Friday, August 13, 2010

They say "seeing is believing"

My previous experiences in the director's chair have all been "on location". Even when I'd work in a studio space, I'd be working with it as a studio space -- in other words, I've never had a set built for a film.

For "A Modest Suggestion", we're building a set. It's an exciting prospect, to have that kind of creative control over the space these characters will inhabit, but it presents some interesting creative challenges.

In the past, whenever I wanted to get a feel for a space, I could usually just walk in and look around. Right now, the set is just a schematic -- there is no room to enter, there are no walls to look at, and even if there were, they're not painted the right colors yet.

If I can't see the set, how will I plan what you will all see in the film?

To tackle this new challenge, I've employed several tools. I created a three-dimensional scale model of the set in Google's "SketchUp" software. That has been my primary planning tool. In the software, I've even set the "angle of view" to match our camera's widest setting, and I've maneuvered the screen size to match the 1.85:1 aspect ratio we'll be using for the shoot.

It's a neat start, but it's not enough.

Our production designer, the multi-talented Smadar Livne, built a scale model of the set out of foam board paint, tape and maybe a little glue. She even built little tables and bookshelves for it! The physical model will come in handy when we start to talk about where everyone goes and how to fit people and equipment in the space. I've even been tempted to set it up with stuffed animals and take photos with my cell phone to mimic some of our shots, just to see if I could use it as a 'sandbox' of sorts in which to play with possibilities.

As I type this, my printer is humming away, printing small images I snapped from the "SketchUp" model. I got medium shots and medium-wide shots of all the characters -- these are the angles I'll predominantly use in the film's first act -- and I'm printing them out right now. They're printing nine to a page. I'll cut them out, and use them as little templates that I can tape directly in to a storyboard. Luckily, the little 3D people in my model don't have faces, so I can draw those in based on what the shot calls for.

In the end, all I need is to be able to see the film in my mind's eye before we get to the set. If I can do that, using all of these tools, and if I can organize my vision in to a coherent, orderly shot list, we'll breeze through production in no time. That's the plan, at least...

-Arnon Shorr

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