Sunday, June 27, 2010

Creative Geography

So we shot our first nighttime scene, in Washington, using our new lights. The lighting looks great. But after reviewing the footage (and leaving the location) we realized that we were missing some close-ups that are necessary to give the scene the intensity to make it scary and believable. In Washington, we were shooting at a residential property wired with outdoor electricity. After some location scouting, we've decided to stage these new inserts at a parking lot that abuts some woods. The parking lot lights give us enough overhead light to see the action, and the sparse trees in the lot's median can be used in close-up, if we shoot in the direction of the nearby woods. This is called "Creative Geography" in the film world: cobbling together two locations that don't actually exist as one, into the same scene so as to appear as if they are the same place.

In the two videos below from our location scouting, you can see how we'll frame out the unusable elements of the parking lot to focus in on the tree and woods, and you'll see me demonstrating the tree-smacking technique we'll use to get a believable close-up of our actor's head hitting the tree. Thanks to Cody Yarbrough for teaching me this technique. You start filming from the point of contact between body and bludgeoning tool (the end point), and then quickly pull the actor and/or object away from the contact, toward the starting point. When you reverse the footage, you see a dramatic blow. The clip below goes forward with audio, and then I flip it - dropping the audio, so you can see this reversing effect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Washington Shoot Part One: Hillbilly God

Thursday evening we rented a stylish SUV, loaded up the old Chevy truck, and Artie-the-dog's private car, and we drove a cast and crew of eight (plus Artie-the-Dog) to the suburbs of Seattle where we shot for two full days on the forthcoming "Mountain of the Hillbilly God." The biggest challenges we faced this time around were lighting for nighttime. Carter recently purchased two professional grade lights, with stands and diffusion umbrellas, and they performed marvelously. The color temperature of the lights was much better than the halogens we used on the last project "Tale of Persephone."

Another challenge was choreographing a sexual assault. I wanted the actors to feel comfortable with what they were doing, so I consulted them heavily. I think they were willing to be more intense than I expected, and even still, there was something a bit tame about the final outcome. My own apprehensions about their safety played too heavily, I think, for. As we discussed the scene after scrubbing the footage, they volunteered to do some additional inserts that will amp up the violence. I'm grateful for their courage. The location up in Seattle was ideal for shooting this scene: private property where we would not disrupt neighbors, attract attention, and there was electricity nearby. Now I have to figure out where to shoot the inserts locally.

A final victory was the footage we got of the "Little Girl." Our young actor was very coachable and has great instincts for being in front of the camera. She had a great imagination, no fear of being watched, and was interested in knowing her motivations - bringing them to bear on a very convincing performance.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Campfire location scouting

Today, Carter and I did some location scouting for our "campfire" scene, also known as "Night at Goody Moseley's." We'll actually shoot about four scenes here over the one night that we will reserve the location. We're thinking to plan the shot list for each scene and then choose a shooting order that puts all the master and long shots in the earlier part of the night and all the closeups later. so as we're losing daylight, we can take advantage of the firelight.

We're definitely going to need extras for this shoot - about twenty people to stand or sit around the fire. Most of the action takes place on the periphery of the fire, as our principle actors get involved in various shenanigans. Stay tuned for our casting call for extras.

Here's some video of the location, taken for planning purposes.