Jan 21, 2008

Making of the Gizmo Tree

I think I've spent quite a bit of time explaining why the Cell-ebrities contest is important to me, why your vote is important, why it's such a big opportunity for me, etc. etc. What I haven't done though is explain why I made the film that I did.  Here's how everything got up to this point with my short, The Gizmo Tree.

Back in late November I had just completed my first entry for the Cell-ebrities contest, Give it Time. I'd thought about that film and concept since I first heard about the contest back in the summer, but with over a month left to do something else it didn't seem like such a bad idea to make another movie.

Up until then it was really just a thought though. What I liked about Give it Time was that it was something I was able to do completely solo. It was a nice simple idea, with an original twist, and I knew it was unlike the other entries I'd seen on the site. I was more than happy to stand by my original film, and believed, given the
 other videos I'd seen, that I had the potential to be selected for the finals round. Still, there's something energizing about putting your work out there. Being in the heat of things, so to speak, had me checking the Cell-ebrities site on a regular basis and telling everyone to check out my entry.

I'm no stranger to (smaller scale) film festivals and competitions and have been applying and submitting since early in my film school career.  I don't tire of pushing my work though, which is probably beneficial seeing as that's a huge part of the process. So after feeling like I'd spread the word as much as I could over a couple of weeks, I knew I wanted to make another submission and take another approach with it. I knew all this, because of a little piece of music.

It was now mid-December, and late one evening I found myself searching through pages of music on a royalty free site. Out of nowhere really, I found myself listening to a track that just sparked an idea. Having the desire to make another project is one thing, but having a good concept is another. The instrumental track was called Eternal Hope, which couldn't have been a more corny motivator at the time, but it worked. I can see now, that had I not come across the piece of music that I did, the Gizmo Tree and a second submission probably wouldn't have happened.

That exact night of finding the song I began to write and record some narration. I wasn't completely committed to the idea yet, but I figured if I put a few pieces together I'd know. A few minutes turned into a few hours and I found myself with a rough script, and a decent mock-up of my audio and narration. I was excited again to say the least.

In the case of both my films, the production came together pretty quickly, helped by a lot of in-the-moment ambition. It was a Sunday that my friend Tyler helped me out in shooting what would become the initial scenes of my film. The weather was perfect for it, fresh snow on the ground, frost on the trees, a perfect winter scene. That night I remember being so upset because all of the dialogue scenes (with me in front, facing the tree) were off balance, and the shots just didn't look as good as the stuff shot earlier.

Time was pretty short by this point. I was heading home for Christmas in less than a week, and I still needed to re-shoot, edit and then be sure I could upload to the site. A few months earlier in the contest, the site was down for nearly 3 weeks so I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a bit superstitious or concerned that my luck would run out as I was rushing to finish.

I went out the next day alone to re-shoot my dialogue scenes. There is a huge park around the Legislative Building here in Regina, SK so that served as my enchanted forest, and to be honest, there were about 3 or 4 different trees that I used as the actual Gizmo Tree. The biggest issue at that point was that the lighting had completely changed. The day before it was grey and snowy, the next day the skies were clear and the sun was shining. Although I wasn't initially crazy about it, as soon as I started shooting I could see how good it looked. The lighting created great contrast, it brought a wealth of needed colour, it made the tree really stand out, and it gave me a great silhouette and sunset to cut away to.

That night the editing came together like clockwork. Even though I was incredibly anxious to get my new film out there, I sat on it for a couple of days just to make sure that it was the project I wanted. It was then uploaded early on December 19 and within minutes I had some positive comments and ratings underneath my film.

The Gizmo Tree was above all, another personal exercise and experiment. I often work solo, not because I don't want to collaborate, but because at this point in my life I'm continually pushing myself to see how far I can go. There's just so much to learn, and if I can compete in a competition where groups of people worked on a film, compared to just me working on a film then I think that says a lot about my abilities.

On January 9 the news came in the form of a voicemail message. "Luke, I have some good news. Not only did we love your film Give it Time, but we also love the Gizmo Tree. It looks like both films have a great shot at being in the finals". Two days later, both films were indeed in the finals, and I was the only filmmaker in the competition to have 2 films in the Top 10. I never expected that they'd include both of my entries.  I figured I had 2 diverse films and that I had a great shot at getting one of them selected. It was awesome news!

Now here I am in the homestretch. On Friday everything ends. I've been sticking by my film the Gizmo Tree as to not divide my votes, but campaigning has been quite the ordeal. I can't put a price on each individual vote because there is no telling how many I've gotten, but all I can ask is that you take the time to see the film I've made and decide for yourself whether or not it deserves your vote.

It's a simple process that can have a huge effect on my student career. The top 3 prizes range from $2000-$5000, and as a student filmmaker I can't even begin to explain what an effect that would have on me just in regards to the cost of school, my debt, etc. If you've got a moment, please visit the site to watch my film The Gizmo Tree, sign up and vote. It'll take 5 minutes tops.  Thanks!


The contest has ended, but in the end I won 2nd place taking home $3500. All in all it was a pretty wild and drawn out ride, but a great and fun experience. You can now watch the Gizmo Tree below.

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