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18th November 2013
Flight of fancy footwork
Title of film: FLIGHT
Director: TWiN
Production Company: Rabbit
1.4 catches up with Rabbit directing duo TWiN about growing up and working together and their spontaneous moonlight shoot which resulted in this super-charged short film

Describe your childhood please? Was it creative, adventurous, suburban… were you always referred to as ‘the twins’?

Known in the neighborhood as ‘the twins’ or the ‘Baker Boys’. Our childhood was awesome man. You defined it to a tee – creative, adventurous and very suburban. We spent as much time as we could trying to combine the three of those things into the same ingenious idea, whether it was manufacturing backyard ninja weapons, creating night-time trespassing routes, or filming home-made blockbusters. The fact that there were two of us, watching each other’s backs at pretty much all times, allowed our parents to loosen the reins a bit. I guess we’ve stuck with the same winning formula to this day.

As twins, what did you two do differently from how siblings would “normally” behave?

We’re not technically identical, so we’ve always thought of it more like brothers born at the same time. Due to the same upbringing, developing the same interests and having the same friends and teachers, we’ve always stuck to doing very similar things in life. Same classes at school, studying the same subjects in college, joining the Army together, starting the same creative career, and then shifting into directing at around the same time. Even moving from Australia to New York City together. Naturally, you’re going to team up along the road somewhere. It just makes a lot of sense for us and works.

When you’re working on a film project together, do you work simultaneously on the same thing, such as the script, edit or do you divide up the tasks?

On all of the projects we do together, we tend to split directing duties up 50/50. We’re kinda too competitive to allow the other to take over in any specific role, because we both enjoy so much of the directing process, and did it individually for so many years. It’s almost more accurately 100/100, because instead of splitting a director’s role in half, it’s more like doubling up in taste, leg work and overall creative investment. As long as you remain on the same page and have similar sensibilities, two directors are often better for a project, because the stronger idea always survives. Most creative people will agree that it’s always good to have someone to bounce ideas off.

How do you work as directors on a shoot – do you take turns at playing captain or do you confer with each other and both direct the action?

We both decided early on that the worst thing we could do is not have a clear unified voice when giving direction. We’re really conscious about that. Not gonna say we never disagree, but we try to do it behind the scenes, or at very least behind the grip truck. If our actors or crew get opposite answers from each of us more than a couple of times, our reputation as a unified team is toast. Trust is so important as a director, and you don’t want to be known as the guys that can’t agree on anything.

As for who’s captain, we usually take turns depending on who’s doing what and who’s more emotionally invested in the specific shot. Sometimes a moment has been conceptualized more by one of us than the other, and so they would naturally take the lead when framing up or giving direction. It all depends though – there’s no strict rules and we change it up daily.

FLIGHT must have taken a lot of pre-production – the tone, colour, action, locations. Please tell us about these. Did you storyboard in detail before the shoot?

We’re glad it appears that way, but you couldn’t be further from the truth! FLIGHT was the most thrown-together, muck-around, spontaneous shoot with very little prep, no storyboards and all shot in about six hours. We literally bought a pair of sneakers, found our guy and just drove to Downtown Los Angeles and started shooting. The crew were all a part of a shoot from the day before, and so helped us out as a favor. It was a real experiment in off-the-cuff filmmaking. After so much pre-planning in the regular work we do, it’s really refreshing to just get to play.

What kit did you use?

FLIGHT was shot on an Arri Alexa with Zeiss super speed lenses. The one piece of equipment we couldn’t have done without was a custom Segway we used to race after the sprinting actor with. Our DP Gareth Jackson (one half of Rabbit directing team +jacksonkarinja) is an absolute maniac, and was maneuvering the Segway with two hands on the camera while looking at a monitor, at some pretty breakneck speeds. The wide shot tracking beside the actor as he runs under the freeway overpass was done on an open street at 2am, completely blind. Tracking at those speeds certainly set the tone of the piece.

What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?

Beyond acquiring close to 100k worth of production assistance for practically nothing?? (Hiring people on paid day-to-day commercial projects certainly helps that awkward conversation). Because of the lack of money and time, the creative scope of the film had to remain realistic and kind of guided us throughout. We’ve always preferred aiming for something we know we can accomplish really well, as opposed to being completely unrealistic and creating a sequence that feels half-baked. That’s probably the reason there’s no wacky wire work with over-stylized leaps onto buildings and what not… as much as that’d be fun.

Finding the right tone was an interesting process throughout editing. The piece really found its voice when Joseph Fraioli finished the sound design for the shoes. We ended up taking the music track off, since the sound design was so strong and brought almost a rhythmical quality to the film in its own way. It made the whole story so much more personal and real and a lot more effortless. It became our nod to nostalgic sci-fi of the 70s and 80s.

After finishing the edit we did decide it would look great to add some glowing smokey trails flying off the back of the sneakers, so it became a challenge to figure out the best team to bring that to life. We ended up collaborating with fellow Aussie, Allan McKay for the CG particle and simulation work, with some killer compositing from the team at Eight VFX. Everything in post went super smooth and we were really happy with the interactivity and subtly of the effect.

Was the main character actually acted by two guys – the Tapp Brothers?

We were in LA casting a stunt woman for a commercial, and we had a handful of free-runners come by. This one very generous girl offered up some of her friends who she thought might be appropriate for FLIGHT and who coincidentally turned out to also be twins. Very quickly we realized how helpful having twin actors would be for such a physical and fast-paced shoot. When one gets tired… quick wardrobe change and tag in the other twin. It worked seamlessly, and nobody could tell it wasn’t the one actor the whole time. Twins directing twins definitely brought a unique twist to the project for all of us.

The lighting is extraordinary – how did you go about the night time shoot?

Very happy you liked the look of the lighting, but we didn’t actually pull a lamp out for a single shot in the film. We decided early on that this would be a true guerrilla shoot, and that meant cramming in as many setups as possible in the time we had. With the speed we were moving, lighting would have killed us. So because of this, the shoot really became about placement within each location – choosing spots that felt moody and cinematic with existing environmental lighting.

Downtown LA is a pretty bright place, even at 3am, and we were careful choosing areas that had different color temperatures and did interesting things to the street. One great example is the opening scene where the shoes are found. We basically just placed the actor under a street light where it looked silhouetted and backlit. We made the locations work for us in every way we could. When you move as fast as we were, gut decisions about what looks good are being made very quickly. Which makes it even cooler that people like what we made. The online reaction so far has been really positive, and beyond our expectations.

Were you ever tempted to pitch this idea to Adidas or Nike or another appropriate brand?

Ahhh, not really. As much as it looks like we did this to attract more sports work, advertising didn’t motivate the ideas for this project. The truth is we just wanted to mess around with a fun night shoot and some action photography. A logo on the end, whether approved or spec, would make it something completely different. There’d also be way more levels of approval involved, which would suddenly make the entire production impossible to complete. That said, we hope Adidas and Jeremy Scott see it and get a kick out of it.

LINKS

Rabbit

Credits

Production Company: Rabbit

Director: TWiN (Jonathan and Josh Baker)

DP: Gareth Jackson

Producer: Gillian Marr

Production Designer: Pete Zumba

CG Artist: Allan McKay

Editor: Ben Suenaga

Post Production: Eight VFX

Sound Design: Joseph Fraioli

Color: John Shea