One of the most enjoyable aspects of my life has been directing short films. A 16mm Legomation in grade school, a few Hi-8 oddballs and a claymation in high school, and in the past years just shy of a decade, short films collaboratively produced with my brother Jae. With each film we fall shy of our expectations and full potential on one or more levels, but each has produced a challenge unlike the prior, granting us experience and most importantly, time together in which we just flow. We are always complimented by our actors and crew as being organized, professional, and enjoyable to work with.
Last week we shot the first three minutes of a new short called “Sweet Memory”, produced for a local horror challenge put on by one of the teams that has participated in all three of the Almost Famous Film Festival 48 hour challenges.
Outside of the preparation for the shoot (securing the location, renting lights and additional mic equipment, writing the script, locating the actors), Jae and I were on set for ten hours. Ten hours for just three minutes, to reproduce a scene that unfolds without script or guidance countless thousands of times every day — a man visits a local bar to unload this burden, the bar tender greeting him by name and pouring his favorite drink.
Take one was flawless, but we need four more camera angles in order to cross cuts. The dialog must be perfect with each iterative recording. The glasses emptied or refilled. The wine poured back into the bottle. The soiled towel replaced. The actors returned to their starting places, the scripts rewound in the reels of their heads. And then the camera angle changes and the effort to maintain continuity redoubled as the lighting, sound, eye lines, and every shot detail must match. Is a reflection of the off-camera light showing in glass pane? Is the hi-light on the lead actor’s forehead the same as it was in the previous shot? Was the wine bottle label facing in or out?
Between shots, the scene comes to life as naturally as any real bar. Some of the extras know each other from previous projects, their catch-up banter a reminder of how small the Valley acting scene remains. A relief to my brother and I as we can focus entirely on our work and not worry about keeping them occupied nor content. The food platter prop is slowly reduced by a few pieces of cheese, crackers, and grapes between each shot. Everyone laughs, wondering if they will be missed on the big screen.
Tomorrow night we shoot the second half, roughly six to ten minutes of final footage. Another night time sequence, the conclusion to the film takes place in a multi-million dollar home in the East Valley, just south of the Superstitions. We will have the assistance of a good friend and technical expert in lighting and sound. Even with just two actors and three or four crew, the work ahead remains a daunting task.