I completed the re shoot with my brother yesterday, and I have to say I am improving.
We had 3 pages to complete along with 2 distinct video-only sequences. Our window from start to finish was 3 hours wide. I did some math and figured out I had 15 minutes to get one shot of James on the hiking trail. Easy enough, but after a few lens changes and angle shifts 15 turned into 45 – and it only got worse after that.
Next I needed footage of James driving. I hopped in the back seat of his car and filmed various shots, a couple of them rather reckless – having your brother grab a realistic-looking BB gun out of a moving vehicle’s glove compartment is probably violating a few rules, would be my guess.
Anyways, this sequence took me an additional 30 minutes – And we still had to get the dolly shot I’ve so wanted to begin the episode with! After rushing through, I had a couple good takes. We found ourselves at the 1 hour remaining mark, with 3 full pages, and 2 separate locations.
Let’s back up for a minute to our first attempt to complete this sequence. We had 5 entire hours to work that day and only wound up getting through 2 pages. I spent a ton of time building a good frame and finding cool looking shots and angles. When James entered the scene, he was standing.
Then he sat. Then we argue, and I follow him into the other room. That’s as far as we got (lol) before it became dark.
Now let’s jump back to the predicament I found myself in yesterday – 1 hour remaining with 3 times the amount of footage to get from last time. And here’s the kicker – My bro wore a different shirt (!). On top of all that, the office we used wasn’t available. Basically, using ANY footage from our last day of work was impossible. And for me personally, there was no way IN HELL I wasn’t completing this scene again. Recreating lighting, set, and wardrobe for a low budget production is right beside goddamn impossible. But it’s not until you get in the editing room that you’ll realize your work is going to take 10 times longer. Honestly, I’d rather do a full reshoot 100% of the time.
So I had no choice. The 4 modelos I had poured out, the table I had set up, the shot list I had made – they all went to shit. With 40 minutes on the clock and 3 pages to go, I had only one option – the one take shot.
So I set the camera up and changed the blocking around. James would sit before delivering his first line – it was the only option. On top of that, we had this cool backdrop wear I was in the darkness and he was in the light – not ideal for lighting settings, especially with him wearing a hat, but I got it to work. Basically, we had to fucking move – and get it right.
So we went through it. 4 takes in and I was still tripping over a few lines, he was forgetting others. And then, with 5 minutes left on the clock, we fucking nailed it. Even the way I threw the beer at the end and it exploded was perfect. I was happy, he was relieved, I knew – undoubtedly – we had our take.
Now, he started taking off, but agreed to take a look at the footage. And then my fucking heart dropped.
The biggest disadvantage of appearing in my own films when I’m also the “cinematographer” (or only guy who knows how to focus a camera) is I rely heavily on auto focus for shots on me. I don’t trust the people I work with will focus a camera properly. But the issue with autofocus is it might not lock onto the object you want it to. Without someone behind the camera adjusting even that, your footage is constantly at risk. And that’s what happened during our great take.
So, I told my brother (didn’t ask) we’re doing 1 more. It was nearly just as awesome. But I can tell you after getting to the editing room – God almighty and I happy we did that one last take. James might have been pissed, or suffered repercussion, but if we didn’t do that last shot again the entire day would have been wasted.
So I opened this post talking about how I was improving. The lesson yesterday didn’t having anything to do with technical prowess, or fancy blocking, or speaking with varying pitch and tempo. The lesson was about completing what I set out to do.
It is so rosy and exhilarating when inspiration hits us and we see the wide, bursting vision of the project we identify as our new vocation. In the beginning, everything is shiny, everything is perfect, everything is faultless. But as we pick up our tools and hammer the first nail, we start recognizing just how ill-equipped for our journey we truly are. But that’s the time that forces you to become better.
Episode 4, and this entire show, is not about proving how awesome the story is to everyone else. Its purpose is to convey the story as effectively as I can. But if I don’t complete it, if I toss it in the trash once I realize it’s imperfect, then I am less than a poor story teller – I would be wasting my time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you’d like to follow along with “Mountain Cult”, click on the link below to watch the previous episode.