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

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


Dayveon (NEXT)

Who: Amman Abbasi, director and co-writer

Logline: After having lost his older brother, 13-year-old Dayveon spends his idle time in the summer heat of small-town Arkansas and slowly gets acquainted with a local street gang.

The length of the shoot was: about three weeks, excluding a few days for some reshoots. It was in August and the temperature was brutal. I remember on the first day it was so hot that our camera batteries were malfunctioning and turning off.

Our crew size was: about 20 people. Most were my friends from Little Rock. Dustin Lane, my DP, came in from Nashville. Chelsea Donison, our AD, came in from New Orleans and Tiffany Barry, the costume designer, came in from Los Angeles.

Our camera, lenses and lighting package: I like the Red camera a lot and we shot on a Dragon.

The first spark of an idea for this movie came when: I met two young kids outside of their school in Chicago when I was working on a documentary about gangs there. They explained that gangs were a form of social acceptance for them. I had never thought of gangs from that angle. So then I had a rapid text convo with my brother about the idea and soon after than I started writing the script.

Amman Abbasi. Photograph by Dave Anderson

Budget range: under $1 million.

My favorite scene (or shot) in the film is: when Brayden, Dayveon’s friend, is just sitting quietly with his grandmother watching cartoons.

An audience watching my film probably won’t know that: the casting process for the film was extensive. John Williams and Karmen Leech, our casting directors, and I spent months looking for the lead. We went through hundreds of auditions until we landed on Devin Blackmon, who, like the rest of our cast, had never acted before.

An influence or reference on this film was: As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, a big reference during the writing of the script. Jackson Pollock and Arvo rt were some influences for the club scene—chaotic and vulnerable.

The weirdest or most difficult location we shot at: Well, we had a bit of a predicament on the last day of the shoot. We had planned to shoot at this small billiards place but it had fallen through on the last day because apparently there was a potential security and safety threat there. So we ended up having to create this location on the farm that the crew was living on with barely any time at all. This required a lot of improvisation and perhaps some bolt cutters. But honestly, in the end, it looked a lot better than the other location.

The most expensive thing in our budget was: no doubt the camera and lenses. This was a conscious decision. I didn’t want to compromise at all on a particular look that we wanted to achieve.

The greatest flash of inspiration or brilliance we had making this film was: a particular scene, after Dayveon gets in over his head with the gang members, when Dustin and I began to experiment with manipulating the lens and distorting the image in the camera to help reflect the emotional POV. This was totally in the moment. It was almost like playing jazz with the scene: improvisation within context of the tone and emotion.

The biggest lesson I learned making this movie was: I will know now to prepare for post-production as meticulously as I did for production. Our post-production schedule was very intensive and I could have prepared better.

A darling I had to kill along the way was: the opening. The title. A piece of music. At a certain point you have to let the film inform itself and to be open that.

I need to give a special shout-out to: Jeremy Bemis. He and his team handled all the bees for the movie. It turned out to be a major undertaking.

When I heard we got into Sundance I: was driving around Little Rock delivering cakes to local restaurants when I got the phone call and I nearly swerved off the road in excitement. I do have to confess I ate a piece of cake in the walk-in fridge at the restaurant to celebrate.

I’m most excited about seeing Raw, the horror cannibal film, at the festival this year.


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    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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