Friday, January 6, 2012

Level 26: Dark Revelations -- Production Journal - Day 4

Warning: Potential book and cyber-bridge spoilers ahead.

Day 4:

Call time: 8:00 am

Malibu. Otto, our Line Producer and 1st AD, picked up Paul and I on the way to the beach. It down poured the day before, when we were on the stages, but it was looking like today would be warm with clear blue skies. Of course, you never know what’s going to happen out in Malibu but it was a beautiful early morning drive in. 

Photo by Alex Minkin
Photo by Alex Minkin
We were shooting at a small beach house out near Point Dume. The scene is pretty much the entirety of cyber-bridge 2, wherein Labyrinth holds hostage a Hollywood actress, her producer boyfriend and orders them to strip naked before turning them against one another.

It was a roughly six-page scene, with nudity (nothing you’ll see in the final cut) and there was a lot to get through. To add to it, we were in the living room of a house, which on one side had a huge bank of windows. Obviously great for light, but it also meant we had to bring in some of our own. We were also fighting light; since we couldn’t be shooting once it got dark (and honestly, didn’t want to anyway). In addition to the bulk of cyber-bridge 2, we had one small series of shots to get of Labyrinth standing on the beach as well as another scene, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Today would be a closed set due to the nudity. As mentioned, you won’t see anything in the final cut, since we’re not allowed to show it anyway, so aside from a key shot here and there, we never see anything and the actress was never fully nude on set. However, for the comfort of everyone involved, the set was closed down to all except the very essential personnel.

To play the role of Faye Elizabeth, I called Tiffany Brouwer, who’s been a friend of mine for a while now and has appeared in several of my projects. In addition to needing to be beautiful and attractive this was a really emotional scene, with the character being put through a fairly harrowing experience and I really needed someone that could deliver on the performance. I had absolute faith that she would (and she did) as well as knowing that she would be comfortable working with me in the described situation. While this role was technically a “day player” there was so much more that had to happen in it that I really needed someone I knew would deliver and could trust.

David, her producer boyfriend, was played by actor Daniel Probert, and of course, Hal was on set as Labyrinth. The scene wasn’t difficult to get through, it just took time. As a director, even when switching angles, I prefer to try and shoot as much of the scene straight through as possible. This allows the actors to have better starting points, allowing them to really get into the scene, but also because I like the surprises that come from it. I’d rather have the actor (or the camera operator) make a bold choice late into a scene and have something really great, than shoot bits and pieces. So, of course, it takes a while to get through but I find that I’m better served by it in the editing room. But it’s also why I don’t spend too time doing too many of takes of any one angle.

This scene was important in a number of other ways. It was the first time we see Labyrinth interact with anyone so I wanted to make sure we had the tone and function of the scene down. While I was somewhat rushed during the other scenes from previous days, I really wanted to take the time to get it right.

Once we had finished angles on both Tiffany and Daniel we needed to get Hal’s. Rather than staging him so the camera looked into the room, we set him up so the camera would be looking right outside, with him in the foreground. Because of this, we needed to deal with the disparity between the outdoor and indoor light so Hal didn’t play as a silhouette.  It was fortunate that we started getting into the end of the day as we shot this so it wasn’t super bright and sunny outside.

While Paul started lighting, Nate (camera op), Tom (1st AC), Hal and myself went outside to get the stuff on the beach. Initially we were going to finish the scene in the beach house before doing this but it was smart we decided to do it when we did because we didn’t end up wrapping the beach house scene until close to sunset.

Once we wrapped cyber-bridge 2, we had another short scene we wanted to grab at the house, where one of the rooms stood in for a dorm room.

The scene is a flashback scene for cyber-bridge 5, where three girls are being raped, individually at different times, by this character named Shane Corbett. I’ll talk about the cyber-bridge itself tomorrow but the point was that we had to shoot the rape scene while out at the beach house.

I had found the three girls during my casting session with Jennifer Cooper the week before, three really amazing actresses: Nathalie Fay, Haley Strode and Jennifer Holland. They all came in for the same role but I knew that whoever was playing these girls would need to be really accomplished and despite the limited lines, perform in a believable and emotional way. I actually rewrote their scene for cyber-bridge 5, based on the casting session, in order to differentiate between the three of them and give them all moments within the scene.

While we were waiting on lighting I sat down with the three of them, and Jared Ward, who would be playing Shane, to discuss the scene. We worked with our stunt coordinator to figure out a struggle that would look real but keep everyone safe.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Nathalie, Haley, Jennifer and Jared’s willingness to bring it to the scene. After one particular take, our stunt coordinator said that he was three seconds away from jumping in and pulling Jared off before slugging him in the face, it was that believable.

I decided, for the comfort of everyone involved, to operate the camera myself. We went through two versions of the scene, one that was very specific for the flashback as written and a longer one to give us more material to cut with.

Despite Nathalie, Haley and Jennifer going through the same routine, each girl made it profoundly different and everyone, including myself, was very disturbed having gone through it. Despite the fact that no clothes are being ripped off, no nudity, no simulated sex, the scene itself comes off as incredibly violent, both due to the performances of Shane, Nathalie, Haley and Jennifer and the camerawork and lighting.

I can’t imagine it was a pleasant experience but everyone was extremely professional about it, it was a huge asset and comfort to the girls to have our stunt coordinator there to take everyone through everything and honestly it shows in the scene. It’s a testament to the professionalism of the cast and crew that we shot some pretty harrowing, difficult and disturbing scenes and got everything we needed.

Tomorrow: Day 5 of Production

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