Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Rules" A short film

In the four years of us attending SVA in Manhattan, Director Brendan Steere and I had always talked about working on a project together, but never seemed to have calendars that lined up. We finally got that chance on Brendan's new short, "Rules."

My first impression of Brendan's work was when I heard he had his film "VelociPastor" aired on G4's Attack of the Show, and was blogged about by The Huffington Post. Since then, Brendan has gone on to direct his first feature, Animosity, which won Best Horror Feature and Best Actress at Buffalo Screams International Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Director.

Brendan would always have new ideas for films in his head that he might drop hints of getting together, and finally, we were both able to get together to make this one happen.

"Rules" was shot on the SR3 with the Zeiss Distagons. We had a great crew to make this film possible:

Assistant Director: Brandon Taylor
First AC/Loader: Javier de Pablos Velez
Second AC: Dominic Galeano
Camera PA: Mike Sherry

Sound Recordists: Gideon Hwang and Steve Burgess
Sound Mixing/Editing: Steve Burgess
Colorist: Tom Knight
Music: John Paul Decker

Set Photographer: Alyssa Meadows

Jesse Turits, Shannon Spangler, and Tracy Willet

Brendan shot me the script when I was shooting for LA Fashion Magazine down in Cancun, Mexico. Our shooting schedule was a little hectic at the time, so I told myself I would read it later when things settled down, but I thought I'd just check how many pages the script was... to find that it was only three.

I read the script on the spot and loved it. Straight forward and to the point. The film opens just before a "big moment," and ends just after. Strangely enough, this is the reason why I like Hemingway as an author, and Brendan had later told me Hemingway was one of his inspirations.

Having a script as short as this one gave us quite a bit of breathing room. It actually gave us so much breathing room that stress for time was almost non-existent.  Brendan and I actually found ourselves worrying about not worrying about anything.. if that makes any sense.  Overall, we were working with a two day schedule in Brendan's hometown of Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania.

 The film is a memory of a boy, who at one time in his young life, kissed his cousin in a closet.

 In Brendan's words:

"It feels like a small event that really has no major influence on someone's life, but would stick in their mind forever. Maybe it was thrilling and a huge deal at the time, but when our main character is 35, the most it'll be is "Oh weird, I kissed Emily that one time." That's really interesting to me. This also ties into the idea of it being so short, as when I have memories like this, it's really just a flash of sensation, like what happens in the kissing montage. I get hit by the wave of a memory and then it's over as quickly as it came. So you remember it just as this random event, without much context, because you know the larger context, but probably forget what you ate that morning or where you had to go to after that, etc. It's an isolated story, stranded somewhere in the ├╝rtext of your life."

We had one day of shooting at Brendan's parents home in Pennsylvania, and one day of shooting at Brendan's apartment in Brooklyn.

Suction cup mount to a car window in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania
Dominic Galeano, the man.

When Brendan and I first sat down to talk about the "closet scene" of this film, where both characters kiss in a dimly lit closet, I proposed that we build a closet set. My initial fear with shooting in a real closet was the restriction of room (especially shooting 16mm), but also, the options we would have for lighting would be restricted as well. I had been imagining the scene from E.T., when Elliot's mother opens his closet, looking around suspiciously for an alien in her house. The closet doors had venetian-style panels built in, allowing sunlight from Elliot's room to spill in. This gave the exposure needed in the closet, but also gave nice texture to everything in it with a cookie cutting a venetian style pattern.

After settling on Brendan's apartment as the location where the set would be built and getting the dimensions, I sketched out a blueprint for what we needed, headed to Home Depot, and built a sweet closet! From the poster above, you can see what the final product looked like. From a close-up on either character, the pattern in the door gave a beautiful eye light. We put a 2k open face behind the door with 250 against the blinds to give a nice soft glow. Nothing else necessary!

Here's a timelapse of the building process:

The rest of the film's coverage was shot in Pennsylvania. These shots were all daylight dependent, and required minimal lighting. Given that we had plenty of time to set up shots, a lot of time was spent enjoying the nature and drinking tea.

Check out the trailer!