Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Indie = Ingenuity

This past weekend, we finished shooting episode 8. Thrilled? Oh, good! I was hoping you woudl be.

[An aside: I seem to have a very particularly dyslexic issue when I type. Ninety-five percent of the time, I transpose the "l" and the "d" in the words "should," "could," and "would." I am constantly right-clicking to correct my misspellings of those three words in particular, and it bugs the royally-sanctioned crap out of me. Just for fun, I'm going to not correct those misspellings if they occur in this post, just so you can see how prevalent the problem is. Thank you.]

This weekend saw some firsts for LFTI: first on-location shoot that was not a friend's apartment complex; first speaking extras roles; first car shoot; first blue-screen shot.* Yes, we were really pulling out all the indie stops this weekend. Our location was craftily secured by using a tiny little white lie so that we woudl not have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars in fees. We had to shoot in a car without the proper mounts, which again saved us who knows how much money. And our blue-screen was more like blue-flannel.

I went to film school in Boston. Most of the projects on which I've been involved then and since have been low or no budget, just like LFTI. When you have no money to spend on all the tools and talent and equipment and rights and licenses and fees and protections that come with a huge budget shoot, you have no choice but to get creative. I genuinely mean "creative" here... creativity is not only key to a good script and good acting, but also good shots and lighting and music and editing and so on and so forth et cetera. The creativity that goes into writing and acting and art is a bit different than the creativity that goes into cinematography or editing, say. While technical prowess is usually helpful in any facet of life these days, it definitely helps on a shoot, so you know what equipment you have and how it works. From there, you can use your limited resources in ways for which they may not have originally been designed.

One teasingly fine example is the blue-screen we concocted on Sunday night. Yes, we needed a blue-screen. Why? Never you mind why, just enjoy the tale.

We had two choices for shooting a particular part of our script: Do some guerilla shooting on a real location, or create a cheesy facsimile using a blue- or green-screen. The cheesy facsimile seemed to fit best, so we chose to shoot against a screen. Robb and Tanya ended up having a blue sheet that, while not the exact blue of your finer, more expensive blue-screens, was just perfect for what we needed. We used two light stands to frame the sides of the sheet, then a third light stand taped across the top to finish the frame. VoilĂ ! A simple blue-screen set-up.

Sorry for the blotches in the picture. I must have had something on my lens. Thank goodness you can still see our make-shift blue-screen set-up. (More-hyphens, any-one?)

I mentioned that we shot in a car for the first time over the weekend. I have had to be very creative in cars before, including sitting in an open trunk to shoot a car behind me as we drove through an industrial park. But Sunday was a challenge. We needed to get useful shots of Lou and Jennifer having a conversation in a car, and normally that woudl require using a follow car or a fancy hood mount. We can not afford such things as hood mounts, and we coudl not shoot on some little-used street somewhere with an illegal follow-car arrangement because the story required the car to be driving on a major road. The only way to get decent shots of Jennifer and Lou was to position the camera in front of them, near the dash, as we drove down Culver Boulevard.

We first tried a two-shot, with me holding the camera in the far front corner of the car from the back seat to get Jennifer very close up on the left of the shot and Lou in the distance on the right. That looked too peculiar, so we had to get the camera on the dash more toward the center of the car. This was simple for Lou's shots; I just sat in the passenger seat, leaned far forward, and held the camera by the windshield. When it came time to shoot Jennifer, though, I coudl not sit in the driver's seat and shoot and drive. So we did this:

Robb drove while I crammed into Corrie's footwell. She had to act with her knees almost in her face while I held the camera out on top of the dash, trying not to get my own bushy-ass hair in the frame. Kinda hard, but it was the only way we coudl do it without literally hanging out the window or something worse. I had to duck a few times as cop cars passed us.

Oh, and because there coudl be no one in the back seats, tanya had to sit here during shooting:

I understand it was rather uncomfortable and cold.

LFTI is about as independent as you can get. Often this means "MAJOR SUCK." But not for us. We want to be sure the show is as good as possible. That requires much of the aforementioned creativity, in things like the blue-screen and the car, but also in any number of things like music, credits, editing, graphics, props... I mentioned last time how proud I am of our show for the small details we add, but I am also proud for how hard everyone on the show works to get it just right. I can't wait for everyone to see episode 8. It'll be sometime in January, which is a ways off, but it shoudl be worth the wait!

[Seven. Yes, seven instances of the transposed "l" and "d." That's 100%, not 95% as I'd said. Perhaps I need more fiber in my diet, or a larger nightly dose of radiation.]


*Though some keying was done for the Mizz Chi erotic workout video, I believe this was the first time something other than a white wall was used. Forgive me if I'm wrong on that point. Robb or Tanya can correct me.


Robb said...

We actually used a REAL green screen for Mizz Chi's Workout video (though I did a TERRIBLE job of keying). Kevin (Crazy Dave) actually had a professional green screen that he let us use (we filmed it in his apartment too).

And I was keeping count of the transposed "L"s and "D"s! I was going to post the amount here in the comments in the hopes of winning what I coudl only assume was some kind of secret contest!

Maybe next time.

Robb said...

Oh, and great post!

Anonymous said...

I suppose technically "our first blue-screen shot" is correct. Technically. If you just look at the color of the screen and ignore the process itself.