Delayed Production Notes - 4/3/05, Sunday  

Today is Delayed day. This will be the first D.I.K.(e) Productions short shot on actual film. That's right, no digital. There has been an ongoing battle in the movie industry as to which medium is preferable.

Obviously, film is winning the battle because 95% of real movies are shot on film. If you want to see a movie in that other 5%, go see Sin City, which was made using completely digital technology. The main advantage of film is that it looks ridiculously better than digital, even better than HiDef-digital cameras. In fact, for a digital camera to effectively exceed the image quality of a 35mm film frame, the camera would require 3, 12 mega-pixel CCD's. The current generation of Hi-Def digital cameras operate at about 4.5 mega-pixels on a single CCD. Film can theoretically capture an infinite amount of image information because its a chemical process rather than a digital process. However, film is a pain to shoot when compared to the ease of digital.

I'm for film over digital, because film just plain looks better. I almost feel insulted when I see a movie that was shot on digital, just because it's the "indie" thing to do. "Hey, asshole, I'm paying 9 dollars just to see your movie, how about you put some effort into it and make it look nice? It's not exactly fun to watch pixels jagging out all over the screen." On a side note, if anyone ever tells you their film was shot "documentary style," that translates to "it was shot on digital, there was no thought given to the shot selection, and it looks like shit." It's kind of like when they list houses as "quaint" or "cozy" when that just means the master bedroom is as big as a closet.

Anyway, if you're just going to watch something on a computer or TV, then digital is great. D.I.K.(e) wouldn't even exist if it weren't for digital, so our style is heavily influenced by digital moviemaking techniques. Interestingly, the film camera we're using to shoot Delayed is only slightly bigger than your average pro-sumer miniDV camcorder (check out the pictures of me holding the camera; yes, its that small). Before we even start shooting, I'm positive the camera-work in Delayed is going to be far more advanced than any other film in my class. The camerawork will be exactly like the camera-work in other D.I.K.(e) movies. This is saying a lot, because shooting a movie on FILM that is 100% hand-held is a feat rarely tackled in a student film setting (watch a student film, and its 95% tripod shots and 5% pseudo-dolly shots. Very few seem to realize you can just pick up the camera and walk around with it). All other D.I.K.(e) movies have been 100% hand-held, and Delayed will be no exception because of our digital roots; only this time the image quality will be WAY better. Needless to say, we're all excited about this day. Here goes nothing.

Sunday - 8am (sort of) - Dan and his wushu friend Terry have come out to San Francisco for the weekend to compete in a wushu tournament. This just so happens to be the week I'm supposed to make a short for my film production class. We all went to the tournament yesterday, had a great time, and saw some awesome wushu. We all feel inspired to make this movie awesome, despite the fact we each had only 5 hours of sleep on Friday and Saturday. We wake up at 8am, which is actually 9am because we all forgot it's daylight savings time. By the time we start shooting its around 10am.

10am - I decide to skip shooting the opening shot of the movie, and push it back to the very last shot of the day. This will prove costly later. But, we shoot the rest of the opening scene quickly. We spend more time moving equipment from place to place than we do on actual shooting. But the opening scene goes really well, and everyone is helping out in some way. I enlisted the help of two film school friends, Ijah and Brant, to help with keeping camera reports, taking light meter readings and timing all the shots. The film camera we use only accepts 100 foot reels, which amounts to 2:47 seconds, so its necessary to keep an accurate list of all the shots you've done. If had to manage all those tasks myself, the shoot would have been completely bogged down.

11am - We start shooting the fight scene. We decide to eliminate a few lines of dialogue before the first exchange to tighten up the action. Dan and Terry hadn't practiced any of the fight choreography prior to shooting, but I was extremely impressed with how quickly they both picked it up. My main concern going into shooting was we would get stuck in a shot, and waste lots of time. At the very end of shooting, four was the most amount of takes we did for any one shot. We get Ijah to take video with a miniDV camcorder from an alternate angle to check the performances of all the fighting (thanks to Eric Jacobus of Stuntpeople for this tip). This is one of the unfortunate drawbacks of film, which is you can't immediately watch what you shot. I feel like some of my camera angles during the fight are a little sloppy, but I'm hoping the fight will go by too quickly for anyone to notice.  

 12pm - The location where we shoot is adjacent to the police depot on the SFSU campus. Three cops come by and say they've had a report of fighting. When the cops realize we are shooting a movie, they leave us alone, and we keep shooting. For a second, I was extremely nervous because a few days prior, I was talking to a SFSU Police Officer who told me that we couldn't be shooting any fight scenes on campus because of previous incidents of fighting. The guy was just doing his job, but there was no way we weren't going to shoot the movie. After all, we weren't doing anything wrong, I live on campus, it's a public place, and it's for a class. Locations are one of the most important aspects of any movie, and also one of the greatest challenges in securing. On a real movie shoot, location releases must be secured, and most often, one must PAY to get these releases. This was a huge problem for us on Circle the Drain, but our inability to get a location turned out to be a huge bonus in the end. On CtD, we originally planned to shoot the final fight scene in a theater, preferably the Collins Center at Andover High School, or in the top floor of Old Town Hall, but we couldn't get either of those places. So we settled on the huge arch at the cemetery and it was the best scene in the movie simply because of the environment.

 

2pm - Right now, I'm thinking we are shooting at a ridiculous rate. I'm pretty happy with all the footage we've shot, and we've made very few mistakes. Having to reload film is a bitch compared to just inserting a tape, but hopefully the image quality will turn out well. At the beginning of the day I was worried the light would change dramatically from overcast to bright sunlight, but it stays overcast pretty much all day. Despite our fast pace, I feel we need to speed up the fight and should cut some parts out. Dan and Terry are practicing choreography when Terry nails Dan right in the lip. Dan begins to bleed about two inches from a giant scab on his lip which is where he got punched a week ago while shooting Consumed. Luckily, the bleeding stops, and its only a small break in the skin. Terry begins to doubt himself, despite performing incredibly well. Accidents do happen during fight scenes, but this motivates us all to cut out a large section of the fight scene in the interest of time.                                                                               

 3:30pm - Dan does an awesome butterfly twist to close out the main part of the fight and we move onto the chase scene. The chase scene originally required us to move across campus to this alley I had in mind. Unfortunately there are some ominous rain clouds moving in, and I'm worried we will have little time to finish everything. This quote from the director of Alien3 (Who is it? Answer at bottom) should explain our next decision:

"Directing ain't about drawing a neat little picture and showing it to the cameraman. I didn't want to go to film school. I didn't know what the point was. The fact is, you don't know what directing is until the sun is setting and you've got to get five shots and you're only going to get two."

I couldn't agree more (except with the film school part. I wouldn't get a degree in film then decide myself capable of being an astrophysicist. Training is required no matter what profession you enter). Coming up with shots is pretty damn easy; it's getting them done that's the hard part. Thankfully, someone decided to place 10 huge stacks of plywood in the parking lot adjacent to our present location (check out the picture of Terry holding the wallet; those stacks surrounding him are what I'm talking about). We decide this is suitably alley-ish enough and will take far less time to shoot. Dan comes up with an awesome idea for a shot, but I'm the director so I'll get credit for it. We run through the shot a few times, and when it comes to shooting it, I mess it up. This was the last shot we could get on our current reel, so I'm forced to go change reels then come back and shoot it again. This time I nail the camera moves, and everything is timed perfectly. This is definitely the best shot in the movie, and you'll know it when you see it. The next part of choreography becomes far more dangerous and I'm worried it won't cut together well, but rain is starting to drop and we have to move. One of the very last shots requires the camera to be pointing directly at the sky and a drop of rain falls right on the lens. They cover me with a jacket while I clean up the lens, and by the time I'm done its starting to rain pretty hard. We improvise and hold the jacket directly over me to block the rain. We get the last few shots in the can and have to move locations to get the closing scene of the movie.

 

5pm - Dan, Terry, Ijah and Brant move all the equipment across campus while I go get a hot girl who is in the last scene. You're probably thinking, "ahhhh, the benefits of being a director." Wrong. Unfortunately, Courtney, the hot girl, is my ex-girlfriend. She is the only girl I know who goes to this school and willing to be in the movie. By this point, I don't even care because this movie needs to be finished. When we get to the last location, its raining really hard. We all huddle inside a small hut that's in the last scene. As I'm telling Courtney how to act, this is the first time I stop and realize that we are making a movie. I don't know why this happened, but there was a short moment when I'm just totally self-aware. Everyone is crammed inside the hut, all with different tasks they are accomplishing in order to get this movie made. I don't even feel like I'm directing at this point, because everyone has committed themselves to working on the movie, and they aren't just helping out because I asked them. Even though I didn't know it, I had been waiting for that moment since about 7th grade when I decided I wanted to work in movies. Anyway, no one has any idea what just happened, and neither do I, but we just keep shooting. By now its pouring rain with two shots left. We nail the shots. Then I realize we still don't have the opening shot of the movie. We can't shoot it now because of the rain, but it would have been awesome if we could shoot it because that would have meant I would have only shot 3 reels to make the movie, when I ordered 4. We are so EFFICIENT. But, I resign myself to shooting the opening shot during my film production class with the fourth reel, as it doesn't require any actors in the shot.

 

6pm - We are done shooting for the day and all head back to my apartment. Everyone seems really happy with what we shot. Dan and Terry were uninjured and both had a great time shooting. Ijah and Brant said they learned a lot during the course of the day, which I'm really happy about, because it will give them a huge head start once they get into the film production classes. I'm really excited with what we shot, and can't foresee any problems with any aspect of production. This is the first movie I have ever directed, as I've only ever helped other people shoot their movies. I'm very excited because everyone is happy, we had a great time, and hopefully our movie will look good. In the end, isn't that what counts?

 

CONCLUSION - The first D.I.K.(e) short is IN THE CAN. How do you like it? There are a few annoying errors, but overall its a solid short. The sound had to be built entirely in post-production, so some of the voices don't line up correctly, and you can barely hear the ambience for some reason. The camerawork is suspect in some spots, but mostly everything is framed correctly. Again, the sound is a little messed up, but overall, it works. The editing is probably the best part, because everything cut together rather well, with no unintended jump cuts. We hope you guys enjoy it, and our next movie will blow this one away. Thanks for watching! Tell us what you think on the guest book!

ANSWER: DAVID FINCHER

 

 

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