Short film | Executive Producer, Art Director, Assistant Editor
A fight to the death tournament where competitors must battle for crucial resources amidst a mysterious dystopian settlement. In a world where survival is determined by primal instinct and hasty decision making, we follow the story of a father named Ellis.
Independent films like this one have pushed me to work with larger teams, while also broadening various crafts as an individual. This project called for an entire world to be built for a marginal budget. I had to understand director Davi Pena's vision and execute the ambitious build concepted by Production Designer Jenna Tooley. After the production was complete, I switched hats and oversaw the organization of the post-production workflow as the assistant editor.
Our goal was to build a post-apocalyptic world. Davi wanted to incorporate two key set pieces: a market place and a fight ring. Our inspiration came from a variety of films and TV shows such as Children of Men, and The Walking Dead, and video games such as The Last of Us. We looked closely at the textures, forms, materials, and colors that compose a gritty and refurbished environment.
SCOUTING AND PLANNING
Our location was tricky because we only had access to it the day before production. This meant that we would have to measure the dimensions of all the set pieces during tech scouts, build them remotely over the course of a month, break them down, transport them, and rebuild in 48 hours. The warehouse lot we were shooting in was also surrounded by a suburban neighborhood, requiring us to build structures large enough to block houses from the cameras' view. Production Designer Jenna Tooley and Concept Artist Oki Honda gave me ideas and drawings which I turned into blueprints and a budget breakdown. We needed to be deliberate with our limited resources, so during the location scouts, I worked closely with cinematographer Kai Dickson to understand what was the camera would see and what it would not.
The framework of the market was to be built off of 24 cement points. The fight ring was to be 8 8x4 pieces. By building the set in sections, we would be able to break it down to fit in a box truck and re-assemble it exactly how it was built. The fight ring was our key set piece and is seen from almost every angle in both close-up and wide shots. It was going to be surrounded by over 30 screaming extra's, so it also needed to be sturdy. Our budget was only $1500, so we allocated most of it to the frameworks of each setpiece to ensure structural integrity. All of the props, textures, and set dressings were to be sourced for free or for bargain.
The marketplace was started by setting 24 pieces of lumber in buckets of cement. We then used a variety of scrap wood to add shape to all of the tent frames. We aged and weathered over 800 feet of fabric, and applied them to the frames. We collected set dressing from foreclosed homes, bulk trash, lumber yards, and thrift stores. We filled the tents with props and painted them as needed for a unified color palette. The fight ring was built wit lumber frames we had pre-measured and cut at Home Depot. The texture was created from aged wood we had collected from around Savannah. We moved the eight individual pieces into Davi's back yard measured to arrange them exactly as they would be on the day of filming. Finally, a gate was installed, exposed wood was stained, and any screws were painted over. 48 hours before the shoot started, we broke down and transported the entire set to the location for filming.
Images shot by Calvin Herbst - Portra 800
Production cinematography by Kai Dickson - Kodak 250D/500T
Poster designs by Oki Honda
This edit had the potential to get messy, Our editor and director were both hands on with the timeline, and there was a different editor for the trailer; all of us were located in different states. I organized a file structure that would mirror across all working drives and imported it into the premiere. We scanned all of our film at 2K, and made 720 proxies. The 16mm film comes back from Kodak in a single clip, so I had to break it up shot by shot, label each shot to match the slate, and build a timeline for each scene with the clips re-ordered by story chronology, and relink the production audio. Once the project was ready to be edited, I made my own duplicate for a backup and shipped out a portable raid for the rest of the team to copy to their working drives.
Although my aspirations are not to be an art director or assistant editor, taking on new jobs and documenting the process gives me a better understanding of how departments are connected and the skills that are needed to fill each job. At the end of the day, I care most that I'm making a film with people I enjoy working with. Sometimes I fit into the group as a producer, other times I lead the group as a director, or follow from the back as a production assistant. For projects like The Fray, I found my place bringing the world to life and pushing the film forward in the editing room. Often times, trying on a new hat is the best way to fit into a familiar team.