Posts tagged “A.J. Carter

Ronan’s Escape official film release

Director A.J. Carter

What an incredible roller coaster the past year has been! Ronan’s Escape went above and beyond what any of us could have ever imagined, and January 2012 marks the close of the film’s festival circuit. While the public screenings draw to a close, the ride is only just beginning as we will officially release the film worldwide on YouTube for everyone to view.

The film encourages the audience to subconsciously delve into, and reflect on their individual experiences and sometimes sensitive memories, in order to convey its powerful messages. Its worldwide release will no doubt stir up some emotion and controversy, and we expect it to draw opinions from both ends of the critique spectrum.

Some will love it, while others will hate it, and we welcome the comments and debates which the public release will evoke. In celebration of its viral release campaign, I wanted to share the epic journey we undertook to bring this film to the screen, highlight a few of the accolades we earned along the way and extend my gratitude and appreciation to each and every crew member and organization who made the film possible.

Ronan’s Escape has featured in numerous USA publications and blogs and key crew members have engaged in discussions with various related media forums including print articles and radio interviews. The film was openly denied screenings in several film festivals because of the controversial nature of its content, and was encouragingly featured at others where it went on to win both director and people’s choice awards. We’ve had hundreds of heart wrenching emails from students, families, school teachers and adults from all over the world who were transported back to their childhoods after watching the film triggering them to share their personal stories to us.

**The full length film is now available below. Please click ‘360p’ and change to an [HD] setting and view full screen. Please also click the ‘YouTube’ button and share your comments and stories after the film.

**Please support the film and purchase your copy of the DVD at The DVD contains some great behind the scenes information, the script, behind the scenes photo gallery and more.

Director A.J. Carter wins award

Ronan’s Escape was screened at a total of 17 film festivals world wide and earned a total of 12 international film nominations of which it won 9 of them. Some of the accolades achieved include ‘Best Short Film’ at the prestigious 16th Annual Sedona International Film Festival, the 2010 Director’s Choice Awards for ‘Best International Film’ at the 6th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival in Hollywood, ‘Gold Winner’ at the 2011 Australian Cinematographer’s Society Awards for Best Short Narrative, both the People’s choice and overall ‘Best Short Film’ awards at the 2011 Peace on Earth Film Festival, and the Van Gogh / World Cinema award for “Best Director” at the 2011 Amsterdam International Film Festival, just to name a few.

Ronan’s Escape, albeit only a short film, was a mammoth collaborative effort to say the least and was only made possible because of more than 170 crew members who donated their time to work on this film. The nature of the script and its unique screenplay which somewhat defies traditional storytelling techniques, was the catalyst for securing many of the crew involved in this film however it was also the sheer relentless drive inherent in W.A film makers which was the real key to putting the script onto the big screen.

Director A.J. Carter on set of Ronan's Escape with Kirstie Francis - Perth, Western AustraliaAfter the script was passed around, the array of professional talent who volunteered to work on this film astounds me. From university students who had never stepped foot on a real film set before, to industry professionals such as Director of Photography David Lemay, Academy Award nominee Martin Mhando, Special Effects & props maker Jeremy Shaw who’s past works includes Lord of The Rings and King Kong, and post production sound designer Frank Lipson from Romeo & Juliet and Happy Feet.. just to name a few.

Ronan’s Escape was not made purely to convey an important message, or just to provoke discussion about the devastating effects of bullying and youth suicide, it was also made to test ourselves as film makers under one of the harshest filming climates in the world and with extremely limited resources. To throw ourselves in the deep end and either sink or swim. Perth is by definition, the most remote capital city in the world, then, travel a further 2.5 hours out of the city and into the hot and dusty wheat belt of Boddington where more than half of the film was shot on location. Take with you more than 40 teenage school kids as extras and throw into the mix a few eskis full of ice to keep the film stock cool in 38 degree weather and you have the makings of Ronan’s Escape.

Director A.J Carter  works with actor David Lazarus on set of Ronan's EscapeThis film enabled more than 170 Western Australian film makers the chance to work on a traditional film set, shoot real film and be a part of a production that wasn’t graced by the luxury of HD cameras, replay monitors & hard drives. In this new world of High Definition cameras which are slowly but surely replacing the traditions of film, it’s becoming less and less often that film makers, especially in Western Australia can experience the gentle sounding flicker of film passing through a camera gate on set. While shooting on film is typically more expensive and slightly more complicated, the traditional nature of the script cried for the warm feel and gentle grain you naturally get from film, so it was always going to be the right medium to capture Ronan’s Escape on. It was also a chance (and probably one of our last) to get back to the traditions of shooting on film for our established crew, whilst providing an invaluable opportunity for up and coming local W.A. film makers to work on a real film project.

Director A.J. CarterI am proud and privileged to have been at the creative forefront of this film and to be surrounded by so many talented people who believed in this story and who donated their time to make the film possible.

In particular, producers Brad Major, Kate Separovich, Jennifer Carter & Martin Mhando, Director of Photography David LeMay (who won GOLD for Ronan’s Escape at the Australian Cinematographer’s Society awards for ‘Best Short Narrative’), my entire cast who worked so hard; David Lazarus, Kirstie Francis, Ashleigh Zinko, Ryan Cammiade and Matt Hennighan just to name a few.
Thanks also must go to our investors, Giancarlo Trettel, Frank Tomasi and Santino Castelli, and to Screen West, Murdoch University & Local Community Partnership Hotham, Pallinup Lakes for your generous support.

This film belongs to each and every one of you. It would not have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world without your time, talent, and support. Thanks to you, many audiences from around the world will reflect on the images they see in Ronans Escape with an open mind and allow for their own personal interpretations of the film whilst being reminded of the devastating affects which bullying has on all of us.

description of the photo

-A.J. Carter
Writer / Director

Shooting with Cameron & Schwarzenegger in Hollywood

It’s amazing how often the more memorable projects which present them selves in this industry arrive when you least expect them. I’ve been fortunate enough in the still primitive stages of my career to work with some amazing people both in front of and behind the camera, and filming ’23’ with two of my childhood heroes was obviously no exception. It was 11am when I got the call from Winner & Mandabach, a marketing & campaign company which I have worked with previously. I was informed about a special, last minute project scheduled to begin filming in 28 hours time, and whilst still on the phone discussing the project, the laptop sang the song of an incoming email, or in this case, script. Once I read through the initial concept and saw the names attached, the 28 hours pre-production deadline we had now felt like 30 minutes. In that time, we had to book the film crew, refine the script, brief them on my vision, and design how the commercial would look and flow. The foundation of the commercial was of a political nature, however like the past commercials I had directed for this particular marketing company, this commercial allowed for a ‘different’ approach as well as some unconventional rule breaking which fell right into my niche.

To get you up to speed: The commercial we had to produce was to entice voters to vote NO on Proposition 23. For those of you outside of California, Prop 23 is a proposition funded and backed by two Texan oil companies which if allowed to pass would essentially devastate the current Californian environmental laws in a bid to relax pollution & clean air laws, in turn fueling environmental health issues & destroying thousands of ‘clean energy’ jobs. No on Prop 23 website. That is it in a nutshell, but as is with every proposition there are two sides to the story. This is not the right forum for debate, but I personally am all for being conscious about the environment, so thankfully I was already passionate about shooting this commercial with Jim & Arnold and making a difference.

Along with various other outspoken environmentally aware celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, both Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron have felt strongly for the environment for many years. Cameron has in fact donated a ‘substantial’ amount of money to help promote the ‘No on 23’ campaign and wanted to finish off with a viral commercial starring himself and long time friend & college Arnold. James’ love and concern for the environment has also been evident in several of his films including his latest film ‘Avatar’ from which the foundation of the narrative highlights the theme of environmental destruction.  

The commercial was written and directed specifically for viral marketing online through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and email, so the commercial had to be quirky enough for fans to want to forward it around, yet still retain a serious motive and successfully deliver the  message contained within. To do this, we blended a serious political message with a short dose of lighthearted comedy. The bulk of the script was layered with the use of specific verbs encompassing subtle references to previous films which Cameron had written & directed… “terminating our air pollution standards, sinking our clean energy economy and exploiting our environment for profit.” To add an extra element of viral appeal, we pulled in Arnold Schwarzenegger for a short cameo at the end who served as the catalyst for the comical element of the commercial.

Being a high profile political commercial, ’23’ had to undergo a rigorous  approval system which included the spot being passed through several layers of hierarchy within the marketing company and screenings for both James and 3rd party focus groups. So why all the fuss over approvals and focus groups? Politics & comedy are rarely married together, so the biggest risk the marketing company had with such a commercial was that the opposition (Vote Yes on 23) would play dirty and extract the comedy aspect inherent in the commercial and use it against Cameron and Arnold’s campaign. Because we were uploading a full High Definition version of the final piece to YouTube, it would be very simple for the opposition to download the spot & create a nasty TV commercial portraying the comedic value in a negative light and out of context. During the approval process, I cut almost 20  versions of the commercial, all slightly varied in one way or another, from music timing, graphics, fonts and multiple comedic endings. The original cut (which was never released) runs for an extra 10 seconds at the end and provides us with a little more comedic interaction between Cameron and Schwarzenegger, poking fun at Arnold’s Hollywood stardom as a Cyborg. Both Cameron & myself liked the more risqué cuts where he and Arnold played up a little, but the marketing company would always reel us back into line, which was surprisingly entertaining to see how much we could get away with.

After much discussion and several days of testing and feedback from focus groups, we all agreed on the final version which was a nice compilation of a serious political message with just enough comedic quirkiness to ensure the commercial reached the target audience and dominated viral online forums. And here is the final piece…

** Please pause the video until it has fully downloaded to avoid skipping. Then click play.

[xr_video id=”49555143ce124f5ba90c1d9bfee2918e” size=”md” width=”600″ viewonxr=”false”]

On Set filming with two of the most influential men in Hollywood was a very humbling experience. It was the first time in 16 years James and Arnold had been together to film since the Hollywood blockbuster True Lies in 1994. This special reunion combined with the nostalgia radiating from hundreds of movie prop pieces from Titanic, The Terminator and Avatar neatly displayed throughout James’ office, filled the set with an enlightening energy which was almost indescribable.  Working with James & Arnold was an absolute pleasure and was surprisingly not daunting at all. I was extremely confident and refined in what I needed to do and the time frame we had to do it in, which I think they appreciated.  There was even some downtime in between takes where the Accademy Award® winning Avatar director joked “so this is what it feels like!” in reference to him being out of his element and now in front of the camera taking direction. There were also a few times where I needed Arnold to adjust the timing of his line delivery, and he just listened intently before following through perfectly on the next take. They were both true professionals and gentlemen which undoubtedly aided in rendering any nerves I may have had non existent.  

The Release, thanks to a sneaky tweet or two from Schwarzenegger during the weeks leading up to the shoot, was met with much online hype as whispers emerged of Cameron and Schwarzenegger reuniting for a mysterious commercial project.

The commercial was proudly unveiled by Cameron and Schwarzenegger during a live broadcast at 3pm October 27th 2010 Californian time, 6 days before the final voting date. Within hours of its release on YouTube, the commercial went viral and made news headlines in newspapers all over the world. Within 96 hours the spot had received over 50,000 YouTube hits and became the most successful campaign ever run by Winner & Mandabach resulting in a landslide win – 61% No on Prop 23 vs 39% Yes.

It is a wonderful feeling and an honor to have worked with such esteemed & influential members of the industry, who for a few hours afforded me the rare opportunity to collaborate and share my creativity with them, all whilst doing my small part in making the world a better, cleaner place. This is one slice of the film career pie I’ll never forget, and the landslide political victory we had as a result just made it all that much sweeter.

I must thank Neal Krone, Leo Wallach and the entire executive team from Winner & Mandabach for presenting me with this wonderful opportunity and entrusting the vision of this project in my hands. My entire crew who came to the party with only a days notice, in particular, my Director of Photography Guy Livneh who made the spot look fantastic with such a short amount of time and limited resources. And finally a big thank you to James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger for taking a few hours out of their busy schedules to make the shoot possible and for their dedication to making the world a better place.. one Cyborg at a time.
description of the photo

-A.J. Carter

EXTRA: For more behind the scenes photos and more information from a technical point of view, Brodie Butler has done an exclusive writeup on the shoot based around the camera equipment we used. You can check out the article here. Still Photography: Rafael Leyva

Ronan’s Escape wins ‘BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM’ in Hollywood!

Director A.J. Carter

CONGRATULATIONS! Yet again, Ronan’ Escape takes out another top prize international film award in 2010, this time at the star studded 6th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival held in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Ronan’s Escape won ‘BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM’ amongst a lineup of films featuring Will Ferrell, David Arquette, Mena Suvari, Kate Bosworth, Dick Van Dyke, James Franco and Kirsten Dunst just to name a few.

The festival began with a star studded gala red carpet event held at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. The red carpet was entertained by hundreds of successful film makers, celebrities and media and was an amazing prelude to what was to be an even more amazing week long film festival. Lead actor David Lazarus was able to fly in all the way from Australia to be present on the Red Carpet, which made it a truly wonderful experience.

This year, more than 200 local and international films were enjoyed by thousands of film fans as they filled the seats over 7 days in August at the famous Laemmle Sunset 5 cinemas in Hollywood, California. The HollyShorts Film festival, USA,  was entered into as part of our long list of festivals which makeup our festival circuit, so to win the top prize for international films is a complete surprise to all of us and hopefully a sign of further success ahead.

Thanks to the amazing festival directors and staff who did an amazing job to make the 6th Annual HollyShorts International Film Festival was easily the best, well organized, jam packed festival we have attended so far. Special thanks must go out to several of the festival directos and staff who we were lucky enough to personally meet, namely Daniel, Theo, Nicole, Philippe and Crickett.  Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the festival and for honoring us with this wonderful accolade. Another huge thank you and congratulations to my entire cast and crew on the award for making it all possible!

If you want to join us on the Ronan’s Escape festival journey and follow the films’ progress, you can visit the Official Website and join our mailing list. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

-A.J. Carter

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu T.V Commercial

Director A.J. Carter works with Rener Gracie & Ryron Gracie

Working with the Gracie family- A privilege & a delight.

Several months ago I was fortunate enough to work again with the fantastic team from Pinnacle Marketing and with Rener and Ryron Gracie. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of the Gracie family, they are the most famous family in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu arena after their grandfather Helio Gracie effectively founded Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900’s as we know it. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has become a household name through popular MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) TV shows and events such as world wide phenomenon known as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Riding on a marginally successful ‘Gracie Combatives’ advertising campaign, which adhered to the template ‘1800 number infomercial’ styles you are relentlessly hounded with during late night television,  it was time to up the ante and as with the previous Criss Angel commercial I had done (see my blog here), I wanted to go out on a limb with the Gracies and try something different… break the rules yet again and just see what would happened. Again, the guys at Pinnacle were very receptive to a new approach and gave me relatively free reign on the concept of the commercial.

So what infomercial rules did we break? Well, basically all of them. After several sit down meetings with the Gracies in Los Angeles, Rener and I agreed we would do two things;

First of all, do away with the whole ‘1800 call now’ authoritative voice over, brainwashing garbage which in my opinion automatically installs a subconscious pulse of channel changing into the viewers finger tips and replacing it with a simple website address to go to. This was probably the single biggest rule to break in the infomercial industry & no doubt made Pinnacle Marketing a little nervous! You see, the final 20 seconds of a standard infomercial is known as the CTA (Call to action). This is the, most important, never to be tampered with, crucial few seconds of the script where the viewer is so caught up in the wonderful product they have just been brainwashed to buy, that they pickup the phone and in a bid to avoid missing out on the greatest product in the world which will inevitably change their lives, they dial the 1800 number and order.But if there is no 1800 number or voice telling you to order, how or why would anyone part with their hard earned cash for the product?

Well, the second element I wanted to add to the commercial was intrigue. Install an element of intrigue into the viewer which was derived from the images they were seeing on screen, so instead of wanting to change the channel, they wanted to know answers, they had a wiling to ‘investigate’ further and therefore the commercial’s CTA was now internally driven by the viewer- they wanted to see more about the product on screen.

Now that we had broken the biggest fundamental infomercial rules in the business and were staring down a marketing campaign which was against the grain of 1000’s of successful commercial before it, we were ready to shoot.

As Smooth Motion Films USA had done before, we chose to shoot in the old CBS Studios on Sunset Blvd. The character and ‘smell’ of years and years of history in live television radiates through the walls and gives you a sense of nostalgia with no matter what production you’re shooting… Not to mention the beautiful 45 foot green screen! Led by producer Jason Baguio, we set out to find the right crew behind the job. The biggest decision for the shoot was the right Director of Photography. I wanted the images to look dark and mysterious. I wanted this infomercial to look nothing like the bright, colourful, plastic traits possessed by a regular infomercial, so I brought on feature film Director Of Photography Guy Livneh (Brothers in arms and Second Unit DP for the Academy Award winning film ‘Monster’ starring Charlize Theron). Guy had only shot high end narrative films before and had never shot an infomercial in his life – this is why he was perfect. To me, we were not shooting  an infomercial, we were shooting a small slice of a movie. If viewers were channel surfing with their remote and stumbled across our infomercial, they would stop and watch.

Now that we had the right crew in place it was down to half a day of fun working with Rener, Ryon and the crew. Shooting was extremely streamlined thanks to a previous night of storyboards I had drawn up and the several meetings I had with Rener prior to shooting. Director of Photography, Guy was extremely efficient but precise with lighting setups. Every shot in the final commercial is exactly how he wanted it lit and with the whole CBS studio and lighting rig to ourselves, we were able to quickly and easily run a 12+ lighting setup for some of the shots.

[xr_video id=”269f64168fd84da48da9e1f671cc5f61″ size=”md” width=”600″ viewonxr=”false”]
**Note: The free training video on was only made exclusively available for the duration of the advertisement campaign.

Rener and Ryron Gracie were as one could expect from champions of mixed martial arts; incredibly disciplined guys. It was an interesting dynamic; a fairly scrawny Australian guy telling two incredibly dedicated, disciplined fighting machines what to do and sometimes, how to do it so their movements adapted well to our on screen visions. Despite their confidence and MMA family fame, they were incredible receptive to taking direction on set and humble in their ways. After spending quite some time working with the boys both on and off set, I personally believe that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the legacy they hold on their shoulders, has not only made them disciplined to the highest level in the cage and under the limelight of international fame, but kind and honorable human beings in both their personal lives and in business. I now have an immense inner respect for both the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu craft and for the honorable Gracie family.

All in all, the shoot was a delightful experience and although we broke some fundamental rules making the commercial a fairly big risk, and the big wigs at the top a little nervous, it proved that sometimes you have to go out on a limb, because that is where the fruit is. Oh, and by the way, after our new ‘Lesson’ commercial went to air on USA cable television, sales quadrupled from the 10% generated by the old ‘1800 Call now’ commercial to an impressive 400% ratio… Success.

Thanks to the following key cast & crew members for a successful shoot and another happy client. -A.J. Carter

Executive Producers: John Linton, Jonathan Flicker, Brett Saevitzon / Pinnacle Direct Marketing USA
Cast: Rener Gracie, Ryron Gracie
Producer: Jason Baguio
Director of Photography: Guy Livneh (Official Website)
Production Coordinator: Niv Gat
Production Company: Smooth Motion Films
Marketing Company: Pinnacle Direct Marketing

Ronan’s Escape wins ‘Best Short Film’ – Sedona International Film Festival

Sedona International Film Festival- Ronan's Escape WINNER

Sedona International Film Festival SIFFSedona International Film Festival- Ronan's Escape WINNERRonan's Escape- Official Movie PosterWOW! What a fantastic beginning to the 2010/2011 film festival circuit for Ronan’s Escape! We were just informed via email and press release that our latest film ‘Ronan’s Escape’, shot in Perth Western Australia has taken out the top prize in the directors awards at the prestigious 2010 Sedona International Film Festival (SIFF).

This year, more than 100 films were enjoyed by 9,000 film fans as they filled the seats in front of six screens at Harkins Theatres and three off-site locations over ten days during the 17th annual Festival. Special guest for the event was Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore and in addition to also screening three of his films, was honored for his impact on documentary filmmaking.

Film maker Michael MooreThe Sedona International Film Festival held in Arizona, USA, is actually the very first festival Ronan’s Escape was entered to as part of our long list of festivals which makeup our festival circuit, so to win the top prize first up is a complete surprise and hopefully a sign of further success ahead.

Thanks to Patrick Schweiss and the rest of the crew at SIFF for allowing us to be a part of the festival and for honoring us with this great accolade. Another huge thank you and congratulations to my entire cast and crew on the award!

If you want to join us on the Ronan’s Escape festival journey and follow the films’ progress, you can visit the Official Website and join our mailing list. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

-A.J. Carter

Ronan’s Escape- Red Carpet World Premiere

A.J. Carter, David Lazarus, Brad Major, David LeMay

Luke Martin, A.J. Carter and Brad MajorWhat a magical night! After more than two years in the making, it was a huge relief and pleasure to finally walk down the red carpet at the World Premiere for Ronan’s Escape. It was such an amazing feeling being reunited with the 200+ crew members who made the film possible so many months ago. The evening began with a mass of invitation only guests congregating in the foyer. The 350 limited invites extended to cast, crew, extras, industry guests and special guest media personalities such as 6IX’s Johnny Young. After enjoying a stroll down the red carpet and photographs by Brodie Butler, everyone moved into the cinema where delightful home made canapés to the delights of mini quiche, sushi, meatballs, sandwiches and traditional Croatian delights, accompanied by glorious wine supplied by Executive Producer Frank Tomasi from Oceans Estate made up the pre-screening refreshments & entertainment. After everyone was seated, Kristy Symonds took control as MC for the night and before too long, I had given a wonderfully inspiring and non boring *cough* speech thanking everyone for coming and outlining the back story to the film, then the lights were dimmed and the gentle flicker from the projector radiated through the cinema… well, in a High Definition projector kind of way.  A.J. Carter, Luke Martin, Kate Separovich, Brad MajorAfter the screening, Director of Photography David LeMay, lead actor David Lazarus and myself held an intense Q&A session for the 300+ eagerly intrigued guests, answering questions ranging from ‘How long did it take to make the film?’ through to ‘What was the symbolism inherent in bird and why did you decide to draw this symbolism from an animal in the film?’ After quenching every bodies thirst for answers, the cinema emptied with 1000 hand shakes and smiles all round with many guests purchasing a copy of the dvd in the foyer afterwards. An extraordinary premiere night to finish up the production chapter of the film and celebrate the beginning of the marketing, promotion and world film festival circuit which will span over the next 18 months.



A.J. Carter, David Lazarus, Brad Major, David LeMayMany thanks must go to the team who put together the entire red carpet event and whom worked tirelessly to make it happen- notably Kate Separovich, Jennifer Carter & Kristy Symonds. Thanks must also be extended to Luke Martin who despite playing an integral role in co-writing and editing the film, enjoyed the premiere from behind the portal window as our projectionist for the evening, Brodie Butler for the 1st class red carpet photography, all the parents who assisted with the glorious catering, Oceans Estate Wines for supplying that magic drop in everyones glass, each and every guest who took the time to attend our special night and to the staff at Hoyts Cinemas, South Lands for hosting the event. We were truly privileged to have the premiere at Hoyts Cinemas as most short films premiere at smaller, niche cinemas and do not enjoy the spectacle of such a large, well organised premiere. And last but not least, an extension of my sincerest gratitude to each and every cast & crew member who made this film possible. This is your film and I hope you are very proud of it. Thank you & let the ride begin! -A.J. Carter

Official Website: