The Creative Spark: Tom Durham, Indie Filmmaker
Illustration by John Hersey

Video: Studio tour

Male 1: So, this is my movie studio here, my house, and we did a lot of production here, as well as post, of course, this is a production vehicle, jam packed this with gear whenever we did do location shooting, whatever. Also our little minivan that takes kids around. And it also takes you know, lights and cameras around. We built part of the time machine right here in the garage.

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Watch the Online Video Course The Creative Spark: Tom Durham, Indie Filmmaker
18m 27s Appropriate for all Dec 13, 2013

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Tom Durham didn't start out naïve or inexperienced. As the head of a media department responsible for creating commercial advertisements and other videos, he had legitimate production skills. He was also ready and willing to devote all his waking time and money to a side project. But into his fifth year of making his first feature-length movie, 95ers, Tom realized he might be in over his head. This sci-fi epic required a full crew, not to mention elaborate sets, miniatures, and intense visual effects and compositing work. Just when it seemed like he might never be able to release a complete version of the movie, he turned to Kickstarter. There he found an unexpected outpouring of financial support and an entirely new audience for his film. Listen to Tom tell his story and see exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from 95ers in this installment of The Creative Spark.

Visit 95ers.com and tomdurham.com to learn more about 95ers and Tom's latest projects.

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Tom Durham

Studio tour

Male 1: So, this is my movie studio here, my house, and we did a lot of production here, as well as post, of course, this is a production vehicle, jam packed this with gear whenever we did do location shooting, whatever. Also our little minivan that takes kids around. And it also takes you know, lights and cameras around. We built part of the time machine right here in the garage. My father in law built our time machine walkway right here.

That one we did have to a location. Shoot on that, on a bigger green screen. One of the trickiest locations of course that we have to deal with was I95. And of course, we're 2000 miles away from I95, but that's part of the story, and it's an awesome part of the story, so we're going to make it I95 no matter where we are. So this is Indie film, we make it happen. So, so we have this I95 sign, that's somewhat portable. And so basically we just throw it at the back of the minivan. And we find a lonely stretch of road with no mountains, because obviously in Utah it's I-15, and there's mountains all over the place.

So, throw up the sign and all of a sudden we're on the East Coast. That's movie magic baby. So this is sound stage one. This is my my living room here. And so we did a lot of pickups here, insert shots here, and some extra significant green screen. The kitchen became a hospital room and hospitals are very tricky to shoot in, very expensive to shoot in so we said well, it's for about half the money, we can just rent some medical equipment, and it worked out great. Male 2: Well, hello there. Female 1: Where am I? Male 2: Bethesda Medical. Male 1: There is a significant amount of VO, and kind of voice effects, and one of the characters in the film is the computer that is talking to the time navigators.

Kind of British computer voice. Female 2: Attention. Calculating timeline. Exit Male 1: And those VOs were recorded right here. In our mini sound studio here. So we have a little pro tools setup. And when we actually record, we have shirts and clothes all over the place. And they work as really good sound dampeners, or the room gets pretty dead. We couldn't afford any actual, you know, of the sound foam or whatever, so clothes works in a pinch! This is my post production lair. The main story of the 95ers universe that James and I had come up with is a $100 million film, which we didn't know at the time, because I was like a first year film student, and we had no idea what we were doing.

This was part of the DV revolution, when everyone was all excited about Because new Indie juice got pumped into the, into the industry and and we had all of these incredible ideas I just wanted to, we had this, kind of our final outline that we came up with. Ultimately, we realized we didn't know what we were doing, and so, and there was no way we could raise this kind of money, so we kind of shoved the project, but it kept haunting me and haunting me and haunting me, and I, I knew I wanted to do it. And so so ultimately I got together with a bunch of crazy buddies and we tried to raise money for a very expensive film.

And we spent tons of time and resources and raised $0 and 0 cents. So that's when my wife and I In a moment of madness said, we're going to go ahead and make a movie. I actually do not recommend going into debt to make your film. It was something we did which was a big mistake, but that's what we did. So we mortgage the house, got a bunch of our film buddies together and started cooking up concept art. Really developing, I started on the screenplay, and I got all my buddies excited about this awesome side bar story we had going.

Kip Rasmussen, a good, very good buddy of mine and wonderful sci-fi fantasy artist, cooked up this great piece of, time machine concept art. And this is a time machine like you have never seen. This ain't your granddaddy's time machine, as one of the, one of the characters says. But basically our time machine is more like a creature, more like this big robotic spider. And it has roots in quantum theory and the particle accelerator, and there's actually some good science behind it For, for the crazy sci-fi guys out there. Clark did a lot of our, of our costuming and little mini props and stuff.

We'd search online for other stuff that we needed and just you know, buy them as cheap as, as we could possibly get them. My father in law made our bloody arm that we. We had to stab one of the scenes. And this is the mighty 7D. Which, which was, you know, cutting edge technology. When, when, actually, I first got it, it was cheaper than renting cameras to just buy this thing. And so we did it. And I shot miniatures on this, green screen on this. Live action footage, you name it, on the 7D. and, And, of course, it all came together here on the, the ancient, Intel Mac right here.

I ended up spending thousands of hours. In this chair. Working on, on the visual effects for the film. I didn't do all the visual effects. I had you know, there's certain areas that I had a, hired other people to help out with. One of the first visual effects shot in the film is this kind of moon scene. Where we have this snowy night. And these are layers. The animated stuff is layers of traffic code. Particular actually, we've got. You know, kind of three clouds-looking things. We've got different layers of snow. And then we composited in this blue screen shot actually, where I've got three D motion tracking points here so that, so that, as my camera follows this, this path through the snow it's also going to be moving along with the actual people.

So here we go through. And as the camera bumps and moves, you can see it kind of bumping and moving with with the background there. So that's all completely CG background. Female 3: And have to go on. He needs to insert you before they find the tipping point. Do you understand? Male 3: Better than anyone. Male 1: By the time I did my first screening of the film, which was the cast and crew, kind of theatrical party screening, I had enough visual effects done that a pretty reputable sales agent decided to pick up the film and so so I scrambled, as soon as I signed my agreement with him, I Scramble like crazy to finish individual effects shots of the film.

And we had some, some, some pretty, fairly quick success at film markets, getting it into some foreign markets. You know, the people in Asia seem to love Sci Fi. I don't, I don't know what the deal is, but we got into Japan. Here's the Japan DVD release. They changed the name to 95 Time. But they actually have been a pretty awesome customer. So, anyway, 95 Time in Japan. And then I don't know what it's called, and I think this is Thai. I don't know what that is in Thai, but that's a movie in Thai. It's totally awesome to actually get physical samples of the movie.

It's on a shelf on the other side of planet earth, and people are paying money for this thing! And finally, it's going to be available in the US. And so 14 years of learning and struggling. It is very cool to have the physical copy in your hand.

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