I remember first meeting Raymond Wood and Randall Blizzard during one of the earliest Atlanta 48 Hour Film Project competitions. As part of the Street Souljas, they were just a couple of young kids, but it was apparent that they had talent even in those early days.
CUT TO: About 12 years later, and Wood and Blizzard have been working heavily in Atlanta's film and video industry. First in the commercial and industrial scene with their production company, RCR Video Marketing Group, and now with the upcoming release of their new indie feature film, The Canadoo, as part of Darkwood Pictures.
The horror film, about a reality show gone wrong, will be released on September 1 on iTunes. We were lucky enough to grab a bit of director Raymond Wood's time to answer some questions...
CinemATL: Tell us a little bit about The Canadoo...
Wood: In the film, a group of young reality star wannabe's travel out to a remote location under the assumption that they will be featured on a new survival reality show, but when they start disappearing one by one, they discover that they have actually been lured out to become bait for a killer creature from an ancient legend.
I was drawn to the story because I love the idea of taking pop culture and turning it on its head; reality TV has really molded a subculture in our society, especially in today’s youth.
CinemATL: When will your film be released and how can people see it?
Wood: The film is being released on iTunes on September 1st, then we hope to expand to more platforms later this year, hopefully just in time for Halloween. You can watch it on your Apple TV, computer, iPad, iPhone, or any other iTunes enabled device.
CinemATL: I understand there was a long post-production process to this film. Can you go into a little detail on the post-production process?
Wood: Post-production for the film took over a year to complete, and the reason for that is largely because, having a very small budget, we took an approach to shooting it that was a little unconventional. In order to stay on schedule, we could only shoot 3-4 takes of each setup in the film, which, especially for a perfectionist like me, is extremely challenging.
Because I knew we would be handling all of post-production ourselves, I chose to focus the majority of our efforts in production on getting the right performances from the actors. The more technical aspects of shooting, such as the camera movement, the timing, and the framing, were given less care because these were things I knew I could take the time to perfect myself in post, without the stressful ticking clock of our mere thirteen day shooting schedule breathing down my neck.
This required us to shoot the film on a 5K format but frame our shots within a 4K window. Having that extra real estate around our desired picture gave us the freedom to make extensive adjustments and corrections to our shots without losing a single pixel of quality.
It was a choice that I think ultimately played out just as I had hoped, and after all of the work that we put into fine tuning all of those elements in post, I’m very happy with the way the film turned out visually. It’s such an incredible feeling when you’re able to accomplish something exactly the way you pictured it in your head, and there were many moments like that in this film.
CinemATL: Tell us a bit about your film background. How long have you been wanting to make films?
Wood: I’ve essentially known that I wanted to be a director for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I’d constantly run around with my dad’s VHS camera and shoot little home movies, and at some point, that love and passion for filmmaking just became the obvious choice for my career path. I went to film school for a year or so, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I could learn more in two days on set than I did in two full semesters in a classroom, so I dropped out and just started working on any production that I could, in any capacity that I could.
Eventually, I started working pretty steadily as an editor, and around 2012, my long-time business partner Randall Blizzard and I started a production company called RCR Video Marketing Group and began working a lot in the commercial/industrial world. Through that company, we wound up doing some branding work for our friend Dustin Lebleu and his company Lecheek Nutrition, and a few years later, the three of us formed Darkwood Pictures and began producing independent films together.
CinemATL: Who are your influences?
Wood: That’s always a hard question for me to answer because I draw inspiration from so many things in life. Music, for instance, drives a lot of what I do creatively. So does art. In the filmmaking realm, I’ve definitely drawn influence from a lot of the people that you can probably guess - Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Terrence Malick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, and the visual styles of cinematographers like Conrad Hall and Gordon Willis. I definitely love to dabble in darkness, both visually and thematically. For some reason, that’s where I tend to feel the most comfortable.
CinemATL: Why did you decide to shoot this film and what are your future plans for it?
Wood: Being given opportunity to direct this film was one of those rare moments when you can tangibly see your hard work pay off. I directed a film back in 2009 that never saw the light of day, and the experience really grounded me. It pushed me to really get my hands dirty and put everything I had into learning my craft. I sort of retreated to making short films and other short form content for the next six years, constantly pushing myself both creatively and vocationally until, luckily, Dustin felt confident enough to entrust me with his baby - the idea that would soon become The Canadoo - and we were off to the races.
Right now we are really invested in this idea of self-distribution. Collectively, we had produced a few films before and had seen how when you add layer upon layer of sales agents and distributors, it became almost impossible to make back your money in a reasonable amount of time. With the wild west playground that has become social media marketing, the three of us really loved the idea of building a grassroots campaign for the film and using the tools at our disposal to release the film ourselves, on our terms. I’m honestly very excited to see how it plays out.
CinemATL: Where did you shoot and when?
Wood: We shot in and around the Atlanta area in the fall of 2015.
CinemATL: In your opinion, why should our readers watch your film?
Wood: Specifically for your readers, I would love for them to watch the film because I think, in many ways, it’s a testament to what you can create when you stop making excuses, roll up your sleeves, and just put in the work. That doesn’t just mean working hard - that means working smart too. Really find the best ways use the resources you have at your disposal without setting your expectations too high or trying to do something that you don’t have the time or the money to pull off.
I honestly believe the production value in this film is leagues above what we actually had in the bank, so to me, this film is my way of showing the rest of the independent film community the kind of film you can make when you are really willing to give it your all.
CinemATL: Anything else unique or cool about your film that you'd like the audience to know?
Wood: As you may gather from the trailer, The Canadoo itself is a mythical beast that inhabits the woods where these kids are dropped off. Finding out what we wanted the creature to look like was a long process. We had the mask he would wear, and we were married to that, so we tried to design a body that would be an extension of that. Initially, our idea was to shoot the creature - our big reveal shot at the end - and then in post, digitally augment his body with a texture to match the mask.
Then we tried what must have been hundreds of different elements, different configurations of scars and texture, and we never could land on something that really felt real, that looked the level of “horrifying” that I was going for. Ultimately, we decided to go back and reshoot that last shot and sculpt the creature practically. Our makeup department head on the film, Brittany Thacker, had some really solid ideas of how to accomplish that, so we brought in our actor, who spent almost eight hours in makeup, and recreated that shot in a studio on a green screen. We pulled it into the After Effects, layered the original footage with the new shot and new background plate, and I was like, this is it. This is the Canadoo.
Filmmaking is a constant learning experience, and sometimes you have to learn things like that the hard way. Sometimes you have to exhaust every option before you land on the right one, but you can’t be discouraged. You have to have a vision and maintain that vision and be willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
You can see more of Raymond Wood's work at his website: http://www.rwatl.com/
If you are a local indie filmmaker and would like your work highlighted on CinemATL.com, please tweet us @CinemATL