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D.P. Journal

Recount of a High Tech Low Budget Shoot

And here it begins. American Standard is a truly independent film and as such we has many restrictions to work within. But we also had the freedom to shoot the film as we wanted to.

In this Journal I want to let all the DPs and techies into the inner workings of our shoot from the technical side. We made many decisions based on our budget, timeframe and type of project. The film was shot on the Panasonic HVX200 at 720P in a completely tapeless workflow. This was a new and untested camera when we received it. We needed to design a workflow based on this camera, P2 technology and a scaled down crew.

I conceived this project about 5 years ago with the director, Josh Abraham sitting at a bar at the Ground Round in Binghamton, NY. In trying to think of a completely new take on the 20-something story I came up with the idea of shooting a film from the “other side”. That is from the point of view of a fly on the wall in the bathroom. This would require an intelligent audience to piece together the story they would never see. It would also require clever writing to keep it from feeling contrived. We never wanted to just put characters in a bathroom when they could be having the same conversation outside. In addition, we wanted a cast of 20 characters to populate this world without the 90210 syndrome (that syndrome is when you feel that the whole world consists of only the characters you know).

Flash to a year later and the script was written by Josh and Jason Kucharsky (fellow producer and other writer). It was clever but alas was just a first draft.

Flash to 4 more years later - or just a year ago - and the script was an extremely tight comedy with intersecting story lines having all the elements of a mainstream and cult comedy. Now it was a script worth producing. I contacted Josh and Jason on behalf of my production company SLM Production, owned by myself and Lauzanne Nel. I was looking for a relatively easy straightforward script to produce. “American Standard” seemed like a good candidate. All interiors, reasonable sized cast, easy situations to photograph - clearly it could be done on a very low budget in a short time period.

Well - I couldnt have been more misled. The thing is we chose a script with over 20 characters, over 30 interior SMALL locations and a set of intersecting stories that relied on subtlety. In addition, since all the locations were bathrooms, it would be important for us to make all locations look very different from the moment we entered them and keep the recognizable. We needed to customize our workflow, equipment, crew and mentality to the set of unique challenges this project presented.

In this journal I would like to recount the sets of challenges we came up against both as a producer, but most of all as a Director of Photography. In giving our creative solutions you will get a sense of how we solved problems - and perhaps some of your will use these solutions in the future.

This was an extremely successful shoot. Our workflow was nearly flawless and due to the amazing talents of our crew we have created beautiful footage, great comedic acting and a story worth telling.

© 2006 In the Can Production LLC
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