An Interview with Koren Young – By Cary Conley

I recently watched a very interesting trilogy of short films that collectively are known as the SWINE Trilogy (also reviewed in this month’s issue of Rogue Cinema). I had the chance to discuss this series of shorts with Executive Producer Koren Young, who is leading the push for financing in order to expand this series into a full-length feature.

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Cary Conley: Introduce yourself to Rogue readers. How did you get interested in filmmaking? What is your background in filmmaking?

Koren Young: I started telling stories using an old Super 8 film camera my parents gave me in grade school. My friends and I used to get together and make our own 3-minute films. Because we only used one film cartridge per movie, each story had to be carefully planned out and shot sequentially. All of the editing was done in the camera. I took every film and video class available from elementary through high school and later graduated from the Cinema & Television Arts program at CSUN.

My venture into the film industry began as an intern for Dreamworks Animation and First Look Studios at the Cannes Film Festival. I’ve been working as a post production professional for the last ten years and specialize in editing and DVD/Blu-ray authoring. I’ve had the pleasure of working on hundreds of titles for studios like Fox, Disney, Universal, Weinstein and Warner Bros.

CC: What filmmakers and films influenced your decision to become a filmmaker?

KY: I’ve always been a fan of movies that could possibly take place in today’s real world, but with a twist. The Ghostbusters movies, Back to the Future trilogy and Terminators 1 and 2 really inspired me. I love watching a movie and thinking, “What if that did happen?”

CC: You recently co-founded your own production company, Arcay Studios. Tell us a little about this undertaking.

KY: While my day job allows me to work on exciting titles for many different studios, nothing comes close to the satisfaction of working on my own projects. My brother Ryan has worked as an ADR Mixer on hundreds of major motion pictures, but also enjoys creating the sound design on our independent productions. Arcay Studios allows us to create our own films, including documentaries, shorts and features.

CC: Swine is a Well-Oiled Machine production. This isn’t your first collaboration with these folks. How did you initially meet the people at Well-Oiled Machine?

KY: I made a bunch of friends while taking film classes at College of the Canyons over ten years ago. We worked on many shorts in school and have remained friends throughout the years. Unfortunately, we all got “real jobs” after graduation and allowed years to pass without working on anything creative. At some point, we realized that we needed to reunite the team to produce another short film. That’s when we decided to make Swine.

As an independent filmmaker, you always use a company name to help brand your films. Each member of our team uses their own banner and we felt it would be best not to crowd our credits with five production company names. “Well-Oiled Machine” symbolizes our unity and was a term used in the first scene of the original Swine film.

CC: How did the concept of Swine develop? At what point in the project did you come in as executive producer?

KY: Brad Hoffarth, our cinematographer and editor, returned to Los Angeles after studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. He suggested bringing the team back together to create another short and asked Daniel Levitch, a comic book writer, if he had any short scripts ready for production. Daniel had a World War II story called “Swine” about a captain who betrays his men, but changed the setting to a post-apocalyptic world after realizing that it would be impossible to shoot a World War II film with our limited budget.

As one of the members of the old team, I was invited to become a part of the this new project. Other members of our original team include our producer, Matthew Bowers, our sound supervisor, Ryan Young, and our assistant director, Kyle J. Maki.

CC: I was particularly impressed with the costume design in the film as well as the production design. The costumes seemed quirky and interesting while the locations were dead-on representations of a post-apocalyptic landscape. What can you tell us about these two components of the film?

KY: Daniel, Brad and Matthew participated in an activity known as Urban Exploring. Rather than aimlessly hiking through the woods to catch a glimpse of natural beauty, they found trails that lead to abandoned castles and factories. They explored dozens of really neat locations and brought back pictures to share with the rest of the team. We chose what we felt best fit the locations in the script. We didn’t have to alter the locations at all, so when you see graffiti on the buildings or weeds growing out of the road, that’s how we found it.

The costumes were a different story. We purchased a handful of olive-green colonial outfits on eBay for $10 each and reused them for many characters. For the bounty hunters and members of the Vox Populi, we let the actors read the scripts and then took them on a shopping spree through several thrift stores. Each actor was given $25 to build their character’s wardrobe. The unique costumes for the four colonial concubines were designed and crafted by Kellsy MacKilligan who plays Mercedes in the series.

CC: I was equally impressed with the cinematography which gave the film a muted, washed out look with muted colors. Can you talk a little about the how the look of the film was planned?

KY: We knew early on that we wanted to give the film a grittier look by decreasing the saturation and increasing the contrast, a process known in the film world as “skip bleach.” We tested several cameras and ultimately decided to shoot on a Panasonic HVX200. Daniel wanted a more intimate feel, so there were no tripod-mounted shots used in our series. Brad was completely responsible for creating the look of the film, from shooting the footage to editing and from visual effects to color-correction.

CC: Each of the three segments of the film was made for about $5,000, although I must say, they look much more expensive than that. As executive producer, what are the biggest challenges in managing a micro-budgeted film?

KY: I think that no matter what kind of budget you’re given, a film is always going to use every last penny of it. The budget of our films went mostly to feeding our cast and crew, but we did have to spend some money creating the props. Ari Levitch, one of our screenwriters, has such an imagination and was able to create some really incredible props and weapons for us. A big steampunk fan, Ari made a smoke stack that can be seen in Vox Populi camp sites and on the back of two vehicles. He created unique weapons by wrapping wires around sprinkler pipes or fitting laser printer toner cartridges with squirt gun handles. He completed every prop with a custom paint job that made new plastic look like worn metal.

CC: The initial idea for Swine was as a single short feature that has now developed into three roughly 15-minute shorts, each focusing on a different character. How was the decision made to expand the initial concept into a series?

KY: A lot of people don’t know this, but the third chapter of Swine was originally our entire project. When we screened it for the first time, audience members were asking us for more details about the various characters. The cast and crew had such a great time working on it that we agreed to expand on the story. Because of how chapter 3 ends, it was clear that the additional stories would have to lead up to it.

CC: While Swine is now a three-part, 5-minute film, there are plans to produce at least two more 15-minute shorts and expand the film into a full-length feature. At this point, the estimated cost for finishing the project is more than the first three segments combined. How do you plan on raising the funds to complete the project? How can fans of the series help?

KY: Since we shot our first Swine film, at least five of our actors have gone on to star in national commercials and network television shows. Now that we’re working with SAG actors, there are a few additional hoops that we need to jump through that increase our budget slightly.

We’re currently raising funds by offering exclusive Swine-related items on our website. Fans who visit swinemovie.com can purchase autographed DVDs, photos, posters and hand-crafted props used in the film. We’re also offering unique opportunities like cameos in the film and credit as an associate or executive producer.

CC: How can people who are interested in seeing Swine find a copy of the film?

KY: We have DVD’s available that contain all of the films with 5.1 surround sound. Each DVD also comes with a high definition digital copy that can be played in iTunes or any portable media player. The trilogy is also viewable on our YouTube channel. You can find our YouTube link and DVD copies for sale on our website, swinemovie.com.

CC: Are you at a point where scripts have been developed for the remaining segments? What about preproduction?

KY: The Brothers Levitch are currently hard at work writing additional segments for our series. We’ll start scouting for new locations and casting in March with the intent to begin production this summer.

CC: Finally, other than the completion of this project, do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about?

KY: We do have other projects in the works, including another sci-fi adventure and a controversial documentary. Pre-production is expected to begin at the end of 2012 when the feature-length version of Swine is completed.