A man and his dog.
Blue a short film written and directed by Derek Donovan is a charmer and the epitome of the statement dog is man’s best friend. Coming in at around 25 minutes, Blue is a dramatic slow moving ride that is on part composition eye candy and narrative sweetness.
Derek Donovan is a cinematographer first, and that stands out as a fact when it comes to the composition and storytelling techniques portrayed in Blue. What is important to recognize about this short is that its best moments come from its use of composition to convey its story. Do not be fooled, this is not simply a cinematography reel full of pretty shots and awesome lighting, this is a short that truly conveys the message: Show, Don’t Tell. The short all in all is very slow paced with a heavy sense of ambience. The ambient approach shines in allowing this short film to progress in an interesting way that practically mimics a silent film.
"Blue is about Jed, who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his dog Blue. The film follows their relationship as it goes through changes and they learn how to live and let go."
The performance by Thomas A England is phenomenal. Surprisingly performing by himself for most of the 25 minute short, Thomas is able to portray the character of Jeb in a way that is eye catching and engaging to all audiences. His interactions with his canine counterpart additionally feel realistic and genuine. The loving relationship the director wants you to feel between the two reads easily through their chemistry and only helps to enhance the narrative.
Scenes with no dialogue do bask in greatness within the short’s cinematography, and help to conveying emotions and presenting moments of immense beauty and dramatic tension.
Like with any good short film, Blue will make the viewer anxious and invested as its plot twist and turns.
This was my thesis film, and the way the class is set up you kinda have to make most of the film yourself. I’m a DP first so visuals were the first thing that came to mind for the film. I really liked the scene in Shooter where Mark Wahlberg is living in the mountains with his dog. This short scene is what I built the story from. I was able to create a base concept with all the visuals I wanted to see and then Jerome, my co-writer, and my thesis teacher, Jon Mark Nail, helped further the story to what it is now.
- Derek Donovan
The story progression in this short is flawless, and visually stunning enough to attract audience goers and filmmakers alike. The emotional connection between dog and man is touching and plays out in this short as an endearing piece of poetry. Blue, will leave you wanting more and glad that you tuned in.
Blue, is the one to watch on Vimeo. For fans of cinematography and pet owners alike, Blue is a short does not disappoint!
INTERVIEW with Derek Donovan (Director/Co-Writer/DOP)
First of all how long have you been film making? What got you interested?
My filmmaking interests started when i bought a small JVC flip-cam and started to film everything my friends and I did in a documentary style. Naturally, we started to experiment with different techniques and styles that we thought were cool. Then I went to film school and learned to take the techniques and skills I already knew, develop them further, and use them to make more cohesive work with story and purpose.
Any interesting behind the scene stories?
There are a few actually. The production was scheduled to be 3 days but we ended up shooting 5 over two separate weekends. For the first weekend, I rented a cabin in Boone, NC where the film would take place and the cast and crew would stay. I picked the cabin based off of what I think the character would live in. This was a one bedroom cabin that slept 3-4 people, but cast and crew total was around 12 people. Set was pretty cramped but it was manageable. Towards the end of the 2nd day of production, the owner calls the cabin in a rage. Neighbors drove by and saw we had 4 cars when we were only allowed 2 and called the owner. She called and said we needed to be out of the house in 2 hours and she was on her way. The living room of the cabin had been rearranged to fit the character better. We moved the tv and entertainment system back in, rewired the surround sound, put all of the furniture back, packed our personal bags, packed all of the lights and grip equipment, got all of the people and dogs in the car and got out with 30 minutes to spare. After that I took a few weeks to regroup and plan to shoot the rest of the film. Fortunately, we shot everything in the kitchen and didn’t need to reshoot that. We only needed to reshoot around 10 shots, which was a big relief.
The 2nd weekend of shooting was another cabin in Boone. The 3rd day of production, 1st day for this weekend, we were shooting the funeral scene about an hour and a half away from the cabin. We wrapped there around midnight then drove to the cabin. It was really dark on top of the mountain but we managed to get to the cabin, unlock the door, and get inside. We started to look around the cabin to see where everyone was going to sleep and noticed there were a few things off about the place. There were dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty clothes in the laundry, a missing bedroom, and rat droppings. We were tired so we let it go and went to sleep. In the morning, I went outside and looked up the hill and saw the cabin we were supposed to be in. Turns out, we squatted in someone’s home while they were on vacation. Once again, we had to get packed up and leave the cabin. Once we got to the cabin we were supposed to be at, everything went smooth.
What is it like film making now after having made this film? Has your approach changed?
Most of what I do now is commercial work, and I’ve only shot one film since then so its hard to say. If I was to pick some of the biggest differences between then and if I were to make a film right now it would be motivation and length. By that I mean I focus on everything having a purpose more than I did then. Whether it’s lighting, camera movement, framing or all of the subtle things that make the film more meaningful and motivated. I did a some of that in Blue but there is more of a focus on that now. With length, I mean simply trying to tell the story as concise and short as possible. The films I’m working on now are shorter and have more motivated decisions.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future?
I directed Blue because it was my thesis film, but what I mostly do is DP work. I don’t have any projects that I am directing but have four films that I am the DP for. We are about to start production on Civil directed by Andrew Huggins. This is a story about six individuals during the gritty, trying times of the Civil War. The film takes place in real time, so the length of the film is how long the events take to transpire. I’ve worked with Andrew in the past and look forward to working with him again. Second, is The Dying of the Deads directed by Joshua Yates. The Dying of the Deads turns the typical zombie story inside-out. It’s an adaptation of Jeff Jackson’s original short story. Yates has a unique style and body of work and I look forward to seeing the end result. Third is HIM+HER directed by Mike Reda. HIM+HER is a unique portrayal of the life and death of a relationship. All of the highs and lows told from a couple who wanted to be together, but couldn’t. Mike is a good friend and close collaborator, so I have high hopes for this film. Lastly, is Recursion also directed by Mike Reda. Recursion is a short science fiction story about a scientist who has invented a bridge between two places in space, but the bridge also connects two places in time. The film follows him as he is chased by people who want the tech for something other than scientific purposes. This film has a fair amount of VFX which is new to Mike and I, so we are in the process of test shooting for those.
Any advice to filmmakers?
There are a number of people that have more experience than me and are more qualified to be giving advise, but if I had to say anything it would be to try and meet and collaborate with other talented filmmakers that help push you to become better. Having other people to bounce ideas off of and take part in the creative process makes your films substantially better.