02. Starting your own personal cult.

I found a local amatuer filmmakers association in my city, San Francisco. The strangely named Scary Cow Filmmakers Cooperative was a union of sorts. People bought in at a monthly rate in exchange for accesses to the resources of the organization and the community. It was a mishmash of both complete amateurs, manic retirees, students, bored office workers, and insane people seasoned with a handful of experienced industry professionals. Up until this point I had a decade in post-production experience making thirty-second ads for television broadcast, so I counted myself in the latter category. I had more VFX experience than most, so I was often consulted for tips on how to do the small amount of special effects shots that some shorts might have. I was happy to help, as the community was warm and fun and the idea that I might get my movie made always gave me warm fuzzies.

The idea is that a person would network with other members, providing knowledge or crewing their films in the hopes that they would, in turn, crew yours. There were also a series of classes, writing groups and blotto but fascinating happy hours to facilitate connections and establish oneself. Every few months there would be a pitch meeting where those who were starting new films would deliver a two minute rehearsed pitch in front of the group to attempt to sell their idea. At the end of all the pitches the people who proposed ideas would migrate to corners of the room like an awkward middle school dance and hope their pitch would entice a few members to come and crew for them.

Despite my newness to the group, I gave the two minute pitch of a lifetime. I’m not particularly fond of public speaking. I was shaking so much I had to put my speech in my pocket to prevent everybody see the card rattling in my hand, but apparently my pitch was golden and suddenly I had a crew. Scary Cow had never had a creature feature like this before and with my resume of actual film work behind me, people seemed to believe I could pull it off. A lot of people wanted their name on this and the reception put my optimism in overdrive.

The saying is that you never understand how little you know about something until you try to do it yourself. Everything looks easy from the couch but when it's time to deal it can get overwhelming fast. For the uninitiated, Film is different from most other artforms in that it fundamentally requires several different tradecrafts, people and ideas to function like clockwork in order to even proceed. Even terrible movies were created with painstaking adherence to this foundation and I think that is incredible. The creation of any film is the majesty of sheer willpower.

Here is the elevator pitch of my film that was also its logline.

In his dreams, a young man does battle with his anxieties using an 80-story nuclear powered robot.

Wow! That shit sells itself!

I wanted to make something classic and nostalgic, yet relevantly modern. I wanted a porridge of conflicting styles and tempos that reflected the fractured, conflicting nature of the characters mind. I wrote the film as two separate stories that interwove, cutting back and forth to merge towards the end of the film. I would accomplish this with a style of editing called parallel editing, or cross-cutting, inspired by the work of one of my favorite Editors, 
Sylvie Landra.

One story was literal, with the protagonist, Isaac, in a therapy session discussing his anxieties. The other story was metaphorical, with the progression of that discussion enacted as a Toho-style giant kaiju fight in the urban dreamscape of his mind. As the film progresses, each story begins to affect the other with hints that the two stories are not separate at all and that space of the mind is not so clearly defined.

The two stories were conceptually different in almost every regard. The therapist sessions were shot on a locked down camera. They are static and lit plainly. There is minimal audio, only dialogue and the metronome of a ticking clock. The monster fight is fluid, always moving, powerful synth-driven music and explosive, floor-shaking audio effects mixed to the max in glorious 5.1 Dolby. As the plot advances, you might hear the clock ticking in the background of the monster fight or a growling low-octave synthetic drone of music in the therapy scenes. As Isaac is overpowered by the monster of his shame, the light in the therapist office shifts around the therapist, shrouding him in darkness. His eyes sink deeper into his face, his hair is like that of a madman. Like Isaac, we get the sense that his intentions might not be altruistic, that he might just be another one of Isaac’s demons.

Even just typing that up I remember why I fell in love with the idea. I remember why I wouldn’t let anything stop me from making it.