Drama Behind the Scenes

“This is probably the best still I have ever taken as a set photographer” read a post from last year which never quite got published… and so I’m just going to emancipate it from the drafts box:

The image was taken during a cinematography class project. We were supposed use a K3 film camera but nobody imagined that using it would be such a hassle!  At first, we couldn’t even get the film into the camera… it took six different people like two hours!

These are some other stills from the class project. We took great care on set design for that first shoot.  Costumes, poker chips and smoke, we had it all. Dolly tracks were set around the table, actors arrived and the tripod was set. Like I said earlier, it was two hours and 6 people before that camera saw the light of day.

As the problems with loading it became apparent, several suggested that we filmed on a HVX or Cannon T3i for backup. Unfortunately, it was decided to only film using the K3, as to save time. The director was freaking out and the rest of the crew and actors was stressed out. We needed to be done as soon as possible.

Being done as soon as possible turned out to be the least of our worries. Apparently the film was loaded incorrectly and the gadget responsible for pressing it against the shutter came loose during production. Fingers were crossed as we decided to move on.

The story evolved from the class’ desire to get slow motion shots of flowing fabric.  “What better way than a runaway bride in a gossamer dress?” They thought.

Being chosen as the bride was an interesting mix of fun and tragedy. Several class periods were spent running down the halls of the art department in a lime green dress. The rest of them regressed into the childish psychological mindset of ‘cooties’.   Yes, I did say the dress was lime green. In fact our costume designer did a wonderful job of creating it out of sheets and a slip.

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The last scene was supposed to have the bride die gracefully into a body of water. What was not graceful was the ungodly hour at which the cast and crew met up on a chilly, cloudy Sunday morning. In February. IN FEBRUARY!!!  This was not plan A – a heated pool in someone’s fancy Napa villa, this was more like plan Z and a half –a visit to the school’s fountain.

The director actually waded into the water in an attempt to coax us in. She succeeded – but as the frigid water engulfed my body, I found death wasn’t as beautiful as the shot had been described.  The groom’s shirt suffered a make-up imprint in a desperate attempt to muffle my unwarranted screams.  No one wanted to attract campus security!

The crew watched in horror as the fountain was vacated and cloths came flying off bodies faster than bullets.  The campus may or may not have witnessed an underwear clad person being chased by an ice soaked individual who in turned was followed by someone who’d been slipped into cloths at the last minute >.<  We are all running for a position within the Student Association. Good thing the administrators didn’t look out the window during their meeting!

The film was promptly sent to be developed. I jumped into a waiting vehicle and spent the rest of the day avoiding paint balls at a shooting range.

“There was some good footage and some bad”  our professor wrote, “but among it was a few MAGICAL slow motion shots of a fleeing bride”.

Of course, our poker scene is ruined because the film was loaded incorrectly – but you know what the worst part is? One of the rolls is missing. Specifically the roll featuring a ‘not-so-dead-someone’ in the fountain. There were many unhappy faces  and under breath comments to go around.

Deep breath. It’s ok. Our grades WILL survive.

As discussed in class, there were other factors that affected the success of this project. Some commented that the director wasn’t getting along with everyone on the team. Others mentioned that the producer wasn’t contacting the right people. Several glared at the bride & groom knowing that our ‘none speaking terms‘ attitude during production had ruined the chemistry.

Regardless of the outcome, this film making fiasco has brought many lessons along with it:

  1. Have back up lined up so if plan A fails at least you will be able to rock plan B (and not get to Z1/2).
  2. Group effort is needed so work with your team regardless of personal differences.
  3. Enjoy whatever it is that you are doing and have fun while you are at it.

As for my film loading abilities -thankfully one of the TAs decided to take the time to teach me how the camera worked. I took two freshmen into the darkroom with us so they could watch him load the K3.  Besides the occasional flicker from the little red lights on the enlargers, you can’t see anything! Nada. Rien. The poor TA must have rolled his eyes as the freshmen and I spent the next 25 minutes trying to figure out why we could all ‘see’ and were seemingly running into a fictitious pole in the middle of the room. Other opportunities to load the camera were much appreciated and encountered with eternal gratefulness. Trial and error does pay off and by finals week I could load the K3 by myself with a record under 10 minutes. No time to run into imaginary poles there!

5 thoughts on “Drama Behind the Scenes

  1. Fun with film. Learning how to make your way in the dark to load film in anything is a pain, but movie cameras are super troublesome. Nice set of photos. Movie making is so much work.


  2. Excellent post. being able to look back and laugh at something, that at the time was anything but funny, is a skill/gift that will keep you balanced. It will also generate great material for many forms of mass media & creative expression. The photo shots are very good and the slow-mo bride run was classic.

    before starting to read this post I opened up several of the links you recommended to look at later. I suddenly had music playing and no way of determining which blog was providing the extra level of media experience. Had to shut down pages systematically till the music stopped. It was the last one, sigh.

    Thanks for visiting my Implied Spaces blog. You may find some of my posts on my Media Literacy Blog of interest. A recent one, Poppy Shadow Heart – Film Noir, may fit in your areas of interest. Thanks again. Will be checking out more of your posts. 🙂


    1. Thank you.
      You are right. That’s probably the best way to remember situations. No use in being sour, lol.
      Oh, no! I’m so sorry! That must have been the ‘Jim Jordan’ site. Just added a little note there on the side so it won’t happen again.
      Also, thanks for the suggestion. I will be looking at your post 🙂


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