An 18-year-old boy navigates his way through life in a shelter after the passing of his grandmother. He feels alone and anonymous in a seemingly connected world. But when his circumstances change for the better, he finds himself adapting to a new home, new friends and looking forward to a future that he hopes will last.
Clay Hassler interview
How did you begin your path as a filmmaker?
I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker. I studied English literature and theater in undergrad in hopes of moving onto an MFA program after college. I was fortunate to be admitted to the College of Motion Picture Arts at FSU where I learned the craft of filmmaking under many industry greats, including writer/director Reb Braddock, writer/director Victor Nunez, and Rexford Metz, ASC, among others.
When I was there from 2008 to 2010, the technology was changing very rapidly. RED had just come onto the scene, so the school was progressive in adapting to the new wave of digital capture while at the same time teaching us how to shoot and expose for film. I would say it was a very classical film education. Of course, as a film student, you get swept up in the program and you have all of these great resources available to you — cameras, lights, grip trucks, sound stages, etc… they had everything.
What blew my mind resulted from a special screening by a little-known filmmaker at the time, Barry Jenkins. Barry, also an FSU grad, had just finished his festival tour with his debut feature, Medicine For Melancholy, and FSU decided to host a screening for all the students. Barry had made his movie with just a handful of his friends (all FSU grads) on location in and around San Fransisco on a DV cam with no money. It was beautiful, and I knew right then when I graduated I wanted to try to accomplish something similar.
Today, I’m continuing to work towards new feature scripts and projects. I lead a production company, Wet Paint, which creates content for brands and agencies, including Walmart, Jeep, and Time, Inc., as well as many nonprofits, including Project Lead The Way and District C. I also work as a director and director of photography on commercials and branded documentaries.
Tell us about your film – how did it come about?
HOMELESS is based on a true story about a dear friend of mine. We met this young man through our church, and as we got to know one another, he shared that he had been at a homeless shelter for several months. He was only 18 at the time, so our hearts were breaking for him. We became close friends, and after awhile, he asked us (my wife and producer, Tif, and I) if we could help him write a memoir about his time in the shelter. We said we’d love to make a film instead, and he jumped onboard immediately.
My writing partner and I developed out the story, wrote the script, and with little to no resources, together with a group of friends, shot the film over the course of two weeks, including a few subsequent weekends, using the actual shelter where the real Gosh (pronounce Josh) stayed as our primary shooting location. Filming took place over the winter months, which lent to the harsh and cold reality in which the film is set. The Canon 5D Mark III had just landed on the market, and I must admit I was incredibly skeptical about DSLRs, but I was very impressed with the sensor of the camera and the image it produced.
What I didn’t expect was how freeing it would be to shoot with such a compact camera. Handheld is literally handheld, so the motion you can achieve with the weight and size of a DSLR opens up many opportunities. We shot this film as if we were shooting a documentary, so the spontaneous, in-the-moment camera movements became integral to the telling of this story. We cast all non-actors out of newspaper ads and Craigslist postings and assembled a team of incredibly talented individuals. After much time in post, we started our festival run in 2015, beginning with the Florida Film Festival (one of the best!) and ending in 2016 at the Ale Kino International Film Festival in Poznan, Poland.
How did you find out about FilmConvert?
I found out about Film Convert through some blogs I followed. We didn’t have any money to do professional color rendering, so after doing a trial run of the program, I was convinced the software could deliver the level of imagery we were hoping to achieve. And it did! One of the great highlights of being on the festival circuit is seeing your film screen at some incredible venues. We played at the Enzian in Orlando, the TCL Chinese Theatres in Los Angeles, Upstate Films in Woodstock, and a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem, NC, among others. From smaller, intimate screens to massive three-story movie houses, the picture looked amazing across the board.
What made you choose FilmConvert for your project?
It’s been awhile, but I believe we shot this film at or just under exposure on the 5DIII, with our ISO at 320 and sometimes even 160 (I know!) — crazy. It just made sense. I didn’t like the over-polished look of a DSLR image, so it was important to mute and desaturate the picture, which is where FilmConvert came in. I think filters and LUTs can sometimes put barriers between the film and the audience, whereas we wanted viewers to be up close with the characters and in the picture. As I mentioned, we shot HOMELESS as if it were a documentary, so it was important to make the audience feel like they are right there in the middle of those harsh environments. Film Convert helped us achieve that look and feel.
We started cutting HOMELESS in 2013 and I was still kicking and screaming about the release of Final Cut X, so we edited the whole picture in FCP7. The settings we used were: KD 5207 Vis3, 35mm Full Frame, Film Color and Curve at 100%, Grain at 20%, and Saturation at 100%.
Today I use both Final Cut X and Premiere Pro for projects, and FilmConvert works great in both.