This cabin in the Piney Woods was the setting for the story of the short film entitled, The Land
You may recognize this production still as one of the key images for the marketing of The Land. I loved this shot so much I used it at the end of the film with the sun setting in the background.


Two crew members of the short film, The Land, stand by on the movie set
Here’s Marcus and Aaron hanging out while we work on a new setup. In the background you can see a 4×8 sheet of insulation that I bought at Home depot as a make-shift reflector frame. We shot so many exteriors, we needed lots of reflector fill in the shade. There was no lighting done on the exteriors except for the fill. This made it a challenge, even on a bright day because of the cinemascope glass which took out about a stop of light. Shooting with 250 ASA film means we were limited and had to be absolutely sure about the exposure before starting production. With celluloid, you can’t bump up the ASA without changing film stocks, so you have to plan well.


Marcus Lomas and Carson Reaves get ready to film a steadicam shot on the set of The Land
Here’s a shot of Carson our DP working the “steady-cam” rig just before a take. The story here is that we didn’t have money for a real Steadi-Cam, so we rented this Hollywood Lite from Kevin Triplett at Mopac Media. Kevin was a true supporter of the indie film arts. He beefed up the rig with custom engineered parts specifically for this production since our Arri SR with Cinemascope gear overloaded this rig that was designed for small video cameras. Even after the modifications, the camera rig was still about five pounds too heavy. Carson is holding up the extra weight with his free hand while operating camera at the same time!


Blake Barham Naleid works with his actors on the set of the short film The Land
Here, I’m rehearsing the trail scene with Taylor and Marcus. This scene was difficult to shoot because we had to get about two thirds of it in just two long shots. The long shot can be a lifesaver because it cuts down on the production schedule. It can be a nightmare because the actors really have to hit everything perfect, lines, beat changes, blocking marks…pretty much everything that would normally be broken up into ten or twenty short pieces. They did a great job on both shots. Carson and I had to trade off camera operation duties because the operator had to walk backwards, uphill with an unbalanced steadi-cam to get the shot. After the second take on the second shot, he was worn out, understandably. I compare the shots now and see that Carson did a better job than me, but hey, we got it done!


The cinematographer Carson Reaves with the Arriflex Cinemascope Rig
This is the Arri SR with the cinemascope rig. You can see the silver colored baseplate rods and the cinemascope anamorphic lens bracket mounted on the rods. I had this support system custom built by Dan Morris at Unique Designs. Dan was an engineer who designed and built robotic cranes in his back yard only a block away from the UT campus. One of the projects he worked on was optics for a close up of the moon for a Terrence Malick film. Shooting The Land in Cinemascope was a huge risk but it turns out that the anamorphics were the most reliable part of the entire production! What’s the lesson here? TAKE A RISK!


Rain Chavez, Aaron Marshall and Marcus Lomas on the set of The Land
Left to Right, Rain, Aaron, and Marcus talk about the technical challenges for the day. You can see one of our many tarps in the background. These were used to cover up exterior lights so that we could keep them set while waiting out the rain storms. As soon as the rain stopped, we fired up the lights and got to shooting. In the case of light drizzle, we shot while it rained.


Blake Naleid directing with actor Marcus Lomas on the set of The Land
This is one of the first shots over at “the old houses on the other side of the land”. Here we’re setting up to shoot inside an antique shed that, in the movie, has more than a couple secrets for Landon (Marcus’ character) to discover. We had no power in this location so, it was shot with all natural light. Behind me you can see on of our reflectors used to brighten things up under the shade of several large trees.


Blake Barham Naleid discusses the shot with actor Marcus Lomas on the set of The Land
Often times, working with actors is a collaboration, especially when you don’t have enough time or money to do full rehearsals. Things are figured out when you shoot. Even if you plan everything meticulously and block the action in advance, you’ll inevitably run into situations where the plans have to change to meet the conditions found on the day. So we talk through the plan, rehearse the action and then when it’s mostly good, we shoot it. Behind me, here you can see our utility, Matt, holding up our focus chart for the camera op. Normally, you measure focus with a tape, but since we shot in cinemascope, with no focus scale. All focusing on this film had to be done by eye, through the lens!


Blake Barham Naleid goes over the scene with actors Marcus Lomas and Taylor Hayden.
This is our rehearsal just before shooting the “Trail Scene”. Carson, our camera op had to walk backwards, uphill with an overweight steadi-cam rig for two long shots that run over a minute each!. Quick 10 minute lunch break…Ok back to work. We’re losing daylight here!


Actors Marcus Lomas and Taylor Hayden rehearse a confrontation on the set of The Land
This is the middle of the Trail scene, bookended by two long steadi-cam shots. Here the audience is introduced to our characters’ shared history when Landon jumps to conclusions about Ron’s suspected involvement in unwholesome activities, uncovered by the local Sheriff. The kind of behavior that Landon left behind when he went off to college seven years before.


Director Blake Barham Naleid and cinematographer Carson Reaves block a scene on the set of The Land
Blake and Carson go over the storyboard. before shooting the last scene. Only 20% of the script was planned as interior scenes. That, combined with the excessive amount of unpredicted rain caused the production schedule to run twice as long as expected. Note to self: Write more interiors.


A production still of actor Taylor Hayden on the set of The Land
This is a production still from the final scene leading up to the climax. This shows the conflict between the two old friends after the truth comes out.


A production still of actor Marus Lomas on the set of The Land
A production still from the opposite angle. Landon is no pushover in the face of Ron’s manipulative tactics but when coercion proves ineffective, Ron uses his last resort to get Landon to go along with his plans….But, will it work?


This production still of a cows skull and empty beer bottle give the sense of trouble in middle class American paradise
This is Fred, our mascot. He’s creepy looking and it adds just the right amount of a threatening vibe to the story. In screenwriting this is called context. The image works symbolically to create certain expectations in the minds of viewers. Sergei Eisenstein did this famously in his films Battleship Potempkin and October when he used images of lion and peacock statues to make insinuations about characters in the film. Here, the technique is more subtle. Fred is in the background for the film but as you’ll notice, his image is featured more prominently in the marketing and this works to achieve the same goal.