The Binding is a new feature film from writer/director Gus Krieger that was recently released on Blu-ray, and iTunes. It’s a scary and thought-provoking film that also happens to be a great example of DV Rebel feature filmmaking. I helped my buddy Gus out with the Visual Effects and color grading.
From Web Videos to 5k Feature
Gus is an accomplished writer, producer, director, playwright, and probably astronaut (unconfirmed), and has a wonderful group of collaborators with whom he’s made various web videos and short films. I highlighted one of these, a horror short called M is for Marmalade, in a previous post. Gus and company refined their tools and techniques with each video project, and eventually cinematographer Jeff Moriarty traded up his Canon 7D rig for a RED Epic, just in time for The Binding. The result is a film that looks and feels every bit a high-end production, but its roots are firmly in those micro-budget web shorts.
There’s a great lesson here, which is to keep making films with whatever camera you have. Let your filmmaking draw you to a camera upgrade, rather than thinking that any one super-special camera will suddenly uncork all those films you’ve been meaning to make. The skills that Krieger, Moriarty, and the others honed with their Handycams and DSLRs translated perfectly to the RED Epic kit.
Gus Got Tired of Asking Permission
I’ll keep this short and sweet. Gus has been pitching and shopping projects around for years. He’s written produced films and had many paid writing gigs. Despite all this, he, like all of us, was having trouble getting his favorite scripts bought or made. So, in his own words, “I said, ‘Eff it; I’ll just write a screenplay to produce myself.’”
He shopped The Binding around to a few production companies, but rather than ask them to make his movie for him, he informed them that he would be shooting the movie in a few months, and invited them to be involved if they liked. In other words, he was the moving train, rather than the schlub standing on the platform with all his baggage.
No one offered to finance The Binding for Gus. But he did meet up with a like-minded producer who suggested a way they could self-finance principal photography. And that’s how Gus went from ”we love it but it’s not for us” to location scouting, in about a month.
Production Value Do You Speak It
The central tenet of The DV Rebel’s Guide is that production value is not necessarily tied to budget. Yes, The Binding looks slicker than M in part due to the use of a more expensive camera. But what really makes this modestly-budgeted feature feel like a slick Hollywood movie are three things:
- Great production audio
- No attempts to put anything on the screen that the budget wouldn’t comfortably accommodate
- Great performances by accomplished actors
That list is in inverse order of importance, if you ask me. The acting in The Binding is terrific, and it’s a great example of Gus following the DV Rebel guidelines to the letter. Before he wrote a single word of his screenplay, he made — you guessed it...
The Rodriguez List
In The Guide I borrowed this concept from Robert Rodriguez, who famously made a list of every production-value enhancing person, car, location, wardrobe item, and prop he had access to before writing El Mariachi. Gus did the same, and at the top of his list was a small cohort of professional actors. How do you get to be friends with professional actors? Spend the ten years prior to your feature debut making shorts, putting on plays, and even acting yourself.
Also on Gus’s Rodriguez List was that he knew a guy who could do some visual effects.
The Binding uses visual effects judiciously, but to great effect. I don’t want to show you too much because I hate spoilers, but Gus gave me permission to show this shot in which the character of Bram is seen uncontrollably banging his head against a wall. Gus wanted this moment to be viscerally violent and disturbing, so his crew placed a thick pad on the wall so that actor Josh Heisler could safely hit it with great force.