THE CANARY | The Long Journey of a Short Film

Posted on Oct 27, 2015

There is so much that goes into making any worthwhile project, and in the case of this short film that I shot and produced, it was worth sharing not only the teaser trailer below, but also a taste of what it takes to put something like this together from start to finish.


The director Karl Hermann and I met during our time studying acting at The Beverly Hills Playhouse in our early twenties. I was there flirting with what it would take to understand acting with my eye towards directing at the time, and Karl was there to pursue some acting as well as gain insight as a writer. I quickly shifted my focus from directing to cinematography, and Karl moved more towards writing and producing, but not before making strong friendships and learning a lot in the process. Even then Karl had a couple of short scripts that he was kicking around and thinking of making, but it wasn’t until we started discussing a historical thriller during the late summer of 2013 that we realized that we had to make THAT project. Centered on the character of Orville Combs, the Canary explored the post gold rush era in California during the 1800’s mixing in the themes of obsession and greed with a bit of supernatural flair.




Karl went through several revision drafts of the script before bringing the project and a very impressive look book to a meeting at Whitewater Films with my dad Rick and producers Nick Morton and Bert Kern to discuss how to go about making a short film that had such grand vision, but knowing that we would face many “period” and location challenges. By that time it was February of 2014.

THE CANARY | Look Book | Karl’s Presentation
THE CANARY | Final Script

From this and a few more development meetings we knew a couple of things: Whitewater Films was in to produce with Bert Kern taking the lead, teaming with Karl’s producing partner Robbie of Pioneer Pictures. The budget was still a bit out of our comfort level because as a short film there really is no financial return – so we would need to continue looking for additional financing. We wanted Matt O’Leary to play Orville. He was available and interested. And we needed some winter footage for the final short and there was still some snow in the Sierras. Bert, Karl and I were all familiar with a newer crowd funding site called Seed & Spark, and we all thought that it offered a unique opportunity for the movie to be on a site that specifically curates film projects for online crowd funding. We thought that we could get a few things out of a splinter unit to the Ghost Town of Bodie: a pitch video, a comprehensive scout for principal photography, winter footage, and a chance for Karl (making his directorial debut) and Matt to work together before jumping into full on production. I had just recently purchased a Blackmagic Production Camera that shot 2.5K RAW video, so we cleared a weekend towards the end of March and headed up as a skeleton crew to get some footage to pitch the movie and have as wintertime transitions in the final piece. With help from the band Honey Honey recording a track from that era and Prehistoric Digital putting the finishing color touches on the RAW images, we had a really neat piece to help us raise some money and show some more of our vision for the short.


Seed & Spark Crowdfunding Page Link

It wasn’t until later that summer that the crowd funding effort kicked off with the launch of the pitch video. For several weeks Karl devised a campaign that cast a wide net to help us secure the remaining funds that we needed to launch production that fall. We teamed with line producer Ian Coyne to help figure out what we would be able to do depending on where the crowd funding effort left us, and I approached Mike Carter at Panavision Hollywood who had said early on in our exploration (and lens tests) that he wanted to support our project. With his help we were able to secure a fantastic Alexa camera package and some vintage lenses that helped us achieve the classic period inspired look that we were after. While we were in the thick of the fundraising, we were also scouting for some very hard to find locations as well as putting together a shooting schedule, casting and getting a crew ready for principal photography the end of September. We managed to get some great people on board from actors (one of whom I had worked with on an AFI Cycle Film) to crew (a mix of really talented and hard working people) and ended up shooting in and around LA for 3 days before heading back up to Bodie for the 4th and final day of principal.

THE CANARY | Shotlist
THE CANARY | Schedule

Photo Sep 24, 6 52 36 AM

My 3rd collaboration with the very talented Matt O’Leary

While shooting in Bodie we actually were approached by a writer for ICG Magazine who was in the national park, stumbled upon our production and subsequently wanted to cover our shoot for an upcoming issue. That was an encouraging sign as we moved from production into post-production for sure! Karl and our editor Ryan Liebert turned around a first cut rather quickly – in two weeks! From there Karl and Ryan worked really hard on numerous cuts to find the right balance to Orville’s story. Despite their ability to churn out cuts quickly, it wasn’t until March of 2015 that we were completely finished with editing, score, sound mix and color timing. Crowd funding was crucial to helping us secure our production budget, but we ended up having to pull a lot of favors to get the movie finished, which means that we were often waiting for schedules to open up so that people could squeeze us in between other paying projects. We were able to get a really fantastic technical finishing of the film because people believed in it so much, but unfortunately the post process was much longer than we had hoped.

Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset

On location with Director Karl Hermann

The movie premiered to a fantastic response and discussion at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 16th, 2015. So even for a short form piece like THE CANARY, it took from our first connecting on the project August of 2013 to April of 2015 to screen the movie in public for the first time. Quite a long and twisting road, but one that is ultimately satisfying because it was certainly a good project with good people involved from top to bottom all the way through. I’m certainly proud of the work that Karl and I did together, the director that he became through the process and the movie that we all made together. So in the end, short films may be short in length, but they are not necessarily any quicker to make!

For a more comprehensive read on the approach to the physical production of the movie: THE CANARY | ICG Article

Despite the challenges of any production, making movies is such a fun and rewarding experience. The logistical challenges never seem that fun at the time, but with a little distance from the mini disasters, there is always experience gained and a laugh to be had. THE CANARY was no exception in this regard. The shoot was filled with some pretty amazing coincidences – the road that lead to our creek location on day 1 was Sierra Madre Road (TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE was definitely a reference for the movie), the mine that we shot at in Agua Dulce was actually a gold exploration mine and the stove in the cabin that we shot at in Thousand Oaks was actually from the town of Bodie where the whole story takes place! And then there was the canary that flew the coop before we could get a shot of it, which lead to a re-arranging of the shooting schedule while we waited for canary #2 to arrive from a pet store run on a Saturday morning. That canary was at one point almost a parakeet because of budgetary restraints, but luckily we ended up with a reinforced cage and an awesome yellow canary who stayed on for the rest of shooting before finding a home with a lucky crew member. You can’t get much more indie than that!


Posted on Oct 14, 2015

7 Minutes

A non-linear fractured action heist film with a cameo by the great Kris Kristofferson and a group of wonderfully talented young actors. I’m excited that this movie is finally out in the world. We worked very hard to layer the movie visually as it moves back and forth through time and perspective, getting the most out of the budget to make something that I think really complements the story and shows real strong production value. It was great to work in Washington again with the super talented Northwest crew, and a absolute pleasure to finish the movie with Kevin Cannon at Prehistoric Digital for yet another color collaboration.


7 MINUTES “displays a strong visual flair – director of photography Noah M. Rosenthal beautifully captures the desolate small-town settings…gripping from start to finish.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“Stylish and intriguingly told…moving apace with solid atmospherics.” – LA Times

“The cinematography by Noah Rosenthal is impressive and the film is edited well [by Kayla Emter], portraying a disjointed, almost puzzle-like structure.” – Blazing Minds

“Handsomely Shot” – The Dissolve

“As much about the decline of the American Dream as it is about a robbery, the film is incredibly well-crafted. It’s lensed so well that even the shots of Sam working in a machine shop have an artistic quality to them.” – Celveland Scene

“Tight Camerawork” – The Star

“‘7 Minutes’ knows exactly what it is…a calling card to the Quentin Tarantino school of blood-bath cinema. This film is a nasty piece of work.” – NY Times

“Crafted with the methodical finesse and sophisticated composition of someone who prays at the style altars of Derek Cianfrance and Cary Fukunaga…7 Minutes is a slick ride through a sexy cultural wasteland.” – Paste

“The sharply conceived visual style is another positive feature of the piece…7 Minutes goes beyond the conventional bank heist drama to provide a provocative and memorable visual experience.” – Flickering Myth

“7 MINUTES is a remarkable piece of work” – We Are Movie Geeks



Posted on Jan 13, 2014

Cold Comes the Night

COLD COMES THE NIGHT made its US Theatrical and VOD Debut over the weekend. It is still in theaters and will continue to be available digitally! More information can be found at | Some Review Blurbs Below:

Shameless Self Promotion:

“Gritty and engaging.”–Evening Herald

“The noirishly titled “Cold Comes the Night” is a tense little thriller that provides juicy roles for its deft lead actors, Alice Eve and Bryan Cranston as well as some well-played action and several neat twists.”–LA Times

“A tightly wound noir thriller. Chun’s ultimate focus on the desperation of his two leads gives the movie a palpable thematic core that transcends its genre limits. “–Indiewire

There are some nice visual flourishes to DoP Noah Rosenthal’s depiction of this shady underworld. The weather, naturally, is always terrible and you can feel the cold in the dim, shadowy places where these characters conduct their bleak interactions”–Little White Lies

“Tense and effective. Cranston is an exceptionally strong antagonist. Eve turns in a career-best performance. Strikingly well-acted and evocatively shot. Chun’s dark, moody thriller aims to entertain, and it does just that. 4 1/2 stars”–We Got This Covered

“Sharply paced, nicely shot and well-acted, this film will do no harm at all to director Tze Chun’s status as one of cinema’s up-and-coming talents. A taut, well-made film…genuinely gripping.“–Daily Mail

“[The Movie] never utilizes excessive flair or stylisation to express the complex world and twisting narrative vividly. Instead, illustrates a meticulous formal detail, favouring technique and composition to capture the little details and contrasts within the world of the film, allowing the textures of the character’s lives and environment to express their personalities and psychologies, bleeding into their relationships as they all collide. In favouring technique over flair, the film is stronger as a result, and feels even more like a throwback to the film noir of the 1940s and 1950s, where formal rigidity and expressionism coalesced into a powerful art.“–MovieRamblings

“Laurie Hicks’ sparse production design and the underpopulated New York locations beautifully capture a sense of desolation, while Noah Rosenthal’s HD lensing and Paul Frank’s editing further distinguish the proficient technical package.“–Variety


Posted on Sep 11, 2013

Here is the UK Poster for COLD COMES THE NIGHT which opens this month on 100 Screens in England and the UK. Sony will be doing a US Theatrical Release early 2014!


LA by Air

Posted on Sep 3, 2013

I recently was very lucky to get up in a helicopter to take a tour of LA from the air. Its strange that after 31 years of being a native that this isn’t something that I have thought of on my own. Luckily my friends are smarter that I, and I was able to jump in and snap some pictures. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the best seat and my camera battery died right as we flew over my house! I’m going back up at some point. With more and better camera gear. Images to share below, though.



DRONES – Trailer

Posted on Aug 29, 2013

There is some very cool news coming soon for DRONES the feature that I shot, directed by my dad Rick Rosenthal…but right now all I can do is drop a link the the trailer for the film. Can’t wait for this movie to be out in the world. ESPECIALLY with all the relevance it has due to our current foreign policy around the globe.


More to come – along with some behind the scenes stills and discussion of the process of shooting a rather simple yet complicated movie!


Posted on Aug 15, 2013

I’m VERY excited that the trailer for the movie I did in New York has dropped!

Hopefully the fans of BREAKING BAD will find this performance by Bryan Cranston as compelling.


I had a wonderful collaboration on this project from the top down all the way through post working with a colorist I worked with for the first time – Alex Bickel of Color Collective.

More details to come as we get closer to the SONY release of the project starting in the UK September 2013 and rolling out in the US Early 2014.

Hollywood Reporter Announcement:

Silk – AFI Directing Workshop for Women

Posted on Dec 7, 2012

Director Catherine Dent coaches the Lens Baby Work

It is pretty neat how the entertainment industry can work sometimes – and this summer I had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with Catherine Dent on her short film “Silk” for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women.  While I was in grad school at AFI, Catherine was nice enough to grace us with her amazing acting chops on my Thesis Film “{sanctuary}”.  I had a wonderful time working with her then, and she must have had a good enough time working with me, because when it came time for her to direct a piece I was lucky enough to get a call!  The script was really interesting because in many ways it is a re-invention of Film Noir. It follows a middle aged woman, Rani, who is trapped in a loveless marriage, as she is confronted with a random opportunity to free herself from her situation. It is a morally ambiguous world that also touches on the subject of child brides, so there is more at work here than just entertainment – a social message without being preachy.

Catherine has this wonderful ability to get people excited about things, so we were very lucky to have a team that spanned experience and age – but was always overflowing with enthusiasm. Highlights for me were getting to work with her, as well as the incredible Shohreh Aghdashloo in the leading role of Rani and David Hayball as my Gaffer (with whom Catherine worked on The Shield).  We were also lucky to have our entire camera package DONATED by Panavision Woodland Hills (thanks to David Dodson and Alexa Lopez) and G&E interns from Larry Parker’s Mole Richardson school.  Though I really wish that I could have had an experienced Key Grip, we were able to do pretty well on a tight budget over the 5 days of shooting! In fact I think we would have been GOLDEN had it not been for an unfortunately temperamental picture vehicle that didn’t like driving around much, let alone in the heat, without overheating.

Catherine really wanted to approach this movie in a naturalistic yet Noir fashion, so we were constantly looking for opportunities to interweave a bit more of that Noir style into the movie while allowing it to feel true to the life of Rani – the main character. It was a challenging line to walk, but I think we made some strong choices of when to use handheld camera work or dolly movement and let the lighting fall more into the expressionistic realm.  I think that most stories benefit from a strong visual approach to character and POV – which is what we were able to do here.  There is no confusion over who’s story this is, especially with Shohreh as the leading lady.  She is so talented that watching her through the lens during the shoot felt almost like a transcendent experience.

Night Exterior DTLA

The flashback sequences were another opportunity to make a distinct visual choice – and after our discussions during prep it seemed like the Lens Baby was the tool to give us the more abstract and etherial feeling that Catherine was after for those scenes: memories that existed in that in between of reality and fantasy. We chose to do a skip bleach look on those scenes in Color Timing to move them away from warm happy memories and the more typical warmth of a middle eastern desert vibe.

The project was definitely a bit of a blast back to grad school because of a lot of factors: AFI Rules and Regulations, a young and eager crew learning on the job, a tight schedule and an even tighter budget. Wait…aside from the rules and regs not a whole lot has changed!

Catherine’s dedication and enthusiasm has seen the film through many different cuts, and the willingly donated time of so many talented industry professionals as post production is coming to a close.  We even got to do our Color Timing at Warners with Colorist Maxine Gervais who was FANTASTIC.  I am excited to see what happens for this little film – and for the screening at the DGA next summer where all the AFI DWW Shorts premiere.  It is so nice when things come full circle like this. To think that Catherine and I met on my AFI film and that I was able to be there to shoot hers makes me really happy.  Plus we got to do some really neat work together and I can’t wait to see what she does next, loaded with all the lessons and experience after her first foray into directing.

Color Timing on the lot

Stitch X Stitch

Posted on Sep 12, 2012

Here is my first foray into Stop Motion! This is a viral ad that I did with Director Evan Rudin. He is also an LA local, with lots of friends and family in common, so it was a real treat to do a small spot with a group of LA Natives for a local LA jeans company – Paige Premium Denim! The video was featured on the GQ Style page (

The shoot was a 2 day ordeal where we were in the conference room of Paige Denim with our White Cyc set-up and a Canon 5D connected to my laptop running DragonFrame software. We started with different pieces of jeans and literally took them apart stitch by stitch so that we could then play them in reverse to create the illusion of the jeans coming together. Talk about a laborious process! The biggest challenge was trying to keep the fabric on the edge of the stitching as still as possible so that the jeans wouldn’t be wiggling all over the place in a distracting way. I think it came together very nicely. Final color was done at Prehistoric Digital.

LA Kings win the Stanley Cup!

Posted on Jun 18, 2012

I’m way behind on the blog here, but I had to post this for the fact that the Kings won the Cup. They DID NOT Finish Second!


More updates soon on a variety of things from Fat Kid to Detention to AFI DWW

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