Deep in its meaning and message, A Short Film About Letting Go delves into the inner-workings of relationships, both familial and romantic. The tensions that arise, the fears not expressed, and the moments of panic and apparent understanding are all showcased in this short film from director J. Erik Reese.
Written by Daniel J. Carmody, the film is a snapshot into the lives of two very different pairs of people: a young boy and girl (Christopher Sowers and Aqua Yost), and a father and son (Mark Ridley and Malcolm Ridley). Both vignettes are intertwined throughout the film, which leads the viewer to ponder what commonalities each story shares.
What does it mean to trust another individual? Can two people really find a deeper connection that what is on the surface? And how are the male-female/parent-sibling relationship paradigms similar? In what ways are they different? These and many other questions are posed and explored in this beautifully shot film.
I had the opportunity to interview the director of A Short Film About Letting Go, J. Erik Reese, and the Cinematographer and Editor, Joshua Nitschke.
J. Erik Reese Interview
SWL: How did you become involved in the project?
REESE: I became involved with this project after I showed Sabi Take 2. Apparently they really liked it and since I had interned with them on the film Heart Of Now they already knew me. I got a call from Kevin saying that they wanted to let me make a short film and from that moment I contacted Dan and we both started writing the script.
SWL: What is your personal approach to directing?
REESE: I usually just give actors a lot of freedom to act. That’s it really.
SWL: How did you go about casting the film?
REESE: Basically we wrote sides and had the actors read from them. Then I gave them adjustments and we went from there.
SWL: How did you work with the actors to get them to deliver such believable and emotional performances?
REESE: Get them to trust you, create a friendly working environment, and then they will open up. Once that happens you can dig deep and explore.
SWL: What were some of the challenges you faced during filming?
REESE: Most of the challenges were actually in Post Production. However, when shooting I guess it was a challenge doing the entire short film in improvisation. I had never done anything like that before. But, you have to make these things fun otherwise they’ll never work.
SWL: Were there moments/scenes that you wanted to film but were unable to due to time/budget?
REESE: We originally wanted to shoot the Boy/Girl Story in San Francisco. However, due to practicality we didn’t.
SWL: Who are your favorite directors/films? How have they influenced you as a filmmaker?
REESE: A Short Film About Letting Go‘s title pays tribute to one of my favorite filmmakers Krystof Kieslowski. I think everything I watch influences me in one way or another.
Joshua Nitschke Interview
SWL: What is the role of the cinematographer on a film? What skills are needed to be an effective cinematographer?
NITSCHKE: The role of a cinematographer in a film is to design and bring to life the visual look of the film. A good cinematographer will create not only a movie that looks good on the surface, but will use the imagery to further themes, bring out emotions, and to tell the the story more fully. A good story will still be a good story whether or not it is shot well, but the use of good cinematography can incite feelings and emotions that acting and plot alone cannot provoke.
SWL: What issues/challenges did you come across while filming?
NITSCHKE: We had some technical difficulties involving the 35mm adapter we were using. On the first day that we shot, after several hours of performing flawlessly, it kept inexplicably turning off in the middle of almost every take. It was very frustrating and since we were already behind schedule, it was a real problem. There was a short in the wiring, and I managed to fix it.
SWL: What type of camera was used to shoot the film?
NITSCHKE: We used a Panasonic HVX200 with an SGPro 35 adapter (revision 3 ground glass element).
SWL: What editing software was used to edit the film?
NITSCHKE: Final Cut Pro Studios 1 on a Mac Book Pro.
SWL: How long did the editing process take? Were there moments/scenes that were cut for time that you wish could have stayed in the final film?
NITSCHKE: The editing process was on and off. I don’t really want to say it took a year because it really didn’t, it just took a year for it to be released. I took a break after shooting it for almost a month – I wanted to approach the footage with fresh eyes. By that time school had started, and I was also working two part time jobs, so I had to fit in the editing process in between all these other demands. The hardest part about editing it is that we had shot the film single camera dramatic improv – each take was widly different than the next. I remember wondering as we shot it how I would be able to create a continuous scene from everything – I really was worried. Erik eased my fears and said we had everything we needed – I have learned to trust him, and after sifting through the footage and editing it, it turns out he was right.
However, the implications of editing footage without a script means that you need a lot more time. To do the captured footage justice, you have to create a variety of different structures and explore every option. This takes time, and it takes more time than it would to edit to a script. After looking at the footage so long, you begin to lose objectivity, and that’s when it becomes time to take another break. I think I took one shortly after Thanksgiving. When I began working on it again in December, Dan and I juggled some knew ideas around and really started getting close to the end. At this point we brought Erik into the editing process – we had only been sending him a few cuts that we liked – and he began editing it as well. For a whole week I would edit and send the Final Cut Pro file to him, and then he would send it to me by the time we woke up; we just kept tag teaming each other. I’d say the actual editing was finished after this intense session (sometime in the beginning of February). There were a few hangups with the score which also contributed to the delay of releasing the short.
I’m not really too upset about anything that didn’t make it into the film… there were lines I was fond of, and shots of mind that looked great that I really wanted people to see, but they didn’t serve the film fully, so they didn’t make it in. And I’m okay with that. I actually had edited a very nice sequence on the trail that was cut down dramatically because it felt like it was hitting the same beats again. While the scene was great – it just felt unneeded.
I’d like to thank Mr. Reese and Mr. Nitschke for participating in these interviews.
A Short Film About Letting Go will be released on DVD September 24, 2009. Click here for more details for price and shipping info. The DVD includes: “the full 11 minute cut of the film in 2.0 Dolby Digital, and over 35 minutes of bonus features including behind the scenes, interviews and deleted scenes” (from SabiPictures.com).
Check out the HD trailer below: