Friday, November 23, 2012

21 Super-8 Feature Film Production Questions answered by Scott Di Lalla and Zack Coffman on the making of "I am ZoZo".

Cinematography dot com has a topic posted about The Super-8 Feature Film "I am ZoZo", which has a very interesting story behind how the story line was created.

The story "I am ZoZo" involved curation creation, using "Google". The filmmakers searched google for the scariest ouija board stories out there, interviewed a few people, and then wrote a script loosely based on on one of those people's experiences.

I love when filmmakers share the wealth so to speak and actually cultivate the fertile lives and potential imagination and reality of other people rather than feel the need to start from scriptwriting scratch and do the same old, same old.

Below is the Internet Interview with the Filmmakers of I Am ZoZo - a Super 8mm Ouija movie, cool stuff, enjoy.

Did you shoot a concentrated schedule, or weekends only, or intermittenly?

Writer/Director/DP - Scott Di Lalla: Most of the movie was shot on San Juan Island, so once we were on set, we shot continuously for a couple weeks with days off included.  Not only did we shoot the film in straight days.  We had to do some pick-up shots a few weeks after the main shoot, but over all, principal photography was completed within a month.

Did you shoot any film ahead of time to make sure your camera or cameras were working well?

Di Lalla: Because I was new to shooting on this medium, I knew I had to get familiar with the 8mm format really fast.  I've done extensive research and testing eight months before we started shooting.  The first thing I wanted to know was what my camera's (Canon 1014xls) strengths and weaknesses were.  Every camera has a sweet spot.   This camera shot really well hovering around a mid range fstop, but I also nknew I would be shooting in low light, so I had to prepare for that. To get the best quality out to the viewer I had to make sure I had these things in check: shoot on the best film available, shoot within the camera's sweet spot, process it at the best place, and transfer the footage to digital and it's highest quality possible.  Luckily, the place we used offered a service that would scan each frame individually.  This was a much better choice than to take the whole file and up-res it.

What film cameras did you use?

Producer/Editor - Zack Coffman: Canon 1014-xls, We bought three used ones and had them turned into two good ones.

Did you have back ups?

Coffman: One of our two rebuilt Canon 1014-xls was always as a backup.

Did you ever shoot multiple cameras?

Coffman: No.

Once you started shooting, how often did you check your "dailies"?

Di Lalla: That was the scary part.  We only checked it once by sending in the a few roles on the first day of shooting and they fedexed it back to us the next day.  It looked great so we proceeded with the assumption that we were getting an image on film.  It just wasn't conducive or affordable to do this every single day.  However, it definitely would have been a better choice if we had the means.  The only real problem we had, after looking at all the footage, was at times we got hair in the gate.  On an 8mm frame a small piece of hair looks like a giant snake monster.  It happened way more than we hoped, but we were very luckily it wasn't worse.  It is very hard to clean the gate on these cameras.  I was consistent on properly cleaning it, but getting hair caught in the gate of an old super8 camera is inevitable.  We had to pay to get rid of the hair on essential scenes.

Who did your film to tape transfer?

Coffman: Lightpress in Seattle, they were great to work with and Eric Rosen from Lightpress even did our color-grading later.

Who did you film processing?

Coffman: Alpha Cine in Seattle, the best lab anywhere.

How many rolls of film did you shoot?

Coffman: 18,000 ft... forgot how many rolls that is.  haha

Did you use an 85 filter, if yes, indoors, outdoors, or both?

Di Lalla:  No, I didn't use an 85filter.  Although the camera had an 85 filter built into it, I knew it wouldn't have been smart to use it because the camera was so old.  Anyway, I shot on Kodak's tungsten balanced negative film, so I didn't need it for the inside and through my extensive research and testing,  I didn't really need it while shooting outside, if it was cloudy.  If the sun peeked out a bit, I knew whatever cast it would leave behind we could take care of it in post.

Was camera noise an issue?

Di Lalla: Yes, it was a big issue.  Unfortunately, when I was playing around with different types of blimps I conducted all my tests without any film in the camera.  I thought I had completely silenced the camera until I loaded it with film on my first day of the shoot.   My heart almost stopped when I had noticed that the camera was considerably louder when film was actually running through it.  Of course it would be, it just slipped my mind when I was testing it.   I took thick towel and wrapped it around the camera, silencing it a bit more, but not enough.  The show had to go on, and I knew it was yet another thing we had to deal with in post.

Coffman: Our Sound Designer, Michael Fox, who was dialogue editor for The Grudge and one of the earliest ProTools technicians took one look at it and said, "I'm gonna have to get forensic on this sh-t."  We actually removed most of the terible film sound and then decided to lay in a consistent low-level film sound back under the whole film to make it consistent with its amazing Super 8mm film look.  Indie filmmaking is always about re-inventing the wheel, but that's why we love it!

How did you record sound?

Di Lalla: On a DAT with our sound guys, Dustin Bath and Joshua Svare.

How did you deal with a film cartridge that was near filled? Did you just roll out on a long scene, use the short amount left for insert shots? 

Di Lalla: There were times I rolled out on the scene, but I would say most of the time I had to change out just short of its end.  Those cartridges were marked and used later for pick-up shots.

Did you swap film cartridges because of running time issues?

Di Lalla: Yes.

Did you prefer long, eerie takes, or shorter takes because of the limited film runs?

Di Lalla: I preferred long takes in general.  My takes were anywhere from one min to over two minutes.  Since an 8mm cartridge is only two and a half minutes long (at 24fps), my longest takes were usually around that.  However, this is where most of my planning went into.  To reduce the risk of a ton of retakes I rehearsed the lines and movements with my actors for two weeks.  If we weren't that prepared it would have been impossible to do it without wasting a significant amount of money.  Also, I am a big fan of Belgian film makers, the Dardenne brothers' style, so long takes was definitely a style choice as well as a clever way to build tension.

What format did you transfer your film to?

Coffman: Pro-res HQ

Who did the music?

Coffman: Composer B.C. Smith (Smoke Signals) did the original score, cellist Aniela Perry wrote and performed "Tess' Theme", and we had tracks from Sun Kil Moon (Kark Kozelek), Windsor for the Derby, Blood Warrior, and The Tragic Tantrum.

Who did the sound-efx?

Michael Fox, with some additional eerie bits from B.C. Smith

Who did the mix?

Michael Fox

What format did post production request for editing purposes?

Coffman: I edited the film in Pro-res HQ.

Did you happen to check out super-8 websites prior to shooting?

Di Lalla: Yes.  I checked out everything Super8 available that was online or in print.  I have so many people and sites to be grateful for, now I am ready to give back what I learned.  I just want to say thank you for giving me the chance to give back and if anyone wants to follow me on twitter please go to: (@scottdilalla)

Coffman: We never could have made the film without our supporters, friends and family.  Likewise, happy to help others so feel free to add me: @choppertown[/quote]

Additional links for I am Zo Zo include...

Web: I am Zozo  

Facebook: I am Zozo
twitter feed: Choppertown

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