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The Clock is Ticking

Photon Harvest Productions' One Hour Short Film Experiment
An hour can fly by quickly when making a film but the team at indie production house Photon Harvest Productions is making the most of it. In their new One Hour Short Film Experiment, the Photon Harvest team is creating a series of compelling, polished short films that all have one thing in common - each part of the production and post production process was limited to an hour.

An hour to write, an hour to shoot, an hour to edit, an hour to color grade, an hour to sound mix - the clock is certainly ticking away. Led by Cameron Miller-DeSart, executive director, the point of the experiment is to tell stories and not feel limited by the normal constraints that go into filmmaking (such as time).

"Sometimes as filmmakers we can limit ourselves by focusing on obstacles. I want filmmakers to get out of their own way and push their boundaries," Miller-DeSart said. "Through the One Hour Short Film Experiment, we turn things on their head by embracing the boundaries that normally fence us in."

With seven short films currently completed and more on the horizon, the experiment is off to a strong start. With topics ranging from depression to love to roommate struggles to clickbait, each film is driven by Miller-DeSart.

"The films almost always come from my brain. That being said, there is no cookie cutter - each film is very different. 'Cereal,' 'Clickbait,' and our newest short, 'Kidnapped,' were heavily influenced by the brilliant actors in the films. The one similarity between all the films is that they all have a character-driven narrative," Miller-DeSart explained. 

Miller-DeSart normally focuses on poignant experiences and expands from there. One exception to his normal approach is the short "Clickbait." "For 'Clickbait,' we changed things around a bit because two amazing improv actors - Tanha Dil from the Groundlings and Brandan Hunter-Davis -  were on board. We wanted to give them the freedom to play off each other and do what they do best. The story focused on a social experiment of sorts, where Dil approached Hunter-Davis as a stranger and started throwing clickbait type questions at him," Miller-DeSart continued. "The result was hilarious and it also helped broaden our horizon for all of the different directions we can go in with this experiment."

In general, the experiment's shorts are starting to draw more and more talented actors who want to be involved.

"The great thing about the experiment is you don't have to ask people for a lot of time. Being based in Los Angeles, we're surrounded by amazing actors and crew dedicated to telling these stories quickly. The experiment gives them the chance to portray complex characters and tackle poignant topics, while only giving up an hour of their day. We've been blown away by the folks that want to be involved. We just finished a short, 'Kidnapped,' with Jeremy Glazer and Jim Rash, and we now have upcoming shorts in the works with Zac Hug and Carolyn Hennessy," Miller-Desart continued.

The Tech Behind The Scenes

"When shooting under such a tight time constrain, it's crucial to get the shots on the first try. With an hour ticking away, we don't have time for reshoots or to fumble around with things. We were very careful in our camera selection because its performance is paramount to the success of the experiment," Miller-DeSart explained. "We shoot everything with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera in RAW. It's a great camera because it allows us to shoot quickly, easily on-the-go - we sometimes have to quickly adjust and move around locations while shooting within the one hour timeframe - and it works great with our color in post."

For color grading, Miller-DeSart uses DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio, Blackmagic Design's professional editing and color correction solution. "DaVinci Resolve Studio is great because it works so quickly. With only an hour to get the color done, we know we can do it well with DaVinci Resolve Studio. We don't need to worry because the color will always look cohesive and we have confidence in the end result.

"For example, we recently shot 'Kidnapped' indoors without any lights. Only using modifiers ,we had to place actors in front of the many windows within the space. The only thing that made this possible without artificial light was the incredibly powerful Highlight Recovery feature built into the RAW settings in DaVinci Resolve Studio.

This also speaks to the outstanding RAW output in the Pocket Cinema Camera. Blackmagic Design offering such an incredible feature within the tiny body of the Pocket Cinema Camera is a testament to the ingenuity of the company. Pulling detail from a blown window, adjusting white balance on the fly, or even sucking out green cast in low CRI lights is invaluable to these stripped down productions," Miller-DeSart continued.

The Lessons Learned

"This experiment has been truly that - an experiment. It's been a scary but super fun process, that is definitely going to continue and grow. We've started taking more risks and we've definitely learned some lessons along the way that we incorporate the next time. We're getting more comfortable - for example, in the beginning we didn't use a lot of dialogue to help keep the timeframe as short as possible but now we're to using more and more," Miller-DeSart continued.

"When learning to tell a story in a compressed time, we've realized that the more convoluted the story is, the harder it is to tell. It has to be simple and clean but still based around a character-driven narrative so it resonates with people. We've also learned that one location is best when we can make it work. Travel can really cut into the shooting time so we need to be as selective as possible about where we film."

About Cameron Miller-DeSart
Cameron Miller-DeSart is the founder and executive director of Photon Harvest Productions. Miller-Desert is a self-taught filmmaker, with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and an unrelenting desire to tell stories that are both beautiful and character driven. Upon moving to Los Angeles in 2014, Miller-DeSart founded Photon Harvest and carefully pieced together a team of artists that understood his vision, aesthetic and natural urge to deviate from other cookie cutter production companies. Influenced by Sam Mendes, the Cohen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few - Miller-DeSart can write, direct, shoot and act, and prides himself in his ability to find a story in just about everything. For more information, visit

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, DaVinci Resolve Studio


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