“Believe” is a incredible example of showcasing collaboration at it’s best. This project came together so quickly and wouldn’t have been possible with out everyone involved.
I came up with the concept for “Believe” after hearing the title song by Night Fevers. It was one of those weird moments where the idea just hit me and it hit me hard. It was so different than other film ideas I’ve had. I usually do the dark and moody vibes with my films or try to go energetic or epic. This though.. this was different. This was just a feel good story. No crazy effects or transitions. Just a really great story.
Because I knew the story so well and had it all pretty locked in with the characters and the concept, pre production was actually kind of a breeze.
Locking in the Locations
Ok I needed a school with a gym.. but it had to look older. Easy task right?? Wrong! Most schools either have updated facilities or are simply newer schools. Luckily, I knew a guy who knew a guy that got me a school that was built in the 70s with minor updates. Boom! School was locked in. What about the gym?? Well, that was updated. Crap. Ok back to the drawing board. My friend Josh Coe worked for a church and offered the gym at his church. He showed me a photo and my mouth dropped. It was incredible! It had EVERYTHING I ever hoped for with what was in my head and overall vision.
Last little obstacle. The house for the lawn mower scene. In Phoenix there are so many new builds and cookie cutter houses. However there are some really great houses in central Phoenix that are a little older with a lot of great character. Luckily, one of my closest friends Mike Olbinski (He’s kind of a big deal.. Emmy winner, his footage is in Thor, and so much more), has a house just like that! The text message went like this “Hey Mike! Can I use your house to bring my buddy over to do a dance on your lawn?” His response, “Uh sure! Why not!?”
My buddy Seth Dunlap (also kind of a big deal) texted me saying he was getting into acting and asked if I had any projects I might have a need for with him. INSTANTLY I could see him as playing “Max” for this film. Asked him if he could do a choreographed dance and the rest was history.
The other characters though were tough. I needed the love interest for Max and I also needed a bully. A good friend of mine is actually a casting director. I’ve used him for other projects as well and hit him up to see if he could find anyone. Enter in Brantun Hensley and Taylor Mcglone. Dang I cannot say enough amazing things about these two. Brantun truly owned the character and delivered far past my expectations. Taylor knocked it out of the park and was so sweet as the love interest.
Where the heck am I going to get 80’s clothes? That’s where Risa came in. Risa is a stylist that I’ve been able to work with on other projects. She is truly talented at hearing a vision for outfits and making it come to life. Risa just so happened to know a vintage shop that provided the prom dress, all of Taylor’s outfits for the school scenes, most of Seth’s and Brantun’s outfits. We hit the jackpot with that shop.
Seth’s suit was actually just a cheap suit I bought on Amazon. I bought two suits in two different colors. The other one was a light blue and we all agreed that it wasn’t a good look.
Everyone has been asking about the shoot itself. Let’s start by saying it was unreal. I was so humbled by the community of friends and people in the industry who just wanted to help and be a part of something. I couldn’t have done it without them.
After Seth flew in, we pretty much went straight to Mike’s house to film the lawn mower scene. He got into character and danced his heart off on that grass. What was great though was this scene was sort of in the middle of the film. It’s when Max is gaining confidence but still learning the dance.
Starting with that scene really helped ease Seth into his character. Seth is already a fun and energetic guy so getting him started with just being fun and goofy set the tone well.
I don’t even know where to start with this. Four hours… thats all we had to set up, film and clean up. Most of that time was spent on set up. Once people started showing up, I delegated task after task after task to anyone and everyone. Whether it was blowing up balloons, setting up streamers, or running to the store for extension cords, there was always something needing to be done.
Because of time, we only set up half of the gym. Which made things interesting with filming. We needed the gym to look full. So it was just a matter of playing around with angles.
Once we were all set up, we had a haze machine going to give some atmosphere in the gym. Seth did the dance about four times and really only messed up once. Actually the last time he did the dance he ripped a hole in the crotch of his pants. When filming the dance, I had the DJI Ronin 2 set up with the RED Epic-W along with an Easyrig. However, after the second try I ditched the Easyrig and toughed it out holding it for the entire sequence.
After filming at the church gym, it was clean up and head straight to the school. We only had three hours to film five scenes. Needless to say, time was of the essence. However, since we were all in that mindset already with the gym earlier, we were in a groove of acting fast on the fly.
With a lot of our extras leaving after the dance scene at the gym, it made creating a full classroom and hallway tough. We pushed all the desks aside and filled up two rows of seats and shoot from really only one angle. For the hallway, it was just a matter of staggering people to make it look full.
I knew there needed to be more. There just wasn’t enough to make this a full story. So I kept an open mind. The first day Seth was in town, we finished the lawn mower scene, got some food, did a little shopping and BOOM! An EPIC sunset. Arizona is kind of known for consistent epic sunsets. Since light moves fast, I knew an area with an open field right next to my house. So we drove over there, jumped out, and did a silhouetted shot of Seth practicing the dance.
Other scenes we added in last minute were the shower scene where Seth is singing and dancing in the shower. The bike scene where we drove around central Phoenix to find an older neighborhood to fit with the time period. An open field mid day to practice the dance. Lastly, the dodgeball scene…
We asked Brantun (the actor who played the bully) if he was down to film one more scene with us. We bought some matching short shorts, socks, and head bands and dressed them up for P.E. When planning the dodgeball hit, Seth asked Brantun to just hit him hard with it. After a few tries, Seth got smacked pretty good in the face. His reaction was a real reaction in the film! Thanks Seth for taking it like a man.
After the second day of filming, I just had to start putting this together. Seth, Clayton, and myself got some beers and within about two hours, most everything was put together for a rough cut. We still had some filming to do obviously but about 70% of it was there and looking incredible.
Doing that actually helped us see what was missing and what we could add in the next day before Seth had to leave. Thats where we came up with the dodgeball scene, shower scene, and the mid day open field dance scene.
Once things calmed down it was time to really start editing this film.
Always one of my favorite things to do. I called Seth and asked him to record breathing sounds and grunting sounds for when he trips in the dance scene and is breathing heavily.
I added in sounds of shoes on the ground squeaking. The sound of the old bike when Seth is riding it to Prom. The shower sound, the whispers from the crowd when Seth enters the gym, the sound of people talking in the hallway, and so many more sounds.
This was colored in a very goofy way. Clayton was really getting into Davinci Resolve and wanted to color it. So we went back and forth. I liked some of it, and didn’t like some of it. So half this film was colored by him while the other half was colored by me. I will say, the scene with Seth dancing, was colored beautifully. Clayton freaking nailed that coloring without using LUTs!