BRYAN OTT: "My neighbor actually owns a lot of waterfront property and she said basically hey why don't you just use my property, you can use my boats, you can use the piers, anything."
The result was Reagan's Wharf, the first grad thesis feature to come out of SDSU in a decade. The story involves two men who once worked together but now find themselves on opposite sides of the law. Scott owns the struggling wharf and Lee sees an opportunity to make some cash under the table.
CLIP LEE: "Got a bit of business to discuss with you. Something big."
SCOTT: "Not interested."
LEE: "No offense but it looks like every little bit would help."
BRYAN OTT: "He wants to be a respectable person the way that Scott is a respectable person but doesn't know how to go about it in the right way."
While many young filmmakers find inspiration in hip stylists like Quentin Tarantino, director Bryan Ott looks to old school master Budd Boetticher. Boetticher made such Randolph Scott westerns as The Tall T and Seven Men from Now back in the 50s.
BRYAN OTT: "We knew that after watching these stories that this is great stuff. With this location and with the style of filmmaking that Boetticher does, I thought it was something that we could easily I don't want to say emulate but to use as a springboard to do our own kind of story."
Don Worley stars as Scott in Reagan's Wharf
Boetticher 's terse, lean style honed to perfection on low budgets, provided a fine example for the filmmakers to follow.But while Boetticher worked in westerns, Glenn Heath says he and Ott wanted to created a story with a noir spin.
GLENN HEATH: "We came up with the idea of a man who runs wharf and is basically in this stasis after a traumatic event-his wife was kidnapped ten years prior-and it's the events that bring him back to action toward resolving that issue."
To give the story a noir look, Ott knew he'd have to work closely with cinematographer Angel Granados.
BRYAN OTT: "One of the things I really wanted I wanted light to come from high overhead sources where we spent a lot of time in the ship but I didn't want the audience's eye to be able to fully explore every inch of the ship in certain scenes so we had lights that would swing and hang and light would periodically hit an actor's face and move off of his face and hit the wall that helped create the feeling of movement also as if we were really on the ocean but it was an intentional look as well."
Ott's storyboard for Reagan's Wharf
In addition to fine cinematography, Reagan's Wharf also boasts impressive audio work. Ott worked with Chad Mossholder to create a sound design that would compensate for the things they couldn't afford to show in detail--like a shootout.
BRYAN OTT: "We knew that sound would play a key role in fleshing out scenes that could come across as something that would make something look like a low budget amateur film so the less you show the more. And Chad really helped out in that respect by adding that depth of sound."
Reagan's Wharf also reveals technical savvy in the way in which it was shot. In the past filmmakers had the choice of shooting on film or on video. Now there's a new option, something called HDV.
BRYAN OTT: "It never goes to tape stock or film it just becomes memory. All gigabytes, a film that went right to gigabytes, right into my computer."
GLENN HEATH: "And it also allowed us to download right there onto a laptop, I mean with film you have processing costs, with this you could see dailies right away."
New technology such as HDV allows filmmakers like Ott and Heath to put their vision up on the big screen with greater ease and lower costs. But what hasn't change is that filmmakers still need driving passion to tell a story in order to succeed. Ott and Heath certainly have that passion.
Companion viewing: Seven Men from Now, The Tall T, To Have and Have Not -----