Prologue to the Feature: My Short Films (Part III)

Hello film mammas!

I hope everyone’s staying safe and healthy. The number of cases and deaths keeps going up so this is a friendly reminder to please stay home if you can and wear your masks when you go out!

So we are down to the last part of this prologue series. You can read about my first two short films here and here. My third short film THE CATCH is a story about two trapeze artists whose trust is threatened before the most important performance of their career.

This film has been mind expanding in so many ways. Again, a step further from my previous one in terms of production scope and it presented me with a whole set of new challenges from which to learn from. From working with stunt doubles in a high risk activity suck as a flying trapeze, to shooting on location in a circus and planning a shot where the lead actor breaks a mirror with his fist on screen.

I became involved with this project because the writer/producer of the film had also been the rockstar producer of my last film and she invited me to direct it. I had already graduated from film school, but this time, it was the producer’s thesis film, so again, the project was eligible for student grants. Our film won two of them: The Katharina Otto-Bernstein grant in the sum of $15,000 and the Bertha Tamayo Production Grant in the sum of $5,000. This covered nearly half of our budget and the second half was covered by the producer’s personal funds. You can find a starting guide for short film grants here.

Here’s a quick snapshot of our budget:

Pre – Production and Wrap2,988
Shooting Crew Labor11,825
Location & Travel7,065
Props & Wardrobe2,300
Set Design2,000
Meals and Crafty3,570
Post- Production4,550

This production was extra special for the producer and I as filmmakers because we both had huge things happening in our lives. I was a couple months away from getting married so I was also planning that other big production and she was a couple months away from becoming a mother for the first time! Honestly, it felt so empowering to see her on set with her big belly, getting things done, showing everyone what’s possible. I will always remember this shoot because of that.

Let’s talk about some of the challenges we encountered during this production.

While gathering the team, we had to, as you always do, manage the ever moving puzzle of availabilities with people coming in and out of the project until we found the perfect crew. I said this on my previous short film post, but it’s important and I will repeat it here. Expect this to happen. It is hard to gather a team of people that don’t usually work together. Production schedules and availabilities in the film industry are constantly changing so don’t get disappointed if someone you wanted to work with is suddenly not available anymore. That only means you’ll end up finding someone else who will be just perfect for your film.

Regarding locations: One of the great things about shooting on location is that you are tapping into a real world space that really encapsulates the fictional world you are trying to create. When you find the perfect location it is fascinating. Just by stepping into the space, it provides you with so many ideas that you didn’t even think of. The down side of shooting on location, specially in ones that are usually occupied, is that you might not have all the access you need for a tech scout. This was the case for us at the circus. We got to shoot there for free! Which was awesome (not totally free, we still needed to cover the expenses of running the place for the time we were there) but the down side was that since the circus was still in season, we had very limited time to tech scout which meant we couldn’t try some of the shots we planned to do. Because of this, we weren’t sure the shots were definitely going to work out during the shoot. But fortunately we were able to adapt and figure out alternatives. A great tool to have while tech scouting is the app Artemis which is basically a director’s viewfinder which lets you see what your shot will look like with different lenses and cameras all from the comfort of your smartphone.

Regarding schedule: We planned a 5 day production when we should have planned a 6 day one. We really needed an extra day at the circus and not having it meant we had to cut some of the shots we had planned which was a bummer, but it was also a great opportunity to think on the spot and strategize to make sure we covered all the shots we really needed to tell the story. Sometimes you won’t be able to have all the shoot days you want or need. Actually, that will be the case a lot of times. My advice for this is to be extra prepared with your shot list, so that you have the tools at the moment to think fast and reassess which shots are necessary for the film to work.

One of the great experiences of this shoot was the chance to work with so many talented people. We really had an A-list cast and crew and that meant we were able to tackle any challenge that arose. The vibe of the set was also extremely positive even under high amounts of stress when time was becoming scarce.

The work really shows on the film. It is a big production for a student project which we are all very proud of.

We finished this film in June 2019 and were scheduled to have our World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival this past April. But the pandemic hit and the whole world changed. The film industry basically stopped shooting and film festivals around the world were cancelled or taken online. This was something really hard for filmmakers to process, but at the same time, it opened a world of possibilities and has allowed for very interesting conversations about what the future of films and film festivals should be. What does this all mean for The Catch? We unfortunately couldn’t get to screen our film yet. But the great news is we did have the honor of being nominated for Best Student Short by Tribeca’s jury which was super exciting and we will screen our film in next year edition which is Tribeca’s 20th Anniversary! Stay tuned, we are very excited to share our film soon with the world!

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