Like A Complete Unknown, Like A Rolling Stone, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Film on my iPhone, pt. 3

Introduction: Before I begin, if you didn’t know, last year I released my very first short film to the world (or to the internet).  I had never been so nervous in my life, but I was proud of my incredibly amateurish piece of work.  In the end it was really a learning experience of how not to make a short film, but all of that will be covered in the following blog entries.  If you haven’t seen it, please watch it before reading any of the material.

Like A Complete Unknown – A Short Film from Coffee Whale Films on Vimeo.

If you’re back from last week, thank you so much for reading.  If you aren’t, please read the first article in the series here, and the second here.

My initial thought before filming began was probably the same that every first-timer things: this is a short script, nothing difficult to film, this will be easy.

Wrong.

We needed a university setting for the majority of the scenes where the Loner is at school.  My school at the time was a community college and really didn’t have the look I was going for.  However, Seth and Vo both attended Jacksonville State University, which had the campus look I originally had in mind.  All three of us were free on Friday afternoons, so we decided to meet on campus on October 2, 2015 to commence filming.  On the way, I made a quick stop for another important prop: googly eyes for the rock.

I met Seth in the parking lot of the building his last class was in.  This parking lot would serve as the space where the Loner would park at for his main classes.  Vo wouldn’t be able to film for another hour, so we did what we could to get some establishing shots around campus.  I wanted the first couple shots to be aerial and I knew that JSU’s library was twelve stories tall.  They typically kept the balcony on the twelfth floor locked, but I wanted to try to at least get some shots out the window.  To our surprise as we arrived on said floor, the school was giving a tour and the balcony was open.  We were able to get the shots we needed and head back to the original parking lot.

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Photo of Seth in costume in order to keep continuity.

By this time, Vo had arrived and we were able to film the first scene where the Loner walks out of his building and stumbles in front of the Student.  Next, since Vo was only available for a short amount of time, we filmed the scene where the Student confronts the Loner.  Since the eyes were not yet glued onto the rock (this would happen in a later scene), an extra eye was thrown on the ground in the shot where the rock is dropped.  After this, we filmed a couple more scenes of the Loner driving and then were done for the day.

Due to schoolwork, conflicting schedules, and all-around bad luck, the next filming date wasn’t until October 31, 2015.  I had wanted to try and film everything within at least a week, but I quickly learned nothing ever goes as planned.  This was a longer shooting session, only consisting of Seth.  First, we met in Southside, AL, an adjoining suburb, and filmed a couple tracking shots of the Loner driving.  Next, we stopped at the local boat docks by the river to film the character angrily tossing the rock (a double) into the water.

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Definitely not posing: filming on an iPhone.

Seth realized he was not wearing the correct pants for the scene.  Unable to think quickly enough for a better solution, we decided to write in that after the Loner is pushed down by the Student, he would mess up his pants which would lead him to change as soon as he got out of the car; a silly, yet essential, addition that would have to be filmed the next shooting date.  We worked around it, and finished filming at the boat docks.  I wanted an extra wide shot to close out the scene and the only way it was feasible was to get on top of something like a roof.  The most accessible option was the bridge that looked over the river.  I had Seth stand in place as I drove up to the bridge, pulled over to the side and got out to quickly film the shot.

On the way to film scenes in my house, we stopped at the local Walgreens.  I had to shoot the scene where the Loner finds googly eyes for the rock.  I had previously stapled the package back together and brought it with me.  We hung it up on a rack in the store for Seth’s character to find.

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What would become the official poster.

We then proceeded to my house to film the Loner’s interior scenes.  Using that house was interesting because we were in the process of moving out.  A couple days after Seth was over filming the scenes, everything was taken down and put in boxes to move, almost as if we were breaking down a set.  After finishing those respected scenes, we moved on to the park behind my house.

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The Houston-Cole library at JSU: filming the last scene.

The park required three different scenes with three different wardrobe changes: the Loner finding the rock, the Loner relaxing in the park with his rock, and then the Loner frantically searching for another rock.  While filming these scenes, I seized the opportunity to capture a picture that would go on to serve as the poster for the short film.  Now we were done with the majority of the content.  All that was left was the final scene and a couple filling shots/re-shoots.

Our next day to film was November 13, 2015 (fairly certain).  We were scheduled to meet at JSU and while I was on my way, I had to take care of a few things.  There needed to be a couple shots (from inside the car) of the Loner driving to the park and to the boat docks.  I quickly stopped by both and filmed with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding my iPhone.  After that was accomplished, I met Seth at JSU in the same parking lot.

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Waiting patiently for Seth to come up the elevator.

We filmed his character messing up his pants so that earlier addition to the storyline would work and then filmed some driving shots.  Once Vo was ready, we headed into the same library as earlier to do some guerrilla-style filmmaking.  This would involve us constantly going up and down the elevator (and hoping no one else would get on and ruin the shot).  We would get in the elevator, press a specific floor and film while we could until it arrived at its destination.  The part that proved most difficult was what ended up being the closing shot.  Vo and I got off on the twelfth floor to set up for the scene and sent Seth back down.

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A quick break during re-shoots.

For a while, the elevator never came back up again.  I soon received a text from Seth telling me that other people had gotten on.  When it was finally clear, he texted again letting me know he was on his way up.  The final scene was (finally) completed in two takes.

Now that we were done, the confrontation scene between the Loner and the Student required some re-shoots.  These would not take long, but we were halted upon the realization that it was sunnier outside than it was on the original day we started shooting.  We decided to work with it anyway.  The same problem occurred with re-shooting the scene where the Loner stumbles in front of the Student.  It proved to be a problem in the final result, but I’ll get to that later because filming was finally completed…or so I thought.

Be sure to check back next for part 4 (the final entry)!

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