Daniel Kautz has a Christmas tree adorned with “Star Wars” ornaments in one room and a self-built computer stocked with editing software in another. Despite being on break from SF State until his final semester starts on Jan. 28, the 24-year-old Newark resident remains hard at work, dedicating the next two months to filming his sci-fi short film, “Jalopy.”
Kautz’s film, which is part of his yearlong senior thesis, follows a couple who decide to go to another planet for their honeymoon. But when Dustin wakes 30 years too early from suspended animation, he finds the spaceship he and his wife are traveling on losing power at an accelerating rate. Matters become worse when Kate, an emotionally detached pirate, invades the ship. When Dustin pleads to her to help save his ship, she must decide whether to sacrifice her own ship in the process.
Kautz is going all out for the film. Along with being the writer and director of “Jalopy,” he also raised over $10,000 via his very stress-induced Kickstarter campaign. He plans for the film to be approximately 10 minutes in length and is planning to shoot it on 35-millimeter film with anamorphic lenses at San Jose’s Real Eagle Studio. The cameras he is using have actually been used in Hollywood, he said.
With all these necessities backing him up, along with a dedicated cast and crew, Kautz is set on making this grander-than-usual senior thesis project a reality.
History and Previous Works
Kautz’s fascination with film first began when he was still a student at Newark Memorial High School when he would make short films with his friends. However, he’s not quite sure when it was exactly that the motive to pursue filmmaking as a career came to him.
“It’s hard for me to say what exactly spiked my interest,” he said. “There wasn’t a moment where I was like, ‘Aha! That’s what I want to do!’ It’s always a weird thing because I always had interest in it and when I got out of high school, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.’ I didn’t really think about it.”
Since high school, Kautz has built up his resume, mostly in lighting and camera work. But he’s also written and directed two other independent projects, one of them a documentary on the history of Newark called “Newark of Yesteryear.”
Asked who his film inspirations are, Kautz immediately named George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who he credits for developing his approach to film. Over time though, Kautz has also grown fond of works of other filmmakers such as Peter Jackson and Alfred Hitchcock.
“I’m more drawn to films that are in the realm of fantasy, creating worlds and stuff like that,” he said. “I really like people who contain those kinds of stories and character dimension to it.”
Social Media and Beyond Graduation
In an era where social media plays an active role in society, Kautz finds it appealing how far creating and sharing films has gotten.
“You can make tons of things and you can put them on the web, but unless it’s unique or different or has publicity, no one [is] going to notice it,” he explained. “So in a way, since it’s so easy to show your film, it actually makes it more likely for no one to see your film because there’s so much of it. So your stuff has to be really good to get noticed — or really bad.”
Kautz named YouTuber Freddie Wong (freddiew) as an example. Despite having a small budget, the videos that are released through Wong’s channel always have an assortment of visually-striking special effects that has since drawn him over 765 million views since the channel’s inception in 2006.
Much to Kautz’s despair, he can’t release “Jalopy” on the Internet because he intends on taking the film festival route with it, and most film festivals don’t allow entries that are already online.
With graduation around the corner, Kautz intends on staying in the Bay Area to build up his resume as a director and director of photography, before possibly moving to Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of funny because everything I want to do is [in Los Angeles], but at the same time, it’s like you go there and then you disappear,” he said.
Kautz elaborated further that a lot of people move to Los Angeles with the intent of getting a job right away. Therefore, he wants to have material ready to show and the right drive to get him to that point.
For more information on “Jalopy,” visit http://www.fuzzyentertainment.com/ or visit the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Jalopymovie. Also, check out Kautz’s other works at http://vimeo.com/user6188292.