Saturday 14th was the first shoot day for Touch On/Touch Off. Overall, it went really well, it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I thought it was going to be and thus it ended up being really fun to work on.
The day before the shoot, the production design team, as well as the directors and myself helped to set up the makeshift hipster cafe we would be shooting. (Max, one of the directors also did a run through with some of the actors). It was literally mind-blowing how we managed to transform a very old garage into a bohemianesque melbourne cafe/set with a bit of paint and some hand-me-down set walls. This was the first time I had really worked with production designers and it made me realise how much goes into creating the ‘look’ of a set; and it also made me appreciate how much better a good production design team can make a film.
That day I picked up a Kino Flow light, an LED 1×1 panel, a couple of light stands, a dolly, an extra tripod and plenty of shot bags. This was great (mostly for my confidence), because we got to practice setting everything up for the next day. It gave me some reassurance in knowing that I wasn’t completely hopeless at lighting a scene. We also put the dolly together in preparation for a couple of shots. However, after some test shooting, we realised that the dolly wasn’t completely smooth. The cracks where the pipes connected were only small, but when the wheels of the dolly ran over them they created a noticeable shaky effect. The fact that we had the tracks on slanted concrete didn’t help either. We tried to fill in the gaps with blue tack and tape, and we created some resistance on the ground using material and newspaper under the tracks. These things helped a bit, but they still couldn’t completely get rid of the shake. Therefore, we decided to only use part of the dolly where there wasn’t any cracks in the track and we also replaced some of the shots where we were going to dolly with panning shots instead.
This is a photo of Rhys setting up: he was kind of director, kind of grip, kind of gaffa and kind of production designer.
Here is a video that Max the director made about the creation of the set:
The actual shoot day was quite long and I constantly felt like there was heaps for me to do, particularly because we were fighting with the light. Even when the sound guy and the actors weren’t involved, being a DOP, I was always trying to get cutaways of the cafe or cleaning my lenses and charging batteries etc. (The cast and crew were all extremely well fed though, which was great because it kept us going strong throughout the day). We were lucky with the weather because it was consistent – however sunny it was, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We would have preferred it to be slightly overcast to get more even, diffused light because the shadows were harsh and it was difficult to expose for the sunny areas as well as the shadows. The weather looks good for our next two shooting days, but hopefully it’s sunny (without clouds) as well, so that the film looks consistent. (Whatever happens though, the film is set in Melbourne, so I’m sure viewers will understand). I mainly used the Kino Flow light to spotlight the subjects’ faces when they were in shadow, because it gives a nice, soft coverage. We ended up lighting Scene 1 (the kitchen scene I have test shot), using only artificial light, because we were shooting this scene at the end of the day on Saturday and so we had lost almost all natural light. We replaced the kitchen’s fluorescent light with an LED panel overhead (because it had been flickering, creating banding in the frame) and then we had a Kino Flow shining through the window as a replacement for sunlight. I think it ended up looking pretty natural, which we were happy with.
Although I got a little stressed when certain shots weren’t working how I wanted them to, the day was mainly stress-free, because everyone’s questions were being directed at Max, and not me, which allowed me to concentrate solely on framing and lighting. This was an experience I had never had before. I thought I would feel the pressure of having 20+ people watching me shoot a scene, but I was so focused on what I had to do, that I never really noticed everyone’s gaze. It was also great to work with Max, because he was amazingly calm throughout the day and took all of my ideas on board. The first AD, although rushing us through some shots when we were running behind time, did her job magnificently. She made sure that all the exterior scenes were completed before we completely lost sunlight, she ensured that everything was set up safely (gaffa taping all the power cords to the ground), she called all the shots and she let us do our thing when we wanted to do some creative alternate takes. It was incredibly enjoyable and has made me reconsider my original desire to become an editor. When I first entered the degree, all I had wanted to do was post-production, but now I am seriously contemplating focusing on cinematography.
Amazingly, most the footage is usable i.e. in focus. The first shot we took on the day has a lot of lens flare which is a shame (and could have easily been fixed by using a hood on my lens), however, it’s not completely unusable. I also wish we had had more time to shoot the main ‘chaotic’ cafe scene in a couple of different ways. We ended up only really getting two alternate shots of the action: one long dolly/pan shot of the action and one closeup of the primary actor in the film. However, I would have really like to get more different shots of the scene e.g. a closeup of the waitress’ feet tripping over, so that I could create a rapidly edited sequence that builds in intensity and thus reflects the chaos of the scene.
PS. This is where I am up to on my schedule now (surprisingly only a couple of days behind):