Sunday, May 9, 2010

Film Shoot

Last week I worked on a film shoot that documented a person’s entire day – from 5 AM on Thursday morning until 5 AM on Friday morning. The shoot took place during the subject and filmmaker’s birthday. The idea came from James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which every chapter is a new hour of the day, and so for every hour we had a new cinematographer come and film him. The same thing was happening with his wife and son, so we had at least three cameras going at all times.

I was in charge of making sure that the handoff of shooters happened smoothly. We tried to make the transition as smooth as possible. While Camera A was shooting the subject I would prep Camera B and give it to the next cinematographer. At the turn of the hour Camera B would shoot Camera A for one minute, at which point Camera A would turn to Camera B, Camera B would turn to the subject, and Camera A would be turned off.

Although we tried to make these transitions smooth, the time-based nature of it made the day full of striation. This was in part a technical necessity (batteries and SD cards cannot shoot for 24 hours), and also an artistic choice. Being the person who was in charge of these quick changes I became uncomfortably aware of the time. For a full day, every hour became an ordeal for me, an event. Sometimes these events were more stressful than others (did people show up on time, are we in the middle of the city, how many empty SDs cards do I have in my pocket right now), but they all happened with the same amount of time in between. I was affected when I finally tried to go to sleep by popping my head up on the hour, expecting to have to do something. My body had become used to the rhythm.

The inevitable outcome of the piece, was that it became a film about making a film, rather than an average day (which is what was expected). Of course, the subject is a filmmaker, so the nature of the day is not entirely unusual. One thing that I really noticed about the piece was how it brought together a community. With 45 shooters come in and out over the course of the day -- all of whom were somehow connected to the filmmaker, and most of whom were artists – I watched the world that surrounded him meld together. Many of the shooters would have three shifts (one on each subject) with an hour break in between each one, so they would be around for 5+ hours. People would hang out at the house on break, and stay late, as a community of artists gathered. I found the scene very inspiring.

One of my moments of the day was when all three subjects (as well as their three shooters) were in the backyard. Mom and Dad followed closely as their 14-month-old son ran around the yard. Once the shooters had their angles they stayed close as well. So the outcome was 6 people moving in unison, all moving in rhythm as a cohesive unit, as a toddler led the way kicking a ball as he went.

-- Jake

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