The Killer, The Conman, The Coward

From time to time a group of filmmaker friends I met at university like to meet up and make little scenes to practice our craft and hang out. This was one such scene. Liam Swann wrote this short and had always wanted to make this scene specifically so we decided to meet up and shoot it. We just used kit we owned or had free access to and made the thing, because… why not?

We brought a good friend of mine, Alan Livesey, in to direct it. We have been friends for a long time but had never had the pleasure of actually working together. After several discussions about the script we decided we wanted attempt it as a ‘oner’ i.e. one constant shot, something I have done only once before. Sure, I have done shots that have lasted a long time but a oner short film requires you to tell the entire story, do all the jobs, within that one shot.

So in terms of the camera we decided to shoot Black Magic Pocket 4K. Alan had a Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal that worked perfectly with the BMP and, especially with zero budget, this quickly became the best option. The key consideration when designing our move was safety as for a large portion of the move it was obvious I would have to walk backwards along a wet train track… in the dark. We decided that Alan would be my spotter for the backwards walking elements and we had a monitor that we could use for playbacks to ensure he was happy.

We wanted to do the tilt down to start, as an introduction to the world, it also allowed us to start Vin singing before the move giving us an enigma of where the song is coming from and starting some intrigue. We quickly panned around to ensure that we were in front of the actors so that they would walk towards camera during the bulk of the performance. Due to the lack of width along the track we couldn’t rotate to follow them at any point a la 1917 so we needed to find another way to switch up the blocking. We decided that Vin clearly lead the first half of the dialogue and Barry the latter, for this reason we had Barry following Vin and then half way through found a transition for Barry to lead. This also added some interest to the lighting, as they would dip in and out of moonlight and lamplight.

For the lighting, it was relatively simple. I experimented with a few options and was thinking I would put a bare lightbulb in the lamp to get that harsh light, however I was having issues safely getting a battery in there. Ultimately I used 2 Aputure MC lights through double CTO, back to back. This actually worked better as it allowed me to have one intensity coming out of the camera facing side of the lamp and another intensity hitting the face. Next, I sprayed the camera facing side of the lamp with dulling spray, this diffuses the light and hid the true nature of the light source. We also got a cheap Amazon knock off of a Wex Icelight which was full WRGB, I mounted this to a boom pole and had Liam walk in front of the cast with the moonlight colour I liked dialled in.

Ultimately I was really happy with how it turned out and hope the scene eventually blossoms into the full short.

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