The shoot is over, the Avid has come and gone, the scene is
done. So, how did it turn out?
Boy, am I glad we did this little digital video exercise.
I went into it not knowing what to expect and came out with at
least a rudimentary knowledge of the digital experience and a
greater understanding of the screenplay.
First of all, a new medium, whatever it is, will not tell your
story for you. I didn't expect that it would (I'm not a
total idiot!), but I did approach the shoot as informally as
possible -- no shot list, no extensive blocking rehearsals for the
actors, no lengthy discussions with the DP. I intentionally
imposed no limitations on what we did; if the DP wanted to put the
camera in an unconventional position I let him. We shot
everything, with the exception of the car mounts, handheld for
maximum flexibility of movement.
The result, after editing for a week, was a considerable amount
of footage that was unusable. EvenHand is not a conceptual
or experimental work, it's an off-beat but essentially
straightforward narrative. As such, there are conventions of
filmmaking that are difficult to get around. For instance,
you can't just put the camera anywhere; actor's eye-lines are
really important (two characters talking to one another can't both
be looking camera right, it looks stupid and jarring). That
is not to say that EvenHand won't be stylish and daring. It
must be both of those things to succeed. But, neither of
those attributes can be achieved without careful planning.
I also learned that while video is a very different medium in
terms of how it responds to light, you need to take every bit as
much care in how you light it as with film. We had a
bare-bones lighting package and it shows in the final result.
More is not always better, but sometimes a little bit more is.
And again, if low lighting is a conscious stylistic choice, make
it look like you did it on purpose, which takes careful
consideration. Spontaneity is an incredibly important
component of any film, but you have to go in with a plan.
The final lesson is that the EvenHand script is harder
to film than it looks. A scene that read as very powerful on
the page didn't have the same impact on the screen. It was
not about the quality of actors or directing, it was about making
more carefully considered visual choices to bring out the
conflict. It's not as easy as aiming the camera and
letting the actors do all the work. But then I suppose
it never is.
As a post script to the above, Ray
Carney, a leading authority on American independent film and
author of Cassavetes on Cassavetes, offers