Adam Egypt Mortimer's latest feature, like many others currently on the festival circuit, is the result of an enormous amount of careful planning and obsessing over details. About thirty-two pages or so's worth to be precise.
In pre-production for Daniel Isn't Real Mortimer created what he calls a "style guide", which is essentially a heavily detailed look book that breaks down every single aspect of production for the key members of his crew. This includes not only notes on how the film should look aesthetically, but also the reasoning behind the choice of gear for each shot and how each scene relates thematically to the broader arc of the story. The guide played an essential role in both keeping the crew on the same page and allowing key production members to keep Mortimer on track if they saw him straying from the mission.
The mission, in this case, was to convey the harrowing story of a troubled college freshman named Luke who, after undergoing a violent family trauma, resurrects his childhood imaginary friend Daniel to help him cope. The film features a few young members of Hollywood royalty in it's cast with both Patrick Schwarzenneger and Miles Robbins playing the schizophrenic duo.
I sat down with Mortimer for a case study of sorts back at SXSW. We discuss the process and components involved in creating the perfect look book, using his own work as a guide.
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No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.