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!
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.
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.