The Jackal, directed by Joe Mitchell

Thanks to a meeting at a local neighborhood pub, The Jackal, was born. It goes to show you that you never know where your next project or idea will come from.

About: Joe Mitchell has directed and produced four short films. Two documentaries (including The Jackal) and two narratives.

How long have you been directing? Off and on since I was young. It just takes so long for me to get projects off the ground since I don’t really have any money. I think that’s why I like documentaries so much because most of the time they are cheap to make.

 Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? Editing. To me the edit is the most important part of the process. It’s where the feel comes from. It takes a long time for me to edit. I need the time because that's where I can get my personality across.

 

 

 

 

The Jackal

Life and times of former Canadian Kickboxing Champion Ian "The Jackal" Jacklin.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I train Muay Thai. It’s really a great form of exercise and it does help me mentally, it keeps me sharp. One night I was drinking at the bar next to my house where I met Ian (The Jackal). He lives next to me, we are both neighborhood pub guys. So we struck up a conversation about kickboxing. He began to explain his life to me. I was intrigued to say the least. But then he told me that he basically had all his fights, movies, and interviews on VHS. As a filmmaker that is what inspired me. I had access to all this great B-roll, so all I had to do was film the interview. It was a no-brainer. And Ian was down with the idea, so we starting shooting a week after.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? 5D. It proves you don’t need an Alexa or a Red to make something decent. It's what's on the other side of the lens that counts.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them? Going through hours upon hours of VHS tape and converting it. Then putting some sort of story together. It really came together quite easily though, in terms of the subject. Ian is a great guy and gave me all the time I needed.

If you'd like to learn more about Ian (The Jackal), click here.

To see more of Joe's work, you can check out his Vimeo page.

Watch THE JACKAL now!

 

Film Noir with Ben Chapins

Writer, director and editor Ben Chapins' recent short, Yin Dragon, is a nod to the 60's & 70's noir films.  VFF attendees may remember Ben from his feature mokumentary, Racewalkers, that played at the 2010 festival.

About:  Ben graduated from Iowa State University in 2007 and moved to New York to pursue a career in video production.  He's currently a Senior Editor at TV Land, and enjoys writing, illustrating, and collaborating on independent films in his spare time.

How long have you been directing/writing?  I have been seriously writing and directing films in New York for 7 years.

How many short films have you directed?  This is the 3rd short film I have directed since college. My good friend, Christian Wilfong, and I take turns each year: I’ll write and direct a film that he will shoot, and I’ll edit a film he writes and directs. It’s a process that has helped us motivate and support each other’s projects.

What is your top advice for first-time directors? The biggest advice I have for first-time filmmakers is to always ask yourself “why” when making a decision; if you can’t answer it then maybe there is a better way to accomplish the task. This gives your project purpose, and helps your crew understand the bigger picture of what you want.

Another piece of advice is to always welcome ideas from the people in your crew. You’re not obligated to use them, but sometimes someone comes up with a better way to do something and it will only hurt your project if you reject their ideas for the sake of preserving your own. Films are a collaborative process for a reason, because it makes them better!

My last piece of advice would be - if all else fails - try to convey emotion in your films. Some people may argue with me, but I like to think about what I want my viewers to feel during each scene. It doesn’t matter if the feeling is humor, or sadness, or anger, or all of these; as long as a film makes its viewers feel something, it has accomplished its goal of connecting to its audience. I think that’s far more important than a viewer remembering a certain character’s name, or anything else along those lines. You could have the most original, most mind-bendingly-clever plot, but if your audience doesn’t feel something while watching it then it doesn’t matter.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I really love the writing and editing phases. There’s something really exciting about having no boundaries for your imagination, and I get that feeling most when I’m conceptualizing an idea or putting it together in edit; there are just so many possibilities to telling a story and I think those areas allow you that freedom the most.

Yin Dragon

Sam Mullins is a private detective in NYC. His code is simple: snoop for money, but never get directly involved. Following this rule has rewarded him with a simple life, that is, until he decides to figure out a little more about his girlfriend, Yin.

Sam Mullins is a private detective in NYC. His code is simple: snoop for money, but never get directly involved. Following this rule has rewarded him with a simple life, that is, until he decides to figure out a little more about his girlfriend, Yin.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I love noir films, especially those made in the ‘60s and‘70s and even the ‘80s. Films like “Chinatown” and “Blade Runner” were inspirations for me in terms of storytelling and tone. I love the whole private investigator character archetype: guys who are down on their luck, then things go from bad to worse, and in the end when all is said and done, and things go back to normal… “normal” still isn’t all that great.

I personally find courage in those stories, in the way that life sucks for these people but they’ll survive -- and they’ll look cool doing it. You end up wanting to be them, regardless of the hardships they go through.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? We shot it with an Aaton XTR Prod Super16 camera (with Fuji Eterna 500T 16mm film)

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them? Many of the challenges we faced had to do with budget and location.  Thankfully we had great supporters on our Kickstarter campaign who funded $2000 or our $3000 budget. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to use film as opposed to a completely digital workflow, which meant we would have to be very conservative with our budget.

This forced us to plan the project around our budgetary limitations: with six 400ft rolls of film we could make a 15 minute finished edit as long as we kept to a strict 2:1 shooting ratio (that is, two takes for every shot) for scenes without dialogue, and a 3:1 ratio for scenes with dialogue because they are a little more complicated. I kept dialogue to a minimum in the script to help with this.

Also, shooting in New York is always a challenge, sets are small and expensive, and exteriors are difficult to control what goes on in the frame. We wanted Yin Dragon to be a very atmospheric film, so we decided to make these traits of NYC work to our advantage as opposed to combating them: incorporating the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, the cramped apartments, and the uneasy feeling that “you’re never alone” into the fabric of the film.

Watch Ben's film NOW!

To learn more about Ben, check out his site.

 


 


Solo, Piano - NYC with Anthony Sherin

SOLO, PIANO – NYC, by director Anthony Sherin has played at festivals around the world and has won many awards. Thanks to Anthony's astute eye and creative spirit, this unplanned short doc, unfolded before his eyes one winter's day in New York City.  This short feels like an ode to NYC.  From his home in Washington Heights, Anthony shared one of those special stories it feels you can only capture in New York.

About:  Anthony’s short film, SOLO, PIANO – NYC, was selected as one of the outstanding photo projects of today by the 2013 Look3 Festival of the Photograph and was featured in the New York Times’ Op-Docs Series. SOLO, PIANO – NYC, winner of eleven awards, is screening at festivals around the world.

His documentary, ORIGINAL INTENT: The Battle for America, aired on PBS.

Anthony trained with several Academy Award winning film editors and is himself an accomplished editor. His editing credits include THE CURE (Universal), A SOLDIER’S SWEETHEART (Paramount/Showtime), and FIRST TIME FELON (HBO). He edited ONE YEAR LEASE, winner of the best short documentary award at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

How long have you been directing/writing?  8 years

How many films have you directed? 2 short films

What is your top advice for first-time directors? Read a lot and watch films.  Learn a skill. For me, editing made the transition to directing an easier one.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I enjoy prepping projects – research and thinking. I love editing.

Solo, Piano - NYC

Solo, Piano – NYC is a 5-minute film of the last 24 hours of a once-wanted piano.

Solo, Piano – NYC is a 5-minute film of the last 24 hours of a once-wanted piano.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? Solo, Piano – NYC is made with stills.  I used a Panasonic ZS7. I now use a Panasonic GH4.


What drew you to wanting to tell this story?  Making this film was pure serendipity. After a snowstorm in New York City, I decided to do some work on another film, in my home in Washington Heights. But as I approached my desk, I thought I heard a piano plinking. I looked out the window and saw a piano on the curb below. I eventually started snapping stills and thought I would end up with just that — a lot of stills. To my surprise, I discovered after 24 hours that I had captured a story with a beginning, middle, and end. My friend Art Labriola created an original piano score, and I had a film.


To learn more about Anthony, check out his site here.

Watch Solo, Piano - NYC NOW!

 

 


ICE from director Barry Stevenson, screening NOW

We are thrilled to introduce director, Barry Stevenson, to our VFF community.  Barry lives in Colorado and is the owner of Outside Adventure Media.  ICE focuses on recreational ice climbers.  Even if you're not a climber, you won't be able to help but catch the enthusiasm of the climbers that Barry has captured in this adventure short film.

About: Barry Stevenson is an award-winning film maker and EMMY® Award-winning video producer.  He has been nominated for two additional EMMYs®.

Barry launched Outside Adventure Media in 2012 to produce marketing videos and adventure films for a wide variety of outdoor industry and small business clients.  He is based in Basalt, Colorado, in the Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen.

His media production experience includes television news photojournalist / video editor and Promotions management at television stations from coast to coast, ending in Dallas/Fort Worth. 

Colorado television stations include KCNC (Denver), KRDO (Colorado Springs) and KJCT (Grand Junction).

He received a BA in Technical Journalism from Colorado State University in 1984.  

How long have you been directing?  Ice was my first film, shot in January, 2013.  I am currently working on two new documentary films. 

Ten New Tigers documents the relocation of ten tigers from a private Texas ranch to an exotic big cat sanctuary near Dallas. 

Building Simplicity follows a master carpenter on his multi-year journey to build an ocean-going trimaran (sail boat) inside an abandoned greenhouse near Aspen.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I enjoy the challenge of working as a one-man band where I produce, direct, photograph and run audio alone.  I also love the editing process of bringing all of the pieces together to create a great visual story.

Ice

Why do "normal" people risk their lives to climb on frozen waterfalls each winter? "Ice" examines the emotions and motivations of recreational ice climbers, and shows why one amazing location in Colorado has become the epicenter of the ice climbing world.

Why do "normal" people risk their lives to climb on frozen waterfalls each winter? "Ice" examines the emotions and motivations of recreational ice climbers, and shows why one amazing location in Colorado has become the epicenter of the ice climbing world.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I was originally producing a marketing video for the Ouray Ice Park website and social media.  But the story of why recreational ice climbers risk their lives to climb frozen waterfalls demanded a longer format to tell, which resulted in the short adventure film, Ice.

What kind of camera did you shoot on?  Canon 5D II, with 20mm, 50mm and 180mm Nikon prime lenses, and several GoPro 2 cameras.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them?  The greatest challenge was the technical problems created by the record-breaking cold weather that struck Colorado in January, 2013 when Ice was filmed at the Ouray Ice Festival.  In particular, the bitter cold temperatures drained the audio recorder battery so fast that I could hardly use it.  This forced me to record all of the audio with the Canon 5D II that I was shooting with.  Luckily, I had plenty of batteries for the Canon 5D and it performed flawlessly.

To learn more about Barry & Outside Adventure Media, click here.

Watch his short film now!

Online Shorts Fest with Bobby Willis

Some of you may recognize Bobby's face.  He's had a few films at the VFF, including MARK,  the next film in our weekly shorts showcase.  Whether you've seen it at the festival or this will be a first time viewing, we know you'll enjoy it.   Bobby gave himself a good challenge, MARK is an action film shot in still images.


About: Born and raised in Minnesota on Lake Superior’s north shore, Bobby Willis has been a storyteller since he was five years old. He graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth were he found his interest in the arts, which then lead him to filmmaking.  He pursued his passion for film by traveling to, and living on, both coasts.  While living in New York and then Los Angeles, Bobby honed his filmmaking and acting talents.  Ultimately, he settled back in Minneapolis. “Making the very art friendly Minneapolis my home, I found I was getting more done than in the typical filmmaking cities," he reflects.

During his first years in Minneapolis, Bobby worked in freelance production, an atmosphere that inspired him to start Digital Hotdish and Below Zer0 Films.  Since then he has had films in several film festivals and has won a national ad contest.  He is currently developing new projects and is sure to be a filmmaker you'll be hearing more about in the near future.

 How long have you been directing/writing?  I’ve been writing since I was five years old. My mother would hand-write my stories down as I dictated them to her. I’ve been directing for nine years.

How many short films have you directed?  Seven short films total, but have directed many more television ads, marketing pieces, industrials, and eLearning videos. Each time is a learning experience.

What is your top advice for first-time directors? Just get out there and do it! We live in an exciting time where getting your hands on a digital video camera is easy. Use your smart phone if you have to and tell a story that fits the type of camera you are using.

Don’t try to tell a bigger story than what your skillset, budget and locations can handle. Short films are great learning tools.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Gather a team, grab a camera and go learn. You’ve already failed if you never take the leap.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I might be biased since my background is in post-production, but editing the film is what I enjoy the most. I like to grab a cup of coffee and begin creating. You feel like a painter with your blank canvas and your palette of paint before you.

Mark

A man missing for two weeks is found with no explanation for the strange marks on his hand. Will an interview with a police psychologist uncover their true meaning?

A man missing for two weeks is found with no explanation for the strange marks on his hand. Will an interview with a police psychologist uncover their true meaning?

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? La Jetée by Chris Marker, is one of my favorite short films. The story is told in a ciné-roman style. Which explores telling a narrative using still imagery and a voiceover.  I also am a huge graphic novel fan. So, I wanted to combine both of these interests and see if I could come up with a story I could tell using these techniques.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? Canon EOS 5D Mark II

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them? The biggest challenge was that I was using still images to make an action styled film. I had to find creative ways to show action while under those restrictions.

Check out Bobby's short film here!