Weekly Review: Justice League (2017)

After the death of Superman leaves the world devoid of hope, Batman teams up with Wonder Woman to assemble a team of superheroes needed to defeat a great enemy.

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Weekly Review: Happy Death Day (2017)

A self centered college student is murdered on the evening of her birthday. To her surprise, she wakes up the next morning to live the same day over again, and again, and again, and again. Each time she ends the day being murdered by the same masked stranger. With no end to the cycle in sight, she might as well solve her own murder.

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Writing Through Things

Recently, many people have been asking me to describe what my upcoming short film is about. As I struggled to find the words to describe it, I realized that, at its core, it’s a home invasion story. Once I realized this, I looked back on my previous short film 3:03. I realized that my past film was also a sort of home invasion story.

Suddenly everything clicked together for me.

A couple years ago, I had an experience. I was living in an apartment, and one day, while I was alone in said apartment, one of the maintenance workers just walked in. He didn’t knock. He used his own key. I had no advance warning. I was at my most vulnerable. I no longer live in that apartment, but for the rest of my time living there, I never felt safe.

While I was processing that immediate fear I was feeling, I wrote the script for 3:03. It was filmed in the apartment where the event occurred. The film was about a woman who woke up in the middle of the night to a disturbance in the hallway outside her door. It was heavily based on a nightmare that I had.

At the time, I took that at face value. I thought it was just based on a nightmare that I had. It’s only now, in retrospect, that I’m realizing that my scripts are reflecting the fears that I’m working through in my own life.

I guess it makes sense. Every film that I’ve written up to this point has been based off of real experiences I’ve had. From a creepy public restroom and streetlights turning off around me, to a sort of home invasion, it’s all been based on true events.

Maybe that’s why people say my films creep them out. Maybe it’s because the feelings are genuine. For me, it’s very real.

Of course, this got me thinking about the horror genre. I started thinking of all the recurring themes that come up in horror films. Good horror films reflect real life fears at their core, and this is why the genre has such a loyal fanbase. Watching a good horror film can allow the viewer to process fears in a safe setting. In that same way, horror films can be therapeutic for their creators as well.

I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be done with my phase of writing home invasion films. I’m not even sure yet what my next project will be. Since I don’t have anymore home invasion stories up my sleeve at the moment, perhaps you could say that I’ve worked through the fear at this point? I guess we shall see.

Return to Sender: Set Design

Before Return to Sender, I had never really put much attention into set design. I just used whatever was in the location I was lucky enough to get. If it wasn’t actively at the location, I didn’t really think about it.

For this particular film, that changed because one of my locations didn’t have any furniture. We had to make it seem like someone lived there. We had to start from scratch.

We hatched an idea that our main character was an artist, a painter to be specific. We had a lot of props at our disposal to work with this idea. We set up enough furniture to make our shots look lived in. We had canvases and paintings on the walls. I think we successfully made it look like a painter lived in the space we had to film in.

This character was curious and outgoing, so we used a lot of bright colors and creative ideas. We had the actress dress in red to work with this theme as well.

Our second location had more furniture already. We just had to cater it to our character. We didn’t want to overuse paintings on the walls again. We wanted to do something different that worked with the furniture and such. We ended up going with more neutral colors, photographs, and flowers.

This character was the more reserved of the two. If our lead character was the type to be the first one on the dance floor, this character was the type who needed to be coaxed out with her. I decided to make her a cat person with a photograph of my childhood cat. We had flowers around the set and a photograph of a beach. They were very subtle things, might not be very noticeable in the final cut, but the thought is there.

I think my favorite aspect of the set design that we chose to do was to add matching paintings. My production assistant Sarah Sofia Serrato and I had been to a painting class together in the past, so we both had different versions of the same painting of an owl with pumpkins. Sarah’s painting is in the background of one of the shots at the lead character’s house, and my version of the painting is in the supporting character’s house. We aren’t sure if anyone will really see it and make the connection, but we liked the thought behind it.

I’ll definitely be taking this experience with set design into future projects. Even if it doesn’t really show up completely within the shots of the film, it really helps solidify the character and their motivations. It created a mood on set. I liked that fact.

Of course, other elements that came into play with this project had to do with prop design. I’ll discuss those in another post.

Weekly Review: Flatliners (2017)

A group of medical students embarks on a dangerous experiment to see what happens when we die. By stopping their hearts for short periods of time, they trigger their own near-death-experiences. In doing so, they open a door to the other side that forces them to face the sins of their pasts.

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