As I stated in a previous blog post, my final investigative shoot was a challenge for my improvisational ability. I wanted to tap into my natural balls to the wall, gung-ho, ‘John McClane in the original Die Hard’ state of filmmaking I knew I had within me. My inspiration for my research investigation was Ingar Bergman, whose filmmaking involved clearing the set at the start of the shoot, and allowing himself to ‘vibe out’ the type of shots he wanted to construct for his films. This is what I myself aimed to achieve.
Arriving at Mia’s apartment on a Friday morning, carrying a litre or so of fake blood, I was as ready as anything to producing something creepy and entrancing. I knew the tone I wanted to convey, and the one particular shot I wanted to carry through the entire scene, all I needed to figure out now was the lighting and how I would direct the acting.
Our production started with Mia, my cinematographer, realising that she had forgotten her camera in Jan Juc, a small town near Geelong. Some would call this a major setback. I on the other hand, remained cool, calm and collected. I then locked myself in her bathroom for ten or so minutes, and only after coming out again, did I realise how much this would affect my shoot. After some deliberation, I caught the tram to RMIT, and within an hour and a half, I was back at the apartment with a Canon DSLR and a tripod. We were ready to go again.
I have to put this out there, I am not a fan of using professional, or in our case, aspiring professional actors. First AD’ing Mia’s shoot, I came to appreciate them, and learnt how to treat them as members of my crew, but my superfluid directorial style necessitated individuals who were capable with dealing with my extremely bizarre and spontaneous method. Some would call me a hot mess. It is for this reason that I was much more comfortable with using my peer Mitchell Pirera, a fellow second year Media student, who I had also directed in a ‘similarly themed’ single take shot we had made in 2014.
Before I reflect on the rest of the shoot, I’m going to address how I felt about using nonprofessional actors following reflecting upon my footage. A part of me regrets it. Mitchell, and Mia, who I later incorporated as a figure in my scene, knew exactly what to do, and being my friends, they knew exactly how I wanted them to look. But seeing the way Mia’s actors worked during her shot, my actors couldn’t quite embody the spirit of the scene, as well as take on my directing in the manner that I wanted them to; perhaps this was due in part to my skills (or lack thereof) as a director.
My intentions for the scene developed only after I had cleared the set and allowed myself to vibe out the location. I saw it as small. Small enough to focus on a figure seated in the bathroom, but large enough to accommodate the presence of another individual. My scene was abstract as it could possibly be. There was to be no dialogue. All such sound was to be non-diagetic, a piece produced in Garageband would accompany the scene. As it was to be short, plot was to be no concern either. Everything was to be entirely driven by visuals. Here was where the fake blood came in; Mitchell, and the surrounding bathtub, was to be drenched in it. There was to be no backstory. You knew nothing about him. He would wake up and be accosted by an individual, played by Mia, whose faced would never be revealed.
Lighting played a very significant element in cinematography. Below are alternates forms of lighting we tried before settling on the final layout. Inspired by Mia’s use of an LED television to simulate the colourful lights of a party, I set up a small digital television playing an illuminating episode of The Mighty Boosh to light the set. However, there were not enough sources of light to fully capture the environment, and other setups were experimented with in favour of the shot not being too dark. Below, you can see a still of an alternate lighting setup. The lighting we settled upon was creatively less experimental. However, it provided a superbly clean shot that provided an incredible contrast of colours between the red of the fake blood and Mia’s bathroom’s pure, white interior.
As a single-take shot, I felt it was as best as it could be, while also remaining static and creatively capturing. Retrospectively, I should have shot a incorporated several other shots, but it would have ruined the single take nature of my scene. As such, it was my intention to limit what the audience could see, and how they reacted to the carefully constructed presence of the figures upon the screen.
As a final thought, I believe the entire scene is perfect. I’m proud of my work, and I know that I should be.