Friday, July 20, 2018

Young SF filmmakers bring a fresh take to science fiction


Cruising down the streets of Alameda, Red Hot Chili Peppers blaring, Matthew Elium turns, yells “It’s a TV!” and has Spenser Nottage turn his yellow station wagon abruptly to go back and pick up a discarded television or some other pivotal set piece from someone else’s junk heap.

Young, aspiring filmmakers like 21-year-old Nottage and Elium of Bay Area based Quandary Film and Animation will tap into all creative resources to make their sets look like a fantastical world, a place for their actors to interact, a place they have never seen before.

Nottage and Elium spend long hours working on storyboards, auditions, web design and concept ideas as they embark on what is to be their biggest project to date, Heart of the Argos, a science fiction film.

“We wanted to do a science fiction story for it creates a lot of production challenges, pushes the boundaries of what people can do- and really gives people the chance to be extra creative,” Nottage said as he leaned back in a chair in the conference room of 880 Studios in Oakland.

“We want to give student filmmakers a leg up, to display their talent and hard work to the general public, so that their interest will generate support.”

The two young talents are currently knee-deep in the pre-production stages of their project out of their small, cramped office across from storage in 880 Studios, a studio that has no lack of industry greats roaming its halls- Tre Cool of Green Day’s cars are out back, and John Lucasey, a stunt coordinator, turned down a job working on the set of the Matrix to open up this studio for creative minds to make their visions a reality.

Their project, Heart of the Argos, explores experiences of everyday life in extraordinary ways. According to Quandary’s business letter, the film aims to examine the common dilemma of self confidence in relationships from a different angle, by setting the story aboard a cramped futuristic spacecraft lost in the isolating void of space.

“Basically, it’s the story of three space adventurers in a cramped spaceship on a mission to discover extra terrestrial life, or a romance that just happens to take place in space,” Elium said in a professional tone full of passion and vigor, his eyes glowing with excitement under the conference room lights.

They promise to bring to reality a four part feast for the eyes that is big enough in vision in terms of set design, that will be shot over the course of 9 days and run approximately thirty minutes as a finished product.

Heart of the Argos will serve as their launching pad for the future, and give them the foundation to make a feature-length film.

“We are not going to embark on a film of epic scale, we plan to showcase what we can do on a small scale to someday go big” Elium said.

The two men feel that originality is lacking in Hollywood, that we are trapped in a “summer of sequels,” and hope, by collaborating with other inspired young filmmakers and their new ideas and aspirations, they can bring a fresh story to screen.

The crew will be a large mix of working professionals and college students from San Francisco State University, as well as other talents that have come up through the Bay Area film industry that Nottage and Elium have networked and developed professional relationships with.

Phillip Matarrese, 22-year-old SFSU alum and co-founder of the SFSU Cinema Collective in 2003, will be designing and building the complete lighting design for Heart of the Argos, from scratch.

Matarrese currently works as a dockhand for Warner Brothers, and has been networking in Los Angeles, CA with industry legends, including cinematographer Isadore Markevsky and Larry Mole, head of the largest lighting company in California, Mole Richardson.

“Phil waltzed right into Mole Richardson, and paired up with the man himself,” Nottage noted of the drive and passion of his crew.

Nottage’s brother, Dylan, has accomplishments and training in special effects and is currently being mentored in the arts of film effects by his chemistry teacher. Heart of the Argos will help build his reel and give him industry experience to apply in his future career.

“There is so much talent not recognized, not seen. We want to help these people be recognized on a larger sphere, we want industry people to hear these names,” Nottage said with enthusiasm.

Some of the equipment they plan to work with is new in the industry, so its rental rates are set high and products are in high demand.

They have some of their own equipment which helps, but plan on shooting with high resolution 16 mm film, developing custom props and costumes, using a complex lighting grid, implementing astounding on-set visual effects and requiring access to professional post production facilities.

Heart of the Argos’ budget is set around $50,000, a number that will allow Nottage and Elium to remain competitive in the independent film community. They are being sponsored by Youth Movement Records, a not for profit youth-run recording company based out of Oakland, meaning that all support given to the project will be tax deductable.

They have an aggressive timeline, plenty of drive, and plan to shoot this project in August and get it done in any way possible.

“We are building up a film community in Northern California, small clusters are growing and bringing people together- we want to help them grow, and start making movies,” Elium said.

Quandary’s most recent film, Two Men in Suits, was made on a mere $1,000 budget. It was well received by audiences and played at Loews Metreon Theatre in San Francisco, accepted into other festivals in New York and Los Angeles as well as possible consideration for the Cannes Festival through ITN Distribution, who has expressed an interest in Quandary’s work.

Other projects by Quandary include gaffing work on the Modest Mouse music video “Invincible,” as well as projects with Bay Area hip-hop star Mistah F.A.B.

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pennylane986 is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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