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How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Capturing the 'Right Feeling' of an Attempted Murder Scene in 'Los Ángeles'

By Oliver MacMahon | Indiewire June 17, 2014 at 10:36AM

Director Damian John Harper and cinematographer Friede Clausz are screening their first feature film "Los Ángeles," about a young kid who tries to cross the border from Mexico in order to support his family, at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival. The duo previously collaborated on the short film "Teardrop."
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Director Damian John Harper and cinematographer Friede Clausz are screening their first feature film "Los Ángeles," about a young kid who tries to cross the border from Mexico in order to support his family, at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival. The duo previously collaborated on the short film "Teardrop."

[Editor's Note: Indiewire reached out to filmmakers with films playing at the 20th LA Film Festival (June 11-19) to ask them about how they shot their indie, and what advice they had for other filmmakers. We'll be posting their responses throughout the run of the festival. Go HERE for the master list.]

What camera and lens did you use?
We shot "Los Ángeles" on the Arri Alexa.

What was the most difficult shoot on your movie and how did you pull it off?
We decided to shoot every scene in "Los Ángeles" as a plan-sequence from the shoulder. The protagonists were all non-actors with no film experience, we had children, animals, weapons, special effects, stunts, village fiestas and a rodeo... Every scene turned out to be more difficult than we planned.

For me the most difficult scene was an attempted murder - trying to capture the right feeling. After several unsuccessful takes we just had to break, go back to basics and try it again despite the bad weather. Patience and cutting off the fat helped us pull it off. For my lead protagonist, Mateo Bautista Matias, the hardest shot was the rodeo. He rode 4 bulls in a row! He pulled it of by hanging on tight!

What's the one thing you wish someone had told you BEFORE you started your movie?
Try not to drink too much mescal.

What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
I don't know. I try not to remember bad advice.

What's the best?
Jonathan Hernandez, my friend and first AD, gave me a piece of advice that the great director Auturo Ripstein had once given him: "Directing is like snake charming."

What advice do you have for aspiring or first-time filmmakers?
Don't write a film because you think it is marketable or commercial. Write what you want to write because you feel passionate about writing it.

This article is related to: Los Ángeles, Damian John Harper, Los Angeles Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Filmmaker Toolkit: Production, Filmmaker Toolkit: Tech, How I Shot This: LA Film Festival






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