Austin Director Alan Ray’s Web Series “Shadow 44” Delivers Shocking Sci-Fi Suspense.
SHORTFILMTEXAS (SFT): What is your web series Shadow 44 about?
ALAN RAY (AR): SHADOW 44 is a sci-fi series that follows four main ‘freak’ characters who have been subjected to nightmarish human expansion experiments that are being carried out by a clandestine organization known as Shadow 44. As their journey unfolds these characters soon discover that their destiny is far greater than they could ever have imagined.
SFT: Where was SHADOW 44 filmed?
AR: So far we have filmed in Austin, Smithville and have a day of shooting planned at Enchanted Rock which should be a lot of fun. We began filming last year in Austin and shot a lot of scenes at Picturebox Productions and will do at least another day of green screen work there. I also shot at a house in Smithville, Texas last year that belonged to a friend of mine. We’re back in Smithville shooting again at various locations. The people of Smithville are great, really film friendly. I did the casting for a film called DOONBY which shot in Smithville this past spring/summer and am now working with a lot of Smithville folks that I met on that project. They’ve been a tremendous help. I wrote myself some difficult locations last year, so I really thought a lot about that aspect this year and made it easier by writing locations that would be easy to find in Texas.
SFT: Tell me about your cast and crew.
AR: We have a really talented group of actors working on the series – Maurice Ripke, Levan Owens, Liz Waters, Matthew Tompkins, Tom Davidson, the list goes on. Some of the actors like Tom I’ve known since ’92. Others I’ve just met. All of them are very talented, very committed to their craft. I cast myself as Johnny because I didn’t think I’d be able to find an actor who’d be willing to have a mohawk indefinitely, and I’m having a lot of fun with that character. We also have been talking with Mira Furlan (Babylon 5, Lost) about being involved and I’m excited to work with her when that day comes.
I’m working with a very small crew. We shot on the series last year and most of that material if not all of it, will show up in season two. Mike Nicholson, my old partner at Picturebox was the D.P. and he did an excellent job. This time around I’m working with two cameramen, Levan Owens and Mark Roethke, both are really great people, easy to get along with, and passionate about what they are doing. Brandon Landin is back with us doing SFX Makeup. Bill Small and Richard Ford are going to alternate doing the music. Bill did the title music as well as the music for the first webisode and Richard will score the 2nd one. I’m directing and editing.
SFT: What did you shoot on? Edit on?
AR: We shot last year (season 2 material) on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the new webisodes are being shot on the 7D. I love the ability to change out lenses. I also love the size of the camera. You can get them in some really tight places where you could never take a RED. Also, they don’t require a lot of light, which cuts down on equipment costs, etc. You either need to be recording sound externally or doing ADR, but I that doesn’t bother me. When I do D.P. work it sometimes can be annoying to be dealing with sound cables plugged into your camera. With these cameras the shooters are more free to move around and grab some interesting shots.
SFT: The costume design and look of the short are very unique. What was your inspiration for the look of the film?
AR: Being a visual artist first and foremost, all of my films have very distinctive visuals when I first envision them. This project in particular has a lot of characters with interesting looks which I love and which you’ll see more and more with each webisode, thanks in part to the talents of Brandon Landin my sfx makeup guru. I think it’s why I’m also partial to sci-fi and fantasy films, because you can create a whole new look for your characters and the worlds they inhabit. It’s the same way when I paint. I want to paint things that you just wouldn’t see if you stepped outside and went for a walk around the neighborhood. Which is probably why I love the films of David Lynch, who is also a painter/filmmaker. I want to give my viewers an experience of really being transported to a different world, even if its just for five minutes.
SFT: Why make a web series over a feature or short film?
AR: I can’t say enough as a filmmaker about how great it is to be able to build an online audience for your work and a web series is a great way to do just that. A web series also gives you a chance to make a film at your own pace. You don’t need thousands of dollars either. If you are creative, if you think about your story creatively, you can come up with some really great things. I think a lot of Indie filmmakers have that creative mindset and that’s one of the things that makes their work stand out. When you don’t have money to throw at things you’re really lucky, because it forces you to call upon and cultivate your creativity.
Webisodes are also a great way for a filmmaker to showcase their work. Everyone can take 5 minutes out of their day to watch one. And for beginning filmmakers, it’s a great way to learn how to tell a story.
SFT: How long will the web series run?
AR: We’ll have at least two seasons, and maybe more if it continues to be this much fun.
SHORTFILMTEXAS (SFT): What’s next for you?
ALAN RAY (AR): The next project I’ll work on this year is a road movie feature, “Wide Awake in America,” that will start in North Carolina and go cross country, hitting places like the Grand Canyon and Vegas and will eventually finish up in L.A. I’ll be the D.P. on that one. My next feature project to direct is the sci-fi thriller ‘SMOKING MIRROR’ which I’d like to shoot sometime next year.
SHADOW 44 – EPISODE 1