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The Story

     Three innocents become unwittingly involved in the fallout of a homegrown terrorist plot in this realistic thriller. Daniel Kim (Eugene Kang) and Tyler Mendoza (Charlie Magdaleno) are just entering adulthood with dreams they have yet to fulfill. Then their paths cross Alex Peterson (Chris Greene), an airport worker with his own problems. Set in 2009, Phenomenon Filmworks’ first independent film also marks the debut of three remarkable actors in a story that touches the realities of today.


A Film About Choices

     It started as a simple concept for a very short chase film: A damaged plane falls from the sky. As it descends, its cargo tumbles out, crashing onto the unsuspecting world below. A backpack, still covered in the frost of higher altitudes, hits the ground between two young men heading to school. When one decides to take the bag, the other begins chase, even though neither one knows its contents…

     But the story soon evolved into a story about young people just entering adulthood who are forced to make decisions they are not ready to make.

     During production, each scene was meticulously designed for maximum impact. Symbols were laced throughout the film, each one representing an element of the theme: a plane falls from the sky, a basketball bounces away, birds chirp unaware of the events around them.

     Each character was thoughtfully shot as well. Alex is constantly shot with his face shaded, while Daniel is often clipped by light, and Tyler is lit well regardless of where the light is coming from. To enhance their self-driven nature, the story focuses on the three with very few outside interactions: They are alone in this grown-up world, forced to make choices without the wisdom of their elders.

     The plane crash, a mix of CGI animation and 22 layers of sound, took 3 years to develop. Recent advancements in 64-bit technology contributed greatly to the result.

     Despite its minuscule budget, “The Backpack” was carefully crafted through rigorous teamwork. While its story reveals the issues of our modern world, it holds fast to very human attributes – friendship, greed, and independence, to name a few. But, most importantly, it focuses on the choices three young men make to achieve their dreams. In the process, they end up changing each other’s world forever.



  • The original plan for the plane crash was to film real planes landing and flying overhead near an airport, then manipulate them using the blue sky around them as a blue screen. Unfortunately, filming fast-moving planes proved to be a challenge, so a CGI plane was used instead.

  • Likewise, the explosions are real, filmed against a blue sky that is later keyed out.

  • In order to maintain the planned design of each scene, a blue sky was required. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast nearly every day of the 5-month shoot in early 2009. This caused the cast to wait for text updates from the director as to whether shooting would proceed or be cancelled for the day.

  • Due to the shooting delays, Eugene Kang’s cold weather wardrobe stretched into the much warmer months of April and May.

  • Tyler Mendoza, Charlie Magdaleno’s character, and David Kim’s Kevin are never mentioned by name. To enhance the parallel lives of the lead characters, it was decided that only the main characters should say each other’s names. All other references to characters are delivered in third person or as text on the screen.

  • In order to avoid the unauthorized reference to cell phone companies, each cell phone screen was replicated in a mix of live action footage, Photoshop images, and “cloning,” in which portions of the screen are replaced by another portion of the screen.

  • Eugene Kang appears in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

  • Charlie Magdaleno is a songwriter whose albums are available on iTunes.

  • After shooting ended, Chris Greene produced a few independent films, then worked to become a licensed firefighter. He is currently in Navy training, although his true passion continues to be acting.

  • The dormant Ryan O’Hara is played by Andrew Thompson, whose uncle Bradley is a television screenwriter for Battlestar GalacticaCSI, Falling Skies, and The Strain.

  • David Kim, who plays Daniel’s brother Kevin, was once a student of teacher Michael Dailey, and he regularly attended the Phenomenon Filmworks summer program for young moviemakers.

  • “The Backpack” became a reality only after writer-director Michael Dailey was laid off from his teaching job, like many other California instructors. That gave him the opportunity to finally follow through with his 40-year dream to make films.



2012 / 35 MINUTES / 2.35:1


BUDGET: $1540



POST-PRODUCTION:  MAY 26, 2009 – AUGUST 31, 2012


Plane down.
Temper, temper.
Viewing the devastation.
A warning.
Interrogation techniques.
After the attack.
The hidden loot.
Contemplating the values of a car.
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