Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Van Cliburn "Reach" – Young Director Award finalist

Click here to watch. 

Credits (director, writer, DP, producer, etc.)

Director: Aaron Kodz
Writer: Alex Harvey
Producer: Farideh Rezagah
Director of Photography: Alex Gallitano
Production Designer: Terra McNerthney
Assistant Director: Michael Sutphin
Cast: Azumi Tsutsui, John Gardner, Dennis Holland, Kailyn Kaluna

Why this script/concept? How does it reflect your vision as a commercial director?

I liked the script for its strong ability to tell a meaningful, touching story without the use of words.  This allowed me to focus on the visuals, and I knew it would be a great chance to express my style.  It gave me an opportunity to use a wide range of colors, various frame rates, as well as maintain tight control on which lenses we used for which shots, which gives my work the look it has.  I viewed endless reels and talked with many DPs before I found Alex Gallitano, who made this vision come to life as you see on screen.

What was the casting process like?

We held four casting sessions - three in NYC and one in Connecticut.  We saw a ton of people, and a lot of very distinct looks.  Having said that, the four leads of the spot were all far and away the best.  We were lucky to get all the talent we wanted, and I couldn't be happier with their performances.  They stunned my producers and I in the auditions, and they definitely delivered in front of the camera.

How did you search for/lock a location?

On our budget, we had to scour the area and call in all our favors for locations.  I went back to my Alma Mater for the classroom scene, and they were very accommodating and eager to help out.  Their only requirement was that we have some of the local kids on set, and they ended up being great to have.  For the convenience store, the owner was a tough, fast talking guy named Doug.  He initially declined, but after some discussion it turned out he used to play ball with my father, and we were allowed to film there on a slow Sunday night.  The farm we got from the Southbury Historical Society - they could not have been nicer, and I think that location is truly stunning.  They are currently doing restorations and such to turn the property into a museum.

How did you select your DP, crew?

My producer Farideh Rezagah and I have worked together in the past, and she's always a great creative mind.  She consistently brings great ideas to the table and comes up with unique solutions.  I had worked with production designer Terra McNerthney back during my time at NYU, and her schedule allowed her to come aboard.  I also went to school with Alex Gallitano, but it was during our time on the set of The Wolf of Wall Street that we ended up tossing around ideas.  Michael Sutphin was a last minute hire to be Assistant Director, and he was phenomenal despite the fact he no time to prep.  We had a few local hires, as well as a friend's brother, and we lucked out on every one of them.  They all knew their stuff and were a pleasure to have around.  I always love the sets when the G&E guys are both hard workers and laid back - even during the most stressful times they could always crack a good joke.

How did shooting go? Any challenges?

We had some last minute problems, just as any shoot does.  Our previous AD dropped out for personal reasons four days before the shoot.  It ended up being a blessing in disguise though, because we were able to hire Michael Sutphin, and he was just the best.  During our school shoot we were also supposed to include a shot of a teacher instead of a wide, so we didn't have to rely on so many extras.  I enlisted my former video production teacher for the role, which he seemed enthusiastic for it until he told me on the day he only had 30 minutes to film.  We were still loading in and I knew there would be no way to get the shot off, so I told him to have a nice day and tried to find last minute extras.  Luckily, there was a concert that day, and a lot of kids had stayed after.  We even ended up having to turn people away!

Tell us about editing and finishing.

The edit was pretty straightforward.  Our post supervisor Brenna Perez transcoded the files, and I was the editor.  After the transcode we had a rough cut within a day, and then it was just tweaking.  We made the decision not to have any sound on set, so I had to kind of guess and check the syncs, which wasn't the most enjoyable time.  However, it was necessary due to budgetary constraints and a tight schedule.  

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

I had one of the best crews I've ever worked with behind me, and we were spared any major setbacks over three filming days in Connecticut.  I'm very happy with the final product, it's been getting some good buzz, and I couldn't ask to change a thing. 

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