Common Sense (August 2015)

Story: The United States military is fighting a war on terrorism in Egypt. Within this conflict a search team led by Edward Washington is looking for John Nihlman, a fellow soldier who has supposedly defected to the enemy. The film picks up in an interrogation room, after Edward’s team had been captured.

Background: 2015 was the last year I could be a part of the Mainstage Film Program before aging out so I really wanted to do something meaningful. The musical the year before was definitely one of my biggest productions up to the point, but while I wanted to do something smaller, I also wanted to make sure that the whole was significantly tighter to make up for the smaller scope of things. Throughout the last couple years or so, my father and I would talk about a lot of historical events and philosophical ideals behind why things are the way they are, and a through a certain analogy of a screw my father once told me, this film was born.

Pre-Production: Writing the script was rather difficult as it was the first time I really tackled dialogue extensively. Most of my films either have no dialogue or don’t try too hard with it. The screenplay went through a few drafts before a final version was completed. Originally, Edward’s character says almost nothing, but that version lacked enough conflict to go through the film with. After that, I casted the characters and created a shot list for the film. The original list of shots was around 52, but this was lowered during production due to time and some shots not really being necessary or being visually unpleasant. The cast rehearsed extensively so that the lines were memorized and performed in a very clear way during production. The interrogation room was planned out in terms of preparing props, and planning how the lighting equipment would be used.

Production: The first hour and a half of the six hour shoot day was spent having the actors rehearse and setting up the interrogation room. When everything was ready to go, filming began and with the extensive amount of preparation, everything went rather smoothly. As mentioned, some shots were abandoned for lack of time and being not very good/necessary.

Post-Production: While the film was rather simple, a lot of care was put into editing it to make sure everything was just right. The footage was initially a very white color, but was color graded to give it a more orange tone to fit the Middle Eastern setting as well as the dark tone of the interrogation at hand. Dialogue was edited to give it a rounder and clearer sound while also filtering out any background noise. Ambiance was added alongside several sound effects for stories that the character John tells Edward. All sound effects were used under the Creative Commons 0 license or recorded just for this film. Most sound effects involved in these recollection of past events were altered to give it a more muffled and unclear sound to it.

Premiere: The film was shown at the 2015 Mainstage Film Premiere where it won Best Cinematography as well as being nominated for Best Director and Best Editing.

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