Melody Director of Photography Notes
When I was first approached by a good friend and playwright Meagan Morrow to adapt a short script into a film, I was excited for the challenge. The concepts within the script were fun, playful, and most intriguing to me, aesthetic. From the fast paced dialogue to the charming characters, I was enamored immediately with opportunity to visualize and execute the story as an effective screenplay.
It was important to both Meagan and I that the concepts from the original performance and script were effectively converted to film. I was lucky enough to have been in the audience for the script’s premiere as a 15 minute staged performance. The performance was quickly paced, almost to the point of chaotic, and well blocked so that the actors could play off of each other easily without complicated movements. Most importantly, the original production was intimate with the audience. This was something that stuck with me as I left the auditorium and became even more important to my design of he shot list, color scheme, audio mix etc.
Planning for the project commenced as we began bringing together actors, props, costumes, video/audio gear and finding a location. We finally found a great location in Bartlesville Oklahoma called the Copper Bar at the top of the historic Price Tower in downtown Bartlesville. The location came with several stipulations that made filming the project more complicated. First and foremost was the fact that the bar would not be closed during shooting the film. Thankfully, we were able to get help from almost 20 actors who were willing to act as extras for the film. This amount of people drove most of the paying customers for the night to a balcony area away from the bar floor. Another challenge faced at the location was lighting. There was very little space in the bar to set up lighting equipment. We were forced to use small LED panels with 5200k gels to act as kickers to emphasize shadows and highlights in the image. Other than these circumstances, shooting went relatively smoothly. We were able to shoot the entire script in just under 5 hours.
Equipment used for this film was a mixture of both borrowed equipment and personal equipment that I use for personal projects and my freelance business. The camera we used was a Canon 5d Mark II. This camera along with the first model of the Canon EF 24-70 L Series lens allowed for some great shots at relatively low ISO numbers. For stabilization, we used a DJI Ronin-M which was a lifesaver for not only the moving shots but also the static ones as it eliminated the need for a tripod in the small space. For audio, we used a Tascam DR-40 to record external audio.
Post production for this project included plenty of challenges that required new techniques to get the look and sound that we wanted. Considering this was the bulk of the workload of the project, I will not going to in-depth into the process of editing or mixing. However there are several notable techniques that I used to make this project. First of all, I edited in the 2017 version of Adobe Premiere Pro. This software was excellent for this film for several reason but notably because of the color capabilities of the software. We shot this film at about 5200k white balance. The warm lighting of the bar made this close to a neutral tone for the raw footage. I used the Lumetri color presets within Premiere to find the correct tone for the film. The pacing of the editing was intentionally quick. The goal was to put this story into a format that could be delivered quickly and effectively without leaving dead space between moments that don’t include the Pianist. This technique help to emphasize the more sentimental portions of the film by allowing them to play out for longer amount of time.
Overall, this project feels to have satisfied my desire to complete a short film during my sophomore undergraduate year. I am pleased with the final project and I am excited to see how the life of the film and the script develop in the years to come.