Saturday, 26 September 2009

Where am I this weekend? Not in Baltimore. I need some time to rest, catch up with life, cleaning and errands, and do some writing. It was hard, though, to fight the urge to head straight up to Bmore to start editing Chatterton. The last three weekends were exhausting (to the point they actually made me ill) but they also filled me with excitement to keep the project moving. I can't wait to have a scene completed that I can share here, for the people who have been following but haven't be able to see the actual footage yet.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Chatterton: 9/19

Today we have one last insert shot and a quick voiceover to record; but other than that, Chatterton is wrapped like a burrito! Yesterday we shot the last scene of the film, which, because of scheduling oddities, ended up being the last scene of our shoot, too. Step into the morning after the party.

Mostly overhead, handheld work using only natural light to give it a harsher, more real feeling than any other scene in the film - things are coming down in every sense for the characters. Emma Needell was my camera assistant that day - here, she's spotting me and the camera while I stand on a chair.

Emma was around a lot last weekend too, helping Carlos and Al. On 9/19, she was my only and all of my crew. She rolled a few shots herself as well. When she was in Argentina working for a television station last summer, she used the PAL version of this camera (Panasonic HVX)!

Emma also ran sound during the one line of dialogue we rolled yesterday.

George is bemused to find that after closing the bar where he works at 4am that morning, he still doesn't look haggard enough.

"Let's do that again, with more misery this time!"

Tom is not as comfortable as he looks.

Emma's first priority, should I fall out the window, is saving the camera.

Charles asked me to do a little flourish when we were all done.

Well, now I'm heading to the editing lab. I hope to have rough cuts of a couple of scenes by the end of the day. I might be posting test footage or throw-away takes to Vimeo soon, for the general amusement!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Chatterton Third Weekend

Tomorrow we wrap up the last insert shots for Chatterton. Here are some shots of what we did to the actors today...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Chatterton 9/12: THEY BUILT ME A BOOM CRANE.

A week and a half before this shoot, I told Carlos and Aljosa I wanted an overhead dolly shot.

They took it as a personal challenge.

They came back to me with a solution made of two c-stands, a pile of sandbags, and a mayfair clip, then taped it all together with a whole roll of AWESOME.

It was the Night of the Boom Crane. And it was more fun than you should probably be allowed to have on a film set.

"We begin here, and then WE TAKE POLAND!"

End of the dolly. George walks ahead with the light, Carlos pans the boom, Aljosa pushes, and I ride the dolly to watch the shot and hit record/pause.

Carlos and I have identical looks of concentration.

Easy does it.

Crossing the Delaware.

See that camera? It's pointing STRAIGHT DOWN.

The cast, crew and party extras gather around to watch the playback.

The rest of this post is dedicated to the crazy things we did.

Crazy thing #1: Devoting a weekend to 28 hours of backbreaking labor, to make something so good that the average viewer won't be able to tell just how much backbreaking labor went into it.

Making two people run into each other spontaneously on cue every time.

Making night at three in the afternoon.

Al and George took turns stapling newspapers to the ceiling...

...since they were the tallest people around...

So we could get this direct-upward shot.

And do it again in the other room, with a pan down this time.

The Film Department has six cans of smoke. We took three for the party scene.

I approve of the smoke.

Of course, there were some casualties.

Carlos executes a shot from Daniel's POV on the floor: staring at the ceiling, pan down to Brian and Donna, then back up again. I guide him using the display screen. Mike waits for his cue to enter frame and Emma, my spectacular all-purpose crew member, watches.

Aljosa uses a silk to soften the sunlight.

All Pictures: Charles Zhang

Chatterton 9/12: Meet the Cast & Crew

Here's a quick walk through the characters and story in case you missed it...

This is Daniel Chaffee (played by Tom Murphy). He narrates the film.

He's an artist out of work and out of inspiration. Most of the work he produces now just goes into the forgeries he creates with his roommates, Thomas Chatterton and Brian Meegeren.

This is Thomas Chatterton (played by Mike Tanenbaum). He takes the fake historic photographs that Daniel researches and designs and Brian promotes. He rarely speaks, but seems to see directly into Daniel's mind - at least, that's how Daniel feels.

Brian Meegeren with his girlfriend, Donna (played by George Telonis and Cindy Chen). Brian is a washed-up intellectual. Daniel is in love with Donna, which only exacerbates his resentment of Brian's pomposity.

Now, it's time to meet the crew!

Carlos Valdes-Lora, my cinematographer. I tell him where I want the shot, how I want it framed and lit, and where it's going if there's movement, then I leave to work with the actors; when I come back, things are usually more beautiful then I'd ever expected.

Carlos likes C-stands.

This is Aljosa. He's my other cinematographer, and Carlos's key grip. He and Carlos work out all the tricky lighting problems together, and this weekend Al also shot b-roll during downtimes.

Contrary to the impression some of these pictures might give, Carlos and Al actually rolled video on the majority of shots while I watched on the display screen. Here we were shooting what will be the first shot of the film, and I wanted to be behind the camera. Aljosa sets off a can of smoke to fill the frame with party haze.

Jay, my sound man and animator, takes a well-deserved break between scenes.

Steph, my runner, appearing in her second role: Superstar Party Extra.

Left to right, Steph, Kevin and Erin are Passed-Out Drunks 1, 2 and 3 :)



All Photos: Charles Zhang

Monday, 14 September 2009

Chatterton 9/12: Welcome to the Set

On Friday night, Josh, Charles, Erin and Steph helped me completely redecorate two rooms of Josh & Charles's apartment. In a few hours, it had become the home of Thomas Chatterton and Daniel Chaffee, and a HELL OF A LOT of film and video equipment.

Ready to shoot on Saturday.

A forest of C-stands.

Curtain to the boys' room.

The flowers Steph was commissioned to wither. They appear in a jar on a windowsill and then on the kitchen table during a dialogue scene. She put them in the oven to make fresh new carnations look miserable and neglected.

The lillies are for contrast in a brief insert shot of Daniel's fantasy.

Every portion of the set contains a still life of objects and art that surround and pin down the characters. Like a vanitas painting, every item has a meaning. Here, Daniel's art materials are spread on the coffee table with postcards of antique art.

This is all working film equipment, but on our set we actually used it for props, in Thomas Chatterton's bedroom.

See that photo on the wall behind Carlos? ...

...Al took it last weekend, so we could decorate the set with pictures of Donna (played by Cindy).

All Photos: Charles Zhang