I took part in the 48 Hour Film Project this weekend, this year for Red Light District Attorneys.
The 48 Hour Film Project always begins, for me, with a beer- and soda-fueled writer’s meeting at someone’s apartment that lasts until two in the morning. Fortunately I wasn’t writing this year, so I let Greg, Christine and Sean argue over script details. I didn’t know what I was there for until Marcelo said, “I’m figuring you as the camera operator for most of this project.” Apparently the promotion track from “some volunteer” to Cinematographer only has one step.
Fortunately, Nick (our on-site director) packed a Panasonic PV-GS320, a camera with which Neutrino had made me intimately familiar. So at 8:30 on Saturday morning, I was rolling footage in Quincy Center, shooting breakfast footage at Kim’s apartment.
Playing the camera operator gave me the opportunity to do three things I’ve always wanted to do:
Use meaningless jargon. “I’d like to film Greg seeing this list from the edge of the table,” I said, “though I don’t want to go all Dutch angle on him.” I also confused panning (sweeping the camera while the operator stays stationary) and tracking (holding the camera forward while the operator moves) at least once. Also, I used the term “gracing the lens,” which Google has informed me does not mean anything, and probably entered my glossary as a misheard lyric from a Postal Service song. Fortunately, no one was paying attention to me at that point.
Indulge my desire to experiment. As the only camera operator, and the only person in the crew who had more than 6 hours sleep the night before, my whims got a level of legitimacy they should probably never receive. “I want to track along the banister here,” I said, getting the pan/track distinction right for once, “end facing down the length of the banister as Christine finishes wrapping the Christmas lights, then hit it here as she plugs them in.” Nick stared at me for a moment, then nodded. I didn’t do this too often, and never at the expense of essential filming, but expect some crazy camerawork!
Take Clint Eastwood’s directing advice. Clint Eastwood imported a lot of his experience as a veteran actor of TV and film into his directing career. For instance, he noticed when filming TV westerns how hard it was to get four horses to walk abreast down a street – they’re skittish creatures who don’t like to stand very near each other. And then when someone would yell, “ACTION!” the horses would all jump again, and it’d be another five minutes getting them together. “Actors are not unlike horses,” he observed on Inside the Actors Studio, so he makes a practice of keeping a quiet set and telling his actors to begin by softly saying, “Whenever you’re ready.”
We wrapped principal photography, after a complicated shot that involved sprinting through a science lab and swiveling the camera on an office chair, at about 5:30 on Saturday. In my (limited) history of 48 hour shoots, that ain’t bad. I’ll post the finished product as soon as it’s available; anyone in Boston can come watch it at the Kendall Square Cinema at 9:30 this Wednesday.