shrtfilm.com interviews Chris A. Neal

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Today we share with you part 18 in the ‘shrtfilm.com interviews’ series. Shrtfilm interviews Chris A. Neal.

What is it that appeals to you about the short film?
The biggest appeal for me is honestly the turnaround time. I can put together a short film and go from concept to completion in a couple months. It allows me to put out more projects – which lets me fail more and learn faster. This has been crazy helpful, especially in the early years. Another appeal is creating / telling emotion in a short period of time. I truly believe if I can master that – it’s a special skill.


If you are a filmmaker and want to participate in an interview for shrtfilm.com also, please contact info@shrtfilm.com. We like to hear from you!


What qualities do you believe make a good short film?
I think it’s a harmony of story and tone. Tone is a bit easier to hit in a short because you have such limited time. You really can hit a ‘feeling’ or ’emotion’ with visuals / sounds / etc. Story is a bit tougher, but I think it’s key. I’ve been pushing myself to tell a more narrative arc in my shorts. Every now and then though – I’ll see a short with a great story / idea, but little to no tone. I believe you have to hit both.

To what extent is making short films a stepping stone to making feature films?
Like I talked about earlier, I think shorts let you try things on a smaller scale. That means less fear in being ‘different’ or ‘odd.’ More experimentation has led to growth for me. It’s let me try a lot of different things and I’ve slowly started finding my niche.

What is the most challenging aspect of making short films?
For myself it’s shipping the film. Just launching it. I could spend weeks tweaking sound, color, and edits. But there comes a point where I have to just release the thing. Most of my shorter projects are passion films (so there isn’t some producer breathing down my neck). But setting deadlines is helpful – it’s started helping me. Also telling people on twitter or email, ‘hey I’m releasing film in 2 months’ has really lit fires under my butt to finish projects over the past few years.

Do you have a preference to a certain genre?
I’m a fan of dramatic / tense genres. I’ve been told my projects have a ‘documentary’ feel, even if they’re narrative.

What do you like most when making a short film – writing the script – directing – camera?
In the past it’s been camera work. Planning shots, lighting, etc. But recently, I’ve started to really enjoy writing / directing. With WEIGHT, I spent a lot of time writing out the project. Getting a simple script / story structure together. And it really helped during production and in the editing process. Directing has also been extremely fun. I’ve learned to start pushing talent and I’ve learned a lot of ‘what not to do.’
I used to tell actors to ‘act natural’ – finally I learned that it’s just lazy directing. Give them a direction in some way, ‘imagine you just got an F on a test.’ Something, anything for them to grasp onto.

Do you work with a script – where do you get the inspiration from?
A lot of times I’ll have a general idea and wing it. But on this last project, WEIGHT, I spent a week writing out a rough script. I based my structure on the Save the Cat structure. So I notecarded the whole project out and really tried to create tension in each scene. I also took a look at some wrestling movies that have been released over the years.

Do you leave room for improvisation?
Yes, absolutely. Usually I’m a little to liberal with the improv. But I try and hit my ‘must have shots’ then I jump into improv different takes with my talent.

Did you receive funding for your project?
Not for WEIGHT. It was barebones, I bought that mirror we cracked at the end for like $3 at goodwill. We shot 90% of it at my personal house.

How did you go about assembling a film crew and actors?
All the talent in the film were friends / non-actors. The main guy is my roommate. He’s never acted a day in his life. But he wrestled a ton – so the role was pretty simple for him.

What did you use to edit the film and what camera did you use?
I edited the project in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I used a GH4 and a Sigma 30mm. Here’s a page on my site that lists what I think is the best camera gear.

Could you name one or two filmmakers that you consider great influences?
Darren Aronofsky for his intensity and Nolan for his intelligence and riding this border of making Blockbusters without selling out.

What are you working on next? Do you already have a new project in mind?
Doing some more freelance work then beginning to write my next project. I’ve been brainstorming an idea about a young girl that runs away from home to become a model.

What advice would you give to other short filmmakers?
Keep making films. Keep putting them out. The more you do, the more you’ll learn.

Thank you Chris!

Watch “WEIGHT” here: https://shrtfilm.com/weight/


If you are a filmmaker and want to participate in an interview for shrtfilm.com also, please contact info@shrtfilm.com. We like to hear from you!


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