Prepping the Shoot with a Unique Team of Filmmakers and Epic Production Design

By in The Olive Film, Video Editing

In this second part about ‘Olive’, the post-apocalyptic fairy tale that tells the story of the last man alive and his undernourished Olive tree, pre-production of the film gets back on track as Production Designer Kit Stølen, Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Taylor and actor Doug Jones join the team.

Exterior designs for ‘Olive’

With Olive postponed indefinitely, it was time to refocus on the story and build a team of filmmakers uniquely qualified to capture the peculiar mix of tones. Elliot Williams, Olive’s Co-Producer, and I discussed what we actually had going for us and how we could use this to get back on track. Having worked with Elliot, I trusted his nuanced storytelling and dedication to capture that story on film.

Olive takes place inside of an industrial shelter made to withstand an epic winter storm that covers the planet. Although the majority of the film takes place inside of one location, we would build 3 distinct areas of the domicile— living space, ceiling and rooftop exterior.

Production Designer, Kit Stølen and First Assistant Director Goran Stankovic

We met Production Designer, Kit Stølen, had a fresh take on the story that I had taken for granted. His design ideas built upon the script but also infused Olive with an epic sense of scale suitable for this tale of man and nature. Cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko and Kit immediately hit it off, agreeing on color palette, tone and I immediately saw new creative possibilities in their collaboration.

Interior set designs for ‘Olive’

As the first designs came in, Kit wowed us with his illustrations and approach to the ramshackle world. Knowing that we were building a massive set on a shoe string budget, Kit creatively stretched the available sound stage space by curving the set. His design, made of repurposed set pieces, used flats and design elements differently depending on the particular location. All of the walls were also ‘wild’ to accommodate camera angles and quick redesigns.

Cinematographer Sara Ross-Samko with Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Taylor

There is also a central story element of a singular round window that looks to the exterior world. This provided a beautiful natural source of light for the film, but it also posed huge production complications. We decided to stick with an analog approach and built a forced perspective miniature exterior rather than green screens and CGI. We teamed with Bill Taylor ASC, one of Hollywood’s great VFX experts to assist us in keeping all FX in camera.

Tree Stump Sculpture

Sara Ross-Samko trying out the costumes

After several months of preparation things were finally taking shape again. As Elliot pushed other feature length screenplays, we also needed a co-producer to pick up where Elliot could not, so we teamed with Producer Sandra Verona who brings years of indie production experience and a passion for sci-fi to the team.

Actor Doug Jones and Writer/Director Aaron Martinez

One vital position was still left unoccupied, our lead character, Eugene. I reached out to a performer that is a regular of one of my favorite filmmakers work. Doug Jones, star of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy I & II and the upcoming Crimson Peak, read the Olive screenplay and was thrilled to play the role of the last man on earth! We were now set with a great team of filmmakers, an epic design, and a leading man perfect for the role…

Our next daunting task would be actually creating this dystopian post apocalyptic world of tomorrow to save the beautiful world we live in today!

In the third part of our series witness how cameras start to roll as production kicks off for Olive. 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.