WELCOME TO THE LAND


 

WHAT’S THE STORY

The Land is a suspense drama about two youths who share the American dream but not the resources to achieve it; Their divergent paths lead back through the Pine Curtain of their native East Texas which hides a truth that will change their lives forever.

The story is about justice and fate which pit luck and opportunity against harsh reality.  An unplanned reunion sheds light on the fork in the road of two young men for whom the world is anything but just.

 

WHO’S THE ARTIST

Graduating from film school I was deeply in debt (common problem these days).  I had to put my thesis film on the shelf and wait until the digital technology matured to the point that it was good enough and affordable enough that finishing the film was feasible (also had to pay of those stupid credit cards!).  My bread and butter business is more on the TV side but fortunately the schedule is very flexible which means, as a freelancer, I have time to work on film as well.  Here’s my resume.

 

WHEN WILL WE FINISH

The film negative has been cut to match the 16mm work print and the sound editing is finished.  As the sound team of myself, Joe Mendoza, and Isaac Pena finish up with the Dialogue mix, the FX mix, and the score, the production team (Me, Myself and I) is also working on marketing, a distribution plan, raising the finishing funds.  (check out the “Project Updates” link at the top for more information on progress).

 

WHY MAKE IT

The most well versed researchers and teachers of mythology tell us that people communicate truths through story, which means that every person out there needs stories.  It’s part of the human DNA and story exists in every record that we have of past societies.  So why do I consider myself a storyteller?  Simply because some people in society are story-tellers based on our educational backgrounds and life experience.  In my youth, ceative pursuits like writing, drawing, photography and film production were strong suits for me (Math…not so much).  With musicians in the family, my Mom assumed that I would follow in her father’s footsteps, but I found myself in film school at age 20.  At the time, The American New Wave was experiencing a resurgence and all of the best film schools were cranking out auteur directors.

New Wave filmmaking has been around for half a century and is as relevant as ever, but the digital age has changed the game significantly.  These changes have to do with marketing and distribution and they present unique challenges (as well as opportunities) to the filmmaker that did not exist 15 years ago.

The “New Wave” tradition meets a “new way” of getting the final show to the viewer I.E. A New Wa(y)ve… if you will

 

HOW’S IT DONE

These days most films are shot using new digital cinema formats.  Presented in rare form, The Land, shot on 16mm film in cinemascope widescreen has a unique look and feel.  Conceived in the modern era, it was produced using 20th century, conventional methods which lends an extra element of authenticity to the story’s industrial era problem. The production phase is done and the picture has been edited.

Thus far, half of the budget funds have been raised through In-kind donations from the University of Texas RTF department, donated labor from the Austin film tribe and family donations.  The other half, through my own personal credit cards in amounts that total over $20,000.

This used to be the only way to get an independent film made.  It’s high risk because it puts all the financial burden on a single person.  Crowd sourcing solves this problem because it diversifies risk while offering fans unique opportunities and rewards that only these most ardent supporters will ever get!  It also offers skilled professionals of varied talents an opportunity to support fellow artists and build a support network.  For fan type supporters, the unique industrial methods used in this production will give us the opportunity to offer some unique rewards!  This new funding tool combined with developments in digital video technology and D.I.Y. distribution has allowed for a resurgence in independent filmmaking.

 

BLESSING AND A CURSE

(a final word on building a brand and building a crowd)

It takes a lot of work building a community, but direct contact with movie goers is a privilege that didn’t exist fifteen short years ago.  Aside from my directorial debut, this film is also my workshop for building a crowd, a distribution channel and marketing elements, all which will be carried forward and built upon throughout my filmmaking career.  It feels like I’m climbing a mountain but this will make me more independent in the long run.

As we progress, there will be opportunities for you to get more involved, starting with feedback.  Hearing your opinions will make me a better storyteller.

There are other project in development but The Land is the new jam for now….thanks for checkn’ us out.  I hope you jump on board and join the crowd!

-Blake

PROJECT UPDATES

Behind The Scenes

 

the-land-cover-shot
You may recognize this picture from the movie poster.  This is one of our camera locations that was considered for an establishing shot at the beginning of the film.  In the end, it didn’t make it into the opening scene, but it did make it in for the Third Act.  I loved this shot so much that I decided to use it as a key image in the marketing campaign.

 

Marcus & Aaron_Ext. Cabin
Here’s Marcus and Aaron hanging out while we work on a new setup.  In the background you can see a 4×8 sheet of insulation that I bought at Home depot as a make-shift reflector frame.  We shot so many exteriors, we needed lots of reflector fill in the shade.  There was no lighting done on the exteriors except for the fill.  This made it a challenge, even on a bright day because of the cinemascope glass which took out about a stop of light.  Shooting with 250 ASA film means we were limited and had to be absolutely sure about the exposure before starting production.  With celluloid, you can’t bump up the ASA without changing film stocks, so your “look” is largely done in-camera.

 

Marcus & Carson_Steadicam Prod Shot
Here’s a shot of Carson our DP working the “steady-cam” rig just before a take.  The story here is that we didn’t have money for a real Steadi-Cam, so we rented this Hollywood Lite from Kevin Triplett at Mopac Media.  Kevin was a true supporter of the indie film arts.  He beefed up the rig with custom engineered parts specifically for this production since our Arri SR with Cinemascope gear overloaded this rig that was designed for small video cameras.  Even after the modifications, the camera rig was still about five pounds too heavy.  Carson is holding up the extra weight with his free hand while operating camera at the same time!

 

Blake Taylor Marcus_directing Trail Scene
Here, I’m rehearsing the trail scene with Taylor and Marcus.  This scene was difficult to shoot because we had to get about two thirds of it in just two long shots.  The long shot can be a lifesaver because it cuts down on the production schedule.  It can be a nightmare because the actors really have to hit everything perfect, lines, beat changes, blocking marks…pretty much everything that would normally be  broken up into ten or twenty short pieces.  They did a great job on both shots.  Carson and I had to trade off camera operation duties because the operator had to walk backwards, uphill with an unbalanced steadi-cam to get the shot.  After the second take on the second shot, he was worn out, understandably.  I compare the shots now and see that Carson did a better job than me, but hey, we got it done!

 

Carson & Steadicam
This is the Arri SR with the cinemascope rig.  You can see the silver colored baseplate rods and the cinemascope anamorphic lens bracket mounted on the rods.  I had this support system custom built by Dan Morris at Unique Designs.  Dan was an engineer who designed and built robotic cranes in his back yard only a block away from the UT campus.  One of the projects he worked on was optics for a close up of the moon for a Terrence Malick film.  Shooting The Land in Cinemascope was a huge risk but it turns out that the anamorphics were  the most reliable part of the entire production! 
What’s the lesson here?  
TAKE A RISK!

 

Blake & Marcus_Directing old houses scene 2
This is one of the first shots over at “the old houses on the other side of the land”.  Here we’re setting up to shoot inside an antique shed that, in the movie, has more than a couple secrets for Landon (Marcus’ character) to discover.  We had no power in this location so, it was shot with all natural light.  Behind me you can see on of our reflectors used to brighten things up under the shad of several large trees..

 

Blake & Marcus_Directing old houses scene
Often times, working with actors is a collaboration, especially when you don’t have enough time or money to do full rehearsals.  Things are figured out when you shoot.  Even if you plan everything meticulously and block the action in advance, you’ll inevitably run into situations where the plans have to change to meet the conditions found on the day.  So we work it out, then rehearse the action which gives the actors a chance to get into the space and then when it’s mostly good, we shoot it!  Behind me, here you can see our Utility, Matt, holding up our focus chart for the camera Op.  Normally, you measure focus with a tape, but since we shot in cinemascope, we had to focus two lenses and one of them affected the focus of the other, throwing off the numbers.  So…all focusing on this film was done by eye, through the lens! 

 

Blake Taylor Marcus_directing Trail Scene 2
This is our rehearsal just before shooting the “Trail Scene”.  This is where Carson had to walk backwards, Uphill with an overweight steadi-cam rig for two long shots that run over a minute each!.  Quick 10 minute lunch break…Ok back to work.  We’re losing daylight here!

 

marcus & Taylor_Rehearsing Trail Scene
This is the middle of the Trail sequence, bookended by two long steadi-cam shots.  Here the audience is introduced to our characters’ shared history when Landon jumps to conclusions about Ron’s suspected involvement in unwholesome activities uncovered by the local Sheriff, the kind that Landon left behind when he went off to college seven years before.

 

MORE PICS TO COME!

 

CONTACT / SUBSCRIBE

CONTACT: SNAIL MAIL

The Land Short Film
PO BOX 684831
Austin, TX 78768
 
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