The Boy Within is a short film created as part of the 2010 San Diego 48 hour Film Fest. Based on the 1920’s circa era this short was filmed, edited, and produced by a small team of individuals with completion literally minutes away from show time. Join us for a Q&A with John Seaman the Director of Photography, and Special Effects Editor for the short film The Boy Within.
(I.M) John, as a resident of Northern Arizona how did you get involved with this project?
(J.S) Seems strange that someone from Northern Arizona would get involved with a project in San Diego. As it turns out I have a friend, Victor who has been doing this project for a number of years. He invited me to attend and help out in any way I could.
(I.M) You used some clever techniques to execute the filming, what are some examples of troubleshooting key scenes?
(J.S) We based the look on the 1922 Horror film “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens”. The cameras were almost always static and did not move in anyway. We shot everything fixed on tripods much like they would back then.
The lab scene was shot in a prep room in a horse stable and the outside shot of the lab was an outside bathroom. A few things worth noting. We had a door closer behind the door for that outside lab scene. The sink and bathroom stuff kept showing in the takes. Also we couldn’t get above the table to shoot the “Beast Boy” waking-up so we shot that with him standing against a wall with a sheet behind him. and two of the crew holding a sheet in front of him. Worked out pretty well.
(J.S) Friday evening at 7:30 we selected, by lottery, the genre of horror. Everyone was then told the three things that had to be in the film. We had to film a “chair” as a prop and have a character “Dr. Rick Hernandez” and a line “I'm trying my best.” Every submitted film in the project had to have these elements and be submitted no later than 7:30 Sunday evening.
(I.M) You had indicated the complications of meeting the deadline with this film, what obstacles did you face?
(J.S) The project was broken in to several different parts. Friday evening, the plot and script were completed. Saturday was prep, filming and music. Also the basic edits were to be completed by Saturday night. Sunday continued with the finished edits. We had been going pretty well until late Saturday night when we discovered that we were unable to render anything. By Sunday noon we had worked out all of those problems. By then, we only had a few hours left to re-edit everything. The problem was mainly hardware and untested cameras! We had lots of compatibility issues.
(I.M) How many people worked on this film with you, and what were their roles?
(J.S) The full crew at the filming was about 14 people. Funny I was so busy that I don't remember much about what anyone did or who they were. There was the talent and camera crew, directors (we had two) and the support people. A wonderful and helpful group. Oh and perhaps I should mention that we all shot at a ranch in Ramona during 108 degree day... Such troupers!
(I.M) You implemented some interesting FX's into the video, and the audio score, how was this done?
(J.S) The audio was Sheet music by Scott Joplin and played by an opera singer and concert pianist. I recorded the music during a practice session. If you listen carefully you will hear the pedals and her humming some... The projector ticking sound was made with a shotgun mic, a wooden spinning wheel (for cotton) and a credit card. That audio effect was looped.
The film as mostly done with a Canon 5D mk II @ 1080p HD. There were 2 other HD cameras that were also used. The editing format was SD at 720x480. The clips were imported in HD and the framing (compositions) was adjusted to look bad. Bad cuts and dropped frames effects were added. In some places the speed was slowed or made to look faster to mimic the cranking that the cameras had back in the '20s.
Adjustment effects were added to converted to black and white with added luminance and contrast. Video layers were added for a loop that was created in Photoshop for the degraded edges and an 8 second 16 mm blank loop was blended over the top of that. Then additional effects were added to put a little yellowing in the blacks. Finally it was made to run a little fast by reducing running time. Everything was rendered in a single pass in Adobe Premiere.
(I.M) Have you ever participated in competitions like this before?
(I.M) As a professional photographer, did you have any issues taking on the title as SFX Editor, or DP?
(J.S) Well of course! I have a background in video production but it had been years since I had done either of those. In addition I didn't know what to expect from the competition. So I guess I was apprehensive about it.
(I.M) How much time did your team invest in the filming process?
(J.S) Well the site for the filming was in Ramona which is about an hour north of San Diego. The was prep and travel time that needed to be included. The crew showed on site at 12 noon and we filmed though about 4PM. 4 hours
(I.M) As a finished product, what did your team think the outcome would be for the success of the film?
(J.S) Well, humm, I'm not sure that anyone considered the success of anything. We were all just trying to get the job done and the film submitted before the deadline. Just after the the film was turned in, Victor (Director) made a comment that any wreck that you can walk away from is good. No. I think we dismissed the film as completed but not worthy of any consideration by anyone. That we finished as high in the judging as we did was a real shock of all of us. 6th out of 60.
(I.M) How was the film received by critiques, and judges from the San Diego 48 hour Film Project?
(J.S) The film was the only one that was unanimously liked by the judges. However it didn't fall into any existing award categories. Not a good film, bad music, nothing extraordinary about anything. Just a bad but charming flick with no redeeming value what so ever. Perhaps a bit nostalgic for simpler days...
(I.M) Are you planning to enter the film into any other competitions?
(J.S) No. We had no expectations of getting any kind award. The film did get submitted to the Temecula International Film and Music Festival by the San Diego 48 hour Film Project promoters. It was played there late August but I haven't heard anything about how it was received. That it was submitted, much less played there is another shock to us...