Friday, March 4, 2016

How I Made a Movie: Part 3 of ? - Shooting Time!

Recently on Part 2

After accepting the role of director, I was worried about all the things I had to do and all the things I didn't know how to do.
On the plus side, I got to do some cool storyboards!
But now it was time to work with a camera...

We had our shooting schedule mapped. We essentially had 5 locations but could shoot two locations in one day since two of the three were indoors. Decent lighting conditions was something I never thought about, but I quickly realized why it was so important. Having a consistent light outside made for easier shooting so I was happy to see clear-ish skies on our first day of shooting.

The first day went fairly smoothly. We had two camera operators and, while it was a bit cold, the energy was there and I was pretty damn excited about telling my crew what to do. Not because I have a power obsession (well, not only that), but because I was glad to see that everyone had confidence in me, despite me having zero experience. It was also fun to yell "action!", "cut!", and then check out the footage we had just shot.

We shot the first two scenes of the day in reverse order. The storyboards definitely helped but there was one thing I knew immediately - know when to drop what you planned.

What I storyboarded was an ideal potential (in scribbles). I didn't take into consideration environment, camera placements, and possibility. For example, I wanted the first shot to be flat, looking at the faucet as it was turned on and then as dishes were washed. But our cameras weren't tiny and there was no easy way to obtain that angle. I wish we could've gotten the shot I wanted but I wasn't going to hold up shooting just because of that. Time and results were most important here so I changed the angle and we shot it as is.

We hit one snag later in the day as we were shooting the indoor scene. The actors were feeling like what was written felt a bit off. I felt it too. The dialogue felt expository and the jokes weren't landing. It was...not great. We mutually came to the conclusion of just riffing around the script and improvising lines, ensuring the important plot points were hit. We ran the scene at least 15 times total between the written script and the improvised script. We were tired and I kept looking at the footage and it didn't feel right to me. Then I realized something was off about our improvised lines.

There were no jokes.

The lines were fine, but where before we had some jokes interspersed with exposition, the improvised lines were also expository and it looked more like a drama. I was trying to foresee having this improvised scene with the rest of the short and it would feel off. The scene starts out as a drama then becomes this silly comedy? It didn't feel right.

After a while, I said, "let's try using the script again." I had a ton of hesitation here for a couple of reasons.

I valued the feedback I was being given.
I didn't want to say "I'm the writer/director so we're doing it this way."
But I also knew that it didn't feel right to me and ultimately, that's what my job was.

Luckily, I work with some pretty great people and as soon as I threw the idea out there, everyone was fine with it.

After shooting, we looked at some of the finalized footage and I was a blown away. Not because of the the acting (acting while directing? VERY DIFFICULT) but because the footage was gorgeous. I was very fortunate to work with great camera operators and great equipment. Our footage looked beautiful and that was very encouraging. I've seen shorts and amateur films and, while it may sound silly, how a finished product looks does matter. It's not only about professionalism, it's about understanding that what you're setting out to do has a baseline in terms of what you're going to accept regarding quality. I feel the same way about my art. When I'm settled on a sketch and a style, I'm going to take my time to make sure it looks good and it looks right. Sure, it's different when I'm using a sketchy, quick style (on purpose), but if I'm aiming for a digital painting, I'm going to try my hardest to make sure it looks like a painting and not a pure Photoshop job.

So Day 1 of shooting was in the books and it went relatively smoothly. Our next scheduled shoot was going to be a one-day, one scene shoot - the audition.

That story is best served with another blog post...