Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mistakes- part 2

A few months after my "Stage Door/Stonehenge" experience I produced another student film. The plot was simple, a man and a woman worked together, had a little spat, she gets a phone call, gets upset and leaves the office. The man, thinking it was something he did, follows her. As the producer I was charged with two big tasks. Find a field where the man and woman could have their big scene, and figure out how to light it- faking moonlight.

We spent the summer searching for the right location. We finally found one where we could do an electrical tie-in to the nearest house - the home owner was an alumni of our school, and we offered him a cameo in the film, in exchange for pulling power from his house all night long. (This is a good example of two things I have mentioned in recent posts Quid Pro Quo- we put him in the film for the use of his electricity and the flattery gets you everywhere principle. We buttered him up knowing what a nightmare it would be for him to have us esssentially in his backyard all night long. His ego did the rest for us.)

After we secured the location we had to figure out how to fake moonlight. We didn't have the budget for a crane and a 20,000 watt HMI light, so we decided to erect scaffolding and hang every light we could from it, then put a giant silk in front of the structure to lose the overlapping shadows. It worked.

Shooting comes and it all works out well. It was a hellish schedule, shoot all Friday night, wrap about 5am, start at 11am the next morning in the architects' office, then return to the field to shoot the rest of the shots. (We had students camp out in the field to secure the lights and scaffolding.) Anything we don't get we pick up Sunday or Sunday night. Your basic low-budget film shoot- we worked 65 of 72 hours over the weekend and then went to class on Monday.

So, what's the problem? Here's the problem... the film stinks. It looks great and I didn't even tell you about the title sequence we created with architectural renderings- best opening titles of any student film I have ever seen. The film goes down hill from there. Here, again, are the lowlights of the film:

1) Casting. We cast two 20 years old to be architects. It doesn't work, never will.
2) Story. What seemed like a mystery, this phone call, the catalyst for the whole film, was just confusing.
3) The ending. A common response to the film was "What happened?" It's not a good thing when you need to take 10 minutes to explain your five minute film.
4) The time line of the film. It starts in the day at the office and when they leave and go to the field, it's night. As Fred Willard says in A Mighty Wind, "Wha Happened?"
5) Why do they walk through a field anyway? Suddenly the film becomes about her taking a short cut?

When it was all said and down we had a nicely produced, good looking, well executed shiny turd of a film on our hands. Live and Learn. Remember it's about the story, not the color-coded organization system or lighting a field. I wish I had focused on the script and asked a simple question- why this?

PeterH

1 comment:

mrliteral said...

When I review scripts in my writer's workshop, I find myself saying the same two things over and over:

"What is the story really about?"

"It doesn't end; it stops. It needs an ending."

So, yeah. Story story story story story...gotta make it work before we do anything else.