THE JOURNEY OF
THE LOST ONE
The idea for the film had been kicking around in my head for a few years. It was inspired by corruptions and coverups pervasive in the highest levels in society. Why is it that some individuals are untouchable and scandals are constantly swept under the rug? Why isn't someone doing something about it?
In 2019, a friend needed a show reel scene, so I wrote a scene based around this rough concept. It was about an attorney and journalist who have just survived a massacre of child abusers. This is "Public Defender".
Why isn't someone doing something about it?
Why aren't I doing something? I'm no vigilante but I can make a film. One that highlights these type of issues.
In early 2020 I decided it was time I made my own feature film. I'd been working on other films, and waiting for others to get off the ground for years. I got tired of waiting. What type of film could I afford to make out of my own pocket? What idea was good enough that people would take notice and spend their own money to see?
I started work-shopping the idea. I asked myself; "what would I do if I had Jeffery Epstein in front of me? Would I kill him? Or hand him in to the police and risk him walking free?" I liked the moral dilemma and ran the idea by Emily Rowbottom and she liked it.
I wrote an outline then got down to writing. I had a first draft written in two weeks. It was super rough but it was a start.
At the start of February, I started talking to my filmmaking friends about the project. The idea was to shoot it over weekends throughout the year. The characters and locations were mostly written for people and places I had access to. The film had fights, guns, car chases and blood. It was ambitious but nothing we hadn't done before.
The script was almost ready to show people as talk of COVID got louder.
In March everything shut down over night and I lost all my upcoming work and gigs.
So I'm unemployed, the country is in recession and we're locked in our house. Awesome!
The next month was spent polishing the script.
As much as I enjoy directing, I just wanted to be the Director of Photography on the film. I approached a friend who jumped on board as Director. Being a Writer/Director of Photography is a strange mix but whatever.
I approached Producer Josh Hale who was keen to come on board. What's more, he could possibly double my tiny budget!
I got my job back on reduced hours and things looked like they might open up in Australia. We took a gamble and aimed for a September shoot. We'd film over three six day weeks. We'd get it done fast to limit the risk of being shut down.
Because I couldn't pay most of the crew, I knew I'd need to do most of the work. I created storyboards, shot lists, camera and lighting maps, look-books, schedules, risk assessments, a COVID safe plan, pitch documents and started on the wardrobe breakdowns.
The borders were closed so we had to keep cast and crew within South East Queensland. No problem. Except we needed over 80 actors including support cast. Luckily I know a lot of actors and work at a film school!
Emily Rowbottom was the first person cast and helped with the script. Emily's workplace had also closed so she began creating the character of Shae Conway.
Emily was able to use her Degree in Criminology to help bring authenticity to the character.
Stephanie Ranty was cast in the role of Riley Johnson after a rigorous search.
Hot off the set of "House of Inequity", Steph was keen to keep the momentum going.
Daniel Nelson was the second person cast in the role of Angelo. We'd worked together over the years and I was stoked when he accepted the role.
Daniel used his experience as a stunt performer to choreograph the films fight sequences.
Several of the crew's houses were used, including my own. Other local businesses offered their support to the film. We locked in an amazing landscaping business that took care of three of the major action scenes.
I had one rule; the locations needed minimal set dressing. And when you have no money; beg borrow or steal.
We still needed a mansion, school and destroyed house. After a lot of back and forth we locked in Villa Cervi for the mansion. Due to the subject matter the school was extremely difficult to find. Eventually we gained the support of the Gold Coast Youth Orchestra, which we could cheat as a school. We also found a completely unsafe trashed house but couldn't track down the owners.
We were just over a month out and things were looking good. My philosophy is that things are going to fall through, so plan as much as you can so that any surprises are minimal.
About 4 weeks out, Victoria entered its second wave and began locking down again. In Queensland we were still good, but we were now limited to ten people in private locations. You adapt.
Other large scale productions were starting up again. Great news for the industry and it meant people could start getting paid work again. We couldn't pay so we adapted the schedule to make it work.
We locked in our last locations on the same day that the Director and First AD stepped away from the project. This was three days before we were scheduled to begin filming.
I knew the story inside and out so I stepped across to Direct and our Gaffer, Nathan Jermyn stepped up to be the Director of Photography.
I created the callsheets and got my head into the directing mode.
Sleep could wait until after the 18 day shoot.
The first day was shooting at my own house so it was the only day I didn't need to pack the car. We wrapped about 30 minutes ahead of schedule! It was a good start.
If you can't pay your crew, feed them. Each day we'd plan what the next day's meals would be. We'd stop off at the supermarket for water and snacks at the end of each day (when there's specials in the bakery department). If we filmed at a cafe, we showed our appreciation by buying lunch there. Cast were scheduled to be on set for the shortest time possible. This forced us to be efficient with their time, plus it cut down on mouths to feed.
Day 3 was at our destroyed house location. We still couldn't get in touch with the owner so we did what any indie film crew would do; we shot anyway. We got some b-roll and started the first scene. The police arrived on our third take.
They kicked us out with a warning and we headed back to unit. Giving up is never an option. An area behind the house looked close enough to the previous location and we got back to shooting. Honestly, I think the rest of the scene is better for it.
Then we found out our landscaping location was no longer available due to COVID. Time to start looking for three new locations! We had a day off so I got in the car and started driving. Other crew put out their feelers and we found backups. Again, I think the new locations are better than the old.
Week one down.
Week two started our night shoots and the final night was one of the biggest of the shoot. It involved stunts and weapons, and was at the mansion. We had one night the get it. The forecast for rain had been decreasing all week and it had stayed dry so far. Only a 10% chance of showers and yep, it rained as soon as we moved outside. We pushed on and adapted the shotlist, I conceded as we approached the 10 hour mark and spoke to the owner. They let us come back a few days later for no extra charge. Legends.
COVID restrictions eased further, meaning we were now allowed 30 people in private residences.
Week two down.
The second last night was the big one. The final fight involved stunts, weapons and special effects at a car wreckers. We'd only just locked in the location so I hadn't had a chance to check it out. We arrived early and discovered the owner hadn't been informed. I think his words were "this ain't happening". After many assurances that we'd leave the place as we found it, he let us film so long as we kept the bulk of the crew on the street. No worries.
A few hours in and it rained. The wreckers had a super friendly cat which helped keep the spirits up. I stared at the BOM radar and convinced myself it was just a passing shower. Luckily it was. We got everything we needed and it looks amazing!
At 9 3/8 pages the final days shoot was the biggest by page count. However, it felt like the most relaxed considering what we'd just accomplished and we finished with time to spare. It was several hours drive from the Gold Coast so our skeleton crew stayed the previous night to minimise travel time.
That's a wrap!
We had our wrap party the following weekend and COVID restrictions eased just in time. This meant we could stand at the party!
There were times on set where I didn't have time to read over scenes before a day's shoot. I had to trust that I'd done the work. The edit is when you really find out if all that work has paid off.
I smashed out an assembly cut in a few weeks and watched it with my notebook. After writing several pages of notes, I swallowed the feeling that I'd wasted everyone's time. It was rough. More than rough. It was an assembly.
I made the changes and watched it again. Phew, we have a movie! It's still rough, but I enjoyed it!
Josh and Nathan watched a cut a few edits later and gave me their notes. It's coming together! It still needs a lot of polishing but it's getting there. The aim is to have a cast and crew screening early in 2021.
Instead of thinking about the project as a feature film, I always saw it as a bunch of scenes. You can shoot a scene with minimal people and gear. You just need to be smart and plan.
We shot on my two Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K cameras. They are small and light enough to be operated by a single user and are amazing in low light. That helps cut down the need for big lights. They also have an amazing image for the price.
Initially it was planned to shoot the whole film with both cameras but the crew limitations cut this down. Again, this was probably for the best. Simple scenes were filmed single cam and stunt scenes were multi-cam. The second camera was left on a Ronin S for any complex moving shots to cut down on setup times. We used a jib twice and a drone once. The dolly was used as much as possible.
Between myself and Nathan, we had lighting covered. We had a bunch of new and old LED lights including two Aputure 120Ds and an Aputure 300D.
My good friends David Mace-Kaff and Lauren-Ann Smith at Creative Path Films helped out whenever they could. Not only did they fill multiple crew roles but they allowed us to borrow their gear!
Our Soundie Callum Taylor, recorded on a Roland R-44 and used a Rode NTG3 microphone.
Scheduling was completed using the cloud-based scheduling software Scenechronize.
Adobe Premiere Pro is being used for the edit and DaVinci Resolve will be used for the colour grade.
Movies don't make themselves and they definitely wouldn't happen without a passionate cast and crew. We had a dedicated crew who were on set every day and others who came when they could or on the bigger days.
There's too many people to name here, but apart from those already mentioned above; our 1st AD Courteney Osborne stayed busy the entire shoot. Luke speech was the 1st AC and also helped out with lighting. Millie Rowley was the Script Supervisor. Patrick Ryan is an all round asset and helped with camera, lighting and BTS. Daniel Wright sourced our wardrobe and gave an amazing performance in his scene.
Jac Charlton and Chad Atkinson at Stingray Sushi Studios took care of the special effects shots and Alisha Hennessy provided hair and makeup.
Vito Leo was an additional camera operator, lighting assist and actor. Nicole Leo was our Unit Production Manager and continued helping after gaining work on another major production.
Our Composer Chris Armstrong has already sent through some awesome tracks which have helped bring the edit to life.
Our stunt team; Timothy Frost, Ethan Ruddy, Garreth Hadfield, Alex Time, Chris Matheson and Danny Baldwin brought their A game and lifted the action well above the films budget.
I'm missing so many more people (not including the cast) but their work speaks for itself in the finished product.
Even though the edit is still going, my brain won't shut off what to work on next. I keep returning to an idea of fleshing out a comic I wrote years ago. The comic is pretty bad (hopefully in a good way) but I like the idea.