"The Coldest Winter" by Joseph Tran - DVC15/UWOL at DVinfo.net

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Old January 6th, 2009, 04:17 PM   #1
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"The Coldest Winter" by Joseph Tran - DVC15/UWOL

So this time, we had some "role reversals" -- our usual behind-the-camera guys spent most of their time in front of the camera, while I spent most of the time behind the camera.

Storywise, I wanted to explore a colder approach (no pun intended) to the characters and their development. The actors and I constantly talked about how the story would progress and how the characters would progress with it. I think we came up with quite a few different endings over a lot of beer and pizza, haha. The script was still evolving even as we were driving up to the location of the shoot.

Like many people here, we had some really tight scheduling logistics to get this one through: shoot before work, shoot right after work, shoot while on the way to work, shoot during lunch, etc.

It rained during the days leading up to our shoot, and I assumed we could take advantage of the cold feel of the bleak, gray skies by the time the camera rolled. However, by the time we started filming a couple days later, the skies had cleared up and we were back to sunny Southern California weather (though our hearts go out to the guys and gals who endured shooting in the snow). Still, I think the story accomodated for that 'change', and James and Andy (my two actors) got to flex their acting muscles. I am happy that we sucked it up and got another short done, and many thanks to my fellow dvinfo'ers for helping to make that happen!

So I present to you, my colleagues, "The Coldest Winter"
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Old January 6th, 2009, 06:15 PM   #2
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Great Job, Joseph!

Once again, you wowed us with your signature, “Tran”, cinematic style. Your work is always from the heart and I appreciate that. However, you forced me to witness a sad circumstance between two old friends and, unfortunately, I don’t do that well (a trait I inherited from dear, old mom!), so because your movie made me feel sad, it did the job. I loved your stunning photography and subtle camera movements (which did not bring attention to themselves) and tight, handheld stuff when you wanted to show a bit of tension. A lot of thought went into each scene. I appreciate that. Great choice in original music.
Interesting, if true. And interesting anyway.
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Old January 6th, 2009, 06:32 PM   #3
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Shove him down the hill! Come on, push him!

I'm going to get carpal tunnel from typing "Great job, Joseph!" so many damn times. Your storytelling is bad for my health.

I can't relate to the plot, thankfully, but the way you executed it still made it feel genuine. The cast did an amazing job, as usual, and I have no comments of substance in that respect. On the technical front, that shot of the cabin in the trees, with those speckles of sunlight streaming down, was gorgeous. Your dolly moves are to die for, and although there was a little shake and wobble to them at times, it seemed natural. I've seen a lot of that in older movies, and I kind of like the look.

Speaking of old movies, superb work on your home movie footage! Was that a premade drop-in filter in your editing software, or something you custom designed? More convincing than most similar effects I've seen. Color choices were well made, the music was phenomenal, my only real issue would be the two or three lines of ADR dialogue. Tough to get away from reverb, I know the problem.

Great job, Joseph!

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Old January 6th, 2009, 06:32 PM   #4
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I think I would have run over the guy in the front yard, and not went for a weekend or day ride in the country.... hmmm,,, second thought, may be the right way to handle it... take him for a ride in the country..... and don't come back with him.

Have to say the big line at the end didn't come off distinct enough. I had to run it 3 or 4 times to understand what he was saying ( "won't need this anymore" of something like that.)

It was hard enough for us in Northern California to track down some cold, you had an even tougher job.... Speaking of the theme, well was it the "cold" attitude by the long time offended buddy, was that the intention.
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old January 7th, 2009, 09:39 AM   #5
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Hi Joseph:

We are experiencing high winds here at the moment and I was just wrapping up a nice response to your entry and the power blew out and wiped it all away. Wow, I momentarily felt like the guy in Joe's film, Freeze.

So I better get this in quickly so I don't lose it again!

To summarize, this was really well done. You hit the nail on the head if your goal was to explore the depth of cold in the unforgiving nature of the father. I was completely pulled in and the human side of me was calling out for forgiveness and redemption!

You pulled this off so well I was glad to bet back to the real world where, as cruel as it can be, you can still find forgiveness and love out there!

Great job Joseph! There was some camera shake in some of the scenes, but I actually thought it added to the sad nature of the film instead of distract.

I'm from UWOL land and I'm amazed at the professionalism in the acting, filming and scripting by you DVC'ers!


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Old January 7th, 2009, 10:30 AM   #6
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Hi Joseph,

You made a really good video with a great story. The actors did very well too.
The music was a good choice.

The handheld shots were a bit too shaky for my taste.
Did you make it that way intentionally?
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Old January 7th, 2009, 12:20 PM   #7
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These are two of the guys who are usually shooting footage of you? Amazing that all three of you are so multi-talented! Tell them they were really convincing in their roles. Maybe a bit too convincing--I’m pretty depressed now. (not really) :)

I agree with Hugh and Robert--your storytelling abilities are hard to match. The fact that I found this piece so depressing is a testament to that. Don’t know how much direction you gave on the acting, blocking, and all that, but whatever you did sure worked. You all make a great team, that’s for sure, because time after time your movies hit their mark.

My only question to you as director: Were you wishing just a little bit that the fellow at the beginning could have slipped that photo in his pocket more quickly? Ha ha! Putting myself behind the camera I kept thinking, “C’mon, buddy, get that thing in there!” :)
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Old January 7th, 2009, 01:37 PM   #8
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Joseph, this was a great entry. You DVC'ers are so talentful in the way of story telling. I second much of what already been said to your entry.
The nice thing to participate among you guys - is that I learn a tremendous lot, just watching your piece!
- Per Johan
Vimeo Site and Stock Footage Library at Pond5
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Old January 7th, 2009, 09:16 PM   #9
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I can only echo much of what was said above. I join those who felt the handheld camera shake was mildly off-putting.... with that very very minor comment (based mostly on my personal taste, not your abilities because I know them well having watching your work critically on here) once again you demonstrated masterful story telling skills. The choice of shots, the editing, everything was pure cinematic magic....Yeah you ARE the Tiger Woods on here.

Like Chris B. I had trouble with the line at the end regarding the photo, which was surprising because your sound acquisition was near spot on... the sound on this should be a must watch in the audio forum - other than that one line.

Masterful. I am now awaiting your first feature film.

Chris Swanberg
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Old January 8th, 2009, 07:30 AM   #10
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First I wasn't very prepared for the story, expecting outside temperature , not human temperature.

the story unfolds well, however I think the offended man was to stoic. As someone said, "Push him down the hill!" "Back over him with the car". The fine line between Love and Hate is a tuff nut to Crack (even the pros seldom get it right). Your undertaking that was a huge challenge in itself!!!! I think you show dissappointment exceptionally well, and you actors did a fine job emoting that!!!

I felt the shakiness was a distraction at times for me.

I think is is a well thought out and nice video. Fine job to be certain!!!

Must be nice to have good friends to work with on these things!!!!!

Thanks go producing and sharing this video!!
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old January 8th, 2009, 04:19 PM   #11
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Great acting. Between the camera angels, movements and the acting I was completely convinced this happened.

I agree with camera 'shake' being a bit distracting, maybe if the movements were a bit more subdued. Although, I get the reason for shooting like that for the dramatic impact.

The shot outside the car as they are driving was really nice. Was there some symbolism there? Seemed like the friendship was passing with the trees in the reflection.

Very well told story. I don't have much experience but it seems hard to tell a story in such a short time, especially one as deep as this.

This was definitely a cold movie, a cold subject, perhaps not in the temperature sense though.
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Old January 11th, 2009, 02:31 PM   #12
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that's COLD, all right...great acting, the flashback footage worked well...
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Old January 12th, 2009, 04:14 AM   #13
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Notes on the movie...

First of all, a big thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to watch our short, and for your honest feedback, praise, and constructive criticism. I’m just getting home from being on the road the past few days (hint: see DVC12), but I wanted to take a moment to respond to all of your comments:

This is the first piece where I got to direct entirely from behind the camera -- I’ve worn the actor/director hat for the previous dvchallenges. That gave me a lot of opportunity to really work with the actors’ blocking and performance, to get them to where I wanted emotionally, and to convey that to the camera subtlety. A lot of credit should also go to the actors too, however – we spent a lot of time together discussing the intricacies of the characters and storyline, much of which you may not necessarily see on the camera. They dug pretty deep to get to this very depressing moment that you ultimately see onscreen. James, Andy, and I studied theatre together in college. They are always my go to guys for any project. We always talked about making movies from the approach of an actor, and my personal goal was always to explore the human spirit. It was from reading the boards here day in and day out, and ultimately, the dvchallenge that was the catalyst for us to stop talking and start making our movies.

I’m always trying to find different ways to interpret the theme of the dvchallenges, figure out multiple interpretations of the theme in one story, etc. This time around, we interpreted the COLD theme in two ways: The first was in the setting – this was a yearly trip the two characters, Timothy and Sean, take to the mountains. Mind you, we were trying to shoot some scenes in cold weather, but the recent rainstorm had just left us and we were stuck with sunny, 80 degree weather (though I’m certainly not complaining!). So, we had to get a little creative there. The second interpretation was very internal – the coldness of Timothy, the lead character. Many people thought he should/would do something physical to his best friend Sean. In fact, I’m sure most of us would in real life (I know I would!). Sean was expecting it, himself, but Tim’s lack of reaction was a much deeper stab to Sean’s heart. As many of you figured out, that lack of emotion, the stoicism, the simple act of ending a friendship, is where the real coldness lies.

To wrap the two interpretations together, I played around with a lot of color grading – the scenes gradually get colder color-wise as the story progresses. Speaking of which, the home movie footage with the friends as kids used a combination of custom design and a plug-in: I first tweaked the color to get the “worn-out, old sepia” look, then used Magic Bullet’s Misfire plugin to get some of the “film damage”. I debated on whether or not to be subtle with coloring this particular scene; but with such a short amount to time to tell a story, I opted to go with a more extreme color choice to make the flashback clear.

Oh, and on an extra note… that cabin shot was a tribute to the guys and gals over at the UWOL :)

The handheld shots worked for some, but not for others… in any case, it was definitely an artistic choice. Most of my shots were tripod or dolly shots, except for the confession scene by the creek – I wanted the camera to be a ‘voyeur’ in this very intimate and vulnerable scene, like if a person were standing there and watching this unfold in person. So, I chose to go handheld across the river bed about ten feet away. While it gave me the look that I wanted in addition to a nice shallow depth of field, that Canon XL2 does get heavy after a while, I’ll tell ya!

Yes, there was some symbolism in the scene where the camera was outside the car – the trees going by, the reflection, the fact they weren’t talking on the way up to the mountains. By then, Tim, who is closer to the camera, knew the friendship was fleeting, and the symbolism there helped lead up to the next big scene. I really wanted this scene, even with knowing how difficult it would be to get the shot. James and Andy, always the troopers, never hesitated. James built the rig for the car, and they both tested the mount's secureness while I was away working.

I’ll make sure to go back and sweeten the sound of the final line. That might’ve come out a bit muffled because Tim’s line, “I don’t need this anymore,” was purely improvisational. Only thing is, he did it when a plane was flying by and I didn’t have the mic in the optimal position. Still, I liked that moment of spontaneity so much that I left it in the movie.

I’ve tried to respond to everyone’s comments as a whole, but I do have to single out Lorinda for one thing: yes, I do wish the photo would’ve went into his pocket a little faster, haha. That was a hard shot to get because I was literally a foot away from James, the actor, with several different focus planes to get. So there I am, barely at my last focus point, trying to hit my marks, and pulling focus at each point. That was the best take timing wise, and in that instance, I traded the performance for a better camera aesthetic (I usually chose the prior). Funny tidbit – if you go back to the scene, you’ll notice a subtle moment of angst during James’ extreme close-up. While it looked like he was feeling depressed over the people in the picture, he was really just annoyed that the picture itself kept getting stuck in his pocket. Ah, the beauty of filmmaking, no?

The music I used was from indie/unsigned artists I’ve met throughout my travels. I always feel a big challenge for me is to tell so much story in such a short amount of time. To help facilitate this, I spend a lot of time between finding the right music and editing at the right pace. I can’t tell you what my process is with finding the right song other than I just know it when it feels right. My friends do know when I’m working on a movie, however, because my music playlist becomes flooded with random music, haha.

I think that about covers it. I never stop learning from all that you all post here, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I agree, this story was a bit depressing, and quite the departure from my last movie’s happy ending, hahaha. If it hit some kind of note in you, then the movie did what it was supposed to do. Yes, I’m always trying to tell/create/shoot a story from the heart, and again, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for watching and commenting.

Last edited by Joseph Tran; January 12th, 2009 at 04:55 AM.
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