At Wrapal, it’s not just about the spaces. In our Film Location 360 series, we interview the faces behind the spaces and get to know what makes them tick.
Trevor Hollander is an award-winning, talented Cinematographer, Filmmaker and Editor who loves to travel and make films. He runs Norkai Studios in Downtown Los Angeles and we’re proud to feature him this month.
What’s your origin story? How did you all get started in this crazy industry? What’s it like being a Los Angeles native?
I was involved in filmmaking from a young age, though it wasn’t till I crossed paths with Director and Filmmaker Brian L. Tan “BLT”, that I saw success from a project I worked on called “SoleSearching” which won Conde Nast’s Travel Video of the year for 2017. Since then it’s been non-stop go with projects for ILA Swim, Audi, Aston Martin, and more.
Growing up in Los Angeles was a huge inspiration and honestly a way of life that I would never trade for the world. Hollywood is a big melting pot of cultures from all over the globe with beautiful nature to towering skyscrapers – How cool is that? It really is its own animal. Theoretically, you could skate, surf and snowboard all in one day. You can’t do that anywhere else apart from Los Angeles (take that New York City!). Growing up by the beach in the South Bay has truly influenced my laid back yet artistic style and it’s still a source of inspiration all these years later.
What inspired you all to start the space? Why Downtown LA? Why did you name it Norkai?
Norkai came to life because we felt there weren’t enough spaces or locations for filming that were built by filmmakers for other filmmakers. We really want to bring the local film community here in Los Angeles together. So instead of getting a cheap filming location far away from the local film schools, support groups, and LA-based production companies, we decided to create it right here in the heart of the city.
Nor-kai stands for North (Nor) Sea (Kai) in Japanese, because it’s located in the north sea neighborhood near Little Tokyo. It’s a great homage not only to the history of the area but to the diversity and fusion of East meets West in Los Angeles.
What’s been the coolest project filmed here?
Oh that’s a tough one, we have had a full animatronic robot in the studio for a short film, King Bach the famous Vine/Youtube star have filmed a skit in the police station set, and we’ve also had Red Digital Cinema film a short with their new Gemini sensor. We’ve even had a really cool makeup tutorial by Chrisspy film here. It spans the gamut.
Describe your design philosophy and what do you think is the coolest aspect of the stage?
From the onset, we had the independent filmmaker in mind. Let’s be real – These aren’t expansive, huge film sets like the Warner Bros, Paramount, CBS or Universal Studios backlots. You’re not going to film an epic Lord of the Rings movie here. Rather, we’re catering to those who need a cool location space for filming individual scenes that may not have the budget or want the overhead of renting a huge studio backlot.
With that in mind, we focused more on building cheap standing sets that had diversity and offered different, unique aspects without breaking the bank. To sum it up, I’d have to say the coolest aspect of our soundstage is its versatility. You can go from a greenscreen or white cyc to a hospital set, a police station set to a city alleyway filming location that can be production designed as modern day and all the way back to the 1920’s.
I don’t know of any other warehouse, sound stage, or film studio that can provide all of those flexible, unique filming locations affordably.
Why build these particular standing sets instead of your typical blank warehouse?
The main reason we decided to build these affordable standing sets instead of leaving a open stage is a lot of short films and student projects can’t afford to build them on a shoot-to-shoot basis. Plus, most independent filmmakers need cheap filming locations and hospitals are usually a big expense, or nearly impossible in some cases. Not everyone can afford to shut down a real hospital or pharmacy for filming. It’s a lot cheaper to just use ours.
Same with police station standing sets – There are not a lot of those in Los Angeles and renting out a real police station for filming is usually impossible. One of our next sets will be a dive bar or cafe for filming, because these locations usually require a large budget to rent for filming as well.
Beyond standing sets, we also still offer a high ceiling industrial loft area for filming with your traditional white or green screen cyc wall, make up station area, and more.
What do you do when you’re not working on the stage? Tell us more about your other projects.
When i’m not working at the stage, I work at Iconic Films as a Director of Photography and Editor with Film Director Brian L. Tan. We do a lot of different projects ranging from short films to commercials, action films and travel films too. Outside that, I also work independently as a Cinematographer/Director of Photography, Editor and Creative Director specializing in music videos and commercials.
Any cool projects coming up?
Good question: We currently have some projects in the works, including a film we shot in Germany at the infamous Nürburgring race track as well as a project for Aston Martin starring Verne Troyer, Erik Valdez and Jonathan Lipnicki. Check it out below!
What are some of the benefits of listing and booking with Wrapal?
Well one of the biggest benefits of listing our film locations with Wrapal is that they provide such a seamless, easy-to-use, and convenient platform. We have our own website, but promoting it is challenging. With Wrapal, we get access to our target marketing and demographic with the click of a few buttons.
Though there are other location rental sites that cater to renting spaces or venues for events, none of them are specific to film nor have the same tight knit community. For them, filming is just one category out of twenty. I also love the ease in which we get our rental fees deposited directly into our bank account. We’ve had bounced cheques in the past, and till this day I’ve not been able to bank in a cheque from a filmmaker that’s shot at our location months ago. With Wrapal, these are all non-issues and I have zero problems with payment.
Also – Another one of my favorite aspects of Wrapal is their new partnership with Athos Insurance. Now, both filmmakers and film location owners like us can breathe easily knowing there’s an affordable and reliable way of insuring all our filming locations with third party property damage waivers.
What makes Norkai so ideal for filming?
I’d say the biggest reason why Norkai is so ideal for filming is convenience for the independent filmmakers. The fact you have all of these filming locations, with two bathrooms (even one with a shower), in-house gear rentals for full grip, electric and camera packages is unparalleled. We provide anything from last minute things one might need like an extra stinger, silk, or smoke machine on set, and we’re totally comfortable with film productions moving all the props and dressings out if necessary. We’re an art department’s best friend. Being filmmakers ourselves, we’re super flexible and just ‘get it’. And unlike King Bach, we don’t need a big of ye-yo to make it happen!
You won’t have to double explain anything to us because we get it. We’ve had filmmakers rent the hospital film set, move out all of the equipment and build a house for filming a bedroom scene; we’ve had people double the size of the hospital standing set with their own props because they need a more elaborate hospital wing for filming. We’re okay with all that because we want the filmmaker (and everybody from the grip/electric team to the location manager and producer) to be happy. To us, there’s no greater priority than that.
So if you had all the money and means to build anything you’d like, what would it be and why?
Oh that’s a good question haha. I have a lot of ideas but if money were no object, I would build plane interior on hydraulics. Normally, big film productions rent out a warehouse for filming and build a plane interior from scratch which can be extremely expensive – Ours would be far more cost effective and affordable. Having a plane interior is a common scene setting for a lot of different narratives, and providing talented student and lower budget filmmakers access to a filming location that epic would produce some phenomenal results. Here’s to growing and getting Norkai there one day!