Producing a film on a small budget is a very difficult task for anyone, especially a new producer. Work on the script for “The Jonah Redemption” began in November 2000. The resulting dramatic movie was completed in 2004 and has now been released on DVD and VHS. The original plan was to produce a play about Jonah the prophet. However, by 2003, plans for a movie evolved. Christian producer, EvtiZoxologia Productions (Vancouver, Canada) explains:
“We wanted to create a story that parallels the story of Jonah the prophet but run in current day, and revolves around the relationship between God and man. The main theme we had in mind was true happiness and satisfaction can only be found when man lives in harmony with God.”
The problem was how to produce a movie with a very small budget. First, actors were recruited from the Coptic Orthodox Church in Vancouver, Canada. EvtiZoxologia Productions explains how the rest of the project was put together:
“Soon after we started we realized we don’t know much about how to make a film, so the research began. We researched the camera equipment, lighting and sound. There were only a few people working on the film, so we realized that it would be very impractical to have a full setup with lighting and sound equipment, because that would be very time-consuming due to the lack of man power. So we decided to buy a high-end consumer DVCAM camera (Sony PDX 10), and use natural lighting and the XLR Microphone that comes with the camera.
In parallel to researching the basics of Guerilla filmmaking, we started story boarding the whole movie. Due to the lack of experience we drew some complicated camera angles that we found out later we can’t do very easily.
In parallel with storyboarding we also started building equipment that will supplement our filming. We built a microphone boom, a camera dolly and a camera boom. All of these extra equipment were designed and built by Safwat Tadros.
What shocked us is how much time each scene took. By the end of filming we calculated that each minute of screen time took about one hour of filming. Most of the time went into setting up the camera and working out the camera movement, which by the way was the most complicated aspect of filming. Even what looks simple on screen took us hours of retries to perfect. And since everyone working on the movie was doing it on his/her spare time, we quickly realized that we have to simplify our work if we had any hope of getting this movie done.
And so we revisited our storyboards and reworked a lot of the scenes so that we don’t have many close-ups. We also decided to film most of the scenes from one camera angle, as filming from multiple camera angles entails keeping note of lighting, actor positioning, sound levels and consistency in dialog, too many things to keep track of and that would chew up all the time we had.
One of the fun aspects of filming was trying to find locations to shoot in. We have to admit that God was simplifying things for us tremendously. Here are a couple of encounters that stick out:
One of our main characters is from Seattle, so he could commit only 3 days to filming. There were quite a bit of scenes we had to shoot in these three days, including two scenes one in a golf driving range and another using an expensive car. It was about eleven at night and we wanted to film the golf scene, so we went to a driving range. Once we got there it looked like it was closed. We circled the driving range a few times. We were about to give up and leave when we noticed that there was some noise coming from the inside. They were cleaning up the golf balls. We took a risk and decided to go ask if we could film inside. They gave us exactly ten minutes to film, which we extended to about twenty, but that was exactly enough time to get the footage that we wanted.
Another scene we needed to use an expensive car. We tried to ask several people to use their car, but we were met with no success. Finally we were at the Richmond auto mall and we decided to go to a BMW dealer to see if they would lend us a car to use. We met a salesman, who happened to work for MAZDA before and one of the crew had bought his Mazda Protégé from him. We asked him if we could use a BMW. He told us that it wouldn’t be possible to use a car off the lot, but he generously allowed us to use his BMW. He basically gave us the keys and just went to work.
Lots of little things like the above examples happened along the way that simplified the filming process, and we believe that God arranged every one of these little things. They may seem small, but they do add up. Without these little miracles it is most probable that we would have not been able to finish the movie.
At the end of our filming process, which spanned about six months, due to people’s schedules, we had about fifteen hours of footage for a one hour and twenty minute movie.”
See our review of THE JONAH REDEMPTION.
To view the movie trailer (RealVideo) or purchase a DVD or VHS copy, see the official Web site: evtizoxologia.com