Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cinematography Sketchbook-DIY Jib Shoot

I had one of those outrageous brainstorms, I believe it was over the summer, concerning a vignette I wanted to include in the film that would incorporate some of the general motifs and trajectories that are played out in other scenes. The autobiographical plot-line of my recovery conflated with some of the motifs of the whole "spiritual journey", "quest for higher knowledge" motif that runs through the film. I wanted to play out my "hitting bottom" as some classical alchemical experiment gone awry. To do this, I thought, why not start it as this low angle elegiac pan over all this occult aracanum-books, documents and what-not. I call it the "masterpiece theater" effect. This was a bear of an undertaking for what amounted to maybe a minute and a half of screen time. But you know how I am-as soon as I get something in my head I have to run with it. The most difficult aspect was the whole logistics of the jib/dolly mechanism. After looking at several DIY youtube videos frame-by-frame and picking my friend Brian Murphy's (who teaches in the Binghamton University Cinema Department as well as being a rising star experimental filmmaker) brain-I finally decided to eschew the original concept of a cable and pully mechanism for something a little simpler (and more easily controllable) which can be seen in the photos above and below

The jib was a four-man operation-two men (Wilton Vought and Steve Grietzer, both professional videographers) manned the handles of the stand and had to get their forward movement synched up pretty well. A long set of RCA cables was hooked up to a monitor where I watched and directed. A fourth man had to feed the cables to keep the movement unobstructed and to guard against an incipient shadow (that was Greg Harris, who also stars as one of the cleanroon suit guys as well as the rehab counselor-amazingly, nobody yet has caught that...) The set was lit with a combination of 2 tungsten spots and an incandescent spot with an orange gel. As much as I fiddled with the 3-way color corrector in FCP I couldn't seem to improve upon what we had gotten in camera (it could probably be improved with maybe a .2 gaussian blur and some motion blur) For what amounts to about 1.5 minutes of screen time over 10 people were involved (I'm getting into Lucasfilm territory...). Wilton Vought who helped work the camera is also a rare book dealer and supplied many of the "occult tomes" in the shot (there is alot of money in that set-up, some of those books go for 700 bucks.) My friend Jason Detrani, head of the Communications Department at Broome Community College supplied the lights. The old-looking documents were done on natural fiber paper and printed by my cousin Vincent Sorrentino and Kevin Bird at Jack's Sign Shop in Endicott. The voice of British occultist Israel Regardie was provided by Englishman and fellow Media Studies student, Jonathan Lukes. The indefatigable Kyle Garren stars as my alter-ego. The "dramatis personae" of the intervention includes my father, my brother, Frank Bongiorno, Joe Bernard (as the EMT Tech), my cousin Jeff Waslyn (a real Vestal police officer) and Father Stavros Lever (yes, he is my real AA sponsor). Also Jeff Sutliff stars as the other half of my "disease". Also on the assist was the always- vigilant Jim Little, who helped build the jib.

Below is a "take" of the shot (of which there were many) to let you get an idea of how it went down:

Followed by a "rough-cut" of how it works in the overall scene

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