Director's Pass: Out the Window (part 2)

On movie sets, things have a funny way of working out in the most inconvenient ways possible. Take yesterday, for instance. Sunday the 28th was Melissa’s first shooting day, and the second shooting day of the production, and our first scheduled scene that day was by far the most emotionally intense scene of the entire film.

Melissa and Jesse rehearse. You can’t necessarily tell from the picture, but they’re doing a really great job.

We were shooting in Ethan’s apartment, which is on-campus housing but it actually looks nice and, you know, like somebody might actually choose to live there. Our crew call was at 4 PM and Melissa and Jesse arrived at 5:30.

Then, I flew into an inscrutable directorial fit and decided that we were going to shoot an extra scene, and we were going to shoot it first, outside, with available light, and we weren’t going to exceed our film allotment for the day even though we were shooting an extra scene, and we had to do this RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW, or we were going to lose our light.

This was actually a good and well-considered decision, but it kinda sounds crazy, dunnit?

Anyway, it was a scene that I wanted to get out of the way that had originally been snuck into the schedule for next Sunday even though we really didn’t have time to do it then, so it made sense to do it yesterday, because we had plenty of time, and the light was right, and so we just did it, ok? I don’t have to explain myself to you! Besides, it looked purty, and it gave Jesse and Melissa a chance to act together before the emotional deathmatch in the following scene.

Speaking of which, after we stole our little exterior scene, it was back inside to finalize lighting and blocking, run through the scene a few times, and prepare.

Melissa Hoppe as Rachel—working on blocking

Let’s take a brief moment to talk about performance. I’m all about performance, I think it’s the most important element of any film. Your lighting can be cheesy and your sound can be hissy, as long as the performance is there. That’s why I’m a director. (Incidentally, if my DP and sound guy felt that way, they’d be fired as soon as I got the chance—the reason this movie is going to be so great is that Matt is not satisfied with a setup that is just so-so, even if the read is good.)

Rachel, Melissa’s character, is first introduced in a scene where she is a total emotional wreck. Thirty minutes prior to the scene, her boyfriend proposed to her, she said no, they got in a fight and he stormed out saying he was “better off dead.” We join Rachel at her wit’s end, with nowhere left to turn for comfort or stability. I don’t want to give up too many directorial secrets (not that there are many secrets involved in directing a performance like this), but ultimately what we did was block out the entire scene, pre-plan the camera moves and focus pulls and lighting cues very carefully, and then everyone in the crew stood at the ready while Melissa took a couple minutes in another room to prepare.

There’s something very magical about a crew standing silently at attention, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice and capture a scene of incredible power. When Melissa came out and got on her mark, everyone was where they were supposed to be and I was able to call action within ten seconds.

The crew prepares for the master—a fancy handheld shot complete with dynamic focus and full sound. Lookit the fancy mixed lighting!

Melissa and Jesse knocked it out of the park on the first take. We did another one for safety (using the same procedure) and got another great take. Then we popped in for a quick cutaway, and then we were done, beating our schedule by 30 minutes and our film allotment by 140 feet!

I’ll leave you today with another audio take, this time of the full take 1 master. Click here to listen.

2 thoughts on “Director's Pass: Out the Window (part 2)

  1. Your apartment does look rather nice, Ethan. So then this year are you living by your lonesome? Are apartments the same price as dorms over there? Because I know both you and Andrew have lived in one, so I’m wondering why. Anyhoo, good luck with Day three which has already happened… I think, and try not to have any more major fits Andrew.

  2. I have not had any more major fits yet.

    Day three has not happened–it will be either later this week, or Sunday, depending on locations.

    All MCAD on-campus housing is apartments. Ethan’s is just nicer than average. Ethan has a roommate, but he was nice enough not to veto our presence on Sunday night.

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