I directed a short for some actor friends who were looking to make a film/have some footage for their reels. There was no budget, and as I (only briefly) pondered if I should take on the project, it occurred to me it would be a great opportunity to explore some adventurous actor/camera blocking, to push myself to go a little further. And give the friends some footage for their reels, hopefully. The last two projects I’d done were comedy shorts for Funny or Die, which, due to the TV-comedy-styled rhythmic cutting, were filmed with standard coverage of close ups, wide shot, etc. to allow for maximum control of the timing of the jokes. So this would be a fun, if pre-cast, change.
Orson Welles & Alfonso Cuarón shoot Gravity
So, I challenged myself to shoot the whole 5-page short as a oner, that is, one continuous shot. To me, the magic of a great oner is its commitment to a single intention. That is, it’s not a lot of coverage (individual wide shots, close-ups, etc) that would permit multiple versions of the same scene. Being bold and committed to that intention gives the scene a real gravity.
Speaking of which, Alfonso Cuaron, one of my favorite directors who currently draws air, has a long history of killer, story-and-theme appropriate oners. This one from his film Gravity is no exception; it’s beautifully detailed (check out the lens distortions, just like we’ve seen in real NASA footage) and is gorgeously organic and enthralling in its build.
I can’t wait to have the chance to do one as crafted and action-packed as this, or this one from Children of Men. As I blogged about before, Orson Welles‘ long take in a single apartment in Touch of Evil is upwards of 5 minutes; it has real gravity and is a real inspiration (and unlike Cuaron’s, is done completely in-camera). So here was a chance push myself to make an organic, living, one-shot movie, as modest and simple as it would be.
Cue 3 actors, 3 wireless mics, 2 Zoom audio recorders, and a flop-sweating me on a Canon 5D desperately trying to hit my focus marks and direct the actors. All in all, we did 15 takes; the sweet spot was around take 11, which is the performance I chose as the final. I will say the focus marks got better toward the later ones, but better to choose performance, I always say.
Not bad for a Sunday afternoon with $0 spent. Thanks to Brian Majestic, Daniele Passantino, and Casey Unterman for a fun time and lots of patience.