End of the year summary

In 2005, I completed 5 short 'films' (4 were actually on film). Here's a summary, with some comments for each.

War Crimes (March/April): miniDV, ~9 min. A sniper, abandoned in a desolate forest, struggles to reconcile his orders (to stop an enemy convoy carrying a suitcase nuke) with his conscience.

- This was my most logistically complex shoot to that point, with 5 actors, full costumes, and several props. I also built a compressed air blood sprayer for bullet hits. This short played at the 2005 Cinerama in Gainesville. It was my first 'serious' project involving dialogue - the result was OK, I think, but in retrospect the missing element that saturated the production was the fact that it was not shot on film. This removed authenticity that lessened the overall effect. I think the script is strong, and I may revisit this on 16mm or super 8 with more preparation and a carefully selected cast.

Taco (April/May): super 8/miniDV, ~4 min. A homeless man finds a dollar and wants to buy a taco to eat. But the dollar is on a string, and the string is held by a man with a video camera... is recording reality always exploitation?

- My first project shot on Super 8. The concept was simple, but I enjoyed working in darker thematic elements. The authenticity of film contrasted with the sterile hyper-realism of miniDV; I felt the rapid, kinetic pace of the initial concept carried over well to the final product, which has a loose, spontaneous feel.

Survival Record (May through August): super 8, ~11 min. In a world destroyed by nuclear war, a cameraman struggles to survive.

- This was the major production of the year in terms of running time, pre-production, and scope (several locations, props, etc.). I spent May, June, and July largely refining the script; it originally started as a 20 minute short with five major characters who died off from the effects of radiation. Extensive revision streamlined the story so the eventual plot followed a single character who was a composite of several individuals from the earlier drafts. Shooting was divided over two days in July, and required 300' of super 8 film (Kodachrome 40). I mainly used my Nikon R10, although a Nizo S560 was used for some steadicam shots. Sound editing continued through the middle of August. I was pleased with the final product, and in my opinion this has the strongest narrative arc of my films to date.

Silence (September/October): 16mm, ~ 8 min. Time folds on itself in a contradictory, paradoxical vision of entering a black hole in a space capsule.

- Extensive set construction was necessary (in my living room) to create a believable space capsule that could be modified to film from several angles: side, rear, and front. I also bought a Soviet high altitude helmet on eBay, which added a vague Eastern bloc inflection to the set design and costume. I used a Bolex H16 non-reflex camera from the 1940s, which gave quite sharp footage. I was concerned that the lighting (about 1000W total) would not be sufficient for the 80ASA film (Plus-X) but it turned out to be more than enough. If I re-made this project, I would close down the lens by an additional half-stop for most of the shots.

Epitaph (November/December): super 8, ~ 8 min. An astronaut, mortally wounded in an accidental crash on a remote planet, tries to preserve his struggle in a final transmission to the stars.

- A quickly conceived project to incorporate some ideas that had formed during the shooting and post-production on "Silence." In fact, two crucial shots were borrowed from "Silence" (the opening space capsule interior shot and the final POV shot). Everything else was shot on K40 super 8. Since I acted in the film, my brother operated the camera for about 60% of the shots. Not surprisingly, he commented that this was "my best-shot project to date." I wasn't sure how well the story elements would come together, since the project was written and shot on a very tight schedule (first draft to wrap in less than a week), but the final result was fairly good.


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