Freeway Matador (AutOpista matador)

UPDATE: Just heard that Freeway Matador was selected to be screened during the 24th annual Cucalorus Festival in Wilmington, NC November 7th thru the 11th. I hope Chris' friends and my local Raleigh friends will be able to attend. I've heard what a great event it is, and I'm really looking forward to it. Please come and support our local filmmaking and arts community as well as people still recovering from Hurricane Florence. Check out cucalorus.org for more details!

I got news on May 9 that "Freeway Matador" was selected to be screened May 31st in Washington D.C. at the inaugural Capitol Hill Film Classic. (May 9th was Chris's birthday, and the day we donated equipment to a Raleigh high school) Please checkout capitolhillfilm.com It was a really fun event, and great to hear the crowd's laughter. Thanks to everyone who came out for Freeway Matador's first screening!

I've entered FreewayMatador into some short Film Festivals, and public showings status is important. Fingers crossed, I hope to have a link so everyone can see it soon.

So, I’ve got a sad tale l to tell. But, it didn’t start out that way.

Keep reading for a behind the scenes peek

One day, during the Fall of 2015 we had a pitch day at Voxelbomb.

Voxelbomb was started by two friends of mine. They both loved to work together and make dope shit. That's John Haughie on the left Chris Lang in the middle and me, Ken Phipps on the right pushing the plunger. We all worked together at Cisco, and liked working together so much that we wanted to work together nights and weekends too.

On pitch day, the three of us presented/discussed our ideas on what our next collaborative project should be. I was excited to share one Idea that Ive had in the back of my mind for quite some time.

But I think I had them when I showed them this image....

Yay.. they picked my idea!.. hahaha

After not much thought, we decided it was idea that we all could get behind.

We storyboarded, animation tested, a little, but it was a cold and dreary time of year... so we planned our shots an so we waited until we could count on the weather to be fairly consistent. We also had a fairly large branding/web-site redesign for a toy company that we took on. Check it out here SureThingToys.com So Freeway Matador was put on the back burner to simmer...

Around March of 2017, we decided on an actor change. (Sorry, Tarik) We just needed unlimited access to someone, so on a good day we could just pop out quickly to pick up some shots anytime. Chris was pushing for me to do it, so what the hell ...

I was headed to Ocracoke Island in NC for Easter break, with my wife and daughter.. They love the beach. I however, do not... well, I do.. I just don't like sitting there doing nothing all day. So, I headed out to the thrift store and the craft store and fabric store. Time to make the "traje de luces."

Making and baking some custom air freshners. First, I tried the real ones but were too strong smelling and a little bit too big. I grabbed some inkjet printer Shrinky Dink paper, figured what size I needed, then printed following their directions.

Trim out the extra areas and bake according to the directions.

Olé we are in business..

The shoulder pads were made by covering a couple of 6x9 metal speaker grill panels with fabric from a safety shirt. (and spray painted some tire treads) Unfortunately, had to get re-made it was making it trickier to key and roto..

The hat.. haha .. Neighbors of mine were visiting their daughter who was in Spain for a semester abroad. I asked them to bring back a matador hat for me. SO they did.. I just happens to be plastic and made for little kids.. They mentioned that it was actually kind of hard to find one in Spain. even outside a bulfighting museum.. It was so small that it was hard to stay on while filming..

The jumpsuit.. after extensive internet searching.. I believe it came from overseas.. it was huge. I took it to a tailor by my house. She thought I was CRAZY. but she did a great job.

Once I had the fitted suit back from the tailor, time for a few slight modifications. I inked up the spare tire and made made myself a little printing press.

Meanwhile, the storyboard was getting finalized, and Chris had begun to lay down some music tracks, so we had the beginnings of where we were headed before filming began.

I'm still making hand sketches on paper. Chris has moved on to drawing in illustrator


I again suggest please take a look at our short film now. .....

If you keep reading this "Making Of" story you may see spoilers. So instead of being spoiled, go watch it and then come back.

It's still a good story and yes the sad part is.... unfortunately still coming.

And if you watched it, Chris, John and I sincerely hope you had a laugh. Or, at least a chuckle at a fat guy in a funny suit. We'd also appreciate you sharing it.

Ok, back to the story...

Chris and I started filming May 1st, 2017. First, some test footage and backplates

It was a good day. Weather was nice and cool, and kinda overcast, The filming went smoothly, we were laughing and talking shit as always.

Three days later, May 4, we had a morning shoot, it didn't really go that well. Chris had left the drone memory cards at home, and the Matador hat wouldn't stay in place. Chris ended up thinking that my facial expressions were the best during this shoot, 'cause I looked "all Matador" serious. Too bad all of it hit the cutting room floor. I kinda thought of it as a costume test, and clearly my performance needed some practice.

Our next day of filming was May 27th, we had gotten some of the initial issues resolved. The Matador hat was fixed by sewing a comb on the inside, and bobby pins on the corners. We also had a plan in place for shooting with the drone. We parked at the location and climbed up the hill with the gear only to find that the weeds had grown up which made it difficult or impossible to get a good key. At least we were generating enough test footage to continue our edit. We were disappointed, but it felt like we were making some headway.

We shot again the next day near one of the busiest streets, some of the footage came out spectacular, some of it not so much. We were shooting in such a public place.. people were driving by honking and laughing. I thought it was funny to be out there dancing around in front of "Golden Corral" waving a sword and cape. The light was good, it was getting hot.

Every Tuesday night we'd meet at Haughie's house, to go over dailies.. only our dailies were "weeklies" as our full time gigs were taking most of our time, progress seemed slow, but it felt like Matador was beginning to come together.

Around this time Chris and John started to play games live on Twitch and were following Dr. Disrespect. and playing PUBG whenever possible. I'd sign in and watch, hanging out with them virtually too was just what we had fun doing. Chris and I... well, honestly, it was Chris... started a Twitch broadcast the "Rad Games with Chris and Ken" At first we played thru all his library of cartridges with original systems thru some huge configuration of wiring and like 3 or 4 media converters.. Chris had it all wired up.. every once in a while he'd read on the internet about some new $100 box that he'd buy and patch in. The whole thing barely worked, but was a total dedicated effort.

Eventually, Chris changed the name to "Rad Retro Show" and we switched to playing on emulators. Within a week, Chris had compiled every SNES ever made and the Rad Retro Game Show was off to play every game from A-Z and give it a "Rad" or "Not Rad" rating.. with custom video effects and sounds .. all at a tap of the keyboard.. So much fun...

But I digress.. haha, as I always do, Chris too and John... another idea in the middle of an ongoing one...

Chris and I and John all kinda work together like that. The thrill of it is in the creation part.

On June 4th we were back at it again, this time we were more prepared. Setup went quickly, and we hurried to get as many shots as possible before the heat made conditions unbearable. It was hot, but luckily all our equipment functioned well, and finally the drone footage was something that was useable for final.

Our next shoot day was June 11th. We were headed back to reshoot the opening tunnel shot but in full costume this time. Chris wasn't really happy with the way it came out. My suit was brighter and the sun was harsher, it was ok, not really great and the shot didn't really scream "freeway," We would have to continue searching for a awesome location for an "epic" opening shot.

Funny now that I've worn it so much I hardly think about going out in public with it on.

Soon after, It was time to wrap shooting. We now had the bulk of the footage shot, with only a few pickup shots left. (like the opening shot) Rotoscope work began.. and there was a lot of it to do...

Every once in a while I'd finish up a shot and hand it to Chris to drop in. It seemed to drag on and on.. Chris was continuing to make song/audio adjustments. One day we went out to record some highway sounds, I knew a place, from scouting, where access was easy. We popped up next to the freeway and were recording while I concentrated on EFX work. this part started moving slow, and it was hard to remain on task every week.

We finally picked a location to use for the opening shot. It's a place we both drive by each day, and I'd seen this drummer practicing there before .. yep ... full kit .. side of the freeway... so once more into the suit. So we parked in a pretty treacherous spot and ran across some field of waist high grass so we could get the angle that Chris wanted. Once that shot was done it was all up to the EFX team to take over.. yeah, team of one... me....

By mid September or early October Haughie would exclaim "It's done lets move on". The perfectionist in me and Chris were like "wait a sec" theres still more to do...

I mentioned a sad part to this story.

Well it's now time for that.

November 3, 2017 our colleague, cinematographer, musician, editor, gamer, creative genius, and super hilarious dear friend. Chris Lang passed away in his sleep. It's been a really tough few weeks, as I'm writing these words two days after his funeral service. He was only 35 years old and is survived by his wife Carey, and daughter Lucy whose 3rd birthday is this month.

Its my/our hope and desire that any success Freeway Matador receives, will help out his loved ones and friends in some way.

Created By
Ken Phipps