The Rode Reel challenge is one of the biggest short film competitions in the world. With over 500k in prizes, covering a wide variety of categories why wouldn’t film maker enter? Not only do you get a chance at some great prizes and some exposure for your work, the max time limit is only 3 minutes, making a quality short film in that amount of time can be tough, but is a fun experience. After the success of our 2016 submission ‘DLC”, we set out to great something more action oriented.
A cross between Predator and War of the Worlds, 3 Minutes to Midnight was born from the previous unproduced short “Second Chances”. We used the end of that film as a jumping off point. What would happen if you were about to be killed by your best friend and something saves you, only to stalk you in the deep Rocky Mountains? Teaming up with long time collaborator Danny Cepelik and also starring the lead singer of Silver and Smoke, Tyler Bray, we set out to make a tense horror/sci-fi short.
Finding a location in Colorado should be easy right? There are mountains to the west that go all the way to Utah and as far north as Canada and south to New Mexico. Finding the exact perfect location that had easy access for our small crew, was close enough to the city since we had the actors only for one day, was quite the challenge. We settled on Genesse Park just outside of Denver and Morrison near Red Rocks for our money shot of the city.
As with our commercial projects, we outsource important roles for production. Not only does that free our crew to focus on fewer tasks, but it’s always better to have a professional handle one difficult aspect of production. In the case of this film, it was VFX, more specifically CG and compositing. We hired a team out of Canada to work on the VFX shots at the end of the film. Due to a limited budget, we kept the shots needing CG to a minimum and instead shot from the POV of the alien through the rest of the film.
After a fairly smooth shoot, we contacted the VFX group to see where they were on the pre renders. A few weeks pass and we heard nothing. Finally, they responded and said they, unfortunately, could not complete our project. This was 9 days before it was due, and after we had already paid them a deposit. We scrambled to find a replacement and were lucky to find a compositor in Irland and a CG specialist in Mexico. Armed with a lower budget they worked around the clock to get the shots done.
A film is nothing without great sound and once again our good friend Cj Garcia turned in a great score that accompanied the mostly silent film. We knew we needed a great rock song for the reveal at the end and Denver Rock band Silver and Smoke delivered the perfect song. Once again this shows the importance of having professionals work on a single aspect of your production.
The end result was a completed film that wasn’t exactly what I envisioned but was proud of. Overcoming tough unforeseen obstacles is part of the business. Even on higher end commercial work you have people not show up or not complete the work. The best thing you can do is keep your composure and always have a plan B.