BLANK CANVAS (2021)

Feature Film & Screenplay

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"You're not judged by what you did. You're judged by what you do."



Log-Line

A 40 something-year-old man rediscovers himself when he’s kicked out of his sister’s house and forced to live in his brother’s apartment with no electricity.


External/Internal Conflict

Will Enrique be able to live on his own for the first time in 40 years? Can Enrique figure out what he wants to do in life?


Summary

Enrique has just been kicked out of his sister, Rosa's house. He takes his one bin and moves into his brother's extra apartment. The apartment was recently vacant due to the tenant just leaving and leaving all their belongings behind. He quickly learns there's no electricity and in having no funds to turn on the lights he adapts and buys candles to make due. His brother, Eddie gives him the idea to start painting again. In the process of getting enough of an art collection together, his drug past comes back to haunt him. After spending a day with Eddie's son, Romey, who's a gifted artist, he learns the joy of creating art for the sake of just creating art. This coming-of-age drama is about the discovery of one's self and the connection we have with family.  

New Jersey Film Awards - April 2021

* * * Review * * *

What We Can Learn from "Blank Canvas"

Clint Horvath's Blank Cavas is a wonderful film for budding filmmakers to watch. A jazz filled journey through one man's life, Blank Canvas shows that it is possible to make the feature film of one's dreams. One of the most interesting aspects of Clint's film is his use of natural lighting.

The protagonist Enrique, is living in an apartment without electricty. So Clint lights the place with a multitude of candles. This practical lighting adds a unique sense of contrast and warmth that makes for some of the best shots of the film. One scene even makes some comedic use of the candles, as Enrique, in order to hide from a date proceeds to blow out all the candles one by one. This scene in addition to being one of the most funny, is also one of the best shot. It goes to show that beautiful shots can be made, even with little to no budget.

Plain daylight serves as another source of lighting for Clint, as Enrique and other characters are often contrasted with large swaths of white sunlight. Many scenes which may have felt plain, were made to feel more artistic by exploiting sunlight. For instance when Enrique enters the art gallery the 2nd time he emerges from a collection of out of focus sunlight. He the steps into a close up, where he is backlit and contrasted with the light he emerged from. This shot takes the simple action of walking into an art gallery and makes it interesting.

Later on in the film, Enrique stands in front of the same gallery and begins to have an inspirational chat about art with a homeless man. This scene really gets at the heart of the film, all while being lit with practical lights. Clint frames both men with tight close - ups and litters the background with out of focus street lights. This creates a beauty that directly correlates with what the homeless man and Enrique are chatting about. To be considered an artist you don't have to get your work into an art gallery, you must merely love what you do and strive to create. Clint created art with this scene, even though it was not filmed in the typical artistically staged way. Instead he used the practical lights and became as creative as possible. It seems he took his script's advice to heart.

Filmmakers should take a look at Blank Canvas and use it as inspiration to create their own projects. If one man with just practical lights can make a feature film, then so can someone else.

-Steve Belanger

"Clint has a good eye for shots and capturing emotionally vested moments, he is great to work with and trust me on my characterization and character choices, which makes for a great filmmaking partnership"

- Actor, Ed Casas "Stan in Blank Canvas"


Behind the Story

In 2019, I had an itch to start my next film. It had been two years since we were in production on "Shut Up, You!". My brother-in-law, Ruben, who has been a part of my short films, came to me and wanted to do something. Anything. I knew this project had to be a feature. But my longest film was 30 minutes. So this was going to be a challenge. I really wanted this project to showcase my vision as an artistic director. But who knows their vision. I've been directing short films and had somewhat of a style but the cinematography, although good, never felt like it was how I saw it in production. So I needed to shoot this to show that. In order to do that I had to learn how to use a camera. So I did. It took a lot of work. Since I was going to do production all on my own, my brother-in-law and I agreed to only use practical lightning. So we had to get creative.  

How was I going to start shooting without a story? All my stories take about a year to write because they have to be perfect. But that itch was getting too be to scratch. I told myself, I've been studying story/screenplays for about ten years now, and if I cannot write this off the cuff without thousands of hours of "research" I shouldn't be doing this at all. I took events from mine and Ruben's life as a starting point.   

So I took the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" approach; which is to do a basic outline and all the dialogue will be improv. The next thing to do is schedule the first shoot. Since there was no script, we decided to shoot this linearly in case we miss something we can go back and add to it. We both agreed to work on this for about a year and see what we came up with. 

We shot only on weekend and so far it was going great. In the first five minutes, there was no dialogue and no outside characters. I took this dramatic turn where he was kicked out of his sister's house and was living on his own for the first time. An external conflict is how would he deal with this in his 40s. This is somewhat true to what really happened in real life. One of the biggest hurdles we've had is that his new apartment had no electricity. He was a huge fan of candles and that didn't bother him. This added to the film in cinematography and incorporated it into the story.   

We had a scene where the main character calls a call-girl. We did the scene and it was good, but after watching Steven Spielberg's commentary during the week, he said we always need to see what the subject is looking at. So I hired an actress to play a small part of the call-girl that the main character is looking at through the window. When she arrived I asked her if she wanted to do some improv and ad-lib and if she would like to extend her part. She was excited and came up with dialogue. I then extended her part and added my son to the cast list. I scheduled another shoot where the two characters meet in a laundry mat and the main character asks her out.  

I outlined a new version, now creating two storylines. As dates were being scheduled co-vid 19 happened so production was at a standstill. I waiting eight months and due to the scare, I re-outlined focusing back on the main character's storyline. Following the beat-sheet structure, I added a bunch of scenes and added more cast members. With the pandemic, there was only one character on set with the main actor plus myself.  

Now with determination to get to the finish line, I wrote the script for the cast members and scheduled all the shoot dates in advance.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this project was to practice what it takes to make a feature. Also to show it can be done on a zero budget and with no crew. What I did learn is that if one takes on this challenge, make sure you have a script because doing a production with no crew and budget it's really hard not to know where the story is taking you without one.

Written & Directed by

Clint Horvath

Cast (in credits order)

Ruben Dominguez ... Enrique
Clint Horvath ... Eddie
Judy Droder ... Carol
Natalia Marie ... Destiny
Leticia Domingue ... Mami Boni
Alma Dominguez ... Rosa
Emilia Horvath ... Lala
Roman Horvath ... Romey
Lj Ugarte ... Miguel
Ken La Kier ... Joe
Ed Casas ... Stan
Tracey Eman ... Victoria
Sir Charles Adams ... Saxophonist

Music by

Johnny Russo

Cinematography by

Clint Horvath

Edited by

Clint Horvath

Visual Effects by

Clint Horvath

Details

Genre: Drama
Release Date: 11 March 2021 (USA)
Filming Locations: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Runtime: 62 min

What did you think of Blank Canvas?

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