An inside view to the making of the short film “The Immortal Game”

Reviewed by Andrea Uttenthal. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, 2012.

Viewing a short film on the big screen at the Santa Barbara Film Festival that you have been apart of making is an extremely satisfying feeling. This review will take you behind the scenes and give you an inside view on the making of “The Immortal Game”.

Last semester in my Film and Video Production class, we were all told to write a treatment for a short film. Two out of those 25 treatments were chosen to be developed into scrips and later to a real short film. I was so lucky to be on team “Bandits” as our little group was called. Nick Liepman is the writer of the story about “The Immortal Game”, and he also got to direct the short film, when we got into production. We all had different jobs on the set covering all postions on a production. Director, Producers, Cinematographer, Camera Operator, AD, scrip supervisor, actors, costumes and make-up etc. I was the sound recordist working together with the boom-operator.

Our film takes its inspiration from the Swedish film “The Seventh Seal” (1957) by Ingmar Bergman, since writer/director Nick is a great fan.

The Immortal Game  tells the uncanny tale of a wounded bandit’s encounter with a rather impish specter of death. There’s three characters in the film: The Fool (Oliver Rotunno), the Bandit (Dan Gold) and Death (Richard Longsbury).

This is how the script introduces the film:
The sound of PAN FLUTE plays and RATTERS shake in the dark, then silence. (BEAT) Sound of a gonging CHURCH BELL cues title: THE IMMORTAL GAME. The GONGS continues to build.

In the first scene, we’re at the beach around pre-dawn. We’re introduced to the first character, the Fool, a strange figure, who awakens and sits up in a cave. Then we cut to a scene in the forest, early morning, where our second character, the Bandit, stumbles out into the cleraing. Barking dogs fade in the distance as the Bandit listens and steps forward. His chest riddles with arrows and he carries a sack of treasure as he wanders delirious through the woods. We get the sense that he is escaping something/someone and are being followed. He gets away, but becomes light headed and collapses. The Fool approaches the bandit, examining him and getting a brilliant idea. The Bandit awakes, screams and distances himself from the Fool, since he is looking strange with white paint smeared in his face.

BANDIT (terrified) : I know you! You’re the angel of death, here to judge me for my sins!
FOOL: Yeah, that’s right… listen, let’s try not to make a big deal out of it.
BANDIT: Am I dead?
FOOL: Yes.
BANDIT: I don’t feel dead.
FOOL: Excuse me, are you telling me how to do my job?

The Bandit looks close to tears. The Bandit thinks the Fool has come to take him to hell, feeling guilty for being a bandit. From here the fool convinces the bandit he should give up his earthly possessions, since God and the guys up there are easily impressed and he then could get into heaven no problem. After a little hesitation from the Bandits side, he agrees. The Fool offers the Bandit to show him the way to heaven, saying he is ready to move on to paradise. The Fool convinces the Bandit to go into the water, where a big wave knocks him over and he drowns. Filled with satisfactory, the Fool goes through the Bandits possessions discovering he didn’t get much out of his little trick, since the Bandit only has some piddling coins. “That son of a bitch” – says the Fool.
The GONGS begins once again, and Death, dressed in a black cloak, steps into the frame. He checks the Bandits pulse and walks toward the Fool, who’s getting a little nervous. Death tells him, he shall come with him.

FOOL (nervous): I think you have me confused with some with someone else.
DEATH: I make no mistakes. It is your time.
FOOL (upset): What the hell?! I’m not the death one here!

The Fool takes a deep breath and begin to strum his lute, with a smirk on his face: ” I got the last laugh, didn’t I?  He runs ahead playing as death and the ghost of the Bandit follow behind.

Time and coordination are some very important aspects in filmmaking, and the two things we had to fight. We had time to shoot the film in class, but had to meet outside of class as well, which was some puzzle! Everybody had classes at different times during the day, which caused us some troubles from time to another. Especially with our actors, since they are hired through the drama department and not a part of our class. We figured it out though. Even if it meant meeting at Leadbetter Beach at 6 am in the morning (omg that was tough!). When we went shooting by the cave on the beach, nobody had thought about checking the tide, which of course, was a high tide the day we went on location. This meant bringing the camera on a tripod into the water and filming with water raising to your knees. We all got wet, but who can’t handle a little water? The sun was shining and the morning was beautiful – but the water was really cold!


Being part of a real production team was a worth-while experience! It means lots of hard work, but at the same time we had a lot of fun. We went to watch our short film together at the Santa Barbara Museum of Arts as it was a part of the Santa Barbara Student Short program at the film festival. We all cheered when our opening credits came on screen and people laughed at all the right moments and congratulated us afterwards. It was just great!

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