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Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard continues to partner with Canon’s Project Imagination to produce short films created by writers and directors, and inspired by the public. This year marks the third iteration of Project Imagination, and the first one which called for the public to submit trailers instead of photographs. This year’s Project Imagination short film was written and directed by Kat Candler ("Hellion"), and was inspired by the winning trailer "Tainted Water" created by Mark Mukherjee. The short film, "The Rusted," stars "The Hunger Games" actors Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone; it is a psychological thriller about a brother and sister who begin to renovate their childhood home until strange things start to happen and they are forced to face their past memories.
Kat Candler, Ron Howard, Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone joined Canon for the premiere of "The Rusted" last week, followed by a panel discussion. Here are a few highlights from before and during the panel.
The importance of collaborative writing.
"Josh and his mom were producers on it…and so as soon as I started writing I would come up […] I came up with 3 different treatments that were based on this one trailer," Kat Candler told Indiewire before the panel. "And we honed in on this one and then through all the different iterations of drafts they were always giving me input. And the cool thing is they’re incredibly talented, they have great amazing ideas, and so it was a very trusted collaboration with those guys through this story process."
"I definitely was [part of the writing process]," Josh Hutcherson added. "I didn’t actually write anything, but once we chose the trailer and we locked down the story direction we were going to go in I was very much involved in notes and developing the script with that. It was great."
"I wasn’t around the set, I was making my own movie, shooting while they were under way," Ron Howard said before the panel. "So I was part of selecting the trailer, I read the script. I didn’t have any notes on it, I thought it was a wonderful script. And I was excited to see what was going to become of it. And they went out and made a personal movie, I’m eager to see how people respond to it."
The impact of horror.
"I love the tone and the atmospheric horror quality of that trailer, which I got really excited about, because I’d never done anything in that vein and wanted to," Candler told Indiewire. "I’m a huge horror fan, I love horror films. So being able to take that element and this element of weird contaminated water and figuring out my own version of that was really fun."
"When we were searching for the trailer we wanted to find one that evoked the most feeling or gave you a sense of something, moved you in a way," Hutcherson said to Indiewire. "And this trailer really gave me a sense of curiosity and mystery and suspense and an impending doom. And we took that and ran with it. I had a different idea of the direction to go with it, and then when Kat came on board I loved what she had to say about it. I really think that this is very original and very new. My idea was cool, but it wasn’t that original."
"It was very evocative, it could be a thriller, it could be horror, it could be drama, but whatever it was there was an element of the unknown and the unknowable," Howard explained before the panel. "There was just an element of mystery that seemed psychological, and I think that’s one of the things that attracted Josh to it. And it evolved in really creative ways, but it definitely owes its existence to the ‘Tainted Water’ trailer."
The public is inspiring.
"We definitely talked about the finalists and what was intriguing to all of us," Candler commented to Indiewire before the panel. "The cool thing about the whole thing is that all the trailers are so vastly different from one to the next. And they had such unique cool voices whether they were comedy, drama or horror. It was really nice to see different voices from consumers who are doing things in their own little pockets of the world and what inspired them."
"That was part of it, the idea of jumping into the unknown and being like ‘I’m in, and we’ll see where it goes,’" Hutcherson shared before the panel. "And trusting Canon and Ron Howard, they have had a relationship for a few years and they’re very successful with this campaign. And also the idea of inspiring people to become filmmakers, inspiring people to try something creative and it’s fun and it’s cool, you never know what kind of stories you’re going to get. And we saw so many trailers all over the spectrum, so it was really exciting."
"I’ve been surprised by what the public submits and the level of quality at every phase," said Howard during the panel. "This was a little more playful, some of them were more satirical like they were making fun of trailers in a cool way. And others were more earnest and straightforward. I can’t say that I was surprised by how good they were because I’ve learned a lesson that people can be pretty dazzling. The thing about trailers is that they’ve always been popular, I’ve been a movie goer my whole life and I’ve always wanted to watch the trailers, but now that they’re online you can actually just put them on and sit there and watch them again and again."
The joy of actor shorthand.
"There’s a shorthand, particularly when you’re working from actor to actor," Jena Malone said during the panel.. "You can show up already trusting each other and respecting one another, and it’s a really important part of filmmaking that a lot of people don’t think of is those actor relationships. And, yeah, you can create them, but it takes time and when you first meet someone for the first time its very elementary school. But if you’ve known them for quite some time you can really build an amazing shorthand together, you can just dig right in. And that’s what we had the opportunity to do. I read the script and thought it was so beautiful and wonderful, about these two siblings and how they were dealing with grief, and the manifestation of grief. And that’s the psychological horror element, is grief, because that’s not something people really discuss."
"When you have a short film, you have to get to the punch very quickly and you have to know the characters, know their relationship, and know their background," Hutcherson commented. "I think it’s really hard to convey that in 14 minutes. To have only 3 days to film all of this and to have an actress come in that you are very close with, that you’ve known for years, to give that inherent connection that we already had, I think it was really great."
It’s all about the story.
"I like a lot of different kinds of stories […] that’s what being involved in a company like Imagine [Entertainment] does, it forges opportunities to not just be myopically focused on one story, which over the course of the life of making a movie can be pretty exhausting," said Howard. "So over the years it’s always been really great for me to jump into a story meeting, to see a cut of a movie, to go help with a pitch at a network. And I never take responsibility for it, rarely am I the main person directing, I’m not the main person on this project as well and it’s very creatively stimulating for me to do that…I have a real appetite for this and an excitement for it, and I’ve surround myself with a company like Imagine and a relationship that fuels that."
"Every year it just takes a little while, so it’s always just getting my story wheels and honing my craft and getting my feet dirty again with making something," said Candler. "As a filmmaker, as an artist, you just always want to be making something. With making short stories, it’s that tool of compacting huge stories into 6 minutes, 10 minutes, or 20 minutes. But the short to feature, you get inspired by this little nugget, and then it makes you start thinking bigger and bigger, really expanding the stories of these people and the histories of these characters. It’s just all about story, totally about story."
You can now watch “The Rusted” at imagination.usa.canon.com.
READ MORE: Kat Candler Explains How to Adapt a Trailer into a Short Film Starring Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone