A lot of this is covered in the podcast, so head over there (below) to get the full scoop. Suffice it to say, Frank and I got hooked up and what I saw was a guy so touched by the people and small vacation town of Ludington that he wanted to make a full-length movie about it.
He had a full budget written out and I’d get seven of it to figure out how to bring it to life – with what gear. We’d have about two full weeks to shoot with at least one actor we knew would be leaving the state of Michigan immediately after Principal Photography. We also had zero other people with experience in film, let-alone production, aside from myself. All of this was explained to me over lunch at J. Alexander’s (my favorite place in metro to be treated).
I only had one question for Frank:
“Why don’t we make it a short first?”
His answer was no.
I finished my string-fries and held my breath…
Technically, I was hired on as Director of Photography. The reality of low budget filming is, of course, you’ll be wearing multiple hats. The reality of THIS low budget film was, I was the only one who has ever worn any hats on any set so…I wear all of them?
A lot of this was basically me sharing everything I knew of every department on a film set and hoping the people involved could catch on and carry the torch further into the tunnel.
Because this would be my first feature in the DP position, I wanted to do it right. This meant moving up to Ludington and spending months getting to know the city, shooting B-Roll, and donating the rest of my time to the script and technical prep.
When it finally came down to Principal Photography, I had launched our website, social media, supervised all of the other marketing, helped organize the shoot days, and even found us two actors who would fill out the cast but, even better, act as support for me on set.
Research & Development
1 | RED “color-glass” OLPF testing. I noticed that even the Epic has a piece of filter glass in front of the sensor. I wanted to find out if it merely effected infrared light or color as well. This page shows my process and findings.
2 | I went through a myriad of movies shot with the RED Epic MX, screen-shotted INT and EXT frames that stood out to me, and then applied false color to them. This allowed me to investigate how the DP was exposing certain parts of the frame (knowing most light for the shot not the edit).
Our main Ludington shoot location. Most scenes were written inside the bar. The yellow squares indicate where I would put lights depending on time of day and mood of the shot. The overhead spot was kept for every shot.
We were lucky to have full access to the bar from sunrise to 4pm every week day. Although, we did have to clear all gear out by 4pm, even if we had to shoot the same night after close. This still allowed us an incredible amount of freedom for multiple setups and takes.
Kitchen + Living Room
About 80% of the movie takes places in either the kitchen or living room. Lucky for us, the shoot location had them connected! Because there was such a variety of shots and TOD (time of day), I left the yellow squares out of this diagram. Typically I always had Lowel lights outside every window to either emulate the sun or add more light inside. When shooting dusk and night scenes, I would rely mostly on the practical bulbs (overhead and in lamps) with a small addition of a 500w Lowel (dimmed and behind a 4×4) or the small LitePanels for a kick. Like the bar, the kitchen table night scenes were done with an overhead fluorescent light as the key.
RED Epic MX | Asahi Takumar Primes