Today I was thinking about a video I made when I was in college, and I decided to write a post about it.
I remember living in Boston, in the Mission Hill neighborhood. The place was some run down triple decker reminiscent of the house from Fight Club. No heat, big ass rats, you know, the usual Boston experience. I had been working with a few of the underground people in the film scene from a little over a year. Mostly people I’d met on a rag-tag borderline guerilla picture called ‘Smalltown’ that was shot in southern Mass in the summer of 2008(?) Anyway, somehow I had finagled my way onto this short film shoot as the sound guy (looking back on it I was the only person enrolled in film school with free access to sound gear), and the director was this high falutin’ artist type, with a solid DP who had worked for Discovery and TLC. Seemed legit.
After the shoot, I struck up a report with the director only to discover he had gone to my school. We decided to work together on a photo session the following week. I had a project that I was working on for school, so I figured I could get some footage and put something together.
I arrived on the day with a friend of mine who agreed to be in the video, and we went up to the studio. There was a girl there who the director had met at a coffee shop, who was going to be his ‘model’, and that was awesome because I was really racking my brain to figure out what this video was gonna be about. But now, a guy and a girl? This, I could work with.
That day was the first time I filmed a project using a DSLR. It was a Nikon that shot video, and after using all of the old 3ccd cameras and film cameras, this was a breath of fresh air. I also had an HPX with a Letus 35MM adapter, so I was doing all types of crazy experiments. I also utilized a tactic of adjusting the white balance using a book of gel swatches that I had (which somebody fucking STOLE…Karma). If you ever have the opportunity to do this, I recommend trying it out, even on your phone or whatever. I like in camera effects, because at least at that time digital effects degraded the quality of the image. I was using the vignettes that the adapter created (btw you lose a lot of fucking light on those things–stop and a half at least). I had some KINO FLOs, which always gave the best light in my opinion.
The gear was set up, the models were looking cool, the kinks were playing in the background, and every shot looked good. I felt like Andy fucking Warhol. It didn’t matter what I was filming, I was really using the camera like it was meant to be, a visual record of the world. I was the camera, and the camera was the observer. Essentially, this would be the antithesis of a film that directs the viewer to see things a certain way (which is practically how all commercial films are lensed). I’ve met a lot of people in the film industry throughout my dealings in media, and I have noticed one thing: underlying everyone’s efforts in that business is the desire for self expression. That day, I actually used the camera the same way a painter uses a brush, or a musician uses a guitar. I was the artist.
Sadly, it would be the last time. After this project, which was pure id, I was relegated to planned projects, and a sense that if I didn’t have an ultimate strategy I was destined to fail. Maybe they were right. Maybe I got lucky.
Looking back, these are some of the finer points of filmmaking. I think that this element can be easily overlooked amid the stresses of a commercial project. Maybe the best way to do things, is to have a really strong development team to create the perfect conditions, and then just let the creatives do their thing. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I sensed something that day, and when the technical side fuses with the creativity, you can create beautiful results.