Former COC students, Koren Young and Daniel Levitch, recently experienced success with SWINE, a post-apocalyptic short film trilogy.
Both filmmakers shared some interesting details about SWINE and helpful advice about all of the aspects that are involved when it comes to creating a low-budget movie.
Ashley Anderson: Both of you are COC alumni, tell me about your experiences as students?
Koren Young: I started attending College of the Canyons in 1998 when RTVF [or the film department] became an official program. At the time, it was brand new, state-of-the-art, VCR, deck-to-deck editing machine… it was really exciting. [We] met some really good friends. Daniel [Levitch] went here a couple of years later, as did about every member of our crew.
AA: How did you become involved in SWINE?
Daniel Levitch: I wrote a [short] WWII film back when I was attending COC in 2001. [I] put that on the shelf [because we] didn’t have a budget for a WWII film. My friend Brad had moved back to Southern California and wanted to make [a] film; he always liked the WWII film, so we took that [and] converted it to be a post-apocalyptic adventure instead. I should also mention I was the director.
KY: I was one of the producers of the film. Being a small independent film, we are all kind of producers at the same time. My job involved helping out finding locations, casting, props [and] managing post production. Afterwards, submitting to film festivals, doing publicity, getting reviews and trying to solicit funding for the next chapter and the next chapter.
AA: What does SWINE mean and where did you get that title?
DL: The last film we worked on ended up being called the “Damsel in Disguise” and that was title 5 or 6 in production. I remember thinking whatever title I pick; I am sticking with it through the entire production this time. I always liked the title SWINE because it could be either singular—someone can be a swine, or it can be plural—there could be many swine. I like that you wouldn’t necessarily know who the good guys or the bad guys were because you wouldn’t know how many there were. We kept it ambiguous.
AA: What about Vox Populi?
DL: That is the name of the rebel faction. It’s actually Latin for “voice of the people.” While you have this suppressed people who can’t really do much they have kind of taken upon themselves to be their voice, to speak out for them.
AA: Where was SWINE filmed?
KY: We have shot all over Southern California, from Santa Clarita to Oxnard to Barstow and beyond. We like to keep things kind of local because we are all still here in Santa Clarita. We find a lot of locations that we don’t know who owns them—we usually don’t deal with permits or insurance. We kind of go, we shoot, we leave.
AA: How long have you been working on SWINE?
DL: I dusted off the script in March of 2009 [and] we filmed it in April [later that year]. Then we started the next two chapters in 2010.
KY: All in all, it’s been about 3 years in production.
DL: We are all working professionals so it would be great if this was our day job. We would be able to bust these out a lot faster, but unfortunately we have to work on it on weekends. I just got married last year so that made things a little more difficult because your time ends up getting split up and it’s one of those things where it should take a month of solid work becomes 9 months of scattered work unfortunately.
AA: Tell me about the music and sound design.
KY: Our composer was a guy by the name of Ashley Witt, and he is a brilliant composer. He can play any instrument you throw at him: piano, guitar [and] drums. He did the entire trilogy and is going to keep working with us for the duration of the feature. The sound design was done by Ryan Young. He started out doing films for COC and did a couple of Cal Arts grad school animation projects, then from there started doing Craigslist Ads, responding to those. One thing lead to another and he got episodics and features and in the last year alone he has worked on “Dark Knight Rises”, “Super 8”, he did “Community”, “Paranormal Activity.” Last week [he] won his second consecutive Golden Reel Award for the Motion Picture Sound Editors [for “Super 8”].
AA: What about the weapons? Whose ideas were those and how did you design them?
DL: My little brother, Ari Levitch, did most of the weapons and prop design for SWINE. [When] most people go to Home Depot, they look for their hardware needs, he looks for what is going to look cool as a post-apocalytic weapon [as well as] new things that he can piece together to look like a canon or a grenade.
AA: Or a laser super punch?
KY: Yes exactly, Wallace’s weapon is made of sprinkler parts, metal pipes [and] insinkerators. Most of our weapons are made out of PVC pipe. Nixon’s gun is just a PVC pipe with a squirt gun handle. All of the colonial weapons are made out of big [copier and ink cartridges]. Ary is so good at making them look like real weapons, he add[s] a little bit of metallic paint so it looks like real metal.
DL: You really have to age the weapons; you have to make all the weapons look like they have gone through hell. Nothing can look nice, shiny and new so you really have to go through each individual piece and paint it to make it look older.
AA: If you were to give advice to an aspiring filmmaker in regards to financing, what would you tell them?
KY: We have been very lucky to be able to shoot these films for just a few thousand dollars a piece and most of that goes to feeding the cast and crew. No [one] has been paid up to this point. As far as financing, just take up a collection like we did. Maybe you don’t have enough money to go and shoot what is in your script, but modify it, don’t just give up. Find a way to make it happen, that’s what we always have done. There are also some online platforms—we used IndieGoGo [for crowd funding]. We had 45 to 50 different people sign up to donate money. Some of the people we knew, some we haven’t even met before that liked the project and wanted to be a part of it.
DL: You should talk about Eddie!
KY: Mr. Eddie Gilbert in Atlanta, Georgia, loved our project so much he gave us a thousand dollars to make the next chapter. When you put your campaign online, you offer different perks, for $10 you get a 5×7 autographed publicity shot, for $25 you get an autographed DVD with a digital copy and an 8×10 publicity shot, for $75, $150, [etc.]. He actually signed up to get a speaking role in the film, and so we are trying to find which role would be best for him.
DL: You do what you have to do to get the film made ultimately.
AA: What was an interesting moment you experienced during production?
DL: When you start making a film, you have an idea [and] a vision on how it is going to turn out. We said whatever happens we will adapt to it; we’ll make it work. One of the most interesting things that [happened] on the set of SWINE was that a lot of characters were at one point male became female. I had to rewrite the script because a woman did a much better job of it than who was originally slated. We ended up taking up a whole new identity, and it became a female-centric story.
AA: What’s next for SWINE?
KY: We’re still trying to solicit funds for the upcoming chapter that we are nicknaming “Swine Alpha” and we’re looking to shoot it in the last two weekends of May. We’re going to do another round of casting followed by another round of crowd funding. Now that we have gotten some pretty heavy publicity, we will try to solicit more funds to shoot “Swine Omega” our last chapter. In the end, we are going to have our very first feature length production.
AA: Where can I find out more information on SWINE?
KY: SWINE is all over the internet and you can find us by doing a Google search for “SWINE Movie” or you can go to Swinemovie.com, facebook.com/swinemovie, you can tweet to us @swinemovie, and if we like what you say we will tweet back. You can check us out on YouTube.com/swinemovie and you can watch all of our films online for free.