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Once George Gibson was hired as the DP for Vendetta Games, it was time to make technical decisions about which camera we would use. The first movie Dishonorable Vendetta was shot on the Sony HVR-V1U. Though it was a high-def camera, it was weak in low light situations and it was not so fun to use early on for that shoot because of a lens issue that complicated the exposure settings. I had George take a look at the movie to see what we could do differently to make the new project more cinematic while still drawing influence from the first movie’s shooting style. Since Kalen owned a Black Magic Cinema Camera, George and I decided that would be the most reasonable option to shoot with at 2K resolution and 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Most people now try to push for shooting films in 4K resolution in this day and age; however, not every film festival is equipped to screening in 4K and to edit in 4K will take up a lot of computer space as well as possible file conversion for software compatibility. That is not to say there’s a possibility down the line of having a post-production house enhancing the footage.
Things were still moving in pre-production during the spring. We started rounding out the remaining roles after the audition process was done. I would have early talks with mutual friends about putting together a fundraiser event to build an audience and raise the money needed for the budget. We continued shooting interviews with the cast for the upcoming Indiegogo pitch video while my good friend and Cinefiles co-host Eric Cohen started working on a James Bond-style animated title sequence for it. The crew would be rounded out with guys like Patrick Brockway who was a friend of Kalen and an aspiring stunt coordinator to help with the action scenes. In my view at the time, everything was coming together.
Then there is the dreaded concept of reality. It was April and we were set to shoot in June. Not every location was locked down, the casino was not set in stone, and the money was not fully available to shoot an entire 14 to 15 days over the course of a summer. I held a meeting with my producers and my AD to find areas for budget cuts. The numbers for paying crew had gone up because of a few guys we had hired. On top of that, there was increasing pressure to come up with a set shooting schedule. After it was over, my AD advised me that it would be best to move the entire shoot to the fall so we could have more time to raise money.
Over the course of the next few hours that day, I started to wonder if it was even worth doing this movie. My lead actor had an unpredictable schedule that could prove costly if he had to cancel on a date last minute; there was no luck in finding serious investors; and finding a casino location seemed like a big stretch. But my gut instinct said to not quit on everything that my team and I had already worked hard for. My AD and I decided to shoot the opening scene in May and use it to attract crowdfunders and investors. The others would be on board with the plan, but I still had my fears about how long I could keep the cast and crew intact.
As soon as we agreed to the new plan, we set out to find a location for our opening scene. Through my lead actor Chris, we got the OK from Ultimate Collision in Staten Island. The garage was big enough for a full gunfight and the scrap yard was perfect for the chase at the end of the sequence. When George came down with me days later for a tech scout, he saw a lot of amazing possibilities for shots that I never thought of like shooting through the fence next to the shop and the shadows of the agents crossing a no trespassing sign. I knew we were going to come up with something great.
I would hold the first table read with the actors at Ripley-Grier Studios in the middle of April. Most of the main cast showed up except for Chris and J.R. I’ll be honest to admit that even though the actors read fine, I did feel I rushed it and jumped around with scenes a lot because some of the actors ran late. That is often times an issue with big casts. But I still saw the potential in everyone in their roles, especially the first psychologist scene with Christina Roman which I felt was going to be seriously intense once she got put together with Chris. It made more sense to me to do one-on-one readings with the actors at some point so that I did not feel like I had to jump around to give everyone attention. Plus they would get a deeper understanding of their roles.
What would happen next is worth writing as a diary in itself…
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