WE DID IT! FOXFORCE completed its first video production during Covid-19. We want to express our gratitude to the many filmmaking friends on Facebook who offered their advice on #practicesafesets during the Covid-19 pandemic to keep our crew healthy and protected and the Unions who provided “The Safe Way Forward,” a multi-union report on Covid-19 safety guidelines. Secondly, we would like to thank all the cast and crew for being so careful and listening. With that being said, let us break down how we handled the production.
This time, FOXFORCE was asked to produce a book trailer for author Shina Reynolds’ debut novel, A Light in the Sky. It’s a high-flying new fantasy series filled with passion, betrayal, and adventure – description via Goodreads. We knew this was going to be a challenge. As it included flying horses, kids, and the Texas summer heat! The budget didn’t allow for any stunt work or VFX to create flying horses with wings, but in the entertainment business, you need to get creative. We were not intimated, but rather eager to come up with solutions.
As with any video production, commercial, film, branded content etc., we start with research and development. Since we couldn’t afford the effects à la Clash of the Titans, we decided to focus on the romantic relationships in the book. However, we still wanted horses in the trailer as the book includes non-flying horses as well. So we figured out how to imply a horse with wings and showcase a normal horse as well. We added fighting weapon props to intensify the drama and action as well.
We worked on a story and shot list which was realistic to accomplish in a couple of days. With a solid game plan in mind, we settled into the pre-production phase. This is the second stage of filmmaking.
FOXFORCE had about one week of prep. We immediately got the ball rolling with casting, costuming, storyboarding, location scouting, equipment rental, hiring crew, reaching out to prop houses and everything else that goes into pre-production, meaning lots of meetings. Due to the coronavirus, we did this mostly by Zoom or phone calls. To find a cinematic film location Julin reached out to her producer buddy, Robert MacCready, with the fabulous film production company Tiny Apples, and asked if he happened to know anyone with horse stables. Thankfully, he did! We spoke to his friend, Maria about the video production, budget, overall storyline and entire feel of the project. She was immediately on board and became a huge resource. You see, Maria is super connected to the Houston Polo community and was able to get a donated film location with one of the most cinematic and beautiful horse stables that we’ve ever seen! The problem was, no horses due to the house being up for sale. FOXFORCE ended up filming at an exquisite $15 million dollar mini-palace in the heart of Houston with six acres of land. Plenty of room for social distancing. We even brought in a beautiful Friesian horse, Princess D, special thanks to her owner Jen, for her first starring role. Princess D was a natural.
That is why networking and connections are so important in this film business. Maria even recommended a professional polo rider, Lily Lequerica, who we ended up casting for the lead role of the book trailer. It’s also worth mentioning that Greg at Hearthstone stables was more than happy to help us out too, but we had to settle on one location for the shoot.
Now that we had the location secured and the main actress casted, we still had a lot of work ahead of us. FOXFORCE worked hand-in-hand with Shina Reynolds, Maria and our other local filmmaking friends from Houston to secure props, costumes, camera and lighting gear. We were able to source everything locally and we were ready for the next phase – the production.
The FOXFORCE team headed to Houston to film the book trailer. Saturday, we had to pick up equipment in Houston, check with the grip truck and head to Lily’s horse ranch to get some beautiful shots of her riding one of her favorite polo horses in the sunset. This was a last minute idea we added to the story and we are so glad we did. FOXFORCE used natural light, a drone and our wonderful in-house Arri Amira camera. The shots came out amazing and gave a natural and cinematic feel. We used a B-set of Zeiss Ultra Primes from the mid 80’s to capture the romantic feel of the story. They were the same set of lenses used on indie horse film, The Rider, which premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
Sunday was the big shoot day. Call time was 10 AM and we planned for a 10 hour shoot day. Thanks to pre-planning we knew exactly what and when we were going to shoot, where to stage our equipment and craft services, where to park our cars, how the horse was going to be transported and safely put in the stable and where the cast and crew could safely rest from the Houston summer heat while social distancing of course.
FOXFORCE had a safety meeting in the morning to not only discuss how to stay safe during the production, but how to act safely around our beautiful co-starring Friesian horse, Princess D. We had no problems with everyone wearing a mask, socially distancing and eating at different times. Julin did have to remind people from time to time to sanitize their hands and keep a distance. Luckily, we had read that it is normal practice to remind people on sets. For more information about safe sets during coronavirus please check out the Union Safety Guidelines.
The shoot was a total success. Everyone stayed safe and the footage looks incredible. Now, we are in the next phase – post-production. That means, FOXFORCE will now edit the footage, add special music, light effects, color grade and deliver the final video for everyone to see with a few tweaks in between working closely with the director and author, Shina Reynolds to ensure the story is her unique vision.
A cool thing that happened was the morning after the long two days of work is when Julin woke up on Monday to read that our mini-production had made headlines in the Houston Chronicle. You can READ ALL ABOUT IT here.
Some behind the scenes photos are below. Thanks for reading and please share this article and the word about FOXFORCE! Stay FOXY my friends & stay safe.