META is my second 16mm film and the first time I used artificial lighting with film. I took a different approach to storytelling all together from anything I’ve done in the past. I wanted to create a more abstract film geared towards evoking a feeling of love and desire rather than telling a linear narrative. In essence “META” tells the story of a female overcoming her fear and opening herself up to a man.
The idea started by hearing the song “Se Lest” by Icelandic Post-Rock band Sigur Ros in a Youtube video directed by David Gelb. It features test footage edited to the song. Having used a Sigur Ros song in my first film I was beginning to grow to their sound and looked to their song “Ara Batur” to construct my story to. I also looked into the VimeoGirls.tv group on Vimeo, which features glamour style videos cut to music. This helped me figure out how to show the abstract parts of the film, where I’m trying to visually say how the female character is feeling at that point in time by comparing her to a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon.
Being a hobbyist photographer helped a lot when it came time to figure out how to light each shot, however, it still took quite a long time to get them right. Some of my other challenges included shooting 4 rolls of 100 foot film in around 30 hours with a very tired girlfriend, and being in the film myself without a camera person at times. Also after the first 10 hours of setting up/shooting I realized my film unraveled in the magazine and I began to panic greatly as I thought I would not be able to make our proposed deadline. Unfortuntely I wasted about 8 hours of work since anything thought to be recorded during that time was not due to the unraveling. Nonetheless I was very happy with the outcome of everything.
Some of my favorite footage in the film was done with this lighting setup, which involves a 650w Arri light aimed down at a gold reflector, which is aimed up at the subject, that way I could back-light her and have a soft diffused warm light on her face. Two 250w Pro lights were placed on both sides on her to help define her sides so she stood out from the background.
For those who don’t mind reading I’ve continued the tradition of including my Pre/Post shooting notes for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!(Click to see all)
After having the experience of shooting on film already I feel a little better with this project. I decided to change my idea to something that was aimed at trying to evoke a feeling more so than simply telling a narrative. Listening to some more music from Sigur Ros is what sparked me to change my idea as I could not help but be compelled to do something to this music that I heard and fell in love with (Originally “Se Lest” but later changed to “Ara Batur”.) So tomorrow, (Wednesday – April 3rd), I will start shooting my second 16mm film!
Since I changed my story and made sure to plan as much as I could before doing anything else, I had to order my film for overnight delivery! I will be shooting with 3 rolls (2 indoor, 1 outdoor). I am looking to do some slow motion shots as well, so I needed an extra roll for only the outside stuff to make sure I have enough to last my music choice. As is, my song of choice is 8 minutes long and I found a quiet part in it where I could cut it in half without messing up the rhythm, however, it is now 4 minutes long. The way the song is composed there is no way for me to cut it down any further, so this is another reason why I chose to go with 3 rolls instead of only 2. Besides this Wednesday I will have all day Sunday to shoot. Once again, my girlfriend is my main actress, and this time I will be in it. With so little time to shoot this go around I am unsure of how much time I will really need, so I will play it safe and stand in my own film. I just hope my shots come out ok!
This time around the shooting process was every emotion imaginable. Since I had little time to shoot I wanted to make the best of it. Tuesday night I picked up the camera equipment along with 3 Pro lights (250w), and 1 Omni light (500w). I asked my old supervisor at the movie theater I used to manage for permission to shoot in one of their theaters after they closed. It took awhile for him to answer but he gave me the ok. Usually if a movie does not sell a ticket within 30 minutes after previews start it will be cut off. I knew on a Wednesday night we had a high chance of that happening, and fortunately it did. However, upon setting up I realized I forgot the Omni light at my apartment and sped back to get it. I also purchased a couple of gels earlier in the day to flicker in front of our key light, that way it can look like we have a movie theater screen glow on our faces.
Although the scene looked bright enough and read bright enough the footage still appeared a little dark for my liking, and one of the Pro lights fell, but that was not the most of my problems! While at the theater the camera started making a louder shutter sound, but since the footage was still counting I did not think there was a problem. We was already a few hours into the shoot so we wanted to finish as soon as possible. After the theater my assistant for the day shot a few shots of me at my apartment before he called it a night. I, however, began shooting shots of my girlfriend until around 7am expecting the roll to finish at 108 feet. When it hit 100 feet it restarted back to 0 feet and counted up again I knew something was wrong. I decided to shoot one more shot to see if it would stop at 8 feet (hoping it to be 108) but upon seeing that the footage went up to 36 feet again I started panicking I opened the film in the dark and was horrified when I felt it all bunched up and flying everywhere. Needless to say I thought I would not get the project done and was stressed about it until Sunday.
After getting the film issue fixed technical assistance, and finding out the Pro light just blew a bulb, I looked to see if I could rent a camera earlier than Sunday. Luckily I was able to get it one from Saturday night, 6 pm, along with 1 650w Arri, 2 Pro 250w lights, and a reflector & set of Tripod wheels. After getting some other business taken care of I went to Wal-Mart with my girlfriend to get a black tank top. I felt it would go well with a black backdrop for the abstract scenes I wanted to shoot. I was going to have to shoot 3 & a half rolls of film in one day in several locations so I needed to start immediately. After a bit of driving around we officially started setting up around 4am Sunday morning. We went to a small room on NC State campus that was renovated into a small photography studio. Usually students have to sign up to use the room but since it was 4 am we literally just walked in and set up and shot a whole roll of 500T film. This was the smoothest of all shoots because it was the easiest. It took about an hour to an hour and a half to get the lighting right. It stayed fairly consistent the whole shoot since I knew I would be inter-cutting this “abstract dancing” footage into the story. It took around 4-5 hours to shoot though mainly because my talent was extremely exhausted having already been up since 6 am the day before to go to work. At some point I actually had to stop shooting and took an hour of playing her favorite music and mischievously feeding her coffee to get her to wake up. Mischievously because I kept handing her my coffee to drink every so often. It felt wrong but I needed her awake and fortunately it worked out great. The music helped her a lot to feel comfortable and just go with the flow. The longest shot in the film was not planned, she just started dancing and I happened to have the camera already set up and I took advantage of the moment and hit record.
After the “abstract dancing” shoot we slept and later went to Lake Johnson (Raleigh, NC) to shoot a whole roll of outdoor footage. I knew I needed a variety of locations to tell this type of story so instead of shooting everything at the Lake we drove to my parents house and along the way stopped at a giant tree that I always notice on the road. It was a spur of the moment decision to use the rest of the outdoor roll here. I ended up getting a beautiful shot of her reaching for the sun. I tried shooting a shot like that at the Lake but to no avail since so many trees were blocking it, plus the sun was too high at the time to get a good perspective. I was happy with the outdoor shoot overall.
Next I put in another roll of 500T (my replacement roll) and shot the hallway shots at my parents house in North Raleigh. My hallway in my apartment is not long enough to allow the camera to focus right. I used the Tripod wheels for one of the shots as well. I wanted to truck the camera forward more throughout the shot but my parents are currently renovating the house so I had a little bit or room to roll forward without hitting a bump on the carpet. Even though it was only 3 shots (I forgot to adjust the f-stop for one) it took a few hours to get the lights right. I ended up putting the 650w Arri in the room at the end of the hall pointed at the ceiling. I had 1 Pro light (250w) in the room she walked to so it could light her face as she stood in the doorway. Lastly I used my last Pro light (250w) as a fill for the hallway (placed behind the camera) with a diffuser in front of it to soften it’s shadows. My Dad held the fill Pro light with gloves (didn’t have a third stand) and my Mom held the diffuser in front of it. It was a family affair!
After shooting at my parents house my assistant for the day met us at my apartment to help out (around 9 pm). I already planned that I would have to move my bed set into my living room since the angles I wanted to get were not attainable in my bedroom. Plus the living room was the only place in the apartment that had a large blank white wall as well. It worked out better since the living room is bigger my lighting was not as harsh. Since I knew I lost footage from the first roll, I did the shots that I were in so my assistant did not have to stay too late. Lighting took a while again but we eventually came around to it. I was very happy with the 75-fps footage we shot, the lighting for it as well. After my assistant left I continued shooting. When the roll finished I put in the second half of the first roll and shot extra footage until it finished. Ironically I realized after it all that there was another 75-fps shot I forgot to re-shoot since I originally shot it on the first roll.
I was also very happy with the lighting setup for the (bird view bed scene). We actually laid on the floor since it would be too difficult to shoot on the bed looking down. Overall there were good times and bad times, good thing for me it worked out. At 5 am Monday morning I finished shooting and packed everything up and went to bed. At that point my talent was already asleep so if I saw I had a little more footage I would not of been able to continue anyway!