Memory Box

“Memory Box” is Sahar’s last big school production and I wanted to do everything that I could to make sure that it went off as well as possible for her.  As such, once she gave me her character descriptions and needs for casting, I was able to round up all of the actors that she needed.  In terms of casting this was not as difficult as “Grief Stricken”.  However, it did present some problems because she was looking for several actors in the thirty to forty age range and as most people in the business know, it is difficult at the best of times to find male actors compared to female actors and the older the cast is the more difficult it is to find appropriate actors for that age range.

Once we cast all of the actors Sahar and I spent an entire day finding appropriate costumes to fit those actors.  The issue was we were short on time and Sahar was looking for costumes that fit the time period of the shoot: the 1960s.  Goodwill used to be a great source for period costume designs but in the last five years they have stopped carrying clothing that was more period appropriate.  I may only assume that this is because they are trying to make shopping there more appealing by only stocking clothing that is more current with the times to increase sales.  Frankly, that is only conjecture but I have noticed a change in what clothing they stock.

As a result of the Goodwill situation, we drove all over Bloomington to varying thrift stores but did manage to get costumes for the entire cast.  All but one, Sahar needed a robe and pajamas for the father sooooo while she and Brian started setting up the location to film.  I literally ran two blocks to Salvation Army to pick out an outfit for her.  I had to do this because I had all of the equipment in the van and they were unloading the van.  While out, Sahar called and asked me to pick up Champaign for the New Years party scene.

I should explain, the first shoots that we did were all based around memories of the main character.  Sahar’s idea was to shoot each memory in different media (3D, 8mm film, and digital) so that the memories would have different feels and looks.  She also wanted to shoot on 8mm so that we could later project the images on a screen and have the main character interact with them on the screen.  We thus had the 3d and 8mm as the memories and the digital as the present, where the main character tried to interact with her memories.

This meant that we were shooting each sequence with three different passes for each type of film.  The 8mm was shot as if the main character’s Uncle Frank were manning a old 8mm camera.  The 3D were shot as straight memories and the digital utilized a shallow depth of field to create the claustrophobic feel of the main character desperately trying to grasp and retain her memories.

One other thing that made this shoot difficult was that Sahar needed for me to track down a functioning 1960s car.  I was fortunate in that one of the other nontraditional students in my Motion Picture Production class is part of a classic car club and after speaking with him, I was able to work out details with him so that we had a car that fit the look that she needed.  Okay, so car secure but that was only one part to the problem.  The second part included carefully shooting the car sequence with the car driving away in a way that we framed out all the other cars on the street so that we did not have any modern cars in the shot.  We had to shoot the sequence at least six times for varying reasons.

All and all the shoot was very rewarding due to all the challenges that it presented that we needed to work around to make everything come together.  I am always the optimist and although I never really know how it will all work out, I have done enough productions to know that it always works out.  In fact, anyone who has ever worked with me could quote me on saying, “it always works out”.  Frankly, that is part of what I love about this job, seeing how all the pieces do come together and helping make that possible.

We still have one more shoot for this production on the 17th and I look forward to working with everyone again.

Cheers-

Russell

Carmen’s Karma

I did not have much to do with this production at all aside from the fact that I did the age make-up for Sahar and stood guard over the gear while we shot at the coffee house.  That and my orange Halloween pants although festive were a problem for Carter’s shot so I was banished to the couch to hide my pants.

However, I would like to note that I thought Brian did an excellent job as a producer and think that he may be quite good in this job in the future.

Cheers-

Russell

Homeless Man

Turn about it fair play and as Kate acted for me in “The Red Room”, I acted for her in “Homeless Man”.  As such, I did not directly have anything to do with the production side of this short this time.  However, here are my thoughts and reflections on this short.

Kellie was very well organized and had a shot-list ready and knew what she needed and wanted to shoot the day of the filming.

Ole was working audio and although he did not have much experience with audio prior to this shoot, it was evident that what he had seen audio techs do on professional shoots had influenced how he handled himself.  I say this because he stepped up and was paying attention to the fact that he needed ambient sounds that I have not seen many of my other class-mates have made an effort to do while we are on location.  As such, I am fairly certain that Kellie will have a lot to work with in the way of car doors shutting, foot steps, keys jangling, and even the gear being wheeled across the parking lot.  There were many other instances of this but that gives you a fair example of what I am referring to.

Mark was crazy artistic as ever and employed his mad monkey skills to climb a fire-escape and get Kellie a sweet overhead shot of the van entering the alleyway.

Brian was also on par and ever the consummate professional, he helped make sure that Kellie got the light she needed via bounce boards in the alleyway.

Oh and on a personnel note, I shaved my head for Kate and Kellie so that I looked more like a drummer as my usual straight hair haircut did not look very drummer like.  I also bought some red shades and ended up looking like Woody Harrelson from “Natural Born Killers”.

It was also cool to work with Caz again as she was portraying Kate at a younger age.  Yes, this short is based on a life story from Kate.

All and all it was a fun shoot, we even got some shots out by Lake Monroe, where Eumi bravely stood in the rode as we drove my van by her so that we could get a cool traveling shot of the van by the water.  Anyway, those are my reflections on “Homeless Man”.

More to follow-

Russell

Grief Stricken

“Grief Stricken” was the insane project that I volunteered myself for because I had already committed to shooting it for CMCL’s “Double Exposure” student film festival.  The idea of “Double Exposure” is that a student filmmaker is paired with a student composer from the music school and they work together to create an original work.  Anyway, I had already pitched a short at the “Double Exposure” speed date secession where we had two minutes to meet composers and assess who we might want to work with on this project so the problem for me was figuring out when I was going to film this additional film on top of my already busy schedule with Cinematography and the Motion Picture Production Class.

The solution came when Jim had a time-slot open in our schedule in Cinematography.  The problem, I had two weeks to turn around and get all of the production elements in place.  Another problem, the week prior to shooting “Grief Stricken” I was shooting “The Red Room” sooooo one may see how my life became a bit complicated.  Not to mention the fact that I was also producing Sahar’s monster of a project “Memory Box” the week after “Grief Stricken”.  My moaning aside, this actually turned out to be a relatively painless shoot.

It involved four locations: an exterior of a newspaper building, a home, a cemetery, and an interior with a pull down window.  No problem right?  Well, mostly, no problem…my first attempt at securing the newspaper building fell with the turn of the seasons but my second attempt went off like bottle rockets.  I also easily secured a friend’s home to shoot at and I was able to secure Rose Hill Cemetery as I had shot a scene from “The Babbling Banshee” there.  My bane however, came in the form of the pull down window.  I went to seven, count them seven different locations before securing a location.

The day of the shoot started with a little tension because we had had very little sleep the night before as we had shot “The Red Room” pick ups until 2am and so we were tired and there was a miscommunication between Tyrone and myself.  However, he and I quickly sorted that out and we were able to move forward with a brilliant shoot.  Everything went smoothly from there on out except for a misplacement of a camera mount plate for the Bolex Reflex.  Sahar was able to compensate beautifully and pulled together all of the shots so that we had no other hick-cups.

Another major win was that eleven extras agreed to help us and be part of the climatic scene in the cemetery, where everyone opened there umbrellas to reveal the punch-line of the pieces.  Ahhhh but to see the punch-line you will have to watch the short.  I am at this moment still waiting on the return of the film so that I may start editing the film.  Susanne over in CMCL is going to have the 16mm transferred digitally for us, which is awesome because I also shot with my XH-A1 and with a little Aftereffects magic I will be able to use both sources so that I may use the best footage from both cameras.

Well dems my thoughts on this production – I am sure there will be more to follow.

Cheers-

Russell

The Red Room

This was my personal monster project; literally and figuratively as it meant taking the entire cast and crew out of Bloomington and to Indianapolis for a two day shoot.

Gary at the Old Northside Bed and Breakfast was very gracious and let us film at his beautiful B&B.  He went above and beyond to accommodate us and work with us so that we were able to not only get the best footage possible but that we are also comfortable and well looked after while we were on location.

I also owe a big thanks to Tyrone who graciously let the crew stay at his home in Indianapolis while we were filming.  He also saved the day because there was a miscommunication between Sahar and Eumi, which resulted in Eumi leaving her lenses back in Bloomington.  This would have been a major set back if it weren’t for the fact that Tyrone’s roommate, Chris, is a photographer and he kindly allowed us to use his lenses.

Ken, Kate, and Tyrone were solid with the acting work and great with the odd hours and did not fuss about the drive to the location.  They had already put in three solid evenings of rehearsal with me in the weeks prior to the shoot, where we were able to lock down the blocking and lines.  This also gave us time to sort out the costumes and make sure that everything was ready by the time we were on set.

We had also used two of the rehearsals as camera rehearsals to work out some of the camera blocking.

However, another small instance of the best laid plans coming apart was the fact that once we arrived on set, Gary told us that he had some cancellations and as a result we had more time for the afternoon shoot than we had originally been told that we had.  The two-fold problem that this created was that instead of sticking to the original plan we tried to set dress and black out the windows for more set locations than what we were scheduled to shoot.  This meant that we ended up wasting time because we were dressing more areas of the house than we needed to, which ended up have the second draw back that we had less time to shoot the shots we needed.

The next day I was able to compensate for this by coming up with a plan of attack where, Nick (another HUGE thank you) was able to set up a set location as we shot in another location.  This doubled our speed as we were working much more effectively and in essence meant that as soon as we were done in one room we could move over and shoot in the next location.  I should also note that the second day, we had Ole and we did not have him the first day so this meant we had another shooter and could move more quickly.  In fact, we had three cameras going on the second day at one time.

In the end, I ended up with 72.5 gbs of sound and footage so I would say that everyone really pulled together and made a fantastic shoot.  Mark and I did have to meet with Tyrone to do five pick up shoots but aside from that we were able to get everything in the can in two days.

At this time, I am editing the film into a rough cut and it is really looking very sweet.

Thanks again to everyone who helped on this project.

Cheers-

Russell

p.s. Mark Totte was great to work with as a co-director on this project and I seriously hope that I continue to get to work with him as he is very talented and a joy to work with.

 

iDate

iDate was a very quick shoot as we shot it all in one day and in one location.  Daniel had had many problems getting this production off the ground because he had actors flake out on him and locations deny him access to him on-site after having told him that he had permission.  Ole and I helped out Daniel a little behind the scenes by providing Daniel with some other options to call on for the location of the shoot.  Ultimately, Daniel was able to secure the Irish Lion.  A space I am very familiar with as I have filmed there and done many theatrical productions there so a big thank you goes out to Dennis, the manager, and Hilda, one of the owners for allowing us to film there.

Carter was there for most of the shoot but then had to go to another shoot for another class and as a result, I ended up taking over the duties of audio.  No big deal as it wasn’t my first time out on the ranch.  Ole as ever was able to work his magic and get Daniel and Eumi some fantastic shots.  Brian and Eumi were on the top of their game as well and really put the lighting gear together quickly to set the stage for the shots.  After helping with the lighting set-up, I was drafted to be an extra so we had two extras on set.

One of the limitations that we had to work around was the fact that there were only two outlets in a very large space; fortunately, we had the stingers to compensate but it presented a small problem.  Another thing that we had to work around with shooting in a restaurant during business hours was that costumers were not only walking through the set but we had extraneous chatter from guests in the lower level that the microphone would pick up.  I did record two different sets of ambient sound one for the area we shot in and another for the room below, which should give Daniel a lot to work with to fix any audio gaffs.

Overall, this was the easiest shoot that I was part of as the one location set meant that there was really only two lighting set-ups so overall this was a pleasant afternoon quick shot.

Cheers-

Russell