Texas Filmmaker Richard Crook Cranks Up The Entertainment While Making His Fast And Furious Short Film “Trigger.”
Film Title: Trigger
Director: Richard Crook
Location: Dallas, Texas
First let me just say thank you, Richard, for being the Short Film Texas guinea pig. Trigger was our first world premiere short film and I like to think we couldn’t have had a more outstanding film to launch the series. In less than 48 hours your film became the number one most viewed and most talked about film on the website! Our goal was to present an outstanding film to a world wide audience and with your help we’ve accomplished that.
Now let’s shed some light on the film making process and the man behind the lens.
ShortFilmTexas: Where did the idea for “Trigger” come from?
Richard Crook: Brandon and I were having lunch together and were talking about his stunt work and days in LA. I mentioned that I’m dying to do an action movie and he immediately got into it, telling me about the MMA stuff he does and fighters he knows who would totally be up for a movie. I said if I come up with an idea that we could do on a budget and time constraint, we’ll do it. I knew that many of the actors would be ex-military, with all the costumes and guns and stuff. Brandon also knew of a location; 40 acres of land completes with forest, meadows, and a lake.
The next day, I was talking to some co-workers who, like me, are ex-smokers. We discussed how there are specific triggers that make you want to smoke, even years after quitting. I specifically remember conjuring up the story for Trigger immediately after the conversation and writing down my ideas. I called Brandon told him the story and he loved it. He got on the phone with his MMA buddies to act in it, and I called David Read to write the screenplay. It was now Monday…we wanted to shoot this coming weekend, and we had to get busy!
SFT: What camera did you shoot on?
RC: I shot it all with the Panasonic HVX200. I used a Redrock lens adapter which provided the softer, depth-of-field for the dialog scenes. I shot the action sequences without the adapter and overcranked it to give me the freedom in post to intercut between slow-motion and regular speed shots. We were able to use alot more gear and for longer periods because as it turned out, this 40 acre wilderness had electric plugs on posts all over the property! Talk about a crew’s dream!
SFT: What did you edit on?
RC: I edited using Adobe Premiere CS3. Color grading was a mix of some third-party plugins for Premiere and Magic Bullet Suite. I shoot everything stock in the camera, allowing me the most latitude in post for coloring. I’m a huge fan of the grading process….it really makes the film pop.
SFT: What about sound and music? Was it an original score?
RC: I use Adobe Soundbooth for the sound design. The music is highly-edited stock music I purchased a year ago and finally had a genre to use it in.
SFT: What was the size of your cast and crew? How much prep did you have?
RC: I knew that with only 5 days to prepare for the coming weekend’s shoot, I wouldn’t have many crew members. I also only budgeted about $400 for the shoot, since we already had most of the equipment, locations, and props. The crew consisted of: Cody Berry (Asst. Director and one of the rednecks) who pretty much did everything from the boom to setting up the jib to lighting. David Read was there as the script supervisor and also helped me with some character development in working with the actors. Cindy Berry was a huge help by giving us all a hand with various tasks. I wouldn’t have been able to pull off shooting and directing everything without them. For a semi run-n-gun shoot such as this, I couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with. Trigger was a testament to the saying that making films is a collaborative effort.
SFT: Tell me about the special effects in the film. Did the effects work change the way you shot certain scenes?
RC: There were a couple shots that required some effects work, which I did with Adobe After Effects. In particular, the shot where the camera follows the bullet in slow-motion from the gun to the head of the victim. For this shot, the camera was cranked up as fast as it could go, and I followed the imaginary bullet on its path to the actor, who had a compressed-air blood splatter device attached to the back of his head. In post, I added the barrel flash, the air-displacement effect and the bullet it follows, the bullet hole to the actor, and the lens splatter. Some of the shots with the knife throw and the gunshot to Kelly were also digitally added in post.
SFT: Are these effects a simple plug-in that already exist in AAE or did you have to digitally create the bullet?
RC: The entire effect can be done with the stock plug-ins in AAE.Â It took me about a day to put together this particular shot.Â I haven’t tried it before, and when we shot it, we did it with the possibility it wouldn’t work and we would just cut from the barrel flash to the head hit in real-time.Â As it turns out, it worked quite well!
SFT: What did you take away from this filmmaking experience?
RC: I am completely impressed with the group of people that I worked with on this film. In 6 days and with only 400 bucks, we put together, IMHO, a pretty decent ride of a movie given these constraints. If you have the right formula of actors, crew, writers, talent, and passion, the time and money factor becomes less of an issue. I am hoping to work with them all again…and find out what we can do with a little more time and money.
SFT: What films influence and inspire your filmmaking style?
RC: For this particular film, I was actually motivated by the recent movie “Crank: High Voltage.” And I’m talking about the fact they shot the entire thing on Canon XHA1’s and some smaller consumer HD cameras. I read about how they shot it; hand-held and dirty, ramped-up detail levels, and very unconventionally. Then I saw the final shots and was amazed at the quality. I had that fresh in mind when we shot Trigger.
In general, I’m inspired by many films and directors. I think I just use what shots and tricks I believe works in telling the story and evoking the right emotion, and tweak the styles in a way that maximizes the desired audience reactions. I believe movies are more about affecting emotion rather than provoking thought, and it’s my job to make sure the visual and sound stimuli is choreographed in such a way to do just that.
SFT: What do you like about filmmaking in Texas?
RC: The part of Texas that makes it the best place to make movies are the people. Everyone…especially in the Dallas film community, have a great respect for one another and are happy to help out each other or collaborate on projects. People in other parts of the country seem too ambitious or competitive and it just hurts the overall industry, in my opinion. But that’s not the case here in Texas. People down here seem to realize that we’re all wanting to do that same thing…make movies. It just makes sense to collaborate rather than compete. The rewards are much greater with that way of thinking.
Also, coming from Seattle, I must say it’s nice not to have to deal with the rain. Cameras love the sunlight, and the sun definitely loves Texas!
ShortFilmTexas: What are you working on next?
Richard Crook: I am adapting the screenplay to my short film, “The Killer’s Reprieve,” for a feature film to be shot in Texas. I am in talks with some potential financiers and am looking for more while I work toward a final draft. Cinetex Productions is still making local TV and web commercials and I’m looking to expand it to more national brands.
The ultimate goal is to have Cinetex make only narrative films, so we’re looking for people with great screenplays and financing to help make their films, too. There are so many talented people in Texas…we all need to keep working together on projects, whether it be a 6 day shoot or a 6 month shoot….to make it stand out on the map. I’m already familiar with the abundant talent, and now that we have the recent incentives, I’m excited to be in Texas right now!
WATCH THE SHORT FILM “TRIGGER” BELOW:
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