11.14.2008

Storybook - Days 3 & 4




Some behind-the-scenes stills from our 1930's fantasy scene, shot on day three (Thursday).

The first is our sound mixer, my buddy Bret, aka "Sweet Cheeks". The guy pointing is our assistant director, sitting in for our lighting set up. We cut out a window shape out of foam core, stuck it in front of the light with a c-stand, and played around with it until the shadow was distinct across the wall. We then lit the actor's face separately for his seated position at the desk, and he walked into the window light when he stood up and back, getting a nice slash of shadow across his lower face.

We were shooting on the Eastman Double X Negative 7222 around a f4/f5.6 split.... The wall highlights were a low four (almost a high 2.8 at some points), and the highlights on the actor's face came up to a high f4, and his white shirt a low f5.6 (if I remember correctly.)

It was our toughest day yet, starting around 4PM and going until 3AM. By the end I was frazzled and had a consistent and involuntary scowl on my face. I did not get to plan out the 1930's shoot as much as I wanted with our directors, and felt a tremendous amount of pressure to get it looking amazing without being very prepared. The first hour or so, we didn't even have either director on set, and it was the first time I actually got to see the space we were working in. It was also our most complicated lighting set up. Acting under pressure was a good challenge for me, but it ate up a ton of my energy early on, leaving me only with adrenaline to run from when we started getting past midnight. To make matters worse, almost the entire scene was shot while on the porta-jib, which is the worst piece of equipment ever invented. Avoid it if you can. Four shots had both jib-arm movement and dolly movement, while walking backward next to the dolly and craning my neck up at an LCD monitor. We also caught an eyeline error and had to change blocking a few times, making the camera movements and lighting very tricky.

So by 2AM, I was unbelievably cranky and exhausted. My entire brain was trying its damnedest to shut down on me, and there were still a lot of questions coming from different departments. I had a weak moment where I snapped at my director Chuck involuntarily, and he was solid enough to just let me get it out of my system and brush it off. If our AD and my AC's weren't so incredibly awesome, I might've started biting off heads.

On top of the pressure to perform without much prep time, I was sort of psyching myself out— whenever I get stressed enough to outwardly act stressed, I get mad that I am not handling the situation as coolly as I'd like. Then I just make myself more stressed. It's cyclical. I've learned that at those times, it's okay to breathe and ask the directors for a few moments to reorganize and prioritize your brain.

I felt very much on my own during the shoot, completely out of sync with my directors. If I'm prepared to, I can act confidently on my own, but I felt like I was thrown out into open water, and had to swim as best I could in what I thought was the right direction. Hopefully all the stress paid off... We get dailies around Thursday.


But Friday, day four, was the exact opposite of Thursday. We only had 5 hours to shoot because of restrictions on our location, and despite having to do more takes than expected for each shot, we got an entire scene covered. Lighting went up unbelievably fast, my AC's had the Panavision built, loaded and threaded in what felt like minutes, and communication was near-telepathic. I felt prepared, in-sync with my directors and gaffer, and we were totally done with the porta-jib.

I'm too tired to go into detail, but we're shooting the same location tomorrow, and I'll talk about the lighting set up then, and hopefully will have some pictures to share.

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