Redman VR Stage Expands Production Services Offering

Redman Movies and Stories Welcomes Producers to its Virtual World by Anna Maidon

  Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Redman Movies and Stories has been a grip and lighting company in the Intermountain West for more than 35 years. Servicing the motion picture, television, commercial and MOW industries, Redman continues to provide production services, state-of-the-art equipment, pre-production and post-production support for in, and out-of-state clients, 365 days of the year. 

Bryan Clifton, founder and President of Redman Movies and Stories is a creative entrepreneur. He began this dream when he was very young and refers often to his source of original inspiration—a story he wrote in 1960 about a boy who fantasized of flying saucers, going to the moon and living a dream in space where anything is possible. Always inspired by that story, Bryan opened his business in 1983 and began servicing an industry that runs on illusion—the suspension of disbelief—engaging the imagination. Early on, he lent equipment and production support to films such as “Courage Under Fire”, “Shawshank Redemption” and “Interview with a Vampire”. 

Servicing mostly “incentive-based” productions over the years, Bryan feels incentive-driven production has traditionally been limited in its growth. Future growth, he thinks, will be one that local businesses create for themselves by generating their own independent projects based on strategic relationships and tapping into new and current technologies that focus on a “divergent digital media” market. Utilization of old and new production applications that can be combined and deployed across all digital media disciplines, he believes, will create new opportunities for business owners, film producers and anyone currently playing in the creative arts industry.

Very committed to the independent film market, the Redman team currently supports an average of five Independent films per year in addition to studio motion pictures, commercial productions and television series. Redman has been serving as the official grip and lighting equipment vendor to Paramount Network’s television series “Yellowstone” premiering in June. Working closely with Utah Film Studios (see related story) where “Yellowstone” is staged, Redman supplied the production with what it needed to successfully wrap a full season on the stages as well as locations in Utah and surrounding states.

As a long-time supporter of Utah’s film industry, Bryan has seen network TV series and major motion pictures come to Utah seeking its stunning locations. With regularity, the producers and production teams marvel at the talent and professionalism of local crew and the quality and abundance of grip, electric and lighting. The big box office releases featuring scenes from iconic Utah landscapes serve as a showcase for Utah that boosts not only continued growth in production days, but also promotes tourism and business development. 

There is no question that building out Utah’s production infrastructure will seed more nationally as well as locally originated production projects. Utah Film Studios has played host to events, concerts, feature films, and TV series offering producers a place to build sets and call home for the duration of a production. In addition, Utah has an abundance of sound stages, recording studios as well as dozens of post suites. Now, Redman is serving up a virtual stage that will help producers streamline their productions and achieve what was not possible before. The newly built-out VR Stage is home to VRFX Utah, a special effects company founded and owned by production veterans, Bryan Clifton, Mark Weiler and Joe Lewis. 

Mark Weiler, for the last fifteen years, has been the director of camera and lighting at Lumenas Animation Studios in Salt Lake City. There he developed an animation pipeline for feature, stop-motion films where he specialized in motion control and high-speed camera work—what he calls, “the secret sauce of filmmaking.” He realized that the future of filmmaking is what you can do in real time in a virtual environment where directors and DPs can see what the compositions are and light the organic footage to match the digital background. Mark says, “Recording in real time with the ability to see the comps live as a pre-vis tool provides an authorized working copy that kick starts the processes of lighting, foley, music and sound on day one. And keep in mind, the post work is done ONLY on what is being used, not what ends up on the proverbial cutting room floor.”

Joe Lewis is owner of General Lift in Los Angeles, CA, and has been servicing the motion picture and commercial film business for more than 30 years specializing in innovative technology solutions for filmmakers. From designing and building the first-ever underwater motion control system used in “Hollow Man” (1999), to creating the live action and miniature systems for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2000 and 2002), General Lift is known for its innovation in motion control services including the development of the Genuflex series and other technical and creative solutions for filmmakers.

Joe knew about Redman from its reputation in the industry for engendering trust, reliability and excellent results amongst the local film community. Bryan and Joe are closely aligned philosophically as well as commercially. “Bringing potential clients to Redman and showing them it’s pretty straightforward is important—they can use the tools they normally use and we can track them in real time against real-time backdrops and talent.” Putting talent and producers in front of actual visuals not only enhances and informs the creative process for the filmmakers, but it saves money in pre-production, production and especially post-production time where editors are able to utilize digital assets from the design process that provide them with more to work with.

Bryan intends to provide a space that connects the worlds of film, education and gaming, utilizing new technologies by providing cutting edge, turnkey special effects production support. The new VR Stage is 58’ x 58’ with 58’ x 22’ of coved green hard cyc, 16 feet to the grid. The stage features a pre-rigged lighting array that is fully DMX controllable and routed to an iPad that is mounted on the wall. Redman also has the ability to add as many light fixtures to the room as needed, with access to 30 Arri Skypannels, Arri L10-C’s, and a brand new Skypannel S360-C.

As a highly collaborative effort, Solid Track and General Lift are equipment and technology providers that have come together to make the stage production ready. Located in the heart of Bordeaux, France, Solid Track provides real-time pre-viz and augmented reality solutions and allows real-time tracking of all cameras as well as the overview of visual effects in real time while shooting. Bryan is set to raise the bar of production services available to producers and filmmakers that produce and film in Utah.

For Bryan, just to bring potential clients through the door to show them what the possibilities are, or to imagine an alternative workflow is half the battle. After taking some curious producers through the studio, they called Redman back two weeks later to book time into their current production. Bryan thinks a lot more of this will be happening but regardless, he will pursue and create these opportunities himself. 

Recently, the Redman VR Stage provided a creative space for the likes of local filmmakers of Go Films to connect with Los Angeles-based creative design and special effects company Aaron Sims Creative to experiment and implement their ideas in a cutting-edge medium to create something new. Go Films recently worked with BYUtv to produce and direct season one of the series, “Extinct”. In May, the locally produced (Arrowstorm Entertainment) television series, “The Outpost”, that was picked up by CW Network (see related story), took advantage of Redman’s VR Stage. Also assessing the possibilities of utilizing the VR stage is the sassy web series, “Snatchers” in season 3. 

Bryan Clifton, Joe Lewis and Mark Weiler are eager to dive into more creative and affordable ways to make movies and tell stories. Not to mention creating a sustainable local economy. Joe sees a future where creating new I/P based on collaboration, teaching, mentoring, training and education is key. Bryan is in full agreement and has committed to provide a “think-tank” space for students of the University of Utah Entertainment Arts and Engineering Gaming studies to connect with full-time filmmakers and ask the question, “How can we create a nexus of these two industries (film making and gaming) together in a new model that is un-incentivized so we can grow this [new industry]?” 

In addition, Bryan has been a board member of a local organization, SpyHop since 1999. SpyHop’s stated mission is to “mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories, and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, their communities and the world.” Recently, SpyHop held their 20th Anniversary Fundraiser where Redman Movies and Stories contributed funds to the youth participating in the program. “It’s about trying to contribute to a dynamic group of youth in our community, for the long-term at a high level—not just the funds, but being able to offer this group of young, creative artists access to what we have at Redman and be able to take their creative energy to a higher level.”

It’s 2018, 58 years since the young Bryan dreamed of flying to the moon. “It’s about imagination—going someplace. As a kid I thought about it and wanted to go someplace special and this is kind of like that space.” Redman Movies and Stories may not be the moon, but any filmmaker with an imagination can certainly write about it, visualize and create it supported by the team in Bryan’s space. A space where virtually any dream becomes possible. Redman Movies and Stories is, indeed, the space to be.