Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Better Late Than Never . . .

The downside with production classes, like the Cinematography course I shot the below short in, is that you're limited only by the people you're surrounded with. If you have a bunch of eager students, all willing to stand in the rain to get 3-seconds of footage, you're in great company. I didn't have that group. I had a kid that wouldn't stop talking about the new truck his dad got him, and a grad student whose first contribution was to say that all of his energy was going into his own projects and that he wouldn't be able to give more than a few hours work. Oh, and he had a really weird shit fetish. He outlined two scripts he was working on, and they each involved a scene where someone was shitting on someone.

When the assignment was handed out, I told them what I'd come up with. it's no different then what you see if you scroll down. With one exception. Originally, it's a man killing his ex-wife. After I outlined it to them, the kid with the truck went on to explain how he and his girlfriend are having sex. The other guy didn't like it. "I'm tired of violence against women. I was thinking we do something about a couple that meets over the Internet."

"How are you going to work in the eight elements?"

"I don't know. I just think that too many people are meeting on-line these days. Or, we can do a commercial for a toilet."

I changed the gender of each character. I don't think they liked it, but they didn't have grounds to complain. We agreed to shoot at the actress' place that Saturday. Friday night, I was finally able to reach her. The schedule was to meet at her place at noon.

We arrived with a truck full of equipment. That fucking kid came in handy, after all. A guy I've never met answered the door. He was in town for the weekend and ended up at her place. He'd been asleep on the sofa when he heard us knocking. Our actress was passed out in her bedroom. If it weren't for that guy, we probably wouldn't have been able to get in.

We set up as much as we could. I had to go into the starlets room and rouse her awake. I riffled through her dresser, asking which jeans best complimented her ass. I held up a sweater.

"Does this still fit?"

"no."

"Wear it."

Our actor and his girlfriend showed up while she was getting dressed. There were a few people I didn't know there, too. We worked around them. I laid out the storyboards and shot list. Despite the visual aide, and a descriptive statement outlining each shot, the guys didn't get it. I re-did the storyboards in the most rudimentary of drawings.

"You're the guy with the box. You move down the hallway with the box pointed at the girl. See? She's the stick figure smiling."

"How are we going to move the camera without it being all shaky?" He tossed his hands about to reflect how the image would look.

"That's why we brought the wheelchair."

"I thought we were just gonna use that to load the equipment from the truck, faster."

We'd have a shot framed and lit. Then one of them would interject. "What if we just put the camera here," then taking a step to the right, "or here?"

One of the guys had a remarkably steady hand. I started drinking the minute we got to her place. All handheld shots were allocated to him. The shot where the actress enters, puts on a sock, and walks with the crow bar took about five takes. After the first few attempts, I asked how he thought they were coming out.

"She kind of fell out of the frame in the middle there. I got caught on the ceiling."

"Why didn't you saw so and call cut, instead of wasting her energy?"

"I, you know, didn't want you to get mad."

"How are the others?"

"I cut off her head in the first one, and in the second one I can see you in the background. I would say we could use that one, but you're wearing a red shirt so it really shows up."

The table being used is an antique that the actress' mother gave to her before she passed away. I assured her that not a single scratch would come to it. The final shot of the actor laying bludgeoned also took a while. We had to shift focus to get a long shot of the woman at the far end of the room to end with the body in the foreground in focus. Our actor spent twenty-minutes with his head on the table, his back covered in Karo-syrup colored red and purple.

When the shot was done, we took careful measure in removing the shirt, and discarding it without spilling a single drop. The actor rose from the table, revealing that the syrup had leaked across the surface and had dried into the finish.

I made sure the stain was covered by something until we left.

What was to be a two-hour shoot ended up taking eight.

I was cut out of the editing process. They had taken a class in Final Cut and were qualified to do the edit. The only time they said they could make into the editing lab was while I was at work in the office. Being that the lab is nearby, I would drop-in to see how it was coming along. By the late morning, they had cut the work together. By afternoon, it had sound.

They were proud when they handed me a pair of headphones to listen in. Their faces dropped when I started laughing. I could register their disappointment at my reaction.

"Wait, are you serious about this?"

They both agreed. The sound was good.

Those of you that watched the clip, might have noticed that the sound is a little too prominent. When the actor wipes the surface of the photograph across his chest, it sounds like someone is sanding wood. That's because that sample is of someone sanding wood. A pencil scrawling across the surface of a ledger is second only to Bill Cosby's Mortimer in the Pantheon of audible writing instruments. What you, the audience, hear is the cleaned up version that is the product of a shouting match in the editing lab. I had to humiliate them into turning everything down a notch. And I still think it's at comical levels.

The short was presented to our class where it was easily the best in show. Our group would work together in the next assignment. A thirty-second commercial for a product of our choosing.

Ours was the only shoe commercial to feature nudity.

1 comment:

Usher said...

Seriously, your blog is way better than that other "blog" I read. (You know the one I'm talking about.)