Thursday, August 5, 2010

Film Project- A whole new world

One of the theatre companies I regularly work with, Silk Road Theatre Project, decided this summer to turn one of the origional 15 minutes plays from The DNA Trail into a short film. No one on the theatre team knew anything about film, but we hired a film director and three other experienced film artists and set off on a trial by fire. I learned a TON.

In no particular order-

-Film lights and theatre lights are not the same. They may say PARcan, but the usual ones we had in the theatre were not nearly strong enough. Our theatre PARcans were 500-750 watts, for the film we used 2K and 1K Watt lamps. In general think fewer, stronger directional lights as opposed to more, weaker lights that would create a uniform wash. On this note, we originally thought we wouldn't have to spend any money renting lights because we had so many in the theatre stock, that is a mistake we won't make next time.
-The biggest job of a a film make-up artist is to keep powder nearby to continually powder and freshen actors who get sweaty and shiny during the shoot.
-It takes forever. They told me this, they all told me over and over again when we were prepping and planning, I didn't get it. It can take half an hour (or more) to set up lights and camera for a single shot. We had many lights already programmed into the board which I thought would help, it may have, but it still took forever to set up each shot. Our final product will be a 15 minute film. It took us 26 hours to shoot.
Some of our film crew told us that average is about 4 pages per day. We were able to do 9, but it was all in one location on a closed set and we were able to have 8 hours of rehearsal on set the week before to plan. I was sure that we could be efficient and prepared and that they were exaggerating. There were some things we could have been more prepared for, but they weren't exaggerating. We worked two thirteen hour days and no one was being lazy.
-Important tools to have on set that you might have at the theatre or can buy at Target: Black fabric to reduce bounce from lights or shield shadows (ideally deuvateen), white poster board (to reflect light), foam core board (to shield light spill).
-We used clothes-pins to clip gel to lights. Unlike in a theatrical setting the gel doesn't need to look pretty and neat. We clipped the gel to the outside of the lights, could easily remove it, and then didn't need to cut it so it could be reused multiple times on different sized instruments.
-"camera tape" is gaff tape and you can buy it cheaper from theatrical suppliers.
-This may be an over generalization, but on this project I found that film people think much more last minute. This makes sense because they often don't get to be on set until the day of the shoot and they don't know what they need until they get there. For me this meant that there were multiple times when they didn't tell me something was needed until very late in the game. If I had worked in film before I may have seen some of the requests coming, but since I was so new to the process I found myself blind sided multiple times by large requests at the last minute.

Overall it was a fun experience, and it was really refreshing once filming was done to be able to simply walk away from the projects (as opposed to a theatre project which continues to run for a month or two after opening night). I'd certainly be up for trying it again, this time with a much better sense of what I am getting myself into.

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