Important notice

The director of “Crime Alley”, Pekka Paalanen, has suffered a stroke and was taken into hospital in critical condition. The good news is, that he is now stable and making progress each day, but it will take some time before it is safe for him to continue his work with “Crime Alley”. Until then, Mathias and Zsuzsa will keep things rolling and they are the ones to contact about the project. Ilmari will continue managing the audio department and Peter will take care of the comic book team.

Work will continue as planned, but if there is something we would need Pekka’s say on, that thing will be put on the shelf until he is back and in good health. Because of these unforeseen and deeply saddening circumstances the premiere has to be postponed, but as already mentioned we’ll continue all other work as planned (including the perks fulfillment for our IGG campaign supporters). Pekka wouldn’t want the machinery to stop because of this, and therefore we won’t let it. We appreciate the understanding of our supporters and we will keep you informed of the new date for the premiere when Pekka has fully recovered.

“CRIME ALLEY” RELEASE SCHEDULE REVEALED!

It’s December and it’s time for an update!

First of all, we would like to express our deepest gratitude once more to all of you Bat-fans, who have been supporting us throughout the making of “Crime Alley.” While we’re proud of the work we’ve accomplished, we are humbled by the support and patience of our fans.

You may have noticed that we had to update our release date from 2013 to 2014. There are two main reasons for this:

* Since “Crime Alley” is a non-profit fan film, everyone involved in the production is working pro bono. This means that whenever paying work rears its ugly-but-necessary head, many of us have had to take it.

* We refuse to compromise on quality. So we decided that instead of rushing it out at the promised time, you will prefer that we put in the time needed to make “Crime Alley” the movie both you and we wanted it to be.

That’s all well and good, but what does this mean for you? When will you get to see Crime Alley?

That depends on your own approach to “Crime Alley.” A brand new trailer will be released to the public at the beginning of 2014 to whet your appetites. After that, if you have donated to our Indiegogo campaign, you will be given premium online access to the movie in March 2014 and receive your perks. Furthermore, to compensate for the wait, every IGG supporter of ours will also be invited to the official “Crime Alley” premiere in Helsinki, Finland (also in March 2014).

We will spend the rest of 2014-2015 sending “Crime Alley” to film festivals, local and abroad, which means that the public release of the movie online will be towards the end of 2015. Make sure to check back for screening times and locations.

And if you missed your chance to support us on Indiegogo and want access to the film, there’s still time for you to help “Crime Alley”; spread the word, tell your friends, contact us and ask us how you can make a difference!

“Crime Alley” release schedule:

Feb 2014 – New trailer
Mar 2014 – Premiere in Helsinki, Finland
Mar 2014 – Premium access to IGG supporters & fulfillment of perks
Mar 2014 – Sep 2015 – Film festivals
Sep – Dec 2015 – Internet release to the public

Our goal is to release a movie everyone will enjoy and we appreciate your patience. The wait will soon be over.

Keep the vigil.

– Zsuzsa

Shooting Bats With Canons

Now we have the final cut of the film and we can start working on sound, music, visual effects and color grading. As a cinematographer I’m excited about everything that concerns the image and look of the film, but we have such great people on sound and music that I actually have to admit to looking forward to listening to their work, just as much.

I thought I’d write a little about the technical part of shooting “Crime Alley.” I’ll try to keep it short. As with all other aspects of this project, we’d like to share as much as we can about how we’ve done it. This is so that people who are or will be doing something similar might find something of value in our project for making their own.

We shot “Crime Alley” on a Canon 5D Mark III, on loan from the good people at Canon. As if that wasn’t enough, they also graciously provided us with three L-series zoom lenses: 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8. For these loans I – and the whole “Crime Alley” team – will be eternally grateful. We shot in dark locations and as our budget was very limited, we couldn’t afford to rent lots of lights, either. Here, the low light capabilities of the 5D Mark III – and the lenses mentioned earlier – came in real handy. During the more difficult fight scenes, we shot with two cameras, of which the second one was a Canon 7D. The same 7D was also used for underwater work and can be seen as a prop in the film.

“Crime Alley” is shot in 16:9, but the final film will be in 2.40:1. As the camera was on loan, we didn’t want to risk messing with it by using third party firmware. So to get crop marks I photoshopped, a photo taken with the 5D and copied to the CF memory cards we used. Then I cut out suitable pieces of slightly frosted plastic, painted the edges red and taped them onto both the camera and the on-board monitor, using the image from the memory card as reference. If you use this technique, I suggest you use gentle tape and stick the tape onto your palm a couple of times before applying it to the camera or monitor. This way it’ll stick more gently to the camera or monitor and come off easier without leaving any streaks, marks or residue. I did also make a crop mark picture to use with Magic Lantern on the 7D, as the image on that camera jumps up and down when you change between “record” and “playback” mode. I couldn’t find any good ones on the Web, so I’ll add it here if anyone wants to use it themselves.

Click for full size

Click for full size

We used tungsten light for everything other than exterior day scenes, props and effects, because most of the locations had a light quality close to tungsten and – again – our budget was very limited. We mostly used Arri 2kW and 1kW, Filmgear tubes, Dynacore Redheads and 1×1 foot LED panels. In the tunnel locations we used 1/4 green gels to balance out the fluorescent lights in the ceiling, and to channel the light where we wanted, we built skirts around the lights with tar paper.
In a couple of scenes, we had police lights, of which we had two different models. The on-screen model seen in Gordon’s and Driver’s unmarked police car is a red-and-blue strobe light. I ordered it from eBay and it has two panels with 22 white LED lights in each, so I just covered one with red gel and one with blue gel, connected it to the 12V socket in the car, chose the desired strobe mode and that was it. Search eBay for “white 22 LED strobe” and you’ll find it. It doesn’t cost much, either.
The other model wasn’t actually a light, though it was before I modified it. I opened up one of those revolving lights you see on tractors and replaced the light with a piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. This way I could bounce a heavier light, covered with blue gel, from the spinning reflective surface to get that distinctive “police strobe light” to wash over a wider area. We had two of these and the idea was to have two light sources, one in blue and one in red. Unfortunately, one of these two cheap lights broke down on-set. Luckily, we hadn’t shot anything using it, avoiding continuity gaffs. If you are going to do something similar yourselves, I recommend checking the construction of the revolving light; it should be able to hold the weight of a piece of cardboard. You can, of course, also just spin a reflective surface in front of the light source by hand, but then the motion won’t be as uniform and you have to have a separate person tasked with doing just that when you shoot.

LED panels

As a monitor we used the “Lilliput 7″ 663/O IPS 1080P HDMI In & Out” and it worked great with the 5D, especially when Canon released the firmware update that allowed for clean HDMI output. This combination helps pulling focus on dimly lit sets. Trust me.

Rig

Lots of “Crime Alley” is shot hand-held with a shoulder rig, but where we wanted stabilization we used the Secced Reach 3 and the Glidetrack HD Hybrid Slider 2m.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my entire camera crew and light team for all the hours you put into this project! I’ve also been handling a lot of other responsibilities – other than cinematography – in this project; I’d like to thank the good people at Varusteleka for being so helpful when we needed a Quick Response Team, not to mention Muovisotilas, for providing us with all the gun replicas we could ever need!

– Mathias

BATMEN, JUDGES AND COMICS, OH MY!

It’s a sunny, warm, early May morning as I write this. Why early? Because in just a few hours, prep work for the second part of shooting for “Crime Alley” begins, starting with a scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. Within the following week, we will go from Wayne Manor, to the streets of Gotham, to the lair of one of the film’s villains. From there, we finish off the shoots by going to a dockside rooftop, to shoot the film’s opening scene, ironically enough.

But as I sit here and reflect about the shoot, I also feel it necessary to mention some of the more recent developments, all of them positive.

“Crime Alley” has been attracting some attention from the mainstream media, here in Finland. Or at least perked a few eyebrows. You can already read – if you speak Finnish, that is – an article on us on YleX’s website, and there’s another piece about us coming out in Suomen Kuvalehti. Our Making Of-documentaries – now in its second episode – have also given our fans a chance to take peeks behind the scenes.

Which is rather excellent, considering that we’re trying to get some traction on our Indiegogo. Making “Crime Alley” has been a lovely challenge, and we thought we’d reach out to the worldwide network of loyal fans for some much-needed – not to mention much-appreciated – support.

On another note, the Internet was recently rocked by the release of “Judge Minty”, a fan film set in the world of “Judge Dredd.” The short film – directed by Steven Sterlacchini – is a powerhouse of a fan film, expertly done and doesn’t miss a beat. The film gives you thrills and chills equal to that of anything Hollywood can provide, but with twice the heart. And – like all the best things in life – it’s free. It’s up on Youtube; go check it out!

Judge Dredd, of course, was the star of his own splendid film titled simply “Dredd.” The film received lackluster showings here in Finland – limited to only a few runs in theaters – but even those few showings were jam-packed with not only fans, but hardcore cinephiles, who know the value of a good film. The fact that the film even had those few showings were due to the determined enthusiasm of fans who made petitions and shone the spotlight on the fact that people wanted to see the film; groups such as the Dredd 3D elokuvateattereihin-group on Facebook, for instance.

Dedication like that is rare, and when you see it, be a part of it, it warms your heart. And when that dedication and enthusiasm crosses boundaries, be they national, cultural or even interpersonal, you know you’re dealing with something special.

Why do I mention this?

Well, Jyrki Vainio and Rami Rautkorpi are two of the most prolific professional comic book artists here in Finland. They, along with Péter Paalanen – my brother – and Antti Kirjalainen, are busy men.

So, when I approached these cats regarding the idea of a comic set in the world of “Crime Alley”, I was pretty much sure that I’d get some blank stares and polite refusals. But I didn’t know Jyrki, Rami and Antti, at this point. But when I started working with them, I quickly realized that they’d become part of the team, too; “Crime Alley” had crossed over a boundary, from one form of media to another. And I had gotten the chance to cross over with it into something I’ve always wanted, but never had the chance to do: write a comic book.

So does this all have a point? Well, long story short, before the Internet release of “Crime Alley”, expect a comic book arc – titled “Crime Alley: Scars” – to be released on these very pages, for free. Just like all the best things in life.

Oh, by the way… I did mention we’d be going to the lair of one of the film’s villains, didn’t I? Well, you heard it here first, loyal fans: Zsasz is not the sole antagonist of “Crime Alley.” Who is it? Keep an eye out; all things will be revealed, in time.

In the meantime, watch this space and spread the word…

“You’re not the devil. You’re practice.”

– Pekka Paalanen

New technology opens possibilities but doesn’t make good marketing any easier

We’ve come along way in a fairly short amount of time. I think it was only yesterday when I had my first go on HTML on my brand new 200MHz Pentium. Naturally that wasn’t exactly yesterday. We’ve come along way since those days. What we can nowadays do with computers is fairly mindboggling. For starters this entire “Crime Alley” project would have been impossible to make happen with our budget just five to ten years ago. Even if we could have somehow managed to scrape it together, would anyone ever have seen the film or even heard about it – aside from our mothers?

The recent evolution in technology has not just benefited the filmmakers, but also the marketing side. It was only couple of years ago when YouTube was the place to go when you wanted to see blurry postage-stamp sized cat videos. Technology has evolved; broadbands are now faster and present in almost every household. Now you can stream those cat videos that you love so much in full HD without having to wait for it to load for ages. Social media on the other hand gives marketers a completely new tool to use. Today it’s easier than ever to communicate with others and to spread your message to the world. Never before has it been this effortless and affordable to reach this many people. From a marketing perspective this is both exciting and frightening. It’s no longer about how to reach the people – it’s about how to talk to them. And when you’re talking to this many people at once, it’s critical to get the message just right. Because when you’re talking online – the entire world is listening.

-Ville

No new bats under the sun?

As the majority of our shooting days are behind us – a few shoots still lie ahead – post-production has begun. A process in itself, but no less rewarding, it means that you will soon be seeing some footage from the film.

Indeed, a teaser trailer will be made available in the days to come. Expect it, when you see it.

In the meantime, let’s talk about superhero movies. With a whole slew of superhero-themed films are coming out this summer – the promising “Man of Steel”, for one – it is interesting to note the development of these films, and note the similar developments of so-called “fan films.”

Personally, I find the term “fan film” both a boon and a bane. As a plus, it is an easily-defined term that can encompass a wide variety of non-profit productions made for solely for the love of a certain character or story. As a negative, it can be made into a dismissive term, implying that developing something based off an already proven concept lacks originality. I can understand the reasoning behind that. As a counterpoint, one could argue, that there is nothing new under the sun.

But on the other hand, there’s a reason characters like Batman and Superman have flourished for decades after their initial inception: everyone and anyone could look at these characters and develop their own stories. The archetype, the character has always been there, it only requires a new lens, a new interpretation.

And by these new interpretations – rebirths, if you will – these characters will remain, long after we’re gone.

Say what you will about films based off of intellectual property owned by someone else, films like “Batman: Dead End” – an extraordinary Batman short film directed by Sandy Collora, go ahead, Google it! – have left their mark, on the character, on how people think about him or her.

I might even go out on a limb and suggest, that while big blockbusters based off of the same material – though made for profit, certainly – may have been crafted by people who not only know their craft exceptionally well, I would not be surprised if these creative people were fans of the material themselves.

Which would make the differences between films like “Batman: Dead End” and, say, “Man of Steel” only one of practicalities, not one of artistic vision.

“It is not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

– Pekka Paalanen

Keeping It All Together

If you’ve ever seen a behind the scenes video of a movie production before, you may have noticed the enormous amount of work that goes into even the simplest of films. The size of the crew and the amount of prep is heavily dependent on the scale and complexity of the script, and the number of zeros at the end of the budget. As a non-profit short film based on such a beloved and well known comic book character as Batman, we have put the bar really high for ourselves with Crime Alley while working on a shoestring budget.

One of the biggest challenges I found was keeping the team motivated, up to date, and organized throughout the whole process, while making sure that we never take our eyes off of the ultimate goal; making an awesome movie that pays homage to a classic superhero in a way we’ve envisioned it.

After several months however, I am proud to say that with about 10 people we have accomplished what others do with a 100, and the camera is ready to roll! Stay tuned for more updates from the producer’s desk as filming continues.

-Zsuzsa

Breaking out with the Bat

You might be interested in making a film of your own. You might already be a member of an indie film team – possibly non-profit, for whom the end result is more important than monetary concerns – or you might just be starting out. You might already be part of the industry, and curious about how the other half lives.

No matter what your background, your methods or your objective, there are a few things you might want to consider.

First, you need to get the word out; you might have the greatest script in the world, but if no one gets to read it, it’s going to stay unread… and unmade, unfortunately. Second, reach out and make new friends. There’s a lot of competition going on, but just as you attract more flies with honey than vinegar, you’ll never accomplish much if you keep talented people, who only want to help you, out in the cold. Third, remember who you’re making the film for and why. Again, you might have the best intentions in the world, the most interesting story to tell… but your audience won’t have any of it, if they don’t understand what you’re trying to tell them.

Fourth, and most importantly… just go out and do it. There are so many good, untold stories and so many talented people out there who want their voices to be heard, but either aren’t allowed to, can’t or are afraid to express themselves. No matter what those limitations are, find the cracks and break through. And remember, you’re not alone in all of this. In the end, we’re all in this together.

The training is nothing. The will is everything. The will to act.

Pekka Paalanen

Before the Bat

You might be interested in how all this came about. Well, as I’ve stated before, the origin of “Crime Alley” can be traced way back to 2009. “Moonstone” (www.watchmoonstone.tk) was just underway and we – that’s myself and my cinematographer, co-producer and general partner-in-crime, Mathias Lönnström – were discussing alternatives for future projects. We were just about to graduate from the film school we both were studying at and wanted our last school project to be something special.

We were considering two scripts. The first one was a 45-page script – tentatively titled “Scar” – that told an almost Shakespearean tale of family ties and vengeance, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle gang. The other script was a much smaller story about an old man – an old soldier, almost – being called back into action, one last time. That man’s name was Bruce Wayne, though the world has once known him as “the Batman.”

While this smaller project was considered too long and too expensive by the powers that be – the biker script even more so – we never gave up hope and began developing the project ourselves, slowly gathering the resources we’d need and polishing the script.

Now, four years later, we’re set to shoot.

Always mind your surroundings.

Pekka Paalanen

Bat-signals

As the shooting dates for “Crime Alley” approach, it’s time you knew a little more about the film, the crew, the cast and everything in between. As this is a production blog – and not just the director’s soap box – you’ll be hearing from other members of the team, as well. We’ll also be bringing you new and cool stuff, straight off the set, like video featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage, photos and the like. On top of this, you can check out our official Facebook page for even more content. You can even hit the “like” button and tell your friends all about it, but it’s not like we’re holding a batarang to your head.

But that’s just the start.

Storm’s coming.

Pekka Paalanen