The MovieMaker Sundance Survey 2017: The Scoop on 19 Films Playing Park City at the 33rd Festival

Bushwick (Midnight)

Who: Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, directors

Logline: Lucy emerges from a Brooklyn subway to find that her neighborhood is under attack by black-clad military soldiers. An ex-Marine corpsman, Stupe, reluctantly helps her fight for survival through a civil war, as Texas attempts to secede from the United States of America.

The length of the shoot was: 17 days

Our crew size was: 65

Our camera, lenses and lighting package were: Arri Alexa Mini on MōVi M15 rig; True Lens Service re-housed Cooke Speed Panchros. Minimal lighting instruments used other than Outsight Creamsource Mini LED for explosions and muzzle flashes, two 4K HMIs for two interior locations, two Xenon Super Trouper spotlights and two sodium vapor portable construction light towers for the final battle.

The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, “joked” about Texas seceding from the United States in 2009. It made us think, what would happen if Texas really went through with it?

Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion

Budget range: below $10 million

Our favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: when Lucy is chased into a basement by two thugs and meets Stupe. It’s an intense mix of action, drama and balletic camera movement as Stupe anxiously charges around the confined space.

An audience watching our film probably won’t know that: there were a few very rough and difficult stunts, where we swapped a stuntwoman in for Brittney Snow in the middle of a shot without cutting.

An influence or reference on this film was: Winter on Fire, the documentary about the Ukraine revolution in 2013 and 2014. It was an macabre influence on seeing how civil unrest can very easily spiral out of control. It also became one of our key visual references for what a modern day protest looks like when locals take up arms against the military.

The weirdest or most difficult location we shot at was: a park in Queens, NY in the middle of the night in December with negative-degree temperatures. The park was surrounded by apartment buildings with people watching us film from their homes. We had hundreds of extras running around with guns, shooting at each other, yelling, screaming and pretending to die. We also had live mortar explosions, the Tube of Death [fog machine] billowing out large clouds of smoke and Humvees with gun turrets parked around the edges of the park. Our film production was a full-on modern-day war reenactment in one of the most densely populated cities on earth. It was insane.

The most expensive thing in our budget was: securing all of the locations. We wrote the script with a specific five-block radius of Bushwick, Brooklyn in mind. It was critical to match the locations as close as possible to the script, because of our plan to film the movie in a series of long takes that seamlessly linked together. Our amazing locations manager, Kara Janeczko, worked to secure almost every location that was written in the script.

The greatest flash of inspiration or brilliance we had making this film was: a week of rehearsals with the key cast and crew.

The biggest lesson we learned making this movie: We storyboarded, shot-listed, did a director-only video previz, key cast video previz, and key crew video previz, but the film really flourished while shooting principal photography. From discussions about dialogue, to blocking with the actors, to finding new ways to send the camera in, up, down and around anything with the camera department, we always learned on set.

A darling we had to kill along the way was: only small details that probably only we would notice, such as an armored truck not driving by at a specific moment, or a few less-practical mortar explosions. Overall we only got more than what we needed rather than less, thanks to our producer, Adam Folk!

We need to give a special shout-out to: the neighborhoods of Bushwick in Brooklyn and Ridgewood in Queens for being so accommodating to us.

When we heard we got into Sundance we: called and congratulated each other on accomplishing something that many people said was impossible. Seasoned movie vets thought we were crazy to think that we could film these long shots we had imagined on the streets of Brooklyn.

Our favorite film festival moment in my life so far is: the premiere of our first film, Cooties, in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

We would love to meet Quentin Tarantino in Park City for his special presentation of Reservoir Dogs.

We’re most excited about seeing Mudbound or Walking Out this year. 

Our favorite moviemakers of all time are: the Coen Brothers.

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1 Comment

  1. Martin M

    January 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    After reading a couple articles in this new issue, I am becoming convinced I should allocate some of my budget for VFX! I am writing and directing a film about a cyber relationship between a man and a woman across two different galaxies, though one is unsure which lives on Earth, and I’m struggling with transitional scenes across the Milky Way.

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