Hello! I’m Don Thacker, Co-Founder and Director at Imagos Films, and I’ve hijacked this blog to tell you about our work making the Organ Trail Live-Action Short Film, “Another Damned Ride.” Here is a peek Behind the scenes, just for you.
At the time of this writing, I’m 36 which means I was in middle-school back at the height of both the personal computer revelation and the overall market dominance of THE OREGON TRAIL. It wasn’t hard, there was no market, but man that game was everywhere. Especially my first period English class. I liked it. Mostly because I would name every character “Penis” to accurately depict my child mind in tombstone form at the games inevitable “you’ve screwed it all up” ending. Here lies Penis.
Cut to (that’s movies!) IndieCade in 2013. While presenting Pixeljam’s Potatoman Seeks the Troof’s release on OUYA, I got to messing around with Organ Trail. I was hooked. I mean, it was 2013, and it was on the OUYA, but Penis was alive and well, and this time fighting zombies.
Cut to (that’s MORE movies!) 2015 and I’m a professional film director. I own a company, Imagos Films, that makes films. That’s why the “films” part of the name.
When we’re off DOING MOVIES we’re often doing them for video games. That’s sort of my thing, you see. Games and movies. Movies and games. That’s pretty much what you’d find if you cut me open. I bleed a combination of cliched sci-fi plot holes and tiny little d-pads. Cut me. It’s true. Please don’t cut me.
We’ve done a bunch of stuff, Imagos has. We did that one Jazzpunk spot. The SOMA:Transmission episodes. We did that interactive Westerado live action thing. Sportsball. A Fistful of Gun. Dad By The Sword. A bunch more…
We were approached by The Men Who Wear Many Hats in the middle of the year. They wanted something special to celebrate their upcoming release of Organ Trail: Complete Edition, and pitched a live action spot to us. As that is our specialty, we ran hard at it.
After a little bit of discussion we settled on the basic premise: Everyone’s favorite bible-thumping pistol-toting hand-rolled-smokes smoking Clements takes a crew of numb-nuts for a cross country jaunt on the Organ Trail.
As in the game, things don’t go as well as you’d hope. It is the zombie apocalypse, after all, and Clements is effing crazy.
We worked closely with The Men Who Wear Many Hats to nail the look of Clements, and the converted station wagon we named Paris, as they were effectively the game’s most iconic images to us.
We also tried to capture the absurd spirit of the game’s events system, taking a real-world look at what it might mean to randomly break your arm or get bitten by a zombie out of the blue. In a car. At 60mph.
All this took an insane amount of crazy hard work by an incredible group of artists. The behind the scenes video is pretty comprehensive, but here are some interesting trivia:
- Sean Scott McCracken, Clements in the short, was flown from LA to Seattle for the role.
- We sourced Paris, the station wagon, for $350. It only ran backward. The shot of it running forward in the BTS video is reversed.
- Our production designer, Ben Blankenship, worked a continuous 36hr shift preparing the car between our location shoot in the desert and our studio shoot in the city.
- In this 36hrs he and his team had to redress the entire inside of the car and CUT A GAPING HOLE IN THE ROOF to fit our camera rig.
- The jib/dolly/pan-tilt head combination used in the shooting of this short was the exact same one used on Imagos Films’s feature film, Motivational Growth, the first narrative feature available on Steam.
- Director of Photography Bliss Holloway and his wife Julia are now the proud parents of Roman Holloway, Imagos Films’s first production baby.
- There is an unused scene containing a zombie for which actor Rory Zane Ross spent 7 hours in heavy makeup to perform.
- Josh Truax, who plays Harley, The Rocker, has collaborated with Imagos Films for 14 projects.
- Sabaton, the Swedish heavy metal group responsible for Counterstrike, the song licensed for the first in-car shot of the short, was delighted by the short, calling it “fantastic.”
- The overhead rotating camera jib shot that opens the in-car sections of the short took 14 takes to perfect.
- The game’s key art has been updated to more closely match the characters from the short.
- Imagos Films regular sound design collaborator Impossible Accoustic invented a new way to record the sound of boots/shoes on sand for post-production foley.
- Composer Ryan Ike wrote two scores for the short, the first of which can be heard in the behind the scenes documentary. It’s the only one comprised mostly of humming.
- The scene in which Riley turns into a zombie and bites Drew was shot with a 4hr gap in the middle while the actor, Mandi Truax, was put into zombie makeup. The cut between the non-zombie Riley and the zombie Riley is hidden in the whip-pan.
- When shooting in the desert, the production had reserved a mom & pop restaurant to cater lunch. When the entire production crew arrived, the owners of the restaurant had left, leaving a wholly unprepared teenage cook wondering how he was supposed to accommodate an entire crew. Imagos producer Josh Gelb actually got behind the counter and helped him cook meals.
- The incredibly complex opening shot, which moves from a closeup on Clements all the way through an ending wide shot with Clements and the four survivors took 24 takes.
- The original script called for five survivors. Jesse, The Militant, was cut.
- The desert in which the short was shot is in Washington state, 3.5hrs east of Seattle.
- While the production gained a newborn, it also lost a generator. One of the gas-powered generators was misplaced in the desert, and when crew returned to find it, had disappeared.
- The actor who played Clements washed the blood from his body by leaping into a nearby pond.
- Clement’s spin-barrel revolver is the same model used by the Gunslinger in Imagos Films’s interactive short for Westerado.
- At the news of his wife’s labor, director of photography Bliss Holloway had to leave. First assistant camera Eric Remme took over lighting design and camera direction while gaffer Guy Staley took over camera operation. Director Don Thacker took control of the dolly/jib/pan-tilt head.
- The short, along with Organ Trail: Complete Edition, was featured in Maxim Magazine.
We handed in the Organ Trail short earlier this month just in time for the PS4 and Steam releases of the Complete Edition and watch as the internet collectively applauded our efforts. It felt pretty great to have done such a cool thing, but it was only as cool as the game it was based on, so it kind of feels like cheating.
A ton of work went into making this spot, and as the above documentary shows, a lot of love. So you should watch it. Oh, you’ve watched it? WATCH IT AGAIN.
If you want to see a bunch more behind the scenes stuff from this shoot, you can see it at our tumblr here:
Imagos Films is proud to have worked with The Men who Wear Many Hats to make such a cool piece, and I hope you enjoy seeing us do what we do. Hint: we do movies.
You can find Imagos Films on them thar internets as follows:
And if you want to send me an email about how you’re so not going to cut me, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.