Finally back home and able to post directly from my own computer. Enjoy…

On the Set of Untitled Zak Forrest Project

Zak, in addition to writing, directing and shooting the movie, is also starring in it. At all steps he has sought to minimize crew — he even changes the film himself. It might sound like he’s the controlling auteur-type director. He’s not. He’s open to suggestions and, as I mentioned in the previous post, an explorer and improvisor.

The man who does camera duties when Zak is acting — and does every other conceivable duty otherwise — is Chad Liebenguth. Like Zak, he is in the indefinite twilight of his CalArts attendance. Most of their private language is decipherable. “Crucial” = good. “Jank” = bad. I did have to ask what they meant when they were talking about “the bite” and “the wall” when framing Zak’s recumbent head. These terms of art refer to portions of Zak’s hair — the bite being the side part and the wall being the vertical wave that rises from Zak’s forehead.

Using the video tap monitor, Zak can see how he is being framed, even while in the shot. The miniDV monitor/recording unit is also receiving wireless sound, via a mixer. I also saw a small miniDV handheld camera with a shotgun mic attached get used. Since miniDV tape is relatively cheap, they keep it rolling pretty much the whole time. I didn’t catch the brand of the wireless mic system (Lectronic?) but the mics and battery packs are super small. It took a fair amount of testing with them to find a configuration that would pick up both Lillian’s voice and her ukelele. At one point the tiny head on the mic was switched out from ‘flat response’ to ‘crisp response.’

Zak is still keeping the plot of his film close to the vest, so all I can say is that the scene is a sort of musical interlude, with his character returning to a party to find everyone has left but a girl playing her ukulele. The mood of the scene is subdued, and Zak’s directions to Lillian are mostly to be more fatigued. It isn’t difficult; as the shoot goes on into the night, everyone, including Zak and Chad, is getting tired.

We wrap at 3 a.m. I reflect that I will probably never see a 35mm shoot so nimble. With the video tap, Zak is able to get instant feedback on lighting and framing. Going wireless and handheld where possible also cuts down on set-up time. Even so, Zak will be halting the shoot soon to wait for the RED camera. The video tap doesn’t give accurate color or contrast information; the BL 3 camera is too big and too heavy for some of the shots he has planned. And nobody likes to spend time emptying and reloading film.