Three Days to Live is the new true crime series we’re making for Oxygen. It focuses on the crucial hours following an abduction, and the challenges police face in recovering those who’ve been taken.
On this site, we like to talk about the nuts and bolts of making TV and Film. In today’s post we’ll share a bit about our process on this show.
The show premieres Sunday, March 5, at 9pm/8pm central on Oxygen. We’ll be live tweeting from @JokeAndBiagio – hope to see you then.
Three Days to Live Trailer
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Our eternal gratitude goes to the families, victims, and law enforcement officials who trusted us to tell their stories.
The two of us, and our company Joke Productions, are thrilled to be leading the charge in the recent Oxygen rebrand. We couldn’t be more proud that Three Days to Live is the first to air under the network’s new direction.
True Crime: Low-Budget Filmmaking Meets Documentary
From a personal perspective, there may be no more emotional genre to produce than true crime. At every turn, you must remember that you’re telling true stories of real people. It’s a fine line of crafting a show that is compelling, while at the same time honoring the gravity of the stories told.
A mainstay of the genre has become the filming of reenactments. It’s tricky. Reenactments can sometimes feel false. You also have to be careful not to sensationalize the true moments you’re working to portray. Budgets are tiny, and you shoot a huge number of scenes to cover the length of the show.
In short, the reenactment portion requires heavy doses of indie film spirit.
We’ve always been huge fans of Stu Maschwitz, who we talked about extensively on our podcast. His original book, The DV Rebel’s Guide, is a manifesto on making high quality action films on low budgets.
It’s a bible for making things look high-end when resources are tight, and doing so safely. Most importantly, it speaks to the mindset of powering through when common sense says what you want to shoot just isn’t possible.
In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect book for anyone getting into the true crime genre. From police chases to faking crowd scenes, to using VFX in innovative ways to enhance your production, the book is an inspiration for us to this day.
On this show, we used just about every trick in Stu’s book.
A Film Riot
Another place we found inspiration in thinking about the series was the Film Riot YouTube channel, run by talented filmmaker Ryan Connolly. Think it’s odd to look at a comedic channel on YouTube for dramatic inspiration? Think again.
Every episode Ryan and his team are finding new, smart ways to innovate what can be produced on tiny budgets. It’s a reminder to pros and amateurs alike that where there is a will, there is a way.
In particular, Ryan did a series with DJI on using their camera stabilizers called DJI Film School. We believed this show could benefit from long sweeping takes, especially in chase scenes. So we picked up a a Ronin-M, on which we flew a Sony Alpha a7SII. It worked flawlessly, and lead to some great footage.
We loved it so much that we’ve since picked up a full-size Ronin for our next series (top secret…stay tuned.) For that upcoming show, we’ll be flying a Canon C-300 on the Ronin.
So thank you for your video series, Ryan. We’re loving the Ronin.
In the case of Three Days to Live, the story is driven by interviews with law enforcement, family members, and victims. These brave people opened up to share their experiences.
It was raw and emotional.
We didn’t want to distract from their storytelling, and in this case went with a simple black backdrop and graded the interviews to black and white. Both we and the network felt it helped focus the viewer on the incredible stories our subjects shared.
It was important to keep the show grounded, and choosing a voice over artist to narrate was crucial to that effort. We were so pleased when SuChin Pak came on board to voice the show. Originally an MTV news correspondent, SuChin’s voice-over helped tell the stories in an engaging and respectful manner.