Friday, November 30, 2007

the good feeling at the end of the day

we were at the park and ride at 6:15 this morning. the twelve hour turnaround doesn't really apply on this show, and since we're so small, i think people are generally ok with that. we arrived the slc airport around 7, and it seems that if you know who to talk to, it's not all that difficult to shoot at an airport. though the cloud cover didn't give us much light to shoot with until about 8:30, but it was nicely diffused, giving a nice look to those four shots. plus, we were able to get enough distance to get a shallow focus, which i like.

brian commented that being in movies often takes you to places you would otherwise never see. we sent everyone else back to the provo airport and we jumped in a truck with the chief operations supervisor and drive far out to on the runways to get shots of the planes taking off and landing. remember in 'wayne's world', when they hang out on their car under the planes landing? yeah, it's pretty loud.

back in provo we were mostly in a small private jet. as a student, the concept of lighting the whole scene for the master and then only needing to tweak for the close-ups seemed impossible. but today we took time and lit the whole plane on both sides, including a green screen in front of the cockpit, then just shot everything. i considered which side to light from based on where the sun would be coming from if you were flying to indonesia, dismissed in favor of actor placement, then reconsidered it as the effects guy suggested the sun placement, and chose to do so upon review of the blocking. it's also a new feeling being the one the effects guy is talking to, him asking me my ideas for shots and asking me how i'm going to light this or telling me how i can best do it to make the compositing work. two weeks ago i was the runt in the darkroom; what happened? [don't worry, i'll be the runt again come spring, and that's fine]. jumping from shot to shot inside the plane, i would have liked some time to touch up each shot, but we worked a long day yesterday and all of us, myself included, wanted to get out in a good time today. looking back over the last three days, we've rarely waited on lighting very long. i suppose some people with 'asc' after their names would tell me i should light until it looks good and defend myself, but, as i write this, i think they would also say that you have to learn to work within your constraints, and i feel good about my ability in that.

walking up the stairs this evening, i wondered how it was that the d.p.s on the disney movies i've done don't seem more worn out at the end of the day. well, one, i probably don't look as beat when i'm leaving set, either; the rush hasn't left yet. second, they have a crew of 10-20 working under them to shoot 3-5 pages. i have to do 7-9 pages with three people. three people for whom i'm very grateful and am happy to be working with. and they're quite good. i sometimes wonder how much of their work they end up doing, and i either say 'yes' or 'no', leaving me to ponder if i should be asking them for ideas more or less. i think it's good to be collaborative; film is extremely collaborative. ask anyone to describe a job on set and you could easily ask 'doesn't the ______ do that?' and, most likely, yes; the duties overlap and fluctuate, and that's fine. while i could ask ryan to start lighting a scene if i'm unavailable, he would do an excellent job, but when he would ask my opinion, there would be things i like and things that don't work for me. and if he were given the same equipment, he'd probably do it totally different than i do. everyone has their style. certainly, i'm still developing and refining my style, but i think i tend to light bold and contrasty, which comes from my fear of being too flat and dull [though those still tend to sneak in at times]. if this sounds at all boasty or braggy, please keep in mind that being an artist brings with it constant self-introspection and sometimes you have to declare 'i'm doing a fine job!' just to keep from cutting your own ear off.

i'm hoping that things will slow down in hawaii. one advantage to living out on location is that when you are separated from your life, you can't try to live it. all you do is film, which means there is less of the real world to compete for your time.

we go to hawaii in 30 hours and i have to first shoot out 11 and a half pages.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

from one dp to another

it's 11:30 pm; i have to be at the park & ride at 6:15 a.m. i've been home for about 15 minutes. we wrapped around 9:15, i helped clean up, then stayed with brian as we downloaded the footage and looked at everything.

this morning we started in some business offices, and by the end i was feeling rather frustrated, due largely in part to one shot that i really just didn't like. as we were leaving, my friend ryan asked me my opinion on how things were going; i said i didn't like that my camera's ISO was 100 instead of 400 like i expected, that the depth of field was also much more than i anticipated, that my soft fx filter didn't work because of that weird ghosting, and that i sometimes look at a scene and have no idea how do it. it's just that, with art, it's so subjective that it's hard to know if you're doing a good job or not. and i was feeling the results from not having had prepared with the script as thoroughly as i should have. ryan kindly and honestly said that, from one cinematographer to another, i was doing really well with what i had to work with and that i have a very good eye. hearing that was soothing and envigorating, since ryan is a very good dp himself, and that helped carry me throughout the rest of the day.

at the next location we did a fine job of turning half a living room into a basement corporate office, where we spent the rest of the day. i thought we'd fly through, as i didn't plan to relight much. but, whether it was because of my cinematographer instinct or sheer necessity, we did augment each scene as we moved along. by the end of it all, we had an odd, organic maze of lights and stands, the kind of mess that only comes by adding piece by piece as thought or whimsy dictates. the last shot of the day i wasn't too keen on, but my feet were hurting severely [one of those times when you realize you haven't sat down since lunch six hours ago] and we all just wanted to be done. i've heard vittorio storaro [perhaps the greatest living cinematographer and philosopher of light and color] say that he can tell you which scenes he's lit after having worked 10 hours. it's nice to know i'm not the only one.

i once considered moving somewhere new and touting myself as a camera operator, as it looks like a fun and well-paid job that i like to think i'm good at. i don't consider that any more. sure, it can be fun, and i think i have a certain base talent, but in these past two days i've learned how much talent and artistry goes into something as simple sounding as 'camera operating'. framing up a decent shot that looks nice is something the average viewer takes for granted; actually, unless you've done it yourself, you take it for granted. simply keeping nice and effective framing takes a lot of work and technical talent. designing to tell the story on top is further humbling.

i'll get a little over five hours of sleep tonight, and tomorrow we have a lot of work inside of an airplane. and then we end up in hawaii in a few days. wow.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

how did i get here?

today was day 1 of production on the island movie [despite seeing the slate all day, i still can't remember the name of the movie]. i like our camera, despite having several issues with it--it's about 25% as light sensitive as i thought it would be, and we got a bizarre reflection when we added in the soft fx filter; until i can figure out why it's not working, we won't be using it, which means that our lovely hd camera will be holding every little detail we record. checking the footage at the end of the day, the majority was darker than i expected, reaffirming the truth that video monitors cannot be trusted. but a little work in color correction and it was looking fine. i think it's cool that we shoot onto blue-ray discs, and video certainly has it's advantages, but there's also a LOT that i like about film and, in some ways, it's easier.

am i getting better? absolutely. do i still have a long way to go? all i'm learning is how little i really know. there are times when i look at the scene and know that there's more that can be done to it, but sometimes i can't even see where else to light when i do have time. but we did have some good shots, too.

by the end of the day, i couldn't even think as brian and i worked through tomorrow's shots; i mostly nodded my head.

sleep is really important. here's to another good day tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

GAH!! it happened again...

i was happy to have a free day yesterday and looked forward to filling in of the notable moments that have been happening. but i sat down at my computer and found that i couldn't write for the life of me. nothing good was coming out. and so, rather than get behind even further still once again [notice how there are no posts for december last year?], i'm just going to jot down the most notable moments in a few lines and then be up to date.

elephants!--sept. 28 kristin and i went to see the ringling brothers circus. despite all the amazing acts and talents, i still get most excited about the elephants. afterward we went to a cool pizza place and had a whole lot of fun taking pictures. fun times, indeed.

chicken and waffles--oct. 2 l.a. was much nicer than i imagined. i spent the afternoon talking with kirk's wife, with whom i'm very good friends; we talked about life, work, marriage, and raising children. i felt like a girl. we went to 'rosco's chicken and waffles' for dinner; delicious.

they might be the hollywood horns--oct. 3 my full day in los angeles: people are friendly, smoothies are expensive but delicious, it's neither as glamorous nor as dirty as i expected. l.a. tmbg fans are much geekier and not nearly as fanatic as the utahns; we were at the very front of the show, i tossed a quarter on the stage at the admonition of a text message [to make my presence on the show], and they brought with them a horn section. truly madly deeply wonderful.
he called me--oct. 11 as we were prepping the camera equipment for 'dadnapped', i got a phone call from optimus prime himself. he warned me that my roommate mark may actually be working for the decepticons under the alias 'bonecrusher' and that i can help the autobot resistance by buying 'transformers' when it comes out on dvd next week.

the infatuation isn't going away--oct. 12 i still listen to my tally hall cd at least once a day and love it all the more.

thank you letter to the confused receptionist at ihc--oct. 31 i overslept on halloween morning and was awaken by a call from the hospital, confirming my appointment for a ct scan the next day. after a few moments of confusion, she found out i wasn't jeff hall and i realized that set call was salt lake forty minutes ago. i wore red contacts and vampire fangs and no one was upset that i was late.

the loader, the cork, and the hundredth roll--nov. 7 the production celebrates the 100th roll on the camera by having champagne and chocolate strawberries. since i'm friends with the food guys, they brought me two bottles of really good sparkling juice today. i popped my first cork and saved it.
day 25 of 25--nov. 15 in a fluke that neither i nor the producer saw coming, we shot through all but 200' feet of our film inventory on the last day of the show. that was 2000' more than we had even gone through. it was a crazy day, but like the loaves and the fishes, we somehow had just enough at the end of the day. i enjoyed the balancing act and the producer was very happy with me at the end.

dancing the night away--nov. 16 i like crew wrap parties and wish there were more of them. i spent the evening dancing with the producer's cute assistant and remembered what it was like to have a date show that she liked being with you. everyone said we were the best couple on the floor, and a lady who used to be on the byu dance team asked if she could 'borrow' me for a dance. my hands smelled like perfume on the way home. i really liked that.