Melissa Izbicki and Airan Harandi‘s short film, Chuck Ransom, learned the cheesy “too many cooks spoils the broth” thing didn’t apply to them. Their short action film, Chuck Ransom, premiered at the Los Angeles Movie Awards, and it’s now going to be a longer feature!
Why did you choose to make Chuck Ransom a short film rather than expanding it to a feature length?
Arian: Since we were working with a small budget, we wanted to get the highest production value, while providing the biggest entertainment possible. Doing a unique project like Chuck Ransom, where the entire action film gets told in one shot, requires months of planning rehearsals and teamwork. We knew if we could impress people with a short film, it would help set us apart and reach a bigger audience.
Melissa: We do actually have a feature film for Chuck Ransom in development, but we created the short film as a way to “pitch” both the story and our creative abilities. The truth is, filmmaking is an incredibly expensive art form and we had a very limited budget for this project. The goal was to maximize the production value to really showcase our skills. Like Arian said earlier, the majority of the film takes place in one shot — and not just any shot — a shot that contains a very intricate action sequence with several practical stunts. This sequence took months of pre-visualization, coordination, and teamwork. We knew that if we could pull off such a complex shot (with the incredibly limited financial resources available) we would come out with a film that really demonstrates our talent as filmmakers.
What is better about the project as a short?
Arian: We wanted to reach as many people as possible. With so many people and projects available online, it is very important to hook the audience in the first two minutes of the film. It is always important to leave your audience wanting more. With those ideas in mind, we believe Chuck Ransom is just the right length to hook the audience, get them on the edge of their seats, and leave them wanting more.
Melissa: Short films are a great way to showcase your talent and abilities. We wanted something short that would hook the audience within the first two minutes of the film. This ability to quickly showcase the story and our abilities makes for a great pitch when it comes time to make the feature length version of the film.
Both of you studied film. What is great about this route, and what did you have to learn that you didn’t get in a classroom?
Arian: I’ve heard it be said before that film school is no longer necessary, that with the internet and special features on films you can learn everything you need… And nothing could be further from the truth! Attending Chapman University, I learned that film is a collaborative art form. In film school, you get to learn every aspect of film making. Writing, editing, directing, producing, cinematography, sound design, production design, etc, they all have to come together to create an amazing project that every member of the cast and crew can be proud of.
Melissa: I’ve learned a lot of about filmmaking both in and out of the classroom. I think the biggest advantage of attending film school (for me anyways) was the connections I made with incredibly talented individuals. At the drop of the hat, I can pick up the phone and call someone who I know is trained (and trained well) in their particular discipline. You’re also learning from people who really know their stuff. Every film school is different, but at Chapman University, I had multiple award winning professors (even some who had been nominated for and/or won Oscars). If I’m going to learn from someone, I’d like it to be those guys. I think the biggest thing I didn’t learn in film school was how to sell myself and my abilities, but I think that’s probably true of most college graduates whether they majored in film, business or biology.
How long did you spend deciding on every detail in the action scenes? What happens going from the paper notes to actually doing it?
Arian: As I mentioned, film is a collaborative art form. So it all started with my idea of just a good action scene, then it became a collaboration with everyone involved. As more people joined the more the project changed, and it was always for the better. Working with my producer we had to change it around to work with-in our budget limitations, working with the stunt team we came up with better and better action and fights, and working with the cinematographer we all worked out what had to be done to pull this off in one take. The main idea and story of the film translated well from paper to film; working with all the extremely talented people, each moment in the film became something greater than I ever imagined.
Melissa: I think we probably spent about 3 to 6 months developing the script and putting everything on paper. And once the script was on paper, I know the director, Arian Harandi, would spend hours every day visualizing exactly how he wanted the action sequence to unfold (both in terms of the action and the camera movements).I think the biggest difference between what was on paper and what made it on screen had a lot to do with the creative contributions of the entire team. When we arrived on set for the shoot, every crew member put something unique into the project that wasn’t explicitly described in the script. From the wardrobe choices to the make up to the acting — everyone put in something unique that contributed to the overall quality of the film.
Did the action sequences change at all when you arrived on set and saw, for example, that something wasn’t as planned? Or did you do everything exactly as planned?
Arian: Once our location was locked down, the action sequence was changed to adjust for the location. This actually worked out for the best, because we were able to use the location to create moments that were never written on paper. One of the best things to be added on set was from Hunter Smith, the fight choreographer and main character. We were walking around the location, and he saw the rollers in one corner, and he said “I need to be slammed into those and dragged around on them!” and I said: “YES!” So we immediately readjusted everything we needed to add that part in, and it became one of the best parts of the film.
How did you know that you made a good team before you worked on the film? What tips do you have for people in any business on recognizing a good partnership before the work evolves?
Arian: Many of us have worked together on previous projects. We have always had a great working relationship together, and I believe it all has to do with respect. As a director my job is to work hand in hand with every department to create the best results, and mutual respect is extremely important. When your team members feel respected, and that their opinion is important, then they work harder and bring their best to the table every time. Melissa Izbicki and I have been working together on projects since college. We have a great understanding of each other’s style and can build from each other’s strengths.
Melissa: I think we were all very in sync creatively before the work actually began. You could tell that everyone involved was excited about the project and what they could bring to the table. This excitement and enthusiasm really made for a great working environment. I would recommend that anyone embarking on any type of business venture make sure that this type of connection exists between them and their potential partners. If everyone is excited and enthusiastic about what it is your creating — the working environment will be more pleasant and the results will exceed your expectations.
How, where and why should we see your short film?
Arian: Chuck Ransom just finished playing at the Action on Film International Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Movie Awards, and over the next several months will be at more upcoming festivals. We will be making all the announcement on our websites and twitter: www.arianharandi.com and www.melissaizbicki.com. You can also check out the film on our site as well as some of our previous work, and get information on our upcoming feature film, The Big Day.
Melissa: You should see Chuck Ransom because it’s an awesome action film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The 4 minute and 30 second “one-taker” truly is an incredible shot — anyone interested in film will be able to appreciate the creative work and talent that made this shot possible.