Tag Archives: post

What’s Left!

As we said before, “The Sheol Express” is almost done, there’s just a few VFX elements that need some smoothing out.  Today, Perry Kroll and I make this VFX chart.  It shows everything that has yet to be done on the film – every index card contains one shot (or set of similar shots) that need some tweaks.

As you can see, sixteen shots await their final destination.  To give you an example of some of the things we’re going to be working on over the next few weeks, here’s one of the most complicated index cards:

Shot: Jump-cut Train Reveal

- Swing camera out more into the tracks by straightening the roof-line. This will make us see less of the train.

- Comp in new 3D train model.

- Atmospheric elements – dust, etc. – kicked up by and around the train.

It’s been a long journey, but Perry, Bryce and Vlad, our post-production team have been rock-solid and committed to the job, and we shall reach the End of the Line soon.

“The Sheol Express” Pulls In – Premiere Info

I’ve got some extremely exciting news for everyone!

Sheol Express on Tape

Courtesy of @ebroms.

Another version of “The Sheol Express” (beta release 4) has been completed, printed to tape, and submitted on HDCam to NYU’s First Run Film Festival earlier this week.  (Before someone says something – I know the tape pictured is a DigiBeta.  We submitted the HDCam – this is the SD master.)  The film is almost finished – there’s just a few last VFX items to be stricken from the list.  Most are small fixes that will only be evident once the film is projected in it’s 2k digital glory on a large screen – the version submitted will screen fine for the judges.

Thus, the premiere of “The Sheol Express” will be at the NYU First Run Film Festival, held from the 24th of March – 4th April 2011.  More details will follow, we promise, but know that the film is indeed alive, and about to be unleashed on the world!

Scoring “The Sheol Express”: The Writing on the Windows

As our release date inches closer, we’ve got another scoring session video for you here!

This one features Laura Brodsky recording a solo cello piece for the “Writing on the Windows” scene.

Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” Debrief

Hello all!

This is for all of you who have participated at some point in “The Sheol Express”’s PEPSI REFRESH EVERYTHING campaign, and voted for us to win $5,000 that we need to finish post-production.

Many of you have watched, voting faithfully, as we slid in the rankings, from #6 to #20 over the course of a couple of weeks.  It was a heartbreaking process, and we tried many tactics to try to boost us back up, but for some reason we weren’t able to get ourselves up in the ratings!

Before I give you a detailed run-down of the events, the end point (brought up front for you busy, “employed” people) is that in the two months that we were campaigning for $5,000 from Pepsi, three investors have come forward and invested over $13,000 in The Sheol Express, meaning that we’re on our way to completion, and will be done in the beginning of June. It doesn’t feel quite as cool and communal as being able to say “YES, with ALL OF YOUR help, we won $5,000 from Pepsi,” but it feels pretty darn good to be able to say “This film is going to be finished with the best workmanship possible, we’re going to get to pay our artists semi-fairly, and we will be able to travel to a couple of film festivals.”

Awesome, huh?  That’s the short and sweet of it, if you want a blow-by-blow, keep reading!

Many of you have questioned me – “are we even working on this anymore?”  “Why haven’t you sent out another e-mail?” “isn’t it time to kick people in the butt and let them know it’s time to finish this up?”   Let me explain a little.  First, comically enough my e-mail account was marked as a “spammer” quickly after the 1st of March, so my e-mail urging capabilities were limited.

Second, we actually had the great pleasure of meeting a couple internet mavericks named Damian and Kyle, who have several YouTube channels, some of which regularly generate over 100,000 hits to each of their videos.  They contacted us, loved the film’s concept, and set out to generate traffic to our Pepsi page.  They each posted several videos urging people to vote for the film that generated tens of thousands of hits each, and we can only think that at least a fraction of the people viewing voted.  This means that we must have had thousands and thousands of people voting for the film… and yet, we continued to slide in the rankings.

This leads me to think that:

1)  The public didn’t resonate with our idea, as it didn’t have “homeless people”, “go green”, or “puppies” in our title.  Fair enough.

2)  The other ideas hired Chinese server farms to simply vote every day.  Ingenious, although the part that makes me mad is we literally had offers from both people with access to Chinese bots and a group of Russian hackers, but turned them down in the interest of fair play.

3)  There’s actually a Pepsi conspiracy against our film, because it was revealed that Diggory Venn drinks Coke.

4)  These sorts of contests are really just brilliant ways for huge corporations to turn people like me into word-of-mouth machines, begging for the scraps from their table in return for sending thousands of my friends to their site.  I’m not bitter.  Not at all

So, in the end, I just wanted to throw out a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who gave their time, effort, facebook statuses, twitter feeds, blog posts, and hyperlinks to our project.  Your effort and belief in this project is moving, and means a lot to us.  Add this to the $13,000 if independent equity that we had invested in the film, and I’d say we had a pretty good run. 

I’ll settle for that.

Again, thanks for all your guys’ support, and be sure to keep up with us on this blog, or using the ways listed below!


Facebook Fan Page: “The Sheol Express”

Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesheolexpress

We’ve Submitted to Palm Springs!

Big news!

We just sent in our application for the 2010 Palm Springs International ShortFest, the biggest exhibition, competition, and marketplace devoted to the short film!  This marks a huge milestone in “The Sheol Express”.  After hearing people say, for several months, that we’ve got a good movie on our hands, it’s nerve-racking to send it off to someone else to evaluate it!

Palm Springs is a very important festival for us because it’s not only the largest exhibition of short films, but also has attached to it one of the largest short film markets attached to it.  Markets are where buyers – people who are looking for content – come to find that content.  We’d love to sell “The Sheol Express” to a cable network or someone similar, in order to gain exposure for the film, and possibly pave the way for a feature film.  Getting into Palm Springs and attending the filmmaket will be an important part of that!

We submitted an in-progress version of the film, something that’s common for film festivals to receive for applications, because films want to exhibit as soon as possible after they’ve finished – meaning that even though we will complete the film in April or May, we’ve submitted in in March, so we can premiere in June.  Hopefully.

Perry and Bryce have been working feverishly on the visual effects, and we’ve got about half of the matte paintings in the film done.  We focused on the ones that were integral for the story.  Vlad has done the first pass of coloring, and we have Joy’s rough sound mix, paired with the almost-final mixes of the score!  Everything is so close… but seems so far at the same time!

Here’s a little taste of the work that they’ve been doing…

Araboth Ferry

You may remember the other “evolution of a shot” images that we posted during production for this shot… perhaps it’s a good time to bring those back!

Pretty cool, huh?

Also, for the festival submission, we updated the synopsis, which you can find updated under the links at the top of the site, or below.

Now we begin the wonderful waiting game, as we approacah “around or about May 25th”.  Cheers!

Our new synopsis:

Tired of traveling the underworld, Owen Turner boards The Sheol Express, a fantastical train that ferries souls to their final resting place at the End of the Line. En route, Owen meets Rachael, a visionary who proclaims the existence of Araboth, an alleged paradise near the second-to-last stop before the End of the Line. Contesting her claim is the charismatic peddler Diggory Venn, who is as critical of Rachael’s radicalism as he is devoted to sensory pleasures. Scoffing at Rachael’s outlandish beliefs, Diggory encourages Owen to kick back, forget about Araboth, and enjoy the ride to the End of the Line. As The Sheol Express plows through the night, Owen wavers between the guarantee of a final resting place and the possibility of a better life: if he leaves the train before the End of the Line and Araboth is no more than Rachael’s wishful fantasy, Owen risks wandering the world alone. But if Araboth is more than a delusion, he stands to reclaim a hope he lost long ago.

Sheol is a wasteland without water, inhabited by souls condemned to travel from town to town along the railroad servicing The Sheol Express, a mysterious train bound for the End of the Line. The End of the Line, they say, is the final resting place for souls weary of wandering the parched frontier. To board, passengers must forfeit their citizenship and are never heard from again. This closure is precisely what Diggory, the train’s charismatic peddler of luxury wares, purportedly longs to embrace. He entices Owen with promises of material pleasures at the End of the Line, endeavoring to make the best of an otherwise meaningless afterlife. He’ll have nothing to do with Rachael and her zealous belief in Araboth, an alleged paradise teeming with everything that Sheol lacks: water, light, and green. Although Owen wants to believe Rachael’s radical claims, he can’t shake his suspicion that she might be making it up. As Diggory is eager to point out, Rachael has no real proof of Araboth. Can Owen leap into the unknown, sacrificing comfort and stability for the hope of a better life? Should he?

Hope is a human phenomenon, as necessary as it is absurd. In “The Sheol Express”, writers and directors Michael Koehler and Ryan Patch explore the connection between hope and intellectual integrity. Hope is found where certainty is not: it dwells in the most unlikely of places, in the hearts of people who are themselves confused, in the folds of hypocrisy and doubt that pervade postmodernity. Raised in religious families but educated at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Koehler and Patch approach the possibility of truth from a unique perspective. Their encounters with other cultures and deep, personal struggles with faith inform what is not just a social question, but a spiritual one: what place does truth have in our relative world? In 27 minutes, they bring audiences face-to-face with the same question that faces Owen: what, if anything, is Araboth? Where is it today? And finally, what are we – as individuals weary of our endless routine – willing to risk to find out?

Why You Must Vote for Us NOW

Hello and welcome!

To the March edition of “help us finish up The Sheol Express!”  Yes, that’s right, we’re still trying to wrangle up enough votes to win $5,000 through Pepsi’s Refresh Everything contest.  And wait… I know what you’re thinking!  Please see below as I read your mind, and respond to your questions:

But wait, I thought that contest ended in February?

It did.  However, Pepsi has set this up to let the projects that *almost* made it into the top 10 (to receive funding) in Feburary – but didn’t – roll over into the next month’s contest.

Pepsi's Refresh Everything

Pepsi's Refresh Everything in NYC Bilboards

Okay, so, what’s that mean?

It means that The Sheol Express has a very real chance of securing some serious funding that will help us get this film finished and onto the film festival circuit.

But I don’t want to get all excited again… and then have the film end up at #34 again this month.

Yes, this is a concern, but here’s the deal: as you may have seen, the top 10 “ideas” are displayed on the www.refresheverything.com home page.  If we can break into this top 10 in the first few days of the month – when every project has a lot of mobility – we feel confident that “one time”, casual visitors to the Pepsi site will see it and vote for us.  They may not be loyal, but the overall effect is staggering – that those projects that start in the lead stay in the lead.

So, this means that we need YOU to TODAY – and especially for the next week – to give this site a voting blitz.  We’re going to try to get in the top 15 in the next 48 hours, and I really think that we can do it!

The outpouring of support, Facebook posts, tweets, mouth-to-mouth buzz, random connections, comments, and people that have contacted us about how this movie has already affected their lives is a huge encouragement.  We’ve had people all over the world discover the film and contact us, though this grant and blog, and it’s awesome to speak with all of you.

Thank you all for your support so far, and I would be eternally grateful if that support continued through the next week as we ROCKET this project to the top of Pepsi’s “refreshing ideas”.

Thoughts from our Editor

Evan Derrick, our brilliant editor, had some thoughts and experiences that he wanted to share from his time in New York, while we locked the edit in December.  Evan, originally from Maryland, moved to Tulsa, and we flew him in to communicate better while we finalized the edit.

An excerpt:

So, a few weeks ago I was in New York finalizing the edit of The Sheol Express with my two directors, Ryan and Mike (more on that later). As you can see from the picture, I was a lean mean editing machine, and heaven help you if you got in my way (at least that’s what I take away from that picture).

After 2 days of non-stop work, I needed to be released from my cage, so I convinced the powers that be that we should go out for the evening. What would a trip to New York City be after all if you didn’t go out for a night on the town? So we meandered our way over to Tribeca to sample the hearty offerings of the Ear Inn which, Ryan assured me, had the best Guinness tap in the city. A live jazz band called the Ear Regulars was playing in the foyer who, despite their schlocky pun of a name, were very good, and we squeezed past them in order to pounce on the one empty table in the back.

Check out his thoughts and experiences from his trip to New York City on his brilliant blog, The Brink of 30.

What Are “Pickups” Anyway?

Perhaps, you’re thinking, something to the effect of “a conversation opener with the intent of engaging an unfamiliar person for sex, romance, or dating”.

In fact, in film terms, they are shots that are filmed after principle photography that a) the director and editor decide they need after editing the film together, or b) can be filmed with a minimal cast/crew and production value.  They are very similar to second unit work.

The we went to Colorado was because we were given access to a RED camera by our generous friends over at 42 Productions in Boulder. Also, there’s nothing like having mom to cook for your crew, and to us New Yorkers access to a free car sealed the deal!

First: “ocean” plates on Lake Estes, by Estes Park, CO. Estes Park, ColoradoBy filming a lake that was heated by a power plant, we were able to shoot freshwater at 8,000′ of elevation that will become the Herman Sea in “The Sheol Express”. We had to position ourselves and the camera right in the face of 30mph winds to get the “whitecaps” moving the right direction, and let me tell you, it was coooold. This would be referred to as a “background” or “effects plate” – a piece of the image that will be used as a part or layer in the final shot.

Second, we did a few traditional “pickups” – detailed, small-scale inserts that will help us move the story along. We shot closeups of some of the “board-windows” along the train that will help us communicate the story of Sheol and Araboth better.

Lastly, we shot some atmospheric effects that will be used in the final effects shots to add texture. We shot a mixture of flower and powered sugar into the air, then shined a high-powered light through them to simulate dust particles. Shooting at 100fps we were able to give the impression that these particles were “hanging” in the air, with light rays passing through them.

Likewise, we constructed a homemade fog machine that vaporized baby oil (mineral oil) with compressed air, then pushed it out the top of a 5-gallon bucket.

Then, we used a homemade low-lying fog machine (using dry ice – frozen CO2 that sublimates into a gas that’s both more dense and cooler than the air, making it sink) to mimic the effects of a train releasing steam.

All of these will be seamlessly blended into and together with the other matte paintings that Perry and Bryce are working on. We’ve seen some great concepts from them, so stay tuned!


It’s happening right now, folks. As I write from the comfort of my home in America’s Sailing Capital, Ryan Patch, Jenn Durrett, and Perry Kroll of Studio Free Radical are braving Colorado’s mountains, traversing treacherous terrain in search of the perfect natural elements to photograph for our film’s atmospheric plates. Basically, they’re shooting things like water, smoke, and fog, all of which will add depth and texture to the onscreen world of Sheol. Wish them luck!