Saturday, August 27, 2011
More or Less Fortunate : After 2 Days
Yesterday we completed day 2 on set for my short film tentatively titled More or Less Fortunate. The story follows a 11 year old girl in her struggle to provide for herself and her alcoholic father. I won't say any more than that at the moment.
The way things work for making a short film in China are surprisingly similar to the way things work in Hawaii at the film school. Once you get the script sorted out you need to roam around trying to find someone to act in it and a place for them to act at. I did a lot of scouting for this one, trying to find locations where there wouldn't be 100 curious Chinese people getting in the way. The 3 main locations are a field by a river, a building complex, and inside a friend's modest apartment. After 2 days, we have completed the river side part. The other areas will be a bit more tricky.
As far as the first two days, things went really great. We had 2 actors working, myself directing, my friend Brian as Assistant Director, our local friend helping with the actors, and her husband as an actor and a production assistant as well. Different hats worn by a variety of people.
As we went out to shoot I couldn't help but wonder how the neighborhood would handle us being there. As I've said before, some people around here react and communicate in very strange and unexpected ways. And although this neighborhood is sparse in population, I knew that we would run into a few people here and there.
In the above photo, the lady in the background is getting in the way. It was no big deal for me though. They were all very interested in what we were doing. When we arrived I asked if we could "take some pictures" and they smiled and said of course. They all gathered around the tiny LCD monitor as we filmed Zi Wei (the little girl) walking up the road. They all thought that it was very interesting. I am very thankful that they were all so hospitable in opening their tiny little road to us.
We had another old man without teeth talk to us in English. I've always heard that you should expect the unexpected when you go out to shoot a film. If a location is quiet every day you go to scout it out, it will more than likely be busy and difficult to work with when you arrive with camera in hand. The fact that in 6 years I've never met a man this old who could speak English proved the point with an exclamation point!
As far as directing goes, things went well. None of the actors could speak English. It was hard to give them "results driven" directing; the kind where you get a reaction or emotion out of them that looks and feels natural. I think that the cultural differences and lack of acting experience left me a little empty in this area. In the end I was basically saying stuff like "now smile", Now, raise your eyebrows. You are surprised.". This, we were taught, it a bad way to work with the actor because there is no context to it and it ends up looking fake. I'll need to figure out how to get this communication going a little better for next time. Directing is not really natural for me. Directing in Chinese goes without saying.
The other big thing that I have had to work around is schedules. As of tomorrow, all of the actors will be really busy as summer vacation is over and it's back to work and school. I need to try to squeeze in at least 2 more shooting days on a Saturday and perhaps one of the holiday days that takes place around the 10th of September. Of course, this is a threat to the continuity of the whole thing. That is why we finished up the river side stuff. If the weather gets colder then it's not so bad because we will be in a different location which will not need to match up as much.
My hopes going into this project were very low. I was not expecting to makes a killer movie right off of the bat here. I am mostly just happy and excited that we have actually shot something already and I have a few people interested in the hobby and donating a substantial time commitment.
After the first 2 days I am pleasantly surprised. I can say that, if all goes well and we actually get to shoot the rest, it will be a lot better than the first movie I made in Hawaii, which actually isn't saying that much. Saying it will be much better is saying something and I will not hesitate to say that.
"It will be much better."
The other thing I keep affirming is that my favorite things about film making are the writing, the location scouting, and the camera work. Directing will grow on me as my confidence increases. I don't really like producing at all.
The indoor scenes will prove a challenge. Without lights I need to get creative. I don't think that there is anything available in this city and if there is it is way out of my tiny little budget's range. I will load up the apartment with lamps with high wattage bulbs and go from there. I am looking forward to the challenge.
Come September, I will get some of the guys on Campus who have expressed interest in learning stuff and I will teach them. We'll see how that goes, but having more people would be great.
All in all, I'm very happy to be working on a project and to be learning quite a bit even after 2 days.