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After Film School The Movie - Our Biggest Gamble

Some of us have quit our jobs and declined clients. Some of us haven't had proper sleep in a long time. For the past year, we gave in everything we've had financially, physically, and mentally for this passion project. We are extremely fortunate to have producers (Lana Otoya & Sophia Dagher) that were with us from the start, grateful for the 100+ Vancouver talents that believed in the script and the crew, and lucky to have a team to finish the film (shout out to Rob Phaneuf!). This is a Spoon has been part of the making of this movie in various roles. We have given everything we've got, and we are very excited to see how the world receives it at the Whister Film Festival world premiere. Here are some of our memories and thoughts behind the making of After Film School. Come join us this December 5th and 7th at Whistler Film Festival for our movie premiere, or you can watch it on starting Dec 5th for a limited time.

- Charles

Writer, Director & Editor,
After Film School

I had been working on this script for quite some time and I was tired of making excuses as to why I wasn't shooting feature films. Sure, we had no money, and our connections are limited, but we decided to drop everything to make the biggest film we were capable of making. The freedom of having no production companies or funders to please allowed us to really focus on making the film we wanted to make, which I feel gave the film a very personal feel.  

Our philosophy when making this film was to just get great filmmakers & friends together to work hard shooting. Most of the time people's job descriptions became very grey throughout the shoot. Our team was so multi talented that Charles, Nach and I each camera op'd a decent amount of the film, boom op'd a bunch and did what ever we needed to get the shots we had to get. It was a very freeing work environment where nobody felt like their toes were being stepped on. Shooting within a mockumentary genre also helped us with this process. All of us had so much experience shooting documentaries so we knew how to make the scenes feel very genuine and have it feel like the camera isn't predicting the action. Another factor that made this shoot so painless was the fact that everyone in the cast and crew were all close friends.

The film itself I couldn't be more proud of. It took us almost an entire year to finish it up but I am so happy with the final result. I really feel it is a film that people are going to be talking about, whether they like it or not. Our hopes now are to get a distribution deal that allows as many pair of eyes to see this film as possible.

Executive Producer & Director of Photography,
After Film School

Joel and I have worked on many projects together. Ever since our encounter on a student film set at Capilano University, we have been taking on projects together around the world. We trust each other and fill in each other's strengths and weaknesses. While we can't guarantee nor predict the outcome of any of our projects, one thing we do know is that we only want to create content that we are passionate about and believe in, despite the challenges we face.

Of course, not having a budget or a crew, I had everything going against me as a director of photography. On top of that, we only had about 10 shoot days to make 90-minute feature film. To make this work, Joel and I have decided to ditch the rules and guidelines we have learned about Hollywood filmmaking and do what has worked for us for all the documentaries and short films we have made with this two-man team: trust each other, no bullshit, and do whatever needed to be done to keep the wheels rolling. During production, besides cinematography, I have done audio, grip work, set dec, errands, and whatever you can think of that goes on during a production. Same goes to Joel, besides directing, he has also done many roles whenever they needed to be filled in. Because of the way we work, we were able to shoot 10-13 pages a day, which equals to 10-13 minutes of the movie. Working 12hrs+ production day is something both of us are strongly against, so our shoot days were all under 8-10hrs. Some days we were lucky enough to have one or two extra people to add to the crew (thank you, Nach). A lot of time, it's just us two running around sweating balls trying to make a movie.

This movie works within two main genres: documentary and musical. There were many changes to be made during the production from lighting to cameras. We used all the resources we own to make sure everything in the film is justified, from iPhone 5s, to Canon 5Diii, to RED Scarlet. It was hard for me to avoid the temptation to make sure every scene is properly lit and shoot on the best camera we have (Scarlet), but I had to do what makes sense in the story.

This was my first feature film. I learned a lot and I am very proud to be part of this ambitious project. I hope all of you enjoy and have a laugh when you see this in the theatre or online.

2nd Unit DP, After Film School

I can say without a doubt that working on After Film School has been a truly rewarding experience. I have worked on countless shorts and a few features, but After Film School was the first film where the cast and crew I was alongside were always putting in 110%. We had no budget, a lack of crew members, but this was the result of pure passion.

I have worked with Charles and Joel on various projects before taking this on, but this was our first feature film together. Charles and Joel make a good team; Joel directs with fluidity–he dreams big, knows exactly what he wants and does everything in his power to get there. Charles approaches the DP position with a stern, level-headed determination. It was great working with two creatives that complement each other so well.

I'm surprised we were able to pull off a feature film in the amount of time that we had without a real AD presence. Like Charles mentioned, we were pulling off 10 pages per day, and our days were pretty short. There were no egos on set. There was no "I'm not doing that because that's not my job." We each did whatever it took to get through the day. On a regular day of AFS, I would start off manning the 5D in a mockumentary scene, boom op the next shot, and hold a bounce up the shot after that. Then, Joel would tell me he needs some establishing shots, so I'd be off by myself for a half hour to build him a sequence ... only to come back and prep for a musical sequence on the RED. It was crazy, it was unconventional, sometimes shit hit the fan. But it was the most fun I've had on any production. 

The experience was almost surreal. We all dove in headfirst, committing ourselves to Joel and his script, not knowing where we would end up. And it could not have turned out any better. The AFS experience is something I'll miss, but something tells me this won't be my last film with the AFS family.

Charles Chen