The movie, Foster Boy, Exec Produced by Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Parris, stars Mathew Modine, Shane Paul McGhie and Louis Gossett Jr. Cirina Catania continues her coverage with part two of her in-depth interviews with the filmmakers. This time, she speaks with Steve Bannerman, CEO of Real by Fake in LA, the company supervising post-production. Cirina has favorited “Foster Boy” on her list of films to watch in the coming weeks. She believes that it is a “sleeper” and will garner attention during the rush to Academy Awards. Listen in and let us know what you think!
The 2020 movie is released by, Gravitas Ventures, from writer Jay Paul Deratany by director, Youssef Delara.
It is a gut-wrenching drama about a young prisoner, the victim of abuse in a corrupt foster care system, and the people who try to find justice for him.
This fascinating interview highlights the post-production behind-the-scenes and gives us a detailed look at how a big movie with a modest budget gets made. And, yes, the company uses OWC equipment.
Foster Boy was inspired by a real case that planted the seed for the screenplay and merges the many foster care cases that writer Deratany has faced during his legal career.
Michael Trainer (Matthew Modine) is a high-powered corporate lawyer, estranged from his family and his humanity; Jamal Randolph (Shane Paul McGhie) is an angry young man who has been imprisoned after enduring years of abuse in the corrupt foster care system. If Michael and Jamal can overcome their differences, they may find justice for Jamal and expose the immorality of for-profit foster care.
“As long as kids keep getting abused in the system, I’m going to keep fighting for them. We need more foster families and more money to be pushed in the right direction,” Deratany says.
In case you missed it, part 1 is found HERE.
In This Episode
- 0:30 – Cirina introduces Steve Bannerman, the CEO of a company called REAL by FAKE.
- 1:13 – Steve talks about his company, REAL by FAKE, and the story behind it.
- 5:15 – Steve explains his involvement in the film, Foster Boy.
- 7:36 – Steve talks about the cameras they’ve used on the film.
- 11:46 – Steve discusses the visual effects done on the film.
- 18:21 – Steve explains why color differed in certain sections of the film.
- 22:35 – Cirina and Steve encourage everyone to watch the wonderful movie, Foster Boy, in drive-in theaters or on iTunes.
This is Cirina Catania with OWC RADiO. Steve Bannerman is the CEO of a company called REAL by FAKE. And I want to talk to him about his journey with Foster Boy, which you’ve heard in Part 1 last week, and which we’re continuing here because it’s a fascinating film, and there’s some wonderful stories about post-production. I wanted to talk to Steve about that. How are you this morning, Steve?
Well, I’m doing extremely well for Monday. Thank you. How are you?
Have you had your coffee?
I have. I’ve had multiple cups of coffee. So we’ll go real fast.
Good, I’m working on my second one. So, I’ll catch up to you in a minute. So, I wanted you to tell us, what is REAL by FAKE and a little bit about the story behind it?
So, I’ve you know, I actually started with a company called Local Hero that I bought about five years ago, based in Santa Monica. And, Local Hero was a company that was focused primarily on D.I. and finishing of independent feature films. And the company was growing rapidly and was gated by capacity, you know, it wasn’t in a big enough building, we’re turning business away. So, I bought the company and moved it into a bigger facility in Santa Monica. And, we were pretty darn successful until the bottom fell out of the independent film market. And all of the folks that were making those movies move over to TV, and as some of our clients grew into much bigger tent-pole features, they kind of left us behind. And so, I needed to make some sort of a transition. And the other thing that I started to notice was that D.I. was becoming more and more commoditized. And more of the budgets in those kind of projects are moving to visual effects. So you know, I was sitting here with a D.I. house and independent features. And I needed to be in TV and visual effects. And it’s pretty hard to do that organically.
So, we had an opportunity, we had a lucky break to work on Season 1 of Big Little Lies of HBO. And, we were working with a company out of Montreal called Real by Fake. And, they needed a presence near HBO in Santa Monica, where people could come into a wonderful boutique, and do reviews on a big screen, in a theater. And you know, they fell in love with our facility. And I got to know Marc Côté, the CEO of Real by Fake in Montreal. And you know, we started talking and then we work together subsequently on Sharp Objects for HBO, and worked very tightly there. We did the Dailies for that, and editorial happened in our facility. And after that, Marc, and I just decided, look, let’s consummate a marriage here. And REAL by FAKE acquired the lion’s share of Local Hero. And so, we are now known as REAL by FAKE L.A., and Marc runs REAL by FAKE in Montreal.
So, REAL by FAKE has traditionally been primarily a visual effects company, although they also do post. So, Marc needed a footprint in L.A., and I needed Montreal tax credit. Marc needed access to the independent feature market, which started to come back, I needed access to TV. So, it was just a really beautiful marriage. And it’s worked out very well since then.
It sounds perfect. Now, you mentioned Big Little Lies, weren’t there something like 1400 VFX shots in that film of, am I remembering that right?
In that show? Yeah, there are about 1400. And there were about 2500 in Sharp Objects. You know, when you work with John Mark L.A, you sort of roll editorial, visual effects, and sound, all at the same time. And so, John Mark likes to do things like, take multiple shots from the same scene and stitch them together to create an actual shot that didn’t exist in camera. So there’s a lot of these kinds of things that you do when you work with John Mark L.A. project. And a lot of that happens in visual effects.
So what was your background before you started Local Hero? Where do you come from?
I spent 12 years at Apple. I was one of the folks that was on the team that started QuickTime, one of the early members of the QuickTime team until I got my taste of media, and in the media entertainment business working at Apple. And after I left Apple I started a company called Castering, which was a QuickTime-based one-to-many streaming service that was acquired by Oracle. And you know, I sort of worked my way through the industry and ended up buying Local Hero. There were one of my customers. I did a stint at GenArts, the folks that do the Sapphire Plugins. They were acquired by Boris and I also did a stint at Assimilate, the folks that make scratch. Running sales and marketing for both of those companies.
I think we’ve been circling around each other for years and I’m just now putting it together.
I’ve been around for a long time.
Well, so am I. Alright, so you went from Apple, you had your journey, you started Local Hero, which now is REAL by FAKE and we meet on this wonderful film called, Foster Boy. Tell us about your involvement and what your company is doing or has done for that film.
We did a lot on that film. We did Dailies, we did D.I., we did visual effects, and we did the final mastering and delivery for the movie. We also worked very closely with the DP Ben Couperin, to do things like create the routes for the show and set the looks for the show. We designed the Workflow Bible for the show. So we were pretty heavily involved, from the minute that they were into Pre-Pro, picking lenses and cameras, all the way through the final delivery. And we’re still doing final deliveries for this movie. It’s a movie that just recently got distribution. They’ve been in the Festival Circuit for a long time. So we’ve been doing some deliveries for them for a while.
How many versions did you have to create of that film in order to solve your distribution demands?
Well, you know, that’s funny, you should bring that up, right? Because when they first started out in the Festival Circuit, it was the classic DCP type distribution, right where you’re showing it on a big screen, in a theater. And then when COVID came along, everything turned virtual. And so at that point, some people are requesting different versions of pro-res, it’s a 4k movie. You’re doing 4k pro-res deliveries, some people can’t choke 4k. And so they’re you know, there’s a 2k pro-res, some people are you know, requesting HD 64. It’s all over the map these days. If the Festivals are going to remain virtual for any length of time, I’m hoping that they’re all going to start generating some consensus in what formats they want to start showing people.
I think that will come, I think these last couple of years has taken the Festival Circuit a little bit by surprise, and they’re all adapting. And I think the virtual, the virtual method is here to stay. And some of us love it and others don’t. But I, I really do think that’s the future. Are you doing the titling or any of the captioning as well for this? Like, I don’t know how many languages it’s going to end up being recorded in.
We do things like titles and credits, but not subtitling and captioning. So, opening titles, and then credits and stuff like that, we do it.
Oh, you did just such a great job. We have so much to talk about and I know that you’re on a schedule, so I’m going to try to make this brief. But, take this little media card from start to finish and take us on a journey with us starting out of course in the prep phase when you’re deciding what you’re going to shoot with and how you’re going to shoot. So, tell us about the cameras that you used and what formats you were on 4k. So tell us about the cameras that you’re using.
Yeah, so again, I’m gonna speak for Ben Cooper in the DP and Youssef Delara the director, because those were the guys that actually sort of made the decisions. We were working with them based on those decisions to create lots and stuff but, you know, if you look at this movie, it’s got quite a moody feel and it’s a bit dark in 4k, and they needed to, they wanted to shoot it in 4k and you have to cast your memory back. This movie was shot a couple years ago when there weren’t that many 4k cameras to choose from. And since there was a sort of a lot of dark scenes in the movie, they wanted a 4k camera that responded really, really well in low light.
So, they basically use three cameras. The two A & B cameras were the Panasonic there are cameras, two cameras. And C camera was a Panasonic EBA1, which was used for some stunt and driving scenes and some today, our steady cam shot. The format that we shot was V-Raw 12, the uncompressed and we use the Codecs Pure Recorders to capture. If you look at the workflow, you’re capturing to the recorder, we did the Dailies in our facility.
So the movie was shot between Los Angeles and Chicago, the movie set in Chicago, and it was shot mostly in Chicago, but a lot of it was shot in L.A., and part of the reason they shot a lot of it in L.A. was because a summit was set in L.A. but, the movie was meant to be in the sort of fall timeframe, the you know, late fall timeframe. But, according to the schedule, they weren’t able to get to Chicago to shoot until December. It was kind of weird so, they needed to do some shooting in L.A. actually, in Pasadena and sort of make that feeling looked like Chicago so that they could do it earlier in the year.
So our Dailies pipeline in our facility in Santa Monica was built on Assimilate Scratch and Silverstack. And, one of the reasons why we like Scratch is because the transcode speeds are really good. You know, we edited this movie in Adobe Premiere, so we created progresses and we also create H-264s that we put up on the web on frame IO, but also on iPads for the directors take a look at.
What was the approval process on the film?
So I mean, obviously the Dailies approval processes, that’s a discussion that goes on between the director and the DP making sure that they got the shot. There was quite a bit of reshooting on this movie. This is a movie that was edited one time then edited again, they did some pickup shots again at the end. An interesting way that this movie kind of morphed itself, and grew itself into the final product that it is today. So, there was a lot of flexibility. There was a lot of sort of coming in and doing reviews in our theater, we worked really, really closely with Youssef and Ben to sort of perfect this movie. And I think it really paid off. And it’s a really great product.There was a lot of flexibility involved in making Foster Boy. This movie kind of morphed and grew itself into the final product that it is today. Click To Tweet
It did. Now, you or I heard the story, I don’t know if you told me or someone told me a story about literally shuttling the Dailies to the editing suite?
Yeah, this was an independent film. It was a very small budget independent films. They’re one of those kind of movies that often turns into the movies that we love the most. It was a very passionate project for [inaudible 00:10:40], you know, the writer and producer of the movie. So, we had to work with a lot of budgetary constraints and so, I actually drove the Editorial Dailies to Andrew Drazek, the editor, from Santa Monica to Hollywood every day. You know, to try and save the money for couriers. It was one of those kind of things where you have to be as resourceful as you can. And it was fantastic because I was able to establish a relationship with Andrew. And then we work together again for a show for Netflix called Black Summer. So Andrew and I became really good friends. It was almost like doing a drug deal. You know, I would give him a call and say, “I’m pulling up outside, ’cause there’s no place to park in a highway”. I’m pulling up outside, and we would swap drive through the window of my car, and then I drop that to Santa Monica. No, it was pretty fun.
I think anybody that can survive L.A. traffic twice a day, like coming and going every day, you win an award for that one, and an award season is just getting kicked off. So, let’s move into the visual effects. Talk to us about the visual effects and perhaps pick a scene, maybe it’s the fire scene, and what were the challenges with that? And how did you make that happen so well?
So, this may be like a lot of movies these days has quite a few invisible visual effects. You know, a lot of cleanup work and stuff like that. But they were really two shots involving fire. The first is at the very beginning of the movie, which is an aerial shot. It’s a slow aerial shot that flies in over a barn that’s burning. And you know, the shot comes to rest in front of a family that standing there watching that burn, you know, most of it was done in compositing with practical elements, there wasn’t any, any CG or anything like that. So, it was compositing practical fire elements and cards. And the challenge was really precisely positioning them in the correct 3D space. So it is the end result required us to fly through the smoke and flames. All those layers had to be laid out in 3D space so that we could capture the correct perspective and the changes in depth.
So we created pieces of this burned-out barn structure under fire and then layer those different elements in. And the shot was really long too, which is another thing that challenges you. So, you have to show the fire progressing, it’s not just like one or two seconds of fire, you actually have to show the fire growing. So we had to include a lot of small edge fires along the roof of the barn, that sort of slowly eroded the structure away as the shot progressed. And, we had to add a lot of different interactive lighting elements and heat distortion elements, and stuff like that to bring everything together so that it really had that sense of realism.
Fire can be really challenging, when you don’t have a big VFX budget, if you’re not a Terminator style film, fire is something that can be really challenging to get it to look real. And I was really proud of Michael [inaudible 00:13:25] of VFX supervisor and the work that he did, you know or not maybe.
You know, if your team had not told me that this was a very low budget film, I never would have realized that given everything that went into it, to make it just so beautiful and the actors in it, the film is really, really well done. So, how hard is it in the time of COVID to keep your business going and find good people and work with them? How are you adjusting to all of that?
Well, you know, there’s obviously some challenges. I mean, the biggest challenge is to find work, you know, the people thing, in some respects is made a little bit easier by COVID. One of the challenges that we’ve had all along being in Santa Monica, especially with visual effects is attracting really talented people to want to drive to the west side. You know, those folks live in places like Silverlake or they live in Hollywood or North Hollywood, and they don’t really want to commute. And so we basically have been able to set our entire team up to work remotely now. So instead of having a Bullpen where, you know, we have 15 VFX seats in L.A., and 80, up in Montreal. And so instead of having everybody together in a VFX Bullpen, we now have folks working remotely, so they don’t have an hour or an hour and a half commute each direction every day. They’re by definition a lot happier. And I can also attract folks that would just like say, “no way, I’m not making that drive to work on projects with us since we can set them up remotely”.
Well, you know, there was a time and I think it was around the time you were first setting the studio up in Santa Monica when Santa Monica was quote-unquote, “the place to be”. And everyone had started migrating there, but I guess it’s hard to book the establishment, which has been on the other side of town for so long. I’m sitting here and I’m thinking of all of my times and post-production houses, surrounded by editing suites everywhere and lunches and coffees and clients in and out. And, you know, you’re working with your editor, and I’m missing all of that. I think there’s positive things to the lockdown in that we are getting a lot of work done, and we’re concentrating. But there’s also that team and creative aspect of the post, the post process, which I have the utmost respect for, how does it feel?
Well, you’re absolutely right. I mean, there are certain parts of it that work better, and certain parts that don’t. And, you know, I think editorial is pretty challenging now. It’s relatively straightforward to set editors up to work remotely when we use a technology called Teradici, to set all of our folks up to work remotely, but the challenge is the, you know, the supervision the client supervision of these editorial sessions. You know, we use Evercast for the clients to be able to work in teams. In my mind, everybody’s really struggling to get used to this new workflow.
Editors are used to working a certain way, they have all of their keyboards and their shortcuts, and they have the mouse, that the weird mouses that they like, and they have the weird monitors that they like. You know, it’s really straightforward to support those kind of things in a facility when you have 10 of them. Give 10 editors the ease. When they’re all working remotely, and some of this stuff doesn’t work very well, and some of these folks have constrained bandwidth and, and yet, they still have these expectations. It’s like, well, if I can’t have my environment crafted exactly the way I want it, then I’m not going to be able to be productive, and I’m not gonna be able to work very well. And everybody’s having to get used to this new way of working. I think that over time, it’ll get better and better and better. But that’s a bit more challenging.
I think the most challenging thing is doing color, we still really haven’t found a great way to do color remotely. So, we still do our color in person, in our theater. We’re lucky we have a really, really big theater. So, it’s easy to be spaced 20-feet apart. We limit the number of clients that can attend the session to two. And then we have a colorist and a producer. So there’s a total of four people in the room. We have some very, very strenuous and stringent cleaning protocols and sanitizing protocols in between every session and things like that. But you’re right, gone are the days of massively stocked refrigerators and sushi chefs and [inaudible 00:17:27]. I’m trying to say, it doesn’t happen, even for commercials. And it doesn’t happen anymore. You know, you do you need to do to get by and get it done.
Well, you read my mind, that was gonna be my next question, was about color. I mean, I’m sitting here looking at two very large monitors while I’m talking to you. And even though I have quote, unquote, “balanced them”, as best you can, in a non-professional color facility, there’s slight differences in the color in each monitor. And that’s one thing that the client really needs to be there to approve the color. I love watching colorist work. It’s like watching, painting, you know, watching somebody create a beautiful painting. And talk to us a little bit about the color in the film. Because, you have some challenges. And some reasons why I’m sure the color differed in certain sections of the film than it did another’s. Do you want to talk about that?
Sure yeah. I mean, you know, there were really sort of three main looks to this movie. Most of the movies had a very cool gray look, that sort of outdoors in Chicago, in the late fall, kind of thing. A lot of the movie took place in a jail as well, because of one of the main characters – Jamal was a kid that grew up in the foster system and he ended up spending some time in jail, and the jail kind of carried forward that cool look. And then there was the courtroom scenes. A lot of the movie spent time in a courtroom. We wanted the courtroom to sort of, again, feel kind of dark and moody. You know, you had African-American characters in the movie, Louis Gossett, Jr. was the judge, Ben spent a lot of time shooting the, you know, the judge looking up right to sort of, you know, convey a little bit more power for the judge. But then, you also had Matthew Modine and Evan Handler, whose skin tones couldn’t be more opposite from Louis Gossett, Jr., right? You know, you wanted to maintain the drama and the darkness of the room, yet, you still had to maintain the skin tones of the different actors that were in the scenes, and you had to carry those things and track them through. And so it created some challenges there.
And then there were also these scenes where you were outdoors, like for instance, you know, where Jamal finds a new family, right? And the new family really, really loves him. And so, you want the warmth of that environment to be conveyed in their house and outside, in their yard and things like that. And so, you know, you have a completely different look and feel there. And then, the third environment is a flashback where Jamal flashes back to his past where he was things like, raped and abused and stuff like that, even in his new family, where, you know, there was another foster child in the same family at the same time that was abusing him, unbeknownst to his new parent. And so you know, you had the defocus, and the blurs and things like that, that convey the flashback scene.
So, it was a real challenge to sort of create a continuity that wove a common thread all the way through this movie, when you had moods changing so dramatically. And so, Toby Morticia was the colorist for this movie. I think he did a fantastic job, he did a very good job.It’s a real challenge to create continuity in a film that weaves a common thread when you have moods that change so dramatically. Click To Tweet
He did. I was watching the film, and I was watching the scenes in the courtroom, where Shane and Matthew were standing next to each other. And, I was thinking that was a challenge to have somebody with very pale skin standing next to somebody with this very dark, beautiful chocolate kind of color skin. And for a colorist, that’s a bit of a challenge, I would think, to make that look right. Also for the DP.
Yeah, you don’t have a huge budget. This movie didn’t get an opportunity to spend six weeks in color, this movie was in color for 10 days. So, Ben had to do a lot in camera with lighting and stuff like that. And he’s really a genius, he did an amazing job.
Well, you have an unbelievable team, and the dedication to this film is visible in the results. And like you said, you’re still working on some aspects of it, I wish you. Well, I’m not gonna say the other phrase, I’m gonna say break-a-leg with it. There’s a lot of people rooting for you. Is there anything else about your process with a film I didn’t ask you, that you might want to bring to our attention while I have a moment with you?
Well, I mean, I think the one thing that helps this movie with meet its budgetary goals, and its creative goals at the same time, was to design a true and process. Where, if we’re the ones that are processing the Dailies, then we can be sure that we can online and conform the movie very efficiently. And when we do that, we know that pulling visual effects plates is going to go a lot more smoothly. When we have visual effects and D.I. right working together and simultaneously in concert, we know that process can be a lot smoother and a lot more efficient and you can do a lot more in the time that you have, so that you don’t waste time sending things back and forth from different companies. And so, that sort of true end to end workflow design in a boutique facility is something that filmmakers like Jay and Youssef, and Ben, really benefit from and really get a lot out of because you get a lot more bang for your buck and a lot better product for your constrained budget.One thing that helps movies meet their budgetary and creative goals is to design an efficient process. Click To Tweet
Absolutely. So, first of all, go into something that you really feel for that you have a big heart for. Plan, organize, and make sure that you deliver and you work really hard. It’s a formula for success. It’s been so nice talking to you! That was Steve Bannerman, the CEO of REAL by FAKE in L.A. We’re saying hello to your partner, Marc Côté in Montreal and look for Foster Boy in the theaters and, where else can we see the movie right now?
It’s still making its way on a tour of drive-in theaters around the country, funnily enough. But it’s available on iTunes. You can rent it on iTunes. It’s an amazing movie, go see it.
I encourage everybody to take a look at it. Thank you so much for your time. I’m going to let you get back to your very busy day in L.A. and wish you all the best. Thanks for this.
Alright, Cirina. Thanks very much for your time, appreciate it.
Everybody listening in, remember what I always tell you? Get up off that chair and go do something wonderful today! This is Cirina Catania, saying bye for now.
- Steve Bannerman
- REAL by FAKE
- Local Hero
- Big Little Lies
- Marc Côté
- Sharp Objects
- Foster Boy
- Festival Circuit
- Youssef Delara
- Andrew Drazek
- Louis Gossett, Jr.
- Matthew Modine
- Evan Handler
- Don’t be afraid to shift your business and tap new trends in the industry. And be open to business partnerships or acquisitions to grow your business.
- Don’t be discouraged that face-to-face events are not permitted due to COVID. You can always go virtual.
- Learn to work within budgetary constraints, especially if you are working on an independent film. Visual effects on a film with a limited budget can be challenging, you’ve got to be resourceful.
- Learn to hire and set up your team remotely. You can use technology, like Teradici and Evercast, to monitor and supervise each team member.
- Use a camera that is good for the type of movie you are creating. For dark scenes, use a 4k camera that will respond well to low light.
- In editing a movie, create progresses and H-264s to put up on the web on frame IO. Also, create something on iPads for the directors to take a look at.
- Flexibility is needed in creating a great film. Don’t be discouraged that there will be a lot of reshooting and editing needed.
- The film’s color determines the mood of the scene. Always create continuity throughout the film, especially if the film has moods that will change dramatically.
- Watch the movie, Foster Boy. It’s on a tour of drive-in theaters around the country. You can also rent and watch it on iTunes.
- Check out Steve Bannerman’s company, REAL by FAKE, which provides fully integrated post-production and realistic VFX for feature films, television, commercials, and music videos.