Friday, October 14, 2011

USA Storytelling trip with Cyrus - Day 4-5

Wow! What at experience!

For the past two days we have been shooting the six episodes of a storytelling workshop for the CSPS (Center for Secular and Post-modern Studies) aimed at those who work as preachers, teachers and volunteers in the Adventist Church.

On Wednesday and Thursday I arrived at the producers house at 8am and we drove to the shoot location where we took take after take until we had it perfect. I cannot wait to see it! I am so proud to have worked with such a team of professionals. Wednesday we finished at about 6pm. Thursday we finished at 8pm!

Both days, there was a lot of fine tuning that needed to be done. Being a new set, on the first day, the lighting and sound and angles and more all needed balancing and fine tuning. Then on the second day, the set was changed and required more fine tuning.

The stage backdrop was mirrors - 5 on the first day and 3 on the second. They create a stunning post-modern look, but are extremely difficult to film cleanly. Try to imagine all the lighting issues with lights hitting mirrors, each facing a little different direction. Then, imagine the reflections in each mirror - what will you see? You can't let light bounce from the hot stage lights into the camera. And you can't let cameras be seen by other cameras. The backdrop had to be completely blacked out and the cameras peeking through holes in the black sheets. It was a nightmare to setup, but an absolutely brilliant finished effect. I have never seen a group of
profectionists work together with such precision and patience! It was something to behold!

The first day we filmed the first half of each episode. The shows are divided into 10 minutes of storytelling and 10 minutes of teaching on storytelling. We filmed the first 10 minutes of all 6 shows on Day 1 - with the mirrors all standing on end.

Then, on the second day, for the teaching segments, we took out two mirrors and turned the middle one lengthways to function as a writing board. It created a very cool effect, but was VERY difficult to get perfect for the cameras. We didn't start the true film takes until after lunch - at about 2pm. It was amazing how, once everything was perfectly tuned and setup, we flew through the episodes. Basically, we did one episode an hour for the rest of the day.

In each of the teaching episodes we had new material on the board. This required a lot of time in writing and then darkening the text and illustrations until it was perfect for the cameras.

Sarah Asaftei, the Director, meticulously wrote each board full on notes before we shot the scene. They had asked me to do the writing as I taught, but I convinced them my handwriting would never be readable! Even kids complain! It wasn't until we started writing on the mirror that we realised how much work it actually was to get the writing to come up clear and bold. It took a fair bit of preptime!

There was also the sweat issue! You can see Nathan behind me with my "sweat dabbing towel" in his hand. The lights were very hot and I was cooking! Sarah had to reapply makeup often. On the second day, they found a very quiet fan that sat on the floor a couple metres in front of me and did an amazing job at cooling me off.

I have such as sense of accomplishment having been through the past two days. It was a lot of detail work (which I'm glad was other people's job!) and then me making sure I had my intro, conclusion and middle bits all ready so we could do the takes as cleanly and quickly as possible. More than half of the 12 segments were done in just one take. The others required fine tuning by the storyteller, too! What an adventure.

Now Cyrus' adventure begins. Today we drive to Orlando, Florida where we will explore the World of Walt Disney! Four days of fun-parks and learning exhibits. We are two very excited boys. But I bet you can guess who is most excited! He's just come out of the shower – my turn.

Then, we drive!

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