Logline: Three men (a sheriff, a head hunter and a bandit) come to a small town to start a new life. They get to know each other, but soon discover that there’s a reward for each of them.
Pre-production: May 2016 — August 2016
Production: August 2016
Post-production: September 2016 — February 2017
Release Date: March 2017
Equipment: Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera
“Wish we could turn back time to the good old days” – the quote which describes the movie the best.
If you’ve never seen us running in front of the camera dressed as cowboys and wearing fake mustaches, don’t be surprised. We’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s totally normal.
The story of this movie is ridiculously simple. My childhood friend texted me: “Are we going to shoot anything this summer?” (we were shooting a movie every year). I wasn’t actually going to do anything, but I said “why not” and after a few days came up with an idea. After “Murphy’s Law” I wanted to make something short and simple. And without sound. So, I decided to go with a soundtrack on the background and voice over.
So, our goals were:
1. Shoot a western in Russia, which actually is not even close to the Wild West, and make it look real.
2. Shoot it in a way that even without voice over you could understand the story.
3. Upgrade our skills to the advanced level considering costumes, make-up and props.
We literally went to the “good old days”, to the times when we were the actors in our own movie, just three of us, playing men. And it was basically the last chance to shoot something like this together. My sister Eva (who was also playing Klint) was drawing posters, I was drawing a storyboard.
To build the saloon doors we bought some kind of little window doors and put them together with some wooden pieces to make it look like saloon doors. For the saloon sign, we stole plain piece of wood, painted it with glue (we found some diy on youtube which told that if after that you paint it and dry with a fan, some scratches will appear).
Our grandfather helped us to build the bar shelves (only because he could use it after we finished), and we started to create the bar itself. Back in Moscow I posted a call for help looking for some empty bottles. My Spanish teacher had lots of them, and I’m really grateful that she gave it all to us.
As we didn’t want to use any labels in our movie, we cleaned all the bottles and started drawing the labels ourselves, which took about four days.
In the end out set looked like this:
The first shot should have been a dolly shot, when we follow a guy inside the saloon. We had a “dolly” on which you could place a tripod, and some tubes instead of rails. But it worked so it didn’t matter. The first problem we faced was that the tripod legs were too wide to go through the doorway. Then my sister suggested to tape the dolly in order to make it more narrow.
So, we did it, tho it took almost 10 takes to make it smooth. As someone should have pushed the camera, one person (Eva) should have been at the bar, and one guy (Tanya) should have been coming inside, there is no bartender at the bar. He appears in the next shot, like he was doing something behind the bar. That was the only option we had.
On this set we had all the scenes in the saloon (surprise), including the saloon scenes from the flashback stories.
When we introduce a new character, I wanted to use a technique which I saw somewhere: dolly zoom in. So the character stays at one spot, but the space around him changes like we go back in time. I tried like 20 times to do it with only one character and then realized that we can’t do it for three reasons:
1. My lens is too stiff to zoom in smoothly.
2. Pushing the dolly away and zooming at the same time was too much to handle for one person.
3. Our rails were too short, and the room was small, so the space changing was too small to notice.
So, we went for just dolly zoom.
When we came back to Moscow we had a few scenes to shoot in the canyon and town. We started looking for a canyon. We came to the place which was called Дзержинские карьеры, which is basically made artificially when they dig a big hole, and water comes in, and there was a small island, where you could go on a wooden platform.
The island was really polluted, some completely naked people were wandering among some watermelon peels and chicken drumsticks, some teenagers shouting Russian cursing words and listening to the echo. We looked at each other and drove away.
Then we drove to another distant place, which actually reminded Wild West in a way. Then we spent a lot of time on shooting the shots with a robbery, because my sister should have been up the hill, and I should have been passing by in the “canyon”. So after setting the frame, I ran down, my father pressed record, and we started. After I had to run up to check the shot, if it was bad I was running again.
In one shot, where my character was shot, I had to look up and pretend I was dying, but when I was looking up, I saw their faces, and my sister saying some comments on my acting, so I laughed in every shot.
On the same day we drove to a cinema town outside of Moscow, which was built for some movie about Medieval Europe, but we decided we could make it look like Wild West. We were checking it before, so I knew all the camera shots in advance. We paid for the filming and the entrance fee, which was ridiculous because the town was in such a bad condition, the trees and grass grew through the buildings and all this stuff.
My sister also found a way how to make gallows work (I don’t think any tourists tried this before us), so we got a really nice shot of her legs falling down (actually she was just sitting above and moving her legs).
I started editing and color grading when I came to study to Tallinn University. It took a long time, I still don’t know how to color grade, so I was just trying to do something, then looking at the result, and re-editing the movie.
My course mate, John, and my friend Mauricio helped me with the voice over, which we recorded at our university sound booth.
Meanwhile my friends from Moscow were writing soundtrack for it, which turned out to be a complicated task. One of them came to Tallinn in February and showed me what they’ve been working on all this time. I watched it along with the video and liked it.
To sum it up, I think we accomplished what we wanted, and we made a completely unique movie in terms of props, costumes, and music. And when I watch the movie with which we started, and compare them to this one, I see progress in everything. As once I said “We’ll forever be a trio making cowboy movies”, and there was some truth in these words, because we started with a western and we finished with a western.