Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Conclusion of "Hall of Mirrors" - Nightingale Theater

I wanted the chapter known as "Hall of Mirrors" to be completed by Bret. This is one of our most technologically challenging scenes in the entire film. We are utilizing composite shots with blue screen, and Bret was an integral part of the original shoot on November 20th of last year. That is why I wanted his eyes upon this.

The day presented interesting challenges all its own: Bret's work schedule narrowed the scope of his presence during the shoot, the Nightingale was host to a segment of the New Genre Festival the night before and my crew was smaller this time around. Bret had to leave at Noon, and Derick had agreed to arrive around that time. Jeff was not present until later in the production, and his assistance was invaluable.

After arriving, Bret phoned to let me know he was on his way; I was waiting for John, myself, to open the front door. I had been in communication with House regarding the bed [prop] we used for the bed scene at the beginning of "Being"; as it stands, that was the only shot from the November 20th shoot that I was unhappy with. House, and many of the OMM Group, have been working hard on projects of their own. He was on his way to a 7am shoot with Jay and company, and he was nice enough to drop by at 6am to meet me and drop off the bed. John finally arrived, followed by Bret. The coffee was poured.

A slight recap: "Hall of Mirrors" is about choice. It is about the possibility of the individual, which is the underlying theme throughout the entire film. In this chapter, Adam (the main character played by me!) steps into a room, black background, where he encounters six doorways. Each doorway represents a different possibility for his future. I actually am interacting with myself! This is where the blue screen comes into play. Last November, only three of the six were committed to film that day; today we completed the set, including the all-important climax of the piece.

The three characters chosen for today's shoot differ slightly from the script, with the exception of the last character. The first, a blue-collar worker complete with hard hat, safety goggles and flannel shirt. The next character in line allowed me the opportunity to engage in a little creative license, so I decided to inject the cameo appearance of Adam Atomic, from a storyline of a future production and a current short script. I had fun defining this character further, and I was very pleased with the visual. Bret left after this character, Derick took over and I left to pick up our lunch, catered by Dee Wiedenhoeft!

The final doorway was the most important: the soldier. This is where we make several statements in one...war an peace, lead or follow - kill or give life. The scene is played out like this...the shock of this final image invokes my response, as I approach the doorway. The soldier (played, like the other five, by myself) stands at attention, cold and precise. He is holding a gun at his hip, barrel pointed down at an angle. Adam sees the gun, and as he stares in horror, blood begins to drip from gun, spilling onto the floor. Adam runs away...

Since this entire sequence will be rendered in black and white during post, Bret and I have previously discussed the needs for these types of special effects. The blood will remain red, so we needed a liquid with a texture that stands out from its background elements. The choice was fluorescent yellow paint.

The gun was made with a scrap piece of PVC pipe, along with various plumbing parts. The handle was a scrap of 3/4" plywood, screwed in rather haphazardly and then hot glued before being painted several coats of black Krylon. For the strap, I had to go dumpster diving (discreetly) at work to find plastic banding from an old pallet shipment. I cut it to length, drilled holes in the newly formed tabs, and painted the strap black.

The paint was an interesting challenge. I had to devise a way to pump the paint through the unfinished back end of the gun (unseen to the camera), so I bought a turkey baster and acquired some plastic tubing. None of this worked well at all!

We tested the apparatus on black garbage bags sans gun. The paint was too thick and the baster's suction was horrible. Derick's skill as a [artistic] painter saved the moment by adding soapy water. Since it was acrylic, this was a proper dilution, and the paint flowed more freely, although this did not help the baster any at all.

Eventually, we committed to the scene with what we had. Garbage bags were placed to cover the floor and match it at the same time. Derick positioned the shot. I, having no other crew, held the baster full of paint behind my back, the tube inserted into the prop gun. We tried several times, as I squeezed the bulb; no paint! The solution was gravity. I tried to elevate the baster as far above the gun as possible (from behind my back!), and the paint began to flow!

Having a good cinematographer is vital; I have two! Derick has an eye for art, and he is dedicated. As I continue to stand, he is firing blast after blast from the fog machine and moving camera and tripod angle, constantly adjusting, in order to cover every aspect of what is visually available to him. I love this film!

We wrap the "Hall of Mirrors" chapter, and move onto Derick's scenes as "Being". As we run out of tape, I realize I do not have another! So we finish the last few minutes with the bed scene. Our problem with the previous shoot was lack of intense light. I wanted to form a very distinct corona of light around my head. We used Jeff's assistance and a very large canister light. Derick was not as pleased with the look as he would have preferred, so he suggested using fog to create a medium for the light. This we did, and the effect was finally achieved!

Another shot we recorded was an idea from Mr. Scott Hillhouse. Thinking that Bret could use some stock fog footage in post, we created a lumakey shot, whereas we lit fog, from above, against a black backdrop. The light illuminated the fog and nothing else; we absolutely flooded the studio with fog!

We shot footage until we could shoot no longer. Derick and I felt good about our efforts and after the equipment was broken down and loaded, two good friends bid farewell to Jeff, and each other...until next time!


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