Sean Rochford talks about double backflips and all kinds of stuff he claims he can do.

Sean’s a Stunt People veteran, having worked with the team since 2003. You can check him out in Immortal, the “Uruvia Documentary” special feature on the Contour DVD, and as a hitman in The Tech.

And no Sean does not do double backflips in Rise And Fail. He’s just really funny.

Shot and edited by Rise And Fail’s official behind-the-scenes professional Alex Ng.

Alex Ng interviews Rise And Fail‘s co-producer and supporting actor Ed Kahana as he talks about Rise And Fail’s action style, specifically during the group fight at the end of the film.

Taking the best of the “Hong Kong way” and the “Korean way” of how action is shot and choreographed is something I’ve been stuck on for a while. Take a Hong Kong Shaw Brothers film like My Young Auntie. The choreography is complex, focusing more on martial art “ideas” than real moves. And it’s made shot-for-shot, since each angle has its own purpose. Fight scenes like this would fail miserably if shot for “coverage”. There’s so much subtlety, almost entirely so, that shooting for coverage would be a waste of time and basically break everything.

Then there’s the Korean film City of Violence, where the emphasis is on big moves, not subtlety. If I had a behind-the-scenes clip I’d put it here instead, but the DVD reveals that they shot this scene with long takes and cut them together. Like Ed says, it’s like a “play”. With a crowd of 50-something extras there aren’t many other options (just working with 15 in Rise And Fail was hard enough!), but the result is a frenetic pace that give off an effect of the heroes being overwhelmed. You’re not supposed to care what moves they do, they’re just in danger.

How best to utilize the two styles? How do you let the audience in on your martial art secrets like My Young Auntie while creating the high stakes drama of City of Violence?  Or is one style simply better than the other? I’ve always favored the Hong Kong style of shooting because it gets the audience’s head into the choreography rather than just their hearts, but with the more realistic ‘big’ moves from a Korean film you can still create a dangerous environment which can excite the viewer. Blending the two is what we’ve tried to do.

If you’re digging our progress, please pledge a donation to our Kickstarter Campaign. For just $30 you get a DVD out of the deal, plus bigger perks for higher donations, but we only collect your donation if we meet our goal of $10,000. Please help us get there and finish this film, since we’ve still got a lot of bills to pay before it’s done.

We loved the jib in Rise And Fail. We rented it for a couple days early on and quickly realized that we could make great use out of it if we just had it for the entire shoot. So we rented it for the last four weeks of filming, and its quick maneuverability allowed for great angles and easy setup changes.

Alex Ng gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what made the jib so nice.

As writer/director/editor/co-producer/choreographer/star of a film, you end up with a lot on your plate. Here was a typical daily schedule while shooting Rise And Fail.

  • 7:30 am, wake up, do emails
  • 8:30 am, rewrite script for the day (DAILY)
  • 9:30 am, paperwork and any unimportant personal stuff I’ve forgotten like bills and overdue parking tickets (and feeding myself)
  • 10:00 am, get people to wake up, eat, clean, etc.
  • 10:45 am, overview of script with Drew (DP)
  • 11:30 am, pack van (cooler, wardrobe, equipment)
  • 12:00 pm, drive to set
  • 12:30 pm, unload van, set up craft services table and prep equipment
  • 1:15 pm plan shot list with Drew
  • 2:00 pm, cast call time, makeup, wardrobe
  • 3:00 pm, start shooting (choreograph a “skeleton” for an hour if doing a fight scene, or talk through scene with actors)
  • 6:30 pm, eat dinner (meatballs were the most popular)
  • 7:00 pm, resume shooting (and try not to fall into food coma)
  • 10:00 pm, finish shooting, pack up camera equipment and secure media
  • 11:30 pm, leave set, drop people off at home
  • 12:00 am, arrive at home, unload van
  • 12:30 am, catalog footage and sound and any behind the scenes, do preliminary edits as necessary
  • 1:30 am, looking forward to 6 hours of sleep. Even if there’s work to be done, it can wait till morning. Perform a full backup of hard drive while I’m asleep.

I did this 6 days a week or so for 45 days between Aug 10 and September 30 I believe. Any days off would be for “rest” aka “all the other shit you don’t want to do” like last-minute scheduling, casting, location logistics, finances, etc. Those days were much less fun, though I’d usually squeeze in 8 hours of sleep to make up for it. 6 hours of sleep is enough, though. It’s really easy to find yourself going to bed at 6:00 am and waking up groggy at 10:00 am and turning into an asshole for the entire day, so this was the result of personal planning and delegation. I like being in a good mood when I’m on set. It makes me look forward to the next time. Hopefully the other cast and crew agree.

When calculating the budget of a feature film, if your short is $5000 and runs 15 minutes long, it’s not as simple as saying this:

90/15=6
$5000×6=$30,000

When budgeting Rise And Fail I thought similarly, except I realized that my target audience wasn’t YouTube, there was profit involved, and the project required that people work on it for a solid 2 months (or more). The budget went from $30k up to $100k in short time. Here’s a small breakdown of expenses:

  • Camera, lenses, some lights, and misc equipment – $13,000 (gotta make it look tops)
  • General Liability Insurance – $7,000 ($1,000 per action scene on top of this, so we capped it there)
  • Lawyer fees – $5,500 (for filing the LLC, copyright, paperwork, counseling, creating our Private Placement Memo)
  • Location fee – warehouse 1 month @ $200/day – $6,000
  • Location fee – compound 7 days @ $200/day – $1,400
  • Paint and building supplies$2,000 (set design)
  • 1-Ton Grip Truck Rental for 45 days – $7,500(this is cheap)
  • Estimated scoring fees – $2,000 (I strongly recommend you do not ask someone to score for free, since you’ll find yourself regularly banging on their front door asking why they don’t return your calls)
  • Costumes – $1,000
  • Dedicated crew – $20,000 (DP, sound guy, production designer, go-fers, line producer, special fx)
  • Dedicated actors – $5,000
  • Eric Jacobus – $0.00
  • Food – $4,000 (keeping people for 45 days without good food is considered torture according to the Geneva Convention. You’ll lose em. Less than $100/day is CHEEEAAAAP)
  • Various housing and transportation costs – $3000 (getting people from out of town, hotel for your name actor, gas)
  • Props – $2,500

That’s $80,000 right there, without factoring in DVD pressing costs, authoring, website costs, key art design, sound design, color correction, misc. post fx (muzzle flashes), trailer cutting, trips to events, marketing & promotion (Comic-Con and film festivals), all of which probably total another $20,000. But we’re still well under the $200,000 threshold for “SAG Ultra-Low Budget”, which means we can pay SAG actors $100/day and the production can still be non-union. Here are more costs we DIDN’T incur because we a) did it wrong or b) couldn’t afford it:

  • Hiring a big name actor who’s part of SAG – $1,000 (estimated, or if you wanna get a big name, increase number to $10,000 or $20,000 depending on involvement)
  • Accommodations and travel for big name actor – $2,000 (or $5,000? depends how long)
  • Payroll fees (since SAG actors have to be employees) – $1,000
  • Worker’s Comp (since you need it if you have employees) – $??? (nobody would talk to us since we were a low budget action film)
  • Paying everyone as employees rather than contractors (5 full-time crew @ $5.25/hr * 8 * 45 days + 5 full-time cast @ $5.25/hr * 8 * 45 days)  – $20,000 (the IRS would prefer this, we’ll see what they say after tax season!)

To get Worker’s Comp, we would have needed to raise the budget significantly to prove that the set was safe, pair with a production company with experience, etc. If this gets your budget over the $200,000 line, you’re in trouble. Now you’re SAG “low-budget”, where the daily rate is $280 per performer and suddenly half your performers must be SAG, and hiring SAG stuntmen won’t be cheap. My 1-vs-10 group fight in RAF would have gone to hell.

The key differences between a short film and a feature film: it takes longer, so you’ll be digging into your bank account to stay alive and forcing people to stick around, the distribution and profitable nature of the project requires more marketing, and you have to deal with unions if you want to get a marketable actor. It’s no wonder action films cost millions, especially due to their high liability, which makes location owners and insurance brokers both nervous. The prices fly through the roof.

Short films by nature are cheaper per minute. Whatever a short films costs per minute, multiply that number by three for a feature film.