The last film I was working on class went really well and has gotten a ton of positive feedback. The teacher, who wrote the cinematography curriculum and some of the books we use at school, said it was one of the best films he's seen in that class in like 5 years. It feels good, but by the same token I'm dealing with what I consider to be too much "hype". I'm happy with the film but I see so many things wrong with it; I know I can do much better. At least I'm starting to find my bearings and I guess there aint no such thing as bad press, especially when it's good? Whatevber, time to work harder
So, the director of the last film is a good friend of mine and I consider her to be one of the best directors at our school. Anyway, she was working on her independent studies film last weekend so I jumped on the G&E crew and ran around to take some photos when not needed. Awesome group of people! Here are some pics.
As of right now I only have the 16mm neg and workprint. After this semester (I still have 3 films to shoot) I will be getting a 2k transfer and be able to show you guys that and my shoot from the beginning of this thread.
Anyways, was on my friend Blaine's set for his dream film this weekend. I was gaffing for him (in charge of light/exposure) and he pretty much let me do as I wished (of course I was trying to give him the atmosphere and light that he wanted). Filming from 7am till 3am, we had day scenes, day-for-night and night-for-night with a mixture of interiors and exteriors and different film stocks. It was a long day but afterwords we got drunk and ran around in the woods until the sun came up. We were going extremely stylized and had a ton a fun.
Here are a few reference photos from the shoot.
messin around with day for night
Taylor and I also shot a random short with my friend Will inbetween two other films this past week and a half. It was cool lookin. Random pics with 15mm fisheye, this lens is soooooo sick and fun to **** with. I have a few clips with some juggling, slackling and skating I'll post sometie this week.
speaking of cool lenses, on Convex, the film with the bathtub, they rented a 17mm tilt/shift for a day that I wasn't there. threw it on my 5d at the end of one of the nights shooting. these are bad pictures but it kinda shows some of what you can do with this silly lens.
Last thing, random screen cap of a scene we set up in cam sem II that we were shooting on the panavision on 35mm. I just think it looks kinda fun.
Last semester all I cared about was light. While I'm still focusing on lighting, this semester has provided me with an "epiphany" toward composition and camera movement. The first film of the semester was largely just a basic technical exercise- all static shots showing a variety of things - a man walking, closeups and coverage of a conversation, a scene with a "flat conception" and so forth. The film wasn't important to me, after all I had much more difficult and interesting projects to shoot during the semester. The night before though I built up the camera, put on the lens and just sat down and stared at it.
All the sudden it clicked. For the first time since my beginning production classes I cared. It's not that I haven't cared before, but the past few years I've been doing mostly technical things (film sensitometry, lighting and exposure, digital acquisition and other "film school stuff"). I kind of lost track of the artistry and the possibility to shoot something I am happy with and tells a story every time the camera rolls. Anyway, I embraced that first film and tried to find who I was again, this time not through lighting, but through the composition of 24fps.
Much of this was through watching other films. I watch films to remind me of the possibilities of cinema storytelling through specific techniques. It's educational to watch a brilliant film that is everything a professor tells you not to do. Many big budget films today (and television) are produced like a product. Get the typical coverage (master shots, two shots, close ups, over the shoulder), maybe get some cool dolly/crane shots and move on. I've been taught this in class. The directors I've been working with have been taught this as well. I've done this many times. It's easy. The most expensive thing when producing films is time. People are trying to rush you to get it done, to save money, whatever.
Anyway, back to composition and that film. I have been pushing with my projects to stay as far away from typical coverage as possible. A film is a canvas to produce a piece of art and to me an artist is an individual who strives to produce emotional and unique pieces. That doesn't mean go crazy with the camera and overpower the story, it means sitting down and really understanding a story, the characters, and how a viewer might interpret something. How can you tell something about these people within the frame? There is a best solution, though it may be different for everyone, it is about finding what is best for you - you are the creator.
Find what shot works best to tell the story. Let's say a character is sitting down, feelin ****ty about a relationship with a girlfriend or something. I could shoot it wide to emphasis him lonely in a space. I could shoot a medium shot with his girlfriend walking around behind him and him not paying attention to her. I could make it low angle, or on the ceiling. I could shoot it profiled. Honestly I could do anything I wanted. Let's just say the director and I have agreed that a close up will be best. A close up isn't just a close up. Without even talking about lighting I have a million choices. Straight on, profile, canted, wide angle lens to fill his face in the frame or a long lens to compress the frame. It is AWESOME. Optics are dope.
Camera movement? What does it do for the shot? It has to be more than just cool, it must serve a purpose. Adding movement to a shot adds its own emotional effect, whether it is tracking with a character or just pushing in or out slightly. Just now however I'm realizing the possibilities of camera movement to create an entirely new composition. You can seamlessly go from one shot to another. I'm not just talking about running around handheld or with a steadicam but putting as much consideration into to composition for every second of a shot and using movement to further bolster how dynamic a shot can be.
I posted that clip from that film because it the most more recent amalgamation of what I've been thinking about for both camera/composition and light/exposure. The film is a series of like 39 shots, all long takes that have such fluidity and emotion in them because there is great variety of great shots within each shot. The storytelling is smooth yet still mysterious. The same goes for lighting. At times it is almost black but then the shot may drift to a window or a hospital shower. The emotional impact of exposure and shadows keeps you at the edge of your seat, as you float around observing these characters. It's an awesome film that just really captured how I'm feelin at the moment. Check it out.
Sounds like you found something that night you sat down with your camera. I hope that I can get that click you talk about. From what I understand, you feel like its the moment that you realize that, not necessarily, everything you've done before is wrong, but rather theres a better way to get a photo, or shoot a film, right?
What do you think of now when you're on set then? I mean im sure theres still the process of finding proper exposure of a scene, composition and film processing. But, do you find something different popping into your head now when youre in the moment? Some kind of emotional determinant, or deterrence from shooting in a certain style?
Im worried that ive been stuck in my style of shooting, a mode where I become completely irrelevant from the scene and in doing so release my emotional capacities to make sure I get a 'proper' shot instead of getting a 'great' shot. What would you have to say to someone like me?
Also, i enjoyed that video above, its subtle but highly relevant camera shifts are very interesting
When I sat down with the camera it was more of a conversation realizing that the camera was a paintbrush to tell a story, refocusing the importance of blocking, composition and movement. It wasn't a discovery that noone has had before; it was simply a moment that I kinda rerealized that I can make any assignment or requirement mean something more to me than what someone necessarily wants. Where as I am just now really understanding the possibilities and amount of information/emotion you can communicate within a frame, many people don't. I guess it's similar to any artist who has juggled commercial and their own personal artistic work - they made it their own. Film is so expensive that people push to get things done fast and "popularly" and I am just starting to find my why around within those constraints and beyond.
When talking about bringing these ideas to set it is first important to really have a reason and motivation for WHY. Ideally that comes from a mixture of your own interpretations and your collaboration with a director. Conversations behind motivation give you a clear idea of what people are thinking, what kind of feeling the scene should have and so on. Sometimes you don't have the oppertunity to work with someone on the same page so you kinda have to take the assignment on within the requirements given and then find those motivations for yourself, and then go beyond. These things should all happen before you get on set.
Actual set. The only thing you can do differently (or atleast I do differently from when I'm not doing my best) is to ask if a certain shot is really the best. Have that conversation with someone you trust (hopefully the director) and coimmit to doing something different. Trust your craft and skills and go for it - noone ever made an impact without taking chances.
I don't know if I'm answering your questions or just talking about myself - let me know what I can be more specific about. I'm new to explaining these kind of things. As you know, internal conversations with yourself about art/life/whatever can be hard to write on a keyboard.
Random. Was just on our porch and saw this wasted dude carrying his bike down the stairs on the porch across the way (rear window style) when he tripped and fell into a few planting pots and a wind chime. dingalingaling. Was pretty funny, I laughed and he responded "love you guys". I'm enjoying the city again, the summer is great here.
On the topic of filmmaking... Somwhat long write up of recent shoot. Talkin a bit about crew/shooting logistics as well as a bit of fun lighting stuff.
I recently spent a few days on a small inpendent feature as I guess the key grip, but crew lines get a bit blurred on these smaller productions. It was a great learning experience for the future as I look to possibly shoot a feature length film. It was helpful to see the kind of mistakes that are easy to make and the things that can be avoided by having a few key crew positions and preparation.
We drove out to Indiana to spend three long days shootin before coming back to Chicago for another full day. Crew was essentially director, DP, gaffer, sound man, friend of director acting as producer/assistant director, brother of director helpin out, a grip and me acting as key grip but as there wasn't a 1st assistant camera I would occasionally jump in to pull focus. The film was being shot on the DP's Red Scarlet with Nikon prime lenses. It was nice to see this camera in action, it's so small compared to the Red One.
These were the first days of shooting the film and things were rather bumpy at first. The schedule was made without the input of the department heads (lighting/sound/wardrobe/set design) somewhat out of necessity and the AD had never really worked on this kind of production and wasn't really familiar with the times for set ups and we got behind right away and had to drop a few sequences to be picked up later this summer. It was made more of a pain without someone in charge of wardrobe/set design so the director (already overloaded with many things to think about) and the AD had to spend time on getting all these other loose elements together which is stressful when you start out behind and have to figure out alternatives to shooting what isn't available. If you are working on a larger project, such as a feature, it is really a good idea to have some support in those departments, or atleast have breakdown sheets so everyone knows what is supposed to be in the scene/what people are wearing/etc.
Regardless, shooting went on and things got better. I started acting as the camera/lighting department AD and relaying times back and forth between the director/AD and what we required. Things got a bit smoother but that put me in a somewhat awkward position with the DP as I was having to bug him to get movin (so we could get the sequences we needed to) while trying to help him out at the same time. There were a few tense moments but we kept on moving on and talked it out at the end of day.
Day 3 was much better now that the production started getting into the momentum of things. Like I said, these were the first days so alot of things kind of had to be worked out, everyday was a better than the last and it was nice to see a groove starting to form.
Before I wrap up the little experience I guess I can talk about a little more than just the crew stuff. I love shooting films, I love helping on them. It's extremely challenging and rewarding. We had pretty small lighting and grip package but made do through the weekend. We had alot of day interiors and on the first day 1 of our 2 1200 HMI's (our only daylight balanced lights) went down. That made it difficult to punch light through windows as the sun easily overpowers the tungsten units (especially after losing 2 stops to convert them to daylight). I had some fun doin some mirror rigs to catch the sunlight and blast it through. It was a great experience to keep tweaking them as the sun moved. Sometimes it was more of a race as the sun started dropping low, casting shadows where I needed the mirror to be catching light. It was also nice to see the hardlight the mirror can give, it is quite beautiful, though we did soften it up a bit to keep a similar look to the rest of the film.
With the limited package we appraoched the day interiors by pushing a 1200 HMI and possibly a mirror through the windows to give either a key or backlight/highlight details. We then used the tungsten units (daylight balanced with full ctb) inside to bring up the interior ambience a bit. The DP and director were definetly wanting a softer/attractive look so we went with it. The gaffer, grip and I would get all the lighting up and then if needed I would jump on and help pull focus as I said. I was runnin around with quite a bit of gear as I was doing grip/electric and camera. It was very hot and humid in landlocked Indiana. I loved it.
We drove back to Chicago the last night. By the time I dropped a few people off, parked the truck up and got home it was about 4am. Started the next day with a 10:30am crew call and a cup of coffee. It was a good day, production seemed to move on much smoother, though there were a few small hiccups (to be expected). We had some nice set ups despite the apartment having the worst power situation to light with. We basically had 2 15amp circuits and 1 20amp circuit. The 1200 HMI was poppin the 15 amp circuits so we had to leave it on the 20 amp the whole day which meant that we couldn't run the 1200 hmi and 2k tungsten at the same time. Stressful but workable. The gaffer is a friend of mine and he had to leave early so I stepped in on the last scene of the day and had some creative rigging to get a light blasting through a window to make 8:00pm look like early mornin. It was fun. I'm excited for helpin out more on the project as things start kickin in.
I like makin movies. I started my Movies in the Park summer job for the park district which is basically me showing movies all over the city and getting paid which is nice. I'm helpin out on my other friend's shoot in a few days inbetween work. Should be rad.
No real pictures from Indiana except this one with me standing under a little rig for a night exterior shot, which eventually ended up with us tracking inside and having a little dance with the actors (was fun to pull focus on that one haha).