Stygian

His health rapidly failing, an old man runs from his past in the wasteland of the wild west.

This film is currently touring the film festival circuit and is unavailable for public online viewing. If you would like to screen this film for a sample of my work, please contact me via email.

Awards

Best in Show - Weisman Exhibition 2015
Official Selection - LA New Filmmakers 2016
Official Selection - Wild Bunch Film Festival 2016

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Josh Garvin brought me in for this project in March, 2013. He told me it was a western film to be shot in the White Sands of New Mexico. He didn't care about dialogue, but developed characters, rich landscape, and a sense of John Ford. After I read the script, I was sold. I had to shoot this project.

This film had a very successful kickstarter, raising a little over $20,000. Majority of those funds went into travel expenses for the crew (nearly all of whom were from Chicago). The rest of it went into the normal expenditures for film production.

We shot the film on the Red Epic. Josh wanted a full 4k DCP for delivery, so we chose what we considered the best option. Our camera packaged was supplied by Daufenbach Camera and Columbia College Chicago. Daufenbach really helped us make this package a reality and I have to give them a big thank you. I recommend them for any production looking to rent; they are helpful and will make your package meet your needs.

Originally, the film was scheduled to shoot in the White Sands, but literally hours before shooting a military test drone crashed in the location and we were shut down before even stepping foot. However, our producers were ontop of their game. With huge help from the NM Film Office, production found a suitable "replacement" location within hours. Josh and I zipped over to the new location and scrambled to plan out our new shot list and shooting order before production would resume the next day.

The new location was The Valley of Fire, about an hour or so north of the White Sands. It's an ancient volcanic rock wasteland and was PERFECT. I would even argue it was a better location for the story than the White Sands. Discover the details behind this huge obstacle here.

John Ford was a huge influence on how we chose to shoot the film, along with Lawrence of Arabia. A few references to No Country for Old Men as well helped frame the perpsective of shooting this sprawling environment.

For the snow sequences, we relied heavily on The Grey and Assasination of Jesse James. Because the snow location is a flashback, Josh and I wanted a faded memory feel to it. I'm really interested in the current trend for milky shadows in photogrpahy, so I graded the shadows to feel murky and green. I loved this result. I consider the flashback sequence one of our best in the whole film.

For lighting in the desert, I wanted to use the sun as much as possible. We planned our shooting order around the direction of the sun throughout the day. If I couldn't use the sun as my key light, I would use it as a hair light.

Furthermore, I always wanted a narrow key (also known as an upstage key) for nearly all the shots. This proved problematic because the sun sometimes would be on the wrong side of the subject. To work around this, I had my Key Grip Jake Hartin and Gaffer Alexander Miller set up an 8x8 solid to fully block the sun on the subject. I then brought in a new key light from a better angle by using a shiny board to reflect the full sunlight back onto the character. This method worked great for a few shots that could not be tabled for later in the day.

Because the location is covered in volcanic rock, we took advantage of the ambiguous background to "cheat" shots like they are in a different spot. However, we sould simply pan the camera or just turn around and had a "new" location. We would have originally needed many different spots in the White Sands, but spots in the Valley of Fire could be re-used and no one would even know when watching.

My 1st AC Allison Anderson was absolutely the best. She was beyond knowledgable of the camera, constantly kept an eye on my waveform, and would always offer the best suggestions. Our 2nd AC, JD Gonzales deserves attention as well. He was ontop of his game through the entire shoot and constantly kept the camera team moving with this great attitude. More details about the Stygian crew can be found here.

This film, to date, was my biggest budget piece to shoot. I never imagined the curveballs that would be thrown at me, but my crew and production team were there to help me catch them. I'm beyond pleased with the results and am so excited to share this story, this film, to the world.