So Close Shig

GENRE: Dark Comedy/Thriller.

STATUS: In distribution. So Close Shig is available on Amazon (in the U.S. and the U.K.), YBS’ own online movie platform, Serenergy, and the Roku TV public channel, All Hawaii TV. It has also been uploaded to the online movie distribution company, Filmhub, where it has been picked up by the online movie platforms, Popsy on Plex, Tubi, and Xumo. So Close Shig was also accepted to and screened in the 2022 London Lift-Off Global Network’s Online Film Festival.

LOGLINE: A widower’s grief masks his anxiety of wanting to kill the last of the 20 men who had slept with his wife, culminating an odyssey that began with his first murder – his wife – 20 years before.

IMDb: So Close Shig

The Trailer For So Close Shig As Edited By Mark J. Bush

This movie stars veteran Hawaii actor, Dann Seki, in a terrific performance that covers the spectrum of emotion – sad and tragic, ecstatic and maniacal, at times his bizarre behavior is comical, other times terrifying. Dann plays Horace Shigematsu, who goes by his nick name of “Shig.” Despite Shig’s common appearance as an unassuming retiree, we discover that he is really a closet serial killer. The movie follows him throughout a day and night where he is plotting to kill his next victim.

Dann Seki portrays the closet serial killer, Horace “Shig” Shigematsu.

Shig originated during the post-production of Juniper Lane in January 2016 when DP and Editor Earl-Louis Williams commented to Director Eric Nemoto about one of Juniper’s actors, Dann Seki. “He’s the easiest to edit. He always has his lines down and every take his body actions and gestures are always the same so it makes matching shots from multiple cuts easy.” Of course this was no surprise. Dann, a veteran Hawaii actor with a long list of stage and screen credits, was certainly a gifted actor who, with his years of experience, gave him the knowledge of how to play to the camera. In addition, Earl suggested to Eric, “We ought to just film something else while we continue to pound Juniper out.”

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets With The Realtor – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

Influenced by Earl’s comments, Eric set about thinking up a story that would feature Dann in the lead. Soon, he feverishly wrote a 97 page script in a week entitled, So Close Shig, in which Seki would play a retired, quiet man in his late sixties who seemingly still grieves over his deceased wife, who purportedly died in a swimming accident 20 years before. But in the movie we find he is really a closet serial killer who has methodically been killing off his wife’s former lovers (20 of them) throughout the years, and that his first murder victim was his wife, whose body is actually buried in his back yard; entombed under the pavement to the side of the swimming pool.

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Has Coffee With His Neighbor – Edited By Earl-Louis

Once the script was written the production was quick to assemble. Dann was in and Eric and Earl would again direct and DP respectively. Other actors – Steve Cedillos, Jana Park Moore, Noelle Yoza, Thomas Smith, Patrick Jeppeson, Rick Bernico, Ron Riles, Rebecca McCarthy (on screen and VO), Anne Craig Lum (VO), Michael Carter (VO), Timothy Jeffryes (VO), Howard Noh (VO), and Alexandra Yuriko Roth (VO) – quickly followed. Mahealani Diego, who had provided such great assistance to previous Yellow Brick movies, Natural Reaction, Tiramisu On The Beach, and Juniper Lane, came on board to serve as co-producer along with Eric, and brought in other members of her crew – Corynn Musser (who would serve as AD), Nina Bellord, and Patrick Guanzon. The location for Shig’s house was a home in Mililani (pictured at right) as provided by the parents of actress, Yoza. Other locations around the island included Ala Moana Beach (see left photo courtesy of Rick Bernico), Sandy Beach, Proof Public House, and various roads and streets. The production was shot in March 2016 in a lightning fast seven days.

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets With The Cabbie – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

About The Story

As the story enfolds, we discover that the root of Shig’s maniacal obsession is his unfulfilled life that had been lived in the shadows of personal torment. “So Close Shig” is the phrase that he often heard being delivered by his wife, Rose, who belittled him as being a loser who always came in second, and was never one to win the prize. We find that their marriage was a sham, an agreed-to arrangement as a result of her parents threatening to cut off her inheritance if she didn’t at least make it appear that she was a settled down princess who brings honor to the family. Further, as a result of one night of passion brought about by Rose returning home drunk from a gala event and surprisingly turning her sexually ravenous attention on Shig, we find out that she became pregnant and Shig viewed this as the turning point in their relationship. For with a child, moreover a son (as Shig would later find out), perhaps they could learn to truly be husband and wife.

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets With The Photographer – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

But of course Rose hammers this dream to oblivion. She gets an abortion and laughs at Shig, saying, “I have one mistake already, I won’t have another!” This insult to injury tips Shig over the edge. He uses the bat he bought for “Horace Jr.” and clubs Rose to death. Having now to cover up his deed, he buries her in the back yard; but not before severing her arm and racing to Ala Moana, a well known beach that Rose frequented to often meet men, to dispose of it in the surf in the dark of night. In the days that follow, after an intensive search, the severed arm is discovered and eventually confirms the probable cause of death… Rose was devoured by sharks while she did her daily swim. The event indeed changes Horace’s life, and in his eyes, for the better. He collects on Rose’s life insurance policy, even inherits her family’s millions, and the financial resources thus sets him up for the rest of his life. But Shig is not content to just spend his days idling by planting flowers in his yard. Bolstered by “getting away” with Rose’s murder, he finds he actually enjoyed the moment. And this compels him to go on to become an unlikely but effective serial killer, proceeding to methodically murder, over the course of the past 20 years, 19 of Rose’s 20 past lovers.

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets With Dirk – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

We follow Shig as he meets up with “number 20,” a businessman named Dirk Manners (portrayed by Cedillos), for dinner on the pretext of becoming an investor. But instead of going into the restaurant, he asks Dirk if he wouldn’t mind driving him around the island for one last look at his home before departing forever to sunny Arizona, during which Shig says they can talk business. Dirk, thinking Shig is an eccentric, agrees, for he needs to do whatever is necessary to get him to invest in his failing company.

Throughout all this time, however, we haven’t learned of Shig’s full back story and so we believe he is merely an old man who might be in the process of being scammed by oily Dirk. But indeed we find that it isn’t Dirk who is taking Shig for a ride, it’s the other way around. At a secluded beach Dirk collapses after drinking a celebratory wine toast with Shig that is laced with drugs, and after fruitlessly trying to crawl away is clubbed to death by the maniacal Shig, who buries his body in the sand with tools he had pre-positioned at the scene days before. The last of Shig’s killings has gone exactly as his expert talents had planned.

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets The Pizza Guy – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

The next day Shig readies to leave Hawaii forever and he gives the keys to his house to the new owners, who are ecstatic at getting such a marvelous piece of property for a cut rate. Shig, we find, didn’t need the money, he just wanted to get rid of the final piece of remembrance that tied him to the “Evil Rose of Honolulu” as fast as possible. In fact, he doesn’t even want any of the furnishings, choosing only to take the bat that clobbered Rose years before as a “souvenir.” So he bids them adieu and drives off happily in the backseat of the cab that is taking him to the airport. But as this is happening he’s told by the Cabbie that since the couple saved so much on buying the house they’re going to spend money on renovating the pool in the back yard. “You know that they’re actually ex-competitive swimmers?” the Cabbie says, “They swam in college. They’re going to expand the pool to fill up the entire back yard.”

Rough Cut Scene – Shig Meets Hope & Chance – Edited By Rebecca Lea McCarthy

Knowing that this construction will inevitably unearth the body of the one-armed Rose, Shig begins to beat his own head with his beloved bat as he screams, “So close! So CLOSE!! SO CLOSE!!!”

The Rescuers

Independent filmmakers typically find challenges at every level of the movie making process. But of the five facets involved in the making of a movie – development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution – often it is in the area of post-production, specifically the editing of the raw footage and the refinement of the movie’s sound, where a project most typically can stall, and if not persistently pushed through could possibly lead to it never being finished at all. Ask any active actor about their past work and inevitably tales of film projects worked on which were never ever seen from since, are not rare. In fact, often it becomes common place. This nearly became the case with So Close Shig.

This is less an indictment than it is more a reflection of reality. The longer it takes to get started on the editing phase, the more likely the probability that life will have a way of bringing things that will obviously take precedence. Filmmakers who are initially filled with enthusiasm and excitement for making the movie the best it can be, can find that everyday needs will consistently step to the forefront and take priority over it. Shig was shot on a micro budget and fueled mostly by the energy of passionate artists who worked for the love of the craft, and often subsequent new projects or assignments that do come around later – with decent funding, resulting in decent remuneration, and bringing with it required deadlines to meet – will inevitably, and consistently, place a project done for love, like Shig, to the proverbial back burners. Almost four years after production wrapped in March of 2016, the movie was still not edited and was seemingly dead in the water.

Rebecca Lea McCarthy & Mark J. Bush, Post-Production Miracle Workers

But into this scenario came two individuals, Rebecca Lea McCarthy and Mark J. Bush, already previously associated with YBS/LegacyVision Films in various capacities, who would come to provide yeoman post-production work that would ultimately rescue Shig from the potential wasteland of forgotten indie endeavors, to become yet another fully completed movie produced by Yellow Brick Studio. So Close Shig was in fact Rebecca’s first acting stint with YBS as she portrayed the home buyer, Hope (along with being one of the imaginary press conference voices), then went on to act in a series of other LegacyVision Films to follow. She was Sophie, the French snob in World Buffet, the ill-fated Sammie in Before The After, the new CEO in Closing Costs, the divorced client on the make in The Curse Of Witness Protection, and the in-your-face ultra-unorthodox therapist, in Covid Release. Mark, first appeared with YBS as the attorney, Richard, in Closing Costs, as the CSI specialist, Cyril, in The Curse Of Witness Protection, and then as Riley, the abusive mama’s boy in Covid Release. But in addition to that, he had become YBS’ go-to audio production specialist. These two would prove to be invaluable in the ultimate finishing of Shig.

Back to the travails of Shig. Given the dilemma of starting from scratch, director Eric Nemoto finally took it upon himself to go through the raw footage that was saved on an external hard drive (one of two drives on which all of the video shots and audio recordings were contained), and methodically, and laboriously, selected the shots that he desired to be put on a timeline to at least get the first semblance of the story he wished to tell. These shots were identified with detailed notes that were identified onto a digital copy of the script which was given to Rebecca, along with each unedited shot uploaded to a Dropbox folder that they both shared. Given these basic directions she received from Eric on January 20th, 2020, Rebecca, a relative newcomer to editing at the time, proceeded to pour her heart and soul into the project.

She completed the first pass by May 15th, 2020, for which Eric provided his first notes using a detailed Excel spreadsheet on June 11th, 2020. Through approximately five subsequent edits – each reducing the number of changes each time – occurring in July, September, October, and November, Rebecca was able to bring Shig to picture lock by November 9th, 2020. What Rebecca was able to accomplish cannot be measured in just mere passes of refining shots placed together, though this in of itself is no small doing. But in the filming of Shig, particularly in the case of the difficult to film beach scene where Shig finally does in his 20th victum, Dirk, many lines were either inaudible (due to the fact that microphones – other than what was on the camera – was not used simply because of the loud ambient sounds of the crashing surf), or, frankly, missed given the brevity of time the crew had to film the scene (22 pages). In addition, Shig became a movie populated by segments of very long scenes – Shig talking to his Neighbor, Shig preparing for his night at Ala Moana, again the beach scene with Dirk, the return to Ala Moana, and finally the over 20 minute imaginary press conference scene – which, without finding another way to retain the viewer’s interest, could ultimately prove to be non-attention grabbing. Translated, without some form of diversionary effect, these moments could ultimately prove to be ultra boring.

But what Rebecca managed to do was to use a technique that thus allowed the movie to bridge some moments which were missing dialogue, while also enhancing the many long dialogue driven scenes so as to add further interest to what was going on. Her method was to intermittently animate each scene using interpolated rotoscope, an animation technique in which she would trace over the original footage frame by frame. This transformed the usual scene into a form of animation that would come to reflect Shig’s mind transitioning from semi-normal to flat out maniacal. This innovative editing choice allowed Rebecca to change a lot of the long beach scene partly into b-roll footage over which she transferred a lot of Shig’s dialogue to voiceover. In other words, if the actual words coming from Shig’s mouth was inaudible, she chose to have his actions then be backed up with Dann Seki’s narration, for which, having the foresight to anticipate just such a challenge, Eric had made it a point to separately record Dann and Steve Cedillos for their lines as Shig and Dirk respectively. Once the animation was used in one area of the movie, Eric asked if Rebecca could make it a consistent thread throughout the entire story. This especially aided the other very long scenes such as, again, Shig and the Neighbor, Shig walking to and from the pay phone, and especially the press conference segment where she provided cutaways to various photos and artwork to complement Shig’s long testimony. Her work effectively pieced together Shig into a coherent and interesting story.

Rebecca’s Inventiveness – An Example Of The Animation That Brought Life To Shig

After Rebecca revived Shig from the depths of near obscurity, Eric then forwarded the picture lock to Mark J. Bush, Yellow Brick Studio’s sound engineer extraordinaire and effectively the company’s movie “closer,” to then work on the audio post production. Mark received the version with the dialogue track complete with all ambience and background noises sound effects on one stereo track and no music, which he appreciated since he would ultimately want to add his own music score.

Mark’s first task was to listen to the entire movie and note some of the really challenging areas that he would have to work on, then split the entire soundtrack into three separate categories – dialogue, ambience, and sound effects. He created a track for each character (DIA mono), a track for the ambience (FXA Stereo), then two tracks for the special effects (SFX one stereo and one mono). For his Digita Audio Workstation (DAW) he chose Fairlight in Resolve Studio 17. This allowed him to work in the film editing DAW without having to bounce from a separate DAW (e.g. Pro-Tools or Logic X and back to Resolve). Also, he found that Fairlight was an excellent Audio DAW. Once these tracks were assigned, he clipped and lined up each character with their appropriate track. This gave him the ability to assign EQ parameters for each character’s voice characteristics individually. At the same time, he clipped the ambient sound and placed it in its appropriate track and did the same for the SFX. Once this was complete, he cleaned up the background noises from the dialogue tracks. Many scenes had a lot of wind noise blowing against the microphone, and these had to be removed as much as possible without effecting the dialogue tone. To accomplish this, Mark used Izotope’s RX 8 audio editor which he could access right from Fairlight. He found that RX 8 had some amazing tools to clean up audio, and so he went through each character’s track individually and cleaned up each clip.

Next, Mark listened to the dialogue in pairs of characters and matched their levels and room tones, making sure he stayed within the sound level parameters so there was an even balance. He then introduced the FXA (ambient) sound to the mix, and started on the task of matching the ambient sound with the ambient noise in the dialogue tracks and designing new ambience where needed and removing or lowering (balancing) the background sound and keeping it to a low level according to the scene requirements. Once all of these tasks were dealt with, he introduced the music soundtrack, not as easy as one would presume. First, he had to decide what music would fit the story and how that music would enhance the viewer experience. Shig was essentially a very dark movie, but, at the same time, not without its offbeat humor. So Mark’s choice was to use classical music with a mix of classic Hawaiian music to amplify both the serious and lighthearted moments. Knowing he wanted “Aloha Oe” as one of the Hawaiian songs he set about finding it, and came upon a site called Smart Sound out of Germany. Every song on the soundtrack is from Smart Sound with the exception of “E’ Pele Pele Pele” which is from the Smithsonian Archives. Every song is Licensed through Smart Sound. Mark found that it was a goldmine of really good music for film and videos. For the classical music, Mark chose Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Rossini, purposely choosing music which most people were familiar with. He compiled all of these separate pieces of music in its own track and went about balancing the soundtrack so as not to have the music on too high a volume against the dialogue, for as Mark puts it, “Dialogue is both King and Queen!” In addition, sometimes the music track would cover up the ambient and SFX tracks.

To attempt to automate the volume of the music, Mark remembered a technique we used to use in music production for the bass and drum tracks called side chaining, which is where you use a compressor’s send function to send the signal, in this case from the dialogue tracks to the other track’s (music track) compressor which is then triggered to apply an extraordinary amount of compression for that length of time when the person speaking can be heard. Then after a set amount of time the volume goes back to the normal level until someone else says something. Elated, Mark found that it worked! He then opened up the manual which came with Resolve and found it had a whole section about side chaining. After reading the section he made some adjustments and found that it made a significant difference.

Mark then made his stems (stereo recordings sourced from mixes of multiple individual tracks), with the idea of making two mixes, one stereo and one 5.1. He made the stereo mix by creating three tracks in all stereo – DIA, SFX, MFX (dialogue, sound effects, music), and did this by using the buss system in Fairlight. He created three submits which made it much easier to mix his final mix. When he was satisfied with the result, he then had to make sure that the OVERALL loudness level was within the standards which online movie platforms go by, which was -23 LUFS Limit. With only the three submits to contend with it was then easy to balance the SFX and DIA channels as the MFX channel was already being balanced by the side chain of the other two.

After finishing the audio, Mark also had to correct the ending credits (re-typing each one since the previous credits had already been rendered) as they had changed since Rebecca finished the picture lock. For this he used FCP X so he could match Rebecca’s font. Finally, it was time to create the file (the one ultimately that would be uploaded onto platforms), and then watched the movie one final time and was satisfied with the content. He then rendered the stems into an Apple Pro Res 422 HQ Codec file which was finally ready for distribution. This was December 6th, 2021. He then made himself a cocktail and took a well deserved nap. It’s been rumored that he has yet to wake. 😊

Mark In His Home Studio – At The Workstation Where He Worked His Audio Magic For Shig

To say that Mark improved the sound for Shig is akin to saying Louis Armstrong was a pretty good trumpet player. For it just so happens, that when Shig was filmed, many of the exterior scenes just happened to be shot on some of the windiest days that Hawaii had ever experienced. As such, the “Shig by the pool,” “Shig meets Hope and Chance,” and “Shig kills Dirk,” scenes were all done without any of the actors being mic’ed, simply because given the wind hitting the microphones would be clearly audible, it was just assumed that all the dialogue would have to be re-voiced via ADR anyway (which, of course, never came to pass). Hence, Mark had to meticulously go through every shot of the movie and isolate and improve sounds (which obviously included dialogue) that were necessary and then eliminate those that were not. Truly, a Herculean effort.
Rebecca Lea McCarthy and Mark J. Bush, two post-production miracle workers who opened up their edit bays and raised Shig from the dead!

For information on other movies produced by Yellow Brick Studio / LegacyVision Films click HERE.

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