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a word from the director

[Clay Kronke] A Word from Clay Kronke
Director of "BRAINS AND STEEL"

Hello again :)

What a wonderful feeling, to finish another film project :) As some of you may already know, I had for a long time planned to do a follow-up to Final Training, using the same cast and having a somewhat similar style. I was being very ambitious, and had a lot of things planned. I was to do what I didn't, or couldn't do with the first one. I was to fix the problems I had with Final Training - the bad sound in the dialogue tracks, the under-rehearsed fight scenes. There was to be more than one set piece, more than three characters, new types of effects (I was, at the time, beginning my foray into the world of 3D animation)...and I was going to make a smart, dry comedy.

But alas, it wasn't to be.

Time was running short, and scheduling was turning out to be our biggest enemy. I was rushing around doing a million odd other things, not the least of which was getting prepared for my own graduation, and the final project in my degree - an exhibition of a body my art work, to be held the last four weeks of the term.

About the time that I was finishing things up for school - and very close to the time when I realized I wouldn't be able to get the film done - an opportunity for another film came up.

Hermes, a good friend of mine from Brazil (and fellow fanfilm guru) was going to be in the states for a good while, and had planned to be present for my graduation. A window had opened up ­ a space of less than two weeks - between the Fall Commencement and the day I had to move out of my apartment (since I was an on-campus resident). Due to the Christmas break, building hours were sketchy at best, so we wouldn't be able to shoot indoors. But if we planned things right, and had everything ready when he got here (he would come down just before Graduation and stay until Christmas Eve - a total of nine days), we would be able to shoot a short film, and have all the raw footage collected before he was to go back. Since we'd be busy until the ceremony on Friday, and we would be driving all day Saturday a week later, we would only have seven days to put something together. A very short time, considering the three months of off-and-on prep time we had for Final Training.

In the two weeks leading up to his stay here, Hermes and I got together online almost nightly (since, even here in the States, he was still 6 hours away), discussing story ideas, locations, premises, and costumes. We came to a decision on the script (we decided an homage to a sequence in one of our favorite movies would be the easiest to pull off), came up with the final list of the things we would need, and prepared ourselves to hit the ground running when he got here...

And run we did.

Timing was essential, and even though we couldn't do anything about the weather (it was the beginning of the winter season down here, so things were starting to get rather unpredictable and occasionally quite messy), we were hoping for the best.
We got it.

The first day he was here, we went out and scouted our location. The University is on an Island in a small bay that's nestled between Corpus Christi proper and the Naval Air Station, and the back of the island seemed well suited for our purposes. Based on what kind of terrain we found we had to deal with, we were able to start planning the individual shots so we'd know more or less what we'd need to do once we started.

After graduation on Friday, we started on the costumes and props. Two lightsabers had to be dealt with, as well as creating new costume pieces we didn't already have as part of our wardrobe (Hermes brought his Jedi outfit, but due to certain story elements, it would need to be altered quite a bit). We spent the weekend finishing up the props and costumes, all the while rehearsing dialogue and getting used to the timing. By Sunday evening, we were ready to shoot.

Monday came and greeted us with luck - both kinds.

The week preceeding had been bleary, overcast, and usually wet and messy, but Monday blessed us with a perfectly clear and sunny sky, which took the bite out of the otherwise cold weather. And it looked like it would stick around for a few days...

But on the other end of it, Ann Noel, my wonderful fiancee and third member of our crew, was slowly succumbing to the flu. We had to go out and shoot on Monday without her help to begin with (it was her last day of work), but by the end of the day, it had hit her hard, and we were forced to reevaluate our strategy.

Monday night was spent taking care of her, and Tuesday was even worse. I was afraid to leave her alone, but she insisted we still go out and shoot anyway, since the weather had held and we had another day of sun, and who knew how long that would last.

So we did it in chunks. We had to do the dialogue exchanges first, since those shots we could get away with only showing one of us at a time (someone had to be behind the camera because the wind had picked up considerably). We tried to get as much done as possible, since it was forecasted to rain on Wednesday, which would cut a day from our schedule. So we went out early, shot for an hour, then came back and fed Ann soup and replenished her hot tea supply. Back again to the back of the island to shoot, then back home again to check up on Ann.

But we needed her, so I was determined to fight it. No sudden sickness was going to ruin my carefully laid out shooting plans (with only three days left to shoot). God love her, she remained a great sport throughout the ordeal. I kept the soup, tea and vitamins coming, and as she slept, Hermes and I went over the next day's lines.

In a further stroke of good luck, the rain that was supposed to hit on Wednesday was delayed somehow, and wouldn't arrive until Saturday, giving us an additional clear day. By Wednesday, thankfully, Ann had most of her strength back, and by noon she was feeling good enough to come out and help us with the last part of our shoot that day. We had beaten the flu down in only one day.

Which was good, because we had run out of dialogue.
Wednesday afternoon we started shooting the fight, which began the marathon of shots we would need to get done before the bad weather returned. On Thursday (still sunny! Woo hoo!), we set out as early as possible.

It would be the longest day of the week.
It had finally started showing signs of the approaching weather. Off to the northeast, low clouds were beginning to appear. Determined, we started busting through shot after shot. All day we spent out on the back of that island, breaking only occasionally to recharge my camera's battery (we didnąt even eat - in the rush to get things done, we totally forgot). From sunup to sundown, we cranked out a third of the shots for the film, coming down to the final hour of full sunlight. We broke one last time to recharge the battery - but the outlet we had used at a concrete observation platform earlier no longer had power. There was no time to go back home and recharge, and the next day would no doubt be overcast and rainy.

We were tired and frustrated, but I was getting my second wind. Resolved and inspired, we started back up again, and with less than five minutes left on the battery, two minutes of space left on our last tape, and in swiftly waning sunlight, we filmed the last five shots of the film.

What a great day :)
The filming was complete. With weird tan lines, blisters, and sand in all the wrong places, we went out to eat and celebrated (we didn't even bother to change out of our costumes, we were so famished).

We had our obstacles, and we had our limitations, and time was not on our side, but with four perfect weather days in an otherwise wet and dreary month, we managed to pull off a fairly fun little film. I can't thank Hermes enough for his boundless enthusiasm and optimism (matched only by my own). He was easy to work with, and I couldn't have asked for a better person to play off of. And of course I can't thank Ann enough for enduring sickness and some amount of impatience to be there with us. She was an insurmountable aid, she encouraged us when we were down, suggested things when we were stuck, and the film wouldnąt have happened without her. I loved having her involved, we loved having her around for the shoot, and I love her to death for it :)

Together, we pulled off what others might not have been able to under similar circumstances. It was a great experience, we all three had a blast, and I can't wait to do it again...

Clay Kronke

Director, Brains and Steel

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