Written by Joey Corpora (@joeycorpora)
When I typed “2014 short films” into YouTube’s search engine, I expected to find movies like my classmates had done in film school: dramas about teens discovering their sexuality, experimental pieces throwing obscure themes in your face, and some half-assed DV movies shot in dorm rooms with crappy audio.
What I did not expect to find was a Hollywood-caliber science fiction short made by a bunch of guys I’d never heard of.
But that’s exactly what I found when I hit play on “Shifter,” a short film made by the Hallivis Brothers.
The opening shots of the movie showcase some spectacular special effects, and the effects only get better as the film goes on. Right off the bat, we are introduced to a man in a car named Striker. Using a pocket knife, he cuts a chip out of his forearm and places it in a tray filled with wires and blinking lights. All the while, he is talking to a woman in a control room named Angel. She tells him to start attaching wires to different parts of his body.
We learn that Striker is a “Shifter;” in other words, when he puts the plugs in all the right places, he can transfer (or “shift”) his consciousness into a clone body.
This ability comes in handy, because a few moments later a bunch of nasty-looking EFT soldiers show up carrying machine guns. They aren’t in a talking mood. Their leader pumps his shotgun and suddenly the soldiers open fire, turning Striker and his car into Swiss cheese, Sonny Corleone style.
Striker appears in his new body in the control room with Angel, but he isn’t out of danger yet. The action gets more intense, culminating in a zero-gravity brawl between Striker and the EFT leader inside an elevator plummeting a hundred stories.
The 10 minute film went by in a flash, leaving me wanting more. I felt like I’d been given a glimpse into a scene from Hollywood’s newest sci-fi blockbuster. The cinematography was beautiful, the editing was tight, and the special effects were amazing. All of the actors were excellent in their roles, and the music kept the film both exciting and intense.
I immediately Googled “Shifter Hallivis Brothers,” needing to find out all I could about this amazing filmmaking team.
I found my way to their website, and was happy to find that as well as being skilled filmmakers, they also had a great sense of humor. Their About page proudly boasts the following:
“The Hallivis Brothers are a Los Angeles based director/producer duo that is comprised of two actual blood-related Mexican brothers that have been living in the United States (legally) for over 15 years. Julio Hallivis is an Executive Producer with a strong background in the advertising world. Diego Hallivis (the better looking one) has a post-production background that helped him jump into directing at a young age. The Hallivis Brothers’ first film “Game Time” was distributed by Lionsgate and their latest concept “Shifter” is getting a lot of attention and making a lot of buzz in the industry. They both work together on every step of all of their projects from the early stages of development until it reaches its final point of awesomeness.”
Intrigued, I decided to follow up with an email to find out more about what went into the making of “Shifter.” A few hours later I found an email from Julio sitting in my Inbox. You can read our Q&A conversation below:
Joey: How long have you guys been making films? What made you want to start?
Julio: We have been making films since college. We are strongly influenced by the 3 Mexican filmmakers working in Hollywood today: Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. So when we first saw "Amores Perros" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" back then we were bitten by the filmmaker bug and since then our goal has been to make films.
Joey: Were there any issues shooting Shifter? Funny stories from set? It looked like you guys had a lot of fun making it.
Julio: Yes, shooting “Shifter” was really fun. The process of being on set shooting is the reward of working really hard before hand, planning and asking people to help out. Independent filmmaking as we all know is really hard because you need to be very efficient when shooting. We were averaging between 33 to 35 set-ups a day so we were moving really fast every day so it was really stressful. Lucky for us, we had a great crew that worked extra hard and are very talented so they made us look good. The last day when we shot the elevator scene was the most challenging. We had to keep rotating the set to achieve the zero gravity feel. But every time we rotated the set it would take a long time to put it back together. We were running out of time so we had to improvise and change some of the blocking to make the sequence work.
Joey: I can only imagine what a nightmare it must have been editing and adding all those special effects.
Julio: Yes, post-production was a nightmare, when you have such a heavy post-production project it becomes very technical and it can become overwhelming at times. You just need to take it one day at a time and buy a lot of coffee.
Joey: Is this short a "proof of concept" film that you hope to use to raise funds for a feature? It feels like a small part of a much bigger story, though you handled it very well in such a short film.
Julio: Yes and thank you for your kind words, this is a proof of concept for two things: 1. This story is one that we would like to tell in a feature length. 2. To showcase what we can do with little resources.
Joey: What are your plans for the future? Any other scripts you're working on?
Julio: We are developing other screenplays, as well as other proof of concepts. We think it is more attractive for people to see a proof of concept rather than just reading the stories as a script. Right now we have a cool post-apocalyptic character-driven story and a sci-fi thriller we would like to do next.
Joey: Sounds awesome! If you could give short filmmakers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Julio: Filmmaking is a group effort. You need a team. It’s impossible to do it alone and I always try to surround myself with the most talented people I can find. As a filmmaker, it's very important to learn the craft to the best of your ability, from pre-production to post-production. The more knowledge you have on every aspect, the closer you will get to your vision. Remember to always shoot, shoot, shoot as much as you can; films, short music videos, anything to show your skills and don't give up. There is no secret formula, just hard work and be persistent.
Joey: Thanks for your time, and congrats on “Shifter!” I look forward to seeing what else you guys come up with!
Julio: Thank you Joey, looking forward to your review.
These guys are definitely a team to watch out for! If you want to learn more about Julio and Diego Hallivis and their films, you can visit their website http://hallivisbrothers.com/