thats worth checking this out. the main drawback for me was that the story wasn’t particularly original or unpredictable.
Where The Wild Things Are
this movie should have been one of the best films of the year. it had an incredible children’s story to draw from with dark undertones, it did away with the far too overused idea of CGing EVERYTHING, it was directed by Spike Jonez, it was absolutely beautifully shot, it had a soundtrack by Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who released one of my favorite albums of ’09, and yet when it came down to it…it was boring. how the hell does that happen?! the beginning was awesome and then when our hero Max travels to the magical land of his imagination everything comes to a standstill with the story. almost nothing (and i really mean that) happens in the world of his imagination. how, you say, is it possible to screw up the potentially most interesting part of the story? i have no idea. but it was done. the ending was solid, when he retuns to the real world. essentially the first 15min and the last 15min are the only interesting part of this film. the middle had me ancy in my seat waiting for it to be over.
A lot of people hate Rob Zombie’s films. I’m not one of them. or should i say i WASN’T one of them. i loved his reboot of the Halloween franchise and found it to be the best Halloween film ever. it was supremely fucked up and went into a back story that brought life to the masked killer. unfortunately this sequel to his reboot was completely terrible. i REALLY wanted to love this film, but there was just nothing to latch onto. The story was uninteresting and almost unrecognizable. the whole film was too over-bloated with this scene OVER AND OVER: Michael happens upon someone alone. Michael chases them. Michael kills them in a ridiculously fucked up way. and ok, its not like the first film didn’t have killing in it, but it had a deep background and interesting story which made you care about the people running from Michael. if i meet a character 5min before he dies and all he was doing was smoking a cigarette, why am i gonna care for the 10min of watching him be gruesomely killed? the answer is i don’t, and the killing seems like its only there to make the film more violent. this is Rob Zombies worst film by a long shot, and the only film of his i really don’t like. it’s a shame Mr. Zombie.