For our final piece of coursework for this module we got into production groups and was given a photograph or painting with which we had to produce a cinematic response to, in the form of a 4-6 minute short film.
My group was given this photograph which we found out was taken in 1955 by American photographer and filmmaker William Klein.
After our research phase we assigned ourselves into production roles. My role was primarily as a DP but I also contributed to the project as an editor and colorist. Below is our short film ‘The Man With The Handgun’ (Theo De Ath, 2016).
We discovered that the photographer of our image was William Klein, who is by trade a well reputed filmmaker, photographer and also a painter (lesser known). Willaim is an American-born Frenchman who was born in New York; the place where he captured his first majorly popular work, photo essay Gun 1 (William Klein 1955) and others such as the one above.
At first we wanted to center our film around the 1955 era in New York and use the photo as a part of the narrative. Our scriptwriter then wrote a few outlines and we decided on a story, which we eventually changed after a bad filming day. We then went with a story based around dairy entries written about an obsessive and suicidal sociopath from America, infatuated with the man holding the gun in the photo. I believe this narrative was a more realistic choice for the sets we could obtain, but still manages to be impactful and interesting. We used an outdoors park and small Italian Cafe as our setting for the film.
We used a lot of natural and ambient light in the film as our settings had very ambient light that fulfilled our needs but we still used small LED fixtures to pop out certain colours and bring out the whites on the camera, or to highlight reflective objects like spoons to emphasise them more in the frame. We added fill lights to soften the shadows often on our close ups of the character, using LED panels and reflectors. I contributed to the the lighting and composition of most of the shots in the film as well as the cut, and had sole responsibility of the colour grading process.
The story we went with called for a contrast of colours between the two main settings which was the cafe and the park, with one being warm and the other cold to show the comfort and uneasiness of the character shifting from one end to the other. The two settings we chose had contrasting colour palettes and natural lighting, so my job in the colour grade was to bring out and accentuate this contrast. In scenes in the cafe when our character finds catharsis in coffee and carrying out his lead-less investigation, giving him momentary respite from his reality, the colour temperature is much warmer whereas in the the scenes where he is in the park and his investigation is crumbling and he is approaching his inevitable fate, the colour is much cooler and melancholic in feeling.
The narrative was more a product of experimenting with styles and story ideas than following a structured script. We had gathered from our experience with botching the rough cut that we would benefit from a more organic approach to making the film.
The main inspiration for our film was the idea from the feature film Submarine (2010, Richard Ayoade) which uses a sole narrator as the main narrative device. We used this in a different way however as we decided that we were going to use the diary entries of our character who is a sociopath with an internal conflict. This was a good device as it worked well to develop the character and drive the story.
In our rough cut we originally filmed using a Canon 5D Mark II but after scrapping the story and visuals, decided to switch over to the Black Magic Ursa Minis as they gave a much more cinematic look with its 35mm sensor and captured the colours a lot more vividly which we wanted, particularly from our macro shots in the film.
We recorded primarily on the Zoom H6 and an rifle microphone on a boom for the ambient sounds and sound effects. We made sure to make use of the Radio studio to record the voice over to get crisp audio without interference as the dialogue is the drive of the narrative.
W KLEIN, Publisher: Marval (1995), ‘New York: 1954-55′ 1995