One of our biggest efforts right now is to inform filmmakers and artists about our rigs. In September we reached out to UCLA’s School of Theatre Film and Television in Los Angeles and offered one of our Rodriguez rigs for the students of the program to become familiar with this type of technology and how it can be used in their films. But Beau Marks teaches Directing and Production Management at UCLA and he saw greater potential for a relationship with Squib FX. He contacted me shortly after receiving our email and graciously invited us to come demo our rigs at his school.
Beau has an impressive resume to say the least, but some of his credits include 1st AD on Commando and Predator as well as second unit director on Die Hard and Judge Dredd. So to say that he knows his bullet hits would certainly be an understatement. He told us that he thought that the students at UCLA would benefit greatly from using our rigs for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was that the university’s insurance would not cover any type of pyrotechnics so the students could not use ANY bullet hits in their films unless they got their own insurance. And this illustrates one of the biggest challenges facing student and indie filmmakers when working with explosive pyrotechnics- money. Our air powered non-explosive rigs cost less to own than you would pay just for a licensed pyrotechnician to just show up for the day. Not to mention the insurance, permits, the fire marshall (especially in southern California!), emergency responders, plus the time it takes to jump through all of the hoops local and federal authorities put on explosive effects.
Beau was also kind enough to offer the names of some of his local LA colleagues from other universities and suggested that I contact them in regard to demoing our rigs for their students while we were in LA. I reached out to several and was contacted right away by American Film Institute’s Betsy Pollock- Associate Dean, Production, and Director, First Year Production. She said that her first year production class would also definitely see the new filmmaking possibilities our rigs offered their productions.
So, last Monday Michael Strapac and I flew to LA and stayed the week at Culver City’s Sunburst Motel. It was adequately nostalgic without being too depressing and tolerant to Mike and I firing air mortars in the parking lot. We spent a few hours Sunday scouting out UCLA’s campus and found the sound stage that we would demo in and were up bright and early the next morning to do our thing. We finally met Beau face to face and were introduced to Rand Soares, Production Services and Facilities Coordinator, who called himself our biggest champion at UCLA and told us that he was very excited about our visit. He said that he had seen a demo at Fox a number of years ago and he was convinced that when it came to bullet hits that using air was the way to go! Our demo was excitedly received and we had a couple of enthusiastic volunteers to step forward to be shot, one in the heart and one in the brain! Lucas (who was shot in the heart) told us all an anecdote as we rigged him up of a time recently that he chose to use explosive squibs in his movie. He told us he regretted having spent so much time and money on his explosive bullet hit effects knowing now about our rigs. He was super excited too about the future bullet hits that he could pack into his projects with this as a resource. We demonstrated our Rodriguez, Tarantino, and McDonaugh rigs and went over all aspects of all of our rigs. UCLA was huge hit! We’ve already got some rental action going with some of the students as well.
We had our second demo on Thursday at the American Film Institute. We scouted again the day before and met Mr. Duane Aamot, Stage Manager at AFI, who would be setting up our flats and water hose and such the following day. Betsy was busy in meetings so we met up with her when we arrived on Thursday and hit it off right away. She is super cool and I can tell has a profound effect on her students. She introduced us and we showed them the rigs and explained the benefits and such and then we all went out to the parking lot and started demoing our rigs on another group of very excitable students. We also learned that it was Duane’s birthday and to celebrate we promptly shot him in the head! Again we demonstrated our Rodriguez, Tarantino, and McDonaugh rigs and went over all aspects of all of our rigs, but this time we also showed The Kurasawa.
AFI student Morgan Smock was so impressed with our rigs that he went into business for himself that day as an LA distributor of Squib FX rigs, buying 3 and posting to his people that he had rigs for rent! It was really awesome to see someone as excited about our rigs as we are. Morgan can really see our vision and we’re happy to be collaborating with him! As Mike and I left hours after the demo we visited Betsy as she was leaving her office. She said that the whole school was abuzz with the news and reality of our rigs and we both thanked each other up and down.
Our trip to a couple of the country’s best film schools was a huge shot in the arm for our public awareness and we are looking for more interested parties now to continue spreading the word. Also moving forward we take a piece of advice from Beau Marks- “The students and film productions in this area need to be able to rent your rigs a day or two at a time from somewhere in LA”. Got our gears turning and we’ll share some news on that front soon! And speaking with Betsy I’ve found that we agree that small productions, especially student budgets, are often forced to write around production liabilities and create within the bounds of their resources. And such is the real world, and is a good lesson to learn in film school. However, the even more important inverse of that statement is that artists will generally create around their assets as well. We’re now expecting a slew of action and Samurai movies over the next few years at AFI!
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