DVC14 - "PASSPORT" by James Huenergardt at DVinfo.net

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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:13 AM   #1
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DVC14 - "PASSPORT" by James Huenergardt

This film was a lot of work and a lot of fun. I probably spent 60-70 hours of my own time, not including my talent and crew conceptualizing, writing, shooting, editing, finalizing the film.

My wife and I spent a good portion of a Saturday night and all day Sunday writing the story/script.

We shot for part of four days in two locations but with several setups at each location.

The last night of shooting I put the last piece of gear in my van at about 2:20am. All I can say is I have VERY dedicated actors who LOVE to make films. The previous night was after 1am as well.

For those who are tech-heads like me, here is the gear I used to shoot with:
Sony EX1
Letus Ultimate
Redrock Shoulder mount and follow focus.
Nikon lenses (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85m, 80-200mm) all f2.8 or below.
TV Logic 7" HD/SDI monitor that has a 2.35:1 mask option so I could frame for that aspect ratio. The monitor is wonderful for framing and focusing.
For inside audio, I used an Octava MC-012 and outside, a Sennheiser ME66.
I also used an Arri light kit with two 300w and two 650w Fresnel fixtures and a couple of Lowel Rifa soft lights.
I bought a couple of 1K BluLine frenels and used one for the shoot and it worked well.

As far as crew goes, when Jesse Steele wasn't acting, he was booming and helping me set up and take down gear. When he was acting, I either used a C-Stand to mount the mic or had someone boom for me. I also had someone pull focus (using clips for stops) so I could 'focus' on operating the camera and directing.

I spent a couple of late evenings editing, another scoring, and a couple more tweaking audio and all day Sunday color correcting in After Effects with Magic Bullet. My good friend Patrick (and my wife) gave great input on editing and music.

Big thanks to Dylan and Lorinda for giving us/me motivation to get out there and make a movie.

Your feedback is appreciated.
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Last edited by James Huenergardt; November 21st, 2008 at 10:15 AM.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:46 AM   #2
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James:

Man, did you have some access to production value locations and items.... Way to take advantage of that. A bit of confusion in the opening scenes. You have the suspect jumping into a mustang after the phone call, then you cut to him driving up in a SUV, I assume in another country.... Without some sort of fill or explanation there, that felt a bit discombobulating.

Sound quality was great throughout the film- great job.

The father son scene was terrific, and set things up pretty well for an interesting story and film. Seemed to me that the CIA group was a little flat though, they needed to convey a greater sense of urgency or danger, I think, to give the film more energy and maybe cutting shots little sooner may have helped that energy too. You might try fooling around with that and see.

All in all, nicely put together. Amazing how much time we can put in on these things..
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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:57 AM   #3
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Hey Chris, thanks for the compliments and suggestions, I appreciate it.

I agree the first couple of scenes are confusing. I should have established Hamid's original location better. That was the original plan, but I ran out of time when I realized it.

My original plan was to have a shot of a jet landing (in Riyadh) in between, but it never worked out.

The plane is our company plane. I fly for an air ambulance company, so it works well for props and locations that way. Jesse owns the Mustang and the black SUV was a cast members relatives.

My father-in-law is Iranian and was visiting so I used him for the Arab. He loved it!
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Old November 21st, 2008, 11:14 AM   #4
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Hi Jim,

I just started watching your film on Vimeo and remembered the preferred link you provided! I'm so forgetful--forgive me. It's there now; hopefully, in plenty of time.

Back in a while w/comments...
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Old November 21st, 2008, 11:25 AM   #5
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Wow, beautifully shot. The composition, lighting and film feel made me think I was watching CSI without the harsh yellow backlighting they seem to have become fond of in that series.

The lighting in the office search scene was fabulous!

A very interesting film. Your story was difficult to cram into the 5 minutes, there were places where it seemed obvious you had to leave out connectors that would have helped the story.

The tarmac scene was awesome. I'm jealous of your props <g>.

I smiled when I read your post because in the movie Chris Barcellos and I made (Light Rider) we used the exact same pair of mics. The MK-012 was used in the interior scenes and the ME-66 for exteriors. I did notice in the interrogation room there was some room echo, probably just the acoustics, but wondered if you pressed the ME-66 into service there instead of the MK-012 with the hyper?

Your entire soundtrack was wonderful. Good use of appropriate music and your location sound capture was excellent. Nice Job!

I'll be watching this one more than a few times to pick up subtle tips on lighting and composition!

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Old November 21st, 2008, 11:30 AM   #6
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Hey James, more on your video later but I was wondering, what with Christmas fast approaching, you used a Sony EX1 with a Letus Ultimate and then you used Magic Bullet on the footage in post.

I was wondering if you could tell me which one, Letus Ultimate or the Magic Bullet gives you more bang for the buck?

Thanks for any first hand knowledge you can give.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 11:43 AM   #7
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Hey Chris,

Thanks for the nice comments. Yes, I've been watching CSI a lot lately. I really like that show, the lighting, sets, locations, etc.

Yes, I think we tried to do too much in such a short time. It's really a 10-minute film stuffed into 5-minutes.

The interrogation scene used the Octava, but I had a guy who had never boomed before and he was too far from the talent a lot of the time.
Actually, all the locations except the outside were horrible for echo. I was able to help the interrogation/briefing room (both shot in the same room/location) by adding dividers and my green screen as a 'sound blanket'. As you know, it's all about getting the mic as close as you can if you have a bad location.

Dennis,

The Ultimate is from my opinion, the ultimate adapter to own right now for the EX1. I love it. You can achieve a Magic Bullet look in After Effects W/O Magic Bullet. I may be wrong, but I don't think Magic Bullet is doing anything special except create a single interface to do a LOT of stuff in the background that you could do if you took the time. It's a BIG time saver.

The Ultimate adapter is what allows the shallow DOF. And as adapters go, it's SHARP. I was very pleased with how the film came out that way. On my 30" Dell, it's gorgeous!

Get a Redrock Follow Focus (or other brand if you want) though, you'll need one, it makes a big difference.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:01 PM   #8
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I’m quite sure this is the most professionally produced film I’ve seen on the DV Challenge. Perfect theme for you to utilize the locations, etc. at your disposal and I am so pleased you were able to do that.

As others have mentioned, the audio, music background, story, lighting, cinematography--it’s pretty much all there. Your attention to detail is astounding and makes me think we should always allow two weeks. Dylan used to notice that allowing more time didn’t seem to make a difference in quality, but you shattered that.

Before I forget…Hey, Jesse! You did a great job in your role!! Very believable, especially the scene with your “dad” and the interrogation. I’m impressed, especially when I know that you were doubling as a grip. Cool. :)

All right, on to some scrutiny, with tiny points that stuck out upon first viewing and then subsequent, more nit-picking viewings. I feel terrible saying anything critical, given my lack of ability and effort in my own work, but hopefully, you won’t mind:

I love, love, love the color on the scene with the father and son at the plane. I’m going to look for a preset like it. Knowing that your father-in-law happened to be there for the shoot and did such a great job in his role had to make you feel great, too. That is so cool…

The one cut to Sheila’s coffee mug struck me that it was there because someone once said it adds interest. I like for there to be more motivation for such cutaways, although, perhaps the quick cut was masking a problem?

Flashlights! Perfect for channeling the crime dramas on television where no one ever turns on a light. Hardly a criticism because I thought it looked great--I just get kind of a kick out of the formulas for the programs on TV.

Man, could John Payne have been more uneasy about his supposed relationship with the other agent? Poor guy could have loosened up just a tad; of course, she didn’t come across as caring that much one way or the other. Just as well, given the outcome.

It looked like the hall lighting is awfully bright --almost blown out a couple times on the sides of faces. Surprised me, given your attention to detail and the absolute beauty of all the other lighting. Must have been a creative decision for starkness on your part, which I can appreciate.

Hey, was that you in the picture--the guy who was about to get framed? :)

Watching it again for the sheer enjoyment of it, plus thinking about the motivation for shooting it, I’m simply blown away. You have put the bar pretty much out of reach for some of us--but we’ll get in lots better “shape” if we strive to get there.

Thank you for caring so much about your work and giving us this amazing film, James.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:35 PM   #9
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Hey Lorinda,

Thanks for your kind words AND for your nit-picky stuff. I'll be the first to admit that my film is not perfect. Partially from the lack of time and probably more from my lack of experience.

On the cutaway to Sheila's mug, my wife didn't like that edit either, but I left it in. Partially because I was in a hurry to get it done and partially because I liked it. I like using cutaways to break up the scene and to add visual interest. However, this one probably could have been done away with, especially since Sheila was talking at the time.

I've fallen into the "I don't care if it isn't really how it works, it looks cool" crowd. The flashlights just look cool. Except with airplane stuff. Being a pilot, I cringe in the movies a lot of the time.

On John Payne and Sheila. We wanted to show how they had a 'thing' going so we could showcase how difficult it was for her to 'rat' on him once she found out. I agree we could have done that better.

If you're referring to Jason in the doorway, yes, it was like 11:30 and he needed to get to bed so I was in a hurry, but it didn't bother me too much until we were done shooting and I was editing. Oh well...

Ah, you noticed my cameo.

My schedule worked out for this film. I was able to pull it off and I probably have a lot more free time, because of my job, than anyone (except maybe your dog) on this board.

Plus, I have some VERY dedicated friends who are willing to work hard and stay up late to make it happen as well as a wife who not only helped me write the script but took care of our 1 and 3-year old kids while I was out having fun.

Thanks again for your kind words Lorinda. My goal in this film was to move forward with my film making skills. Having a venue where I can show my work and get valuable feedback is priceless.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 03:54 PM   #10
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James, seems that all have been said, great visuals that takes us thinking on higher caliber productions which is quite rare here but your short shows us that it can be done and only motivates and inspires us more :)

As for the scene breaks...I am for making the movies in such way that the viewer would have to fill in some details and figure things our rather than giving everything on a plate, therefore I felt captivated by the editing as I love to figure things out :)
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Old November 21st, 2008, 05:06 PM   #11
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James,

Very beautiful, as many have said. My mouth salivated at the gorgeous lighting and shallow depth of field. Some one took time to put a highlight kicker off your female lead's hair, in practically every scene. Taking care of your talent, very nice. The actors were extremely natural and I felt like we were watching an episode of CSI, except without the annoying zooming in and out.

I thought the flashlights looked way cool too.

As you mentioned, the subject matter seems too involved for a 5 minute treatment. I'm thinking, nuclear smuggling, a corrupt inside agent, and a father/son relationship in crisis, we're talking an hour long episode to do it justice.

But you have convinced us all, that you could shoot thathour episode and make it look like a million bucks! As mentioned by Lorinda, probably the best production values ever seen on a DV Challenge.

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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:21 PM   #12
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James,

I have to echo the obvious here....incredible production values. The airfield location and the plane totally blew me away! The EX1 and Ultimate made it look that much better. Great stuff.

My only criticism has to do with the performance. The woman agent just seemed too casual in her actions and lines, given the situation we are presented with.

Overall, it's obvious you've put a tremendous amount of work and effort into this short and you've definitely raised the bar for what can be done in these challenges. I look forward to seeing more from you in the future.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:26 PM   #13
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Thanks Dick and Eric for your input, I appreciate it.

If anyone else happens to comment, I won't be responding until tomorrow night. It's been fun watching all the films and seeing what people come up with. Some great stories out there.

Until Saturday night...
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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:33 PM   #14
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Thanks Lorinda! Ya it was hard not to do a good job and have a great time when your working with such a professional and truly entertaining bunch! You should see the Blooper reel Jim promised to show us actors someday! The DVC is such a wonderful thing for those of us who absolutely eat sleep and breath this stuff! Thank you and Dylan for working so hard to give us these opportunities!

Jim, Sorry to use your feedback page to address Lorinda...but she started it! hahaha I do agree with everyone. This production has set such a high bar for us all, in the future were gonna need 3 months for principle and a 20 million dollar budget just to keep up! Great Job buddy!

Plus that little red Mustang was hot!!!!!
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Old November 21st, 2008, 07:40 PM   #15
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I've thrown my hopes of insightful, useful commentary out the window. Everything to say has been said, and we've all been put to shame by production values like this.

A hearty "good show, sir!" to Jesse Steele, superbly executed work. I love attaching more faces (and voices, and body language, and everything else) to names through these competitions. Great to see you on screen, and great to see such a wildly successful collaboration.

Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to go cry about these pretty pictures.
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