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PREY: day 5

Firetruck!


It was really obvious that fatigue was settling in like a stork on a Christmas fairy because all of my analogies had stopped making sense.
Tony and I were both loopy enough to have trouble forming words into sentences and more than once reverted to grunting strange noises to get ideas across. Oddly enough it worked.

Got to Casa de Bruno around 7:00, and started off by trying to figure out why the mic cable was having hum problems. It completely checked out, so we're just in this space of having-to-deal-with-it until I can figure out something different, which sucks the proverbial goat cheese, but is workable.

One scene last night, two people. Really ugly staging in a kitchen and dining room with cabinets that come down to mid-chest level so we had no way of getting an establishing shot short of removing a load-bearing wall. Everything had to be covered in two shots and singles, and the two-shots were really difficult to get because of the configuration of the kitchen & dining room.

A note of process here: one of the reasons that I strongly believe in storyboards is because of fatigue. You do not shoot a film under the best of mental conditions; you are in long-term warfare with many hours of insufficient sleep and a lot of stress, and the taxing of your creative side and your memory to a degree that is unreal, and an utterly fantastic experience when you finally make it out the other side.
Doing preproduction planning while you still have the mental energy to handle it helps you to keep from making mistakes while you are on site shooting.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any storyboards. We had to wing it.

There is something to be said for on-the-spot creativity. There is something even more to be said about it when you've already been through the wringer and are starting to lose your command of the language.

First thing for me to figure out was lighting. Happy happy china balls which are rapidly becoming my favorite damn-I'm-happy-I-took-the-time-to-make-these-ahead-of-time lights.

Remembering the mantra of rimlight good, eyelight good from the end of the previous night, I started off with some core lights. The china balls became the main lights for saveau (funny on the name now that I think about it), along with an overhead dining room table light. Because he was standing in front of a big glass patio door, I put a 1k outside on the porch with a dichroic daylight filter and a half-CTB to make it a little overblue. I first tried bouncing it off of a metallic bounce card, but quickly discovered that I needed the full fury blowing in through the glass to make it visible. I'm usually a big proponent of soft light, but rimlights are usually hard because they are there to accent.
My mind also boggles a bit at using a 1k open-face for a rimlight. That's kind of like using a blowtorch to light a cigarette, but it worked. I think a lot of it had to do with the patio door glass: it trapped some of the blue light and actually fluoresced a bit, which made for this slightly funky blue background that was kinda cool.

On Kristi's side, it was a bit more difficult. I first hung a scoop over the kitchen sink with a hard shade over it to give a bit of a weird underglow to the kitchen. This particular scene was one where she is a bit off-balance, and I wanted to kind of throw in some weirdness to enhance that.
That wasn't enough light by a long shot, but I wanted to keep a lot of highlight & shadow happening (which is a right bitch in a mostly-white kitchen). I didn't really have anyplace else to put light stands that wouldn't be visible in the kitchen, and I fretted about the light for a bit-- then I decided to try a fresnel on a long throw (basically across the house) on a dimmer with a blue-green filter. It was enough to give the kitchen a light that seemed to come from nowhere, and it countered the magenta-corrected sinklight, and it also gave her a slightly hard edge in one of her key spots. The finishing touch was a little ellipsoidal (like a 50-watter) with a sharp shot across in the other direction so that she would walk into the light on a particular line delivery. The end effect was as she was delivering this bit of dialogue, there is a sense of control change between the two characters, and the change in her lighting reflects that change.

It's all high-concept and shit.

With enough light to go, we started shooting at around 10:00.

We fell into better roles. I brought out the monitor so Tony could watch from the living room and focus on performances; I ran the camera and handled framing and composition and gave up the boom pole to Tara, our newest victim (and mate of saveau).

And thus did we commence.

We started by shooting Rick, as the reverse angle shots of Kristi would involve moving furniture. Basic shot was a single. The weirdness was that the cabinets forced the camera down so everything is a low-angle (lovingly thought of as DwarfCam) shot. The effect it gives is that of the actor being dominant in the scene, which works with the characters. Besides, it looks cool not being tied to eye level all the time.
Second setup was trying to get a two-shot so we could see the physical relationship between Kristi and Rick in the space. And by a weird coincidence, I was able to get a lovely "Mrs. Robinson" shot where Rick is completely framed by Kristi's arm and her side, which was really freaking cool.
Third setup was a closeup of Rick for some cut-ins, with a bit of interesting framing. See, I'm most definitely not one for center-framing a closeup. Usually I like to lead the actor's sightline (for instance if the actor is looking to camera left, I'll give them more space on camera left in the framing). Some of these shots I reversed it so he's a little crowded in the frame-- it adds to the discomfort within the scene. It's a subtle thing.
Last setup was an OTS (over-the-shoulder) with Kristi, but because there was basically no room in the kitchen, I ended up with this weird framing where her face was filling the frame on the right hand side, and was about the size of Rick's torso. It looked like she was a giant head about to eat him, but there was something really powerful about the imagery, and with a bit more fiddling I was able to see this lovely Bergman-like image coming out. And using one of the cabinet doors as a flag, I was able to get her face in shadow while having her hair lit, and it was just too good to not shoot. So we did.

Quick insert shot of Rick's hand caressing the table, slightly funky angle; a character moment.

Then onto Kristi's kitchen shots. We had to move the dining room table so I could get the camera and my svelte frame into place, but I found a camera angle that was slightly voyeuristic, again shot from DwarfCam perspective. A little set dressing (bottle of wine in the foreground) gave it some depth, and with some fiddling of lights to bring in more on Kristi, we were off to the races.

Oh. My. God.

The fiddling with lights paid off in spades. Kristi was amazing and downright frightening, she used the light as part of the performance... it was ubercool. Floating one of the china balls in lowspace gave her a slight underlit cast (really subtle) and it made her eyes glow with an almost feverish intensity, which exactly fit the mood. It was a lovely thing.
Cut a few closeups (which were damn cool), and one insert shot of a book being opened.

This was one of those moments to remember out of the fog. There is no real good way to shoot a book that isn't boring as hell. I was confuddled by this, playing with lighting, trying to make it somehow more menacing or something, when it dawned on me: it wasn't the book that was important, it was that she was opening and reading from the book. D'oh!
Brought the camera way down (think Dwarf waist level) and shot up with the book on the edge of the counter so you basically see Kristi open the book and read from it. Stack 'em, smack 'em, it was exactly right.

Finished up with something like 57 minutes of footage. The scene is maybe four minutes long. But damn, it will look amazing.

I think we wrapped shooting at 1:30, and got everything packed away in about 20 minutes. There was some needed decompression and conversation afterwards (even being so exhausted that words were fire truck), and a drive home where I spaced out several sections of driving. I was awake enough to stop at SA and pick up some Simek's chickeny goodness, then went home and promptly went to bed.

Today I am awake, barely. Tonight is a rehearsal night, for which I am blessedly exempt, and will be floating in the land of slumber.

And for the previous night's footage... I'm thinking that depending on how the rest of the footage looks, I may suggest a reshoot later. The performances are good, but the lighting is not what it could be, and I'd really like this to be as close to a perfect-looking movie as it can be considering our budget.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
lexinatrix
Sep. 9th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
At some point I'd like to see the finished work, so I can put this commentary with the visuals. Especially the lighting you're talking about.
magicmarmot
Sep. 9th, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC)
I know that we will be having a premiere at some point after it's finished. I would guess early next year (though I'd really like to be able to have a showing at Convergence, particularly if we can get it to Cinema Rex early enough for them to do a yea/nay in their planning).

And if you think you can avoid seeing the finished product when it's finally released, I think you're silly. :)
avindair
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
One point of correction: We actually finished and were breaking down at 12:34 AM. We then sat and talked movie and flying until 1:30, which was dumb. Not as dumb as my staying up to watch "Doctor Who" until 3:30 AM, but still dumb.

Remember, kids, having a dude with sleep apnea and shiftwork sleep disorder make a vampire movie is perhaps NOT the smartest move in the universe. :-/
magicmarmot
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
So we shot almost 60 minutes worth of footage in 2-1/2 hours? How the hell did that happen?
avindair
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
We are blessed with totally ass-kicking performers. That makes all of the difference.
missmollygrue
Sep. 9th, 2005 11:18 pm (UTC)
By Tony leaving the camera on during the reset? ;P

I wanna see! I wanna see!
magicmarmot
Sep. 9th, 2005 11:26 pm (UTC)
heh. I was on camera duty.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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