Get My Cut - Music Video Breakdown - Part 1
We're back with another shoot breakdown!
Everyone responded super well to the Lazarus breakdown, so I decided to do something similar with a recent shoot I got to DP for a band called All Get Out. Obviously it's a slightly different perspective since I was the DP and not directing the whole project, but hopefully it will still be informative. In Part 1 I'll be focusing on Pre-Production and Day 1 of our shoot.
The Finished Product
So this whole thing started with me getting a call from my friend Brian Bruzzi, asking if I'd be interested in DPing a music video based on Reservoir Dogs in two weeks. It was going to be directed by Brian and his friend Cory, it would be a two day shoot, and was a great excuse to all get together and shoot something fun. The budget was relatively small, so we decided to put it all into gear, props, locations, etc.
I figured the shoot would be a great opportunity to test out my new Scarlet-W, as well as take a shot at a style that is very different than what I normally shoot, so I immediately confirmed my availability.
I must admit that pre-production had obviously started long before I received that phone call, and I can't really speak to Cory or Brian's process for coming up with their script etc. When I was brought on I was sent a google doc of the script, as well as a doc for us to share production needs, gear etc.
The big benefit of google docs is the ability to easily hold remote conversations using comments - myself and the Directors could add shot ideas, thoughts on gear we would need, and generally gameplan our coverage of the shoot.
As the DP, I had 3 main concerns in Pre-Pro: Crew, Schedule, and Gear.
Crew was a total non-issue. We ended up having over 15 people on set both days. Directors, Assistant Director, Me, Grips, etc. This was my first concern because crew affects how fast we're able to move and how much gear we're able to manipulate. If it's just me and an AC we'll be operating much more simply than if we have 5 grips helping out.
Schedule was my second priority because I needed to know what time of day we'd be at various locations, and how long we had per scene. Thankfully all our exteriors were planned for the mornings, so I knew we'd have good light. The exteriors were planned with a decent bit of buffer time, which meant we had enough time to light everything. Locations were somewhat tied into this - Cory scouted the locations ahead of time and sent us pictures of the locations we'd be shooting.
Gear was the third priority. Once I knew what our scenes were, where we'd be shooting, and who we had for crew, I was able to decide what exactly we would need to make that happen. I started by thinking about what I had access to, and then what else we might need to rent to do everything well.
We would be shooting on my Scarlet-W, with my Easyrig, and using my Caselites and stands. We landed on the Easyrig as our predominant method of "support" because it was going to allow us to move as quickly as possible. We did want to add a few intentional dolly shots though, and I knew the Kessler Shuttle Dolly was the best option for those. I had access to my Contax primes for when we needed small/fast lenses, but I ended up decided the Canon CN-E zooms from LensProToGo.com were going to be a good look for the piece, and allow us to move quickly by avoiding lens change times.
I packed all my lighting gear, which included diffusion, bounce, flags, Kupo Grip stands, and a number of daylight/tungsten fixtures. I wanted a punchier light for the diner scene, so I asked for a Joker 800 hmi - I knew this would be able to run off house power, but give us a good amount of punch. Originally I also asked for a Joker 400 as a fill, but the rental house was out so we got a 4ft Kino instead.
The last step for me during Pre-Pro was actually re-watching Reservoir Dogs a few days before the shoot and taking note of how they lit and shot the scenes we'd be recreating. We wanted to stay as true to the original as possible, but I knew that since we weren't shooting the same exact things in the same places that we'd have to make changes. I noted that one of the big lighting themes of the film was lots of small punchy sources kicking into everything - the opposite of my usual style haha.
Now that we had a schedule, gear, crew, and a gameplan, it was time to put it all into action.
Shoot Day 1: Saturday
Saturday morning we had a 9am call time where everyone met up at the IndieWhip office (Brian's Production Company), where we prepped gear and went over our gameplan for the day. We had from 9am-2pm to shoot our 2 exterior scenes, eat lunch, and pack up and do a company move to the diner for the remainder of the day.
Our first scene was Mr Pink running down the street with the suitcase and passing by the car with our two other characters dead inside. We wanted to imitate the move from the movie as much as possible, so we decided I would be shooting from the back of a truck while using the Easyrig. We ran SDI to the cab of the truck so that Brian could watch the shot on a directors monitor while we were filming. We also had a crew member in the truck holding onto the back of the Easyrig to help keep me from falling out ;)
Mr Pink running was the easy part of the scene - the dead guys were the much harder part. We had to run a fog machine outside to help with the illusion of a car crash, and we needed to light a car interior while being able to see the whole exterior. Power was provided using two office battery backup type units from the Indiewhip office, and lighting was done with a Litegear Faux-Flo tube sitting on two pieces of foam insulation. This helped kick some light up into their faces, otherwise they would've been two dead silhouettes.
For coverage, we had 3 takes. One was a wide of Mr Pink shot from the truck dolly, one was a tight of the same thing, and one was the Easyrig shot at the end that lands on the dead guys, which was shot with me just standing next to the car. After a few takes of each shot Cory and Brian felt like they had what they needed, so we moved on to Scene 2.
Scene Two was the "opening credits" scene of all the Dogs walking down the street in a pack. This was the only off-speed scene in the movie, where we filmed everything at 48fps for 2x slowmo. We quickly moved one block over before going over the blocking for the scene: we needed a wide profile tracking shot of the whole group, tight shots of each individual, and a wide shot of them all from behind.
The most interesting challenge to this scene was that we wanted to have Nathan singing in his close-up, but it was going to be in slow-motion. Before the shoot Brian had created a version of the song that played back at 200% speed for Nathan to sing along to. Since we were playing the song at double time and effectively filming at double time, it all synced up when played back at real time.
We got super lucky with an overcast morning, so we didn't end up doing anything lighting-wise for this sequence. The wide profile shot was me walking with the Easyrig, the tights were all shot on the truck dolly, and the wide from behind was standing still with the easyrig.
Once we wrapped this scene we went back to the Indiewhip office to eat lunch and pack everything up before moving to the diner scene, which was at a location about 30 minutes away.
Scene Three was probably the scene that concerned me the most - we had to try to shoot a 360 conversation around a table in an empty (and small) diner, and have it feel at least somewhat believable.
We arrived on location and quickly realized that space was going to be a big issue. Thankfully our plan had been to shoot the whole scene on a Kessler Shuttle Dolly, which is super compact but also strong enough to hold our relatively large camera package on 6ft long slides.
We decided that the best way to create the circle was to split the scene into three parts, basically having three dolly positions which created a triangle around our table. By using these three zones we would roll the whole scene, but end up focusing on 2-3 people per take, and could re-light the scene based on that focus. This also allowed us to focus on recording audio for the 2-3 people we were focusing on in that take, so we had good audio for every shot without having to mic everyone.
I wanted to keep lighting simple in order to maintain perceived continuity while spinning around the room over a number of takes. We used the Joker 800 bounced into wall/ceiling as our key on whoever the main subject was, and then used a Lowell Caselite as a rim/fill. By maintaining the general ratios and shape of the light on the subjects face we were able to spin the lights around our 3 zones without it being obvious that things were changing. We also decided to do the zone facing the window first, as we didn't want a noticeable daylight change happening in the background.
We wanted to get that low-angle feeling the dolly has in Reservoir Dogs, and didn't have any stands short enough. We ended up stacking diner chairs and placing the Shuttle Dolly directly onto those stacks. We added sandbags for stability - sometimes you just have to DIY things to get the shot ;)
We wrapped around 5:30pm, and headed home to dump footage and get some rest before day two!
Check out some more BTS pics in the gallery below, and watch for the day 2 breakdown, coming soon!