Tag Archives: Short film

Seasoned pros and young talent team on short films

By James Hughes

In Los Angeles on a Saturday morning, a crew of 10 students from Hollywood High School — helmed by 17-year-old director Celine Gimpirea — were transforming a corner of the Calgary Cemetery into a movie set. In The Box, a boy slips inside a cardboard box and finds himself transported to other realms. On this well-manicured lawn, among rows of flat, black granite grave markers, are rows of flat, black camera cases holding Red cameras, DIT stations, iPads and MacBook Pros.

Gimpirea’s is one of three teams of filmmakers involved in a month-long filmmaking workshop connecting creative pros with emerging talent. The teams worked with tools from Apple, including the MacBook Pro, iMac and Final Cut Pro X, as well as the Red Raven camera for shooting. LA-based independent filmmaking collective We Make Movies provided post supervision. They used a workflow very similar to that of the feature film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which was shot on Red and edited in FCP X.

In the documentary La Buena Muerte produced by instructors from the Mobile Film Classroom, a non-profit that provides digital media workshops to youth in under-resourced communities, the filmmakers examine mortality and family bonds surrounding the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday honoring lost loved ones. And in The Dancer, director Krista Amigone channels her background in theater to tell a personal story about a dancer confronting the afterlife.

Krista Amigone

During a two-week post period, teams received feedback from a rotating cast of surprise guests and mentors from across the industry, each a professional working in the field of film and television production.

Among the first mentors to view The Dancer was Sean Baker, director of 2017’s critically acclaimed The Florida Project and the 2015 feature Tangerine, shot entirely on iPhone 5S. Baker, who edits his own films, surveyed clips from Amigone’s shoot. Each take had been marked with the Movie Slate app on an iPad, which automatically stores and logs the timecode data. Together, they discussed Amigone’s backstory as well. A stay-at-home mother of a three-year-old daughter, she is no stranger to maximizing time and resources. She not only served as writer and director, but also star and choreographer.

Meanwhile, the La Buena Muerte crew, headed by executive producer Manon Banta, were editing their piece. Reviewing the volume of interviews and B-roll, all captured by cinematographer Elle Schneider on the 4.5K Red Raven camera, initially felt like a daunting task. Fortunately, their metadata was automatically organized after being imported straight into Final Cut Pro X from Shot Notes X and Lumberjack, along with the secondary source audio via Sync-N-Link X, which spared days of hand syncing.

Perhaps the most constructive feedback about story structure came from TJ Martin, director of LA92 and Undefeated, the Oscar-winner for Best Documentary Feature in 2012, which director Jean Balest has used as teaching material in the Mobile Film Classroom. Midway through the cut, Martin was struck by a plot point he felt required precision placement up front: A daughter is introduced while presiding over a conceptual art altar alongside her mother, who reveals she’s coping with her own pending death after a stage four cancer diagnosis.

Reshoots were vital to The Box. The dream world Gimpirea created — she cites Christopher Nolan’s Inception as an influence — required some clarification. During a visit from Valerie Faris, the Oscar-nominated co-director of Little Miss Sunshine and Battle of the Sexes, Gimpirea listened intently as she offered advice for pickup shots. Faris urged Gimpirea to keep the story focused on the point of view of her young lead during his travels. “There’s a lot told in his body and seeing him from behind,” Faris said. “In some ways, I’m more with him when I’m traveling behind him and seeing what he’s seeing.”

Celine Gimpirea

Gimpirea’s collaborative nature was evident throughout post. She was helped out by Antonio Manriquez, a video production teacher at Hollywood High, as well as her crew. Kais Karram was the film’s assistant director, and twin brother Zane was cinematographer. The brothers’ athleticism was an asset on-set, particularly during a day-long shoot in Griffith Park where they executed numerous tracking shots behind the film’s fleet-footed star as he navigated a walkway they had cleared of park visitors.

The selection of music was crucial, particularly for Amigone. For her main theme, she wanted a sound reminiscent of John Coltrane’s “After The Rain” and Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune.” She chose an original nocturne by John Mickevich, a composer and fellow member of the collective We Make Movies, whose founder/CEO Sam Mestman is also the CEO of LumaForge, developer of the Jellyfish Mobile — a “portable cloud,” as he put it — which, along with two MacBook Pros, were storing and syncing Amigone’s footage on location. Mestman believes “post should live on set.” As proof, a half-day of work for the editing team was done before the dance studio shoot had even wrapped.

During his mentor visit, Aaron Kaufman, director and longtime producing partner of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, encouraged the teams to not be precious about losing shots in service of story. The documentary team certainly heeded this advice, as did Gimpirea, who cut a whole scene from Calvary Cemetery from her film.

As the project was winding down, Gimpirea reflected on her experience. “Knowing all the possibilities that I have in post now, it allows me to look completely differently at production and pre-production, and to pick out, more precisely, what I want,” she said.

Main Image: Shooting with the Red Raven at the Calvary Cemetery.


James Hughes is a writer and editor based in Chicago.

Quick Chat: Cut+Run’s Georgia Dodson on ‘Call of Duty’ film

Georgia Dodson has traveled a long way, literally and figuratively, to where she is today — a full-time editor at Cut+Run in New York City. This Bland, Virginia-native left home at 17 and hasn’t looked back. Now she spends her days in an edit suite helping tell stories, and one of those most recent stories is the short documentary film Call of Duty from director Matt Lenski.

The two have worked together before. Back in 2012 Dodson edited Lenski’s Meaning of Robots, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, won Best Short Doc at the Nashville Film Festival and screened at SXSW and MoMA’s New Directors/New Films. This year she reunited with the director once more, this time on his new short film Call of Duty, which also made the festival rounds. In Call of Duty, Manhattan jury duty clerk Walter Schretzman wants you to remember that you are the only thing standing between civilization and anarchy.

What was the original concept presented by director Matt Lenski?
Matt had filmed and interviewed three jury clerks working in Manhattan. They were each engaging, but Walter brought something a little more existential to the table. While the others tried to sell us on the merits of doing jury duty, Walter was self-aware. He spoke about what it was like to be in the same room, every day, with people who are constantly trying to get out of that room… and he likes it.  So I think the idea of Walter’s identity in relationship to the perceived monotony of his job was what Matt was going for with Call of Duty.

How did that evolve in the edit?
It took a long time. The ending and beginning came together quickly, but once we got into how to convey these feelings of waiting, boredom and peppering in Walter’s zingers at the right places… it was really tough. For the most part, we had all the best pieces picked out early on but had to figure out the right arc. Somehow, things fell into place magically. For me, the piece that finally pulled things together was Walter talking about being at the same job for 20 years, doing the same thing every day, while he’s counting hundreds of juror slips. He says, “It is what it is.”

You’ve collaborated with Matt before — give us a little background on your work together.
I met Matt when I was an assistant, and by chance helped him with a director’s cut when my editor was out of town. We became friends and have worked on projects together since. The first big one was Meaning of Robots, which evolved from a chance encounter Matt had with Mike Sullivan, a hoarder who makes Metropolis-inspired robot pornography. Our little portrait of him ended up in Sundance, which was a pleasant surprise for us. That project definitely has parallels to Call of Duty, in both subject and style.

CALLOFDUTY3

What were some interesting moments with Walter that ended up on the cutting room floor (or the digital trash bin)?
He talked about his love of avant-garde jazz that’s difficult to listen to but will “wake you up.” I tried for the longest time to work that moment into our edit, paired with an appropriate jazz track over sleeping jurors… but it didn’t work in context of the whole piece. Too bad. We could make a feature length film of Walter saying amazing things.

What piece of this exploration surprised you the most?
It’s really funny, but I also think it’s darker than I expected it to turn out. Early on, I cut together the part where the prospective jurors watch the jury duty film. (I saw the whole thing when I did jury duty. It’s ridiculous.) I quickly connected the man drowning with the ticking clock, Walter checking his watch and then the infinity loop of the screensaver behind him. It makes me laugh, but it also kind of helped set a dark tone for the whole thing. Also, sound. Sound is always important, but weirdly, it’s especially important in a film about nothing happening, where, theoretically, little sound is being made.

What are you hoping people take from the film?
I like Walter’s sentiment, toward the end of the film, that “people are more than what they do.” Walter is definitely more than what he does.

Have you been to any of the festival screenings?
I was able to go to Rooftop Films, and I met Walter there, finally. He retired a couple of weeks later, so the timing of the film is pretty perfect. It was amazing to hear people laughing so much throughout the entire piece, because after working on something for so long, it’s hard to see it.

What is it about editing longform/short films, as opposed to commercials, that resonates with you?
I come from a writing background. I was an English major in college. I love documentary editing, because I become the writer. My favorite thing is getting an interview and cutting it up to create some emotion or humor.

What are some other recent projects you’ve edited?
This is my latest short film. I’ve been doing a lot of commercials. I just finished a documentary style commercial for Hershey, directed by Jonty Toosey, that will be out soon.

Using humor to tell serious story for Greenpeace

By Randi Altman

When you think of the environmental organization Greenpeace, images of people protecting whales, forests and oceans come to mind. It’s serious business… but recently the non-profit decided to extend its reach with humor.

While Greenpeace videos are well viewed, it’s mostly Greenpeace enthusiasts and activists who hit play. In order to reach a more general audience the organization turned to comedy, specifically LA-based writer/director/editor Olivier Agostini.

This filmmaker has a lot of public service work experience where he uses humor to help tell a serious story. And he’s got the awards to prove it, including a first place finish for his film Piñata at the 2010 Rome Film Festival, as well as Emmys, a Gold Addy, a Silver Telly and Continue reading