Log Warriors the Movie – Watch It Here

by Jimmy on June 30, 2010

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Movie synopsis: Tob Raboon (Nick Dodson), an investigative reporter, seeks to uncover how two former best friends and current fitness trainers ended up becoming bitter enemies. One of the former best friends, Jimmy Loggins (Jimmy Nguyen), is the ruler of a worldwide fitness empire and the other, Stephen King (Stephen King), is the proprietor of his own small gym. Through interviews and flashbacks, Raboon is able to piece together a complex tale of jealousy, denial, and paranoia that all leads up to an epic showdown. Will the two former best friends reunite or will they let their feud harden into the very logs that may have split them apart in the first place?

Run time: 43 minutes

Written, Directed, and Edited by Jimmy Nguyen.  Original music by Stephen King and Eric Roberts.  Starring Jimmy Nguyen, Stephen King, and Nick Dodson.
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Making the movie (spoiler alert, read only after watching the movie): Log Warriors took exactly one year to complete from the time I first hit the record button on my camera to capture the first scene.  The first scene was me in the Occaquan River developing the Log Warrior Workout fitness program.    Originally, Log Warriors was only supposed to be the 6 minute infomercial you saw in the movie.  The infomercial was going to begin with the scenes where Stephen King was bullying me in the gym.  The infomercial would open with the question, “Tired of going to gyms and dealing with egotistical and overzealous trainers?”  Then the montage of Stephen berating me with the balance ball, dumbbells, and boxing bag would appear.  After these sequences ran, I would propose, “Then you should try the revolutionary Log Warrior Workout.”  Therein would follow the 6 minute infomercial for the Log Warrior Workout.

However, after recording and reviewing the various scenes where Stephen berates me in the gym, I felt that Stephen’s performance was so wonderful that I had to flesh out a fuller story that involved more Stephen.  I needed more Stephen!  After coming to this realization, I went through several iterations of stories involving Stephen and I.  In a previous blog post,  I even floated the idea of having a movie entitled Ebony and Amber: The Odd Couple, where Stephen and I would live in the same house and do silly, best friend-type things together.  I would wake up in the morning and cook him an omelet, while he read the comic strips.  We would play chess together, hit on girls together, and at night share a bunk bed and tell each other fantastical stories until we fell asleep.  Unfortunately, it was too difficult to procure a bunk bed so I had to change the story once more.

I kept thinking and thinking about how I could use the scenes I already had and combine them into a great story that involved friendship and betrayal and disappointment and redemption.  After several weeks of pondering during work staff meetings, on train rides, and while stuck in traffic, my disjointed thoughts finally came together one inspired night.  On this fateful night I stayed up for its entirety listening to Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks” on repeat and ended up completing a 6 page script.  Yes, only six pages, which turned out to produce a 43 minute movie.  I guess you can throw that 1 page per minute rule of screen-writing out the window.

I showed the script to Stephen and he loved it.  On the first day of shooting scenes from the new script with Stephen, I witnessed Stephen’s true acting genius close-up.  Naturally, being an unpaid actor, Stephen didn’t bother to remember his lines from the script.  However, Stephen was so good at hitting the key points of my script and improvising the rest that I was somewhat glad he didn’t memorize the script word for word.  His acting/improvisation was very inspirational and set a good tone for the rest of the movie.  The only thing that went wrong with the first interview scenes with Stephen was my camera.  A few weeks earlier, I had completed work on a depth of field adapter for my Canon HV40 camera.  However, before I could get enough practice with it or even configure the depth of field adapter properly, I made the mistake of using it to shoot Stephen’s interview.  The resulting product was horribly out of focus and full of unwanted artifacts.  In post-production, I did as best I could to fix my mistake by adjusting the RGB levels and I was happily surprised with the end product.  There’s nothing that post-production can’t fix nowadays!  That last statement was supposed to be sarcastic, but in a few years as technology advances, eye-rolling resulting from this statement will cease and it will become truth.  After reviewing Stephen’s interview scenes and seeing how horrible looking they were (image wise), I was able to fine tune the DOF adapter to my liking and it has produced some stunning, filmic results.  Still, out of caution, I did not use the DOF adapter for the rest of the movie.

In the end, it was a great time making the movie and for the amount of generally odd things we did in the movie, there was surprisingly few “crazy” stories from shooting.  Maybe there were one or two, but I’ll save those for a later day.

Fun facts:

Yes, I painted the bear mural specifically for the movie.  I wrote the script first and then went about painting the mural to match my script’s needs.  It took one week of painting through the late nights to the early mornings to finish the painting.  It was quite a lot of time to spend on a painting that only appeared in the movie for 11 seconds.  However, my wife and I now have a mural to enjoy for days to come.  I will try to work an original mural into any of my future movies.

The two songs, “Two Banderos” and “Elevate,” which played at the beginning and end credits of the movie, respectively, were written by Stephen King specifically for the movie.  I think Log Warriors was able to properly showcase the many talents of Stephen King from his acting to his song writing to his singing.  It was truly remarkable.  Not since Will Smith’s Men in Black, has there been quite a performance like Stephen King’s in Log Warriors.   I can’t say anything more than thank you Steve.  It was an honor working with you.  I also give substantial credit to Eric Roberts, who played the instruments for and produced both of the original songs for the movie.  I also used some of Eric’s jam session tracks for the Log Warrior Workout infomercial.  And yes, this is the same Eric Roberts behind the lovely soundtracks from my previous two movies, Island Dog Robber and Olfactory Thriller.  Stephen, Eric, and I are going to be collaborating more and more in the future.  This much is certain.  Right now, I’m thinking a full Christmas album!

The visual effects in the infomercial and in other parts of the movie were done with the help of Adobe After Effects CS4 and numerous tutorials from Video Copilot.  I was able to produce reflecting bodies of water, replace blown-out skies with moving fluffy white clouds, and other small effects using Video Copilot tutorials created by the legendary Andrew Kramer.  I also supplemented these advanced techniques with some basic things learned from my online subscription to lynda.com.  The tutorials were easy to understand, the actual execution was time-consuming.  A few seconds of animation would take hours to complete.  I believe a lot of this has to do with my computer speed.  But, a lot of it is the nature of the beast that is animation and visual effects.  It takes a truly focused mind bordering on Asperger’s to love doing this kind of stuff.  I say this because it’s so much work, but not much fame.  People have to love to do it not for the fame, but because it challenges them to the core and gives them great aesthetic pleasure when they see their final product on screen.  Sadly, visual effects, a huge part of most movies nowadays, is largely unappreciated.  You can tell this by looking at where the visual effects artists are listed during the credits: usually, at the very end.  After the enduring the grueling editing session from Log Warriors, I totally appreciate the very difficult work and true perfection that goes into every frame of a visually-enhanced part of a movie.

The bar in the movie was Fat Tuesday’s located in Fairfax, VA.  The person who played the bartender in the movie was – surprise – an actual bartender from the bar.  Like I said, making movies any way we can.  Fat Tuesday’s owner and staff were very easy-going and supportive.  They didn’t charge us anything for use of their facilities.  In fact, they were used to students from the nearby George Mason University coming in and asking them if they could use the bar as a setting in their student movies.  During planning, the people at Fat Tuesday’s told me to come in and shoot my scene on a Monday night when there weren’t that many patrons in the bar.  However, when we showed up the bar was packed wall to wall.  With our luck, there just so happened to be a Washington Capitols game being played that very night.  With so many people at the bar, I had some apprehension that things wouldn’t go right and we would have to return another night.  However, the bar patrons’ curiosity waned after a few minutes of glancing at us.  A few people asked us why we were in Miami Vice outfits, but for the most part, people just stared at the game being played on the televisions above them and were too busy cheering the Caps to ruin our shots by looking into our cameras.  In the end, the packed bar was a blessing since we had more extras.

Before settling on Fat Tuesday’s for the location of the bar scene in Log Warriors, I had approached three other bars/clubs, but those fell through.  One bar in particular, Little Miss Whiskey’s, located on H Street in D.C., wanted to charge me $100 to shoot there.  For me, the price was a non-starter.  I usually try to keep the budgets of my movies under $100, until I find a real producer.  Granted the bar was absolutely beautiful and unique, but I did not appreciate the way the owner threw out the price tag for renting his bar for a few hours.  He prefaced his offer by explaining to me how Twista, the fastest rapper alive, had only a few days ago rented out his bar for hundreds of dollars to shoot a rap video.  The owner then went on to explain to me what kind of equipment and people I needed in order to get a good shot.  I didn’t like the presumptuousness of the whole encounter so I left a little dejected, but was quickly reassured when I realized that there were hundreds of other bars out there who would love to be a part of something bigger and greater than themselves.  I, no doubt, would find a bar that would want to be a part of LOG WARRIORS!!!  And that bar was Fat Tuesday’s.

Ky-Nam Nguyen, the boy who played the young, flexed-arm hanging Jimmy Loggins was my older sister’s friend’s son.  Many thanks to my sister for contacting her network of Asian friends with kids to find the perfect young Jimmy Loggins.  To be honest, I just wanted any Asian “looking”  kid to do the flashback scene even if he was a halfie, but when I met Ky-Nam, I was taken aback by how much he looked like me when I was younger.  It was one of life’s small miracles.  Ky-Nam was a true professional to work with.  I made Ky-Nam do about a dozen takes of the flexed arm hang scene, while I shot from different angles.  This literally meant Ky-Nam had to do about 12 pull-ups and hold them for the flexed-arm hang, while I got as much footage as Ky-Nam could endure before he let go of the bars.  On top of all this, the day we shot was very hot and humid.  Still, there were no complaints from Ky-Nam.  Many thanks to Ky-Nam Nguyen and his dad Anh An for offering their time and support.  Look out for Ky-Nam Nguyen, he is going to be an up and coming star.  Well, if only in my amateur movies.  But seriously, we need more young Asian actors and actresses.  I’m tired of the only relevant Asian actor being Jackie Chan and John Cho.

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