A great Hollywood truism is that moviemaking is a collaborative activity: You have a writer, a director, a location scout, gaffers, grips, the editor…the list goes on. This team approach certainly has resulted in a lot of magnificent films. But as Malyvann Keo demonstrates, there is viable alternative: solo moviemaking.
Malyvann’s production company—Alone Moviz—has turned out a series of entertaining short films that feature him as the actor and him as the crew. A recent example is DEATH ROW, featured in the Original iPhone Film Festival. In the film Malyvann plays both the hunter and the hunted—sometimes in the same frame!
There are famous movies written, directed, and starring the same person. But you won’t find many in which the movie maker also handled all the crew jobs.
In the following interview, Malyvann—who runs his own photography company specializing in extreme sports— shares some of his solo moviemaking secrets.
MMM: Your company is called Alone Moviz. How did you come up with the idea of making movies all by yourself.
Malyvann: I live in Bretagne ( Brittany), out in the countryside of western France. This is not really an ideal place for making movies. It’s not easy to find a crew and actors. But making movies is my greatest passion, It’s vital for me. I had to find a solution for this. My only idea was to make movies alone. That’s why I created Alone Moviz. Usually I work alone, but when I do use actors, even then my goal is to do everything alone including lighting, shooting, editing, and VFX.
MMM: How did you develop your moviemaking skills?
Malyvann: I studied filmmaking in a short internship, about 2 weeks. Then, because film school is very expensive, I starting teaching myself. I watch movies all times. When I go to the cinema, I can watch five movies in one day. I watch them for my personnal pleasure , but I also study them for techniques used. Quentin Tarantino is my favorite filmmaker.
MMM: So that’s how you learned the craft?
Malyvann: Well, I also have read books about storytelling. I especially like Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. Of course, the most important thing is making movies. I’ve shot many short films and made many mistakes. These mistakes teach me a lot.
MMM: Why did you decide to make movies using the iPhone?
Malyvann: When I wanted to create—Alone Moviz—a company devoted to solo moviemaking, my iphone 4S was my only camera. You can’ t compare it with a traditional camera. But you can use it these days to film in HD of FULL HD. So if you don’t have a traditional camera, your iphone is a very good solution for make amazing movies.
MMM: Where did you get the idea for DEATH ROW?
Malyvann: Two years ago I began writinga screenplay titled HUMAN INSTINCT. The story is about several inmates who try to escape from mysterious jail. For DEATH ROW I just adapted this story to make a short film version. DEATH ROW is a trilogy. DEATH ROW 2 and DEATH ROW 3 will available on the Alone Moviz channel next year.
MMM: Can you tell us about your way of scripting a movie?
Malyvann: Usually, I begin to note my all ideas on paper, then I draw the storyboard ( I’m a very bad draftman ) and I make a shortlist that gives the order for each shot.
MMM: In the making-of featurette that you included at the end of DEATH ROW, you reveal your use of green screen. While common in traditional moviemaking, it’s still innovative with mobile-shot movies. Usually, it’s done in a studio.
Malyvann: it’s funny because my only and best option is to stand the green screen backdrop in the gutter above the garage of my house. Here’s what it looks like:
It really works, because the green screen backdrop is shaded all day, It means my green is uniform, there isn’t green reflection on me, I almost work with natural light without spotlights all time.
For post production I use Final Cut Pro X and Adobe After Effects. The result looks like this:
MMM: That’s you in the shot.
MMM: You do a lot of acting in this movie. Were you formally trained?
Malyvann: I attended drama school at Paris for 3 years. But that didn’t prepare me for the main difficulty when I direct myself. Because I do everything for myself—I’m the whole crew—I have to think about my acting and at the same time think about all the technical matters. For example, in a shot when the camera is moving with me, I had to rig a strap that enabled me me to pull the camera as I walked backwards.
MMM: Doing everything sounds challenging.
Malyvann: It is difficult, but there’s one great advantage: the director never screams at me ( lol )
MMM: In shooting DEATH ROW, did you encounter any unexpected difficulties?
Malyvann: My main problem was the battery of my iPhone 4S. It was four years old and didn’t hold a charge for very long. That’s one reason I use green screen background in my home. I can charge my phone when it’s necessary. When I need another location, I always tried to find one that’s close to home.
MMM: Do you have any general advice for people who are just starting out making mobile movies?
Malyvann: Don’t forget that what we can do now with an iPhone was impossible 20 years ago with a professional 16mm or 35mm camera. In those days making movies required having a crew, actors, and lot of money. Now, new technologies give us so many possibilities. Everyone can make amazing movies with a smartphone. Our only limit is our creativity. So make your awesome movies and have Fun !
MMM: Can you tell us about your next project?
Malyvann: Later this month I’ll upload a fan film JURASSIC PARK: THE NEW WORLD, again made with the iPhone 4S. After that, while I’ll continue to work alone, I’ll be shooting with my new Canon EOS 70 D.
MMM: How can people keep up with your work?
Malyvann: They should visit my YouTube channel, where I’ll post new short films including a series called MAKING MOVIZ, where I’ll share my own tips and stuff for filmmaking alone on a low budget.