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The Prequel to My Feature Film MANCHILD is Here: Watch AMATEUR

04.17.13 @ 10:47AM Tags : , , ,

AMATEUR is a short prequel demonstrating my vision for MANCHILD, the feature film we’re making next. I’ve never been so excited to release something, so I hope you like it! If you like the short and want to see the feature, please head over to our just-launched website for MANCHILD and share it. I’m releasing this directly online, and that’s how this short will spread — every tweet, facebook like, and share makes a BIG difference. Thank you!

I’ll be back later with an in-depth post detailing how we made this (what we shot on, what I edited on, etc.) — and please feel free to ask any questions you have — but for now I’d like to focus on the work itself. The writing, directing, performances, and story — these are the chief concerns of any filmmaker, and I hope they drew you in whether you’re a basketball fan or not.

A few things to note:

This was the first time my name has ever been on a slate — that’s how DIY my film career has been. However, despite this being more of a “real” production than I’m used to, there was no shortage of work, and I’ve basically done nothing but work on this (and run this website) for the last few months. I believe as AMATEUR gets out there that it will all have been worth it, but please — if you appreciate the hard work and the resulting film, take a minute to tweet and/or facebook I’ve talked in the past about the strategy of making a short, and now that you’ve seen it I hope the approach is much clearer as the story ties in directly to the feature. This short focuses on an encounter between a street agent and a high school basketball player — played by Lionel Pina and Curtiss Cook Jr., respectively — but as a result of what you see here, the recruiter goes on to pursue younger, more naïve players — including TJ, the 13 year-old protagonist of MANCHILD.

In addition to writing, directing, producing (with Chip Hourihan) and editing this myself, there was no shortage of jobs that I did but that you won’t see my name alongside in the credits. Editing the short myself was a great way to save on the post-production budget, but it’s also a great way to forget there is a sun — and people — outside.

To get this finished in post last week I flew back from NAB on a redeye flight, during which I finished working with my composer Tim Kvasnovsky thanks to the combination of in-flight Wi-Fi, Google Chat, and noise-canceling headphones. I landed in New York in the morning, took a taxi straight to Goldcrest Post for the sound mix, brought my luggage home after an all-day mixing session, and finally slept after being up for 36 hours straight…. and then came straight back to Goldcrest for the color grading session with DP Greg Wilson. You might recognize Greg’s work from the amazing cheetah video and Phantom Flex4K posts here on NFS. I’ll be back later with a post thanking everyone who worked on the short, and sharing all the details of the shoot, when I have some time to put it together properly!

The other thing I should note: we did not spend a dime of the Kickstarter funds on this short, but the short is very much inspired by the outpouring of support that happened during the Kickstarter campaign. So many of the Kickstarter backers came from this website that I’d like to thank you again here (in addition to the Kickstarter update) for your support.

I called in a LOT of favors, as did my producer and DP, to get this made on a tight budget. And that was one of the other rewarding aspects of this production: finding and working with talented people who read the feature script and wanted to be involved.

There is not a single visual effect in this short and it’s basically an eight-minute conversation between two people, so there won’t be a wondrous VFX demo to show… but feel free to ask any questions! If I don’t answer them right away here I will do my best in forthcoming posts. We’re using this short to launch a website for the feature, so please take a minute to share that around — especially with anyone you know in the sports/basketball world. Thanks for watching!


Related Posts

  1. 1. Write the Feature. 2. Make a Short. 3. Get the Feature Made. (Coming Soon: a MANCHILD Short)
  2. In NYC? Want to Work with Award-Winning Filmmakers? We're Looking for an Intern or Two on MANCHILD.
  3. My Entire Life Has Been Leading Up to This. Will You Help Me Make My First Feature Film?


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 256 COMMENTS

  • Peter Kelly on 04.20.13 @ 2:31PM

    really liked it koo.

    One small thing, the guys suit looked awful, scruffy and badly fitted, a small detail but worth paying attention to i would say.

    well done on it

      • Peter Kelly on 04.21.13 @ 5:19AM

        Ok, well in that case that didn’t come across really in my opinion.

        It looked like bad wardrobe, rather then a character who was dressed badly

        • I will take that up with the wardrobe department. But actually there was no wardrobe department — one of the many things that doesn’t exist on a low-budget short. If someone’s main issue with this film is one character’s ill-fitting suit didn’t come across as ill-fitting enough — or was too ill-fitting, I can’t tell which — I’m 100% fine with that. :)

          • Peter Kelly on 04.21.13 @ 6:31PM

            Like I said, I really liked the piece Koo, that was my main issue, and for me it was an issue (small but had an impact on my viewing of the film). I found it distracting.

            If he was meant to be scruffily dressed maybe its more of a directorial issue then a wardrobe issue?

            I think sometimes you could take constructive criticism/conversation better.

            Once again I really liked the piece, just offering my observation.

          • I think we’re both being totally constructive but the lack of tone in a text box is making it seem like we’re at odds or something… I’m not taking your comment the wrong way at all! “There was no wardrobe department” is not me being defensive, it’s just me saying… there was no wardrobe department. In fact, in the film the players are wearing my own shirts, socks, shorts, shoes, pants, duffel bag…

          • shaun wilson on 04.21.13 @ 9:00PM

            To me the scruffiness of that character worked really well, makes it have an emotion that suggests the struggle of the young basketball player. Nice touch. The worst thing to do is to make it polished and slick, creates a world for the film that is mirrored in the plot. Am hoping manchild has the same rugged look, grittyness would work well from the synopsis I’ve read. Love to see more.

          • Juan J Nevarez on 04.28.13 @ 1:57AM

            Great work, specially considering the fact that it is a low budget, the main thing is doing the best with the little that you have.

  • Nice so far! What camera are you shooting with?

  • Nice, and really like the short!!

    You really nailed the casting too.

  • Excellent short. Loved it. WIsh you guys success!!!

  • That was fucking brilliant. Loved the concept; fantastic actors; beautifully lensed; subtle and gorgeous color; low-key and engaging sound.

    One question: Where do all the self-appointed Pauline Kaels come from on this site? Film criticism is not about nitpicking in a vacuum. Generally it requires some type credential, or at least a firm grasp of the craft you’re attempting to critique. This filmmaker has put forth his art, and instead of really taking it in, you douches pixel-peep it like you’ve been tapped for a test-market focus group. Some of you clearly didn’t even pay attention to the short. (Really? You don’t see why the guy’s suit is baggy? And seriously? You don’t get why a guy wold lie for $300?)

    Just because you have a free forum to talk to an artist, doesn’t mean you have anything worth saying.

    • Actually Shawn, film criticism requires NO credentials, and no “grasp” of the craft (how many times has a critic mixed up a tilt with a pan?). Here, you have folks who LOVE film, they watch it, talk about it, its history, its makers, its style and creation– I’d say many folks writing and reading here are as much an “expert” as most film “critic.”

      And criticism should never be written off so easy. For it is often in those questions, that an artist grows.

      RE: wardrobe, I remember Chris Carter saying that they initially tried clothes from JC Penny for Mulder and Scully on the X-Files, because that’s where those agents would shop. BUT the close looked like shit. So they went with designer suits. So the comment about the suit is valid, and Ryan’s answer left me more confused.

      As I wrote earlier, the movie is technically wonderful, but the story has problems. And when pointed out, Ryan comes off as defensive, which felt unexpected and well, amateurish.

      • It’s true , you don’t need credentials to place a critique, just don’t expect people to take it seriously. Some people like to spit anything and expect creators to take it as constructive criticism for the simple fact he’s using proper words.
        Without credentials whatever you are saying should be taken as your personal opinion and that’s it. Or else the same comment is stated by a lot more people then it’s taken as an audience test.

      • Chriss, you’re certainly right that there are professional film critics who fall down on their jobs. But why set the bar at the lowest common denominator? The greats, such as Kael, Anthony Lane and Roger Ebert, did and do have a very firm grasp of the craft. Moreover, and more to my point, they had something meaningful to say. A movie buff with a keyboard and an internet connection might also add value to a discussion, but shouldn’t get a carte blanche just because he “loves” films.

        Among the many wonderful insights in the comments, there’s a wealth of syntactically-deficient nitpicking that’s predicated on half-baked presumptions. My wish, really, is that people would think before typing. Take in the film. Let its impression swirl around and marinate before volleying up something like, “The fourth cut in Act II was .467 seconds too long. That’s really distracting for me, Koo.”

        As for the suit comment: So you watch someone’s finished film, which many agree is damn good. And when it’s done, you reach out to the director on his forum and your big reaction is: You didn’t like one of the character’s outfits. I fail to see the merit in that. It’s quite silly, in fact.

        This filmmaker is presenting a finished work here, not crowd sourcing a script. If you’re going to take the time to weigh in on it, make it meaningful. Be the signal, not the noise.

        • Peter Kelly on 04.22.13 @ 5:53PM

          I don’t think making an observation about the film is silly. Ryan is inviting observation by sharing his film.

          My suit comment is valid because it was my opinion. Wheter anyone cares or not what I think is up to them but when I look at a film I am entitled to re-act and respond same as anyone else.

          I thought the suit looked like bad wardrobe. It was distracting from the story. He was supposed to e scruffy, to me that wasn’t clear.

          I would say the error is that Ryan didn’t have a wardrobe / costume department. (Ryan with your stature I’m sure you could have got someone to do it for little/nothing) and I my opinion it would have improved the film. Whether Ryan listens is up to him. Disagree with me, that’s fine, but tell me my comment is naive, not picky or silly and your naive and ignorant about what art is

          • Peter, let me see if I understand your point. You are free to make comments deriding the itty bitty nuances of others’ work as you please, and they should deal with that because your opinion is valid. And it’s validity stems from the fact that it’s, well, your opinion. BUT, if someone critiques your observation, you have a problem with it. That sounds even sillier than your nitpicking.

          • Ok let’s move it along, not going anywhere, and now it’s getting personal.

          • “Ryan is inviting observation by sharing his film. ”
            for me he is inviting us to watch it and to like it or not. observations is a plus.

            “My suit comment is valid because it was my opinion”
            every opinion is valid, therefore, all opinion have the same value, therefore, no opinion really matters. In the end is all about: did you like or did you dislike the movie? When we like we create an opinion explaining why we liked it. When we dislike we create an opinion explaining why we disliked, and when we disliked and want to be civilized we go around finding little “problems” to justify our position.

            “Disagree with me, that’s fine, but tell me my comment is naive, not picky or silly and your naive and ignorant about what art is”

            what is naive in the end is to pretend that a comment is objective and that also we can objectively analyze a work of art. Even “pro” critics in the end are funny, for example, Roger Ebert gave 3 stars to “Clockwork Orange” the same way he gave 3 stars to “Van Helsing”. For me that is funny, but it´s his right to have this king of “art filtering” in his reality tunnel.

            Now, I liked Ryan Koo´ short movie.

            For me what you see as a wardrobe problem is part of the solution for the character. The character is a sloppy guy, not even did his research in the teenager player well enough, so why not let his dressing habits to express his sloppiness? ;)

            See? it depends on how you see things in the end… as RAW (Robert Anton Wilson) used to say, the sad man sees a sad world, the happy man, a happy world, the angry man, an angry world, so on and on and on… when we like a movie, we “get it right” the small pieces that makes the whole, when we don´t like it, we decide where it should be fixed… we all do that, you and, again, even roger ebert, in his review for Kubrick´s Eyes wide shut, said the movie should be less enigmatic, with less double meaning in some parts -because he did not like it so much. Those who liked it got it, it´s a dream state what the move evoke, so being enigmatic and full of double meaning is part of the whole piece… in the end, be you a “qualified” critic or an amateur one, the emotional part always comes first. The rational part is there just to justify the emotional output to the art we contemplate.

    • Bravo, Shawn, agreed! We here in Brazil also prefer to watch and enjoy a short, rather than “pixel-peep” (loved!) it… – those who do it maybe do so out of angst ’cause it wasn’t ‘em doing the thing? Probably not… ;)

      For Koo: outstanding work fellow! It transpires through the whole thing all your passion and effort, in fact, how all your passion and leadership inspired everyone to give their best in order to accomplish such a fine art! I undertand quite well what you’ve been/are through, being and “independent filmmaker” (nice term)/”do the whole f***** thing yourself” (real term) myself, as many others here.

      In their name, I do not congratulate “you” Koo – for as a person you’re just another passionate dreamer as we all are; I congratulate what you REPRESENT – for many of us, quite an EXAMPLE to follow!

      Pardom my broken English, cheers from all the Brazilian guys down here.

  • Great tone, nice twist, well shot, cool acting.. excellent work Koo, will spread this as much as I can.. congrats you should be proud!

  • Ryan, well done, awesome film. Thank so much for the inspiration. You have given way more to this community than what you have received. Thus, your efforts are sustainable. That’s what it is all about right? Moving forward.

    I know this effort marks just a taste of things to come for you. I thought your film showed high production values, solid acting, and a good grasp of pacing and storytelling. In my opinion you hit all the right beats for a 9 minute piece. Congratulations Ryan.

    Also posted a short article my blog about your film and shared it on social media:

  • Great job again Koo.

    Very good sound. In 5.07 I can see a lavalier (at the neck) on the main actor. Wath did you use to capture this amazing sound?

    Thank so much Koo!

    • Congratulations Crisstian, you are the first commenter to catch this! Yes, that drove me crazy in the late stages of editing but A) I didn’t notice it for the first several (dozen) passes so I thought it unlikely anyone else would, and B) when I asked people they thought it could have played as a piece of jewelry or something. I’m not sure about the lavs, I will find out for our BTS post.

      • Thank again you Koo.
        Any release date for the BTS post?

        I wish you all the succes with this movie Koo!

        • Yes, initially I thought so myself: it can be chain with pendant or something but when you said you did not use boom then the only option was Lavalier, so I looked carefully to see any trace of Lavalier; ))

          Successes KOO!

          • We did use a boom, definitely! (I don’t think I said anywhere that we didn’t use a boom?) A good approach is to get audio from both sources.

  • My 2 cents: very nicely done in all respects. Actors performed wonderfully. Best of luck with the feature. Now for a few more cents in the form of a suggestion to the moderators and friends of this site… Perhaps in the future, rather than engaging the dissenters who enjoy aimlessly nitpicking, simply offering a “thank you for your input” would suffice. I literally couldn’t get past reading the first 4 or 5 comments due to the lengthy rebuttals in Ryan’s defense. The ensuing verbal sparring between posters amounts to graffiti cluttering up the positive space and just encourages more of the same.

  • I liked it alot the pacing was great, the mood and tone felt right and the ending was hysterical. Definitely interested in the feature. If people have to nitpick about the wardrobe in a short than you must be doing something right lol.

  • Hi there,

    Really nice website, really nice film. I must say I found weird the line of the “thanks man” when he gives him the money but afterwards, knowing the end, completely justified. The beginning is nicely shot, love the editing. I think some more work can be done on the colors when they go outside (it seem a bit blueish) but I am being picky. Very good work, wish you the best for the feature !

  • Nice mood, good camera work, excellent acting – I was with you all most till the end. You have a nice middle income, loving mom and dad, caring enough to come pick up their young son, and they show no concern to who their pride and joy was talking to.
    I think the recruiter dogged bullet; he might have had a pathological lair on this team.

  • Great interesting short with atmosphere and intrigue.Well written script with great camera work .You deserve to get funded for a bigger project.Well done

  • Hey Ryan, great short. I’ve already posted on my facebook page, and I’m following AMATEUR on Twitter. BTW when you start producing MANCHILD, you can count on me for your poster design. That would be my support to Manchild.
    Good luck!


  • Russell Steen on 04.26.13 @ 11:22AM

    I chuckled because I knew the comments would have a bunch of criticism, and sure enough. People who are into the craft of filmmaking can’t help themselves. Let’s see… I prefer not to go handheld when the subjects aren’t moving, and I might have sped up the pace of the conversation, bit of a continuity color shift when they go outside. . .
    Here’s what I like: Some nice shots, and no tech flaws that would take me out of the story. The basketball player could act and really play basketball. How rare is that? I can’t remember watching a basketball movie where I didn’t think I could play better than everyone on the screen. It seems most directors obviously can’t see how badly their cast and extras are mauling the game of basketball, even though they are supposed to be great players.
    I didn’t see the hit coming. Just when I was about to throw up my hands and accuse you of using every stereotypical convention. . . inner city black kid. . . needs rent money. . . recruiter pulls out some cash. . .
    Boom. You got me. I love when a story makes you go “What?”
    I like the comment above about the kid being a pathological liar. I guess we know he can act.

  • Russell Steen on 04.26.13 @ 11:54AM

    Went back to look at the walk out the double doors. I think what I “saw” the first time was this cut as a continuation in real time and not a compression of time. That’s why the light level and color shift hit me. On the second look I got it, but perhaps cutting out of the scene at the end of their conversation in the locker room sooner would prevent dummies like me from missing that they have moved out of the locker room and are now at the exit. Hey, you guys put the text box here. :)

  • Gaurav Sharma on 04.29.13 @ 2:54AM

    Great work Ryan… look forward to your feature! Please do post a BTS of this film soon!

  • Have to say I too noticed the ill fitted suit which took me out of the story a bit as I didn’t believe the guy was legit and by the end it seems as the kid sized him up as well! Lol… some nice camera work with the one on one play…my only suggestion is you might consider cutting the dialog a little quicker. There seemed to be too much time between. Best of luck to you!

  • Meh….

    I could not watch more than a minute of this, because I don’t like sport and have zero interest in it. (sorry)
    However, that does not take away anything from Koo’s work. One thing I really, really loved is the SOUND!
    It wasn’t second rate as most low budget ones. That alone will make the movie more credible as a pro-movie.

    Without seeing the whole movie one can not critic it as many of you did. It’s like looking at your shoes and make a character judgment or something like that :) It’s just a small part of the movie shown and we have no clue what the rest looks like.
    Movies are art, either you like it or not.
    H-wood turns out a bunch of shit and people love most of it.

  • Jamie Barge on 09.25.13 @ 12:40AM

    Hi Ryan….I so loved it!!!! It was a fabulous job. Even tho the prequel was considred “Low Budget” that was the best low budget work I’ve ever seen in life. It had such great quality. I reposted it on my facebook and wanted others to chime in….but I guess my FB people were to busy for the forum. Loved the twist. Keep up the fabulous work.


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