Thursday, May 10, 2007

lots of things! lots of things! DONE WITH CYCLE CREWING

Before I tell you about Alfred Ortega, I must pause to tell you about my new baby:


This is Cody. He is a dark gray Toyota Matrix and he is named for a Jack Kerouac novel, because his license plate doesn't have any letters that can really be forced into a name, the way Enx0's did. The letters in Cody's license plate are YQS. Nothing nice can come of those letters. I got him over Spring Break, after Carol and Lyssa and I drove up the coast in one last great Enx0 roadtrip. Enx0 is at home with my parents now, and I think he'll like it there better, because all the driving I do in LA didn't really agree with him and he kept breaking down. Besides, he's a San Francisco car at heart, just like I'm a San Francisco person at heart. I do miss him, though. Cody is very fast and zippy, but Enx0 is an old friend with fond memories.

No, it is NOT weird that I personify my cars with names! Really!

So anyway, on to our Alfred Ortega shoot.

I think I should give you a brief description of the plot of the movie, just because otherwise you'll have no idea what I'm talking about. So. Alfred Ortega is an immortal. He comes bursting into a church looking for a preist who had been alive a long time ago, hoping to receive his last rites so he can try to kill himself. Instead he meets another priest, Father Vidal, who takes him into the confessional to hear his story. Alfred tells him about how he is immortal, and how he had used his life to be a great soldier until he fell in love with a woman named Esmeralda, who died tragically in childbirth. After she died Alfred went into hiding and became a hermit until he couldn't stand it any longer and decided to try to kill himself, at which point he came to the church. Father Vidal tries to calm him down and tells him the story of Simeon, who lived a very long life and could not die until he fulfills his destiny. He tells Alfred that things are the same for him. Alfred takes this to heart and goes to comfort a Weeping Woman who is mourning the death of her husband in the church. The implied ending is that Alfred accepts his fate and trusts that he will die when God decides he should.

We were screwed to begin with, because week 4 of Cycle 3 had five teams shooting as opposed to the usual four, so the cinematographers had smaller crews, which is never a good thing on these projects. To add to that, thesis scripts were due from everybody who wrote one the day after we shot, so the majority of the directors and producers weren't so keen on crewing the whole weekend. So we had a very, very small crew, but guess what? It didn't matter. My crew was fantastic-- I had Richard gaffing for me, Chris Burgon key gripping, David best boying, and Monika ACing. We did just fine without the extra person. Hurray for rising above your troubles and all that.

We shot the first two days on AFI's campus, on the soundstage for the first day and part of the second day, and also down the hill in the grotto area and near the stairs. The first day was entirely confessional scenes, in a confessional that BreAnn, our production designer, built on the stage. I really like the stuff we shot in the confessional. We had just one "lightbulb" as the source in there, on the priest's side of the confessional, and that meant we could do fun criss-crossy things on Alfred's face:

Ricardo in the confessional

in the confessional

The second day we shot all our flashbacks, like Esmeralda's death scene:

the bedroom scene

in which Letia and Bre got to pour food coloring and Karo syrup all over our actors:


And Alfred's soldier flashbacks:

Ricardo as a "dead" soldier

And the scene where he and Esmeralda fall in love:

Esmeralda and Alfred at the fiesta

On Monday and Tuesday we were at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, which is gorgeous and looks more like a cathedral than a church. Most of the stuff in the church was just between Alfred and Father Vidal, with the Weeping Woman in one scene. Oh, and we did one more flashback, in a room off the main sanctuary of the church. Oh wait, two more flashbacks. Geez, where is my mind? One of the flashbacks, which we did in the lowest room of the bell tower, was basically my favorite shot of the movie: it's Alfred hiding from his pain after Esmeralda dies. I loved it... and of course, it got cut.

favorite shot!

Ricardo in my favorite shot

And yes, in that photo I am wearing my brand new AFI Cinematography hat, which says "Killa Cam" on the back, because that is what people have taken to calling me for some reason-- maybe because it sounds like an awesome rapper name. It's Richard's fault... he took the idea and ran with it.

Anyway, because I'm kind of sick of talking about it, here's some other stuff we did in the church. Oh, are you tired of pictures? Too bad!

Olivia and Ricardo
(Alfred about to comfort the Weeping Woman)

Bre and Letia being lit
(Letia and Bre standing in as Alfred and Esmeralda)

You get the idea. Overall, I was really happy with how everything went with our set. I'm mostly happy with what I did-- I don't think it was all that gutsy, the style we went with, but I am happy with how we pulled it off. The story got complicated and then we tried to make it simpler, and it ended up with lots of plot holes, but that's ok. People seemed to like it ok in Narrative Workshop. There were some who didn't dig the whole religious thing, and some who just didn't really get it, but for the most part people liked it. And people seemed to like in particular what I did, which makes me really happy, because I definitely need reminding of why the hell I'm here sometimes.

Oh, and I have to say, I'm really proud of Richard. This was the first time he'd ever gaffed, and I think he did a great job. I made him gaffer because my first two gaffers both kind of had an "I'm better than you" attitude, and I knew Richard wouldn't. I wanted the movie dark, and I told him not to let me fear the darkness, because I know I always chicken out with stuff like that. He was great. He knew just what I was going for and went there with me. So, not that Richard reads this, but thanks, kiddo.

OK, I actually have homework to do, now that CYCLE PROJECTS ARE OFFICIALLY OVER WITH. I spent the whole last weekend on night shoots, gaffing a black and white noir sort of comedy in a dry cleaner's. Weird, right? Yes. So now I have stuff to do. But, I'll leave you with a couple more pictures, just because they're funny, of me wearing a Steadicam rig in class last Thursday and of my section of the cinematography class with the Steadicam operators who came in to show us the rigs:


our section of the Thursday  class with the Steadicam instructors

Oh, and two random movie recommendations: Fay Grim is really funny, and Year of the Dog is also really funny but in a completely different sort of way. Both kind of obscure, but worth it if you want to laugh. Oh, and Hot Fuzz is hilarious! The uptight cop guy reminded me of a certain former roommate of mine if he had been a British cop!