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Fri, Jul 15 2011 4:29:55 UTC

Interview with the producer of Half-Life fan film

A few days ago, Leonard Menchiari and some friends made a very cool short film called Half-Life: Singularity Collapse. Today he answered a few questions about the project.

Can you briefly describe yourself and your background?

I came from Florence, Italy to study film in Los Angeles at the age of 19, where I got lucky enough to be accepted in LMU and attend the film and animation program there. I studied abroad in Germany for 4 months and learned how to shoot documentaries as well (something that I would've never thought I would like, and I ended up loving). I've been shooting little short movies since I can remember, but I always had this passionate love for the Half-Life game. I graduated last year and I've been in Los Angeles since then.

Who all was involved in making the short movie, Half Life: Singularity Collapse?

I gathered all the best people I knew from college, and one incredible friend I've known in the past, Giulio, who was able to fly over to LA from Italy. The crew was very tight, and there was a very strong connection with all of them. I did something only with people I knew well just because I wanted to be sure that every single person was in love with the project as much as I was. I feel that it's thanks to that love that the project came out the way it did.

How did the idea come for creating such a video?

I always wanted to shoot a movie in the Half-Life atmosphere. As soon as I finished college I gathered every fan of Half-Life I knew and sat down for several weeks to come up with a concept that would fit as much as possible of the Half-Life universe. There is so much in that game that it would've been impossible to come up with a good enough concept if only one person wrote it.

Was this done more as a tribute to Half Life or did you use that universe because it fit the story you wanted to tell?

I feel that both are correct. I wanted to tell a story, but mostly I wanted to replicate a world that looked as close as possible to the half life universe. Every single detail, from the actors' lines to the pacing of the movie, was carefully planned to fit the atmosphere that Valve created when Half-Life 2 was made. I made tons of research, found books and articles on every scene so that I could understand the world way more than if I just played the game. My aim was to have Valve notice many small details in the movie that most gamers probably never noticed in the game.

How long did it take between the initial concept to the final product?

We started gathering people to come up with an idea on May/June 2010. Pre-production begun only on mid-August and the production process didn't stop till the end of September. Production itself took us a few hours for the first scene in the building, and one day and a morning for the rest of the movie. Extra green screen shots were also done in an afternoon. The visual part was roughly completed by the end of May 2011. After that we focused a lot of attention on sound. Danny did his score in less than a week.

Which software programs did you use for the special effects?

Since there was no way to edit a movie like this one (it's pretty much all one pov shot), the only software I really used was After Effects. Every 3D detail (other than a few exceptions) was made using Half-Life's level editor. What made most effects more realistic wasn't the programs I used, but planning ahead a lot and trying to incorporate as many real live action elements as possible. That was our plan from the start.

Were there any unexpected challenge during production?

Other than finding ourselves hiding and still shooting the movie while being hunted by the police in an abandoned location in the middle of the desert during one of the one of the hottest days ever seen in Arizona, I'd say that it tuned out to be pretty smooth. No matter what kind of obstacles we encountered, we were able to overcome every single one. Our love for the project was so strong that pretty much nothing could stop us.

What took the longest, the filming or the editing process?

What turned out to be way more intense was working on the post-production process while still trying to make a living. We had to take many monthly breaks, but we never even thought of abandoning the project, and that's why we were able to finish it.

What kind of user feedback have you received so far?

Even though it seems like it's going very well, the feedback to me is not very important. I made this movie for the love of making it. I have to admit that my favorite days of all this movie were the ones that me and my crew spent sweating in the actual production process.

Are you working on anything new that you can talk about?

I can't live without making movies, so I'm sure something will come up. What counts for me the most is not only to stick with my amazing crew, but mostly to keep doing movies for the love of doing them and not for either money or popularity like it often happens today.

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