Indie Filmed in Michigan 2019




I had just come back from my trip in Asia and pretty quickly saw an odd listing floating around on Craigslist. This “Frank” fellow was asking for a Director of Photography to head a feature film that he had written. Before responding, I had a feeling I was about to give my email and phone number to a scammer, but was okay with this. Metro Detroit is a massive place and I also knew that whoever posted this would be flooded with applicants. I sent a link to the things I thought would be most detrimental to shooting an Indie Film on a small budget – profile pieces. This is what ultimately set me apart from the others (he told me) the fact that I could tell a story well and also make it look good at the same time (on a very short time frame). I agreed with how awesome I am and waited to see if he had any second guesses.

Fast forward a few weeks and we were sitting at J. Alexander’s chatting about his idea and how I might help bring it to life. He had big ideas, but also was smart about putting the script through its paces for years. I finished up my string fries and asked him one thing, “why don’t we make it a short first?” His answer was simply, “no.” I could feel myself swallow knowing what lie ahead…

Fun Fact

Ludington is a place Frank has enjoyed with his family since they were kids. The city, people, and long weekends inspired this story and played a big role in its writing.

“Our culture has kind of let the concept of the Renaissance Man die out. We don’t really tell the kids that it’s okay to bounce around the world, work odd jobs, and do six different things.”

  • Ronan Farrow

Pre-Production was the easy part…

…since we ended up shooting 120 pages in 2 weeks, with mostly natural light between

Metro Detroit and Ludington that is…

The Ronan Farrow quote is something I identify with, reflecting on this project. Thing was, I was the only person that had ever been on a film set, let-alone produced anything more than a YouTube video. There’s nothing wrong with this in practice, but it meant that we were attempting to shoot a feature-length film, in multiple locations hundreds of miles apart, with one camera person, and the rest would be left to “helping hands.” This is an obvious recipe for disaster and, yes, I had to see a shrink after we wrapped (and had to also un-shrink my spine from having a RED on my shoulder for 12 hours a day). I was able to convince Frank that we needed to hire sound, no matter the cost, which luckily got us to Fred (the sound guy) and his team of experienced boom-mixers. They came in handy since the script was heavy dialogue.

I mention that pre-production was the easy part because I did what needed to be done. I lived in Ludington for 4 months leading up to the film, not only story boarding, location scouting, buying gear we’d need but also spending countless hours getting B-Roll footage in and around the city. This would guarantee that whoever they decided to have cut the piece would have more than enough to mix into the sure-to-be erratic shots in principal photography.

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We Actually Did It…

By the time August came, we were shooting in Metro Detroit and staying somewhat on schedule. We got up to Ludington on time as well, were lucky to have crew housing above the bar we shot in for majority of the scenes and made it to the big final scene (a live music/party). Jordan and Justin turned out to be as great as I hoped when I asked them to join. I met Jordan at a photography studio party in Detroit months prior and knew him to be a camera person. Turns out he acted as well. Justin was a friend I worked with on many projects as he was a dancer and I like dancers so…

Both of them became the ultimate PA’s, helping me with lighting setups, camera and sometimes sound when it was down to one operator. I must say, if the two of them weren’t a part of the film I can guarantee it would be scheduled for pick-ups to this day. Their Midwest mentality toward the project allowed me to lean on them and call upon them for big asks. Another part of the recipe was the family aspect to the film. We were quite literally filming with Frank’s entire immediate family, in their homes, and became a part of that dynamic ourselves. They always say your film crew is your family but when it’s real family plus crew what did that make us?

Every planned shot was cleared even though the final scene was an absolute disaster (we had to shoot it twice as we were losing light). At the end of it all, I felt nothing but absolute gratitude to the team for stepping up more and more as the process of making a film reared its ugly head. All footage was backed up and delivered to Frank, who one day will hopefully release the final cut to us all! It has been over a year but I have high hopes. This project means more to him than I, and that’s a lot. In the meantime, enjoy some of the pre-production I did below, accompanied with 1080 stills I pulled from the raw footage and applied REC709 to.

Ludington Bar Location

We were super lucky to get full access to Barnharts Marina Bar between their normal business hours which allowed us to do overnights when needed and morning shoots until lunch.

Metro Detroit Location

Frank wrote the house scenes with his own house in mind so there was no reason not to take over his entire house for a week. It was a cool “shotgun” type setup which allowed for cool things to happen in both rooms at once.

RED Epic Cinema Study

I watched most every movie I could find shot with the MX sensor. Then I applied false color to inspect…

RED Epic MX + Asahi Takumar Primes

Film Stills