10 June 2015 1226 Views

WORLDWIDE WEDNESDAY STUNG AT TRIBECA PART 2

by James Murphy

 

 

WORLDWIDE WEDNESDAY STUNG IN TRIBECA 2

 

By Karen Benardello

 

We continue last week’s insight to the process of film-making on STUNG; soaking up the creative vibes on the Tribeca circuit along the way.

 

Dramatis Personae:

 

KAREN B = Karen Benardello; Intrepid Reporter, asking the questions

Rest = members of cast /crew/creative team on STUNG

MO = Matt O’Leary (Actor)

JC = Jessica Cook (Actress)

AA = Adam Aresty (Writer)

BD = Benni Diez (Director)

 

 tribeca_film_festival_logo_a_l

 

MO:

We were sitting there with Lance, laughing and talking about inappropriate things, which she was just on board with-often times she would start it.

 

JC:

I have two older brothers…

 

AA:

…so she could run with the boys. So we had no problem with that.

 

MO:

We actually couldn’t keep up with her.

 

AA:

It was shocking when you would say something every now and then, and I would be like, “Whoa!” (Cook laughs.)

 

BD:

We were all trying to be appropriate, because we were like, Oh, there’s a girl! But she was the first one to crack a joke. (The group laughs.)

 

JC:

Yes, that’s very true-I am often the first one to do that.

 

KAREN B: Speaking of the film’s humor, and the fact that STUNG is a horror comedy, was it important was it for all of you to include those jokes in the film?

 

AA:

Oh yes, from a conceptual standpoint, if you have a story about a large killer fill in the blank, it can’t be serious, as it’s not based in reality.

 

MO:

That was something that I pushed very hard for while we were filming.

 

AA:

Absolutely. One of the best things that happened on set was that since my script wasn’t that funny, everyone else brought the humor, and ran with it.

 

MO:

It’s nice to say it that way, that we brought the funny.

 

AA:

Well, you did.

 

 

 

 

MO:

There is a level of improv that happens in the moment that you can’t foresee as you’re preparing. We knew it was a funny script, but we wanted it to be much funnier. It wasn’t originally meant to be that way-it was initially meant to be hard-core horror. But Benni was always up for the comedy aspect, since we initially talked on Skype.

 

BD:

But it was never meant to just to tell a joke, or end scenes in a funny way. If we had outrageous characters who were put in this kind of situation, it gets funny by itself.

 

AA:

The actors have to approach these types of scenes in a funny way, or else they’ll go crazy.

 

MO:

But you can’t prepare that a year in advance. When we finally arrived in Berlin to shoot the film, Adam, as a true writer and artist, had the actors embodying the characters. Every night we would go to what we called The Bird’s Nest, which was this cool bird’s nest looking thing in Germany.

(The Group Laughs)

We would all just sit there and talk. We’d figure out what we found funny about the scenes, and what we wanted to highlight and strengthen. So every morning, Adam would hand out a new script, whether it was printed or written on a napkin…

 

AA:

…or on toilet paper! I’m sure that was fun for you guys-I’d show up everyday and say, “I have new sh*t for you today!” (laughs)

STUNG1

MO:

By the third day, Benni was like, “Okay, good. I trust your sh*t!” It only took three days for him to accept that!

 

AA:

From my perspective, I could see the story and script improving by the process, and it was a blessing. If I was always like, “This is the way it must be,” it wouldn’t have turned out as good as it did. Some writers are precious with their words, but I was like, “These guys are improving it.”

 

BD:

 

I was eager to create an atmosphere that was very open, where no one would be afraid to contribute and bring ideas in. Everyone should contribute, because it would be stupid for me as a director, especially since this is my first feature, to come up with all the ideas. From early on, I was open to everyone’s ideas, so that I could rely on them.

 

Having Adam on the set was great, because of course you have to react to different situations-like scenes may not be finished, or you may have to get rid of certain scenes that you can’t afford. Since you have a hole in the script, you have to fill in the blanks. In that type of situation, what better thing is there than to have the writer on board? The film really benefited from the collaborations, especially on a small budget and very limited shooting time.

 

MO:

 

I’ve worked with a lot of first-time directors. Some were really good, but there were also some bad directors. The one lesson they all learned, from good to bad, was what Benni applied-in filmmaking, you want to create an open experience, so that everyone can bring in their own ideas, and help create the scene on the day.

 

In my entire experience with first-time directors, they all make the mistake of only wanting what’s in their head. But Benni avoided that mistake entirely. He allowed us to sit and create a scene together. So when Lance, Clifton, Jessica and I were in a scene, we could really riff and create the organic feeling that these people should be having. Benni would say “Action,” and we’d immediately and organically be in the scene.

 

stung-2

 

BD:

 

You do have to be meticulous, but you also have to be creative, too. We story-boarded all of the scenes, even the simple dialogue scenes. That way everyone would discover what they should do, when they initially didn’t know what to do.

 

Once you have that security, then you can start riffing. If you trust the people around you, you can let them get creative with the material. Then it starts growing to be more natural and fun.

 

KAREN B: Matt, you mentioned earlier that you signed onto the film about nine months before Jessica signed on. During that time, were you able to collaborate with the other actors, as well as with Jessica once she was cast, about your characters and the story?

 

MO:

Well, during that time, the script went through a lot of changes. Adam was rewriting the script, and I hadn’t met him yet. When I booked the job, my job hadn’t started yet. I had to wait until they had the final script until I looked at it. It sounds like we came in and changed everything, but we didn’t really change much. I don’t want to take a script and change it.

 

BD:

It’s really just about fine-tuning the story.

 

MO:

You can’t really fine-tune something until you have that final product. When Jess signed on, that’s when I got the final script. The preparations really all started in that moment.

 

BD:

We had one meeting a few weeks before we began shooting. We flew to L.A. for two days, and talked about the roles and went through a few scenes, but that was about it. Most rehearsals happened once we got to the set.

 

KAREN B: Benni, also speaking of how you made your feature film directorial debut on STUNG, what were some of the most important lessons that you learned while you were making the horror comedy?

 

BD:

 

I know it sounds cheesy, but I couldn’t have asked for a better first movie. Everything that happened just clicked, in some way or another. Being invited to Tribeca proves that we didn’t f*ck it up that much.

 

(The group laughs).

 

It was great to have these people around. Early on, I knew I had to get the best people in every profession, so that I could learn how to be a director. I’ve previously made short films and commercials, but I wanted to be a feature director. Now that the movie’s finished, and people seem to like it here, it seems like I can start calling myself a director.

 

JC:

You are a director.

 

MO:

You were already a director before we started, otherwise I wouldn’t have done the film. (The group laughs.)

 

KAREN B: Speaking of bringing the movie here to the Tribeca Film Festival, where (it had) its World Premiere, what has the experience been like for all of you?

 

BD:

It’s very surreal, because just a few months ago, we were still editing the film. We had one year of post-production, because it’s obviously very effects-heavy, and a lot of CG work had to be done. The editing took longer than we expected, because there’s so much material. You have to be so detailed-oriented with all of the action and creature shots.

 

Like on the show Silicon Valley, we had a bunch of nerds sitting for months in an office, with a bunch of candy wrappers everywhere. We were crunching numbers and working with pixels, and just nerding out. Now we’re suddenly in Manhattan in a fancy restaurant, and I have a hotel room in Times Square, and we’re being driven around by a car service. So it’s really weird, but I like it-it’s been awesome.

 

 STUNGREV

 

 

AA:

I’m originally from New Jersey, so New York was always like my backyard. So I view this opportunity as a blessing. My whole family (came to the screenings); my mom invited half of New Jersey to see the movie. So it has been an amazing experience.

 

KAREN B: Also speaking of the action sequences, like you just mentioned, Benni, what was the overall process of creating the visual effects for the film, especially since you have experience as a visual effects supervisor?

 

BD:

 

Well, we initially wanted to include as many practical effects as possible. It was all about creating as much as we possibly could on set, because it’s something that everyone always tells you to do. But for one reason or another, not everyone ends up using practical effects. But it’s beneficial, because it’s easier for the actors to react to them. It also makes the shooting process funner, because there are the puppets that everyone can interact with on the set.

 

But we still had to spend a year sitting in front of a computer, which is weird, because the shoot only took a month. We included over 600 effects shots in the end. The film benefited a lot from the practical effects we used, as well as the planning we did beforehand.

 

Many films leave it to the post-production to fix problems they unexpectedly encountered on the set, because they were too lazy to plan things out first. The fact that we had such a detailed plan and outline for everything, as well as all the practical effects, made it possible to include all the effects shots.

 

KAREN B: Jessica and Matt, as actors, do you enjoy taking part in the physical effects and stunts for your characters? What was that process like overall as you were filming STUNG?’

 

JC:

 

We had stunt training before we began filming, and it was awesome. We had ropes wrapped around us, and we were flying on pads all day. It was the first I’ve done stunts, and it was awesome applying them to the movie.

 

MO:

 

It was like playing. When I was younger, I would act out my favorite shows. When I was really young, it was Power Rangers, so I would fight fake Power Rangers and have a blast. This film was very reminiscent of when I used to play as a kid.

 

Running around, and trying to imagine these giant wasps in a frightening way, was great. Instead of sitting in a car and imagining that you see a giant wasp outside your window, in this film, you’re imagining seeing it right next to you, and you’re like, “Run! Run!”

 

(The group laughs.)

 

AA:

There’s also a gross-out factor, and there are a lot of scenes where you all looked really grossed out.

 

MO:

I was also trying to think of the smell.

 

AA:

Well, it did smell bad on set.

 

MO:

That was The Bird’s Nest, so that was a different bad smell. I was trying to think of bile everywhere, which is where the imagination really started to get vibrant.

 

BD:

One day, when we were filming a really gross scene, Matt took me aside and asked, “Benni, Benni, should I really puke? I can really do that! Give me some soup!”

 

(The Group laughs again)

 

JC:

We should have given him pea soup.

 

MO (laughing):

I would have done it!

StungBTS-450x300

 

BD:

That’s method acting.

 

KAREN B: Also speaking of the short shooting schedule that you had, did that help with all of your creative processes on the set at all?

 

BD:

 

Having such a short shoot forces you to make quick and creative decisions. Not only did we only have a month to shoot, we couldn’t extend the hours on the days that we did have. I think we had about 10 shooting hours per day during the week, and then had the weekends free.

 

Since we had such a limited shooting schedule, we pretty much had to use every frame that we shot, and couldn’t cut anything out. That process really makes you stay focused every second, because you couldn’t just let the camera keep rolling until you got what you wanted.

 

Overall, it did work out, but I would have loved to have a few extra days or weeks for the more technical stuff, and maybe get in a couple more scenes that we had to cut out. But overall, under all the circumstances, filming on such a short schedule was the best way to do it.

 

MO:

 

I think a lot of ideas come from constraints. I can see why that was tough for you, Benni, since you’re the director. But I feel like the less time we had on set, the more important our meetings and collaborations were. If we were behind schedule, and something wasn’t working, we would all get together, which helped us fire on all cylinders.

 

AA:

 

Yes, we all had a collective deadline, and luckily everything worked out.

 

BD:

 

Those were the most fun moments. When you’re still very clear in your head, and you’re not too tired, those moments and shots can also become the best ones.

 

KAREN B: Also speaking of the way the overall shots look, what was the process of figuring out the cinematography, especially since this is such a stunt and visual effects-driven film?

 

BD:

 

Our cinematographer, Stephan Burchardt, is pretty much the reason why this film looks the way it does, and has this production value. I know him from film school, and he’s always known his way around a camera.

 

We both agreed early on to insist on really good optics for the camera. On a lower-budget, independent film, you want to cut corners and do things as cheaply as possible, including using cheaper lens. But we said, “No way.” I’d rather cut a scene out so that we could afford to use better lens, and achieve a better production value.

 

Stephan is a very good planner, and is very much like me, in terms of designing shots. He doesn’t have any vanity, in terms of his profession, but he would say, “I’m the DP (Director of Photography), so I’ll design how the sequences will be staged.” He’s very good with his team, and has a good authority on set, which is something I would sometimes be missing. So we would play bad cop, good cop,which made the experience great. I always knew that I could rely on him when I was at the end of my rope, because he has much more experience than I do.

 

 

Karen Benardello is a freelance contributor with expertise in covering film events and reviewing content. She has worked with sites including The Movie Network. Follow her on Twitter: @kbenardello

kb



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