Austin Filmmaker Justin Durban’s Short Film “Bits And Pieces” Delivers Big Budget Fantasy on Indie Filmmaker Funds.
SHORTFILMTEXAS (SFT): What is your short film “Bits and Pieces” about?
JUSTIN R. DURBAN (JRD): A young girl terribly scarred is kidnapped by a lonely monster who feels a connection with her because of their shared monstrous appearance. They spend the day connecting as a family. When it is time for him to return her to her lonely life the girl begs to stay and be a family together. She accepts him completely as he is and begs for him to adopt her. He loves her so much that he finds a way for them to be together forever.
SFT: What did you shoot on? (Likes/Dislikes)
JRD: We shot “Bits and Pieces” on the DSLR canon 7d. John Hafner was the Director of Photography. The 7d encodes the footage as it records, so you have to convert the footage again so your editing system can actually take on the clips. Another disadvantage is tricky focusing and hand-held work with a DSLR is just out of the question. It’s so light that it feels like a home video. So, i prefer giving it some weight or lock it down on sticks. The advantage of the 7D is the film is basically straight from camera. VERY little Color Correction was used with this film. The trickiest part was getting the right lighting with all the fog from set.
SFT: What did you edit on? (Likes/Dislikes)
JRD: I used Sony Vegas to edit. I just find that the moving/adjusting the clips is very simple. I suppose it really didn’t matter what I used. I’ve used Premiere to edit films in the past too. They are all basically the same. Just different buttons with different names.
SFT: How did you come up with the story?
JRD: The screenplay was written by Leah Weinberger. She wrote the story from the Screenwriters of Austin group as a contest to pitch to the Austin Film Meet (AFM) group which consists of all sorts of people in the film industry. I told her I would be happy to do the music for the film, and she took it the wrong way and ask for me to direct instead.
SFT: That’s quite a leap in responsibility. I’ll have to try the old “I’ll do your music” trick sometime.
JRD: Right! It worked out great though. I mean come on…build a set, work with kids, and design a costume for a mummy in less than a month?… “Let’s do it!”
SFT: Tell me a bit about your cast and crew.
JRD: Most of the production Crew came from the Austin Film Meet group (AFM) or other people that I have met here in the Austin area. It’s truly great to have people willing to work on your project with such a limited budget. I suppose that’s why we all like to make films.
The casting of Bits and Pieces was an interesting experience. I originally wanted a ‘towering’ actor for the role of the mummy. But, finding an extremely tall skinny actor in the Austin, Texas area who could articulate movements was challenging. We more or less just ran out of time and then David Collier happened into the project. He ended up nailing an interesting voice and movement of the mummy and was able to work with our closely approaching deadline. Our little girl in the film, Aileen Davila, just nailed it in the auditions. She ended up driving down with her mom from Dallas, Texas to play the part as LeAnn. Luckily it all worked out and she was a wonderful little trooper willing to put in those extra long hours. Nicholle Walton played the part as Florence, the mean Orphanage keeper. We found a great wig and basically told her.. ‘action’ and that’s what we got.
SFT: That’s a pretty diverse cast, from creatures to kids. How would you describe your directing style?
JRD: I’ll usually let the actors do their thing when performing. For me.. If a line or action stood out as a bad performance, that’s usually when I’ll step in and suggest another direction. (time, money, and extra rehearsals would solve this in the pre-pro side of things. Again, we live and learn)
SFT: Do you have any advice for working with children on a film?
JRD: Find a great actor with great parents who are very supportive. Ours were phenomenal all around. I do wish I had a little more time to work with them, but time and money were definitely not in the equation.
SFT: What was a favorite moment while making the film?
JRD: Happy accidents. We found a new location on the same hour that we were to set up the next shot. It was a matter of me, the DP (John Hafner), and the actress in a very tight and rickety old attic of this old empty house. We had to work on the fly as the landlord (a preacher) was breathing down our backs that he was leaving soon. Not to mention we had to run power across the street to a church by extension cord. Ahhhhh, the joys of indie filmmaking at its best.
SFT: Speaking of locations. Where was the film shot?
JRD: The main set was in the back of a small gift shop in Elgin, Texas run by David Smith. James McMahan provided the production design of the two sets with the help of some great people. It was amazing what we pulled off in a few days. The other locations was an old run down house owned by a preacher who’s church was across the street (that provided the power via extension cord) and the alleyway behind the gift shop in Elgin. We found an old building in Austin, Texas for the exterior shot of the orphanage.
SFT: Who did the creature design and FX? How did decide on a look?
JRD: We did an extensive search on google to find a cross between old leathery mummies to corpses and bodies. We settled with Jessica Isam gluing tea/coffee stained towels to David Collier’s face. She also created a small prosthetic nose and eye piece and covered that up as well.
SFT: Along with directing, editing and producing, you also did the beautiful music for the film? What is your composition process?
JRD: The music was the easiest part of the project. I imported/converted the locked film in my computer, loaded a sample set into Gigastudio, fired up Cakewalk’s Sonar and just hit record. Looking back, I do wish i could change up the score in some places, but for the most part I think it works. It’s the joy/curse of being able to score your own film. You don’t have to answer to anyone except yourself.
SHORTFILMTEXAS: So what’s next for Justin Durban?
JUSTIN R. DURBAN: We have a few things in the works over at Edgen Films. We’ve got a great core team capable of producing anything thrown to use. Most likely however; we tend to lean more towards the sci-fi and fantasy realms but our pallet is open to just about anything. You can view our latest projects at www.edgenfilms.com
WATCH THE SHORT FILM “BITS AND PIECES” BELOW
(warning: contains a violent act. Parental Discretion advised.)
Full Film Credits:
Aileen Davila as “LeeAnn”
David Collier as “The Mummy”
Nicholle Walton as “Florence”
Millabella Vasquez as Orphanage Girl
Mikayla Valle as Orphanage Girl
Maitea Valle as Orphanage Girl
Directed by: Justin R. Durban – justindurban.com
Written by: Leah Weinberger
Director of Photography: John Hafner
Make Up: Jessica Isam
Production Designer: James McMahan
Main Title Design: Jonathan Grubbs
Set Photographer: Dale Kennemer
UPM: Sush Parmar
Set Owner: David L. Smith
PA: Elliot Cole
PA: Rochon Nicholas
PA: Reuel Meditz
Boom: H.Cherdon Bedford
Edited, VFX & SFX by: by: Justin R. Durban
Music Score by: Justin R. Durban
Sound Stage: David L. Smith – Elgin Texas
Produced by: Leah Weinberger, John Hafner, & Justin R. Durban – edgenfilms.com