In the spring of 2009, Theo Brown approached me about producing a short film. He was a film student and I was a graduate of the film program he was now working his way through. We had worked on a few other smaller projects before and had bonded through our love of comic books and Back to the Future. For class credit, he needed to serve as producer on a short film. He asked me if I had anything I would like to direct. I immediately thought of Martyrs.
At the time, though, the script wasn't called Martyrs and it wasn't set in Nazi Germany. I had written it a year or two earlier for Ben Mitzelfelt, who pitched me the idea of a short film that could be shot in a single camera take. I wrote him a love story and we went through several drafts of the script together before abandoning it and going with 20Q instead. So when Theo asked me if I had anything, I immediately thought of this script. I took one more pass at the script, sent it to him, and he loved it. We started work on it immediately.
Casting Brianne Johnson and Joshua Michalski (who, in real life, went on to get married a year later) was a no-brainer. I had been wanting to work with Bri again for a long time, after years of performing with her on stage. She was the first girl to audition for the part and was cast almost instantly. When Josh came in and read opposite her, there was no way I wasn't going to cast him. The two of them were so in love it was inspiring. Which meant that the two of them wouldn't have to fake being in love and we could all focus on the meatier subjects of the script.
Filming took place on two separate days at the Heritage House here in Chattanooga. Theo found an antiques dealer who was kind enough to let us borrow some antique furniture. We set the scene and the cameras started rolling. We filmed using a RED, and that thing was a beast of a camera.
It was, ultimately, the most gratifying film set I had ever been on. The crew was amazing. The cast brought my love letter to my wife alive. I loved it. It was perfect.
Then post-production began. For Theo's class we had to have at least a rough edit of the film done by a certain date so that he could get class credit for it. I made a rough assembly of the film and we turned it in. We planned on coming back to the project soon, and giving it the full attention it deserved . . . but the film student life conspired against us.
I was able to create the edit of the film that I wanted, but I was never able to finish the sound effects, nor was able to crop the film down to the proper aspect ratio. Theo wasn't happy with my choice to leave a three minute, single-take shot in the middle of the film. I felt like cutting it would degrade the actors' performance and I just wanted to show them off. We locked horns on the subject and were never able to come to an accord on it. He moved on to other projects and I, not having editing equipment of my own, was powerless to do anything about it.
For those of you interested in constructing a timeline, this was filmed after Berashet and before Remnants.
It is now March of 2011 and I finally have my own editing computer. Martyrs is finally seeing the light of day. The sound in the film's final moments isn't perfect, but I was able to fix the aspect ratio. Finally, you can see it. I hope you like it. The film means a lot to me and the cast and crew put a lot of hard work into it.