Hollywonk Spotlight: Marty Weiss (The Alchemist Agenda)

Why did you make this test movie?
Amazon Studios maintained that test movies should be an important step to more easily ascertain strengths and weaknesses of a story and help determine when projects are ready for production. So making the test movie was an opportunity to use my filmmaking background to demonstrate the screenplay’s potential.

 

How long did it take to make it?

From August to November, including evenings and most weekends.

 

Tell us about your team/collaborators.

After an extensive search of animators and animation/visual effects companies, I chose to work with The Hive, a small production studio that had experience in animatics. Yesenia Higuera and Ben Price started this new company to produce varied forms of media and provide editorial services. Yesenia was also the main editor for my test movie.  Once I determined the style of the film, we brought in freelance artists to prepare the frames and layers of artwork. Matthew Hill was our art director with whom I worked to determine the look of everything from character faces, wardrobe, color palettes, etc.  Nick Kunin was my main animator who put all the layers together. The other artists were Eric Koda, Alain Norte, Turne Lange, Darron Price, and Jeremy Arambulo. (Jeremy also designed the title sequence.) I used about 15 actors, most of whom are part of the Groundlings acting program which specializes in improvisational techniques. The actors played multiple roles since the script called for nearly 75 characters. The music was composed by my good friend, Gregor Narholz, through his company APM Music. Another friend, Lisa Fishman, wrote and performed the original song “Mr. Husky Eyes.” Sound design was done by freelancers D. Chris Smith and Will Riley at their home studios.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in telling the story?

Time. The Alchemist Agenda is a fairly dense script with a lot of action. To get the most impact, I really wanted the action sequences to be fully animated, and animation is time-consuming. We had to draw the nearly 2,000 frames of artwork needed to tell the story, and my first challenge was getting enough shots for good coverage, which included a lot of prioritizing and reconfiguring along the way.

 

What’s your favorite line, scene or moment?

My favorite scene is probably the opening that introduces our hero. It has an interesting quality that sets up his state of mind before the adventure begins. My favorite line is when two students watch the hot professor walk by and one asks, “What do you call that?” The other answers, “Sex walking.”

 

What do you most enjoy about filmmaking?

Everything. I love the varied stages of production. I love the creative process, starting with an intention and watching it take on a life of its own. I also love the collaboration, working with several people toward the same goal. And I really get excited once it all comes together.

 

What do you hope the audience gets out of the story?

I hope the audience is transported to another world and entertained.

 

What made you decide to be a part of Amazon Studios? What have you gotten out of the experience? 

When I heard about Amazon Studios, I saw a huge media company that wanted to get into the motion picture content business, build a creative community, and do it in a unique way. Whether you’re a writer or filmmaker, they offered a myriad of ways to participate. It’s been an incredibly exciting place to be. I had a great time interacting with other writers and filmmakers, and I’ve definitely made several new friends and future collaborators.

 

Ernest Jasmin

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