FROM 1994 shoots on ALEXA M & MoVI
FROM 1994 is a short film directed by Danielle Krieger and Casey Warren – an Emmy Award-winning creative duo based in Seattle. Their production company Mindcastle is known for evocative sports and commercial work that includes campaigns for ESPN, Canon, Showtime Sports, HBO and more. On this latest project, the filmmakers took a deeply personal event from Warren’s life and brought it to screen using the ALEXA M and the MoVi 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal. The small size of the ALEXA M head combined with the MoVI’s fluid movement produces an intimacy that is immediate and engaging – a creative choice that helps convey a boy’s discovery of a letter from his deceased mother. Here, Krieger and Warren take us from concept to completion on this touching short film.
FROM 1994 is a short film directed by Danielle Krieger and Casey Warren, captured on ALEXA M and the MoVi 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal.
CW: The idea of doing something more with this letter came from Danielle who was very passionate about turning this into a film. She came up with the initial concept, story, and idea and then I took what she had and started writing the script up for it. Once we began the process of making a letter inspired by this film I realized that this film is something that I will have to pass on to my children, family, etc., in much the same way my mom did. It's a way for me to help them remember who she was. Making this film helped me feel like I got to know her more as well. She passed away when I was 14, so I missed out on a lot of memories with her, and in making this film I felt like I could make new memories with her-- even though she isn't here.
What motivated using the MoVI?
CW: Since we fist saw the MoVI's release videos we knew we had to have one of them. I placed a pre-order the second that I could. About mid-August, Tabb Firchau (owner of Freefly Systems) got in touch and asked us if we wanted to make something for the release of the MoVI since ours was ready to ship and hot off the production lines. We decided on this story because it fit perfectly with what we saw in the potential of what the MoVI could bring to how we wanted to tell it. I knew that I didn't want to tell a story centered around a piece of technology, but rather use that technology to help exemplify the story and tell it better than without it.
Did you storyboard to plan?
CW: We spent a good deal of time in our pre-production process storyboarding. I am, like many filmmakers, a very visual person and being able to see your film before you actually shoot it is a really powerful tool. They really became a key tool in our creative process before we went into production.
DK: I took the storyboards we made, scanned them and placed them into Final Cut. In an hour or so, I was able to get a storyboard "edit" of our film together. Having this was huge for us early on in the process as we were able to get a feel for how the music paced with each scene, as well as a general sense for how everything would intercut.
Why did you want to shoot this on ALEXA?
DK: Our goal with this film was to make it feel as organic as possible, in not only the camera movement, but also the imagery itself.
CW: What I love most about the ALEXA is not only the way it captures highlights, but the subtle way it captures the tonal ranges within skin. It’s able to capture a vibrancy and translucency to the skin that makes it feel real. And that to me is huge in filmmaking, especially when you are working to convey real human emotions. You want audiences to connect with the people who they see on the screen. By making the people on the screen real, the emotion they pass on becomes real. The ALEXA image has body and a texture to it.
Directors Danielle Krieger and Casey Warren take us behind the scenes on bringing this short film inspired by true events to life. Shot with the MoVi camera rig on the ALEXA M.
Why the MoVI and ALEXA together?
CW: Ultimately we wanted to take the cinematic image quality of the ALEXA and pair it with the dynamic movement that the MoVI could achieve. Ever since I heard about the MoVI, I knew I wanted to put an ALEXA on it. The ALEXA M's modular design made it possible for this whole idea to become a reality.
How did these two tools help you tell your story?
CW: One of my favorite scenes was the writing scene. Although this scene didn't contain much physical movement and blocking as she types the letter, we didn't want it to feel static. We used the movement of the camera to help convey her thought processes as she crafted the letter. As she began to get ideas and imagine the future of her child, we were also able to go on the journey with her thoughts. Our goal was to use the evolution and growth of the letter to fuel the motion and dynamics of the camera movement. In the end, I was very happy with how this scene came out. I don't think we would have been able to pull off this scene storytelling-wise without the combination of the cinematic image from the ALEXA and the dynamic movement from the MoVI.
DK: One of my favorite things about directing are those moments when you see what’s being filmed on your monitor as something better than how you imagined it. There are many things that play into getting those moments and a huge factor in them relates to the tools that you use to tell your story. Tools like the MoVI and ALEXA helped us get to those moments where you’re just standing there smiling at what you see on the monitor.
What was your lighting approach?
CW: My goal with the lighting and look of this film was to go for a realness and not something that felt over lit. One of the things I like about ALEXA is that you can work with so many different sources within a scene and they all come across very natural. Whether it’s a Tungsten or daylight balanced source, they blend very well in the camera -- in a very similar way to how our eye sees them. We lit many of our scenes with practical lights. We used sources from lamps that we amped up the wattage with 200-Watt bulbs and then added heavy layers of diffusion to give them more body.
For the lighting on the film we used a mix of practicals and various lights including fluorescents, LED, and Tungsten Fresnels. The main Tungsten lights we used were the ARRI 150w and 650w Fresnels. One thing I really like about these lights is the quality of light output in terms of color balance and also the spread of the light itself.
How do you feel about FROM 1994 now that it’s finished?
DK: Using the MoVI and the ALEXA M together exceeded my expectations. I am really happy with the final product and it’s something that I will remember forever.
CW: Our ultimate goal was to make something that wasn't just a film but also a keepsake that we could pass on to our family and remember my mom by. In our free time we make a lot of art for our home, and I like to think of this as something for us to cherish and also be able to share with other people when they come here. I am glad we were able to make something that we can hold on to as something special beyond it just being a film; [it] means something to us, personally, as artists.