Comm Lab Video & Sound week 4 magic on a shoestring
This week has felt like a lifetime in the blink of an eye. Watching myself and my team (who are just awesome, thank you Tee & Fenfen) go from fumbling with a DSLR last Wednesday to what we wrapped with before 3pm today was truly magic. We started with the challenge of Jenny's critique that depending on a kid actor is a big unknown, and Marina's critique to keep socio-economic constructs in mind when creating characters/relationships/settings. It's a tough place to start after class has just ended at 9pm.
Rehashing the plot, staying construct-conscious
We quickly decided the kid was out—it's a school year for all of us including any kid actor, and scheduling would have had to come down to the serendipitous, especially if we wanted to use natural daylight. We sifted through different sorts of two-adult domestic relationships (couples, roommates, siblings, adult child and parent) and how the emotion-control scenario of our plot would be affected by fitting different dynamics together. I wanted to be hyper-conscious of our casting (whether it was actors or other students or us) and how that would look with one person in that partnership being emotionally manipulated. It's a moment of clarity when you remember that intention is not the same thing as outcome (or reception to that outcome). A kid tricking their parent into being happy felt like a joke, a domestic partner doing that to another person living in their home felt like something that needs to be talked about.
I think here is where I started feeling like we should maybe take a step toward the creepy, because it was going to read creepy no matter what. I was thinking of how weird pharmaceutical ads feel (the leap from an emotion-softening app to zoloft is not far), and we started talking about Black Mirror, the Stepford Wives, Get Out, other places where satire meets creepy meets social-commentary. Tones of too cheerful. Something that shouldn't be happening in any real relationship but obviously is. Casting still felt tedious for me though, especially considering we were going to have to work with whoever was available that day (smallllll time budget), which presented an anxiety-inducing number of unknown outcomes for me, and honestly I could write this whole blog post based on that.
We still wanted our anger-inducing moment to be iconic—the visual of a foot stepping on a lego is so visceral, and everyone knows that weird feeling of getting irrationally enflamed for a second as your foot registers pain. Emotions are weird—you step on a lego, your body panics and thinks you have to fight whatever attacked you for a quick second. hm.
Recreating the storyboard, location, shoot
We were able to use an apartment near the school (thank you, Dennis!) and started reformatting our shots around what we knew from scouting it. The kitchen and living room had a sightline and gave us a lot of room to work in. We ended up writing out the shots and action line by line, and I tried to sketch out a new storyboard but I'm pretty sure it was only legible to me because I am definitely not an illustrator. We were lucky to have Fenfen's experienced talent for the first story board, but we didn't have a week this time... it's ok to to laugh.
On the day of the shoot, we walked the written story "panel" as a group and then with the actors when we were ready to get the shot. The actors, Amanda and Rel, are friends of mine and Tee's, we were lucky to have such chill, gung-ho friends (on a Tuesday morning)! We saved a lot of time by shooting non-linearly and instead getting every shot we needed at each camera position at once regardless of narrative order. That part is for editing. We had a lot of natural daylight, thankfully. We started with ISO 800 and an fStop of 3.5, which seemed a little dark on the camera but trusting what Jenny told us about not trusting the screen, we got the results we were hoping for:
There's a lot to go through still, will update here or in a Pt. 2 with more thoughts about the shoot.