Yesterday, Mark Nickelsburg sent me an email – and I get plenty of these every day – asking me to have a look at his film “Harry Grows Up” – and many times, I watch the first bits of things that get sent in and I can see that they're good, but nothing jumps out at me… and I get distracted and never finish watching… this time, within seconds, I immediately put everything else away and watched the entire short without any distractions. It is that good!
Mark sent along a press release and some links to the BTS, but I wanted to know more about why he chose to shoot on DSLRs and you'll find his planet5D exclusive response below as well.
“Harry Grows Up”
New York is a tough place to find love, especially for an eighteen-month-old who lives by himself. HARRY GROWS UP is an offbeat romantic comedy for adults, starring babies, which won the Audience Award at LA Comedy Shorts, Best of New York at the NY International ShortsFest, and was featured in Variety and the New York Times. Film Threat gave the film five stars, saying “It gets more impressive as it rolls along…the cinematography is incredible…pure filmmaking talent and skill put this one over the top.”
Visual effects place toddlers in the middle of New York City during this heartfelt and funny story about the universal search for love and meaning.
Directed by Mark Nickelsburg, co-written by Nickelsburg & Cindy Chupack (Sex in the City, Modern Family) narration by Josh Hamilton (Alive, Kicking & Screaming, The Bourne Identity, Away We Go), music by Jeremy Turner performed by genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider with Anthony McGill (principal clarinet, Metropolitan Opera).
Behind the Scenes
Now that you've seen the movie (and loved it!), I'll bet you want to see the BTS – again, we're trying an experiment… would you please share via twitter, facebook, or google+
Shooting the film
Here's the planet5D exclusive info from Mark Nickelsburg:
There's about 30 shots accomplished using a Blackbird stabilizer. I needed to be able to track smoothly with the toddlers as they ran around, and also do smooth POV shots without laying down dolly track. The Blackbird was great for a DSLR – light and easy to balance.
The most important thing about using a HDSLR for “Harry” was that I could go out and shoot anytime on my own without scheduling a crew. It would have been impossible otherwise to do that many shots in 20 locations with toddlers. Kids that small nap twice a day and they were usually good for about 90 minutes. So it was a marathon… literally one, two, or if you're lucky four shots in a day.
I waited for cloudy days so that the light would always match from shot to shot, and then we'd go out and get whatever we could before my son lost interest. Some days we might not get anything. It sounds tedious but we had a blast. It became a father-son bonding experience, and I think that shows in the film as well.
I'm not a professional DP but had to shoot most of it myself, so planet5D was an excellent resource. For example, the DIY tips were great when the shots I wanted required equipment I couldn't afford, but was too stubborn to give up the shot.
One example – for the dolly-zoom in the waterfront scene, I needed to dolly, pull focus and zoom at the same time. But since it was just me and a friend doing everything, I needed a solution where one person could zoom and rack focus while the other one pushed the dolly. So I got rid of the follow focus and instead used two $8 jar openers, a trick I saw on planet5D. Both attached to the barrel of the lens, one to zoom and one to focus, and I lined them up so together so that they could work as one lever simultaneously. The one drawback was that the dolly distance was dictated by the focus points when it's usually the other way around, but for less than $20, it's a small compromise
I'm not the only one who thinks this is an amazing film! Look at this list of awards!
New York Filmmaker Takes a Family Approach, Lands World Premiere at the New York International Shortsfest
Prominent New York filmmaker Mark Nickelsburg introduces new short film with his toddler son and lands a coveted premiere at the New York International Shortsfest. After a the success of his award-winning short, Expiration, Mark Nickelsburg could have made any film he desired. But he didn't want lose time with his first child, Lucas, then eighteen months old. His solution was to make a film starring his son as time allowed with one camera and no crew. What followed was an unlikely and personal journey of determination resulting in major Hollywood talent joining in and an invitation to premiere at the inaugural New York International Shortsfest.
The film, “Harry Grows Up,” is a heartwarming and funny story about a toddler who lives alone in Manhattan and deals with the departure of a beloved babysitter. A gift to Nickelsburg's son, the film began humbly. Working alone with no schedule, Nickelsburg could be flexible to work and bond with his new child. “Filmmakers usually split time between work and family and I got to have both. We were always careful to keep this as a fun activity for him and us. If we didn't get a shot before he lost interest, no problem, we'd pack up and do it another day.” For some scenes, Nickelsburg and son went back to a location as many as nine times to get a shot. “It was a great lesson in patience that taught me more about being a good parent than being a good director.” To make the film even more personal, they shot in their own neighborhood, New York's East Village, Nickelsburg's home for almost 15 years.
Nickelsburg saw the initial footage and realized the film had potential to be unique and relatable. “We filmed my wife with Lucas and then I painted her out to appear that he was walking alone. Without an adult he looked utterly small and vulnerable. It hit me emotionally as an uncanny visual representation of how loneliness in a city like New York can be so surreal.” He immediately rewrote the script as a romantic comedy for adults, starring babies.
[ Via Mark Nickelsburg ]
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)