It’s no secret that Hollywood is a tough nut to crack, and every aspiring actress dreams of her big break. But what many don’t realize is that there is a rather straightforward way to ensure you land the role you want. And while it takes more effort and work, it’s worth it in the end. One night over dinner Mehran Torgoley and Llana Barron realized that the best way to land a role is to write it yourself, and a few drinks later, the kernel of the idea for “Committed” was born. In the short film, a compassionate nurse in an overcrowded mental hospital in the early 1950s struggles to prove the sanity of a young paraplegic patient.
“There are a number of reasons I wanted to make ‘Committed,’” said Llana Barron, co writer, producer and lead actress. “I’ve always wanted to do a period piece about a mental hospital. I grew up very close to an abandoned state mental hospital, and it always piqued my interest. My dad worked there in the 70s and told me many chilling stories about patients and staff, so I had some really neat ideas to use as inspiration.
“Additionally, our friend, a paraplegic actress, had recently discussed with us the challenges of trying to find work in Hollywood because of her handicap,” she continued. “It seemed like a perfect opportunity to write a plot revolving around a girl in a wheelchair. I later researched many true cases of young handicapped patients who had been wrongfully committed to mental hospitals throughout history, so I combined my love of the vintage mental health genre with an idea to have a paraplegic mental patient who isn’t actually mentally ill.”
“A few days after the dinner, Llana called me, said she had feverishly written a rough treatment based on our conversation and sent me a copy to read. I loved it and began work on the actual script,” said Mehran Torgoley, co writer, director and producer. “It combined a lot of the elements I enjoy in film: a post World War II vintage setting, psychological thrills and an oppressive administration.
“We decided to shoot with the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K because of its image quality. It’s amazing that we were able to get such an incredibly detailed image for such an affordable price. It also helped that the DP owned the camera, so we could stay on budget,” added Mehran.
He continued: “I always intended on a 2K output, but shooting in 4K and outputting 2K helped provide the most filmic look possible. In our own tests, it organically softened the image without losing detail. This being such a budget conscious production, 4K helped in other ways too. I was able to save some shots by recropping, scaling and rotating without losing detail.”
A Mixed Lighting Scenario
“I’ve shot with all of Blackmagic Design’s cameras, and while they are all great, the Production Camera 4K has my favorite look,” said DP Arjun Prakash. “The look has more contrast, and I was also quite surprised with how the camera handled low light. We shot underground in maintenance tunnels with only available light, and the image looked great. A little noise provided a very likable film grain aesthetic. Overall the image is absolutely amazing for the price.”
Even when presented with a mixed lighting scenario, Arjun could rely on the Production Camera 4K. With the ability to shoot at 4500K, he was able to mix daylight and tungsten sources to create a more complex color palette for a scene.
“The camera really likes its light, and we often shot at ISO 200 to minimize any artifacts, but the camera handled pretty well when I pushed it for a few scenes that we had to get with available practicals,” noted Arjun. “We also presented the camera with many changing lighting cues, such as rapid changes in luminance, and the Production Camera 4K handled them well.”
For the film, Mehran and Llana wanted as traditional a look as possible without being gimmicky since the film is set during a time that is long gone but not forgotten. “Post war America had a very unique and bold style that I love and that has been heavily explored on film,” Mehran said. “I did not want ‘Committed’ to feel like a piece of found footage, but rather closer to what a director at the time would have done had they had our current technology and small budget. I finished the film in 1080p, and the footage turned out really perfect with a soft film like feel.”
“Overall the camera has a very likeable form factor. It is very modular, and we were able to set it up with a full studio configuration, including a large PL zoom, studio mattebox and full rig,” explained Arjun. “The camera’s high dynamic range was also incredibly helpful in pulling detail in the highlights where needed, and the internal battery was an absolute lifesaver as we were able to hot swap our v-mount bricks and not skip a beat.”
Getting to the Heart of Color
When it came time for post production, Mehran was able to eliminate the extra step of transcoding the footage by shooting in ProRes. “We got beautiful images with a simple workflow. Color grading the nearly flat footage in DaVinci Resolve was a big advantage over the DSLR footage I’m used to,” he said. “I’m absolutely amazed by the power and flexibility of the system and the completely different feelings and quality of looks I can achieve with Resolve.”
Using DaVinci Resolve, Mehran was able to get to the heart of the colors and create a rich, warm and soft palette instead of a harsh, digital and modern look. Being able to control many different aspects and also have Power Windows for localized control was absolutely critical.
“The color tools are simply amazing. In particular, the auto color feature was very helpful in removing color casts so that I could go in and grade,” said Mehran. “Another amazingly helpful tool was the tracker for image stabilization. I’ve worked with a number of other tools to remove shake, but high frequency shake is often all but impossible to remove. The combination of the global shutter on the camera and Resolve’s stabilizer tools allowed me to get beautiful locked down dolly shots that I would have had to throw away in the past. DaVinci Resolve was flawless handling the 4K footage, rendering faster than anything else on my system.”
“Committed” was selected as the Best Narrative Short Film and received the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Lead actress, Llana Barron, won best actress, and the film also won best original score. Additional accolades include Award of Merit from the Best Shorts Competition, and Llana Barron won Best Performance in a Short Film from the Boston Film Festival.