CASE STUDY: Halowin, a short film selected for Lars Von Trier´s feature film project, Gesamt
Three friends get ready for a hot halloween night out, until destiny changes their lives forever.
Even though we've all heard about the type of film made for less than $100 that then goes on to reap success beyond the value of its budget, it's still surprising to come across films like that. Halowin is that kind of film; made for about $50, and shot and acted with intense provocative grit. It all started in August 2012, when Danish director Lars von Trier posed a challenge to aspiring filmmakers of the world: Reinterpret one or more of six classic works selected by von Trier into a film, video, still, piece of music or soundpiece for a project entitled "Gesamt - Disaster 501: What Happened to Man." The Gesamt project will take 400-plus submissions and work them into one exhibition at the Charlottenborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark, to run October 12 through December 30, 2013.
The Irish short film "Halowin" directed by the Spanish-Dublin based director Paco Torres and coproduced by The Element Post, is the only Irish film selected for this new wave of filmmaking; using the visions of filmmakers around the globe as part of an idea by a legend in contemporary cinema. Halowin was shot in six days in Dubli; from the concept through postproduction. It starss four very talented actors: Joe McKinney, Paul Buttler Lennox, Grace Hendy and Carmen Montero.
GENRE: dramatic/action short--thriller
DIRECTOR: Paco Torres
PRODUCERS: Paco Torres and Chriona O¨Sullivan
BUDGET: $52 (40 euros) - actual
FINANCING: Self-financing, Equity financing, Deferred compensation and In-kind donations
PRODUCTION DATES:August 3 2012
POST PRODUCTION DATES:August 6 2012
SHOOTING FORMAT:Canon 5D MkII
SCREENING FORMAT:HD 1.78:1WORLD PREMIERE:Gotemborg film festival
The main elements of Paco's production strategy consisted of the following throughout the production: (1) during development, write the script with the end in mind; (2) during pre-production, reach out to talented people in your network; (3) during production, be prepared means learning to live with the unexpected; and, (4) during post-production, having a clear vision for your shoot makes editing a dream.
WRITE THE SCRIPT WITH POST-PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION IN MIND.
As soon as he learned of Lars von Trier's project, Paco Torres went to work tapping into his creativity and inspired by the following classic films: Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, von Trier's Idiots, and Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. Furthermore, he forced himself to use what was available which meant he only needed to spend 40 euros for catering. The rest (camera, editing equipment, props, etc.) he owned or borrowed. But most importantly, he wrote the script with a clear idea of what he wanted to edit (which allowed for a very economical shooting ratio) and what he wanted to do with it (send it Gesamt) Essentially, as Paco said, his strategy was to "be one of the winners in Gesamt project and then move from there."
DON'T JUST HAVE FRIENDS WHO WANT TO BE IN YOUR SHOOT, HAVE TALENTED FRIENDS WHO ARE MOTIVATED BY YOUR MISSION.
Paco also factored in his available resources when he wrote the script. He shot without artificial lights, using natural lighting at his one location; a house in Dublin. The Dublin house was the prime location during the 6 days of shooting. He borrowed equipment from friends in the industry who were eager to help him with shooting the short because it had the potential of being a part of a major project. (Many times filmmakers fail to realize that friends can be willing to lend equipment, money and time if they see high merits and potential in the project. It's one thing to expect people to do you favors for a production you plan to just send to random festivals versus a production that has a good chance of being a part of a major project.~~Danny Indio) According to Paco, "In guerrilla films, the challenges are: have a good idea that you could make with your house, little money and lots of friends, take a good crack at it and deliver the best."
WELCOME SURPRISES, THEY CAN ACTUALLY IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCTION.
During the 6 days of shooting, Paco did one reading, one test-scouting and rehearsals throughout. With the restrictions of time and money, he knew there would be challenges on the set, and knowing that, he readied himself to make compromises in the service of the final picture. That attitude allowed for a diva-free set which incorporated plenty of time for rehearsing and talking with the actors and the crew to be able to discuss and share the collaborative vision. With an economical shooting ratio, he was able to spend time planning and setting-up without rushing allowing him to find the best shot or take. (Many short films suffer from having to rush the shoot because they only have one day to shoot and so they force themselves to pack it all in one day which leads to things being missed. ~~Danny Indio) A mode of constant improvisation and anticipation allowed Paco to appreciate the biggest challenge for him during shooting: rain. He didn't write with rain in mind but the cloudy days gave him a look that fit his grim and intense production well. For Paco, the key things during the shoot were, "Anticipation, understanding the actors, good planning, and generating a great atmosphere on the set."
SHOOT EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THE EDITING IS EASY AND BE READY TO PAY FOR SERVICES WITH EQUITY.
Many directors dread post because that's the moment when they find the "beautiful" shots they took during production weren't so "beautiful" or worse aren't useful for the final picture. However, it was a different story for Paco since he wrote with the editing in mind, designing his shots and transitions with the script at the same time. This also sped the editing time for Element Post where Bart Chowanski (editor) and a team of graphic designers edited, colored and added music and graphics in one day. Even the music score itself was designed in one day, by the composer on a flight from Spain to the US. Although the shooting budget was $50, Paco was able to garner the services of a top editing house like Element Post by offering them part of the equity in Halowin. (Many filmmakers forget that although money is usually the best type of compensation, there are other types of compensation people are willing to work for. You can only get so much for free. ~~Danny Indio) The short was exported in video files of various qualities and formats to maximize online sharing and then submitted where it was selected for Lars von Trier's Gesamt. The film premiered at the Gotemorg Film Festival. In essence, the strategy has been effective, "Time will show us if the film has done great, but so far, a 40 euros film going so far is already good."
The pressure cooker of shooting under the strict rules of a contest with $50 and a one day shoot can actually be liberating. As an artist, you're stripped of unnecessary distractions because you can only focus on the bare essentials, stripped to the bone. The experience can not only make you a better filmmaker but it can also be fun, win you some awards and make your career. So be open to entering contests where you are forced to create under subject matter, time and/or budget restrictions.
For more on Halowin, visit: http://www.halowin.sapho.ie/
For more about Paco Torres and his work, visit: http://elvuelodeltrenfilm.blogspot.com/
For more on Lars von Trier's Gesamt, visit: http://www.gesamt.org/uk/