Alright, I'm way behind in my blogging... but I've been busy. If you know me in the real world, you know the nightmare of home renovation we're living through right now. Can we talk about something else, please?
Instead, I'd rather tell you about the short film I made last weekend. It was made for "Rapid-I Movement," sort of like the 48 Hour Film Project, but presented under the auspices of IMAGE Film & Video Center and the Atlanta Film Festival. And you have 50 hours to make a short film, not 48.
The film is being shown Tuesday March 20 at the Plaza Theater in Atlanta, at 9:30 pm.
After last year's 48, I swore I'd never do it again. Because we were really ambitious, and had truckloads of equipment, rented a huge location (a church), with a sizable cast and crew. Hair, makeup, costumes, the whole nine yards. It about wiped me out.
So this year, I was going to avoid the whole weekend-film scene, until Gabe Wardell, the new director of IMAGE encouraged me to enter Rapid-I and use it as an opportunity to just shoot something different -- experiment -- be creative -- rather than spending all the energy on gloss.
So I did, and I'm glad I did. It was a very small crew. We had minimal equipment and a realistic shot list. As a result, I got to spend a lot more time with the actors, brainstorm as we went, and let the movie evolve on the spot.
The unsung hero of the shoot was John Kuhn, who loaned me a black-and-white video camera from the 1970s to shoot with (analog!). Adam K. Thompson, who worked with me on Psychopathia
, was the d.p. The camera is seen below, shooting a scene with Daniel May (who contributed so much to the project that he shares writing credit).
The short is called Security
. The concept is that the story is told from the perspective of four security cameras mounted throughout a grungy industrial building. The angles are therefore fixed, and the editing is locked into seven-second chunks (as the system is automated to switch from one camera to the next, in the same sequence).
The point of the film was to generate tension and frustration in the viewer without the usual trappings of slick photography, rapid editing and a complicated sound mix. Most of this film is silent. And when I mean silent I mean DEAD silent. The only audio occurs when someone within the film makes a panicked call to the police (all audio for the film was recorded over the phone). Speaking of phone, the rules required that we include a coin-operated machine in the short... so in the middle of the night I had to build a pay-phone kiosk in my driveway, then haul it to the location and install it on a wall (see photo below, featuring Jane Bass, as actors go, one of my personal faves).
I also wanted to explore the idea of TV violence, and play on the audience's expectations. Rather than present a pumped-up spectacle of violence (the way so many 48-hour type films do), I wanted to reduce the violence to a grim experience that is unpleasant to watch. Unpleasant in that it is not glamorous. Unpleasant in that the audio/video quality is wretched. Unpleasant in that the mechanical editing constantly interrupts the action.
To make the image look suitably grungy, we shot it on the outmoded camera (apparently with a broken tube), then I dubbed it off to VHS (six hour speed) and back to DV three times
until the image started to distort.
Does it succeed? I haven't watched it since I turned it in. I'm guessing that it functions well as a strange little experiment in filmmaking... but I doubt that it manages to convey all the ideas that I hoped it would (incriminating the audience in the violence by making the culprit associate himself with the viewer: he commits a crime of passion... but then, once he realizes he's being taped on a security camera, decides to "perform" for the camera... so he stages a second crime, just for the benefit of the audience). It's hard to pack that much nuance into a film shot in a single day, written in a few hours... but that's what this project was all about... experimenting... road testing ideas.
Seth Joiner and myself on the set.
Special thanks to Victor Lambert, for gamely rushing to the set in the eleventh hour, then smearing himself with chocolate syrup and crawling around on the floor. No, I'm not joking. Thanks also to Jill Perry, for "phoning one in." No, I'm not being sarcastic.