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A Day in the Life of an Indie Film Producer: The Making of “Under the Blood Red Sun”

How a low-budget independent film set in World War II-era Hawai‘i comes together through a peek into producer Dana Hankins’ work diary.


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(page 1 of 4)

The production team sometimes asked for help finding locations via Facebook.
Photo: Courtesy of Studio Red

 

Job

Coordinating details of an independent movie production, set in 1941, shot with a small budget requiring the period props, wardrobe and setting of World War II Hawai‘i.

• Editor Bob Bates makes picture revisions to scenes from 5 to 8 a.m., before he leaves for full-time job, then posts revisions on Vimeo for producer/director review.

• Bob makes daily 8:30 a.m. call to me while driving to work. Discuss, agree, argue, compromise. Rush through discussion of other editorial chores—music, visual effects, credits, titles, color correction, etc. Prep for his next call at 3 p.m.

• Director Tim Savage reviews same scenes, then calls with his comments, sometimes on his way in to full time job.  Repeat process: We discuss, agree, argue, compromise and review other post-production chores.

 

By the Numbers

Budget: Keep it under $500,000
Cast: 155, including background extras
Crew: 55 total (some only worked a couple days on set)
How long did it take to make the movie? 12 years to talk about it
How long did it take to shoot? 20 days, over 9 months
How long did it take to complete? 8 months to edit; one press of the button to release it

 

Photo: Courtesy of Red Sun Prods.

 

Getting it Right

In Scene 135, Mrs. Wilson brings a note to the Nakaji household saying that Papa Nakaji is being moved to Sand Island internment camp. Mama receives the note and tells Tomi (age 13 years) to read it. Tomi scans it quickly, says, “I can’t believe it” until Mama prompts Tomi again to “read it, Tomi.” I want to lose Tomi’s line as I like the pregnant pause without Tomi saying “I can’t believe it.” It’s an awkward moment with Tomi’s silence; it helps build suspense. Tim argues that we need to keep it not so much for the line itself but because we see a fraction of Tomi in the foreground (Mama in the background) and we see his chin move slightly so it would be weird without the line. After a few phone calls discussing it and reviewing the footage, we decide to keep the line but reduce it to a mumble in the sound mix to get the best of both.

 

Shot on digital video—about 6 TB.
Photo: Courtesy of Red Sun Prods.

 

9 a.m.

Phone call with Hyperspective Studios, via computer-screen sharing, to review the production footage that we’ve given to them and discuss how Tim planned for the Visual Effects of the Japanese Zeros to be added to the footage. We’re asked to select and approve computer-simulated model footage of Zero planes; I reach out to historian Burl Burlingame at the Pacific Aviation Museum to make sure we have right plane, right model, right coloring, etc.

 

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