Jerry J White III
A few years back cinematographer Kenneth Keeler and myself decided to challenge ourselves with a quick short film. Kenny had been planning to move from his apartment and we had always wanted to film a short in the space, but time hadn't quite allowed. With the window for opportunity closing we knew we had to act fast.
I was Key Gripping on a commercial for Ancestry.com and happened to have way more time between interviews than I had anticipated. In those lulls between setups I decided to write a short and cast it a mere 24 hours before filming. I wrote the script in a free screenwriting program (Celtx) on my phone and contacted two actors I knew would be down for the challenge, Becca Scott and Taylor Piedmonte.
The short, "Turn", was a horror film based in Kenny's apartment around a traveler on his last night in town before a backpacking adventure overseas. With the location being on the third floor we knew we had to be creative to film day for night and that's where the journey began. Write and produce a SAG (will talk about this process late) short film in less than 24 hours.
My first film ever, "The Plan", was part of a 10 hour film festival with the Independent filmmakers coalition of Kansas City. Write, produce, edit and screen a short film in 10 hours.
A film festival that I won the Audience Choice and Judges grand prize for.
Not necessarily a great film, but a film that would shape how I saw the art form. When I approached the judges and asked why I won, knowing that the film wasn't great, they said because it had a story. A beginning, middle and end. "TURN" challenged me to lean on these skills, and I had two and a half times more time to bring it to life.
Kenny and I set out the day knowing we would have to manipulate the camera to make the audience feel like it was night, despite filming all of the scenes during the day. We had both worked on multiple big budget films by this time and you would normally tent (block out the windows and create your own light) but this was not possible for our project based on the limitations we placed on ourselves. Instead we decided to us ND (neutral density) gels on the windows and adjust the cameras white balance point to trick the camera into thinking it was nighttime. This technique took fractions of the time and resources to complete and allowed us much more time to work on the characters. Thanks to the small but mighty team of 4 people, we were able to film this 5 minute short, including writing and prep in less than 36 hours.
Back to SAG (screen actors guild), which we had to use for our talent to be in the project. I had been a signatory producer with the union for multiple years and knew the process well enough to know that we would never get approved overnight. Instead of pushing the film I decided to gamble and film the project with the contract in the que. I felt confident in doing this because I had never had a short film get denied. SAG can feel intimidating but in the end they want their actors to work. We filmed the short, got our SAG approval a week later and finished editing two weeks later. This project began as a camera test to see what would happened with our ideas and ended up with over 28k in views on YouTube as of the writing of this post.
A lot of times as filmmakers we are always waiting for things to be perfect. The location, talent, money, weather, everything. Things very rarely will align for this to happen so we just have to get started. Thanks to Kenny for pushing me to create this film and for working wonders with the paintbrush a.k.a camera. You can check out the film below and also watch the behind the scenes making of commentary to hear how we created "Turn".