In my delaying the release of this posting, I can also share some great news regarding everyone’s favorite film about two women who inherit a nudist resort, “Act Naturally.” On Saturday September 10th, our Chicago Premiere will take place at 4:30pm at the historic Music Box Theater (3733 N Southport Ave. Chicago, IL 60613) as part of the 3rd Annual Chicago United Film Festival. Tickets are available online for $10.75, but get them soon as we expect a sell-out. Our writer/director, JP Riley, co-star, Liz Lytle, and supervising audio editor, Maya Kuper, will be in attendance.
My previous post focused on the very start of production and how the current roster joined the “Act Naturally” family. Thanks to all of you who have read and commented on it, which has motivated me to continue this walk down memory lane. The lack of brevity is making this resemble a New Yorker article more than a blog entry, so just a head’s up, I predict a trilogy!
I mentioned that the hot tub scene was a particularly stressful scene to shoot. From water logged actors to barely finding enough power for my lights, it wasn’t the highlight of production. In moments of high tension, however, comedic relief is invaluable. Such a glorious moment came when David Lassiter (who primarily gaffed, but in this instance helped out with focus pulling) pushed the “Focus Assist” button on the HVX. For those of you who don’t know, it is a pixel-to-pixel viewing mode where the camera zooms into the center of the image enabling one to see if the shot is in focus or not. The camera unintentionally zoomed way into Courtney’s bare breast and David remarked, “sharp as a tack.” We burst out laughing and everyone looked at us like we were crazy. It’s hard to decide what was funnier: seeing a breast fill the LCD screen or David’s ingenious delivery. In any event, that was probably the most memorable night of the film: filled with highs and lows!
Given the subject matter and name of the film, JP and I wanted the film to have a very natural look from top to bottom. We didn’t want the cinematography to calling attention to itself and we didn’t want body parts doing the same. Silicone and unmotivated/highly stylized light could pollute the story so we did what we could to eliminate them both. The lighting was pretty straightforward throughout shooting. We kept the sources relatively soft and avoided great contrast whenever possible. The main exception is the fight between Lauren and Leah (which includes another one of our favorite lines from the film [in order to protect you from a minor spoiler, I’m going to censor the final word even though it sounds REALLY dirty this way], “don’t fuck my ___!”). While it’s the edgiest lighting in the film, it is warranted considering the aggression in Leah’s tone.
Thankfully I was rolling the camera while Courtney told Katie about her displeasure with my lighting scheme. Actors automatically assume that a light is unflattering if it is coming from below them. I resisted the urge to raise my 2′-4-bank Keno because the window below her was where her natural key light that I was supplementing happened to be. In the context of the scene, she is a villain and having her key coming from that angle slightly vilifies her and adds to the drama of the scene. I’m quite pleased with how that scene looks, however if I did it all again, then I would add a 1K PAR with half-CTB and shoot it into the ceiling of the cabin to slightly raise the ambience.
JP wanted every shot in the film to be handheld after Leah discovers that her father is dead. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible because I didn’t have a tripod when I shot the Miami exteriors (more on those later). I did my best to keep the shots steady, but you can’t fake a tripod. As Leah hears the news, JP encouraged me to get really wild with the handheld. I still haven’t seen it projected on a giant screen, but I don’t think it will induce sickness in anybody. Nevertheless, I hope nobody fears that they are about to watch a sequel to the “Blair Witch Project” because it settles down soon after. There are so few tripod shots in the film, that few will likely notice this detail, but we had our intentions.
Perhaps you did notice that all of our flashbacks feature zooms in them? This was for several reasons: 1. We shot the flashbacks piecemeal and by utilizing JP’s personally owned gear we saved on rentals and could grab shots at a moment’s notice. The two in the bag were the workhorse, Tokina AT-X 270 AF Pro II 28-70mm f/2.6-2.8, and the long zoom, SMC Pentax-M 75-150mm F4. Pretty much everything except for some of the tight swimming shots were taken with the wide zoom. 2. We wanted a visual cue to differentiate the footage from everything in present day. 3. Zooms look cool: who doesn’t love 70’s cinema with epic zooms? They get a bad rep these days, but there is a time and a place for them (not just in kung-fu movies).