Rob Cunning makes the most of visual experiments in his first film, "Haze"
Rob Cunning is the writer and co-producer of "Haze," a short experimental film he made here in Burlington with Joseph Palumbo and Eric Wright. We're thrilled to give "Haze" its television premiere on BTV HD 216 on August 30th at 10pm. Rob kindly answered some questions we had about his first production.
1. Haze is your first film -- what was your motivation for creating this story at this time?
Film has always been my main passion... I started screenwriting in college for fun but after a while I needed to see the words take life. My first screenplay was a Haze feature length film and my dream has always been to get it produced. When choosing an idea for a short, I decided to adapt Haze into a no-budget short film that I could make with a few friends. I owe a lot to my co-producers, Eric Wright and Joseph Palumbo, their contributions throughout the 3+ year production helped make my dream a reality. The other main motivation was that I always wanted to try acting, so I tried to write a main character that I believed I could effectively portray.
2. What influences inspired your film?
The idea of seeing a film through the eyes of the person hallucinating always interested me. Adding this fictional substance into a plot would open up the realm of possibilities for the audience, basically anything goes.
My main influence for the film was David Lynch. His films taught me that I didn't have to color within the lines and I could experiment with traditional film narrative. I actually had a chance to meet him at a Q & A three days before the first day of filming Haze. The timing was amazing, definitely a surreal moment for me to get advice from the person that inspired me to dive into this project.
3. The film score by Christopher Wilcox was created just for the film. How did you collaborate with the composer?
Chris is a friend of mine from college. We always joked about him writing a score for me when I made a film, so I called him out on it when the time actually came. He lives in Oregon now, so, thanks to the modern digital world, we collaborated 100% by email. I sent him scenes as they were edited so that he could get an idea for the tone of the movie. I also sent him a lot of songs and albums that I listened to while editing Haze. "Kid A" by Radiohead was probably the most common album I listened to while editing. Once editing was done, I sent Chris music notes that broke down what type of music I could see being played during each scene. Ultimately, I told him that these notes were not set in stone and I gave him 100% creative control over the score. The final product was amazing, what he created was absolutely incredible.
4. Any technical mishaps or lessons learned that you can share?
Probably due to beginners luck, the 2+ years of shoots went surprisingly smooth. Even though the script had countless crazy animations and practical effects, only one time did an effect not pan out the way I envisioned it. One thing I can say: I don't plan on doing any stop motion anytime soon. We spent countless hours moving objects an inch at a time and it was by far the most time consuming part of the production.
We only had one camera, so we shot scenes multiple times from different angles to try to make the film seem more advanced than it was. In the future it would definitely be a time saver using multiple cameras. Since we only had 2 people on our "crew", one camera was plenty this time around. My other main piece of advice, is to make sure to have a highly detailed shotlist. During a long day of shooting with a tiny crew, each person has so many responsibilities that it is very easy to forget specific shots.
5. Your film was produced in Burlington, why is it important to you that it be seen locally on community channels like BTV HD?
I have lived in Burlington for over 10 years now and I always have thought that it would be a great setting for films. The city has its own unique personality, and it could become a character in and of itself within a story. I would love others to see this film and be inspired to create their own films set here. BTV HD is a great opportunity for anyone that wants to share their work locally and a chance for those filmmakers to inspire others.
6. What are your plans now that the film is complete?
We have our live premiere at Arts Riot on August 29th at 8pm. The film is entered in about a dozen festivals, so I'm hoping it will be seen by others outside of Vermont. I plan on networking more locally and starting to work towards my next goal of producing a feature length independent film set in Burlington.