Slamdance 2016 Preview: Stories from the Competition Features

Prev1 of 2Next
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

The best thing about the Slamdance Film Festival, January 22-28, 2016 in Park City, might be its variety, shown off in this moviemaker survey.

Going to the festival’s 22nd edition, or planning to catch the films on one of Slamdance’s various distribution platforms (theatrical roadshow! Video on demand!) later in the year? Read up on the goods first here. The following selection of moviemakers have features playing in competition, which, as per Slamdance’s rules, means that they are first-time feature directors with budgets under $1 million. Aside from a preponderance of Canon shooting gear (especially among documentarians), they distinguish themselves talking about the basics: cameras, lighting, locations, shooting days and budget.

Narrative Features

Chemical Cut, director Marjorie Conrad [featured image]

What did you shoot with?
We shot on a Canon 5D Mark III straight to CF cards through Zeiss ZF primes. We chose this set-up as it seemed to be the best balance between cost, image quality, mobility and reliability. We needed a small, discrete camera that didn’t break the bank.

What was the budget?

This was shot on a shoestring budget, and was entirely self-financed by myself. Producer Barret Hacia has a background in line producing, making him able to pull on crew and vendors for token fees due to existing relationships.

What lights did you use?
A couple of Joker 800 HMIs and a few Kino Flo fixtures when we needed daylight sources. For tungsten, our main units were Lanternlock paper lanterns and Mole-Richardson workhorses like 2K blondes, 1K babies and smaller Fresnel fixtures. This was all shaped with the equivalent of a one-ton grip package, mostly using six by six-inch frames skinned with bleached or unbleached muslin when subtlety was required, or ultra-bounce when we needed more punch.

How long was the shoot?
We shot 27 non-consecutive days, spanning over a total of four months. We had a family-size crew where everyone wore multiple hats, which meant we needed the time between shoot dates to organize logistics and make our shoot time as seamless as possible.

Where did you shoot?
The film was shot all over Los Angeles, including Hollywood Boulevard, the L.A. Metro, Westlake, Highland Park, Pasadena, Arcadia, Hollywood Hills, Malibu and Santa Monica.

Driftwood

Driftwood

Driftwood, director Paul Taylor

What did you shoot with?

We shot the film on a Canon 5D, using 35mm, 50mm and 85mm Canon L series lenses. Because of our austere budget and our limited shooting schedule, the 5D was the best option with its size, image quality and portability.

What lights did you use?

For lighting, we used an ARRI kit, which consisted of three 650-watt lights, most of the time bouncing them off walls or ceilings or through silks, and occasionally blasting them through windows. For exteriors we used a bounce board and the good old reliable sun.

How long was the shoot? Where did you shoot?

Six days in a small cabin in Upstate New York, with a couple days of pickups afterwards. The sound took about eight months to do, because almost every single piece of audio was meticulously re-recorded or Foleyed in post.

Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory, director Michael Curtis Johnson

What did you shoot with?

We shot on the Alexa because we wanted to be able to shoot in low light situations. We had a small camera crew and couldn’t spend much time on setting up lights. Our DP, Magela Crosignani, had five people or fewer in her entire department (gaffer, grip, 1st AC and 2nd AC) on most days, so she did her best to manipulate whatever available light she could.

What was the budget?

Probably less than any single car in Jay Leno’s garage.

What lights did you use?

Lighting was always minimal. Magela pulled lights from one area of the club set and move them to the other. One scene was partially lit with a reclaimed ‘Escrows’ neon sign, diffused through and deflected off a sparkling reflective curtain.

How long was the shoot?

Eleven days, with one pick-up day. Our co-writer/lead actor realized we forgot to shoot the scene an hour before he was supposed to get his long blonde hair cut off. We had to re-rent all the camera equipment and bring back the crew. The missing scene was covered in a single shot and took us less than an hour.

Where did you shoot?

We mostly shot in my house in Silverlake and a quarter-mile radius around it. This is a movie about someone who walks in L.A. There used to be a few drag bars nearby, like Le Bar, but, unfortunately, they all closed over the last decade and were replaced with posh joints. So, the “El Gato Negro” scenes were shot at the New Jalisco Bar in Downtown L.A.

MAD

MAD

MAD, director Robert Putka

What did you shoot with?

Blackmagic Cinema Cameras, because we wanted to run two cameras concurrently, utilizing long takes (for one scene we had a single take run over an hour, handheld) in order to maintain momentum for the actors while mixing scripted material and improvisation. BMCCs are small, and relatively cheap, and don’t really feel like they’re “invading” the actor’s space, which was super important when trying maintain a feeling naturalism and spontaneity.

What lights did you use?

The lighting equipment was very basic: not much more than a single Kino Flo, I believe, and a couple of reflectors. I made sure we were nimble with our lighting, as the process we’ve developed is lightning-paced: We regularly expected to cover a scene of three to five pages in a matter of two and a half hours and then move onto the next scene. Lighting never took more than 30 to 45 minutes per scene. With this process, covering seven to 10 pages a day is the norm.

It helps that most of the scenes are conversational by nature as well, and our actors just had to plant their feet and talk to one another. I wish I were a more imaginative writer sometimes.

How long was the shoot?

We shot for 18 days, without a reshoot day scheduled, though we actually had to reshoot a couple of scenes as we lost an entire day’s worth of audio! It worked out better because of it, though, as we really nailed those scenes the second time around.

Where did you shoot?

Cleveland, Ohio. I live there, and it’s surprisingly easy to shoot low-budget films there. People are very nice, and actively want to help you. If this wasn’t to be published, I’d divulge that we even got away without permits for the entirety of the shoot, but I’m not going to say that…

Neptune

Neptune

Neptune, director Derek Kimball

What did you shoot with?

We shot on the Red Scarlet in 4K and the Canon 5K using a mixture of both Canon and Nikon lenses, because that was what the DPs owned and we couldn’t afford to rent a camera and thereby keep it consistent. We did a few tests to make sure they could intercut, and I don’t think many viewers notice. While I would have preferred shooting on film, digital allowed much more freedom to hone performances, which was necessary with a cast of predominantly theater actors.

What lights did you use?

The light in Maine is incredible. I think this is why painters visit the state and never leave. All of the church interiors were lit with large reflectors posted outside every window to divert sunlight in where we wanted it. Almost all other lighting was ARRI Fresnels. The underwater dream sequence was lit using ARRI fresnels through a glass trough and diluted white paint, to capture the diffusion and movement of water.

How long was the shoot?

The shoot took place sporadically over the course of three years, for the simple fact that everyone also had to work a full time job and shoot in their spare time.

Where did you shoot?

The film was shot along the coast of Maine. Locations included Cundy’s Harbor, South Cushing Maine and Cape Elizabeth.

The Tail Job

The Tail Job

The Tail Job, director Daniel James Millar

What did you shoot with?

We shot primarily on the Canon 5D Mark III and the 7D. Not only are they great cameras, we already owned them. Most scenes were done as a two camera shoot. Our primary lens was the Canon 50mm 1.4. Due to the film being shot at night, we needed to open up the lens as much as we could.

What was the budget?

The Tail Job is budgeted around $500,000.

What lights did you use?

Lighting for The Tail Job was kept very simple. We mostly used a couple of portable battery-powered LEDs. Co-director Bryan and I were the only crew members most nights, so we quickly developed a shooting philosophy of choosing locations that were 90 percent lit by available street light, and would enhance with the LEDs.

How long was the shoot?

We optimistically anticipated a three-week shoot. However, due to people’s day jobs and the complications of shooting an action film at night, it turned into a three-month shoot. There were 58 shoot days altogether. Due to night shooting, we only had about five hours on average to work before everyone became sleepy.

Where did you shoot?

The Tail Job was shot in Sydney, Australia. If you’re looking for the best-lit streets and alleys in Sydney, come and talk to us; we know them all.

Prev1 of 2Next
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *