Roy Arwas on Short “Comrade Crunch”

Film, Roy Arwas, Short Film


“In doing so, I hope that the piece will be sunk into the audiences’ subconscious as if it were a memory for them, instead of just another movie they came to watch to pass their time.”

 Honey Wagon Confidential: Where’d the idea for this film come from and when did you decide to pursue it?

Roy Arwas: The film didn’t so much come out of the blue. At Gearmark.TV we are 6 filmmakers, each experienced in his own field of the filmmaking process. The company has made a promise to make 12 short films in 12 months, and the month that was coming up was the month we have decided for me to direct something (February, 2016).

So Alexander Crews, one of the head writers in the company, has been wanting to write a script influenced by the world of GTA where the city is completely shrouded in corruption and violence. In the midst of this terrible place, the main character has the very simple goal of trying to eat his favorite cereal for breakfast. I, being a lover of absurd dark comedies, said it was a great idea, and after a day of brainstorming and talking, we came to the idea that the Cereal was Victor’s way of trying to relive his happier childhood memories before his parents were murdered.

HWC: What were some stylistic choices you were sure to include?

RA: When I went into the script and analyzed it, I was trying to find my connection with it, and when I did. I found a lot of challenges and things to try to achieve. The film, written like an absurd comedy, was crucially needed to be believable. So the biggest challenge was to make a cereal as important as the life of a child, or in our case, the memories of Victor’s childhood (happiness). I felt the style of the piece would be what makes the piece come together as a whole. So, firstly, we shot it like a drama, natural lighting, no high key. Sound wise, I wanted to audience to hear, and in turn, feel, what was going on inside Viktor’s head, and it took 48 hours inside a room with the amazing sound designer, Alfonso Cano, to be as detailed as possible with every single beat of the piece to make it have a feeling of angst and disturbance when needed. The score, as well, was used to emphasize how dramatic and tense the piece was, regardless of its surface topic. And finally, the acting, it was crucial to make sure the audience believes that the film had nothing to do with cereal, hence each character was developed to deal with inner conflicts that audience may not even know of, but in the surface, it came across as way more than a cereal, but a life or death situation.

HWC: What would you like to work on in the future?

RA: My main goal in life is to find the heart in any piece, in any genre I do, and to make sure it isn’t solely there to entertain, but it is exploring a theme which means a lot to me and the people involved, regardless of whether the audience sees it (hopefully they do), I want to make sure that my future projects all have a meaning and a heart to them. In doing so, I hope that the piece will be sunk into the audiences subconscious as if it were a memory for them, instead of just another movie they came to watch to pass their time.

HWC: How’d you get into filmmaking?

RA: Filmmaking has been a part of my life ever since I moved to England in 2007 when I was 12 years old, my parents both worked in Pinewood Studios as production travel agents, and I always came to visit them at the office, which is where I was introduced to film sets. I started doing visual effects with my little brother with our home cam, and then, I realized I came about to make more and more films the more I struggled in life, be it bullied, or going through a rough patch. Film has become the perfect distraction from life, my obsession, while also a way for me to vent and explore situations that will solve whatever issue I had in life at the time. Film helps me grow as a person and as an individual, because each film has its own challenges, and different cast/crew members that give different perspectives, which teaches me a lot.

HWC: You attended film school. What was the most valuable information you learned while there?

RA: Film cannot be taught, it can be strengthened, so I wouldn’t say I learned much from the teachers. But Iearnt a lot from who the teachers were and their mentoring and advice have been substantial. I would have never ended up where I am today without the 5 people I have met in school. We started Gearmark Pictures as soon as we graduated and we learned and grew stronger together.

I would strongly advice people who attend film school to network, to be open to criticism, and choose who they get criticized by, and who they could grow around. Also, if the school provides equipment, it would be beneficial to go out there regardless of classwork, and shoot with those you feel most creative with, and learn together.

HWC: Any advice to filmmakers just starting out?

RA: Make films, all the time, don’t be scared to fail, because each failure is a lesson, and we all learn something. In my experience, no film has ever gone smoothly when shot, and that’s the most exciting part, the problem solving, always turns out to make the film better than it was planned to be.

HWC: You’ve produced, edited, directed and written films. Do you prefer one to the other? If you could only choose one, which would you choose?

RA: While all of those jobs were beneficial to me in my creative growth, I’d pick directing over all of them. Directing is something I have always been attracted to, and it is something that I would consider a necessity in my life, as it is the only way I can express myself and my thoughts. I love telling stories through the collaboration of amazingly talented people, and I love pushing the limits of how we tell stories visually. Directing is not only a job for, it is a way for me to explore and learn about the world we live in, in story, and in reality.

Check out more of Roy’s work here!


Patrick Muhlberger on Short Film “Pop Music”

patrick muhlberger, pop music, Short Film

“I grew up between a Blockbuster and the local library and I just fell in love with stories. It’s pretty much that simple – I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and had parents who encouraged me to try to express myself. Also, I was terrible at sports.”

We sat down with Patrick Muhlberger to discuss his new short, “Pop Music” among other things…

Honey Wagon Confidential: You shot on a RED. How did you like this? Would you shoot on it again?

Patrick Muhlberger: I did like it. I really enjoyed the extra resolution we had shooting 6K, which came in handy a lot during some of our slow motion scenes or if we ran behind on the shooting day and ended up having to punch in on footage to cheat mediums as close ups. In general I find RED footage a little sharp, so we worked to soften it up a bit and had a pretty distinct LUT on the camera and monitor during the shoot. This helped me get a better idea of what the final shot would look like, rather than trying to guess based on the RAW files. We had these beautiful Panavision Primo lenses which really brought a lot of great qualities to the picture.

HWC: Sound has a huge role in this film. How’d you get in touch with the composer, Seth Earnest, and what was your angle on the sound?

PM: Seth and I met a few years ago when we were both working at a digital company in Los Angeles. I walked in on him trying to recreate some pop song for a parody video and I was immediately impressed. I hired him to work on a few commercials and he knocked the music out of the park. I remember he mixed the sound of a train into one of the scores and it blew me away. I had written POP MUSIC and was looking for a composer so I wrote him a long messy email asking him to be a part of it and he read the script and jumped aboard. I kept a google drive full of pop songs and music references for the piece, along with a document outlining what I liked about them. We used this as a backbone for both building the final pop song but also the overall score of the piece. Basically we looked at tons of examples and references, and then I just let Seth take it from there.

My whole view for the piece was that Trevor’s character was trying to turn his reality into the heightened world of a music video. So Seth and I looked for places to emphasize that with the music and sound. We decided that Trevor’s soundtrack would be more of a garage rock/BikiniKill vibe, but once he really learned his lesson from Jessie, it would evolve into the more standard pop music that plays during the climax. Writing it up, it all seems pretty complicated and messy, but I swear it made sense to the two of us.

HWC: Where’d the idea for this film come from?

PM: I was stuck in traffic listening to a ton of top 40 radio. And I was frustrated with the content I was making – commercials or kids videos – because I didn’t feel like any of them were an accurate representation of my voice. So I tried to write something that represented me, and this is what came out. I had a ton of visuals I wanted to play along with, I was listening to a ton of Katy Perry, and in general I like stories about youth and love.

HWC: You wrote and directed “Pop Music.” Is it hard to keep perspective on a project when you’re so involved?

PM: Yes, definitely. I have a close group of friends who I constantly show my work to, hoping that they can make sure I steer it in the right direction. But I had times where I questioned my choices, or the script, or the directing – and it was moments like that where I had to relax and trust the preparation. Also, this was a purely personal project, so when I started to question the “right choice” I tried to just lean in to my instincts and hope that it would result in a final product that I loved.

HWC: This film has a really unique style. How’d you go about achieving this style and what were some elements you knew you wanted to include?

PM: Once it was established that we’d be seeing the world through Trevor’s point of view, it gave me license to really just go crazy with some of the style. I knew I wanted the piece to reference a lot of music videos, so I made a giant folder of inspiration and then tried to see what would fit. For example, the “ghosting” effect as Trevor storms the house is from the Clubfeet “Everything You Wanted” video.  There is a light effect during the flashback from a Doogan O’Neil music video for HAIM. Some of the visuals during the climax were taken from videos by people like Joseph Kahn, DANIELS, and Saman Kesh. The text projections behind the singing were influenced by Kanye West’s SNL performances.

HWC: Who are your biggest inspirations? 

HWC: Why’d you get into film in the first place?

PM: I grew up between a Blockbuster and the local library and I just fell in love with stories. It’s pretty much that simple – I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and had parents who encouraged me to try to express myself. Also, I was terrible at sports.

To check out more of Patrick’s work, head over to his site!

Leah Shore on SXSW Selection, “Old Man”

Animation, Leah Shore, Short Film

“Sound is just as important as picture and vice versa. They should be treated as equals. Sound is an art in itself and you can tell when it is done well.”

Leah Shore on animation as a medium and the importance of sound…

Honey Wagon Confidential: You put a lot of emphasis on sound in your work, especially in your earlier work like Boobatary. Why do you feel that sound is so intrinsic to a film? What do you consider when making decisions regarding sound?

Leah Shore: Sound is just as important as picture and vice versa. They should be treated as equals. Sound is an art in its self and you can tell when it is done well. I prefer to make my own sound/help with the mixing process. My composer, Fritz Myers is a very talented musician and mixer and we sometimes even make music together.

HWC: Your recent short film, Old Man, revolves around Charles Manson. What type of research went into this and how did you go about weaving this information into a film?

LS: First of all, the audio you are listening to is my obsessively edited version of the audio. I was given access to hours of phone conversations between Marlin Marynick and Charles Manson.  It took me about three months to edit it down to the five minute version you are listening to. It is a logical thought that makes sense to me and ends perfectly: Manson going to get some mail and walking away.
I purposefully did not research Manson too much. I wanted to reflect on the audio alone and try not to judge him. I wanted to make something that was raw and wasn’t like any other Manson-themed films.

HWC: Where did the inspiration for Old Man come from?

LS: I was fortunate to have my undergrad thesis Meatwaffle compete at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. There, I met Producer/Entrepreneur Chris Barrett.  He came up to me and said, “I saw your film. It was awesome. I know someone who is friends with Charles Manson and I think you two should make a film.” Then, I was introduced to Marlin Marynick.  We hit it off as friends and collaborators. I was also introduced to my EP, Carl D’Andre, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to make the film.

HWC: Do you feel animation offers anything that other mediums don’t? 

LS: I just think it is a different medium in which we can convey a meaning, story or art, just like live action. I suppose it is a great vice to use if you do not have live action or need to completely make up an image, like in my film Old Man. It is technically an experimental documentary; we did not have Manson’s image, so I had to fabricate that.

HWC: What is the hardest part of working with animation and where do you see the medium going in the future?

LS: Perhaps on how time consuming it is as opposed to live action. That and how sometimes you have to work with a big team to produce maybe thirty seconds. I think the medium is infinite. I love Oculus and what they are doing with film and animation. I cannot wait to see what develops with that, interaction and filmmaking.

HWC: Do you have any advice to filmmakers just starting out?

LS: Make as much as possible and keep producing. There is always time to make a film.

HWC: Are you working on any new projects?

I am trying to produce three films, two live action and one animated and pitch three TV shows! I guess things really do come in threes?

HWC: You’re based out of Brooklyn. What is the community like there for film? Do you find it supportive? 

LS: It is the most supportive community. I love all the filmmakers, artists and weirdos here. Thank you Brooklyn! I am a lucky lady to have found you.

Check out more of Leah’s work on her site!

Ariel Martin on Short Film, “The iMOM”

Ariel Martin, Film, Short Film


“Making short films is so desperately unglamorous that to have people watch and hopefully enjoy your work is a genuine thrill.”

Catalina Film Festival winner Ariel Martin sits down with us to talk about his new short, “iMom”.

Honey Wagon Confidential: Your ‘iMom’ feels so much like a robot. How’d you go about planning the style of this character?

Ariel Martin: Obviously there are many great characters through cinema to draw on. I sat down with actress Matilda Brown and talked about where on the spectrum of ‘roboticness’ the iMom would sit. Haley Joel Osment’s character in Spielberg’s A.I. felt like a really interesting meshing between human and machine, and built on this idea in rehearsals.

HWC: How’d you get into filmmaking?

AM: I made alot of coffees for other people. Then I got a lucky break at 20 when I won a grant that funded my first short. On the back of my first short I managed to build a career directing TV commercials for other people’s ideas. I’m burning to make more of my own projects where there’s no client sitting behind me.

HWC: Your films have run in the festival circuit. What’s it like having your film screen in other countries? Was there one festival you preferred?

AM: Having a film at a festival is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like ‘I’m with the band.’  Making short films is so desperately unglamorous that to have people watch and hopefully enjoy your work is a genuine thrill. And they give you a lanyard. Aspen Shortsfest and Austin Film festival are both absolute killer festivals for filmmakers.

HWC: What’re your plans for the future?

AM: I’m making my next short in the Ukraine, based on those kids that free-climb old abandoned cranes and Soviet structures. I’ve also got a feature in development.

HWC: How do you keep perspective on a film that you are both the writer and director of?

AM: Other than ads, it’s the only way I’ve ever worked. Only recently have I realised the value in feedback from trusted people.

HWC: You can only watch one film for the rest of your life. What do you choose?

AM: Oh that’s easy. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

Check out more of Ariel’s work here!

Jefferson Stein on Short Film, “Tumble Dry Low”

Film, Jefferson Stein, Short Film

“But, I think it was when I realized that the films weren’t real; that the stories were made up by people, that was the moment I wanted to learn how to make them. And I’ve been trying to do that since.”

Honey Wagon Confidential: You wrote and directed “Tumble Dry Low”. What was this experience like? Do you prefer one to the other?

Jefferson Stein: I’ve written each film I’ve directed and I’ve only written one film which I didn’t direct. For my process so far, it’s been important that I generate my own material. Since it takes a long time to make a film, I need to connect to it on a deep level or I lose interest. Although, I would be open to adapting stories from other mediums in the future. This film was always going to be a small project, but I ended up having to shoot and edit it as well. I even got to try my hand at making some of the music which was a blast.

HWC: Where did the idea for “Tumble Dry Low” come from?

JS: I approached this film in two parts. First I thought, what’s the most painful thing I can think of that could happen to me and what are my biggest fears? I came up with a list, and chose my mother dying. At the same time I had been compiling a list of unique places that I knew I could gain access to film at for free. When I had my location, I came up with these characters and wrote the story. The trailer became a motif for isolation, and we sort of crafted the story around what we had access to. At the trailer rental place, I offered to take pictures of the owner’s trailers for his website to get a discount cheap enough for afford to rent the trailer. That’s low budget filmmaking for you.

HWC: What got you into film-making?

JS: I owe it to my parents for getting me into film. My parents love movies and when my mother had me, she took off from work to stay at home with me. She would record movies that played on HBO onto VHS tapes and cataloged them in a truly massive library of films. There was even a rolodex with all the movie titles so you could look up the number and find it on the shelf. I’m the oldest of four, so after three more kids, the collection started to get pretty big. When we were all growing up, during the summers and after school we would watch them. But, I think it was when I realized that the films weren’t real; that the stories were made up by people, that was the moment I wanted to learn how to make them. And I’ve been trying to do that since.

HWC: In 2012, you directed “The Animal”. What have you learned from then and how did your process change when making “Tumble Dry Low”?

JS: The “The Animal” was a student film. It was a painful process. I did it in my first directing class in film school, and I was required to make it in a specific way. That way, was not the way I wanted to make it. In the end, I was brought into the head of the department’s office and he said to make it they way the teacher wanted, that I needed to learn this way of filmmaking. He said that my next film could be made the way I wanted, that this was the point of the class. I ended up getting to keep one shot I had originally planned; the shot you see in the trailer. Looking back, I’m immensely thankful for this experience, and that it happened in film school when the stakes were low. The pain of seeing a project completely get away from me and the disappointment in its result, has taught me the cost of not being true to myself.

HWC: This film has been a part of the festival circuit. What was this experience like and what did you learn from these festivals?

JS: I had an amazing experience on the festival circuit. The best part was meeting fellow filmmakers and seeing their films. Festivals are kind of the R+D of the indie film world, and it’s great to see the newest stuff. It can take years for some of these films to get onto theaters and VOD or for shorts to be released online. I liked doing the Q+A’s after the film screened. It was great to see people engage with the film and bring their own life experiences into the discussions. I never expected any of this, so it’s all been great.

HWC: When directing a commercial do you focus on different aspects as opposed to when directing a narrative short?

JS: So far commercials have been a different animal. But, I think what clients like about me is that I approach the spots from my filmmaking background. I ask questions that maybe they aren’t thinking about. It’s a very collaborative process and I like to be a part of it. It’s also surreal seeing it on TV.

HWC: If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

JS: 2001. That film means a lot to me. Every time I watch it, I see something new, and it has this feeling to it that I haven’t seen in any other film. The way the mise en scene, camera movement, and music works in unison; the characters and the setting; it all comes together in a beautiful and unsettling way. I’m a huge space nerd too, so that might also have something to do with it.

Check out more of Jefferson’s work here!

Joe Sill on Star-Wars Fans, using Green Screens and his new short film, “Kara”

Film, joe sill, Short Film

We sat down with Joe Sill to discuss his Star-Wars inspired short, “Kara”, among other things…

Honey Wagon Confidential: You’ve done commercial work with Google, Nike and Lego. What is the main difference in your process when shooting commercials as opposed to shooting more narrative work?

Joe Sill: Shooting commercials and shooting narrative work have been very different processes for me. In commercials, I’ve usually gone after making visually complex pieces where the challenge is breaking down a technical puzzle, where my focus is purely visual storytelling on a 30 second level. You have to get the story across — quick. It feels like building a perfect clock, or crafting a lens with no scratches. It needs technical and visual precision. Narrative, on the other hand, has felt more exploratory and challenging in the sense that you have to ask yourself — is this story we’re telling that has never been told before — or are we telling this recognizable story in a way that has never before been seen? Either way, both need perfection and ideally come from a place of fresh imagination.

HWC: Where’d the idea for ‘Kara’ come from?

JS: Kara actually spawned from the fact that “The Force Awakens” was coming out. I got inspired by the fact that the universe of Star Wars was being opened back up, and I got excited about it. I’ve always loved it. To see their new interpretation through the very cryptic trailer footage, I just got energized and inspired. I wanted to tell my own story. I saw Rey in the trailers, and I knew her character would be more well-rounded, and so I thought — what about telling the story of a more flawed hero. Star Wars always has a dysfunctional family arc. However, most Force-sensitive characters’ parents are missing…what about if our Force-sensitive main character’s parents are around? What is that dynamic like? What if her father doesn’t have the connection to the Force that she does?

HWC: Although clearly inspired by ‘Star Wars,’ Kara has a really unique look and feel. What steps did you take in establishing this tone and how did you determine what feel you wanted the short to have?

JS: I didn’t want it to feel like a swash-buckling adventure. I very aggressively went for a different tone both in visual language and music composition. My DP Nico Aguilar and I referenced “The Revenant” and “Birdman” for shooting close-focus character close-ups, with a roaming camera that doesn’t feel omniscient and God-camera-esque. We wanted you to feel like you were THERE in the sand and the wind. This is also overall a very somber short film — this girl has lost her mother, she has no idea why she has these weird powers, she doesn’t want to leave home but it’s been blown to bits. I wanted a realistic atmosphere and vibe to this whole spot. Really dive into the gritty, day-in-the-life nature of these two characters.

HWC: Parts of this short was shot using green screen. Was this your first time working with green screen? Why’d you decide to incorporate this?

JS: I’ve worked with green-screens pretty consistently throughout my career. When used the right way, it’s such a helpful tool. You can really screw with your audience’s expectations on what is visually capable. You can really show something that isn’t entirely realistic but nonetheless intriguing. In KARA, we used it sparingly in two sections — Athena our pilot flying in the interiors of her cockpit, and our Stormtroopers floating in the sky. Everything else was shot on location, with real environment and lighting. Even the exterior dogfight shots were real aerial plates.

HWC: Were you nervous of how other ‘Star Wars’ fans would react to the film? 

JS: Hell yes! Star Wars fans are single-handedly some of the fiercest people on the planet. I know this because I consider myself on of them! I knew, since I was taking a bit of departure from the overall vibe of SW, that people would either react favorably for its differentiation, or reject it for not adhering nostalgically to how the stories have been portrayed in the past. All I can do is make my version and hope it connects with someone.

HWC: What’re you up to next?

JS: I am developing several feature projects, and finishing up a few commercial and documentary pieces for Nike right now! Very exciting, but again, different obstacles and challenges for both avenues. I’m very excited to cook some new things up!

To see more of Joe’s work, check out his site!

Evan Mann on Short Film “Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler”

Evan Mann, Film, Short Film

“I thrive on rules. They make infinite possibilities more accessible. By limiting myself to the real materials and shunning CGI, I am forced to solve problems that play within reality.”

Evan Mann sits down with us to talk inspiration behind short film “Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler” among other things…

Honey Wagon Confidential: How does your background in sculpture and painting affect your work?

Evan Mann: I am grounded in material. The physical world has so much to offer, and making a sculpture or a prop with my hands: shaping, gluing, texturizing, manipulating, painting, really having the opportunity to transform matter from a disparate list of materials into a cohesive object (prop) or interior installation (set design), is essential to my process. Placing these props in front of the camera allows their context to further change. Familiar materials are pushed into a space that questions their reality, especially in a digital age of CGI. This forces me to use traditional, practical effects, like masking techniques and stop-motion, to achieve what digital imagery could easily overcome. What remains is a tactical world. Real, yet unreal. This is painting. Pigments combined to create the illusion of something so far beyond themselves, not only visually, but also metaphorically. When we look at a painting, we are seeing pigments on a surface. But in most cases, the initial observation sees the illusion of a larger image. Trompe l’oeil. The pigments join together to point towards something greater. Physical becoming metaphysical. This is transfiguration.

HWC: What were some inspirations behind this film?

EM: I wanted the first human to encounter the last human. To pull humanity, and all of our achievements into one time and space. A simple interaction between two people. I have little faith in the “progression” of humanity. We make one thing better and another gets worse. Cause and effect. The idea of the pioneer really came forward. I watched Ken Burns documentary The West around the time I was editing Voyage of the Galactic Space Dangler (VOTGSP) and this was so obvious to me. I also live in Northern Colorado with oil and fracking. Big drills assembled upon the landscape. Big money. Big consequences to the little communities who surround them. Other inspirations: 2001 a Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Christian Mysticism, portals, space, time, light, sound, paradoxical situations, and I wanted to make something more narrative. Loosely narrative. I wanted it to be funny and weird still.

HWC: Your film “This Mountain” won the “4K Challenge.” Did you learn anything through making this film?

EM: Most of my projects seem to take years to make. The Samsung 4K challenge only gave me two weeks, and coming out on top among 500+ submissions was a huge surprise. I think my experience making wedding films should get the credit for winning. Weddings were the bread and butter when I first started my company, Otherworldly Productions. Filming a wedding is really a non-sexual form of voyeurism. Honing in on intimacy and vulnerable moments and making them beautiful. for the Samsung film, I turned the camera inwards. My own life and intimacies were exposed. I let strangers in. People appreciate the sincere rawness of being vulnerable.

HWC: You play around with different mediums and forms (i.e stop-motion, using everyday objects to build your sets). What sort of freedom do you think this gives you artistically and why do you choose to pursue it?

EM: Absolute freedom is found within boundaries. I thrive on rules. They make infinite possibilities more accessible. By limiting myself to the real materials and shunning CGI (not because I am against it, I just choose not to employ it), I am forced to solve problems that play within reality. I prefer to use what is accessible to me, what is economical, thrown away. To repurpose, re-contextulize. This adds a touch of humor to my work, but it also makes my worlds more accessible, believable.

  Behind the Scenes

HWC: How long did the stop-motion in this film take to complete? How did you keep perspective on the film throughout this process?

EM: This film was not heavy with stop-motion, so it was not terribly time consuming. The proboscis poking the planet, the arm going down the rabbit hole, and the shaving cream rings. Less than three days. Building the props took way longer. Keeping perspective for two and half years was not possible. I would say perspective was discovered along the way. My wife, Deborah, and I had two children and bought our fist home, which I extensively remodeled. We also grew our production company and allowed life to happen. I could not pause life for this project. I was created in little increments. Build props for two months, film day, build more props for three months, film a sequence. Patience.

HWC: What stylistic choices did you make to isolate the themes of the film, such as pioneering or technology in our global culture?

EM: Lots of portals. A proboscis. Juxtaposition of cave man and space man. Old and new. Analog versus digital. The interior of the space ship is created from mostly analog music players. But please know this was not my intention to make a film “about” these themes. They are what emerged through the process. For example, in building the interior of the spaceship, I had access to old electronic components for cheap. As I assembled the cockpit, the record player, piano and tape deck all become components to control the spaceship. The obsolesce of these objects were subverted when placed in the context of a spacecraft. Meaning was formed through process.

For more on Evan, head over to his site!

Brendan Hearne on Short Film “Curt” and Shooting the Documentary

Brendan Hearne, Film, Short Film

“You obviously need to read books and study films, but it does you no good if you don’t go out there and fall on your face, which I’m pretty sure everyone does. I certainly did, and continue to do so. But you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s how you develop a voice.”

We recently sat down with director Brendan Hearne to discuss his short “Curt” and the differences between shooting the commercial and the documentary…

Honey Wagon Confidential: The film reveals a really sweet and almost tender side of Curt. What were some stylistic choices you made to put focus on this side of him?

Brendan Hearne: That sweet and tender side of Curt is really who he is, which is why people love him so much. Don’t get me wrong, Curt has experienced his fair share of obstacles, so I’ve seen him get frustrated. To what degree his autism plays into that frustration is hard for me to say, as I’m no expert on the subject. However, this was never a film about autism. It’s a film about Curt. And Curt’s story is a positive, uplifting story. So that’s the story we set out to tell.

As for stylistic choices, our first cut of the film had a lot of interviews and moments where Curt wasn’t on-screen. Instead, his friends or family were talking about him. We were telling his story from multiple points-of-view, but we realized it wasn’t working. The moments that played best were when Curt was on-screen just being Curt. So we re-cut the film in a way that was very Curt-centric. That might sound weird given that the film is all about him, but it was a conscious decision to tell the story from his POV. We wanted to show or hear as much of Curt as possible, and that’s when the film really started to work.

HWC: How long did it take to make “Curt?” Was your approach to shoot and follow him or did you have a clear direction in mind?

BH: From the time we had the idea to when we actually finished the film was a little over a year, so it took quite a while, but we were simultaneously working on other projects, so we were stop and go throughout the whole process.

We started off with a rough direction in mind. We knew we wanted to film Curt’s home life, his weekend surf routine, a contest, his work, stuff like that. However, we were hoping to explore unexpected paths once we started filming, which we definitely did. For instance, we didn’t know about Curt’s fascination with trains or his childhood doctor recommending institutionalization. That story about the doctor was a big moment in the shoot. Once we learned that, it really helped shape the narrative. We knew we wanted to end on that note, so we set it up by showing how rich and full Curt’s life is.


Brendan Hearne with Curt, courtesy of Heidi Tappis

HWC: You’ve also worked with commercials. Do you prefer shooting one to the other and how does your process change between shooting the two?

BH: They’re apples and oranges. I love them both, but for different reasons. Commercial budgets let you do a lot of cool stuff and it can be super fun working with an ad agency. On the other hand, docs give you a ton of freedom and the opportunity to explore interesting subjects. For me, I just enjoy making stuff. I love telling stories, whether or not it’s a no-budget doc where I’m begging for favors, or a commercial where I’m working with a brand.

The process for each is very different. Commercials are heavily planned. Every shot is storyboarded and every detail is worked out before the shoot. I’ve been on a job where we were asked to re-draw an outfit in one of the storyboards because it didn’t accurately represent what the character would be wearing. It was irrelevant for the actual shoot, but a lot of people need to sign off on things and that was going to aid in the process, so that’s the kind of pre-planning that goes into commercials. Come time for the shoot, most of the creative work is done.

Docs are very different. This is my first one, so it was a big learning experience. Initially I approached it somewhat like a commercial with specific shots in mind, but once we started filming, those shots went right out the door. Curt does what he wants to do when he wants to do it, so I quickly learned that we couldn’t set up shots. When we did, they turned out terrible, so I had to adapt and get comfortable embracing the unknown. I’m a perfectionist, so it was hard for me to let go of control, but I also knew that that was the only way the doc would be authentic. So there’s a lot of spontaneity with docs, which is very liberating, and something I grew to love.

HWC: What’s in store for you in the future? Do you want to keep shooting more documentaries?

BH: Yeah, I definitely want to keep shooting docs, but I also love scripted narratives, so I want to move into that area of filmmaking, too. I’ve been working in short content for a while now, so I’m hoping to tackle a feature length film next. I’m working on a few ideas in both the doc and scripted world, so we’ll see what comes to life. Regardless, I’d love to bring a doc sensibility to any scripted stuff I do. I love that aesthetic. I like things that feel real and gritty. So that’s the direction I’m looking to move in.

“I’m a perfectionist, so it was hard for me to let go of control, but I also knew that that was the only way the doc would be authentic. So there’s a lot of spontaneity with docs, which is very liberating, and something I grew to love.”

HWC: What was the most difficult part about shooting “Curt”? Any advice to filmmakers just starting out who are interested in making their own documentaries?

BH: Working on Curt’s clock was pretty challenging. Not in terms of scheduling shoot days, but in the way he operates. Curt’s a guy that thrives on routine. He has a very set way of doing things, and being on time is important to him, so he would struggle if he had to wait on the film crew. As a result, we were always hustling, always on the go. Curt also likes to wake up around 4:00am. So I had to ask the crew to work for free or very little AND wake up super early. That was kind of tough. But everyone was down for the cause.

As for advice, I’d say just make things. That’s the best way to learn. You obviously need to read books and study films, but it does you no good if you don’t go out there and fall on your face, which I’m pretty sure everyone does. I certainly did, and continue to do so. But you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s how you develop a voice. And the beauty of the film world right now is that things are so accessible. It doesn’t take much to get a camera, cut the footage together, and post it online. We live in a cool era.

To check out more of Brendan’s work head over to his site!

Alexander Engel on Short Film, “Digits”

Alexander Engel, Film, Short Film

“Every time I see the bar drop just a little too low, I get real inspired to remind people of some effing standards.”

We sat down with Alexander Engel to discuss his short, “Digits,” festival culture and keeping your standards…

Honey Wagon Confidential: You’ve worked on commercials. How is your process different when shooting the two and which do you prefer?

Alexander Engel: The process is the same— write the best you can, make the best you can. Then do whatever you can to come out above water in the edit.

There is a lot between the two though. With commercials, you’re catering to the client. It doubles the amount of work in prep— you have to explain all your decisions in fully formed presentable ways— every step of the way. Can really slow down the creative momentum an idea can roll with.

HWC: You write and direct. Do you prefer one to the other?

AE: No. They are both the hardest, most un-fun things in the world. It’s just overwhelming disappointment followed by incredible self-loathing over and over again. If I could skip both steps and just have the finished movie, I would.

“Remember “structure” doesn’t compromise art or originality. Look at the sentence— a sentence needs structure; there’s a subject, a predicate, and an order in which the words must exist to make the most sense. And none of that compromises the content or uniqueness of the sentence.”

HWC: Who are your biggest inspirations?

AE: Buster Keaton and Die Antwoord. Solid.

Oh and you know what really inspires me— every time I see mediocre work receiving plaudits. Omfg. Drop the NES and get my head in the game. The real game. I think, oh they don’t know what they’re talking about— they don’t know what “good” really is. (The “they” here is the rest of the world.) Am I allowed to say that? Every time I see the bar drop just a little too low, I get real inspired to remind people of some effing standards.

HWC: Any advice to filmmakers just starting out?

AE: Oh the advice is endless. Here I’ll keep it basic— so right, you need to understand writing and directing are crafts. And like all crafts, you have to learn them and practice them. So like with directing, you don’t learn it by spending three years developing your opus of a short film. You learn it by directing that short. Then directing another and another and so on.

Also, and this is the big one with writing, beginners often push back learning story structure— but that’s crazy— remember “structure” doesn’t compromise art or originality. Look at the sentence— a sentence needs structure; there’s a subject, a predicate, and an order in which the words must exist to make the most sense. And none of that compromises the content or uniqueness of the sentence. So there. Structure.

HWC: Do you think the internet has helped or hurt how your films are received?

AE: If I spend a year touring 20 festivals with a short, maybe 5000 people see it. And really aside from the four or five prestigious festivals (that I’m probably not in), none of these 20 are attended by people of consequence— whatever you think.

When I release online, within the first week I can have 10x the number of views and if it’s any good, trust me, the industry is watching. It’s a lot of work to do a release like that, but the internet’s where it’s at. Festivals are so 90s.

To check out more of Alexander’s work head over to his site!

More on Fluorescent Hill and the Future of Film

Film, Fluorescent Hill, Short Film

“I honestly can’t see how it will disappear. When they stopped making super 8mm film and Polaroid film, people who wanted it saved, saved it.”

Fluorescent Hill sat down with us to talk about short film, “Migration,” shooting on film, and making the music video…

Honey Wagon Confidential: Shooting this on 8mm gave the film an extremely unique look and feel. What was the thought process behind shooting on 8mm and what do you think film offered to this short?

FH: There were many reasons we shot on Super 8mm. I think the main thought behind it was to achieve an aesthetic that would call to mind home movies and the warmth that comes along with that. I guess that would fall in to nostalgia territory, but it has more to do with capturing the feeling of memory and daydreams, and this kind of film stock helps you get to that point quicker…which is important in a short film.

We wanted you to think that if you dusted off this old film reel you found in an attic and ran it through an old projector, this film would have somehow captured an imaginary friend on celluloid.

I think if we had gone completely digital, it would be a drastically different type of film, for better or worse. I think we would have composed the shots differently, stepping away from the square aspect ratio into something more conventional. Shooting on Super8mm offered two frame rates as well, 18fps or 12fps, this drastically changed the way we animated. I think in the end it would have felt a bit colder, and you wouldn’t be as invested in it because you would pay attention to the digital realness of it…asking yourself does this look real, and comparing it to other things that are similar.

HWC: What was the most difficult part about combining computer graphics and 8mm?

The most difficult part of this kind of combination is working with
imperfections of film stock, but it’s what gives it strength at the same time. We purposefully shot directly into the sun, over/underexposed the film, and sometimes reshot the film as it was being projected so that those imperfections would come through. When it came time to blend the CG into the footage, matching the colour fluctuations or the distortion of lenses became the biggest challenge. We could spend hours upon hours animating characters that once composited would disappear into the film
grain or be distorted beyond recognition form film dirt. You have to be able to let those things go, because the film wouldn’t have been the same if we tried to clean it up so that every detail came through, all of the time.


HWC: You’ve also worked with music videos. Which do you prefer and how is your process different for the two styles of filmmaking?

FH: We began solely as music video directors. And we did that exclusively for six or seven years, before sprinkling in some advertisement work. I think we made some good ones, and some awful ones. I think we would be completely happy to do music videos for the rest of our lives if schedules and budgets were more realistic. But the higher up you go in the music industry the more they want for less money and time, which is possible with live action, but animation needs time, and combining it with live action needs even more time. We aren’t a big studio or production company, I’ve always thought of us as a small boutique where you go if you want something tailored to you specifically and that no one else has. It may take a bit more time, or cost a little more, but it’s hopefully a little gem that will stand out for a long time. But that doesn’t really fly in the music industry. They have their own schedules and agendas.

There was a point in time where we had this pile of unfilmed music video treatments, storyboards and concept art, and we just thought to ourselves some of these are really good and are ideas that we love and want people to see. There were ideas that we felt strongly about that we should just make them regardless if a record label wants it done in three weeks. Let’s take the next six months or a year and put our all into this idea and make it something we’re proud of and something that would reach a wider audience then say this new pop song. By that I mean films can reach a wider audience because the style of music isn’t going to immediately cut your audience in half. For instance if you make a music video to this great Hip Hop track, then you have that audience built in, but someone who only likes classical, or jazz, or j-pop you’ve lost them, those audiences may never give it a chance.

Despite all of that, the process is very similar in building your idea.However, with film we can take the time to build the body of the story more, and finesse the performance. If you work with a music video that has lyrics, you need to balance how you’re serving or playing against those words. The tempo of the song will also dictate the rhythm of your edit. Whereas with film you can slow down and let the small details soak in and
let images breathe.

HWC: How long did “Migration” take to shoot?

FH: We shot the live action portion in two, maybe three weeks. Most of that time was travelling around looking for locations, and then when we would find it shoot what we needed and then move on to the search for the next location. Animating took about 3-4 months, and compositing took an additional 3-4 months, but those would overlap. We would roughly animate something, throw it over top of the live action to see how it’s working, then go back and animate some more. So once all of the animation was done, we had this rough composite laid out for us and then we would build off of that.

HWC: Where do you see the future of animation heading? How about the future of film?

FH: The future?… Damn that’s a tough question. It’s always evolving….the technology and equipment is more powerful by the day, and the ease in which you can make things is amazing. A little while ago I was helping out a young cousin of mine who was in high school making a stop motion piece, and showing him some basics, and it’s just so much easier then when we started almost 13 years ago now. I can’t even imagine how much we would have done in school or when we were starting out. With APPS and VR it’s just in a whole new realm, not that it will take over films, but that there is a new venue for expressing yourself through. A new way of expressing what you want.

I’m glad people are still out there shooting film; I honestly can’t see how it will disappear. When they stopped making super 8mm film and Polaroid film, people who wanted it saved, saved it. That enables me to be able to make a film like “Migration” or go shoot some Polaroid photos. The story of film mirrors animation when CG was going to take over 2D, it might become the mainstay of animated films, but a technique will always remain if it’s the medium that people need to tell the story that’s within them.

Check out more on Fluorescent Hill here!