PART ONE: PRE-PRODUCTION AND PLANNING
Hi, I’m Samuel Punto, and I wanted to write something about the making of my first project, a short film which I dramatically named The Cycle. I decided to make it in three parts, one for pre-production, one for the actual shooting, and one for post-production, since if I tried to do it all in one text, it would wind up being very long and incredibly boring. So, I hope you enjoy!
I actually got the original inspiration for this one from a video game, a surreally scary game called Little Nightmares. The basic plot of the game is that a small person of undetermined gender is traveling through a strange, nonsensical world where everything is trying to kill them. While the general feeling and visual style are admittedly pretty different (we didn’t exactly have the budget for giant demons of hell), the idea of a person wondering through a surreal world while being hunted is one I liked, and I thought could translate well into a film. After having decided it at least wasn’t a *bad* idea, the other big inspiration came in, and that being the cinematography and visual style of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, two directors whose movies I’ve always loved. Of course, we had to be creative considering we didn’t have a steady-cam, or really anything that would allow us to get any sort of moving shot. Later, after the film appeared in the “Visionale” film festival, one of the judges told me that the style of The Cycle actually reminded her of Andrej Tarkovsky, a director I hadn’t heard of until then, but who I’m now I huge fan of. So that was pretty cool!
After having a number of theoretical conversations about the idea with my mom, we started thinking about actually doing it. One huge advantage that I had and very much intended to use was that my stepfather is Marwan El-Mozayen, the Editor-in-Chief of SilvergrainClassics magazine and a professional photographer. This allowed me to access both to his skill with a camera and his equipment, as well as the connections he has, if I asked nicely enough. We began talking about how it might be possible, most likely during the summer vacation, since it was the only period when we all had time off. And this is about the time I decided to do the project on analog film.
Something about the look of movies shot on film seems real and gives a feeling of reality to worlds that might seem artificial otherwise. (Like JJ Abrams’ Star Wars films or Christopher Nolan’s Batman.) Marwan was able to tell me about the advantages and disadvantages of working on film, and even though I was warned that it would make things harder (how much harder I wouldn’t know until we started filming) I decided I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. However, there was one pretty big problem; we only had twenty-four minutes of film material for a ten-minute project, so we could only do one take for every scene, or two if it went REALLY badly. Because of this, we had to do a lot of planning, especially for the scenes where my stunt double and I were in the same shot, since he could only be on set for two days. The other little problem was the fact that since we were going to do it in the summer, that meant working around our travel plans. We live in Germany, but would be vacationing/filming in the U.S.A, which meant that we had to do all our location scouting on the fly, which meant that trying to plan it so tightly was an absolute nightmare. Still, we did our best to create a workable schedule, get the support we needed from Kodak, and figure out how we were going to bring all of our equipment with us on vacation. Everything was kept very minimal: two cameras, two tripods, film, me and my family, and the sincere hope that it wouldn’t rain while we were trying to film (it did). All and all though, the project, which at the time we were going to call “Windows to the Soul”, but changed the name in the last moment (more on that next time) was starting to get underway.