Listen below to the score of my short film, mantis.
10 years ago I spent 36 months on a 5 minute film.
In 2004 I wrote, directed, scored, and co-produced a short film called mantis, which was a whirlwind of fun. Today I’m releasing the original uncut score for the first time, all five minutes of it, which you can listen to right here for free. (Or stream and/or download from the fine services in the navigation bar.)
Performed by top Bay Area jazz, classical and Latin musicians, many of the songs were edited for the film, making this release the first time anyone has heard the unedited music in a decade.
Below you can watch a remastered version of mantis and read my singularly biased view of its creation, along with reminiscences from the cast and crew.
Like many adventures, it started with tequila.
I’d been laid off for three hours, and in my agave-enhanced state thought “I wanna write a SCREENPLAY”. Then three years later mantis had its world premiere. The End.
OK, it was a bit less compressed than that.
I think back on the film in layers, like an Oreo being constructed in slow motion.
The bottom layer was the chocolately goodwill and skills brought by the cast and crew. They added a richer depth of flavor to my ideas than I could have produced on my own.
My favorite memories from the project were:
1) Rehearsing the death scene, and watching you work out with Raven and Sage the best way to garrote someone—while knocking their hat off in a stylish manner!
2) And the trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming to show mantis in their film festival. We must have stuffed our promotional flyer in 100’s of event magazines that first night. Everyone was talking about having seen it! Summer Oram, producer
Freefall. It only hurts when you land.
The puffy middle was the constant terror of “this is never going to be finished”. I lost my next job, lost a shoot site, and crashed my car all in the same month. I was broke constantly, to the point that I didn’t obtain funds to pay the film crew until 12 hours before the film shoot commenced. The week before the score recording my three-year-old son became violently ill and spent several touch-and-go days in the pediatric intensive care ward, and was only released six hours before the score recording commenced. (He totally recovered, by the way.)
The top cookie was the score itself, where topflight Bay Area musicians brought their special sauce to my unconventional compositions, recorded unconventionally in the drummer’s living room.
I remember our inspiration for the wacky use of colored lights was Storaro’s cinematography work in Dick Tracy. Love it! Cliff Traiman, Director of Photography
What I didn’t expect was the milk dunk of positive reception.
Mantis was accepted into a fistful of festivals over several years (Oakland International Film Festival, Jackson Hole Film Festival, San Francisco World Film Festival), where I got to witness it on real movie screens with paying audiences. It was showcased on IFC’s MediaLab site in 2006, which was back during YouTube’s infancy. I was asked to direct other projects, and I scored some ads.
What did I learn from all this?
Tequila is amazing.
Oakland International Film Festival, September 15, 2004, Grand Lake Theatre
from left to right:
Ryan Robles, PR—Stephanie Gardner, actor—Marcia Gagliardi, actor + PR—Raven, actor—Mark Montgomery French, writer/director/composer/producer—Summer Oram, producer—Sage Baggott, actor, drummer, producer—Christine Bensen, cellist
As a cinematographer who’s somehow ended up in several films, it will always be weird to see myself visciously strangle and rob a guy. And it’s not brief either — I really worked Sage over. Raven, actor
Mark Montgomery French
director of photography
Mark French • Sage Baggott • Summer Oram
Louis: Sage Baggott
Babette: marcia c* gagliardi
Bouncer: Stephanie A. Gardner
Gamblers: Alyson Kohn • Seth Scholar
Albertine Green • Percy Green
gaffer: Jaek Sofar
assistant cameraman: Tom Spingola
audio producers: Sage Baggott • Mark French
score engineer: Mark Lemaire
drums: Sage Baggott • cello: Christine Bensen
violin: Rachel Durling • bass: Steve Senft-Herrera
saxophone: Darren Smith • trumpet: Bill Theurer
film to video transfer: Retina/SF
colorist: Gary Coates
production assistance: Anne Befu
craft services: Debbie French • Diana Rex
seamstress: Catherine Scholar
production completion provided by
the Complex Corporation
Carrie Bagley • Renée French • Sergio Ornelas
filmed on location in
Alameda Point and San Mateo, California
© 2004 Plus Sign Films.
All rights reserved. Dammit.