Bringing the ‘Olive’ Story to Life Through Inspired Filmmaking and Handcrafted Practical Effects

By in The Olive Film, Video Editing

In this third part about ‘Olive’, the post-apocalyptic fairy tale that tells the story of the last man alive and his undernourished Olive tree, we step inside the industrial cottage for production.

Cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko and writer and director Aaron Martinez

Olive takes place in the not so distant future where mankind has become victim to its own ideals of industrial progress and grandeur. Keeping the film’s production as intimate and handcrafted as possible, we embraced the idiosyncrasies of the artist. All effects were shot on 16mm film and in camera, including a forced perspective miniature, hand cranked footage and several trick shots. The biggest obstacle was creating the epic winter storm outside of a five foot wide round window on a baking hot sound stage in downtown Los Angeles.

Actor Doug Jones and cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko

As Kit Stølen and the art department took over the sound stage it was time to solidify set design and clear up potential issues with rigging and stunts. This is the most exciting time, seeing the character’s living space take shape while walking a delicate line of controlling as much as possible, and trying to remain open to spontaneous acts of brilliance and the inevitable game-changing complications. The director’s understanding of the story is the most valuable resource while shooting, but even this evolves as the film comes to life on set.

Production Designer Kit Stølen

Stunt performer Alex Kingi

A complex story element and practical effect was the collapse of the mechanical aqueduct that hangs from the ceiling of the industrial domicile. As this machine breaks down throughout the story, parts begin to fall off of the walls and must be rigged and re-rigged in various locations of the sound stage. During the shoot there was a looming feeling that something big was being hoisted up or about to come crashing down at any moment. This kept us on our toes.

Actor Doug Jones and stunt performer Alex Kingi

The absolute pinnacle of the production took place when deconstructed set elements were repurposed to create a hatch to the outside world. Our lead character, played by Doug Jones, ventures out of his home into the engulfing winter storm. It was an exhilarating day of stunt shooting, hoisting the legendary performer to his on-screen death, signaling not only the end of our narrative, but also mankind as we know it…

Shooting the winter storm

Writer and director Aaron Martinez and actor Doug Jones

All is well that ends well, as Doug Jones survived the Olive production needing nothing more than a warm bath to clean off the apocalyptic oil and debris. The on- set collaboration was an extraordinary example of problem solving with creative solutions and inspired filmmaking. The last and most difficult part of the production was the agonizing wait to see the beautiful footage come back from the lab.

Complete cast and crew of 'Olive'

In the fourth part of our series the ‘Olive’ dailies roll in, and the editorial process in Media Composer begins. Get more in-depth information about this project on the website of Olive, and follow the adventures of crew and cast on Twitter and Instagram.

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I first experienced the transcendental possibilities of filmmaking by witnessing the artistic genius of Stan Brakhage at the University of Colorado. As an AFI Conservatory fellow I studied nuanced, character based storytelling and world building through collaboration. I look to create cinematic tales that thrill viewers with spirited visions and fearless hope.