Some images from the previous Friday's shoot.


Shooting continued

After shooting from 6:30 to 10:30 PM on Friday, the project is almost halfway in the can. Still a few more indoor scenes, then outdoor shooting will take place next weekend. After that, the footage goes to the lab. My shooting ratio on this project is not as good as "Silence": I'll probably use all 700' of film (roughly 18 minutes at 24 fps) for a 9-10 minute film. I have about 400' left, which will hopefully be enough. I took a few pictures of the two sets so far (piano and laboratory area). More later.


The Discarded Body: shooting begins

Yesterday I started the first roll of Tri-X out of seven that I ordered for this film. I shot footage of a construction site where an old K-Mart was demolished. The site is rapidly changing, and I needed to capture it to cut in with the character shots later. These are all POV/environment shots without actors. The sky was overcast and lighting conditions changed rapidly; I tried to quickly get a reading with the incident meter then run back to the camera, which was under part of a building, and shoot before the lighting changed. A somewhat challenging shoot. Also, I'm not sure the lighting was hard enough to give contrasty images.

I went back today and finished the roll in much brighter sunlight, which revealed another issue: I need an ND filter. f/22 was barely stopped down enough to shoot in direct sunlight, and it's probably even 1/2-1 stop overexposed. Hopefully it can be pulled back in the telecine without losing an enormous amount of detail. I will try to get an ND filter before the next outdoor portion.

I may be shooting the first indoor scenes as early as Friday. I may noticeably underexpose these, rating the film as 200ASA, for a grainier, low-key look. The only light will be provided by a fluorescent practical.

Still plenty of special effects to set up before the real shoot starts. 600' of film left - I hope it's enough. More later.


Dolly test

Today I finished a 16-wheel dolly for a little over $50 including 20 feet of track. This will be put to use for several shots in my current film. Here's a brief test shot on my GL2. Save the link and then play it from your hard drive.



Coming next year...

My first production of 2006 will be "The Discarded Body," a B&W horror short film shot partially or fully on 16mm. A scientist attempting to create a mechanical control system to augment the human body's capabilities is drastically altered when something goes wrong. The consequences are predictably gruesome. For this project, I'm taking inspiration from Cronenberg's "body horror" and films like "Tetsuo" as well as the classic French horror film "Les yeux sans visage" (Eyes Without a Face). A preliminary shooting time would be late January and early February, with post-production probably stretching until the beginning of March. The estimated running time is 10 minutes.

I still have to construct the main set, scout one or two locations (one of my usual filming spots is off-limits due to construction/road repair), and cast the lead actor. The costume is almost finished, and practical effects are coming along. I may mock up a publicity image featuring the costume, although I usually avoid those kind of things.

End of the year summary

In 2005, I completed 5 short 'films' (4 were actually on film). Here's a summary, with some comments for each.

War Crimes (March/April): miniDV, ~9 min. A sniper, abandoned in a desolate forest, struggles to reconcile his orders (to stop an enemy convoy carrying a suitcase nuke) with his conscience.

- This was my most logistically complex shoot to that point, with 5 actors, full costumes, and several props. I also built a compressed air blood sprayer for bullet hits. This short played at the 2005 Cinerama in Gainesville. It was my first 'serious' project involving dialogue - the result was OK, I think, but in retrospect the missing element that saturated the production was the fact that it was not shot on film. This removed authenticity that lessened the overall effect. I think the script is strong, and I may revisit this on 16mm or super 8 with more preparation and a carefully selected cast.

Taco (April/May): super 8/miniDV, ~4 min. A homeless man finds a dollar and wants to buy a taco to eat. But the dollar is on a string, and the string is held by a man with a video camera... is recording reality always exploitation?

- My first project shot on Super 8. The concept was simple, but I enjoyed working in darker thematic elements. The authenticity of film contrasted with the sterile hyper-realism of miniDV; I felt the rapid, kinetic pace of the initial concept carried over well to the final product, which has a loose, spontaneous feel.

Survival Record (May through August): super 8, ~11 min. In a world destroyed by nuclear war, a cameraman struggles to survive.

- This was the major production of the year in terms of running time, pre-production, and scope (several locations, props, etc.). I spent May, June, and July largely refining the script; it originally started as a 20 minute short with five major characters who died off from the effects of radiation. Extensive revision streamlined the story so the eventual plot followed a single character who was a composite of several individuals from the earlier drafts. Shooting was divided over two days in July, and required 300' of super 8 film (Kodachrome 40). I mainly used my Nikon R10, although a Nizo S560 was used for some steadicam shots. Sound editing continued through the middle of August. I was pleased with the final product, and in my opinion this has the strongest narrative arc of my films to date.

Silence (September/October): 16mm, ~ 8 min. Time folds on itself in a contradictory, paradoxical vision of entering a black hole in a space capsule.

- Extensive set construction was necessary (in my living room) to create a believable space capsule that could be modified to film from several angles: side, rear, and front. I also bought a Soviet high altitude helmet on eBay, which added a vague Eastern bloc inflection to the set design and costume. I used a Bolex H16 non-reflex camera from the 1940s, which gave quite sharp footage. I was concerned that the lighting (about 1000W total) would not be sufficient for the 80ASA film (Plus-X) but it turned out to be more than enough. If I re-made this project, I would close down the lens by an additional half-stop for most of the shots.

Epitaph (November/December): super 8, ~ 8 min. An astronaut, mortally wounded in an accidental crash on a remote planet, tries to preserve his struggle in a final transmission to the stars.

- A quickly conceived project to incorporate some ideas that had formed during the shooting and post-production on "Silence." In fact, two crucial shots were borrowed from "Silence" (the opening space capsule interior shot and the final POV shot). Everything else was shot on K40 super 8. Since I acted in the film, my brother operated the camera for about 60% of the shots. Not surprisingly, he commented that this was "my best-shot project to date." I wasn't sure how well the story elements would come together, since the project was written and shot on a very tight schedule (first draft to wrap in less than a week), but the final result was fairly good.