Charlie Griak's profile
End of the Rope Feature Film
From 2019-2023 I worked as the co-writer, director and editor on the feature film "End of the Rope". The movie tells the true story of the 1931 Charles Bannon case in Schafer, North Dakota and is based on Dennis Johnson's book of the same title.

The following is a look at my workflow throughout this 4 year project, and some of the foundations of my decision-making process. 

But first, the official trailer.
In the fall of 2019, producer Daniel Bielinski shared Dennis Johnson's book with me. He wanted to make a feature length adaption that explored the complex moral gray areas of this true event. I was thrilled to take on this exciting challenge. 
While co-writing the script, I began drawing initial storyboards to help find the story flow and cinematic style. These drawing began with pencil and paper, and then were taken into Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Fresco to add color and lighting.
I find it interesting to compare early storyboard frames with the final imagery. The below left frame was one of the very first images I drew for the project - nearly 2 years before filming and long before casting or location scouting. The images are not an exact match, nor is that my intention. But I enjoy seeing that in this film, the spirit of those first visual intuitions carried through the entire production and appear in the final movie.

The below chart is my attempt to boil down, into a single visual, the most essential and useful ideas about writing stories that I've learned through many years of study. I referred to this chart constantly throughout the writing process. I borrowed from many great researchers and writers in making this diagram. Some of the most helpful for me are Eric Edson (The Story Solution) and Jill Chamberlain (The Nutshell Technique). 

(I intentionally blurred the text in this chart because the ideas are not all my own. I hope you will support these great teachers by purchasing their books and taking their classes.)
As the script, casting, and locations get more and more locked in, the storyboards shift into more practical terms and take into account the actual logistics of filming. At this point I like to break the frames into a scene-by-scene approach and develop more specific ideas about blocking and camera placement for each environment. I rendered nearly 1000 frames (many discarded) for this part of the planning process.
I also began using Previs, a 3D design and storyboard tool, in order to create accurate representations of our locations and sets and to see how all of this might look through specific camera lenses. This tool was invaluable to my process, and I would highly recommend it to any director who values planning as much as I do.
Before we even arrived on set, PreVis and my hand-drawn storyboard frames gave me a precise understanding of every single camera placement and lens choice for the 129 scenes that made up our final script. This type of meticulous planning was critical to the production. The ambitious nature of the project and tight schedule allowed little room for error and no time for indecisiveness.
PreVis was also was a helpful tool for communicating my set ideas to the production design department.
...and was also used to determine the number of background actors needed for each scene.
Principal photography took place in North Dakota for 4 weeks in the late summer of 2021. 
I edited the movie in Adobe Premiere from November 2021 through July 2022. This is what the chaos of the many, many thousands of editorial choices looks like in visual form. 
This is a sampling of image thumbnails after the wonderful color grade by Michael Sandness.
I also got to try my hand at VFX for our film. My background is in animation so it was a lot of fun to dust off my Adobe After Effects training. I also took the time to learn Blender.  In some cases, I added background buildings or cars to a scene, and in other cases I fabricated entire shots from just background plates.
Once the edit, sound, and VFX were locked, it was time for some fun! I had a blast creating our brand identity and designing our various promotional items - from posters to social media posts to tickets.

End of the Rope Feature Film


End of the Rope Feature Film