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16mm Camera Film Problems

February 13, 2000 - First day of shooting!

A friend of mine, Steve Shannon, had let us use his companies office space for the office locations in the film. His company is called "Content Advisor", which is developing some software which will monitor internet traffic from within a company. He's been hiring people for a few years to catalog Internet sites, so he's got a ton of computers lying around. It's basically a large room with a few outer offices, so I spent a day the week before getting a U-haul truck and renting some office dividers to make cubicles for my set. [Note to self: On the next film, make sure I have a real budget so I can hire a production staff to lug this type of shit around. I had to load those bastards (office dividers) into the truck by myself.]

I wanted to shoot 5 scenes on the first day (Saturday) and 5 more on Sunday, all at the Geoff desk location with John and Geoff. Earlier in the week I had sent my camera off to AZ Spectrum in New to get a video tap installed, and the guy had promised it would arrive by Friday. Nope. The guy calls me Friday and says I'll get it tomorrow. There goes Saturday. I had also bought a 400' magazine back for my camera from a guy in Australia. (He tracked me down through a previous bid no one of these on ebay.) Up till now, I had intended to shoot using my 200' magazines. A 200' load of film runs for about 5 minutes, 400' will get you a little more than 10 minutes. I shelled out another $600 for the new 400' back, figuring I'll save money in the long run if I don't have to keep changing backs every 5 minutes and losing takes as the film runs out in the middle of them. The 400' magazine back from Australia had arrived on Saturday too! Woo hoo!

We had attempted to rehearse earlier in the week the scenes we wanted to do for Sunday. We thought we could just glance at the script, fake our way through it and have it come out looking natural and brilliant. No way. We quickly realized that to have the acting look at all competent, everyone is going to have to learn their lines cold. (Damn, it looks so easy when Marlon Brandon just mumbles his way through things.)

Because John and Geoff pretty much knew their lines, but didn't KNOW their lines, we had to take about 30 minutes of rehearsal on the set just to get them up to speed. [Note to self: actors start to droop when put under hot lights. Avoid long rehearsals under such lights.] THEN we were able to think about rolling some film, and this was after about 2 hours of set-up time just for lights, props and set dressing. [Note to self: hire a set dresser when we have a million dollars for the next big one.]

I did have a great find with my young crew; Emery and Brandon Bond. A pair of 16 year old identical twins whom John and I have known since they were toddlers. They are very technically savvy for their age on audio equipment and computers. They apparently have their own DJ gig at their school and have been pulling in some money doing raves and dances at their school. It took me 20 minutes to show them on how to work the DAT machine and boom. Bam, they had it...AND they were totally into it. I wish I could work with pros who get it this fast. I'm sure they'll be hiring me in a few years to work for THEM.

Johnny was nervous a first, then got into the acting. Those guys went through about 6 pages of script with not a lot to do onscreen. They basically reacted to what was on a monitor, which I'll recreate and insert later. I suppose this isn't an easy thing to do without becoming self-conscience because you basically aren't DOING anything, just talking. I've read about some indie film where they've done 10 pages or more of script a day. Christ, unless you've rehearsed for DAYS before you shoot, there's no way you're gonna get a good performance. (Unless you're TOTALLY making it up as you go along, then it'll just probably suck.)

Forgot to bring the Coolpix 950 camera. So we took no stills from this day. Packed it up, drove the Bond twins home and sent the film off to Cinepost in Atlanta the next day.

February 16, 2000 - Scratch, scratch, scratch.

We got the film transfer back from Cinepost. There was a light scratch in the middle of the negative all the way through. Damn. On top of that, I was underexposed about a whole stop. Because this is 320 asa film, if you have to lighten the image during the transfer to video, you end up with much more noticeable grain. I was also wondering why I kept cropping everyone's head in the framing. In certain scenes, the frame line went right through Geoff's forehead. I didn't think I was THAT bad as a cameraman. Jesus.

On my previous film tests, I attributed the scratches to a crappy film magazine back. I confirmed this when I had gone back and done a scratch test on the magazines. You run some unexposed film through them with the emulsion side facing out. You can actually SEE the scratch on your negative if you shine some light off the surface of the film. [Note to self: geez, video doesn't suffer from this, what gives?] Now it appears that my new 400' back from Australia is doing the same.

Called Boston Camera and told them of my plight. I wanted it looked at before my next shoot on Saturday. "Bring it on down, we're busy, we may be able to look at it before then" they said. I drive down there next morning. "Ahh, I'm busy, I can't do it. Here...send it to Optical Electro House in California." The guy disappears. Brother. Optical Electro House is the last place in the US that will even attempt to service an Eclair ACL camera. (They stopped making these cameras back in 1980.) If I did send it to them, they'd just clean it, charge me a couple of hundred, then send it back to me without exposing film through it. I'd probably lose an entire week if not more. Screw it, I'll clean it myself.

The underexposure was another concern. I had shot some film tests with all sorts of different film stock. I thought they looked fine, I thought my light meter I was using worked. I did notice that the light meter I was using didn't have any settings for cinematography, just the basic still camera settings. Just to be sure, I bought a Spectra IV-A light meter. (Industry standard in the movie biz from what I've seen.)

Then the framing was kicking my ass. How the hell could I have chopped off everyone's head so badly? I grabbed a video still from my video tap tape, (the image that I was monitoring when I was shooting) and a still from the BetaSP transfer. I lined them up in Photoshop and compared the two. Son-of-a-bitch, wadda ya know, my frame marks in my camera viewfinder were WAY off! (The video tap sees what's in the viewfinder, not what is getting exposed.) This doesn't surprise me, because the camera was modified for Super 16mm. Who ever did the mod probably just guessed at the frame line, and didn't bother to check it by exposing some film through it. If it weren't for the video tap, I would've kept blaming myself for the poor framing, because I wouldn't have EXACTLY remembered where I had the frame set when I was shooting. At least I can now compensate for the correct framing by masking off my monitor to where I SHOULD be pointing the camera.

[Note to other video guys: having a video tap installed is the greatest thing, especially on an Eclair ACL. I've always shot with a video rig while looking at a monitor, and rarely through the viewfinder. If you end up buying something like an Eclair ACL, send the $1600 to AZ Spectrum and get one installed. Rob someone if you don't have the money.]

February 19, 2000 - Snow day. Shooting canceled.

We were going to shoot on this Saturday, but I freakin' blizzard blew over New England the night before, so I canceled the shoot. The good and bad news was: If I had to rent a camera, I would've picked it up on a Friday and would've been forced to shoot something, or else I would've lost my rental fee for the weekend.

The bad news was; on Friday night, I was hoping to cheap out on my crew and buy some cold cuts and bread to make sandwiches for lunch the next day. I ended up spending $40 on 5 pounds of cold cut meat and other crap. Because the shoot was canceled, I had to eat my own cold cuts for a friggin' week! When I told this to Juliet Bowler, she had a good laugh that I had impaled myself with my own lousy lunch. Some savings. Screw it, we're gonna go back to that deli for lunches next time.

February 26, 2000 - 2nd day of shooting. (Irene and Amanda knock heads)

Juliet, Horrigan, Lauren stillToday we shot the sequences between Irene and Amanda in the reception area. Irene dumps a load of work on Amandas desk, and John Horrigan antagonizes them while they have an argument.

I wrote these scenes last when I saw who good Lauren Verge and Juliet Bowler were in character. I figured these two would knocks heads whenever they interacted, so I fleshed these parts out. I also felt guilty that the Mr. Williamson part was originally a complete walk-on, with nothing to really add to the mix, so these scenes set up the exchange between Dan, Irene and Mr. Williamson later in the film.

Lauren had also mentioned that this acting biz ain't so easy as it looks. She thought that trying to know her lines while fumbling with an armload of props was tricky, but I thought what she had done was great!

[Note to self: changing wardrobe or changing camera angles takes exactly the same time, change the lights and finish the scene before moving on, even if the next scene is exactly the same set-up.]

Didn't get the final close-up of Lauren and John because John had to split for an announcer gig at a hockey game. I hope I can grab the close ups when we do a similar scene with Amanda and Mr. Disgusting later.

Eric chews his meter

Horrigan on set

Juliet as Amanda

Johnny doing boom

Director on set

Eric with camera


February 27, 2000 - 3rd day of shooting. (More of John and Geoff)

Geoff and John goofyRe-set up the Geoff desk set. Pounded out the rest of the scenes we wanted to do on the first weekend of shooting. Johnny looks more comfortable with his acting. Says that he has much more respect for what 'real' actors do. We noticed that when given a prop (a phone) and you have something to do (pace), this acting 'scam' feels a little bit easier to do.

Johnny had done some very silly improve shit at the end of the day. His favorite thing to do for a laugh is to distort his face by putting a tight rubber band around it and start doing John Merrick/Elephant Man impersonations. I had to roll film on his latest variation. Hopefully I'll post them somewhere on the site, if not included it at the very end of the film. (The good ol' "oops! Good thing we stayed to the end of the credits, or else we wouldn't have seen it!" ploy.)

Behind scene 116

Sound guys

Eric film lip

Male pig

Johnny & Geoff

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