Sunday, February 12, 2012

The collaborative effort/short-film trilogy SWINE is very much worth your while

One of the biggest (and often best) surprises TrustMovies encounters is getting an unsolicited email, asking if he would be willing to view some new (usually DIY) film project. Obviously these projects range from good to so-so to not-so, and lack of viewing time now and again prevents me from accepting the invitations. But whether I've just been lucky so far, most of what I’m asked to watch has been worthwhile on some (sometimes many) levels. So it was with SWINE, a project so well-done and so much fun that it proved one of the best DIY projects I've so far encountered.

This is a trilogy of short narrative films connected by plot and characters that takes place in a post-apocalyptic USA in which the powers-that-be (which looked and sounded to me like the Bush-Cheney regime gone completely over the top), have produced who-knows-what-kind-of holocaust and turned our populace into near slaves who'll do anything for a dollar. (One such is the concubine, Beauty, above, played by Catherine Annette.) A rebel faction is bent on toppling the evil power, but this faction is itself so wound up, paranoid and sometimes out-and-out, back-stabbing sleazy that who you can trust becomes the all-important question.

One early morning last week, with my coffee and oatmeal, I stuck the DVD into my player, sat back and sipped as I watched. I was hooked from the outset. Swine is good -- smart and wild and sometimes witty, and done with a level of surprising professionalism that allows you to relax, not worry "Will this measure up?" and immediately get involved in the story. The Swine crew (above) certainly knows how to get the most out of its small special effects budget, too. Their effects are excellent, used sparingly but smartly. The dialog is smart, too. And the cast (below) handles it professionally, with no one falling below a certain level and often rising nicely above it.

The lead actor (Gregory Lee Kenyon) talks with a half-whispered Clint Eastwood kind of voice that works well because what he has to say is intelligent enough that you don’t worry about the timbre of his voice. Full of careful editing and quick cuts that speed things along, the first episode pulls you in immediately (remember the opening line about suffering at enemy hands as opposed to those of your own: it pays off). The first episode sets things up, the second introduces new characters -- the hunky stranger on horse-back! (below, left, and off the horse) -- but don’t get too attached to anyone, as people die suddenly and quickly here. The catch-as-catch-can costuming, too, seems nicely appropriate and not without some charm. Part three (each episode runs between 12 and 17 minutes) throws a real monkey wrench into the gears -- which makes things more interestingly off-kilter and work ever better.

Swine is primarily old-fashioned, good fun but given a nicely modern, dark update -- more adult and complicated in its way than any cheap-jack, simple-minded Star Wars clone (the original, after all, was pretty simple-minded, but certainly not cheap). My verdict? I’m hooked on Swine, and will keep watching as long as its makers keep producing. But, please, when will we be able to see more?


To answer that question, and to find out more about this new "trilogy," TrustMovies talked with its executive producer, Koren Young (below). In the following conversation, TM appears in boldface and Mr. Young in standard type.

Do you consider SWINE a DIY Project (I would)?

Yes, absolutely. In this case, we didn’t have a whole lot of resources at our disposal. We wanted to create a film that looked professional but didn’t cost a lot. And we did it!

You sure did. Seemed to me, as I was watching, that the film didn’t look cheap at all. I was surprised! I also felt that Swine had this interesting sense of doing stuff that might look typical -- like the usual apocalyptic scenario, coupled to a bit of a Star Wars kind of feeling -- but smarter, cheaper (of course!) and with a darker mind set.

True. You’ll notice that in many movies, the main villain is really ugly and the hero is always nice to look at. This is, of course, not true in real life. We love beautiful villains (one of Swine's is exemplified by the character Bollinger, played by Drew Hinckley, below) and started writing them as early as 2003 in our first production together, A Damsel in Disguise.

So you’ve worked together before?

Our crew has worked together many times before. We went our separate ways for a while, but reunited for this project.

Where did you -- and the rest of the cast and crew -- come from?

Santa Clarita, California. We all graduated form the Radio, Television and Film program at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Santa Clarita is within that "30-mile zone" for L.A. film production, where you don’t have to pay for extra mileage for cast and crew, so a lot of projects get shot around here.

How long has your Arcay Studios been around? And where did the name come from?

I started making movies when I was a kid and my brother Ryan was a musician. He started doing post audio for my student films, and he’s since worked on a lot of big films from Invictus to Super 8. He and I founded Arcay Studios together in 2009. The name is a play on the studio's address and our first initials.

The team that made the Swine Trilogy formed Well-Oiled Machine. Our cinematographer and editor, Brad Hoffarth (above) works with the San Francisco Art Institute’s film program, and he did all our special effects. Our writer and director, Daniel Levitch (below, center), is an established comic book writer. Our assistant director, Kyle Maki, has been a producer for Time Warner Cable for several years. Our producer, Matthew Chastain Bowers is also a paralegal that drafts our contracts. Really, everyone involved has worked in the industry in different ways, and so each brings to the project his or her own special skills.

How many people have seen your work now?

It’s hard to say. We’ve shipped out a couple hundred DVDs, and the YouTube Channel we created has gotten around 2,000 hits. Here’s a little secret, which we mention on the web site but which most people wouldn’t necessarily figure out. We started the whole project as just a short single film that we shot for fun. We had such a phenomenal reception at the first preview screening that we decided to make more. The third film in the series is actually the first one that we produced, but because of how it ends, we decided to add two new chapters to the beginning. We’re currently working on an additional prequel, and then we’ll do a continuation that follows chapter three.

How much did the three films cost, so far?

The existing trilogy was made for less than $15,000

Wow -- that’s pretty good for what’s up there on the screen! I’m wondering how and why must the public watch Swine only in small chunks? (As a reviewer, I’m lucky -- and got to watch all three episode, once after another.)

We've purposely uploaded the episodes in 3-4 minute chunks to encourage people to buy the DVD.

How much are you charging for the DVD?

We have different levels of contribution (it’s all "contribution" at this point): For $25, you get an autographed DVD. Right now we’re just fund-raising for the upcoming two or three episodes. At that point we would have a feature-length DVD, which would make distribution easier.

Anything else you want to say, while I have you?

Our DVD also includes an HD digital copy that you can copy to iTunes or any portable media player.
And if you want any further information, or to learn how you can best view SWINE, go to our web site

Thanks for your time, Koren, and for this really fun and entertaining series. And good luck in obtaining enough money to make those other two or three episodes. I -- and I’ll bet most of the folk who’ve so far viewed the series -- are very eager to watch some more.

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