Swine is a feature film, grown out of and incorporating a short that inspired it. From that short it became a trilogy of shorts and then a feature composed of multiple linked episodes. Not so much an anthology as episodes within the same saga, or episodes of a show. The result Is an interesting and very different take on the theme of rebellion against an evil empire. You can read my full review here: http://www.roguecinema.com/swine-2014-jim-morazzini.html
Brad Hoffarth, Director of Photography, Editor, VFX Supervisor & Executive Producer on the film was kind enough to answer a few questions about the film and indie filmmaking.
JM: Swine has an unusual episodic format. How did the writers come up with that and was there any special reason for it?
BH: I think the episodic format came from the fact that we only intended to make a short film in 2009. But we had such a blast making it we said what the hell, let’s make a trilogy! The story evolved in such a way that it felt right at home as a series of episodes where characters come and go and multiple plot threads interweave, similar to a serialized show.
JM: Were all the episodes written before filming started or did you see how good the first three looked and decide to expand it?
BH: The original short had a definite finale so we decided the only way to move forward was backwards. We decided to craft two more 15 minute episodes as prequels to that original story in 2010. Once we saw the completed trilogy, we felt that the world we built was interesting enough to expand into feature length. That is when we shot a new opening, middle and ending to get it to 90 minutes and more importantly make the whole thing feel as if it were one story.
JM: Did you shoot each episode separately like individual short films or was it a more traditional out of sequence shoot?
BH: We did shoot each episode as a separate film over the course of 4 years, but it did give us time to raise funds and crowd source on Indiegogo between shoots. It is a crazy way to make a movie but I think it was the only way we could without a whole lot of cash. The real trick was maintaining continuity between the long breaks and being flexible with everyones schedules.
JM: You make very good use of a lot of abandoned buildings, was the script written with them in mind or were they located afterward?
BH: We are blessed with a plethora of abandoned locations and derelict structures in Southern California so we had to take advantage of that. A lot of the locations were written with them in mind since they were so visually interesting. Our producers also managed to get us some really great standing sets such as the Colonial Army HQ, Vox Populi Camp and Rivertown. There is one short scene that was shot on a sound stage but otherwise we tried to be out on location as much as possible to preserve the gritty realism as much as possible.
JM: The cast is full of strong female characters, much more so than most post-holocaust films. Was there a reason for this or was it something that happened during casting?
BH: We have a really diverse cast with especially strong female leads, which is the way we envisioned it from the beginning. If we ever decide to continue SWINE I know there will be many more powerful women that will drive the story, it is only natural.
JM: Did you have the cast, or at least some of them, in mind and write the roles for them?
BH: A lot of the actors in SWINE had previously worked with us in other films and some roles were written specifically for them. We did put out a casting call for some of the other roles and, since this is really an ensemble piece, everyone in the cast got a chance to shine.
JM: According to IMDB, Swine was originally supposed to be set during World War 2 but changed to a futuristic setting. What were the reasons for that?
BH: Originally our dream was to make a WWII “men on a mission” film back in 2001. That idea was shelved for cost reasons but the story premise always stuck around. Around 2009 we finally decided to go back to that idea but place it in a post-apocalyptic setting since we could create an entire world from scratch while still drawing upon historical conflicts.
JM: You got a lot of excellent production values out of a very small budget, it looks better than some of the films I see on SyFy. How did you manage to pull that off?
BH: Everything kind of came together like The Magnificent Seven. Each person contributed their own special talent and background to make it look like it cost 10x more than it did. It was important to us to have props and costumes that felt grounded in reality and looked hand made. We also pooled a lot of resources to get working vehicles, real locations, camera/grip equipment, post production facilities, etc. Almost everything is shot handheld and naturally lit by sunlight or very small lighting kits and we tried to get production sound as pristine and clear as possible.
JM: Although the weapons are futuristic energy weapons, the vehicles are pretty straight forward modern day ones. Was there a reason for that or was it just a matter of budget?
BH: It is partly budgetary but we also didn’t want to have crazy CG spacecraft and flying vehicles just for the hell of it. We only used CG where it served the story or augmented the post-apocalyptic setting. The in-universe explanation is that The Colonials put all their research and resources into weapons advancement over the years.
JM: It seems at the beginning you were drawing strong comparisons between the Empire and the Roman Empire. Was that the case, and if so was there a particular reason?
BH: I think the Roman Empire was a big historical influence, especially in the way the Outland Province is administered by local warlords and governors. The whole résistance group was a hold over from the original WWII idea but we were also informed by current conflicts around the world. It was more interesting to see a group of fighters as a dysfunctional unit, unlike the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars who are all united against the Empire.
JM: Swine has played several festivals and done fairly well. How do you decide what ones to enter?
BH: SWINE is essentially a grindhouse film so we choose to enter festivals accordingly. Wasteland Weekend Film Festival out in California City was one such festival that embraced us from the start. We screened the original trilogy there in 2012 and were asked to come back in 2014 to show the feature to a amazing crowd. If there ever was a group of people that gets a film like SWINE, it is the Wastelander’s who are a fantastic bunch of rogues that helped us along the way!
JM: You sold DVDs of the first three episodes to help finance the full film. Would you consider self-distributing it if you don’t get a good offer?
BH: We sold some DVD’s of the original trilogy at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con to garner interest and funding for the project. I think we would be totally open to self-distribution since it seems like a viable option for indie filmmakers. Ideally we would love to turn this project into something bigger on a steaming platform as a limited or regular series.
JM: Do you think streaming, on demand and sales oriented sites like IndieReign, are a good alternative to traditional distribution for independent filmmakers?
BH: Streaming and online distribution is the way to go for most indie filmmakers to get stuff out there and IndieReign sounds promising. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu+, etc. are also very interesting options to explore.
JM: Would you consider another film in the world of Swine, either a sequel or about other groups?
BH: It would be great to continue the story, we built this rich gritty world that is a blast to play in!
JM: Any projects in the pipeline that you can talk about?
BH: We do have a few other ideas in the works but it is too early to talk about!
Brad Hoffarth- SWINE
DP, Editor, VFX Supervisor & Executive Producer
Thanks again to Brad for taking the time to answer my questions. If you get a chance to see Swine, by all means do so. Hopefully it will find distribution soon, until then keep an eye on local festivals.