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Out Of Focus (2012)

Lead Cast: Lucinda Serrano, Aldred Montoya, and Dustin James

Writer/Director/Producer: Remi Vaughn

Synopsis: Lucinda Serrano stars as Aella Perones; a young woman who lives a humdrum existence yet possesses a supernatural power to see what others cannot see. Aella is pulled into the mystery of a shadowy killer by the enigmatic Loki, portrayed by Aldred Montoya. Nick Andrews (Dustin James) is a crime scene photographer, who finds his camera is capturing more about the murder victims than what immediately meets the eye.

Review:

“What if this photograph represents not what you can see but what you can’t see?” –Nick Andrews (Dustin James), Out Of Focus.

Having written extensively about Three Horizons Productions’ (THP) Out Of Focus over the past year, I was more than excited to finally see the completed project. The premiere took place on December 8, 2012, at the Harkin’s Valley Art Theater, in Tempe, Arizona. Although I walked away with many questions, I was still overwhelmed by the sheer will of the THP team, headed by Remi Vaughn, to bring this independent film short to the screen. THP worked over four years, on a very tight budget, to get everything including editing, sound, and the VFX just right.

My first impression of the opening title sequence was positive. The unique title font, the VFX (shadowy and foggy), and the score by composer Richard James set the mood of this supernatural thriller. I can’t say enough about Richard James’s music score. In a previous interview, Mr. James describes the score as “shamanistic.” I immediately thought of a quiet, whispery yet edgy tone similar to the film score compositions of Trent Reznor.

Interview with Richard James, Music Composer on Out Of Focus (dir. Remi Vaughn) from Remi Vaughn on Vimeo.

The opening sequence highlights the vintage camera, a Mamiya 330 medium-format camera. This textured 3D model replicated the actual camera used in the film. I found this effect to be seamless. A great deal of the VFX was developed by Luis Bohorquez, who also was the cinematographer. Mr. Bohorquez worked with Phoenix-area post-production and VFX houses, Blade Editorial and Big Bang Entertainment. The effects were such that I could scarcely believe this was the quality capable of an emerging indie film production company.

Out Of Focus – OFFICIAL TRAILER! from Remi Vaughn on Vimeo.

The movie was shot with the Red© Camera. During the post-premiere Q & A, Mr. Bohorquez expressed some reservation with the camera. However, as I’ve now watched the film several times along with my family, we’ve come to the conclusion that the dark nature of the Red© Camera’s imaging lent itself to the shadowy nature of Loki (Aldred Montoya). When we first meet Loki, he is shrouded in darkness with nothing but the slight glint of his necklace. Mr. Montoya reached a thrilling level of creepiness as he speaks to the stunned Aella and tells her the murderous power afoot is “insatiable.” He seems to pierce into her eyes with his eyes and disappears as quickly as he first appeared. The cinematography and VFX work together to leave the viewer as breathless as Aella.

When we get to see one of the victims of the supernatural serial killer, the viewer will be struck not only by the visual cues but also by the sound of the woman/next victim, who’s breathing, exercising, full of life and vigor, and doomed. Steve Harrison was the sound designer. He worked with Ms. Vaughn and Mr. Richard James to create the sound of mystery and enigmatic intensity present in the film.

Interview with Steve Harrison, Sound Designer on Out Of Focus (dir. Remi Vaughn) from Remi Vaughn on Vimeo.

“I can be anyone, anything. Ready to fulfill their ambitions, their desires.” –Aldred Montoya (Loki), Out Of Focus.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. This short film, at slightly less than 25 minutes, is packed with intense storytelling and dynamic characters. The backdrop benefits from a number of actual local settings as well as locations that had to be built. THP’s art director Jim Aiken worked under a pressure-filled timeframe to bring Out Of Focus’s world to life. He along with Ms. Vaughn, Mr. Bohorquez and associate producer Allen Forbes had to make many decisions under a tight schedule and an equally tight budget. Personally, I feel you would never know it was a race against time and money.

Faith Hibbs-Clark was the casting director for this project. It is this movie fan’s opinion that she was spot on with her suggestions. Ms. Serrano, who has many theatrical credits to her name, successfully emanates that knowing yet unsure hesitation of a young woman caught between two worlds. Mr. Montoya is a treat to watch. His subtle facial and vocal expressions cause the dialogue to take on the weight of the evil crisis that plagues the world of the film. Mr. Dustin James brings the ease of his extensive on-camera experience. Even the background/secondary characters were professional and maintained that ease of acting, which is only achieved with solid direction. One of my favorite secondary characters was the police investigator, Jack, played by Cordell Conway. The solid cast kept me inside this world of light and shadow.

Ms. Remi Vaughn and the THP team have created a stellar flagship project with Out Of Focus. My husband said it best: “I loved it, but I want more!” Indeed. As do I. Fortunately, THP is moving forward into 2013 with its Supernatural Film Festival and the pre-production of its feature film The Kiss.