Jul 21, 2017 47

A Short Film With A Long History

The conception of the Lotto film began in the fall of 2006 while flying coast to coast on a commercial airliner. Sitting by the window and looking down 30,000 feet while listening to one of my favorite soundtracks of all time; The Village written by M. Night Shyamalan and scored by James Newton Howard. The soundtrack went on to win an Oscar Award and was so moving to me, that as I gazed out the window of the billowing clouds below, the combination of soulful strings, dramatic lighting and the image of the costume used as "The Village Creature" formed a very compelling idea of the Grim Reaper flying thru the clouds looking for his next victim. By the time I had landed almost the entire film was already put to paper however reality quickly catches up to you once the landing wheels make contact with the runway and the paper, along with the idea, was soon placed within a book and almost forgotten.

A year later, I was hired by Ron Diamond of ACME Film Works in Los Angeles to follow and photograph the five Oscar animation short nominees on a tour of the major animation production studios in California (ILM, Skywalker Sound, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Sony, Walt Disney Animation Studios, etc.,) to which became one of those life changing - career focusing moments. In between studio tours, I was warmly welcomed by the nominees and over lunches, dinners and tours, I learned more about the process of animation production and the sheer will and determination it takes to complete any sort of animated project. Two films that year stood out to me; "Even Pigeons To to Heaven" by French Filmmaker Samuel Tourneux in which a somewhat flummoxed Grim Reaper pays a short visit to explain his tardiness in collecting Mr. Moulin; who died in a fall involving a red sock. The second animated film was "Peter and the Wolf" by Suzie Templeton which was based on the story of Peter and the Wolf and is set to the music Sergei Prokofiev written in 1936. In common with other animated shorts such as The Snowman, the film has no vocals but relies on music and action to tell the story (the inspirational concept for The Lotto).

With the stunning visuals created by both these films combined with the encouragement of their gifted creators, The Lotto was born and I reached out to storyboard artist Neil Morrissey in the United Kingdom to containerize the Grim Reaper and the look of the film. He did an amazing job and soon we had a working animatic set to the temp music of the actual Village soundtrack. Next up; Animator Jesse Toves stepped in to create the 3D model of the Grim Reaper flying and landing (via alpha channel) and sky background plates. He did an amazing job and soon, plans were underway to film with make up artist Cat Elrod and actors Alonzo Cudd and Enoch Asmuth. The rest took nearly ten years to complete after the untimely death of grim reaper actor Mark Hurlimann and the move from California to the metro Washington DC area. Asecond attempt was made to salvage the filmed elements shot in Los Angeles, Burbank and Santa Clarita but the stunning advances in DSLR cameras from 2008 to 2017 were staggering so it was decided to re shoot 90% of the film and recast it. The original scenes such as the opening and close ups of the Lotto ticket and Lotto billboard are all that remain of the 2008 production and the second cast and crew of Jeffrey Reigel, Suzzane Patterson, Greg Schwartz and Unie Nystrom stepped in to recapture the original intent of the film using a Sony A7r II and Sony A7sII to create the 4k video files.   Both these cameras were exemplary (one for day, the other for tricky low light imagery) and worked way beyond our highest expectations.