For those of you who’ve found your excitement for George Miller’s much lorded Mad Max: Fury Road reboot still bubbling over, you can get a much needed fix of cracked desert landscapes, fast cars and post-apocalyptic outfits which would make even the most ardent of fashionista’s swoon in delight right now in Israeli Director Tal Mor’s graduation film Once Upon a Time in the Future. Mor tells DN how the bible and Sergio Leone inspired his dystopian desert short.
I got into filmmaking and fell in love with it rather late in my life, when I was 32 (I’ve been working in a high-tech company up until recently). Since then I’ve become hungry for knowledge and I’m constantly following filmmakers’ blogs and online resources. I study a lot online. There are tons of useful resources for filmmaking online, for example some of my favourite filmmakers and bloggers like Philip Bloom, Stu Maschwitz (writer of the DV rebel book), Ryan Connolly (FilmRiot), Vincent Laforet, Den Lennie (F-Stop Academy), Nino Leitner and other amazing resources such as Nofilmschool and Videocopilot. I consider all of them as my mentors. I read those blogs down to the talkbacks which often provide valuable info as well.
The initial concept was to recreate a scene from the bible, but in a dystopian post apocalyptic future as if history repeats itself. The biblical story (Genesis 18:2) tells about God’s revelation to Abraham on a particularly hot day, in the shape of three male angels. In my version, the angels are three exotic women, and instead of riding camels they ride a classy old american car. The angels announced to Abraham that his wife Sarah would bear a son (Isaac). This specific moment in time was a moment of hope, and the very beginning of a heritage spanning several millennia. Abraham is the first of the three biblical patriarchs, and plays a prominent role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. By recreating that biblical encounter in a post apocalyptic world, I hoped to plant a message of optimism that even after the worst has happened (global annihilation) there is still hope for a new beginning! I was also inspired by other films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.
I produced Once Upon a Time in the Future as part of my graduation project from the Ron Kedmi fashion photography workshops in Israel. The task was to create a fashion editorial of still images, however since I’m more into moving images, I wanted to breathe some life into the stills. I used Adobe After Effects with rather simple techniques such as sky-replacement, the puppet tool and 3D camera projection – all of which I learnt online from free tutorials on Videocopilot (most of my knowledge in After effects comes from this site). I used Photoshop to cut out the characters from each and every shot (I learnt on YouTube how to properly refine the edges of hair). It was a laborious task down to the pixel level at times. I also recreated the background using the Photoshop’s stamp tool. I then placed the assets in After Effects as 3D layers, and with 3D camera projection managed to create a sense of movement and parallax. I also used Red Giant’s Looks for color grading, and Videocopilot’s Element3D for the end titles. I replaced the sky with stock footage of time-lapsed skies which I bought on Pond5.
I shot the project with a rented Canon 5Dmk3. I usually shoot videos with this camera at 16:9 aspect ratio, but I love cropping the image further with a letterbox for a 2:35:1 narrower aspect ratio which gives a more cinematic look. However, this was a still images project, and this camera shoots stills at 3:2 ratio! Therefore, I had to frame all my shots with a rather large margin at the top & bottom to allow me to crop in post (I used the camera’s grid to help me frame the shots this way). Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about loosing image quality as the camera shoots stills at 22 megapixels which is, I think, similar to around 5k.
Production took place in Mishor Amiaz, a remote vast plane in the Judaean Desert west from the Dead Sea. It was my first time producing something of this size and in such a remote location and as this was my graduation project, I was responsible for almost everything: booking the entire crew (models, stylists, makeup, hair), camp, catering and transportation. My sister May came over to assist on the set along with another good friend Ariel, who also brought Edi, the beautiful German Shepherd. My friend Gilad Guy who is a talented photographer did a great job with setting up the lights. Gilad and I drove to the desert early morning to set up the camp before the rest of the crew arrived and we stayed last to clean and pack.
For about 3 weeks prior to production, I was running around with an endless To-Do list. I had butterflies in my stomach and was so excited I could barely sleep. With the help of the school, my crew came free of charge. The largest expense was getting everyone to the desert, the camp and catering. I scouted other less remote locations but none had those beautiful cracks in the dry soil like Mishor Amiaz. Since I believed in this project with all my heart, I decided to go all the way with the remote location.
And of course, how could I forget the beautiful Chevrolet El Camino (“The Way”) which I was lucky to find through an antique vehicle collectors’ club in Israel called 5 Club. The owner of the car is Yoram, a big tattooed man who looks like he just came out of the Mad Max Thunderdome. I simply adore a person who owns such a sick car. We became friends and are still in contact today.