The Backstory of how this short film was made.
I started thinking about this short film in the fall of 2021. I was spending a lot of time in the Cincinnati downtown area while meeting with an advertising client.
The streets and alleys of Cincinnati look scary and old but are quite safe. Lots of brick buildings, cobblestone roads, and tight spaces. I thought they would make a great location for a chase scene.
So, I created a simple story about a female agent chasing another female who had stolen a computer disk. I put a storyboard together to plot out the shots and wrote a script.
It became a sci-fi chase scene across town. Agent Jet's assignment is to intercept #23 and prevent her from reaching "The Gateway." There's just one problem, Jet has to bring #23 in alive. Each woman is being guided by an unseen "Supervisor." Jet's Supervisor is human. #23’s is not.
The idea was to feature two women instead of men. Think “Men in Black” meets “Laura Croft Tomb Raider”. “Spy versus Spy.” I wanted it to be fast, fun, and dramatic.
I did some camera tests and started looking for props and wardrobe. Then our client in Cincinnati decided they didn’t need us anymore. My trips to Cincinnati stopped. I put his project on hold and started working on projects that could be shot in my hometown of St. Pete, Florida.
I spent January and February planning two other short films. Then in late February, my wife and I moved into a new apartment complex. The building is very modern and sleek. As I walked around, I realized it would make an excellent location for my chase scene.
I spent a few weeks making props, downloading free video effects packs from the internet, learning how create the effects I would use in my film by watching YouTube tutorials.
I revised my storyboard and script to fit the new location and effects. I plotted every shot. Shot tests with my iPhone. Edited test effects to make sure they would work. When I was sure everything was going work, I approached the building management to ask if I could shoot my film in the building. I turned out that one of the young women who worked in the office, Erica, was a model and I asked her if she wanted to be in my film. She agreed.
I needed to find another actress. I joined lots of filmmaking pages on Facebook and put out a casting call. I was overwhelmed with so many good responses. One young woman, Mikayla, stood out. Luckily for me she agreed to be in my film.
We set a shoot date. Had to move it a couple of times. But eventually we settled on a date.
My friend, Steven Clark, agreed to help me shoot the film. He flew to St. Pete with all his camera and lighting gear from Kentucky. Honestly, I could not have made this film without him. Not only did he bring some great gear, but he brought fun and enthusiasm to the set. He also gave me some amazing music tracks to use from his band The Ass Haulers. I am so grateful for his help.
The first night, we shot the end sequence in a warehouse. The warehouse is owned by my wife’s employer, Piper Fire. They were nice enough to let us use it for free! We started around 7pm and finished about midnight.
The lesson is use what you have around you to make your movie. Everybody has connections to people who can help you make something cool. You just have to be flexible and creative enough to see how the assets you have access to can be used in your movie.
The second night was back at the apartment building. We started around 5 pm and finished around midnight again. I think we were all exhausted by the end. Lots of running in the heat. Lots of moving equipment around. But the next day, I realized it was all worth it. The footage looked great and I knew we had made something good.
I started editing pieces together. Creating batches of scenes. Normally, I make 30 second TV commercials. I can edit a 30 second spot in a couple of days. But I soon realized that this film was going to be much harder. A 5-minute run time isn’t the problem, it's creating story, flow, and pacing that takes up the time. Creating effects shots that look good takes a lot of effort.
I broke the story into four parts, and I work over each section until it’s as tight as it can be. Then I go back and do each section again. It has been about a month and the edit is really close.
I shot some pick up shots to help with continuity and make the story flow better. Even though I had a script and a 55-frame storyboard, I still missed a few small things.
During the edit phase, I realized that my story wasn’t as clear as I had planned. I rewrote and added certain pieces that I hope will make the story better and clearer to the audience. I also added layers of backstory to the action sequences to help the viewer understand why the chase is happening the way it does.
Even though I've been making videos for almost 40 years, I learn something on every project. In my commercial world, we have a budget and a timeline. We have very specific goals and deliverables. However, making a film for yourself using your own money is different game.
This short film taught me to stay flexible and plan for set backs and changes. Most importantly, get help. Movie making is team sport. You need qualified people around you who can make your project better. A good actor can save your ass. A good DP can make you a genius. A good piece of music can change your entire film.