8 AM. Sunny. An industrial area, all gravel and metal and concrete. Old structures featuring years of decay and street artwork.
This is where our team found themselves on the day we shot Mantle.
Mantle is Flow Motion Media’s first short film. It’s been our goal to get a short passion project made, something narrative, engaging, and cinematic. For our first foray into making shorts, we went for a big concept.
It’s a fantasy/sci fi tale that shows us a brief but monumental encounter between two wandering characters. Their world is a lot like ours today, just add a few hundred years, a bombardment of disasters and freak occurrences, and the scattering of all cultures. The world is a mix and match smorgasbord of rotting architecture and dark futuristic wonders.
It was with great excitement and determination that we approached this film, and it’s been a fun process of looking at influences and what shapes the sort of story we want to tell. The first point of inspiration came from an animated show that has become a huge nostalgic favorite for many kids who’re now Twenty-something, Samurai Jack. It was a show so jam packed full of references and homages to so many films, it was impossible to catch them all as a kid. We wanted a world in a similar vein as the one Jack fights through to get back to his home in the past. There are things you might spot in the scene that you can’t explain, but the clues of this world are strewn about, and within those clues there are plenty of adventures to be seen.
As for live action, the execution of samurai films by Akira Kurosawa, and the Spaghetti Westerns that went on to reframe those stories in a Wild West setting were invaluable inspirations. His use of vast wide shots where the smallest movement becomes compelling; using movement as a method for drawing your eye and pulling you into the story. Sometimes it’s just exciting to see someone standing or walking in a particular shot. It’s not about action, it’s about composition and movement. The idea for Mantle is that this is a world where both versions of this Samurai story could happen, the Western and Eastern presence are both there, free to play out and interact.
To see the characters and the world we dreamt up become real in front of the camera was so rewarding, and the editing process is underway. It’s time to piece together a short film and see what we can really do. Effects, color, sound…. Filmmaking is more than a passion for us. It’s also pretty damn fun.
And Those Kurosawa films I mentioned? As it so happens, Chicago’s own Music Box Theater found time to play the 1961film Yojimbo, shortly after we shot our short, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go and watch it. It was a great cap to a great weekend full of film, inspiration, and exercising of technique and style when it comes to filmmaking. I got to observe a classic samurai tale on 35mm film and see how a film from decades ago can live on and influence stories for generations. It’s clear that these motifs and styles are in the public conscience. They’ve lasted and formed new tales made by up and comers and dreamers. And pretty soon, you’ll be watching ours.