West was the second film from the 2005 IndiVision Project Lab to be greenlit for production. The film follows a group of friends as they struggle with the uneasy transition into adulthood and deal with the life-changing consequences of their actions. It was shot on HD with a budget of around $1.2 million and is due for release late in 2006.
Writer/director Daniel Krige, and producers Matt Reeder and Anne Robinson talk about the film and the IndiVision experience.
IndiVision News: Dan, did you conceive of this film as one that would work within the low-budget realm?
Daniel Krige: No. The script has been around for quite a while. I wrote the first draft back in 1986 and have been working on it in fits and starts since. I guess you could call it my 'baby'. It wasn't until producers Matt Reeder and Anne Robinson came along that the film really had any momentum. IndiVision seemed to be perfect for us and the project. And it has been.
IN: What was the experience of HD like? The look, the ratio, the freedom, instant rushes, playback on set, etc? Did it affect the way you worked with your actors and the crew?
DK: Being my first feature, I found the experience of working on HD to be quite liberating. DOP Damian Wyvill understands the format inside out and his team worked quickly and efficiently. The look Damian achieved was quite amazing. I also had the luxury of having an HD monitor on set so I could see each shot in full resolution as we went along.
HD didn't expand our ratio very much. I was pretty clear about the coverage and performances I wanted. We never really 'shot the shit' out of anything. The other bonus with HD is the shorter set-up time for each shot. It allows the actors to keep the performance level up and helps to keep the ball rolling all round.
I didn't really experience any disadvantages. We shot primarily at night and it's perfect for those conditions. It doesn't respond well to high contrasts, so we worked to avoid those situations.
IN: How did you work with the DOP in pre-production to conceive the look on this new format?
DK: We didn't really approach our creative discussions any differently than you would when working on film. I knew Damian was well versed in HD, so I trusted he'd have the technical side of the job in hand. And he did. As for the creative side of things, we just tossed ideas around, watched different films and eventually settled on the look. Although I've gotta say that production designer Marc Barold was also involved in these discussions and did amazing work on building the sets and dressing the locations to fit in with our shared vision.
IN: How did your budget of $1.2 million impact the way you approached writing and directing it?
DK: The budget didn't really affect the writing of the film as the script existed prior to the money. We just had to make the money work to the script. So in that regard the budget didn't affect the story. However, it did affect the way I approached directing some scenes and sequences. For instance, there are a few stunts in the film, and we really couldn't afford to crash any cars, so I had to come up with creative ways of shooting a car crash without the car actually crashing. The budget restrictions just forced us to be more creative in our approaches. And that can't be a bad thing.
IN: Matt and Anne, how did you find producing a low-budget feature?
Matt Reeder: Low budget is all I've ever known - for me having $1.2 million was a luxury. It has been a very steep learning curve and very rewarding. The crew were fantastic. I really believe it's so important to get the right bunch of people because given the nature of low-budget filmmaking everyone is going to be 'roughing it' to some extent. It has been inspiring to see the hard work from the actors and technicians alike and very rewarding to see the film start to come together.
Anne Robinson: It has been a rewarding experience. Low-budget has been a hard and gruelling process, but no different from making short films and music clips, just on a larger scale. Both Matt and I are used to squeezing the budget. Having a low-budget production manager was a godsend and she saved the day many times. On a feature, $1.2 million does not go very far and we needed to be financially creative. Deals and sponsorships are necessary.
IN: What did you learn from the whole experience of producing your first low-budget feature?
MR: I've learnt a lot in so many different areas... I think the biggest and most important lesson that was reinforced to me was: 'Never take your eye off the ball!'
AR: Work with people who are as passionate as you about making films. Never assume anything and make sure you have a good lawyer! Oh!.. and don't spend too much of your contingency! You'll need it later on!
IN: How has IndiVision helped?
DK: IndiVision gave me a real sense of community with other filmmakers and that was quite inspiring. It also helped to refocus me and reminded me about how single-minded you have to be to get a film made. You gotta be like a dog with a bone. Don't let go. No matter what.
MR: Apart from the extremely obvious - the cash - IndiVision was a great primer for our team. It kind of acted like a 'pre pre pre production' period for us; it brought the team closer and sharpened the focus. I also gained a lot of inspiration from the speakers, particularly Rolf de Heer's words of support from the front line of independent filmmaking.
AR: As Matt said, IndiVision was our pre pre production. It was a time to be nurtured, and it prepared us to go out and make West. IndiVision covered everything the West team needed. Some workshops were catered towards the three of us as a team, some towards the writer/director, and others for the producer. It was invaluable to be able to select a number of workshops that were specific to where each project was at.
IN: Any advice for this year's IndiVision teams?
DK: Well, aside from the dog with the bone analogy, don't be too eager to make the thing for the sake of making it. Get the script right. That's the most important thing. As the old saying goes: if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage. Be realistic about the budget restrictions, and make them work for you. Where there's a will, there's a way.
MR: Have fun while you're doing it... it's your life after all. Let the director think the good ideas are his/hers (smiles)
AR: Network and make alliances with other filmmakers.
West: you need people to hate, just like you need people to love.