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Old 03-25-2004, 11:25 PM   #16
stbd1
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As a fellow editor (by day, at least, and "full-fledged filmmaker" on the weekend), I concur with the possibility of painting yourself into a corner with this approach. It "can" be done, but it doesn't necessarily mean it "should" be done. Granted, I've had to save numerous projects that didn't shoot enough coverage, or use the ever-despised Unnecessary Cutaway to rescue a flub in the middle of an otherwise uninterrupted take, but I'd much rather NOT have had to perform that emergency surgery. If we / they had filmed enough footage in the first place, we wouldn't have had that problem. But that appears to go against the grain of this project.

The only way something filmed exclusively in master shots would work is if, like in "Rope," you had the ability to move in and out on various actors and transition from closeups to medium shots to wides within the same scene. Hitchcock used an elaborate dolly setup; what's your plan? Doing this on a tripod won't work because there's only so much variety you can get from one vantage point. A Steadicam is a good option, but then that's one more variable you have to worry about -- the steadicam operator is both a crew member AND a cast member in his own way (discuss)...

The saving grace here may be the extensive rehearsal time. If everyone gets to a point where they can run through the script without a flaw from the top -- which is a test for even the greatest actors to pull off smoothly AND still manage to keep it feeling "real" rather than "rehearsed to within an inch of its life" -- you may be able to pull it off. But as the overwhelming opinion on this thread so far seems to indicate, restructuring or scaling back the project, or shooting on something more disposable than 35mm, may result in a better finished film.

The question is: is the gimmick of shooting a film in uninterrupted takes on 35mm going to be enough of a hook to get people to watch your film if it ends up feeling stilted and half-panicked because of it?

Or, to basically sum up the last few entries, wouldn't you like to leave yourself some room for error?
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Old 03-26-2004, 04:57 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stbd1
The question is: is the gimmick of shooting a film in uninterrupted takes on 35mm going to be enough of a hook to get people to watch your film if it ends up feeling stilted and half-panicked because of it?
Fantastic point stbd1. and arniepix before.

Sounds like you're stretchin yourself beyond sensibility.

That schedule of yours will look brilliant before the first day's shoot, but as arniepix said - one step on the other side of the line and you'll be shot like a duck out of water.

With just masters you could be in for a boring cut. Especially if you don't have the equipment. Doing masters with the wrong kit and you can forget about the emotive camera, and remember the longer the time the camera is running on action the longer the time there is for something to go wrong - imagine if you get a take brilliantly on a 3min master and then the camera op trips and jolts it 3.30mins in! Ouch.

Getting coverage gives you opportunity.

Like the other guys are saying... I would recommend HD.
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Old 03-26-2004, 03:11 PM   #18
cyan
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Arniepix, stbd1 and Renegade, this is all eminently helpful. Working through some responses helps me better define my goals with this project and see if it still makes sense. First, why this method?

If I shoot on digital, there is no reason not to shoot a traditional shooting ratio. Video is so cheap, it would be foolish not to get coverage and have the broadest range of options in the editing suite. However, coverage takes time and time is money. Even limited coverage will quickly make a weekend shoot into a week long shoot. A weeklong shoot increases the cost of cast, crew and equipment. If I went with a cheaper route (24P HD, miniDV, 16mm, 8mm, Pixelvision, flipbook, etc.), I would still only be able to afford an entire crew for a weekend. So cost is the initial problem.

Next, the further you get from film, the lower the quality when it gets transferred back to film and the closer in cost you get to having shot on 35mm in the first place. I did a short film on 35mm and then ended up having to finish on digital because of the high cost of transfer. And in the end, 35mm has many more opportunities for distribution, exhibition, etc. This is changing, of course, but it is the reality on the street. If you can afford a short film, you can afford a feature (but that's a discussion for another time).

So lets say that you have a limited budget but still want to end up on 35mm using a professional cast and crew. Shooting a "Rope" like film is one solution and I am open to others. This group is proving to be very helpful so if anyone disputes the above or has better ideas, I encourage you to have at me, it can only help.

Of the other issues raised, I am least concerned with actors flubbing their lines or not quite hitting a mark since the performace is being prepared more like a play. Which means that the actors (and crew) will be prepared for a "live" performance where errors will have to be convered on the fly and nothing short of a collapse of the stage should stop them. (I know what you're thinking "this guy is shooting for Alfred Hitchcock but he'll be lucky to hit Ed Wood - and I'm the first to admit you may be right!) Of course, even if everthing goes right, that doesn't mean anyone will want to watch it.

Which brings us to the other major issue raised which is also at the top of my list. How to make the film compelling to watch and have a rhythm which we won't be able to help in editing? Plays, of course, do this all the time. And while I know that "filming a play" sounds like a sure-fire ticket to obscurity for an aspiring director, I do recognize that film is a visual medium and I do have some thoughts on how to achieve this. Among them are working with jibs, track, dolly and zoom lenses to move the camera and frame close-ups, medium and wide shots. Different lighting set ups in different long takes can also help to create mood and atmosphere. And, of course, the actors will be blocked in such a way as to create different "scenes" from one moment to the next (we see this a lot in "long take" dramas like ER).

If there's anyone who isn't bored by this discussion (or my comments), I would love to hear your feedback. I love internet forums because they usually provide something you can't get from family and friends: no bullsh-t honesty.

So I'll end with this: Is there anything about this project that is compelling to you? Does this seem completely like folly, destined for a spectacular crash and burn? Or do the challenges seem intriguing or interesting at all? I love hearing stories about how a director didn't have access to a piece of equipment (s)he needed or the money to do a scene the way (s)he would have liked and instead came up with something more creative because of the limitation. Is this like that scenario? Or is it just stupid? Don't worry, you won't offend me.

Thanks again to everyone who has commented, looking forward to more great thoughts!
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Old 03-27-2004, 05:16 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyan
so I'll end with this: Is there anything about this project that is compelling to you?
Compelling? Absolutely... I love the concept.

Obviously if you're shooting theatre for film the actors are going to have probably had some rehearsal time, and the rehearsal time will have enabled you to pre-visualise the entire film. Because if you're attempting to do it in just a weekend then you'll need to know exactly where you're heading in the next second.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyan
However, coverage takes time and time is money...
This part is interesting. Now, if the piece is based on a play it's likely that the staging is going to be fairly basic, in that the actors are in one space and arn't running around town. If you shoot on video (maybe HD but then stock is more expensive) you could do multiple camera set up for move coverage.

That way you strike three birds with one stone. The only downside to this is that it'll push up your crew costs as you'll need to double your camera op specs. The upside is that you get a host of coverage that makes the editing stage slightly more engaging.
I wouldn't advise you do multiple camera set-ups on film - ouch - one take goes wrong the other takes go wrong - shabaam - and you've just blown $200

I guess if you did do multiple camera setups, you could get round the crew problem by just having two 'manned' cameras doing motion and then the rest static and covering ls / ms / and cast moving into cu's... this could be an interesting blocking excercise.

What is your crew set up? Who have you got onboard? Have you found your cast?

By the way, beware of hammed actors. Theatre is awful for over exagerration... it could look bad on close ups hehehee
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Old 03-27-2004, 08:03 AM   #20
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arniepix, I am so glad you said what you said, but I’m still surprised that no one has mentioned how unrealistic the 1:1 ratio is. It also defeats the entire point of shooting on film. Why not just do a play? Besides you’re not going to get 1:1. Since you’re using 35, you’d have to have a fantastic AC and if the shot is ever soft you’re SOL and it’ll look amateurish. Besides, you can’t cutaway to anything in post unless you’re doing a multi-camera setup, one on a wide and one on a CU for the cutaways, and that can be impossible sometimes with blocking. I also feel that trying to film a successful feature on 35 in one “long weekend” is silly. Just to light correctly is going to take too much time. You could shoot straight through three days and maybe have it if you were lucky, but you’d have to hand out so many amphetamines to keep everyone awake that you’d blow your budget. Especially trying to use zoom lenses will reduce your lens speed so you have to throw more light and then just add one BPM filter and that’s another stop to stop and a half, you’d better have a really good gaffer. Take the time and stretch the money with HDDV or something. You’ll be much happier with the product and you won’t have wasted the money.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a Cassandra, but I foresee doom and destruction. Or, maybe it’s just beyond my capabilities and I can’t understand a viable way to get it done and still have it marketable. But I wish you luck and I hope it turns out well whatever you decide to do.
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Old 03-27-2004, 10:59 AM   #21
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I'll say this, cyan. There seems to be a general consensus around here that you are absolutely insane for trying this thing the way you are. I say "Screw 'em!" Do your movie the way you envision it. If you want to try and shoot on 35mm in a "long take" film with a 1:1 ratio all in one weekend, do it. Just remember your film could fail miserably or succeed brilliantly.

I could spend a ton of time bringing up other directors that were told they couldn't do something and they went ahead and did it, but we've all heard the stories over and over again. If anyone can pull this off it's you. You know why? Because you have the desire to do it. Desire is the cornerstone of indie filmmaking, without it nothing would ever get made.

Now, do I think, like the others, that you would be well advised to try and "simple" it down? Well, yeah. But it's not my movie, it's yours. All this advice is helpful, but in the end we aren't shooting the thing, you are.

Just freakin' do it and prove everyone wrong.

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Old 03-27-2004, 02:50 PM   #22
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Here's a suggestion -- since you appear to have your cast for free, get them all rehearsed, and then shoot a dress rehearsal on a borrowed low-end DV cam for free. Maybe just do the first act or so.

My point is that, for very little or no money, you could get a feel for whether this plan of yours stands a chance of yeilding a movie that you'll be happy with. This would give you the opportunity to re-group and come up with a different shooting plan if you decide your current one isn't going to work.

I will say that I think your plan is a bad one (or perhaps just insanely risky), and that you might be placing too high a value on '35mm film' at the expense of visual story telling.
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Old 03-27-2004, 03:12 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johncordell
Here's a suggestion -- since you appear to have your cast for free, get them all rehearsed, and then shoot a dress rehearsal on a borrowed low-end DV cam for free. Maybe just do the first act or so.
That's an extremely good idea.

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Old 03-28-2004, 08:59 AM   #24
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The new Dogma?

I've been thinking about this question all week, because it is just the kind of thing that appeals to me on a gut level .

The more I think about it, the more I think that this isn't a format question. It's about something else, it's about the ways of working that we take for granted. For instance I almost always shoot dialogue with triangulated coverage, master shot, over the shoulder MS/CU and the reverse. Therefore, as director and consumer I get used to seeing that convention. I get coverage, so that I can get as close to perfection as possible, I can hide/edit round the defects in performance and the same for any camera problems/lens flare, focus, poor framing etc.

As I've thought about this 1:1 ratio, shooting on the master, I guess I've been thinking about the practical problems and just like everyone else, I think they come down to the following:

1) No possiblity to cover performance errors
2) No possibility to cover camera errors
3) The film will be full of imperfections (slightly off framing/composition)
4) The sound will be very, very difficult to get right

It seems to me, that if you decided that you could live with a certain amount of imperfection, if you thought very hard about how to achieve this, that it would be possible to shoot whole scenes on one master take. it probably wouldn't have 1:1 shooting ratio, more a 3:1. You wouldn't have any additional coverage, but you'd take more than one go at getting the scene right.

I think the thing that would work against the finished product, is not to do with whether it can be done, but about how watchable it will be in the end. We as audiences, have become used to the idea that rapid cutting means something interesting is happening (even when it's not) and that the closer the camera to the subject, the higher the degree of intimacy. The problem here, is that the more camera movement you do, the more likely you are to run into focusing/exposure/actors not hitting their mark problems. So the project is going to be a constant compromise between the practical aspects of getting the scene in one continuos take and the need to keep the POV moving to stop the audience falling asleep.

Have you considered making this a studio shoot? (At least it would give you control of the light and sound.) Derek Jarman did a film of Wittgenstein's life, in a black studio with minimal props to create the illusion of a set. I really like it as a film, if only because it challenges the ideas of what is and isn't possible with film.

The other thought I had about this project, is that it has a kind of Dogma feel to it. In the sense that a set of rules could exist:

1) Shoot every scene in one continous take
2) Accept the imperfects in performance and camera work as a rejection of the artifical "perfect moments' concept of normal film making
3) The story must take in real time and the camera can not magically jump from one location to the next etc.

I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with enough other rules to get up to the ten that seem to be standard for this kind of thing.

The best thing about having this kind of gimmick, is that you can do a lot of denouncing of other kinds of film making as 'compromised and artifical' and then when you've got some recognition, you break all your own rules and make films just like everyone else.
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Old 03-28-2004, 02:27 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyan
the further you get from film, the lower the quality when it gets transferred back to film and the closer in cost you get to having shot on 35mm in the first place.
Let me say that well shot video will always look better than poorly shot film. Shoot whatever format is best suited to your budget, but make it look as good as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyan
And in the end, 35mm has many more opportunities for distribution, exhibition, etc. This is changing, of course, but it is the reality on the street. If you can afford a short film, you can afford a feature (but that's a discussion for another time).
Believe me, no distributor is going to reject a film because it's not on 35mm. If they do, then it was only the last reason that they rejected it, not the 1st or only reason. A distributor will pick up a film because they think they can make money on it, meaning people will pay to see it. If they think it has the potential to make money, they will advance the cost of transferring video or blowing up 16mm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by film8ker
I’m still surprised that no one has mentioned how unrealistic the 1:1 ratio is. It also defeats the entire point of shooting on film. Why not just do a play? Besides you’re not going to get 1:1. Since you’re using 35, you’d have to have a fantastic AC and if the shot is ever soft you’re SOL and it’ll look amateurish.
Amen. You need to put your best foot forward at every stage of the process. Why shoot yourself in that foot? Why hamstring yourself to this one impractical thing? (Hint: I don't have enough money is not an excuse.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by film8ker
I also feel that trying to film a successful feature on 35 in one “long weekend” is silly.
Well, I wouldn't say 'silly', but I would certainly say misguided.

It sounds to me that you don't have enough money to shoot the film on 35mm in a reasonable amount of time, so you've hatched this plot to see if you can just make a film in a weekend. I'm certain that you can, but I don't think it will be that interesting to watch.

As for the "Rope" analogy, well, Hitchcock never tried it a 2nd time. That tells me something. Also, I think the picture may have been a flop (please correct me if I'm wrong).

The only other noteworthy examples 'one shot' filmmaking I can think of are:
The opening shot of "Touch of Evil", which is about a reel long, and is one of the best crane shots I've ever seen. But it's only 1 shot in the film.
The opening shot of "I am Cuba", also several minutes long, and probably on a crane. Once again, not he whole film, though they do use other impressively long crane shots at the head or tail of some sections.
"Russian Ark" shot on 24p HD, with a steady cam.
Notice, that they're all moving shots, not masters. The camera pushes in & out, pans & tracks as the story dictates. And only "Russian Ark" tries this method of story telling for the whole length of the film.

And that's just it. It's about telling the story, not about doing it in 1 weekend, or 1 shot. In the end, you only have 1 chance to sell the picture to whomever is looking at it, be they a distributor, or an audience. If they lose interest, or if it's full of technical glitches, you've lost them.
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Old 03-28-2004, 06:39 PM   #26
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By far the best one shot shot of all is in Robert Altman's 'The Player'. The opening scene at the studios... FANTASTIC!!!! In and out side ways sidewinging - amazing shot - i love it.
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Old 03-29-2004, 12:27 AM   #27
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I was always partial to the opening shot of Boogie Nights.

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Old 03-31-2004, 02:21 PM   #28
cyan
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Thanks again to everyone for their great insight, I will be printing these pages out and discussing many of these points with my DP, sound and the rest of the cast and crew.

Okay, so we're all in general agreement, this is an insane way to do a film. The main concern seems to be that the film may be unwatchable (even if all the technical aspects and performances and hitting of marks, etc. are dead on perfect).

So let's pretend for a moment that we look at the thing like Clive suggested (as a sort of "Manifesto" about art). I don't much go in for Manifestos (Dogme 88, Steve Soderburgh in Full Frontal, etc.) but it serves as a good starting off point for my question:

Let's say you have 10,000' of 35mm film, one camera package (on a three-day weekend rental), necessary lighting and control of your one-room location, track, dolly and jib as needed, ample rehearsal time and a professional cast and crew. Your goal is to make a feature length film (no shorts allowed) that is watchable.

How would you do it?

I am not trying to get around your concerns, I find this group to be quite intelligent and realistic about the problems with this idea. What I am trying to do is get your intellects over the hump of "why it shouldn't be done" and into the mode of "how could it be done?" I suspect that if you allow yourself to play around with the idea, you might even surprise yourself with some suggested solutions.

If I've already bored you with the discussion, I apologize. I certainly have gotten a great deal out of the discussion and hope you got something out of the interchange as well. I thank everyone who's taken the time to read this thread and comment, it's like have a virtual film class and I love the energy.

PS: I watched an episode of Third Watch (US TV drama about cops, firefighters and paramedics) about a month ago that was shot in a similar way. Every take between commercial breaks was one, uninterrupted take. I was impressed that they would try something so unique on a very traditional cops and robbers type show. It was both watchable and interesting, although I wonder what non-filmmakers thought if it. Also, I believe it was shot on HD (not film).
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Old 03-31-2004, 03:02 PM   #29
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If you really want a feature

This just my opinion ...

Attempt to shoot about nine minutes of the overall feature in the three days, using conventional shooting techniques, picking the parts that best illustrate your story and production values.

Cut that nine minutes into the best trailer for the film ever and use that trailer to raise the cash from investors to shoot the rest of the film properly.

You will run the risk of not raising the money and also of having to reshoot the original footage because of cast/location continuity problems, but those risks pale in comparison to the near impossibility of shooting a whole feature, in a weekend, on 35mm.

If I had no other choice than to shoot a whole feature in three days, I'd switch from 35mm to High Def, do everything hand held and shoot it documentary style. I'd put radio mics on every cast member to control the sound and I'd have at least two camera ops taking over from each other, so they could work in shifts.

Good Luck
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Old 03-31-2004, 03:12 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyan
Let's say you have 10,000' of 35mm film
That's only about 90 minutes of film, give or take. Even John Ford would have used a lot more film than that.

Let's say you do manage (or just force yourself) to shoot everything in 1 take. If you have any coverage at all, you're still going to need more film. Why? Because you need to run through all or most of each scene for each camera setup you use. And you need a few feet at the head of each take for slate, color charts, etc. You either need to buy a lot more film, or you need to change formats, or you need to scale back your script to 20 pages. Which of these options will tell your story the best way possible?

If you can't get away from the "Rope"-like single shot concept, then you're going to need a steady cam, a crane or a dolly (or maybe all 3).
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