How this short film dives into technocracy with low-budget VFX and sound design – No Film School | Gmx Pharm

Hold on to the process and make it work – for a dark vision of the future.

This post was written by Sean Yopchick.

I was traveling cross country from Los Angeles to Boston when I ended up in a small town somewhere deep in Texas. As I got out of the car and started walking around, I immediately thought of an alien invasion. I imagined hearing the radio from a broken dark window announcing the imminent attack, and only I heard it.

I wrote the short story as quickly as possible, which then developed into a short screenplay. I’ve learned over the years not to get too excited about an idea. It’s only until the idea itself keeps knocking on my door and reminds me of myself that I know it’s a full blown relationship worth the fight and energy.

Coupled with my growing interest in technocratic governance, the idea blossomed INVASIONwhich you can view here:


To fully realize the ideas, I figured it wouldn’t do me much good to watch minority report or 2001 Instead, I watched as many sci-fi shorts as possible to decipher what was successful, what wasn’t, and what hasn’t been made yet.

HYPERREALITY, HASHTAG, and VIEW are three of the short films I studied. I also dove into books on artificial intelligence, algorithms, and technocracy. Goodbye to a brave new world, Flash Boys, and The age of surveillance capitalism are all works that shaped the film from start to finish.


In pre-production, I try to work immediately with the actor to brainstorm ideas. I use whatever camera is available to me at the moment, be it a DSLR or just the camera on my phone. I can then take the footage home, edit the clips, and see if there are any gaps in motivation, performance, and story. It also gives me the opportunity to develop the character in an intimate setting with the actor.

Eric Olin Anderson is a first-time actor but a longtime friend and storyteller. I knew the collaboration would work.

Then I met with Andrew J. Whittaker, the cinematographer. We wanted to figure out how exactly we could shoot a self-driving car with little to no budget. It was very important to me to do such a magic trick in the middle of the story. We also wanted to make sure we had a clear plan for developing the film’s language while keeping in mind that we were going to be shooting a VFX character. Andrew and I both appreciate a static “sticks” style to create sharp editing cuts and make it more special when we introduce movement.

I also like to capture a second camera whenever I can so I can capture more moments in the edit. Jon Pivko, a longtime collaborator, ran the B-Camera and was able to find shots and explore the performance without limits.

“Invasion” behind the scenesRecognition: Sean Yopchick


I have worked on various films as a production assistant and assistant director. That way I could account for the time it takes to actually make a good scene. For example, moving the camera, waiting on an airplane, or discussing lens choices and character ideas always takes more time than you think. I wanted to make sure we could allow discussion and wait for unforeseen technical and environmental difficulties, rather than rushing and letting quality suffer.

I decided to skip a scene that day to give us more time to explore camera shots and performance ideas. The scene I dropped eventually became the dialogue for the AI ​​scene in the self-driving car.

We had to drive three hours from the motel to our next location. I planned to film the interior of the car while we drove to our Airbnb to use the time efficiently. We stayed close to town and woke up before sunrise so we could take advantage of as much sunlight as possible. We shot in February, so we only had about eight to nine hours of usable light.

“Invasion” behind the scenesRecognition: Sean Yopchick


I reached out to a VFX company to see if they would be willing to work with me. They gave me a price I couldn’t accept, so I immediately jumped onto YouTube and started watching tutorials. When I came across something I just couldn’t do, I hired an independent VFX artist to work on individual shots. That worked very well.

After uploading over a hundred and fifty versions of INVASION On YouTube I started showing people something. I watched the viewers watch the film to see when they lost interest and what jokes they laughed at and which ones they didn’t laugh at.

In the past I might have been too nervous to show the work before I felt it was fully finished. But this experiment was actually the best I could do for the final product.

“Invasion” behind the scenesRecognition: Sean Yopchick

sound mixing

For me, this is the worst part of the whole post-processing process. The world is fun to build, and the sound itself helps realize the vision you had in mind.

But then comes the bad part. When you overanalyze every sound in the movie and it starts to drive you crazy. It’s good to know when to stop this obsessive part of the process. I also think there’s something psychological about it because when the film is almost done you have to give it away and share it. It’s possible that at this stage you just don’t want to let it go, so you become obsessed with small things. At least that’s my experience.

Ryan Baker worked tirelessly with me over the course of two or three months to improve on what I had already implemented and also generated entirely new ideas that had a huge impact on the final cut. The mood I wanted was abstraction and mystery. I always feel this is the best way to engage an audience. Coupled with a fantastic original score by Matthew Carpenter, I was very pleased with the end result.

‘Invasion’Recognition: Sean Yopchick

The last cut

The most important thing I kept telling myself during post-production was not to think about what would happen to the film when it was finished. I had to get thoughts of film festivals out of my head to just focus on what needed to be accomplished in the moment. That way I could try to make every moment the best it could be without being distracted by daydreams.

I also wanted to make sure that the ego was kept out of the process as much as possible. When you’re wearing the director’s hat, I think the ego is useful for pushing yourself and convincing yourself that what you’re doing is worthwhile. But once you’ve put the editing cap on, it’s time to ditch the over-the-top nonsense and boil it down to what serves the story. Anything flashy, something like, “Oh, that’s a tribute to an obscure movie,” that’s gone.

Final Thoughts

When you make films over a long period of time and at some point you ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”

Then it could be your duty, and there is no answer to the question of why.

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