Monday, November 25, 2013

Ad Lucem


            Hello friends, I hope you had a great weekend and that you’re looking forward to Thanksgiving because I know I am. It is an honor to share with you Ad Lucem, a short film I had the pleasure of working on back in September. This is a three-part music video for Queensrÿche, a progressive heavy metal band that started in the 80s and has sold over 20 million albums worldwide.
            The Veva Entertainment Co. production is produced by Marco De Molina and directed by Daniel Andres Gomez Bagby. The duo was kind enough to answer some questions, making this my third “Q&A session” on my blog. (You can check out the previous one by clicking here). So for those of you interested in producing or directing, I hope this Q&A is resourceful.


What was the most challenging aspect of producing this short?

Logistics. We had the band available for only two days since they were getting ready to go on tour, so we had to coordinate numerous things around these dates. Locations, talent, crew, equipment, etc. I had to work many deals on many different levels to make it work because we shot on a Monday. And as you know, in L.A., if you shoot over the weekend, you get equipment One-day rentals over the weekend, so, that was a challenge. 

We were fortunate to have Brian Krause, Cathy Baron, Erik Aude, and R.J. Adams, who were interested in the project and came on board – they have busy schedules, so we needed to also find a way to accommodate them into the mix too.  

When we realized the actual magnitude of our project, and the considerable amount of setups, and sets we needed to pull it off, it is when we decided to shoot with two cameras, which will allow us to move faster. But as you know, more cameras, more crew, more money. So we needed to be very savvy about where to allocate our resources the best. It is sad that we had to scratch a scene altogether so we could get the best piece. We were a little bummed out because we were excited about shooting that particular scene, but it was simply not possible. So Daniel Gomez and Christian Moldes (they both wrote the screenplay) needed to re-write things. There were still changes even the night before the shoot that the script needed to be adjusted to. It was great working with both of them on this level. Producers always feel like the bad guys because they say yes or no to things based on costs/availability. So it is great to have a team that understands that, and vice versa. We all want what's best for the project. And we did it.

We looked into different locations, studios, stages, etc. We like to build our own worlds, and we are fans of practical effects, so we were very fortunate when our 1st AD, Gus Peña, mentioned to Daniel Gomez and I about Central City Stages. We went to check them out and they were just wonderful. They worked with us and it made the best spot for our production.

The day of the shoot we had about 60 people on set, between crew and talent, and we had about 42 setups to go through in 12 hours! There were multiple sets we had to build and dress the day before and during the shoot. I knew that it was imperative we needed to be as proactive as possible. So, there was never any downtime for, literally, anyone.  But, by the time camera wrapped, we were only waiting for DIT and we were out of there. 

We have stellar teams and crew. Everyone knows each other. How everyone works. It's our family. And I must admit, one thing I am proud of is that, even at crunch times, everyone is still enjoying themselves and having fun, loving what they're doing. This makes crazy challenging days a simple joy.

What is the most valuable lesson you obtained after finishing the project?

Being resourceful. Always work with people that care about things just as much as you do – definitely key for great results.

How did you come across Queensrÿche?

It was cool because I was at a concert when I met Queensrÿche's A&R and he said the band had seen what we did for Buckcherry's "Nothing Left But Tears" video and that they were interested in working with us. We were immediately excited [and flattered], so a conference call was arranged, we listened to their ideas and off we went to create the treatment. They were excited about our proposal of making a short film instead of a music video.

How is your relationship with Daniel and how does it help (and maybe challenge) with the fruition of your projects?

Daniel and I have a great working relationship. It is rare when you can find someone that you can be and perform without having to worry about the other person, or a person having to worry about you. We both know what we have to do, and we love what we do. The best thing is we are always there to help each other's job be better and make the best project always. We have an inside joke that we simply do not share the same taste in movies, and at times aesthetics of things, but it is the "perfect-different". And due to this fact we've gotten far cooler ideas, that otherwise would have been, perhaps average, if we always liked the same things. We respect and share a mutual admiration for our skills, and we take each other very serious – but, on top of it all, I think a great thing is that we do not take ourselves, individually, too serious, so at the end of the day, literally, no matter how exhausted we may be, we always share a laugh recapping our work day over a beer. Couldn't ask for better.

Which is your favorite scene in the video?

If I had to pick, I'd say the hospital scene when Cathy and Geoff meet while he's all bruised up. I was a little bit worried if the chemistry would be there between them, given that we had very little time to work with them prior to the shoot. People we knew had worked with them separately so they came recommended. So I was very pleased that they both looked good together and the relationship does come across. They have some nice moments and smiles. And another scene I really like is Cathy going into labor – it's gruesome to me. Daniel and Kris Carrillo, our DP, did a wonderful job at capturing the moment, the pain, and then the way Zac Surprenant edited the scene, it is one of those moments you feel you did something cool. Hard scene to watch though, but it is "cool.”

What inspires you to be a producer and who influences you?

My inspiration comes from just wanting to entertain. Simple. It is a great satisfaction to me, for example, that Queensrÿche has millions of fans worldwide, and here we are creating something special for them. That to me is the whole reason why. Entertaining. At the same time, movies, music, and media, are the strongest form of art in our era, and like throughout the passing of times and history, it is art that has defined us as cultures and generations, etc. So, yes, I just want to entertain, and contribute to society through our art form. And, it's fun at the same time!  

Who influences me? My team does. They're my force.


What was the most challenging aspect of directing this short?

The need to shoot it in one day because of budget restraints. The continuous changes that had to happen last minute to be able to fit everything in one day. With that said, we did not have the opportunity to shoot more than 2-3 takes. Making it work at such a high speed was a challenge, not only for me but for the actors and the crew as well.

What is the most valuable lesson you obtained after finishing the project?

It’s dangerous to be over ambitious.  Not saying it's wrong, but you are walking on thin ice.  Though sometimes that type of risks can lead to great things.

How is your relationship with Marco and how does it help (and maybe challenge) with the fruition of your projects?

Marco and I are completely opposite in a great majority of things. Taste, looks, etc, which has worked for us because we end up complementing each other. We both know what the goal is, and we both don't step on each other’s toes. So, we work together seamlessly never losing focus of the finish line.

Which is your favorite scene in the video?

The scene I like the most is the childbirth scene. A new life is born and a life is taken away. A beautiful tragedy.

What inspires you to be a director, where do you get your vision from and what do you do to translate it on screen?

What inspires me, is that moment when you go to the theater, you sit down, silence your phone and disconnect from the real world and engulf yourself in a completely fictional world.  That experience inspires me.  Of course the need to tell the story, the art of filmmaking are both forms of inspiration and that goes without saying, but it’s the experience of the audience that inspire me. Be it good or bad.

My vision comes from many different places. Some ideas are born in dreams, others in open conversations with friends, over a couple drinks, and sometimes the visions are fed to you with concepts and you go from there, other visions come from experiences in your daily life or past events. There is no particular place where the vision comes from.  After you have a set vision/idea/concept you write down, put it on paper and see where this process takes you. It's crazy how much it changes over time, evolving into something that you would have never thought of had you not start writing it. After this, you go through all the nuts and bolts to produce it and make it happen. You work with every head of department and you make sure everyone is on the same page of what the vision is. Set a style and mood with your director of photography and you work with your actors so that your characters are alive and well. I don't believe it’s any different or unusual from any other director... It all comes down to how prepared you are, how many problems you solved ahead of time in every aspect and most importantly having fun with it.

Can you name some actors you'd kill to work with? Why?

Kevin Spacey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep… There are so many. And why? Why not? Their work speaks for itself.

            As I did on my last blogpost, I apologize for taking an inordinate amount of time to add content to the blog. I’ve been quite occupied with the new show I’m working on, but hopefully that will change a little this Thanksgiving week. 

Photos Courtesy of Pascal Halim Photography