We had a team of six students, two who started the course on the second day of the intensive and one who just joined us for the afternoon shoot. We organised ourselves quite well spending some time planning at lunchtime. We prepared a shot list and this was useful in our shoot. However with more time we could have had a clearer shot list. When shooting we missed some of the more subtle shots indicated in the script and we maybe could have filmed these if they were captured in a shot list. We spent some time working through the script and brought different readings to it. We probably didn’t have the chance to agree on our reading of the script before we shot it.We made a good and quick choice of location, a stairwell in Building 80, but this presented challenges especially with sound recording.
We had a short period of time to shoot in and this was reduced further as we lost some of the group on the way to the location. This put us under pressure from the start, which meant that at the end we had to hurry through and drop some shots. A great learning was to match your locations to your time and crew. We had hoped to shoot Scene 2 looking down into the stairwell. This required splitting the crew and the actor and in the end we didn’t have the time to even attempt this shoot. The fortunate part of this was that the story can work without Scene 2. The loss was that Scene 2 establishes Van’s character (setting Van’s steely purpose against Lenny’s depletion and despair).
With most of us being new to using the equipment our focus was mostly on getting the technical issues right. This meant that in our director roles we missed some of the more subtle parts. For example in Scene 3 when Lenny and Van meet we didn’t capture the directions in the big print where first Lenny, then Van look specifically at the case before addressing their opponent. If we had captured these we would have given us some breathing space in the edit. We also didn’t have time for capturing a shot close-up on the pack (the case) which again limited our cut-away options when editing.
Looking at the shots I noticed that of all of us Anna in her director role did pay attention to issues such as the actor looking the wrong way and when this happened she called for another take. I also found that we ran the lines too fast, making it very hard to cut-way to another angle. Our over-the-shoulder shots of both Van and Lenny were in most cases too wide making it really hard to jump cut from one character to another during the dialogue.
We didn’t shoot any wildlines at the end of the shoot again because of time. Ideally we would have done this outside the stairwell to allow for cleaner dialogue. We didn’t capture any atmos either which may have helped when developing the soundtrack. We also didn’t allow much space leading into the shot or going out of it. For instance our actors mostly dropped their persona and often looked at the camera or director immediately after ‘cut’ was called.
Critically we didn’t mark up the slate correctly in many cases listing Scene 1 as Scene 3 for example. In a way this wasn’t surprising as in swapping roles none of us had responsibility for one particular task. But the good part of swapping roles was that we all had a chance at different tasks. Also we didn’t really talk beforehand of the protocols of marking up the slate.
Putting Lenny together in the edit suite was a challenge but a good experience. The key learning is that if you don’t shoot enough you limit how you can tell your story. So the main limitations were working with what we’d been able to shoot and that I am learning to use Premiere while doing the edit.
As mentioned we didn’t shoot any of Scene 2 but I have tried to establish Van and her approach by using the heavy ominous look of the stairwell to create scenes where we only hear the sound of Van’s footsteps approaching. I have picked up the sound of footsteps in the stairwell as a key theme and have tried to weave them into the soundtrack as a key motif. This works reasonably well.
My main struggle with the edit was the limited number of shots we managed. This mainly impacts where I have only one shot to work with and the sound quality is not great. This is the case of both over the shoulder shots of Van where the sound is quite low and I can’t crank it up higher. The way out of this might be to use the over the shoulder shot of Lenny as Van speaks but the one shot of Lenny is very tight and it was hard to make this work. Some of my cuts are still clumsy. I did try using cross-dissolve but mostly this didn’t work. I think it’s because I didn’t have any handles on either side of the clips as I had created sub-clips for my key clips but it would be good to explore this at another time.
I think the ending works quite well when I get some breathing space to pause for some time on both characters and let the great music I found really amp up the sense of both threat and defeat.I sourced the music from Free Music Archive, a source I find really useful. The creator, Chris Zabriskie, allows commercial and non-commercial use of his work as long as credit is added to the final product, which I have done.
I have added opening titles and closing credits because I wanted to find out how to do it and to acknowledge Zabriskie’s music.
So all in all a great learning experience.