The Red Watch
Responses by the team of Red Watch: Kyla (Writer, Lead Actor) David (Director, Cinematographer, and Editor) Cindy Wathen-Kennedy (Producer)
Making a short-short has challenges of its own; how was this process more of a challenge then past film projects that have had a longer running time?
On Red Watch, we had to move quickly and put the locations together almost overnight. Also, we didn’t have the budget to really do much pre-production, so a lot of it was kind of improv on the filming side. It was run-and-gun. On longer films, the budget allows me to do a lot more prep. There was very little on this one. So in the end, I wasn’t quite sure what I would get once I was in post—a bit nerve-wracking.
The use of spoken word in your film is unique, can you tell us what inspired this element in your film?
KYLA (Lead Actor, Writer):
I've always been a sucker for poetry, dating all the way back to my first Shakespeare play at 11-years-old. There is something vulnerable and compelling about a performer using heightened language to express a feeling that a camera can't catch. We've come to find that "cinematic spoken-word" is uncharted territory. There's little to no evidence of people applying poetry to a visual narrative in this way, which inspired us to define what that would look like for this particular story and ourselves. In the end, this monologue allowed us to let the words speak for themselves and the other cinematic elements to reinforce the reader's internal experience—the chaos of the elaborate story we tell ourselves when we're in love.
I joke that if we had to strip the whole film of its language and only use visuals it would be stock footage of volcanoes erupting, butterflies emerging from cocoons, towns flooding, and at-home bathtub births. Beautiful, terrifying, manic, and yet, natural.
David, you have worked in both commercial and independent film, can you tell us some elements about both sides of the industry from a filmmaker perspective?
Well, on commercial work there is simply a lot more money and a lot more cooks in the kitchen. There’s very little room for improvisations, though we always try to get that in. You’re more or less stuck to the storyboards the agency and client have created. Whereas with indie films, there’s more experimentation and less money. So, it’s a yin-and-yang thing. Sometimes, it’s cool to just follow the boards, and at other times it’s much funnier to see where a scene, actor, location, or even the weather takes you on a film. The interesting thing is that on both they share one thing in common, the lack of time. Always. Time is your greatest adversary on either type of project.
It’s interesting your protagonist is a woman, can you tell us about the development of the film with the writer & it’s subject matter?
Red Watch is the breed of work that just poured out of me. It came quick and effortless and the final draft is only a stone’s throw away from the first. I wrote it when I was young and dumb, about my first serious relationship, and facing the fear of knowing that it wouldn't last forever. He actually had a red watch that he LOVED, and the ironic thing is that I made fun of him for it—called it dumb (but charming). Sometime later he stopped wearing it, lost it, and completely forgot about it, and that struck me as really heartbreaking—how quickly we can cherish something and then forget about it. So this poem was my way of coping with that impermanence.
The use of color in the film is unique, tell us about these choices?
I’m really into fashion, particularly dark or high-end street fashion and color theory. Ask my wife (and Red Watch Producer). Everything in our house has some sort of color flowing through. Everything is connected, but not in a direct way. It drives me MAD, I can’t sleep if the color blue of a cushion in the living room is a shade off. So I transfer this manic energy into some of my films, for better or for worse. Of course, the color RED was a big marker and symbolic color in the short, but so was the gray blue and black Kyla wears, it represents this Hurt under the anger that’s feeding the rage. The color shades all melt together and work, they don’t fight each other. Though in theory, they should. We really thought about color a lot on this short.
I also added lots of filters, LUTS, to the final image. I actually had the film a lot more saturated and edgy looking at one time, but I brought it down in the end. I struggled with this idea to make the image “clean vs. grungy.” I like grungy, textile-looking films with a grainy super 8mm vibe, but that’s not the current style in today’s cinematography, so I tried to balance the look between something that looked like a student film and something that was “slick/clean.” I’m not sure if I succeeded, but that’s what I went with. I wasn’t sure if people would get what I was going for on an artistic level, or if the film just looked bad because I didn’t know what I was doing. Ugh. So, in the end I went halfway.