For our pilot, we shot scene 1 and scenes 6-9 of our first episode. After hearing others’ thoughts and then reflecting on the piece myself, I found that despite only being two minutes long, I had very strong opinions about the video we created.
The comedic tone we were trying to achieve falls flat on multiple occasions. Seeing Duncan in his werewolf form is not surprising nor funny at all because of the lack of build-up and anticipation to this scene. Seeing only parts of his werewolf form – such as the hairy hands, the canine teeth – before the ultimate scene of Liz and Duncan being scared by each other, may have helped this scene work. Duncan’s final scream is not animated enough, and in contrast to Liz’s energetic scream, it looks inadequate. Especially so, for being the final shot in the pilot. For me, this also makes the series seem more strikingly low-budget and poor quality (not to say that these two go hand in hand), and appears more goofy and less intentionally comedic. Having sat in on the editing process, I know that Duncan’s music-video-like shots were only put in after issues with rhythm and the timing of the rapping. However, because there are so few of these kinds of shots, the montage doesn’t work because the scene isn’t straying from its normal style enough to seem like an intentional creative choice. To me it seems indecisive – will there be a whole performance from this character? No, they’ve back out. Therefore this also strays from the intentionally funny quality we were trying to capture for the entire series.
In terms of sound, there were a few things that stuck out for me. Liz’s radio mic picks up the rustling of her clothes and it’s very loud. Normally I wouldn’t notice this, but once the next shot of Arabella comes up, Liz’s mic is clearly cut off and we can hear that jump cut. It’s especially noticeable because the audio being used for Arabella’s next line is from the boom mic (though she had a radio mic on). The sound of the clock ticking between scenes 1 and 6 is not present. However, I was a big fan of the suspenseful music in the first scene. Joan and I firstly had to make the decision to even add music. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary? But then we considered the frequent long pauses, which for me – despite the writers’ opposing opinions – didn’t add to the comedic quality at all. I think this music isn’t too fast and isn’t too slow, adjusting well to the pacing of the scene, and even improving it in parts where it is just a tad too slow for my liking.
I hadn’t worked with the cinematographer on determining which shots we would get, and I think that’s part of why we struggled with camera and the shots on the day. The first establishing shot is a wide shot that clearly makes the space look like a classroom and not like an office reception space. It looks so empty, though I doubt any real improvement could have been made by the production designer because there is so much white, grey and black that it just makes it look even bigger and thus emptier. The first shot of Liz has way too much headroom and no focus on her hands, which are supposed to be projecting some nervous vibes. The shot of Duncan during his spin is not wide enough to see his entire movement or how he carries himself with his entire body as he does this gesture. We only see from about the waist up. This is an issue because it’s in this area that Duncan looks very rigid. Had we gotten a wider shot, I think he may have looked a bit more loose and comfortable like his character is supposed to be. Duncan’s character is introduced entirely through a profile view of him. This is not the way to go with introducing a main character, especially one who is so open and non-enigma. Therefore if we had the chance to redo this, a shot of him through Liz’s perspective, more straight on, would not only help to introduce Duncan as an important character who is clearly genuine and transparent, but would also emphasise that this is Liz’s story we are being told, from her view. In post production I found that we had gotten had way too much headroom in most of the frames. This excess in dead space is entirely my fault as I was the one directing the camera operators, but as a result I’ve learnt my lesson to pay attention to the framing because it is just so distracting for me to look at now. There’s also issues to do with lighting. Liz is overexposed in most of her shots. The exposure in the hallway scene could have been reduced to really capture that dark creepy corridor vibe we see in supernatural films, adding to the anticipation of the werewolf reveal. The lighting for Duncan’s introductory scene is very different to that of when he is on the phone to Arabella. This might not be obvious for everyone, but I noticed this lack of continuity because these shots were so close together. The shots of Liz and Duncan at the end of the day look way too similar to each other. This is both to do with the similar framing as well as their rooms, desks and chairs looking the same. The post production team tried to change the lighting and colour temperature on each scene to look different, but it’s still something we could have gotten right in the production stage. In the final scream-off, there’s no quick zoom in on Duncan’s face, despite there being one for Liz’s shot. Additionally, I seemed to be the only one who was affected by the fact that some shots are slanted, while some of them are straight on. This contrast is distracting for me, especially when the shots occur one after the other. I believe it’s a result of not checking each shot as we filmed it, looking at them from a slant when we did look at them (yes I actually did that), and also the major difference in height between each camera operator and where they hold the camera.
I think we should have directed more attention and crew towards production design. Liz needs to be carrying a purse or bag of some sort to explain to viewers that she is leaving the office at the end of the day. The offices and the reception space are so bare, that we needed more props and intricate pieces to make it look more realistically like an office. The door to Duncan’s office in the hallway has too many signs on it to not look like the door to a RUSU activity space. I thought that Werewolf-Duncan looked good in person, but the wig on camera doesn’t. It might be the highlights of the wig catching the reflection of the lighting setup, but it makes it look more silver/grey in colour than it looked in person – thus more human and 80s and less supernatural-esque. I was a fan of the zoom in on Duncan’s face at the end of scene 1, and it helped to establish that he would also be a significant character in the series, as someone in the know. Liz starts off as the primary character, and Duncan ends the scene as the other central character we should be watching.
Overall, I think this video is a good length for a webisode (despite being a bit short, it’s still missing the b-line story we will be shooting in the future). A few of these issues I had with the pilot are very much subjective, and I have found that what I may hate about a shot, another may enjoy. It was a good learning experience and getting to sit down and go through it with just our media team (the only ones on set beside our actors, and in turn the only ones aware of the things that went on during production) along with Robin, who understood our aims and individual roles we took on, was very helpful in producing opinions about this pilot, coming from someone who doesn’t consider herself very opinionated or inflexible at all. This reflection process will be very useful for what we have to consider in the pre production, production, and post production phases of Human Resources: episode 2 (and hopefully if we get enough time, the redoing of episode 1).