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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

  • I liked it! Solid acting, nice images, polished short. How many days to shoot? All the best with your feature.

    • A weekend shoot (one day and one night) — all of the scenes in the gym were shot in a day and that’s at least 7 minutes of screen time, so… we were hustling. As indies always do!

  • Great stuff Koo. It played on a cliche well to fool us (and the recruiter). Great execution too. Makes me proud to be a (small) backer of your feature!

  • Congratulations on doing this! Looking great!

  • looks awesome. your hard work is paying off!

  • Nice short! loved the ending! Solid solid!

    Good luck Ryan!on the next steps! Sure deserve it.

  • Brent Gooden on 04.17.13 @ 11:15AM

    Very amazing work. A clever story. Great acting and smooth cinematography. I enjoyed it! I hope the short film helps with the upcoming feature!

  • Loved it.
    Didn’t see that coming :) Sadly as a backer and a fellow filmmaker I was analyzing it side by side but at around 3:00 mark I said let me sit back and take this in. Thumbs Up!

  • Raoni Franco on 04.17.13 @ 11:22AM

    Niiiice man!! Congratulations for this one more step! Sure I’m gonna spread the word. Well I think you guys pretty much nailed it, can’t think of anything that pushed me out of the atmosphere of the short. The first seconds of the appearance of the recruiter I was kindda “hmm…..I don’t know”….but a few seconds later I got his approach to the acting, something naturalistic thats very interesting, and everything ran smoothly. Photography and direction are spot on I think, precise, discreet, serving the drama.
    About Manchild, I have to say that, after reading your posts about it, I still don’t get what got you excited about doing it. I know, you can’t just deliver detalis about the script and so on, but it would be nice the read sincere koo-style post about the story or the scope, or something that got you by the balls and made you do it. Don’t get me wrong, you already have curious about the feature, mainly because of your background and the trajectory you are treading. If you already wrote something like that, sorry for my slip. Peace and good luck!

    • Koo did write a couple times about his personal background growing up playing basketball, so it’s something that’s always been with him.

    • Thanks Raoni, I’ve definitely written about why I’m making the feature — there are a lot of posts (too many?) here:

      But yes, as Jonathan notes, the big thing is I’ve been a basketball player and general hoops junkie all my life, so it makes sense that the feature I’m pushing up the hill is a passion project!

      Glad you felt the direction and photography is both spot on and discreet — all in service of the characters and story. Thanks!

  • Solid overall, though I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in coverage- seemed like we lived on medium tight shots for most of the film.

    • Feel you there! One of those wides is actually a shot I tacked onto the Martini at the end of a very long day. Coverage is one of the first things to go when you’re on a tight schedule, and all of the scenes in the gym were shot in one day, so… a lof of numbers on my shotlists are scratched out. I would have liked to have seen that too :)

      • I noticed lack of coverage as well. Just don’t rush on the production of the feature, ok?! ;)

        • At this pace, we’d shoot the feature in 12 days. Definitely not doing that…

          While this was all about keeping you in there with the characters, it would’ve been nice to have 2-3 more wides. “Nice to have” is the first thing to go on a tight schedule/budget though.

  • Good short, can’t wait to read the behind the scenes article on it. Looks great.

  • Amazing. That’s a fantastic short that focuses on telling a story rather than trying to impress with fancy VFX. I’m very confident that your film will find an audience. Now, I’m even more happy to be a backer of the project. Keep up the great work!

  • Great stuff.
    Hope it helps you get to where you want to be with MANCHILD

  • I felt the frame format is not appropriate to cover the sport actions. I think in 16:9 would play out more naturally.
    If you would found a way to play with the crop between the two format (in play, off play or on court, off court)
    You could juxtaposition the two faces of the game (enjoyment vs. bushiness).
    Just an idea. Let us know what you think.

    • This format is very deliberate, but I did think about the things you mention. The feature is very much about on-court/off-court differences and I’ve thought long and hard about how we treat those differently on screen; we’ll see what we do once we’re shooting the feature.

      Overall I felt there is so much 16:9 HD basketball in the world nowadays that I wanted to explicitly differentiate this as cinema.

  • great lighting. good acting. very good storytelling. it does what scenes should do. it makes me want more.

    was the quivering lip added in post?

  • Nice job! There’s this great performance moment where the kid’s lip is quivering while the rest of his face maintains its composure. Smart idea to put the pitch in the credits, too!

  • did you do research for this film? why did you chose this subject matter?

    “how about off the court, are you undefeated there too” haha.

    the way the scene builds is far too direct….whats your intention to get at? how hard this kids life is?….It feels very false too me even the cut from him shooting to then sitting down on the bleachers….as if there was a time passage? seems you were thinking too much about camera setups and not enoguh about the truth of the scene and the dynamic of the two people.

    • Seems like you may have missed the point. Also thought the time cut worked really nicely. I personally love editing like that. It’s called ellipsis.

      • Indeed, thanks Will. chimski, the entire short is about “the truth of the scene and the dynamic of the two people” — the camera setups etc. call very little attention to themselves for exactly that reason. The answer to your other questions should be obvious…

        • people dont speak in the way this was written. this is hollywood cinema. your making movies to make movies, not for emotional reason and it shows. I think the gear you are you using and the time your spending shooting this is outweighing greatly the time your spending developing characters and creating real important moments of cinema. The dynamic between these two people depicted is shallow and obvious which is why this film felt like it did. In 30 seconds of hoop dreams I get more truth then I did in 9mins of your film. I think you need to deepen the work you are doing if it is your hope to really impact an audience and do something of merit.

          yes it looks nice, the sound is great, the acting well…. people are going to be yes men when you can make something that appeals to a mainstream audience and is professionally made, but if you wish to be an artist I hope you can do more.

          • To be fair…i skimmed through the film. which is i probably missed your elipse…. ITS THE INTERNET AGE YOU NEED TO GRAB MY ATTENTION
            hahaha noooo. that was a joke

            im just saying mannn dont make movies for the sake of movies. dont make movies for filmmakers to praise you on your own blog. take risks….tell stories that are true…. and I do not mean that in a journalistic sense….dont feed my bullshit with stereotypical characters. As an artist be a purveyor of ideas….make me think different. dont be fulfilled in making a film that works be fulfilled in doing something that is important . I dont need a stripped down “he got game” or hoop dreams those films both worked and were trying things. DO SOMETHINGGGGG

          • what an embarrassing series of comments by chimski. great work ryan.

          • YES MEN!

          • Will Gilbey on 04.17.13 @ 4:31PM

          • Honest question… do you proofread what you write? Constructive criticism is really good, however you seem to be confused at a fundamental level about cinema in general, and how short story narratives should be constructed. This was surprisingly well done and the editing was actually quite on point. Those transitions are common and Koo was able to show temporal discontinuity a very nice way.

            I honestly didn’t think the short would be this good, but it was.

  • Will Gilbey on 04.17.13 @ 12:12PM

    Really impressed. Great directing and acting. Photography and grading top notch. Loved the twist. Never saw it coming. Great moment as the score kicked in and the car drove off. Can’t wait to see Manchild.

    • Thanks Will, I’ve always felt a short is a hard sell without a payoff and I think this one has it. Glad you liked that moment too.

  • Badass. The ending was beautifully set up, didn’t see it coming at all. I immediately wanted to know more about the characters; is it only the coach who returns in Manchild? I understand if you don’t want to give away any spoilers. Will definitely pump this up to my 72 (!) followers on twitter.

  • Shouldn’t the prequel to your feature just be called “CHILD”?? ;)

  • Ryan could you please talk a bit about the light setup, lenses? Perhaps an BTS post? Loved how clean it was on the last part outside… The image is really clean! Really curious on the light setup outside! And by the way, another good example on how good skin tones can be on Red if proper treated. thanks!

  • Fantastic. Great casting, acting, script, etc. Love how the cinematography and editing doesn’t come across as showy…just moves the story forward. Didn’t notice the music, which is a good thing. Of course, nice twist at the end.

    Could you share how the lighting was handled? Gyms are generally pretty poorly lit via practicals, yet this one looks good. Also the outdoor-at-night scene looks good. How was that lit?

    • Basically just said the same thing to Alex — we’ll share all that. The gym’s lights were pretty awful (very different color temperatures light to light) so we killed most of them. There’s one pic on my Twitter profile but I’ll post a bunch more in the future.

  • Skinny Pete on 04.17.13 @ 1:05PM

    That was edited really well. I really felt like i was playing the game with them. The casting for the recruiter was kinda meh, you should have made it a white guy or something. And the cropping is odd for a sports film but somehow it worked.

    • Personally, I liked the recruiter. I thought I could see an inner drama playing out nicely: building confidence in his own game.

  • Well done. You are off to a great start, Ryan. So, would you like one random viewer’s reaction? First and strongest impression: I loved the work of the actors – it felt real – the mannerisms and everything — I felt like I was back in Queens/Brooklyn (NY is the only big US city I know). I loved the silence of the pauses in the dialogue, which made it more intense. Thanks for going easy on the background soundtrack — for my taste you could go even lighter/ more subliminal. I admire your restraint in not adding any artistic shots that cry out “beautiful cinematography” — because it meant that I, the viewer, can’t run away from the intense interaction going on and hide out in “cinematography”. Personal taste — I’d like others’ opinion– does the camera move a bit too much or am I in the minority on this? Or is this a problem with seeing it on the laptop rather than a cinema or big screen? I’m trying to describe my reaction as a viewer–not give you advice, which you don’t need. I’ll watch it on the big tv later. Congratulations, man.

    • You know I saw it on the big screen and I didn’t notice the handheld nearly as much — obviously I was going for a handheld look, but I think what it is is the refresh rate of online video/computer monitors somehow exaggerates it. It’s silky smooth on my (homemade) Bluray. Thanks for the comments Taylor.

      • I noticed the handheld but it felt like it was hand held on the player and tripod/jib on the recruiter. I’m not saying it was this way round but if it was I think it’s a genius way of applying status, handheld is a little out of control so its great for showing who has control or higher status in the scene.

        Great work overall! Most importantly, it cuts and the performances are great!

  • Shamus McGee on 04.17.13 @ 1:19PM

    Do yo thing mang!

  • To quote a famous line from Blazing Saddles “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” If independent filmmakers are Hollywood’s outlaws, you are proving that quality films do not need to be part of the Hollywood approved process to stand shoulder to shoulder with big budgets and the inbred politics. that goes with it.

    Really nice work in both story and execution. Best of luck on the feature!

  • thadon calico on 04.17.13 @ 1:23PM

    I still got a bone to pick with you mr. Koo! Im still vexed you didnt cast actors or extras from your NFS family & when I see you IT’S ON!

    Couple questions: What did you mean by a sound mix @ Goldcrest Post. cos from the sentence it was not clear if you were following up the composers score sentence and mixing the composer’s score or you mean the final & overall sound mix of the film! Also, how was the process for you? did u do specific tweaks to voices based on the scripts emotional componenet? how long did it take you to do the sound mix for the 8 min film? U paid by the hour or was it a favor?

    I gotta commend you on the great job with the film!

    • Final sound mix meaning all the elements were in there — Tim K, the composer, sent me separate stems (on the airplane) and I brought those to Goldcrest. We did postproduction in two days, Thursday (sound mix) and Friday (grade) last week. More details to follow!

  • Hats off to the crew Ryan, they did a great job.

    I know your plan is for a feature but I couldn’t shake off the feeling all throughout the short that this could be great as a TV series.

    Given any thought to it?

    • thadon calico on 04.17.13 @ 1:37PM

      I think so too…many folks want to go the feature route although the tv route is difficult to break into

    • Thanks Ed — yes it could be a TV series, certainly (The White Shadow being the foremost example of a basketball TV series). It would probably be much easier to do a TV show with high school aged kids though… but we’ll see what happens after the feature :)

  • Great work, you definitely walk the walk!

  • Awesome short, I love the ending!

  • Nice work. The production value is great. I did miss the one moment where we see the kid decide to play the recruiter. That “Sixth Sense” moment, where I can go back and say THERE: how’d I miss this clue? Here, I went back and you have a moment, in close up of the kid thinking- the home/life question- but you have the kid walk AWAY from the guy.

    Instead, since this is where the kid decides to play the recruiter, perhaps the kid should have walked TOWARDS HIM, as if HE (the kid) has decided to take the next step– showing that he’s in control.

    Upon first view, this would not matter to the viewer, but watching it again (like Sixth Sense) the viewer says, “it was all right there, look– the kid is in control.” But as it is now, it’s YOU the filmmaker pulling a “trick” or “twist” at the end of the film that doesn’t flow from the story, just a desire to trick the viewer.

    • I actually feel the opposite, that Anton walking away is exactly in character — he is literally drawing him in. He’s bait.

      It’s a 15-second shot without a line. The beat is there and his gears are grinding. You can of course interpret it differently, but I was conscious of walking the line between “earning it” and “giving it away” and felt we earned it. Free country to feel differently though!

      • Obviously you “feel” the opposite. I think this is also why some have pointed to this exact moment- from standing to the bleachers (I agree with you that a time shift/cut in this fashion is perfectly fine). But I think if you allow yourself to hear this criticism, which is what an artist must do, you might see that aside from the production praise, which you deserve, the one story point folks are pointing to is this moment– and this is the critical moment of the film.

        YOU the writer/director see the gears grinding, but I didn’t. Yes. I “interpreted” it differently, but as a director you cannot have your viewer seeing a different film that you intended.

        And your “free country” comment is odd. I hope as you hear from folks in the industry who offer notes, this isn’t your response. Again, exceptional production value, but take a step back and ask others about this moment.

        • +1

          I enjoyed it though.

        • You are just one viewer and not representative of all. Had he done it your way someone would have criticised that choice as well.

        • To conduct an orchestra, one must turn his back to the audience.

        • Chriss,

          I was not defensive in my response to you, yet you feel the need to tell me “what an artist must do?”

          Me responding IS me hearing the criticism… How many filmmakers post their work on their own site and get 300 comments (between here and Vimeo) to take into account? That’s about as “hearing” the criticism as it gets for a short film. You would never “hear” that many reactions even after a year long run on the festival circuit.

          “As a director you cannot have your viewer seeing a different film that you intended.” I would argue that every viewer is going to see a different film and that is the nature of filmmaking. And quite frankly I take issue with your tone. “As I hear from folks in the industry?” That’s all I’ve been doing for the past few years, and ask any of them how I respond to criticism. Hint: it’s different than how I respond to someone on my website telling me what I “cannot” do. I would never tell another filmmaker what they can’t do.

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