Purchase Brothers Go Big with Half-Life

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When's the last time you spent $500? What was it on? Penny stocks? Designer clothes? Piano lessons? A since unused gym membership? Last week, the Purchase Brothers, a pair of young Toronto-based directors, uploaded a short film made for five Benjamins (or Sir Robert Bordens, depending on the currency) based on the popular Half-Life video game. And instead of looking like a Gondryesque sweding, the video, shot in and around Toronto, has been getting rave online reviews and a collective question, Who are these guys?

Ian (left) and David Purchase
Ian (left) and David Purchase
We spoke to the Purchase Brothers, David, 25, and Ian, 23, who signed with Toronto's Sons & Daughters for commercial representation in January, about how they got their start, "Escape From City 17" and more.

You guys have seemingly come out of nowhere, but there's usually a lot of hard work involved in these over-night stories.
David Purchase: It's just gradually evolved from projects we did together as teenagers. The more we learned and taught ourselves, the more we could apply to our projects. We're pretty much just a two man team that does everything. We made a short film a couple years ago that impressed a few people and it got us a small budget for an independent feature we're working on right now. That project got delayed for various reasons, and we had a friend who kept urging us to get involved in commercials. So we decided to do that, ultimately hoping to turn some of the money we might make back into our independent film.

How do you split up directing and post duties?
David Purchase: In terms of post production, Ian focuses more on the 3D stuff and I focus on the 2D compositing. With directing, we both like to get involved in everything and occasionally one of us will take the lead in a project but it all balances out.

Your reel is pretty post heavy, is that by design or necessity?
Ian Purchase: The heavy post production came out of necessity. There were just things we wanted to do, so we decided to learn how to use the programs that could do it.

Escape From City 17
Escape From City 17
One of your friends interned at Sons & Daughters and wanted to show them "Escape From City 17." Soon after the screening you were signed. Did you go there looking to blow some minds?
David Purchase: To some degree, we do have that showmanship attitude. We like creating things on an extremely low budget and blowing people away. It's sort of that (Robert) Rodriguez badge of honor thing of, How much can you do with this little?

Ian Purchase: Yeah, we've always tried to push ourselves to new levels in that respect.

Escape From City 17
Escape From City 17
How many parts of "Escape from City 17" have you done or plan to do?
David Purchase: Right now, there's two, with hopefully more to come. The next one should be done in about two months. We've actually been receiving a lot of emails from people who want to help out. Which is great, as long as they're OK doing it for no money, just to make something awesome for their reel. People are really into it.

Ian Purchase: We've got a little army going.

This looks better than some of the stuff on the Sci-Fi channel (Shark in Venice, anyone?). How did you make it for $500?
David Purchase: Well, we already had a lot of the programs, which is why it was possible to do with $500. You can't start with zero and do it. Final Cut is our primary editing tool, then 3D programs like 3D Studios for the modeling and all that.

What were some of the biggest challenges of the project?
Ian Purchase: The biggest challenge was the actual filming because the whole thing is pretty much stolen shots in locations where we weren't supposed to be. There were security patrols in some of these places, which made it one of the more nerve-wracking experiences we've had.

Escape From City 17
Escape From City 17
What's next?
David Purchase: Just trying to do some commercials and continue to work on our independent stuff. We also just signed with Anonymous Content for feature film management, so we'll hopefully be developing there as well.
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