- Song for a Dying Man
- In the Argentinean winter of 2010 one of my best friends and awesome cinematographer Michael Lockridge and me embarked on the project of making a short film, we had been talking about working in something together for a wile and the knowledge of an upcoming festival became our push to finally doing so. This is more or less the story of the project:
- What are we doing?
Even if we were excited about the project we knew right from the start that it was going to be tricky, Mike had planned to go back to LA for a shoot 10 days from that day, we had no idea what to film or where and surprisingly, films cost money… first reason why films are hard to make.
Still, we decided to jump in taking the good old guerilla approach, which is the fastest way to film something and also the cheapest, also a production style I feel really comfortable with. We only needed a script suitable to be filmed like that and the first 5 days of the time we had, went on making it.
From the scripts I had already written there wasn't any that we could use, most of them needed a bigger crew and time filming than what we intended or could use, we needed to start from scratch and write something new just for this, easier said than done.
- We need a story
For a while I struggled finding an idea that we could use, until I remembered something I thought a few months back. The ad agency I used to work was in a beautiful and huge old building near the train tracks, I knew them very well since back at the time I was a chain smoker that when there often, I used a lot of my time there thinking stuff I could use at some time of my life and one of those many odd ideas was of a man wounded to death walking near that place, yes I know, weird stuff to be thinking… but there I was months later thinking, we can do something with this.
I also decided to throw in there another idea I had been playing for a long time and aiming to use often: Two friends, almost brothers that always dressed in black, that had a particular sense of humour, taste in music and line of work.
I went to Mike with those things to see what he thought about them, and after a chat throwing ideas here and there we had a story we could tell, I gave it the final form and we had a script.
- We called it preproduction
We knew that Mike was going to be in charge of photography and filming, I was in charge of the story and direction, we had the script and that was about it, we needed to act fast to find the rest of the stuff we lacked and there was not a lot of time to do so, so we thought it was a good idea to bring to the team a producer to help us out, it wasn't a good idea at all.
We lost 2 valuable days trying to work with the producer and making it understand what we needed and how we needed it, it was impossible and everything seemed complicated, expensive, stressing an lacking direction, it looked like it might been a good idea to just postpone everything… and this kind of productions doesn't work like that... we got rid of the producer.
We were back were we where but we soon got back on track, Mike and I went location scouting and we found or sites in a 3 block radius and figured out our shooting order, We also decided here how to treat light and photography, when mike felt it had all he needed we knew we could do it, the next night we were going to shoot.
We still lacked mayor stuff at that point, the sound recording and even more important, the actors, we e-mailed and called everyone we knew that could help us, until we found the studio that provided us with the sound part and a friend help us reach our main actors Nicola De Michelis and Dario Tamiazzo… We needed a third one that we were incapable to find with the little time we had so, guess who's had to be the third one?
After that we found our next crew member Iñaki Bidart to help us while we shoot, prepare some blood and we were ready to go… just 3 hours before the shooting
- Film me like one of your French whores Mike
One of the cool things of our location spot was that it could look very sketchy even if it wasn't, the later it went the greater the illusion was, which was great for us since we were going to shoot everything that night.
We meet with the everybody 1 hour before we start shooting so we could organize everyone and I could explain our plan for the evening to the new guys.
Finding Dario and Nicola was actually incredible, both talented, charismatic and immigrant Italians with friends in common, they had never meet each other before the short We prepared the characters and how to confront the story right there and I gave them room for all the improvisation they wanted, this made them more comfortable with the script and also made the sort a thousand times more funny.
It was very cold, and by the time we were filming the main train tracks scenes everyone was tired and freezing, the temperature was near 2ºC (35,6ºF) and I was with just a shirt on with a humid fake blood stain on my stomach so I can assure it wasn't warm, the train passed by a lot so we had to stop frequently, some drugged guy appeared and scared the crap out of half the crew and at some point we even had to see how one of the trains stopped to watch what we were doing, still we managed to film everything we needed with a couple of hours to spear before the sun came out.
Next night mike and I filmed a couple of complementary shoots we might need and we wrapped production, Mike was free to go the next morning and the material was ready for editing.
- Editing hell
I'm going to say it right here, I don't like editing, I will do it, but I don't like it, is one of those things that you know that you have to do if you want to something done, so you do it but while you do it you know the fun part is everywhere else but there.
So being in a closed room for days, alone, hearing and watching the same clips a million times, hours in a row is not a laughing matter, it's horrible, but you endure it because you want the end result and that's the only way to get it.
The material even if good an funny, needed a lot of editing to make it interesting, dynamic and coherent, since Mike was in LA we couldn't just go and film if something didn't work, we only had what we filmed that night and since we did a lot of improvisation, filmed for hours and tired everyone, then editing took ages until taking form also, since I had to be a character you don't know how painful it is to have to see you over and over on the screen, I couldn't see myself on a mirror for a month.
But it had to be done and we were on track, we had a very tight time frame if we wanted to sent it to the festivals that we wanted to send it to, but it was doable, last days were for TVoice to work in the soundtrack, edit, edit, edit, edit some more and make it the best we could.
In the last hours, after working for almost a month and having no sleep in the last 2 days, I was finally rendering the file so I could send it. It had to be sent in 3 hours tops or it wouldn't have enough time to travel across the glove to be eligible for the festivals, we only needed 30 more minutes to finish the render and burn the DVD and run to the nearest mail agency, was doable.
My roommate at the time woke up, served herself a nice bowl of cereal and pass right by my side…
My huge render, the final step of a month of non stop work, the one I had been waiting for 5 hours to finish, was about 15 minutes to be completed when she accidentally unplugged the hard disk… we lost everything… it wasn't pretty…
We didn't had enough time to do the render again and the time limit was so narrow and I was so tired that in the end I just waited to give the bad news to Mike and went to sleep.
- Happy ending
After some time after that incident, and being well rested and less focused we retook the project and make it better, re made the audio, arranged things on the original editing, corrected and matched all the colours and fix things here and there, in the end it was as it usually happens better to have more time.
We worked on the subtitles to make it funny also in English and finally we had our short, it was time to let it play outside by itself.
- Promotional stuff
Doing your own stuff is awesome,it gives you the freedom of doing whatever you want and since this was the case all over the project, the promotion stuff was another fun playground.
Short films like this one feel like they don't need promotional material, but going to the festival market showed us different and well… advertising and promotion always help a little and since it was fun to make and I had all the intention to make it I made room to be playful with the material.
- When I was designing the poster I thought a while if I wanted to make a normal one for this, you know big picture of some scene and the info or do something else and sis I could I went with something else. So I came up wit this idea that instead of doing just 1 poster I would make 3 to post separately here and there.
- They were very simple illustrated with the type of typography work I like to make, when seen they were judged by the people separately, sometimes saying which one was better, stronger, etc.
- The fun part was, when they saw them all together, then they saw the bigger picture and how the 3 of them where more related that they thought in the first place.
- I also wanted to make a T-Shirt for the short because having T-shirts of your projects is fun. Once again instead of just doing something traditional like put the logo there or something similar to the posters I decided to play a little, I wanted to make something I would consider a cool tee instead of just a plain one, I thought about it for a while, and throw away a lot of concept until I finally came up with a design that fitted my weird idea of cool T-shirt for the project.
- Overall it was a great project to be creative and Mike and I felt really proud of how it ended looking, we had an amazing fun time doing it (even editing it) I hope you enjoy the end result as much as the we did making it.
Have a look:
- Thanks for watching ;^)