Filming Diary – 05/05/2017

On Friday 5th I did my first batch of filming. Originally I wanted to get all of my filming done in one weekend, and had planned for a second filming date on Sunday 7th. However, I quickly realised that shooting, essentially, four short films in one weekend was far too ambitious, so I decided I would cancel the Sunday filming date. Obviously, in the real business of film, this would be very disrespectful to all the people I’d hired for production who would be expecting work and a paycheck for their services. If I were a real director/producer, I would have to suck it up and do the Sunday filming regardless, since I’d planned it. But thankfully, I’m not a real director so calling off a few friends who hadn’t had plans regardless wasn’t a huge deal.

I knew that on Friday I would need to get a lot done. Filming was to commence at 17:00 (though some complications caused it to occur at more like 17:30) and I needed to film three out of the four poems that I was using for my final piece. I was also anxious because two of these poems required daylight and although it gets darker later in the summer, I still didn’t want to risk loosing daylight and missing the opportunity to film.

The first poem I filmed was Heart to Heart by Rita Dove. For this one, I decided to take a slightly different approach. In all of my other films, I would be using actors and nameless characters, but for this one I wanted to use objects. This poem is about the poet’s heart, and there’s a lot of symbolism within the poem. I used several objects, including an apple, tealight candles, a hammer, and many more.

I wanted the camera to remain stationary throughout the whole piece, so a tripod was a must. I already own a tripod so I didn’t need to book one out. I also wanted the view to be a high angle shot, as if the audience are looking down on what’s unfolding before them. I also had to find a suitable counter to use as the entire background for the film. I decided to use my kitchen counter which was suitable enough, however it meant that the camera had to be placed in an awkward and precarious position.

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As you can see, the camera is placed on the tripod on my kitchen counter, and it’s at an angle so that it hangs over the object placed on the counter, like a bird-eye-view of the object and it’s interactions. To be able to actually reach the camera controls, I needed to stand on a chair, and that comes with it’s own risk factors. However, I was careful not to fall or knock the tripod in any way that might cause the camera to fall, causing damage to college property or anyone in the room.

The camera being so high up also had good points to counter the bad. For this film I was using several viscous, or liquid components, and I wouldn’t want to accidentally get golden syrup all over the camera. Because the camera was so far up and out of the way, with everything else being so far away from it on the counter, there wasn’t even a chance for anything wet or sticky to get on and damage the camera.

I managed to blow through this poem fairly quickly, which I was pleased with because, as I mentioned before, I was worried about loosing daylight. If there’s one thing that I would change about this filming technique, it would be the surface that I filmed on. I chose the counter because it seemed to me at the time to be the best surface. Also my kitchen has lots of windows which let in a lot of natural light, and if I had decided to film on my dining room table (in a room which has no windows) it would have been low lit and I didn’t want that because it wouldn’t have been as quality work. On the other hand, I didn’t like the black grainy colour for the background of these shots. I was thinking that I could alter the colour in editing, however I think that would be tricky because the counter’s not one solid colour (it’s still worth a try though). I would have preferred the counter to have been a pastel colour, completely on the other end of the colour spectrum to black. If I were to redo this filming (which may be required as I’ve set back a week before half term to film re-shoots) I would use a cloth or fabric of a lighter colour to be able to have a lighter more pastel background. I think I might have to re-shoot this one if I can’t somehow fix the colour of the background in post-production.

The second poem I filmed was Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye (analysis of this poem can be found here). For this poem I had a semi-coherent narrative going on about two lovers, one of which dies. For this I used two of my friends I had invited over to be in the film. Here is the shot list I created for this film:

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I used lines of the poem to signify which shot I would be filming. I had all the shots written down in a notebook as well as a storyboard, which can both be found here.

This film contained the only shot that meant we would need to stray away from my house for the filming, the rest of the shots could be completed either in my house, in the street just outside (which isn’t at all a busy one), or in my garden. However, we didn’t have to travel far as it was just a two minute walk up to my nearest bus stop. In this shot I wanted to have two people stood at the bus stop, and one would be holding an umbrella, and would step over to the other who was visibly cold and exposed to the weather. This would be symbolising how the two lovers had met.

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I ordered the shots, in a way that would be most convenient. The first shot being the one where we had to travel the short distance to the bus stop, and then the shots in the garden for DNSAMGAW, then the shots in the house. I knew that I needed to be efficient and film the outside shots that needed daylight first because it was nearing the end of the day and I didn’t want to miss my window of opportunity. I also knew that I needed to film the indoor shots that required natural daylight quickly after the outside ones. The filming for DNSAMGAW went smoothly, although reviewing the footage after the fact I think I’ll try and reshoot some of the footage because there was some that I wasn’t satisfied with.

Next I moved on to film my last poem, which was City Dusk by F. Scott Fitzgerald (analysis of this poem can be found here). Here is the shot list, and the pre-production aspects can be found here.

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As expected, I needed to film these shots in the dark, so we had a (well needed and deserved) break until it got darker, although it was nearing dusk anyway so we didn’t have to wait long. During this time I reviewed the footage I had and was happy with it, with perhaps a few exceptions that I was confident I could reshoot at a later date without needing my actors. When it did get dark, we all headed out into my street to film the street scenes for City Dusk. Originally, I had wanted to film this on a cobbled street somewhere, so I was thinking about filming at the Barbican. However, I thought it would be too taxing traveling there because although it isn’t far, I wanted to confine the shooting to my house and within walking distance of my house as much as possible equally for efficiency and convenience. Also, I wasn’t too comfortable filming in a semi-unknown place in the dark, so I decided to use my street as, although it isn’t cobble stones, it still satisfied my vision for how the scene would look.

I directed my actors to perform natural movements and interactions with each other as they walked down the street. I’m really pleased with these shots because I think they look very natural and organic, as if the character’s on screen are not acting and don’t actually know I’m behind them following them with a camera. For these shots I used a figrig to stable my shots, although I wanted to have a little camera shake to add to that organic feeling. Originally, I had planned to book out an over camera portable light because I would be filming in the dark, but there weren’t any available for filming, so I had to suffice with using the torch on my iPhone. This wasn’t inherently a bad thing however, because the torch provided ample light for filming in the dark. The only difficulty was me having to hold both the light and the figrig, so it was a little precarious, but because I was using everyone I had on screen, there was no one to help me off screen. Perhaps for the next project, I’ll make sure that along side actors I have someone to help me behind the scenes as well.

After the street shots were done, we moved into my back garden to film some final shots for my City Dusk film. These shots once again required the light but because I didn’t have everyone on screen at once, there were people to help hold the light. I particularly like one set of shots I took where I instructed them to move the light as a filmed a close up of the face, so the light and shadows on the face would dramatically change.

Overall, I’m really pleased with this filming because I managed to get three of my films filmed. I know I’ll have to reshoot some of the footage because on reviewing it I found that I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, but I have plenty of time to be doing that so I’m not worried or stressed about that. I think I worked safely and efficiently, with good time management

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