my duluth

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Here is the short film, which you can also watch on the contest page:

Here is the Behind Scenes recorded by Abe Diaz:


The idea that your hometown can become synonymous with your first relationship is something I had always been interested in trying to make a short film about. A place can become painted in strong and painful memories. I didn’t want to just make another break up movie, I wanted to try and make it something people could connect to in a more nuanced way.

With only five minutes to tell a story, I had to find a way to concisely communicate the ideas I wanted. Instead of trying to tell a traditional three act narrative, I decided that in a way, this would be the final act in a larger story. You are only seeing the ending. This allowed me to really focus and get into the themes without trying to do too much at once.

While it is a breakup story, it is romanticized. The characters move and speak in a way that isn’t very real, although hopefully feels real in the universe of the movie. Their actions are meant to represent what they are feeling. They are delaying the actual break up. I wanted the first half to feel almost like a fantasy, where these two characters thought they could easily deal with this. But once it is actually time to go their separate ways, I wanted it to feel more real. No more romanticizing.


The very first shot in the movie is an unmotivated 180 degree pan. (Unmotivated means the camera isn’t following any action. It moves on its own.) Usually you are suppose to avoid unmotivated camera movement because it can distract the audience or remind them they are watching a movie. It is almost unnatural. This was the entire point. I used the camera to establish that this is a fantasy these two characters are playing out. They want it to be like a movie.

Throughout the first half most of the shots are moving, there are lens flares, and there is music playing. It is meant to feel like a romantic movie. This was meant to contrast the second half when there is no music. The camera is now still. The heightened reality has now become grounded.


Because I had storyboarded every shot and really planned out what I wanted we were able to move fast. Even when we did 15 takes of one shot it could still be considered fast because of how much time the one shot was covering. I think I was able to get some unique moving shots because of how much practice I got with my wheelchair/dolly on “Cult.”

This is one of the best times that I’ve had shooting anything. I love shooting outside in the fresh air on a warm and sunny day. The weather had been terrible all week and luckily the clouds opened up on the day we scheduled to shoot.

I was working with someone who had never recorded sound before so I taught him how to use the equipment. This made for a great moment in the behind the scenes that I think Rode will appreciate. My favorite behind the scenes videos when I was in high school were the ones that taught me new things about filmmaking, so hopefully some people will watch this and learn a little more about the process.



Editing the first half was fairly simple because of the moving master shots. It was really just choosing the best ones and connecting them. The last scene was difficult because I was trying to balance out how long to hold certain shots. Silence is a tricky thing because it can be extremely impactful but if you overdo it you run the risk of being cheesy or even boring.

This was the first short film I did my own sound design on. It was very time consuming but extremely educational. Walter Murch has some great videos on youtube about sound theory that really helped me out. I was staying up late every night reading about how to do technical things to try and get everything to sound right. I really wanted to learn how to do this so I can continue to do as many jobs as possible on my projects as needed.

The thing about sound design is that it is the single most important aspect for the quality of your film. The picture can be great, and acting can be legendary, but if it sounds terrible people won’t even make it far enough to care. Sound design sells the professional feel of a movie. There are several indie films that are awful looking but very watchable because of the professional sound design that was done to them. It almost seems backwards, but it is very true: good sound makes your movie watchable.

Many of the lines needed to be recorded again because of the noisy locations in which they were shot. This is called ADR. We used a Rode NTG3 microphone which is super high quality, but there is only so much you can do when you shoot right next to a highway with extremely wide shots that make it difficult to get close to the dialogue. However, ADR is very standard practice. Some movies have dialogue that is exclusively ADR.

We actually recorded the dialogue outside to help the actors recreate their performances for the microphone and to help me match the environmental sound. This time there was no camera to worry about so I was able to get the microphone as close as I needed to get good levels. I also recorded the sound of each of the locations we shot at so I could control the exact volume of the background noise behind the dialogue. It was exciting to create the sound of the world. The NTG3 and Rode Blimp were extremely good at getting crisp dialogue and clean environmental sounds.


You would  never know it but 90% of the sound in most feature films are recorded after the actual filming of the movie. This is to ensure you have total control of the volume and clarity of each individual sound. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: sound is the single most important aspect for the quality of your film.


While this was made for a contest, it is something I have been meaning to make for a while. I’m really glad this contest happened because it gave me a chance to rally some troops to make something I think is meaningful. If we end up winning the equipment that will open the door for a feature film and countless other opportunities. Regardless, I’m just really happy I finally got to make this. I hope you enjoy it!


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