Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My First Film: Full Circle

Today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog, and to celebrate, I wanted to do something fun and different. Five years ago, I spent the summer making my first short film, Full Circle. We had a principal cast and crew of five, cheap, store-bought equipment, zero permits, little resources, but a hell of a lot of determination.

A few months before we made the movie, I won a short story contest and realized that Yes, it’s time to put up or shut up and try to make a film. I was passionate about the story and excited that it had garnered a little acclaim, and I realized that its content, about a young man attempting to regain what he’s lost, could make for a good film.

So after three months of pre-production, three weeks of shooting and two months of editing, I had Full Circle. The result? I’m proud of it. I’ve always been proud of it. The technical aspects are subpar but its heart is definitely in the right place. I’m also still extremely satisfied with the performances (including a brief but effective cameo from Catherine Warner, the star of my last film, Earrings).

During the past few months, I’ve gone through the often-painstaking motions to restore and remaster the entire film. Essentially, I used the post-production skills I’ve acquired in the past five years, and applied them to this film. Which means a more pronounced color palette, more focused soundtrack, and most importantly, a shorter running time. I think the biggest mistake of first time filmmakers is that they assume everything is essential. My first released cut of Full Circle ran about 24 minutes. This restored version is just under 16. It’s tighter, clearer and much more efficient. It still has the obvious stamp of a first time filmmaker, but its heart remains in tact.

I hope you enjoy watching, and, if you’ve seen Earrings, you might even catch a few similarities between them. Some were accidental, others are indicative of how I choose to tell a story. Thanks for watching and thank you all for your continued support of this blog over the past six years. I’ve had such a great time getting to know so many other film freaks like myself. Thanks again!

Note: The film is dedicated to a great friend of mine the world lost far too young. The content of the film has nothing to do with him. The fact that the film existed at all is what merits the dedication.


60 comments:

  1. Oh my god, man. 6 years! That's like 5 million in blog years or something. Congratuwelldone.

    My internet's being a bitch right now so I can't watch the short, but I shall soon :)

    Keep bitchin'!

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    1. (That kinda sounds wrong when I read it, but you get what I mean. Also, I really like that we have this really random inside joke thing :D)

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    2. Hahah of COURSE I know what you mean. I agree, it's so cool that we have an inside joke. It's... bitchin'.

      Hope you enjoy the film when you have a chance to watch it! Thanks for everything!

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  2. Can't wait to see it, probably going to tonight.

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  3. After seeing Earrings I went to your IMDB page and saw that you had done another short. I asked about it, but you had said at that time that you would be embarrassed to show it because it was not a good effort. I'm glad you decided to share it.

    I liked some of the little shorthand moments like having them watching Amelie. Anyone who has seen that film knows that it is a nice way to quickly communicate that this is an idyllic period in their relationship.

    As for any technical issues that you mentioned, I only noticed the focus sometimes. Hell, there are people today doing that on purpose and trying to call it "art". Actually, the one-or-two-second-too-long-for-me black screen transitions were more noticeable to me than the focus.

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    1. Hey Chip, thanks so much for watching and leaving a comment. Man, what you said about Amelie made my day. That is EXACTLY why I included that movie in that scene. Exactly.

      The funny thing about the focus is that I didn't even do any of that myself. The camera didn't have a manual focus feature, which is why it dips in and out on its own so frequently in low light. I cannot even fathom using an auto focus-only camera now. Oh how times have changed.

      Thanks again for watching. It means a lot.

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  4. Congratulations, Alex! Two amazing accomplishments today - your six year blog anniversary and releasing the remastering of Full Circle. I'm so very proud of you - keep going! <3

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    1. Thanks Jules :)

      Really excited to have Full Circle out there finally!

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  5. My DVD and script copies of Full Circle just went up in value. Word. 8)

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  6. I don't think I'm going crazy and hearing things, but Claire sobs when turning around and seeing Andrew, right? That wasn't in the original, or am I mistaken?

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    1. The audible part of it, that is.

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    2. No you're right. You could barely hear it in the original version, but I isolated and enhanced it here. That's actually one of the only original sounds I kept in the movie.

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  7. Happy anniversary man! Despite some minor tech issues, this is a wonderful little film. I love your style. I've only watched Earrings twice, but it's stayed with me, as I expect this to. Keep up the great work. Can't wait to get a glimpse of your next film!

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    1. Wow, thanks so much Josh. These words really mean a lot to me. Yeah, I would never pretend that Full Circle is technically proficient. Ha. But it's fun to look back and see what I'd do differently now.

      Thanks for your support!

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  8. Very cool man. Even months after first watching Earrings I'm still haunted by several images from it and it's nice seeing where you started. That opening shot is just perfect - very Malick-esque if you don't mind me saying. Dreamy but real. There are several scenes in here that are very cool and definitely impressed me. I love the soundscape that you used throughout - was that from some band or did you create that?
    How's your new film coming along by the way?

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, my friend. Malick-esque is a grand compliment that I don't take lightly. Really nice of you to say. (That's me in that shot, by the way. Initially, the movie started with the road shots, but I always felt like something was missing. So while I was editing, I just went to a window in my house and shot that.)

      The first three songs in the film are by Aphex Twin. You can scope the track names (in the order they play in the film) in the credits. The final song is by the great Brian Eno. I WISH I knew how to make music. I would love to have an original score in one of my films someday.

      New film is coming along steadily. I needed to get adjusted to LA before we started shooting. But now that I'm adjusted, we're nearing the end of pre-production. Hopefully have it shot by year's end and edited a few months after. Exciting!

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    2. No problem man, I really dig the whole dreamy quality to your films. Nice song pics by the way, Aphex Twin kicks ass and Brian Eno is a genius. (Time to whore myself out) if you're looking for someone for soundscapes or whatever I'd be happy to make one for you if you want. I'm obviously not either Eno or James but I could try and write something according to your "needs(?)". Anyway, can't wait to see what you do with a feature length film.

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    3. Had no idea you did soundscapes and made tunes. Do you have any sort of library at all? I'd love to hear a sampling of your work. Email me at withrowag@gmail.com if you'd like!

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    4. No problem man, sent over an email. Should be from musicdreamer26@att.net

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  9. Wow Alex, it really is almost a completely different movie. I have always enjoyed Full Circle...watched it several times. This version is much tighter, with audio and video easier to watch - I would even venture to say it evoked a larger emotional response in me than any other time I have watched it (which is interesting considering I knew what was going to happen). Well done man!

    I noticed in another comment you mentioned an original score...I'm still waiting for you to ask :)

    Keep living the dream man.

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    1. Damn, thanks so much for this comment. Really kind of you to say all this.

      I'm so glad to hear that it struck you emotionally, ESPECIALLY given that you had seen it before. It's weird, because I had a total blast cutting stuff out. Like, "Yeah, that can go, and that, and that." I honestly think it plays much better now.

      Oh, I've always had you in my mind for original music, don't you worry! Maybe even for my next film. I'll let you know man.

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  10. That's an impressive piece of work with excellent music choices to set the mood for the story. The obvious technical limitations aside, there's a natural tempo to the editing that works very well. I'm curious what equipment you used to shoot and edit with.

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    1. Thanks so much man. Really cool of you to give it a watch. Glad you dug the tracks and the pace.

      The camera was a JVC digital video camera (don't remember the exact model number). But it recorded on memory drives, not physical tapes (I don't dig tapes). I bought it for $1,200 in 2007. If it was still sold today, it would probably run $200. In hindsight, not a good camera at all, but it got the job done.

      We only used lighting for the car scenes. Much of the light was the overhead light in the actual car, and we bought a $15 flood light from Home Depot to fill out the rest. (See, not very technical.)

      For audio, I used a tiny camera microphone I bought at Radio Shack for $25 bucks. The audio was total garbage though. Much of what is in the restored version is new audio I've recorded over the past month.

      I edited it using Adobe Premiere Elements, which was like $80 and very, very limiting. Thankfully, I don't use a lot of flashy effects in my flicks, so this one was a pretty basic chop and cut job.

      But honestly, you don't need top of the line equipment to make a film. Like Full Circle or not, doesn't change the fact that I am damn proud I even made it to begin with, you know? You have to use what you have!

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    2. I've been tossing around an idea for a short film for a while, gathering the courage to take the plunge. When I do, it'll probably be under similarly spartan conditions (although probably on a weekends-only basis given my crowded work week/no summers off).

      I respect the do-it-yourself aesthetic. Let's face it: unless you already have *strong* connections in the industry or very well off, that's the only way to break in. I take it the dialogue/recorded sound in Full Circle was minimal due in some part to the technical limitations, but it works well for the low-key story you're telling.

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    3. Do it! "Take the plunge..." that's a great way to put it. That's exactly where I was at when I made this film. I told myself to stop making excuses and do the damn thing.

      I actually shot Full Circle on weekends because I was working my first steady job. Tough but I made it work best I could.

      There was actually never any dialogue in the film or short story. I always wanted this to act as an experiment in emotional expression. But if we did have dialogue, I would've needed to invest in a new mic, for sure. Ha.

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  11. Excellent work on the remastering!! I've always thoroughly enjoyed this movie and the emotions it evokes. I think of how excited you were at the Tally Ho and how well this film was received. Thanks for making it even easier to watch and congratulations on you blogiversary! It's very good that you continue this work.

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    1. Thanks so much! You've been a MAJOR support from the beginning and I so appreciate it. Ahh the Tally Ho... how far I've come ;)

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  12. Congrats Alex. I'm at work, so I can't watch it now, but I will definitely see it soon. Can't wait to hear about your adventures in LA and your feature film :) Good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much, D! I'm having a blast living here. I was made for this place! Hope you enjoy Full Circle.

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  13. I always wondered why wouldn't you let us see your first film? I mean, how bad can it be? And to see you were worried about this? This, Really? Sure as everyone has been saying, technical aspects of it could have been better but you have it down to pat, Man!! This is a wonderful little film. Very You(I mean we didn't even hear the actor's voices. :P)

    Thanks for giving this gem a sunlight and Congrats on your Blogoversary!! Hope LA would let you keep this going for many more years to come.

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    1. Thanks man, that means a lot. But really, this remastering made an almost entirely different film. I'm much more pleased with this version than I was with the original. A really fun exercise.

      "Very You..." I love that!

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  14. Happy blogiversary!
    Just watched the short, I liked it, good work!
    Curious, did the actors know you were going to have ambient played over what they said, or did they actually speak the lines from your short story?
    I'm a sucker for ambient. I recognize the song at 13.27 An ending by Brian Eno. Also liked the Aphex Twin music you used.
    A brave choice to have basically no dialogue, and let the audience slowly drift into the story. That storytelling approach definitely made me curious to read their body language, and find out what was going to happen.

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    1. Hey man, thanks so much for the comment. Really appreciate you watching the film.

      You know, there actually wasn't any dialogue in the short story either, it's all description told from the point of view of The Young Man. We only knew what he was thinking, and why. But the short story also didn't have flashbacks. That's something I tapped into when I wrote the script.

      But basically, I didn't write any dialogue into the script. I told Andrew and Claire that music would be playing over their scenes and sound didn't matter. So I told them to come up with things to talk about during those scenes. I had no part in what they said to one another, which was really cool. I just told them the overall tone of the scene. They came up with their whole backstory to the characters and went with it. I would sneak in every once in a while and give secret direction to one but not tell the other. Like during the making the bed scene I told him to antagonize her, which I thought played well. And I told him to jump on top of her at the beach. She didn't know that was coming, so her reaction is genuine.

      Anyway, I could talk about this little flick for forever! Thanks again for watching, my friend!

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  15. Very interesting little film Alex. Loved your use of music and cuts. It's inspiring seeing these type of short films. Bravo sir

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    1. Wow, thanks so much! Really appreciate you taking the time to watch it.

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  16. Although the technical limitations are evident at times, I have to say that your visual eye is really solid Alex. I've told you in the past that I'm a pretty big fan of Earrings so it's very nice to see some more of your work. I can see how Soderbergh has influenced you as a filmmaker haha, you build some pretty solid atmosphere here and I'm sure you'll go on to bigger things in the coming years. I have to remark on your music choice, it really caries the piece in a big way, a lot of filmmakers take music for granted and I loved how the brief sounds of oncoming traffic lent itself to the morose and kind of dreamy setting.

    Keep making flicks so I can keep watching them!

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for this comment. Soderbergh... that man is my god, so it's pretty cool that you can see his influence here.

      The music really made this movie. The final song "An Ending (Ascent)" was written into the script, but when I heard those Aphex Twin tracks, I knew I had a film. Really appreciate what you said about the sound design. Lot of work was spent on that!

      Thanks so much again for your continued support.

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  17. Excellent! I'm not visiting many blogs these days, but I happened to spot this on my feed and rushed over.

    I remember your telling me about this film around Christmas. You were still unsure when (and if) you'd be ready to share it. I'll be back to watch in when I have a bit more time. Definitely looking forward to it.

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    1. Thanks so much! I really hope you enjoy it, I had a blast remastering it. Very curious to hear your thoughts.

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  18. Sorry for being late to the party. I had other things to do. That was a pretty good short. I can see why you were critical about some of its technical aspects though I think it could've been worse. What did get cut from the original film?

    Kudos for using Aphex Twin and Brian Eno. I hadn't heard a lot from the former though I do know that Eno track as I have that CD that he did with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno. And I know what movie you got that track from... :)

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    1. Hey man, it's all good, never any rush. I'm just grateful for your comments, and for watching the flick at all. No whole scenes got cut, I mostly made scenes shorter. For instance, that still shot for the video (with his face in the side mirror) originally ran for 45 seconds. Too long. I was trying to make the audience feel this guy's boredom, but cutting it down to 10 seconds is just as good. Things like that. It was mostly just tightening. And when you tighten heavily, the cuts start to add up.

      Traffic. Was the the movie you were thinking of? That was definitely the first time I heard that song, and it has always stayed with me. I even used a similar end credit scheme as that film. Love that damn film.

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  19. I love it, this is truly phenomenal. I've always just been a fan of your work and site from the outside, but I've finally started making comments and I really want to express how much I like this.

    I love your use of reflections with the mirrors. It expresses so much more depth and symmetry than just having the camera straight on, especially when we see him from the car's side-mirrors - isolated and alone as a couple walks by - brilliant!

    I also enjoy the stills in the flashbacks, at first I saw it as a risk; yet as the film continues it adds more to the relationship we experience between the two which is great.

    No dialogue? I don't know how you do it but the story between the characters doesn't need it, we feel the strength of their relationship without the need to have words - it becomes an experience.

    The soundtrack is great, helping carry the piece even more. Just the sounds of the road and nature take me back to some great moments in the Place Beyond the Pines - it really sets the mood.

    I can just imagine when you win your first Oscar for best director (because one day someday you either will or really deserve to, this is obvious with the stuff you've created so far - you have the vision to go a long way) and I'll turn to my friends and be all: "I followed this guy's site when he had only made a hand-full of small films and just wrote reviews and... he would reply my comments!!" and they will all be in admiration.

    Really this is great, I mean the technical aspects aren't superb but the way you put it together is. I don't want you think I over exaggerated in this comment because I didn't, I mean it honestly and sincerely. Nice job.

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    1. Wow. Just… wow. I don’t know what I did to deserve this comment, but you just made my month. Some of the kindest words I have ever received about my filmmaking. Thank you. Really, truly.

      First off, you are the only person in 5 years to remark about the “meaning” of including the shot of that couple walking by. I filmed that shot for 10 straight minutes, but decided to use those few seconds simply because the couple walked by. They were total strangers and had no idea we were filming, just the dumb luck of cinema. So thank you for pointing that out!

      Wow, a comparison to Pines… that’s awesome man.

      I knew from the beginning that I wanted to tell a story with no dialogue. That was the summer I saw my first Bergman, and it had a huge impact on me. As did the opening sequence of There Will Be Blood.

      You’re too kind about the Oscar stuff. But hey, who knows!

      Thanks again for this comment. I will ALWAYS respond to your comments, my friend. And I feel it’s worth mentioning, if you liked Full Circle, I wonder if you’d like my most recent flick, Earrings? I’d love to hear your insight on that one!

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    2. Hey Alex, this is a really late response so I do apologize for that
      (excuse: I never got an email update like I did when I commented on your Man of Steel review - probably because this time I never checked Notify Me when I "published" the comment – my bad, so I then figured you never actually did reply, so sorry about that),
      but thanks. It’s nice to know you're dedicated to your fans and take the time to respond, doing so is all too rare these days.

      I'm so glad I could "make your month;" and again, I really want to stress how much I mean every word of my comment so there is no need to thank me (I actually feel I should thank you for your appreciation!), but it’s simply the truth - you put together an extraordinary masterpiece. You're filmmaking is spectacular, I'm glad I could really point that out in my comment.

      The only person in 5 years to mention the significance of the couple passing? I'm surprised because it’s such a powerful touch, I guess it’s one of those elements we take for granted in cinema, small details that overall add to a film’s success, yet they happen without us even realizing it! - bravo again, and 10 straight minutes shows the true dedication.

      Yes, Earrings I MUST take a look at, I want to sit down, have a snack and really enjoy it, so when I have the time I will definitely do so (I have been meaning to watch it for a while now) and when I do I promise to give my thoughts on it!

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    3. Please, my friend, don't ever feel like you have to apologize for leaving a response, no matter how much time has passed. It's all good!

      Again, I sincerely appreciate your kind words here. And I must admit, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Earrings. But no rush!

      Take care!

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  20. Really enjoyed that, Alex. Glad you shared it. I don't really think intricacies of technical aspects matter so much on a first film. You subsequently get those ironed out, you just want to demonstrate some sort of command of the craft, you know, and I thought you did that extremely well.

    Telling your story with atmosphere and faces. Very Aaron Katz-ish, if I may say so (and which I mean as a high compliment).

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    1. Hey Nick, thanks so much for watching and leaving such a kind comment. Your support of my writing and filmmaking really means a lot. I've never seen an Aaron Katz film, so he is obviously now my new obsession.

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  21. Ohhhh I think I like this version even better. Tighter. More emotional. Five years since the Full Circle debut and six since the blog's? Wow. So proud of you every day.....

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    1. Thanks! I think this is a vast improvement of the original.

      Thanks so much for your support :)

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  22. Oh fuck, how did I miss this?? Just watched the film -- great stuff, man. You had me sold from the very first Aphex Twin track. :) Love the use of his music, and the overall atmosphere is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this with us, Alex.

    BTW, have you listened to Boards of Canada at all? I think you would really enjoy them if you're into Aphex Twin.

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    1. Wow, thanks so much for the kind words Eric! Really nice of you to say. Those Aphex Twin tracks really helped shape this movie. I'm all over Boards of Canada now. Never even heard of them!

      Thanks so much for watching the flick!

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  23. You know, if you become mainstreem you can remake it in a feature film.

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    1. You know what's funny, the script for this film was actually the first 15 pages of a feature I once wrote. So the story does keep going, and I would definitely love to revisit it sometime.

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