American Vintage Pictures is gearing up to premiere its latest release shot entirely on film: Hot Lead, Hard Fury.
This buddy-cop action flick blends genres like Italian crime, martial arts and blaxploitation, following two characters, Chuck Beefer (Jesse Frazier) and Jack Hammer (Mike Olafson) down a dangerous path of corruption, drug busts and revenge.
Feature-film budgets often hit $100 million or more; on the other end of the spectrum, anyone with a smartphone can take quality video and stitch together movies. In this climate, Mike Olafson’s cinematic aesthetic is in a world all his own. Shooting primarily on Super8 or 16mm film, Olafson reproduces the look, feel and nostalgia of cult classics from the ’60s and ’70s.
“As an artist,” says Olafson, “it comes down to the look I want to present.” The commitment to the dying art of film is more than just a throwback or a niche that Olafson wants to fill. His goal is to transport the viewer back to the drive-in, grindhouse days of the past by filming in the original medium.
“It’s like a painter using certain materials,” Olafson explains. In the current age of digital technology, an artist can use a computer program to add filters and effects, but for Olafson, it’s just not the same.
Olafson's process isn't cheap — or plug-and-play. A $25 cartridge of Super8 or 16mm film, running at 24 frames per second, will capture two and a half minutes. Then developing and transferring costs another $25; the film must be sent off to an out-of-state developer who then digitizes the footage. All together, two and a half minutes of film costs roughly $50, and this is footage that may or may not be usable in the final cut.
“It’s not economical. It takes a lot more time,” says Olafson of shooting on film — but that doesn’t deter him.
Hot Lead, Hard Fury has been in the works since 2010. After a series of setbacks and ups and downs, Olafson and Jesse Frazier (co-creator/writer/producer) rewrote the script so they could produce it in Denver with nearly all local actors. The filming process began in August of 2013 and boasts a cast of Denver musicians and also martial arts screen legend Ron “The Black Dragon” Van Clief.
Olafson hopes to continue shooting Super8 and 16mm films. Upcoming projects for American Vintage Pictures include a re-release of a documentary and short film, as well as the “Hitchcockian” thriller Negatives, and Fist of Frankenstein.
Hot Lead, Hard Fury will have two showtimes on January 25, along with music from the Fabulous Boogienauts, who provided music for the film.
Olafson, Frazier and other cast members will be present for the screening, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Hot Lead, Hard Fury, 5:30 and 9 p.m. Thursday, January 25, Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, $11-$14, 720-420-0030.