It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
It’s been almost a year since my last post, but I’m back with a behind-the-scenes look of our newest short film…well, it doesn’t really have a title yet, but it will soon!
How do you not miss this stuff?
For this film, I was the Director of Photography, which in our case is the same as the Cinematographer, and it’s one of my favorite jobs to do! The DP sets up each shot as the director planned them and executes the shots.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
I love this film.
It’s about a girl who had a crush on her female best friend, and so that friend stops talking to her. The girl just wants to be friends again, but her ex-friend no longer trusts her.
I’m not trying to convince you to date me, but, like I said, I want to be friends again.
It’s really sad and really relevant and I’m really excited for the world to see it.
The film will be available for viewing on Vimeo this June.
Week 1: Planning
Since this film was to be shot outside, we all went outside to check some important features of our outdoor filming environment. For example:
- The sun sets behind the building, so we will have to film each shot quickly and the gaffer will have to move a lot between shots to reflect the sunlight
- Cars drive through the parking lot, so we might have to stop filming if a car drives right past us (for sound purposes)
- What shots would work with the car
For the third one, I brought my phone out and tested a few shots.
Later, we worked together to help Lauren, the director, compile her shot list. Then, we met one week later to shoot the film!
One Week Later: To Shoot the Film
The big day has arrived.
The day when planning becomes execution, when a script becomes shots, when the story begins to unfold before our eyes.
Let’s get right into it.
Closed Cars & Phone Calls
To record quality audio in the car, we placed a microphone inside the car (hidden from the camera, of course) and plugged a wireless receiver into the camera. We couldn’t even hear her from outside the car, but our sound person could hear everything with headphones on.
The actress had to talk loudly so that we could lower the audio and other background sounds would be heard less.
The film featured a phone conversation, so our two actors were really talking on the phone during the scene, so that the lead actress could react appropriately and get the timing of her lines right.
We later recorded the other actress speaking her lines in the sound stage. The editor will apply a phone filter in post to make her voice sound like it’s coming from the phone.
Working the Dolly
The first shot of the day was a dolly shot through the car that introduces the character walking into the car.
To accomplish this, we set up a Dana Dolly track and placed the camera on it. We found where we wanted the camera to stop and positioned gaff tape in the right spot.
I’m not gonna lie, this was a difficult shot. I had to move the camera at a nice speed to follow our lead actress as she walked behind the car, then I had to slow down, then place my finger on the gaff tape and slowly let the camera bump into my finger and come to a stop. It took a lot of practice while everything else was being set up, but once Lauren said action, I was ready to roll.
Multiple puns intended.
For this shot, our gaffer had to hold up a diffusion panel so that the sun was not shining too brightly on the actress’ face.
Also, we had to shoot it a few times because of pedestrians walking into the shot and children chanting something nearby. I was worried that the camera’s reflection would be present on the side of the car, but that didn’t end up being a problem because of the letterbox that will be applied during editing.
Through the Windshield
One shot was through the windshield, which introduced a few problems.
Windshields are reflective, so we used a polarizing filter on the camera so that the windshield would look completely clear.
We also had to raise the camera so that the actress’ face could be seen completely behind the wheel.
Since the sun was setting behind the building, our gaffer switched to a reflector to reflect the most sunlight he could onto the actress’ face, and we also set up an artificial light on the other side to fully illuminate her face. That way, I could lower the exposure of the bright background without the actress looking like a silhouette. It required two people to hold the reflective sheet still since the wind was pretty strong that day, but we made it work.
Mirror, mirror in the car, what was the coolest shot by far?
The rear-view mirror shot.
This shot made me so happy. It was a shot of the actress’ eyes through the rear-view mirror.
We used a 140mm lens and positioned the camera inside the open trunk. To do this, we made the front two tripod legs short and the back one long so that the front of the tripod could be inside the car while the back keeps it stable on the ground behind the car.
Although a reflector couldn’t be used in this shot because of what a tiny portion of her face we showed, the natural lighting was perfect to make this a stunning shot that really showcases the trapped feeling our main character experiences throughout the scene.
You may have heard of the 180-degree rule.
The rule is that you should try to only film from the same 180 degrees around the subjects. We stayed true to this rule for most of the film until the last two shots.
By filming from the opposite side of the car for the end of the film, this causes an emotional shift in the narrative, as the character shifts from pleading to her ex-friend on the phone to feeling lonely and hopeless in her car.
To accentuate this sense of loneliness, we start with a medium shot of the actress in the car, then jump to a very distant 24mm shot of the car in the parking lot vacant of other people. She is left alone with her own emotions.
And that’s where we leave this character.
Before & After
Somehow, we managed to finish the shoot early.
Are you kidding me?
Nope, I’m completely serious.
But seriously, if you have any title ideas for this film, comment them below!
Next week, while our editor will be sequencing my shots into a film, the rest of us will be prepping for a short comedy about a fortunate mishap involving college admissions. I’ll be acting in the film, and I’ll post about preparing for the role and executing it in two weeks.
Next week, I’ll write about a documentary I just finished, Bulletproof, about the March for Our Lives march in D.C., which includes interviews with protesters and clips from the march itself. I’ll discuss the motives behind our choices in the film and the problems we faced and how we dealt with them. I’ll also include my tips on what makes a good documentary.
Cut to black.