Professionalism in Practice – ORDEAL (Dmitrij & Deborah’s shoot)

I had the opportunity to operate as director of photography on Dmitrij and Deborah’s shoot of Ordeal. I made a real mess of things on the first day of the shoot in which I arrived an hour late to the unit call due to my oversleeping. I have never been that late to a call time nor I have ever overslept when I knew I had to be at a unit call in the early hours of the morning. This is a mistake I would never repeat again in future.

Onto the shoot itself, principal photography lasted three days long and I learnt a lot of new things during this shoot from the DoP’s perspective.

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One thing I learnt is the subtelty in how to light a scene in a night-time interior. In a book trailer last term were I served as gaffer, I was able to successfully light a night time interior, but this time round I struggled. Partly this was due to the fact that it was hard to pinpoint a natural source of light. The only one came from the TV and generally TV lights flicker but the artifical lighting we used for that did not flicker at all (the light from the actual TV source wasn’t strong enough), making the action within the scene look softly spotlit rather than “dramatically lit”. This is something I’ll have to learn for future in that it is hard to manipulate natural light from artificial sources (e.g. TVs, house lights) so to counter this I would have to procure better lighting equipment to replicate the “natural light sources” on a living room night time interior.

This was also the first time I have ever properly shot day for night by covering the windows with kitchen foil to replicate a night-time interior.

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This really helped capture the interior night-time look that was needed for the scenes we were shooting inside the house. Although they did cause a problem sound-wise as the wind from outside would cause the foil to rattle loudly at times. Perhaps employing the use of black bin bags would be a better alternative material to use to cover windows in the future.

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Relatively, I think the shoot went smoothly with a few hiccups. There were a few instances where we only got one or two takes of an individual shot and I think Dmitrij could have been more involved in actually directing the performance of his actors as I felt their performances were very flat. Normally when I’m DP’ing a shoot, I like to pay attention to everything that is within the frame on a superficial level and tend to ignore the performance of the actors as that is the director’s job to watch closely, but I couldn’t help feel that the performances in this film stood out to me as not great even as I was not particularly focusing on them. I did not want to undermine Dmitrij’s authority as a director when I began to notice the stiffness of the acting as I would not want a crewmember to do so to me if I am helming the director’s chair on a project. However I did offer suggestions to Dmitrij in terms of the blocking of the actors’ movements as well as inquiring whether he was happy with the performance of his actors in a certain take, somehow trying to get him to really consider their performances and to direct them accordingly. I cannot say for sure whether these subtle tactics of mine worked or not but after viewing an initial rough cut of the film in the edit, I could see that the film could do with a lot of work, performance-wise with the actors.

Also, I cannot say whether or not my subtle tactics were something I should have done in the first place as it isn’t the DoP’s job to be concerned with actor’s peformance but I just tried to help Dmitrij shoot his film in the best way it can be shot.

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Filed under MDA2900 - Producing & Directing: Film Form & Practice

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