The Cinematography Podcast Episode 261: Mike Cheslik and Quinn Hester

Hundreds of Beavers is a callback to slapstick comedies like classic WB Looney Tunes cartoons. It’s full of live-action wacky pratfalls, ridiculous situations, and a healthy dose of beaver-related mayhem. Shot on a micro-budget of $150,000, Hundreds of Beavers was made with passion, creativity, and a whole lot of beaver costumes.

Director Mike Cheslik and cinematographer Quinn Hester and most of the cast and crew are all from Wisconsin, where Hundreds of Beavers was shot. Everyone was comfortable with snow, loved physical comedy, and had the desire to make a film that would stand out as a true indie. After first meeting at the Milwaukee Film Festival in 2018, Mike called Quinn in October, 2020 to ask if he’d DP the film during the winter in zero degree weather. “It couldn’t have been anybody but Quinn because he’s just a tough guy and he’s used to the winter,” says Mike. In total, the film took about 8 weeks of shooting with a core crew of about 4-6 people over the course of two winters. The main location was a remote cabin in Northern Wisconsin. “We’re out there in the elements. It’s very rare to be on a production where you are not only making a movie and having to use all your energy, focus and creativity and meditate on how to accomplish certain looks and goals and shots,” says Quinn. “But you’re also trying to not die. All of us almost died at least once.”

To make Hundreds of Beavers, Mike spent years creating extensive storyboards and animatics. “People could watch the animatic on the DIT computer and they could also see the boards in my binders that I was carrying around,” he says.”But it still takes a lot of explaining and there’s a lot to wrap your head around because there’s so much in this movie. It is a lot. I was just thinking about it nonstop for years. And then just doing my best to explain it to the team. I was always surprised how much trust we got.” The film is very effects-heavy and made to look old-timey in grainy black and white. “The freedom of picking a grainy black and white style, it frees you up to tell a bigger story and to have bigger visual ideas. This style gave us permission to work that way in the modern day,” says Mike. Since they were shooting in the winter, they would have to wrap by 4:30 pm. Mike imported everything into Adobe After Effects and edited with Adobe Premiere every night. That way, Quinn and the crew knew exactly what they needed by the next day. Quinn shot on a Panasonic LUMIX GH5 camera that worked well even in extremely cold weather. All the footage could easily be imported into Adobe Premiere and After Effects.

Hundreds of Beavers is still playing in select theaters and is tons of fun to see with a live audience. Go to the Hundreds of Beavers website to find cities where it’s playing.

Hundreds of Beavers is also available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

Find Mike Cheslik: Instagram @mikeches

Find Quinn Hester: Instagram @quinn.hester

Close Focus: The Russo brothers say that superhero fatigue doesn’t exist and their Marvel films underperformed because this generation doesn’t consume media in the same way. Ben and Illya disagree with that perspective.

Illya’s short end: Shōgun on Hulu

Ben’s short end: Ben was impressed by the production value of the rides at Disneyland and California Adventure, including the ride Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars Land.

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Podcast Credits:

Producer: Alana Kode

All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Host: Ben Rock

Twitter: @neptunesalad

Instagram: @bejamin_rock

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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