The very sight of the word “SPOILERS” to my eyes in an article often results in a slight stomach turn and instantaneous need to scroll away from the following words as if the information contained within could cause some sort of irreversibly traumatizing damage to my fragile soul. The constant lookout for stray spoilers to breach my self imposed spoiler-free life can sometimes be exhausting. It’s a bit like sheltering a child from all the evils of the world. Unfortunately the inevitable will occur. Yet for some, knowing whats going to happen is an imperative element to the experience of consuming stories. What exactly drives people to either avoid or seek out spoilers? SPOILERS: I overanalyze the subject ahead.
It’s human instinct to want knowledge. The old adage “knowledge is power” rings true in most scenarios. Before entering a situation it can often be beneficial to you to know as much as possible before it as to hopefully reduce surprises. Perhaps it makes more sense than we may think to use that same instinct to want to know as much as possible entering into situations involving stories. but it can perhaps be for the same reason that people choose to withhold. Reducing the surprise is only desirable case by case.
More than ever before we have access to any and all information in a massive interlocking encyclopedia that you are currently using – The Internet. From as menial as looking up words to as vast as exploring an entire subject, The Age of Information has birthed out a generation of people who rely on the Internet for…well almost everything. As quickly as you can find out who was IN a movie, you can find out the ending of that same movie. If you google the word “spoilers” the first result is an entire website dedicated to telling you the ending to EVERY movie in theaters. They’ll even give you a iTunes gift certificate for being quick to provide the info.
Today, if you are excited about a major upcoming film you have a smorgasbord of options to tide over your excitement. Watch trailers, TV spots, follow the film on Twitter and/or Facebook for constant ‘sneak peeks’ or fun facts dispersed in your personal news feed, and even watch FULL scenes of the film days before its released. At the stroke of midnight on the eve of its release you can probably find the anticipated film in most theaters, but if you choose to go to bed early and check it out the next day, you could theoretically wake up and google the ending of the film that some midnight goers stayed up extra late typing out. Blogging it out to the masses as if they were reporting a breaking news story. All this pulls the ‘sneak peek’ curtain so far back that you begin to wonder why you still even need to ACTUALLY see the film.
A friend of mine once told me he hadn’t seen Breaking Bad, but was quick to assure me that he had read the first 4 seasons worth of episode summaries on Wikipedia so we could still discuss it if I wanted. “I don’t have time to watch 50 hours of a TV show” he said. and who’s to blame him? In almost every scenario of a modern-day young adults life in our society they are told to attempt to find the fastest and most efficient way to accomplish a task. My friend simply took this framework, saw a 50 hour way to learn the full story of Breaking Bad, and saw an alternative that would clock in around an hour or so of reading. So what exactly is he sacrificing? A whole lot.
It might not always be an easy task to convince someone investing a considerable amount more time in a piece of entertainment will reward them with a richer experience, but it is almost always the case. For example – take an art form that is nearly impossible to spoil – music. SURE you can listen to samples of each track on iTunes, but as far as knowing the ending, it’s basically a non-factor. If a friend tells you “the album ends with a kazoo solo” you at MOST could be moderately bummed that you’ll know what to expect – however it doesn’t really take away from the experience of hearing it and having your own unique feeling and reaction to it. It’s not like the interweaving story of the album reaches an apex with that kazoo solo…and if it does, stop listening to so many progressive kazoo concept albums. But almost unanimously one would agree that the more time you invest into an album, the more certain things may pop out at you as an outstanding portion of that art. Perhaps your least favorite track ends up growing on you and becomes something you appreciate for its not so immediately apparent values. The same can be said for story driven art forms like movies, TV shows, video games, or books. The more time invested in discovering how the story plays out, the deeper the connection to that story you may have.
The biggest problem with spoilers, however, is not just the lack of time you spent getting to the information at the end of any given story. By spoiling a story-driven art form you are intentionally disregarding the artists intentions and slighting yourself a potentially rewarding emotional experience. That may sound heavy-handed, but everyone as some point or another has been moved by a well told story (and if you havent, may I humbly suggest ANY FILM by directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, or Christopher Nolan – for my money, the three best modern-day American storytellers). Perhaps what many don’t realize about a well told story is that it hinges on the element of surprise.
With the prevalence of the internet and over-saturation of information available at us, the element of mystery and surprise has been sucked out of a lot of art in favor of instant gratification. Anticipation has become a feeling people prefer to avoid and combat by fulfilling a brief but easily gained urge to have what they want now in a truncated form over waiting for the full experience later.
The mixed messages of our societal functions are partly to blame for the decline of appreciation for patience and surprise-driven storytelling. We are told in many aspects of our lives that finding faster and more efficient ways to gain information is just…better. It can be hard to turn off that function when it comes to preserving the artistic merits of stories – but rest assured It’s worth it. The gratification of a well crafted and presented story is something that can never be replicated by a brief summary of events.
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!
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!
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”: