In a bustling, cold airport waiting to catch a flight, a story was born. This is a two fold story. The story of two filmmakers drive and uncompromising attitudes, and the story of Frank and Bobby.
We begin with the filmmakers. I met Scott through various connections on social media. We immediately hit it off as kindred spirits and children in adult bodies. After a few weeks ranting, scheming, and day dreaming we decided we should make a short film. We didn't have a plan, we just wanted to create something we knew we were capable of.
It's quite easy to talk about films, good films, bad films, making films, etc... Now actually making something you are proud of from start to finish is another story all together. After kicking around a few ideas, the nucleus of a story began to form. I whipped up a detailed outline and shot it over to Scott as I boarded my flight. Once I landed he had a script snapped up. We went through a couple revisions and we knew we had something special…
Now let me fill you in on a little secret. We wrote the film around a very cool location, and actors that we had secondhand relationships with through colleagues – but had no idea whether or not we could actually confirm them for these roles. We took a risk crafting something so specifically geared for these actors– and knew that if they said no to the project, it would be dead in the water. But that only forced us to write something that would be so good, that we’d have to bet they couldn't say no after reading it.
Cobra Arcade Bar. How we love you. The sheer awesomeness of this place is only eclipsed by the incredible spirit of the owners and staff. The atmosphere combined with incredible nostalgic arcade cabinets is enough to make a grown man shed a single tear. After our first pitch meeting Nico, Topher, and Ari (the Cobra Arcade Ownership/Management team) were pretty stoked on the idea and they were on board to make this happen. As they said “They’re artists and like to support other artists who are doing crazy stuff.”
Marty and Jesse Kove. Legendary duo. Martin Kove, aka John Kreese from Karate Kid, is one of the hardest working and most badass actors we have had the pleasure of working with. To top it off, his son Jesse Kove is also a knock out actor with a perpetually positive attitude that will make anyone on set smile. Once we got the script into their hands they absolutely loved the idea of acting on screen together in this crazy short film of ours.
Little known fact: In the original draft our "Grambo" character was a 9 year old girl with pig tails. Upon securing the bar location we had to change that character to a "loony toons" type grandmother. Barbara McBain absolutely nailed this character!
Hollywood talent? Check.
Once we had our actors and locations locked down we reached out to some of the best local filmmakers we knew who wanted to rally up with us and have a great time. We were incredibly blessed to have such a great crew who dedicated their talent, time and energy and worked very hard on set to make something special with us.
A-List Crew? Check.
Now as much as we boot strapped on this thing there are still some very real costs associated with making a great short film. We had some of the most amazing Executive Producers who really believe in us and saw our vision early on. We can't thank them enough for their generosity to make this film and the experience a reality. Selling someone on the idea of investing in a film that is geared for commercial distribution is hard enough – convincing a team that you’re short film for artistic sake is worth backing can be even harder. It’s up to you to craft a film proposal that is so fun, important, meaningful and just plain cool – that it will attract people who support local arts and see the vision. Most importantly – make it fun for them by offering some cool experiences and incentives and be sure you can deliver on what you promise.
Let's make this thing already! We had one full day in the desert to get all of our game world shots. Unfortunately it was extremely windy that day, so we had to be very careful with our light modifiers. Essentially, our flags and diffusers were 10-foot wind sails staked on the dusty Arizona desert flats, and we risked them flying off and hitting cast and crew at any moment if not sandbagged and tied down. Safety first. This slowed us down and limited us a bit. But after a long 14 hour day we wrapped to get some rest. We had the next day to recoup and prepare for a long night. Cobra operates as a functioning bar, so they don’t close until 2am each night. By the time we got set up we were rolling our first shot, it was already 4am. Sun was set to come up at 6:30am. We had to move fast and loose in the arcade to make our day but by the end of it we knew we got everything we needed and knew it would be great.
Let's get technical! We shot on the RED Epic, with Zeiss CP2 lenses. Huge shout out to Dragon Fly Picture Studios for the camera package. I like to keep my lighting set ups minimal and fast moving. Outside we used shiny boards, silks, and an ultra bounce. Inside the arcade we used 650 fresnels and 4x4 Kinos, all courtesy of Thunder Grip and Electric.
The following week after production, Scott and I sat down to put together our rough cut. Once we got things tightened up we sent off an export for Tyler Parkinson of Captiv3 Media (one of our producers) to do the score and SFX pass. We also sent off a cut to Dan Fusselman of BitCrush FX for our key VFX passes, which he executed and then tag-teamed final VFX with Scott. The film was cut on Premiere CC and VFX were creating in After Effects.
We still had a missing piece though... The Game God, aka the floating hologram head in the sky, and literally the voice of the Show No Mercy game. We considered a number of Hollywood actors but none seemed to satisfy what the character called for…an epic voice that could bring the sardonic deity to life. Scott had the wild idea to contact local legend and world-class DJ, John Holmberg from 98KUPD, the biggest and best rock station in Phoenix. John has been doing the morning show over there for 16 years and is an amazing voice talent. Sure enough, John loved the idea and a week later he was in my living room in front of a green screen making everyone laugh and bringing the character to life.
Looking back it's quite heart warming seeing all the amazing people who came together with us to take this journey and make this film. It was a wonderful time proving to ourselves we could accomplish something special. There is such fulfillment in having an idea and seeing it all the way through to the end without compromising on your vision. We boldly pushed through with some really big ideas and through a lot of hard work and good faith from our team they all came together. I couldn't ask for more than that. Watching amazing actors speak the lines you write on paper, and then seeing an audience watch that is quite the special experience.
My advice to leave you with? Get out there and make your dreams come true! It may not happen in a day, week, or month. But if you keep sight of that end goal and you work hard you will absolutely get somewhere great. Dream big, think positive, execute often.
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With over 8 years of experience in the film industry one of my biggest passions is giving back to the community. Visit, learn, share, love.