Today I released online my 2014 short film, “From Wichita With Love.” The film was 1 of 31 submissions to the 2014 CreativeRush Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race. It received “Honorable Mention” at the Top 10 Showcase and was 1 of 6 films selected to the Tallgrass Film Festival where it was the audience favorite in its showcase. The piece was shot entirely on black and white 8mm film, processed & developed by hand, then edited for post in under 21 hours.
The 24 hour film race started at 6:30 AM on Saturday June, 21st when teams were given 3 required elements for their films:
- CHARACTER: Short-haired Cat Rancher
- ACTION: Walk Like An Egyptian
- LOCATION: 1 of 3 Wichita, KS Downtown Bridges
As well, each team was given 2 required elements for their film specifically. Ours were:
- GENRE: Spy Film
- PROP: 1970 Red Chevelle
The Chevelle was provided to us by title sponsor Blacktop Nationals. The film had to incorporate all of these five elements, be under 6 minutes, and was due 24 hours later at 7 AM the following morning.
I chose to take a major risk by shooting black and white film, not video. My process involved meeting with my team to discuss our genre and requirements and how that would work schedule-wise with shooting/processing film. I then wrote the monologue VO for the piece and edited the copy with my team. Next I translated the monologue into a screenplay and storyboard, we did a read-through, and went to our first location: The 1st Street Bridge.
I shot on an antique Sankyo ES-44XL Super 8 camera using Tri-X Reversal Black and White film. We shot 100 feet of film at 18 fps and wrapped principal shooting around 4 PM. Next I used a light-tight room to transfer the film by hand into a double 35mm still photography canister (minus the spools) and developed the rolls one at a time using a D-76 1:1 solution at 68 degrees. Instead of bleaching and reversing the film, I fixed (also 1:1) and stopped it (distilled water) to develop to negative. This decision was made to cut down on developing time due to the race, reduce possibilities for errors in the development process, and reduce the amount of stress placed on the actual film itself since it was being handled by hand and developed in a small canister. Following developing and rinsing we strung the film out to dry from the floorboards of the basement where I used a squeegie to remove excess water and a common blow dryer to dry the sprockets. The film was spooled and then transferred to HDV via telecine using a variable speed ELMO Super 8 projector and a Cannon Vixia HV30 capturing at 24 fps. The footage was then edited (still as a negative) to an assembly cut and then a working cut before being digitally processed to a positive when exporting to H.264 per the festival submission requirements. This means, we didn’t know what the final film looked like till it had been submitted!
The results are beautiful (in my opinion) consisting of powder blue emulsion errors, scratches, and grain that can’t be achieved through video filters. There are no digital filters, the film was left untouched to let it and all its imperfections stand alone. Post production wrapped at 3:55 AM; from Director’s meeting to digitized submission on flash drive in under 21 hours.
Ryan W. Gates (Director/DP/Executive Producer/Writer/Film Developer/Editor)
Wade Davis (Producer)
Kate Van Steenhuyse (Producer/Film Developer)
Jim Siebert (Lighting/Film Developer)
Conan Fugit (Film Technical Adviser/Telecine Operator)
Jonathan Dennill (Post Production Intern)
Chris DeVries (The Rancher)
Ryan W. Gates (Voice of The Rancher)
Cindy Hand (Kathy)
Wade Davis (Standard Government Issue Cat)
David Thompson (El Gato Gordo)
Melissa Gerlach (New Girlfriend)
Special Thanks to Nick Brown, Moler’s Camera, Tamara Winfrey, Myra DeGrandmont, Tallgrass Film Festival, CreativeRUSH, Blacktop Nationals, CreativeRHINO, and The City of Wichita.