When I first watched this trailer, I thought to myself, I have to get a production write-up on this from Herbert James Winterstern (goes by Jamie) writer and director. I read his bio on Vimeo and felt that it embodies all the aspirations us filmmakers aspire to. Attending the prestigious USC Film school he spends his time directing “slick” shorts. He has provided us a behind the scenes production write-up of Son of a Don, including producer Michael Koerbel and colorist Jeremiah Morey write-up as well.
Jamie Winterstern’s (Director/Writer) production write-up:
Growing up, I idolized Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and was fascinated how they used camera movement and shot design to enhance the storytelling experience. For me, the camera is as important as the actors and I take pleasure discovering the best way to use the camera to engage the audience. I tend to storyboard everything I direct and prior to this film it was usually with a small Digital medium: PD150, HVX, EX1, EX3 etc.
Well, you can say this film was a step up into the big leagues for me. Having worked with many successful DPâ€™s, my Producer (Michael Koerbel) introduced me to Jay Visit (Director of Photography). After I watched his reel (http://jayvisit.com/) we discussed the film, and it became clear Jay and I were a match. The story I had written was high concept and I wanted it to have a commercial appeal, a â€œfilm lookâ€ as if it could appear in theatres across the country. Not being able to afford film and having a timeline too tight for grants the RED camera was chosen.
The RED camera has many limitations in terms of underexposure, drop frames due to vibrations, etcâ€¦ but by knowing the limitations and working with them instead of against them, it can be a great camera. And it was, especially for this project and especially to get that slick feel.
Making a career out of student digital shorts, this was my first film using primes â€“ and I learned very quickly that 35 â€“ 45 setups (mostly dolly involved) could not be accomplished. In fact on the first day, the team was forced to cover a scene in 45 minutes that I had intricately mapped out with 15 shots. This wasnâ€™t film school and there was no EX1 to sprint around. This was the RED and everything had to be done with precision and professionalism. I spent my lunch that day trying to figure out how I could combine 15 shots into 4. I have to admit, I took a sadistic pleasure in being forced to combine shots. It turned into a game I played against myself. Every night after wrap, I would meet my Assistant Director (Mu Sun) at Melâ€™s or Jerryâ€™s Dinner from 1 to 4 AM. While stuffing our faces with milkshakes and pancakes, using the lined script, we would have to find ways to turn 35 into 16 or 48 into 15 shots. It forced me to be economical with time and itâ€™s a skill I was forced to acquire on the job â€“ I am grateful for that
Michael Koerbel (Producer) production write-up:
As far as the look of the film, Visit said it was great working with Winterstern in preproduction because heâ€™s a very visual director and he had tons of references to work with as a starting point. Visit decided on a slick candy feel like Legally Blonde for Frankieâ€™s college life in Los Angeles and a cool desaturated and grittier feel for his childhood in New York. Shot all in Los Angeles, the team had to be careful with backgrounds for New York, choosing greens that could later be desaturated in post. One of the biggest concerns Winterstern had was the party scene. He wanted it to feel like every teenagers dream of what their first college party would feel like, full slickness. The challenge was to obtain that slickness with a small number of lights and some small and tight spaces. There wasnâ€™t budget for a balloon light for the night exterior party scene, so Kevin Skaggs (Gaffer) and the lighting team had to be very exact with blocking and placement of our one 4k HMI and smaller tungsten unit. Not to mention a number of extras that we had to shift around to make it feel like we had four times that amount.
By utilizing the size of the sensor and our Zeiss 35mm super speeds, Visit was able to take advantage of the depth of field in the party scene and other locations that required the production to hide stuff.
In the post-production side, when Jerimiah Morey (colorist) first spoke with Winterstern, Winterstern again stressed the two different worlds he was trying to portray (NYC and LA). The way the material had been shot on set translated perfect into these color palettes.
Jeremiah Morey (Colorist) production write-up:
Color correction was done on an Autodesk Lustre. After looking at the cut and discussing the delivery date, working with the original red (r3d) files wasn’t an option, so the post team worked from an uncompressed QuickTime. Coloring was pretty straight forward â€“ for the Los Angeles scenes, Morey had to remove saturation from the red and then bring overall saturation up; otherwise the skin tone would become too red. This is pretty common with digital cameras (especially with the RED) when trying to achieve a very rich and saturated look.
The post team of â€œSon of a Donâ€ did things in a pretty normal manner as far as the workflow. All of the creatives came in to set looks on all of the scenes and key shots, and then Morey went through and balanced everything out the following day.
Winterstern, Visit, and Koerbel came back for final tweaks and approval.
Other photo snaps:
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photo credit: Andrew Railton