OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFace Eater (website) is an independent film (which you can watch for free on IMDB) I had the pleasure to work on during my time living in Durango, Colorado and for a little while after.  It was a labor of love in every sense of the phrase and I was kind of the utility man in our team of 3 so I was tasked with a great many things.  It’s difficult to sum up a timeline of the project itself so instead I’ll go through each item I ended up helping with during my 3-4 years on the project.  The whole thing was volunteer, there was no money involved and I was “paid” in copies of the DVD, many of which I donated back to the pool of DVD’s for selling.

It started as what was meant to simply be a short film, written by comic book historian Jon McClure and loosely based on a card game by the same name he’d created twenty-some years prior (which later became a real thing you can buy), but quickly evolved into a feature-length film with what ended up being a run time of 105 minutes.  Jon wrote the script, played the main character Flecks Crushe, and acted as the marketing and PR guru on the film, securing locations and free work from folks around town, sometimes in exchange for bit parts.  After the film was completed and he got his Face Eater card game published, he continued to promote the film at conventions he went to.

Jon recruited Jarrod Perrott after seeing a short film he had done that played in Durango and Jarrod, who was living in Denver at the time, believed in the project so much that he up and moved back to Durango instead to work on the film.  Jarrod, in addition to being the director, also served as cinematographer, storyboard artist, editor, and more.

So how did I get involved?

Jon’s son Dan and I were friends, having met when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, and we kept in touch after I left.  Later his family moved back to Durango where Jon was from and eventually I made my way to Durango to be Dan’s roommate.  Before I came out there he’d told me about the project his dad was trying to put together and I talked about my background in film studies and audio engineering.  When I first moved out my role was essentially sound design and audio engineering; I started out holding the boom on set and ensuring the captured levels were ok and later did post production sound work as well, though not as much as I’d originally intended.  Also having a background in acting I was given a bit part with one scene as well, but the largest chunk of my work ended up coming in post production.

Anyway, here’s a basic timeline of the things I did and my involvement on the project.

On the Set

  • Boom Mic Operator – I held the boom for the scenes and checked the levels to ensure they were coming in clean.  I also had to listen to any background noise that might be captured and ruin the take like extra talking, airplane or trains, other environmental noise like dogs barking, things like that.
  • On-Set Photographer – This wasn’t really an assignment at first so much as something I wanted to document for myself.  Every shoot I went to I brought my camera and took pictures, some of which turned out good enough to go into a slideshow as a DVD extra.  Those can also be seen on the movie’s website.
  • Actor – In addition to being a background character in the Pool Hall Scene (referenced as The Get Outta Here Guy) I had a part playing a character named Andy, who was a small-time drug peddler that Flecks briefly interrogates to find the whereabouts of another character.
  • Production Assistant – Because our crew was at most 3 people (though usually just Jarrod and myself) we all lent a hand doing general PA work.  I helped set up and take down lighting and other things the scene needed, helped with basic continuity (the placement of the pool balls is where the camera really came in handy), a gopher to go get food or coffee, things like that.

Post Production

  • Sound Design – Sadly I ended up not doing as much of this as I was originally going to do (the movie’s opening black and white scene is the only one I did fully myself) but this involved editing the sound to ensure it was clean, the volume levels were good, and adding the special sound effects that weren’t picked up by the microphone or were added to enhance the scene.
  • Commentary Recording – Similar to above, I also was responsible for recording the audio commentary, piecing it together, timing it to the right parts of the film after various pauses and different takes, and then render the audio file for the DVD.  It ended up being so much extra work I listed it separately from the normal sound design stuff.
  • Video Editing – I also did some minor video editing, not on the film itself but of some of the additional components that later went onto the DVD as extras.

Design Work

  • The Poster – I believe it was Jon’s idea to do the poster in such a way that it mimicked the poster of the movie Harvey, so I took the photos and did several variations of the chicken shadow, then added a few effects to stylize it a bit.  Then created the logo for the film and added all the other text like the credits and the like.  The same image was also used as the DVD cover.
  • Press Book – For the premiere, Jon requested a 6-page black and white press book to be made which had headshots and bios of the cast and crew as well as some of the behind the scenes photos.
  • Ticket Images – Nothing really fancy, but for the handful of showings of the film at a local Durango theater called The Abbey so I made those as well.
  • The DVD Cover – I mentioned before that the poster image I made was also used for the cover of the DVD, but I put that insert together which included the back image as well.  I also did the image for the disk itself.
  • Authoring the DVD – This was a huge undertaking and one I have to say I’m the most proud of.  I learned, from the ground up, how to create and author a DVD complete with menus and all the standard stuff one sees on DVD’s these days.  It was a dual-layer to ensure highest quality we could muster since we had a surprising amount of extras on there.  Definitely the most proud of this one.
  • Fliers – I also created a pretty large amount of various fliers, some for each showing of the film, one for the DVD pre-order, things of that nature.
  • Merchandise Designs – While mostly created based on screenshots from the film itself, I put together a handful of images that went on t-shirts and mugs and the like.

Other Stuff

  • The Website – Myself and my friend Dale designed and created the movie’s original website (now redone and replaced by someone else).  It was a fairly simplistic and straightforward site with a section that talked about festivals the film would be showing in, that kind of thing.
  • Attack of the Contaminated CEO’s – In the movie’s finale the shootout takes place inside the Abbey Theater, the theater in which the movie’s premiere took place.  Digitally, our special effects guy Mark Smith (Jarrod’s brother) put a movie title on the theater’s marquee above the door called Attack of the Contaminated CEO’s and later, I believe at the premiere, Mark suggested it would be funny to see a mock trailer for that movie as a DVD extra.  So I got to work writing the script and I put the whole thing together.  Jarrod directed again, Jon of course had a main part and we had other friends helping as cast members.  But unfortunately we never could edit the thing together in a cohesive way that actually looked interesting like a trailer and it never made it onto the DVD.
  • Trailer Narration – We also made a trailer for the film which, while I don’t think it went anywhere other than the movie’s website and on YouTube, still served as a little bit of promotion, and I got to do the narration for it.
  • The Card Game – Jon did all the artwork for the card game that came after the movie, but in sending it to the studios he needed the art scanned and cleaned up, which I did for him.  I also took a handful of cards and did some sample colorations on how we wanted those cards to look but unfortunately the studio decided they were too busy and went for a much simpler background color gradient to save on color printing costs.