The Internet opens new doors to artists, there is no question about that. And between geeks like us here at OSNews, we should be supporting the independent artists. The most well-known online Indie short film competition, DVXFest, finished last week and the results are in. The latest theme was “make a spy movie”, and one of our favorites, “Imprint” by Van Blumreich was awarded second place (a production that cost just $500). The story is set in a somewhat-futuristic time that’s been plagued by the deadly Long Virus. Rob Cardine is dying of it and in order to keep himself alive, he carries out ethically questionable assignments in order to receive treatments for his disease. But when an assignment goes wrong, Rob is confronted with his own questions of ethics and humanity. How far is too far? Click here to download and view the short movie for free (48 MB), and read more for our interview with Van Blumreich.1. Please tell us how you got into film-making and what’s driving you to express yourself through this art. Did you attend art/film school?
It’s funny to think about, but I guess my filmmaking career started when I was a little boy. My friends and I would make films using a Hi-8 camera. I dropped the camera to pursue the rock band thing during high school, but that eventually fizzled out once I left for college. I attended Trinity University in San Antonio, which is not a film school, but I was allowed to make some short films instead of papers that got a lot of affirmation from faculty and other students.
It was not until post-graduation that I felt a strong call to pursue filmmaking. It was while I was in a car evacuating from Hurricane Rita when I decided that this is what I wanted to do. My whole life felt pretty chaotic at the time, much like my surroundings, but this clear sense of purpose brought me a certain calm and focus. I took a second job to help me purchase a camera. Soon after I worked at a television station that allowed me to make my first music video. Since then, I started my own production company and gone on to direct more music videos and am just now getting the opportunity to pursue the narrative films I’ve always wanted to make.
I’m drawn to filmmaking because it is such an all encompassing activity. I like bringing people together to work on something bigger than themselves and in turn produce something magical that cannot be recreated. It is the ultimate story-telling medium. Good films draw people together, ignite conversations, stimulate the mind, and of course entertain. I don’t think it gets any more rewarding than that.
2. Tell us about your experience directing music videos. Is it challenging enough? How easy is it to sync mp3 audio with the artist’s singing in video editing?
I always use music videos as opportunities to stretch myself creatively and learn new techniques. Unlike narrative film, I find that music videos are allowed to be gimmicky. So shooting a video in reverse or using stop-animation is perfectly acceptable. If you saw a whole movie like that though, it would probably drive you nuts.
I do find that I still like telling narratives in music videos because they have progression. I like to come up with stories that complement the lyrics of the song and visually portray that emotion. The music videos I dislike are the ones that don’t really seem to go anywhere, and so I try to avoid that as much as possible. But I guess that’s just a personal preference.
I never really have a problem synching mp3 audio with the artist singing during editing. As long as you add a click track on the source audio and the singer is convincing in his performance, it’s usually good to go. You get into more synch problems when you try to shoot the artist singing in slow motion, in which case you would have to speed up the audio to match whatever frame rate you shoot in to keep the ratio consistent.
3. Please tell us everything about your short movie: How did the idea of “Imprint” came to be? How long did it take you to solidify the idea and script? How much was its budget and what is its future?
IMPRINT really came from my interest in philosophy and tragedy and wanting to tell a story that dealt with issues of morality. I actually developed the idea and story abnormally fast. I think I went from the concept to first draft in just a couple of weeks. The story came at the right time when all my creative juices were flowing, so I was very lucky.
I came up with a situation in which my anti-hero, Rob Cardine, has to kill people to maintain his own life. He tries to kill them without actually encountering them though. The inspiration behind this was Milgrim’s ‘electric chair’ experiment, as I wanted to show how easy it is to act unethically when separated from the unethical action and its consequences. It is when Rob is forced to kill one of his victims face-to-face that he finds himself unable to avoid the question of his own morality. I wanted the answer and ending to give some insight into the human condition and ring true with the message of tragedy, which Maxwell Anderson puts so well – ‘victory in defeat, a man’s conquest of himself in the face of annihilation.’ And I think that’s what makes the story so powerful to me and hopefully to the viewer.
We had an incredibly small budget of $500. The only way we were able to keep it so small is because we own most of the equipment we used (camera, lighting, edit suite, etc.). Other than that it was just trying to find locations that wouldn’t charge us and go the extra mile with the money we had.
As far as future plans, we will have a web premiere this summer and submit it to other film festivals. Fans have encouraged me to expand it into a feature film, but right now I am concentrating on other projects. There is actually a larger story to tell, so who knows, maybe one day I’ll revisit it.
4. What’s your favorite camera? What kind of equipment are you still missing to complete your indie studio?
I own a Panasonic HVX-200 and shoot most of my stuff with it. It’s a phenomenal camera for the price. When combined with the Redrock Micro 35mm adapter it really achieves a film-like image. I’ve been keeping my eye on some of the newer cameras coming out such as the RED One and HPX500. I’d love to get my hands on one of those. As far as equipment I’m still missing, I need to buy a HD monitor because they are expensive to rent. I also am lacking a good follow focus.
5. What’s your favorite genre and why? Who’s your favorite director, movie and TV series?
My favorite genre is drama, more specifically I really enjoy film noir and tragedy. Coming-of-age films are also particularly interesting to me. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite director but Asian film directors such as Chan-wook Park and Wong Kar-Wai are very inspirational to me. The last great movie I saw was Oldboy. It totally blew me away and was such a cathartic viewing experience for me. I can’t remember the last time I was moved by a movie like that. As far as television goes, I watch Lost and The Office religiously. I felt Lost sort of stumbled in season two, but the third season has been nothing short of exceptional.
6. What do you think about the idea of 6-minute ad-supported webisodes? Would that fly?
There is no question in my mind that webisodes will definitely fly. It’s a new format that has so much potential, it is just a matter of time before someone harnesses that potential and turns it into a money-making machine. I think the hardest part right now is finding a narrative structure that works in that limited timeframe that holds the viewers attention and leaves them wanting more.