No Shortcuts

My one-man-band short film.

Ryck starts to get tired of his regular running routine just as he encounters something mysterious, and possibly dangerous.

As I work bit-by-bit through this one-man-band adventure I hope to share my victories and failures on this page. Unlike many short films I've been involved in this production will take weeks to wrap up all the photography. That means a slow process, but I get to spend a lot more time ruminating on what I want from each shoot.

So if you're looking to play along, you've come to the right place. Here's hoping I can get everything shot before Spring makes its beautiful premiere.

Night 12! Full moon filming

Night 12 East Side Showcase

In the penultimate scene of this film my character goes on a long, closing run. To pull that off, I needed some recognizable landmarks. Things that say "I recognize the scale, but don't really know where this is." So, I spent my evening setting shots, running into frame, running out of frame, and then moving on to a new location to do it all over again. Also funny because I was shooting stuff for the top and bottom of the film. It was fun and as little exhausting.

I'm pretty much done with the fun camera tricks, now it's all about finishing off the story and not messing up the end. Too many films tell a good story and then completely fall apart right before the credits. I'm hoping this isn't one of those films. 15 shots.

~ P@ - Sunday, March 28, 2021

Night 11! Running, Running, Running.

Night 11: Back in the Street

I am not shooting this in sequence. In fact, if the shooting plan holds, the first shot in the film will be the last thing I shoot. So what was tonight? The first scene in the film, and guess what, I'm gonna reshoot half of it. Not because the shots didn't work (well plan A and plan B were dismal failures, but I wont bore you with that right now) but because of what I feel is necessary context that are required. So once everything but the very first shot in the film are in the can, I will reshoot that stuff.

If this film had a budget, a cast, and a crew this is the type of discovery I'd probably let slide, but seeing as I only have myself to let down... That primadonna can suck an egg. I want to get this thing "right."

11 shots, half are going in the bin.

~ P@ - Saturday, March 27, 2021

Night Day 10! Back in the Basement.

Day 10: More Basementing

16 shots today and once again I have returned to the basement to get the second half of the scene. It went really well, but I must say it's a miracle I was able to get it at all. My PA woke up at 4:45am this morning (must have been excited for the shoot, although she wasn't on the crew list soooo...) and I never got a chance to get back to sleep. Thankfully I packed all my gear the night before and double checked all the important stuff for each shot. A good part of early rise was it gave me the chance to shoot everything much earlier in the day than I initially planned. Bonus for an early wrap! Still, reviewing the footage there is at least one goof in the shoot, thankfully it is something I am willing to live with.

So now we've hit the original full shoot plan, 10 days. Oh well, cramped windows and expanded ideas have changed the plan and that's okay. It's looking more like 15 days. I am really hoping to have this all done by April 1, but that relies on two things; weather and available time. April 1 is the goal because I have stupid plans for the April Fools Day that require breaking continuity in the characters look... I want to shave down to a mustache.

One change in the story is I ditched a practical effect I was hoping to attempt for the first time ever. it got the chop for fear it might overload the story. I'm gonna ruminate on that a bit and maybe decide to throw it back in. It would certainly add some dramatic tension and stakes. Damn, am I talking myself back into this while typing today's post? Shoot. Oh well. I guess it's looking like 16 days!

~ P@ - Friday, March 24, 2021

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Night & Day 9! Upside down and down low.

Night/ Day 9: Interior/Exterior

With a few pockets of story needing to be fleshed out, I snuck two hours of personal time over the course of two days to grab some interiors and exteriors. I'm getting into the more fun camera shots. Really low stuff, gimbal stuff, and if you look at the carousel to the side here, yes even some wacky birdseye stuff.

I'm still experimenting with how to pull off a couple shots I have planned for this thing. Shots that wouldn't be a concern with a second person to operate the camera, but most definitely not easy solo. I'll figure it out. In fact, talking storytelling and the term "artist" I realized my preferred adjectives are creative and problem solver. I think problem solving is the main role of a director. Someone comes to them with an issue and they need to search the old brain bone for a solution. That is the fun of the role. How do you get a birdseye shot in a garage when you're a crew of one? Clamp the camera on the open garage down, hang the recorder-monitor upside down, and just roll baby roll. Been solution after solution with this thing. I love it.

In order news, Elliana returned to the set and helped me set up some C-stands, flag off some windows, place some 10 lbs sand bags, and wet a few diapers. She's really quite the PA. I tell her jump and she says "Coo?"

So where are we at this point? I'd say 70% done with photography. Might seem like I should be farther along after nearly a month since I started this thing, but when you only get 10-15 shots per window (16 shots for this combined shoot) you better plan for something resembling a feature films shooting schedule.

~ P@ - Sunday & Monday, March 21-22, 2021

Night Day 8! Workshopping some ideas

Day 8: Rushed Basement Shoot

While my exterior shots have been productive, and living up to expectations as far as what I could get in the period allotted, my interior shoots are taking more time than I anticipated. of course interior shoots require a lot more lighting care and set dressing. And now that I have done three interior shoots in a row I must say I don't care how long it takes I am really loving the interior stuff.

For day eight I carved out an hour of shooting time before going to work. That meant getting up earlier than usual and grabbing all my gear to shoot in a space way more amenable location to the story... my parents basement workshop. Over the course of an hour, maybe 75 minutes, I got a dozen shots all over their workshop and I probably need to go back and get a dozen more.

I have gotten so used to projects being shot over the course of half-a-day to a day-and-a-half that having a luxury of time is both odd and wonderful. I'm really wrestling with the fact I set 10 days for the shoot as a goal but in reality it doesn't matter if I take 20 days. So as I go through the edit I'm starting to take notes about shots that could be better, things that could spice up each scene, and how I might re-edit some ideas. It's getting wild and I'm excited for this thing to get flushed out

~ P@ - Friday, March 19, 2021

Night Day 7! Four Shots in 90 minutes

Day 7: Duvetyn-for-Night

DAY(!) seven produced the fewest number of shots, but continued the trend of high return in "Soul Points" (to borrow a term from Mark Duplass.) Seeing as this film takes place pre-dawn, everything up till now has been shot at night. Well,there are a couple scenes that will be taking place inside the character's home and the only way for me to shoot that stuff is film while everyone else in my family is asleep. So this morning I was blessed by my four-month-old daughter, Elliana, with a 6:30am wake up time and since she was wide awake I took her on a crash course in setting up a shot to shoot day-for-night. Oh and if you have a problem with puns, grow down! It's a lot more fun down here.

It took me an hour to stage my kitchen in a way that killed the early morning sun sneaking in, light up some fake moonlight, arrange our kitchen in a way that made sense, gave context to the character, but wasn't too distracting. It was a lot of fun and PA Elli was of absolutely no use. Although she did seem fascinated by the lights.

In the end I only nabbed four shots, and while they are not essential to the story, they are essential building blocks in the house of cards that is a film. Hopefully the house will still be stand of its own accord when all the cards are in place. Excited for Day 8! It is a crucial one in the story and demands some practical effects I've never personally attempted. Wish me luck!

~P@ - Thursday, March 18, 2021

Night Six! Maybe I should've swept the garage before laying in the dirt over-and-over-and-over.

Night 6: Four on the Floor

Last night I did nearly an hour of filming and none of it was of me running. Thank goodness, my legs are screaming for a break. Instead the entire night was spent lying on my garage floor... it was awesome. I got dirty as heck, hurt my shoulder, and scraped my knee something fierce but it was probably my favorite night yet. There's a real energy to filming when you've got to trouble shoot and not just line level the camera and hit record. I got 15 shots, multiple angles, got to mess with lighting, and really play with framing. Just the best.

According to my original plans I'm officially in the back half of production. There's a good chance that will hold true, but I've had some ideas on how to amp up a few beats and it might require a day or two extra of shooting. If so, no biggie. I'd rather bring this project to its full potential than leave some of the fun in my brain.

~P@ - Friday, March 12, 2021

Night five! Pavotubes are the bomb

Night 5: Near Disaster, Pavotubes!

Tonight brought a couple of unwelcome surprises; first, my camera fell over when I was 40 yards from it. It appears to be working fine. Second, I learned sprinting in every running shot has resulted in some seriously tight muscles. The first two months of 2021 produced Rura Penthé levels of winter which kept me from running. So physically I'm basically back at square one and running on camera like a ostrich on fire is causing some HURT.

I'm rather miffed about the camera tip over, I know better than to set a shot and leave a tripod alone in quasi stiff wind. Thank Satan my camera didn't explode and seems to be working as if nothing happened. One fun addition is I've started using Pavotubes for some extra light. Love their ease of use, mobility and versatility. Their best feature is their size, I mean when you need to be smart with the minimal gear you're using, Pavotubes are easy choice. I only have 2 6Cs, but I wish I had a dozen.

In the end, I got the 8 shots I was aiming for and got the story to the scene just before the second act. Plus! The effects I was hoping to produce are working beautifully. I really want to share the VFX tricks but I don't want to tip too much of the story. I did share with Marieta my assembly edit thus far and she thought it looked and sounded cool. She thought my concept was cool and is eager to see how it all turns out. Gives me the gas to keep running, literally.

~P@ - Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Night four, a man walks alone in a vacant lot.

Night 4: Curiouser and Curiouser

Finally the money night. I was out for nearly an hour and only got 10 shots, but they were super important to get right and to the story. Again I was back in the vacant lot about a quarter mile from my house. Plenty of strangers from the nearby apartment could be heard muttering about the weird glowing guy walking around the field. I love it.

I've been looking forward to getting these shots, but I'm starting to really miss having a cast and crew. I don't call myself an actor, but your budget is zero and your time is 30-60 minutes here and there for several weeks in a row, you cast who is available.

Getting this media into a sequence has me pretty jazzed. Looking forward to how the next few nights really pull the story together.

~P@ - Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Night 3, things are about to get suspenseful.

Night 3: Rising Movement

Moving into the real turn of the story here, but tonight didn't reveal the "interesting" story element. No it was more penultimate stuff. Much more challenging cinematography night as available light is pretty much horizon light when it comes 10pm at night in an open field. Part of the reason I'm relying on available light is I can't justify an hour outside shooting while my wife is home wrangling two kids under 4yo. So I really scale down what gear I bring and run between shots. Not really an issue for the on-camera fun as the character is supposed to be a runner.

Night 3 was a success; I was out for 50 minutes and grabbed 10 shots. I was hoping to get more but getting the shot right is more important than getting a lot of shots.

~P@ - Monday, March 8, 2021

Night 2, gotta focus on the run.

Night 2: Run Pat Run

Night one was all about story, night two was about bridging important moments and hinting to what's coming. Stayed out for roughly 45 minutes and got 15 shots. I've been shooting with my Sony A7s (original recipe) on a old, junky photography tripod with my Atomos Ninja V. My main glass is the Sony 24mm F1.4, super fast and sharp as heck. It's an adventure in available light and tolerable image noise. I definitely have some post clean-up work in front of me, but I don't believe any of my choices will distract from the final piece. I will say without my Ninja V I don't believe this would be possible. It gives a wonderful preview of the shot and allows me to check false color, histogram, waveform, monitor audio, the whole shebang. I don't know how one-man-band filmmakers do it without a facsimile of a "video village" to fine tune and check their work.

~P@ - Saturday, March 6, 2021

Night 1, Out in the great wide open (a rebel without a clue)

Night 1: Scene 3, Act 1

You have to start somewhere, so why not start in the middle right? Especially when you're still figuring out exactly what you're doing. This is the first time I've done EVERYTHING by myself. It's a wild beast to be wrangling both behind and in-front-of camera drama. Lots of decisions to make and mistakes to dodge (or embrace. Night one proved what I was anticipating; this is going to take a while and there will be encounters with strangers wondering what this stranger is doing.

In the end night one was a success and I was able to capture 13 shots. Plenty more to say but I'll leave that for future posts.

~P@ - Wednesday, March 3, 2021