Director's Film Competes In Critics' Contest
A 24-year-old Niles film student has made a short film with a Niles child actor, and it will compete in the Chicago Film Critics Association contest Feb. 8. But it's only happening because of his quick thinking when a key actor bailed at the last minute.
A producer who didn't show up. A key actor who bailed just before filming was to start. A shoot that got rained out, and a bar manager who didn't want them to film in his pub.
Student filmmaker Steve Yasell, 24, of Niles, faced all those glitches when trying to make a film for his Directing 3 course at Columbia College in Chicago, from which he hopes to graduate this year.
He persevered, and his film "The Man" will screen during a Chicago Film Critics Association Emerging Filmmakers competition Feb. 8 at Muvico Theater in Rosemont.
Yasell, who attended St. John Brebeuf School in Niles and Maine East High School in Park Ridge, was one of eight selected from more than 20 students at Columbia to direct a short film. He wrote nine drafts of the script, from October 2011 to March 2012, for the film which tells the story of a divorced dad trying to save his son.
As the son of divorced parents, Yasell said it touches a nerve for him personally, since his own father has not been present much in his life.
Close to his mother and his community, Yasell turned to a former teacher at St. John Brebeuf, Sandie Lindquist Beierwaltes, when an actor who was slated to play the child in the film bailed a week before filming was to start. Beierwaltes' son Michael ended up playing the role.
For the most part, however, Yasell had to operate under the school's policy of making films the way they are made in Los Angeles. That required him to work with others such as a film editor, for example, even though he wanted to edit the film himself. The procedure prepares students to work in conditions that simulate real industry conditions.
Tickets must be purchased in advance for the Feb. 8 screening at the Muvico Theater for the Chicago Film Critics Association Emerging Filmmakers Scholarship Fund competition. However, ticket purchase information has not yet been announced. Check the CFCA website or contact Yasell for more information.
Patch sat down with Yasell and asked him a few questions.
Patch: When did you shoot the film?
Yasell: March 22-28, 2012.
What were the locations?
One was in Uptown Des Plaines at the Sugar Bowl (restaurant). People would stop by to see what we were doing, then sit down and have lunch.
We also filmed in an alley downtown and a bar nearby here—the owner gave me permission to film, but the manager I think was having a bad day--he was not working with us. For example, I’d ask him to turn the music down and he’d turn it up.
So we used my grandpa’s basement bar in Niles, but it worked out. It had everything I needed for the shoot.
What was your shooting schedule?
We called time for crew at 7 am and we wrapped at 7-7:30 so we had about a 12-hour shoot. We had four days of filming, but one day got cancelled because we got up to Waukegan and there were storms around the house (we were going to shoot). We rescheduled.
How did you come up with the idea for the story?
I wanted to make a film noir because I wanted to use one point lighting with really harsh shadows. There are other scenes with traditional 3 point lighting.
I had a diner scene, a bar scene and an alley scene.
What else about the story?
I wanted to make a character that was once successful and got dragged down to a point where he almost surrendered evertyhig he had. I wanted him to have a kid. And his wife cheated on him with his best friend, and that’s when the story begins.
Was the theme taken from real life, your ideas or movies?
I wanted to write a story about a dad that would be there for their son. My dad has not been there, he left my mom and me early on. He’s had the choice to be there for me but he hasn’t. I think if I were in a situation where I needed help from my dad, this is what I would want my dad to do. To make sure his son is safe.
Tell me about the leadup to when you started filming.
I had a child actor who I had met with her mother, they were ready to film, but about a week before shooting they said they had a conflict, the couldn’t make it. I asked Sandie if she could help me out. I met him (her son Michael) on the day of shooting. But it worked out, his facial characteristics matched the two characters that played the father and mother. He has big blue eyes and so do they.
The first scene is a staring contest; so it was focused on the eyes.
Did anything else notable happen during filming?
My producer didn’t show up. He had gone to Texas to visit family and didn’t come back. He kept calling and saying 'I'm coming back tomorrow,' but he didn't.
What happened after shooting wrapped?
I gave the footage to the (film) editor, he did a fairly good job, but he missed a lot of key reaction moments, but I sat down with him later to fix those little bugs.
From the beginning I had wanted to edit it myself but I had to follow the course guidelines.
I went in and color-corrected all the footage, to give it a crisp look.
I really have faith this will get noticed and have a lasting impression.
What about your teacher?
Each time I went through a draft he was telling me my main character didn’t have any actions and that he was boring. I’m used to doing 3 or 4 drafts and he kept pushing me to do more. I like to work, I want to have my film be the best possible film it can be. But then we came to the bottleneck of two weeks before the shoot, and I had to start doing the pre-production work I should have been doing for months—like scouting locations.
The head of the film department after the semester would give each of us his critique. He really liked how I made the film feel very real. It didn’t feel forced; there was natural flowing dialogue and beautically shot, and a lot of story packed into 10 minutes.
From the beginning I had the idea I wanted to do a feature length film, this was a feature length script packed into 10 minutes.