in both chicago and boston we had groups write, produce, direct, and shoot their own shorts for the second half of the last day. either joe, kevin, or myself worked on their team to help them apply everything we had discussed previously. in both cities the theme was the same – time. each film had to be 30-60 seconds and groups had roughly four hours to start and finish the shorts. all groups were also assigned the same song from with etiquette to remove another variable that could slow them down and get everybody right into production. while each member of their group was able to do their own cut of the film, the team leader (myself, joe, or kevin) chose the strongest film from each group and that is what we are putting forward here.
thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors for their generous support in so many ways, including gear, prizes, and space to host the workshop. zacuto offered one of their shooting spaces from their downtown headquarters. located in the always busy downtown chicago, it was an awesome environment to teach and offered a ton of nearby options for the shorts. lens pro to go offered us use their very spacious warehouse to host the boston ECW as well as supplying gear to support attendees in both cities. cinevate and kessler were also a big part of making ECW happen and their donation of prizes is what is up for grab for the top vote getters of the shorts below.
as these shorts were created at the workshop, we wanted to make sure we took a moment to share the concepts of each piece as well as some feedback. if your interested in hearing more about our thoughts on each piece, please see below. if you want to head straight to the films, just scroll down to the bottom of the post.
THE FEEDBACK // CHICAGO
1. Patrick // Our conflict was to have a wife who was ill and trying to hurt herself and to have the husband trying to reach her to help. Our team used flashbacks of the couple together to lengthen the journey portion of the film and to also establish the relationship between the two. The resolution was intended to be a twist and to show a mismatch in time. Our team did very well at planning their shoot, locations, and attaching the film with a good balanced game plan. We finished early, got lots of coverage, and they were pretty happy with what they accomplished. They used the good organization and scheduling to give themselves time to get really strong shots in some of the scenes, such as the bath tub or window. The biggest struggle was trying to establish the conflict early, without sync sound, and to also have the ending make sense to the viewer. Of the two story lines, the one with the guy and the one with the girl, the one with the guy was definitely more run and gun and less storyboarded and because of that some of the sequences suffered in terms of the basics like composition, light, and focus.
2. Joe // The premise of our edit was a couple that has been fighting for years and slowly this has all built up to a separation. The conflict was show through flashbacks in time while in the present she is reading an apology letter to take him back. The resolution was to be decided by the viewer, what was the knock on the door, was it him? Would she take him back? My team did a great job of preplanning, as we only had the model for an hour to shoot we took the time to plan out as many shots as we could. They also made great use of transitions during the flashbacks to create a seamless look. But it was a bit hard for my team to keep on the same page as a few wanted to start shooting other things instead of sticking to the storyboards and following the directors lead.
3. Kevin // Our group’s concept began with an opening image of a girl running through the streets in desperation. A background story began to evolve that included a fight with her boyfriend, a suicide note, and her eventual suicide; setting the tone for a suspense/thriller. It was suggested that a cross-cutting motif be established between the fight, her writing the letter, and her suicide by overdose (all past events), cross-cut with the boyfriend feeling guilty, buying flowers in an attempt to apologize, and eventually finding his girlfriend dead in their bathroom (present timeline). The complexity level was amplified by the decision to open on the girl – already dead, this was her spiritual self; her wet hand was meant to serve as a visual symbol that gets tied in by the film’s final shot of her dead with her hand in the bathtub – so her ‘spirit’ is dropped in front of the flower shop (hand already wet) where she suddenly sees her boyfriend buying flowers, apologetic. Then, the running is her attempt to try to “stop herself” from killing herself but as we come to see this already happened; she is already dead. Clearly articulating these points to the audience through our groups’ very complex shot list and in a 60 second run time was a huge challenge. The actress did a fantastic job, as her performance was vital to getting much of this across. The creative license taken in the various edits was fun to see. Cross-cutting is a difficult convention to pull off well, with interpretation being a huge factor among the material we shot, and the specific shot order playing a vital role in communicating each beat of the story to the audience.
THE FEEDBACK // BOSTON
4. Patrick // Our group struggled with finding an idea an idea that they really connected with and so they decided to run with that as their conflict and make a story out of it. The idea was to show our team working through several different genres that could be the basis of our film. We would see each in action and ultimately failing all the while the time ticks down to the deadline. In the end, the resolution was not that they found a great idea and something worked but instead that the process itself was the conflict and the resolution was this film. Our group did a great job at storyboarding the concept and working with locations that were close by – all of which meant they had a ton of time for production. They worked very well as a team with everybody pitching in acting, shooting, and lighting (they even pulled me in for a scene). They struggled with really making their concept come through in the edit. While all of the scenes worked and they got all of the coverage they needed, it was the flow of the edit that they had a tough time finding and we could have potentially used a more built out ending to really make sense of what happened. Ideally this would have been caught early on in the day as somebody reviewed the storyboards but once production started everybody tended to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is always something that needs to be in the back of your mind.
5. Joe // In this film we wanted you to think that the couple in the opening sequence is together, when in reality they just ended up at the same place and were laughing at something that happened at the train station. We used flashbacks from earlier in the day to show how time effects each of them differently, one is slow and relaxed while the was frantic and rushing. You feel like you are watching the journey they took to meet each other, you are waiting to see the meeting point but it never happens because they are not together. The resolution in the end is that it was just random chance the ended on the bench together and she is waiting for her boyfriend to get off the train. My team did a good job of preplanning and storying boarding a few shots. But when it came time to shoot things got hectic and the two teams were divided to shoot the different characters. There are some issues with continuity and compositions in the edits and I don’t think the story full comes across. I think it needed a few more key shots that would have really gotten the story across.
6. Kevin // The concept did not become readily obvious, nor did it begin with any particular opening image. The group was not feeling confident about the song and wanted to find a clever way to mask it in source rather than score. It was suggested that a man goes to the grocery store and forgets one item. In a hurry, he returns to the store but locks himself out of his running car with the radio on and the track playing inside the car. Images began to take shape of the man’s desperation, slapstick elements of him trying to unlock the door, so the group made the eventual choice to go with dark comedy as the genre. This led to a more straightforward, linear story with clear turning points that seemed to come together very well in the edit. The actor performed well and through the clear direction of our director, he makes the comedy play among the darker moments of his desperation. Sound design was also going to be very vital for the groups’ edits here as well, to sell the text messages, the car running all along, and the eventual dead battery at the end. The crew decided to shoot chronologically in the story, which is often more difficult to do in a production, repeating set ups, etc, but it proved easy with this single location set up.
THE FILMS // CHICAGO
1. marty (patrick’s group)
2. stephen (joe’s group)
3. danielle (kevin’s group)
THE FILMS // BOSTON
4. michael (patrick’ group)
5. dorian (joe’s group)
6. jim (kevin’s group)