News about the second installment in the Epic Summer Film Project was announced last month with the premiere of Seth Worley’s latest film, “Real Gone.” In it, director Worley delivers a real departure from the YouTube sensation “Old/New” to deliver a dark but ultimately optimistic story.
Film Riot founder Ryan Connolly kicked off the Epic Summer with his short film, “U.F.Oh Yeah“. The event is Film Riot’s three-month film project created to showcase the work of three up-and-coming and award winning indie film directors. The event dives into the process of each filmmaker to see how they made their film, with each film accompanied by a month-long series of Behind The Scenes films.
We talked with both Ryan and Seth to learn more about the event, about their process and about what’s next for each of them.
From “U.F.Oh Yeah”
ProVideo Coalition: Film Riot looks to focus just as much if not more around the “how” a film comes together as it does on the film itself. Would you say that’s accurate?
Ryan Connolly: For me it’s about 50/50. It may seem that it’s more heavily on the “how to” side because prepping the film is something that happens quietly behind the scenes. Then when you release it there’s just one video and it’s done. With “how to” videos it’s more of a constant. But I am very passionate about both. I love to entertain as much as I love to educate.
ProVideo Coalition: What sorts of professionals are featured on your channel?
Ryan Connolly: We have pros from all fields, from pre to post production, because I really like to have a wide variety of different industry professionals on to show their personal process. There’s a lot of value in hearing how different artists think about the creative process.
ProVideo Coalition: What sort of projects have filmmakers who have featured their films on your channel gone onto?
Ryan Connolly: We don’t feature many filmmaker’s films, but guests and collaborators have worked on all sorts of projects. One close collaborator has just released his project with Spotify, others have worked with JJ Abrams, and some Film Riot viewers have enjoyed local success after being featured on the show. Which is another thing we are working hard toward, being a place that gives talented people a platform.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us about Film Riot’s Epic Summer. Where did the concept come from?
Ryan Connolly: I’ve wanted to do a project that showed the process from the view of three different filmmakers for a while now. No one artist goes about creating the same way, and I think showing that is really helpful for new filmmakers. When you are just starting out it feels like there’s this one magical way to make films, which is just not true. So diving into these three films one after the other felt like a great way to show that and also dive into the techniques that made each film work.
ProVideo Coalition: How important is collaboration when it comes to filmmaking?
Ryan Connolly: Filmmaking is definitely best played as a team sport. But I spent the beginning of my career in a very one-man-band sort of landscape. You bring in friends and family to help, but it was less collaboration and more of people being awesome enough to donate time and help you carry things. So although collaboration is incredibly important to a film, if you aren’t able to assemble an experienced crew, you can still get going right now!
ProVideo Coalition: How has Youtube impacted the way creators approach filmmaking?
Ryan Connolly: I think the main impact is the distribution. The fact that you can upload something right now and people will see it. It hasn’t changed the way I approach telling a story, but it has made it possible to get those stories to an audience.
ProVideo Coalition: And on the other side of that, how have you seen this content influence audiences?
Ryan Connolly: It’s mainly the massive flow of information that is out now. Before YouTube, finding anything to help you learn filmmaking was extremely difficult. There was no real incentive for professionals to put their knowledge out there. But social media mixed with platforms like YouTube have changed that. Creators now see the benefit of getting this information out their and young filmmakers are able to take advantage of that and soak up knowledge that they would have otherwise had to attend a film school to get. That’s the most exciting part for me, getting inspiration and education out their to young people who will become our next great filmmakers.
ProVideo Coalition: Should the fact that mass-market movies pull in more money than ever influence filmmakers or the projects they’re looking to create?
Ryan Connolly: I don’t think so. For me it is about creating the type of stories you love. If the big blockbuster type movie is what you love and have a passion to create, than that is what you should work toward. But if you are the type of artist who loves indie films and really wants to tell a character piece, than that should be your path. The ideas and themes we pursue should never be dictated by the current trend… Trends fade quickly, so what is popular today will be old news tomorrow. It’s about making the thing you would love to see.
ProVideo Coalition: In 2015, is it easier or harder for a filmmaker get their film in front of an audience? Or perhaps the question should be is it easier or harder to get a film in front of enough of an audience, as well as the right audience?
Ryan Connolly: It used to be next to impossible, now it’s just very difficult. Thanks to these online platforms, anyone has a chance to get their work seen. You can bypass the gatekeepers of media, festivals, etc… and go right to an audience.
This is still really hard to do, but I think the cream rises to the top, if it’s good enough people will see it. But I think people also expect a million views out of the gate, which is an incredibly rare thing. You really need to focus on constantly topping yourself. Make something, get it out there, learn from it. Then move on to the next one with the goal of it being far superior to your last. Sooner or later the right person will see it and launch you to the next level of your career.
From “Real Gone”
ProVideo Coalition: You mentioned that “Real Gone” is the darkest story you’ve ever told, but there’s a fair bit of humor in it. Did you consciously try to balance out those elements?
Seth Worley: Definitely. We knew all along that there was going to be this big tonal shift in the third act where Elwood (the lead character, played by Darren Vandergriff) rescues the girl from the burning building and realizes he wants to live, so we were very conscious about how we transitioned into that tone. It’s fairly common to move from comedy into drama because you’re falling in love with the characters while you’re laughing. But the tonal shift that surprised us in post that we stupid didn’t even think about was the one that happens in act one, where it moves from this moody dark story into a dark comedy. For some, that shift was really jarring. So we did a lot of work to curve that transition a little more and make it smoother, with our music and sound design choices, as well as how long we held on this early shots, etc.
ProVideo Coalition: What was the inspiration for this film?
Seth Worley: Believe it or not — Wendy’s Pretzel Buns. The initial concept was originally developed by me and another filmmaker and good friend of mine Jeff Venable as a pitch for some viral ads for Wendy’s Pretzel Buns. Needless to say, they weren’t crazy about it, but we both loved the idea so much that we held onto it for later.
In terms of tone and style, the two biggest inspirations were True Detective and recent David Fincher films.
ProVideo Coalition: What were you shooting with? Did the camera perform the way you needed it to?
Seth Worley: That’s more of a question for my D.P. Chris Adams, but we shot the film on a RED Epic, and from where I was sitting it seemed to perform seamlessly.
ProVideo Coalition: Were there any instances of something you worked out on paper or in the script that simply did not work once you were on-set?
Seth Worley: Most things that get abandoned on set are abandoned not because they don’t work, but mostly because they turn out not to be necessary. These are usually little moments that I think are dramatically important on the page or in the storyboards, but then we get on set and Darren or Chris and I will realize we don’t need it.
One of those moments was during the fire sequence, where Darren’s character realizes someone is trapped inside the burning building, and he looks around and realizes he’s the only person present at the scene who can save this person, and I had this little close-up slow motion moment with him where he makes the decision to go into the building, but we didn’t need it. I learned several films ago that you have to cut out of a dramatic moment as fast as possible, otherwise it becomes melodrama very very quickly. You have to move at the pace of the story, otherwise you make it all about you and how dramatic you’re trying to be. This little moment caused the scene to dip into melodrama, so we cut it.
ProVideo Coalition: Sound is an especially important element in this film, both in terms of the music and sound effects. Did you incorporate any of that into the live production?
Seth Worley: I actually had two playlists — one on Music Bed and one on Spotify — that I would play on set during takes to help Darren (the lead actor) and Chris (the D.P.) be in sync with their mutual “performances.” I found it really helped everyone on set know what kind of movie we were making. One of my favorite tracks to play during any scenes in the apartment was “Will There Be Enough Water” by The Dead Weather.
ProVideo Coalition: There is a very limited amount of dialogue in the film…did you ever consider going completely silent?
Seth Worley: I’ve made that choice on past shorts, but on this one I knew it was important that we hear the line “you’re going to live.” So it wasn’t really a conscious effort to deprive Darren of lines on this movie, I just wrote dialogue whenever the story called for it.
It is a shame, though, that short films so frequently require little dialogue. I actually take pride in my ability to write dialogue, and it’s really fun to do.
ProVideo Coalition: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your career?
Seth Worley: Ira Glass has a fantastic 4-part interview on YouTube, and the most popular quote from it has been mographed to death, because it’s fantastic:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
ProVideo Coalition: Anything you can tease about your next project?
Seth Worley: I have several in the works. But one of them that I’ve been developing for a while and hope to get off the ground by the end of the year is a big action set piece. Bigger than any I’ve done so far.