361MC: – Little Rag Doll Shoot Day #1

With everything prepared beforehand and the time stamped shot plan as a point of reference, I went into the shoot feeling quite confident with the vision we were going for. I was still quite anxious as this was the first big production I was to be director of; directing actors, runners and crew as well as serving as a camera operator myself. The band had lived up to their word and had dressed the entire set and moved furniture around in readiness for the shoot which saved us many hours. The set looked great. Considering we had only discussed some brief pointers of the things that needed to be included (such as candles, a table with rope, knives and pins on) and a chair in the middle of the room) the set completely looked the part of the vision we had.

We arrived at the location at around 11am but were told by the drummer that he would have band practice at around 7:30pm and so we would have to be finished shooting by then. This added immense pressure to all of us as we still had yet to set up the cameras, arrange lighting and organise which shots to get out of the way first. Although most professional music videos tend to jump around the narrative and film different sections in a non-linear order, we felt it would make more sense for us to record each shot in order as it would appear in the video. This would give the actors a better sense of the story themselves as they act it out in order, and also make it less confusing remembering which shots we had already filmed. Knowing that all of the narrative section of the video had to be finished on that day in time for the band segment the following day, we had a serious deadline and a lot to get film. As my first time properly directing a project on this scale, this was incredibly trying on me as a team manager as I had to instil motivation in everyone on set and maintain morale for hours on end, even if at times I was stressed and demoralised myself. I feel this is an important quality of directing I have learned from the process of this particular shoot as it is imperative for all members on set to be invested in the project, especially with a day of filming that goes on for many hours at a time, in order for the production to go smoothly and successfully.

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The entire shoot was finished for the 7:30pm time limit which was the longest shoot I have currently ever been on. We took many breaks throughout the shoot every 45mins to an hour as I felt this was beneficial so that the cast and crew didn’t get burned out. One thing that posed a great problem for us was the lighting. Although we wanted a fairly dark lighting to generate an oppressive mood for the tone of the song, we couldn’t keep one fixed lighting point and had to more or less move each of the three lights around for each shot. This caused a lot of problems with shadows being cast by ourselves in frame of shots and also cases of the lighting looking almost too staged and seemingly very theatre spotlight. This style of lighting is not appropriate for music videos, which are filmed much like films; in a very cinematic style. I feel that some of the shots worked very nicely in this cinematic style, but others felt a little flat and amateurish. As this is my first music video I’ve ever filmed and directed, it felt like this was almost a tutorial of how to make a video, despite the research I had done before. No amount of research can prepare you for actually being on set for real in the actual event of filming. Whilst the lighting proved a problem, and with the limited lighting we had of three dedo-lights, I believe we all made the best with what we had. Our original idea for lighting was inspired by the film Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick; using only candlelight as the source of light. Before we set up our equipment, that was indeed what the room looked like. However, despite altering the aperture and ISO on all of the cameras, we would have needed hundreds of candles to achieve the desire effect. Without enough light from the candlelight, the picture was obviously incredibly dark and full of gain. Even with the dedo-lights. the final image that we ended up with was still fairly full of gain, but I feel this ultimately lent itself well to the old style voodoo theme and tone we set out to accomplish.

 

In terms of directing the cast and crew, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted the final image to turn out like, but after offering the basis of the ideas of the shots, I pretty much gave free rein to everyone to play it, or film it, however they liked. With my camera crew, I was very aware of their individual abilities on the camera and trusted their judgment to offer shots on the fly that they deemed to be cinematic. With actors such as Mourn the Model, who had only worked as being the subject on photography shoots before, it was a very new experience for her as well as Tom Creese, the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist, who had never acted before as well. They both knew the idea of the video and I described the particular movements and mannerisms each character had in order to help them get into the mind of the characters they were playing. I believe this was an important directorial technique as it gave the actors some form of basis and guidance for their performances, but also still left a lot of freedom to act it how they believed was right. With the rest of the band on hand as runners, they also offered their thoughts which helped Tom focus his character. As this was my first time directing actors, I feel this was an effective way of approaching this task. With the role of director, it is incredibly easy to snap into a very dictatorial role but it is important to remember that filmmaking, or any form of production, is a collaborative effort, and the role of a director is to help cement this collaboration and channel it into the result of the final product.

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By the end of the shoot, we were all understandably burned out from the incredibly long hours of shooting but felt accomplished of how much we had managed to film in the span of one day. With the narrative section now finished, all that is left for the Little Rag Doll shoot is the band segments which will be filmed at Quad Studios tomorrow. Although this will be an entirely new setting and approach, I will still take away what I have learned from my first proper shoot. The band will now have completely free-reign over their performances and will be a lot more relaxed for them as this is what they do, and the lighting will be a lot easier to control as the studio space is a lot more spacious than the location we filmed at today. Camera set up tomorrow will still be three cameras but will also be a lot easier than the narrative section to frame, as there will be three members of the band with a camera focussed on each, which will each be taken from many angles over the course of many takes of the song.

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