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#1 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 12:02 PM

Week Three and Four of Prep

Been busy, so weeks 3 and 4 of prep get wrapped into one blog.

Nearly all of our locations are locked ? at least the first week is all set. We have 4 different locations in week 1, including an entire day shooting on a bus, 3 days of crowd scenes (and the first movie I've shot where they were paying extras, so when the call sheet says 50 background, there will hopefully be 50 background!), one sizeable night exterior (and the last scene in the movie), and 2 days in a book store, one of which is being shot as an overnight ? the trick there is that all the scenes are day scenes and half the location is made up of large windows.

We just barely selected our week 2 location (where 42 of 101 pages takes place) ? I've only been able to spend a collective 2 hours there and only about an hour of that was a tech scout with my Dept. Heads ? it's difficult to properly prep with so little time. Obviously we can shoot there, but when you have limited money and limited schedule, your best and most valuable resource is time; time to plan, time to prepare, time to anticipate problems BEFORE they become problems and either head them off or come up with alternate plans. The less prepared you are, the more reactionary you become to situations. It makes me nervous because we have to average about 7 pages a day (and it's 7 pages of dialogue) ? nearly every scene in this film has some major dramatic element going on, so there are few "simple" scenes. It's very odd to me that I've been on the production for four weeks of prep, but virtually nothing was done in weeks one and two because there were no locations, the director was doing a lot of casting, etc. I felt weird about spending so much time re-reading the script on my own and doing my own prep stuff, waiting to start working with other people, then the final week or so of prep became a mad dash of throwing things together.

We ended up pulling our camera equipment from Hollywood Camera ? I can't say enough good things about their customer service. Not only did they really work with our budget, they also made a point of working with me as to make sure I had the tools I wanted and needed. I pretty much have everything I asked for ? I mentioned in passing a few slow-motion shots the director was thinking about and they threw in an Arri III as a high speed/B-Camera for the run of the show. We're shooting with a Moviecam Compact, which I'm happy with because I like it for handheld and it's quiet enough that even in the most intimate scenes there won't be an issue for sound ? the viewfinder isn't quite as bright as I'd like, and I'm already missing the behind-the-lens filtration that only Panavision cameras have, but all in all I'm happy. We're using a variety of Zeiss Superspeeds (from 18mm to 180mm), a 200mm Nikor (for some reason they've thrown this lens in for us, but I suspect I'll never use it), and an Angenieux 25-250 HP. Cinelease is providing our G&E package at a great deal ? our HMI package (which we'll only carry for week one) consists of an 18K, a 6K, and an assortment of smaller units; our Tungsten goes from Maxi-Brutes and 10K's down. I've made a point of not having kino flos on the truck (though my gaffer and I decided to have a couple just in case) ? my last show was all kino and it drove me nuts ? I just never like the way they look unless I go to great efforts to alter their quality; I did a romantic comedy a few years ago that used the Image 80 on nearly every shot, but it was always through a 4x4 of muslin and another frame of diffusion after that, so I figure why bother using a kino at all at that point. I'll admit that since I usually use kino-flos for their speed and ease of use, a part of me wants to avoid them just to push myself into trying something new.

I'm very excited about Post Logic being our telecine house ? my favorite colorist is there and they've always done great work for me.

Peter Paige (my director) is really fantastic ? I suspect this will be one of my best collaborations I've ever had. He's got a wealth of creative ideas and isn't afraid of being bold with his choices ? we've specifically talked about avoiding standard coverage. After weeks of discussions and watching films and talking abojut the film, I put together an on-line "look-book"; the link is web.mac.com/jaycro. I also put together a visual treatment for the film (a rule book so to speak for myself) ? if I can figure out how to post that as well I will. I'm excited to shoot something that's about finding beauty in unconventional ways ? about letting things not be perfect or "right"; Peter wants to play with focus a great deal as well as keeping the camera constantly moving ? not in terms of camera movement, but when there are locked-off shots to keep the camera floating so there's a constant tension. There's already a solid short hand between us and I feel a great deal of trust.

I shot some stock tests ? this has been a headache for me. The look of the film calls for a soft, low-contrast, desaturated look. I'd originally been wanting to shoot 5229 or even 5277 ? what I got instead was 5279 for all of my day & night interiors and night exteriors and 5274 for my day exteriors; those are both considerably higher contrast and more saturated. This is one of those curses of low budget features working very hard to maintain shooting on film ? you have to make deals for things you don't want or can't really use. Kodak bent over backwards to give us a great deal (they've always been really good to me), but I feel like the producer should have pushed harder for what we wanted and, to make the movie we want to make, needed. Be that as it may, I've shot two rounds of tests to understand these stocks. I found 5274 is pretty unforgiving in underexposure ? at 2 stops under it's still quite good, but at 2 ½ under it falls off rapidly; that ½ stop makes a major difference. 5279 is a contrasty stock when compared to the 5218 everyone shoots now ? it's surprising, actually, how contrasty it looks after having not shot it for a while now. Peter really responded to the 5274 underexposed one stop and printed back up ? it knocked back quite a bit of saturation and really eliminated a lot of the deep blacks that we're trying to avoid. Since it's my day stock (and I can't use too many ND filters or I'll never be able to see through the lens) I don't think I'll be able to rate it at 400, but it gave me some ideas. The first round of tests also involved filter tests; coral filters were too heavy for everyone's taste, but an 81EF seemed just right for the day exteriors ? I'll create the feeling of warmth for everything else via gels and art direction; I don't want the effect of the warmth to get lost by an audience getting use to it. Peter and I also agreed we didn't like any of the diffuision; I usually don't use diffision at all, but it's especially wrong for this film. I actually really liked how the 1/2 Black Diffusion/FX looked and we'll carry a few grades of that just in case. My second round of tests was designed to figure out how to destroy the stock into something else ? I shot 5279 rated everywhere from 200 asa up to 1600 asa and had it printed up or down accordingly. What I found was that 800 asa (underexposing by 2/3 of a stop and printing up) added some grain and a little milkiness to the blacks that was quite nice for our story. 5274 is going to be rated at 250 asa, which isn't much, but I just can't afford to lose any more visibility in the viewfinder.

I'm excited to get started.
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#2 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 11:52 AM

I can't tell you how helpful these writeups have been. I appreciate it!
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 12:08 PM

If you wanted a softer, more pastel stock, why didn't you consider Fuji Eterna?

I suppose pull-processing is out of your budget for your daytime material -- that would help soften '74.

There's also filters like UltraCons and Smoque. And there's real smoke, at least for your interiors.
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#4 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 02:27 PM

It was a fight with the producer and I lost - she worked out a deal with Kodak that I couldn't beat with Fuji (though Fuji did make a really generous offer). Same thing with the pull process - after I was told I had to use the 5279 and 5274, I tried getting a go-ahead on pull processing, but also lost that battle due to budget.

I tested the Ultracons and some low-cons, but the director didn't much care for them. I never looked at the Smoque filters (but thanks for the tip, I'll look into them next time).

I didn't want to use any smoke because there's a lot of hard light in the film and I didn't want any shafts of light - plus keeping the smoke consistent would have been havoc on the schedule and the way my director liked to shoot.

We ended up shooting more film than had originally been budgeted for, so it would have been even more expensive to do pull-processing. In the end we just had a budget that was too tight to do everything we wanted - in an earlier posting I think I observed that it really should have been on Super 16, but everyone was determined to make it go on 35mm.
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#5 Albert Smith

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 08:11 AM

just wanted to say I was just looking throuhg your look book and was inspired haha. Just all your little blurbs, good stuff. "What the characters see is what we want to see" haha on that great lost and translation shot...and "At night, it?s dark. Don?t make night what it isn?t."...well said.
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