Production Journal - ''These Days'' - Week 3



We just finished week 3 which unfortunately was not a week that was technically very interesting.

A lot of it was more of the same thing: Day and night interiors in small locations, with the director wanting to be able to shoot in any direction.

The biggest problem of the week was that the majority of the scenes took place at night, but we were not able to shoot at night as we did the previous week. This meant that I was always tenting and then “glowing” windows for a nighttime look. It is extremely time consuming.

For some of the night INT. work, rather than tenting and lighting a window I would just put up a double net on the window, and then light to a stop that brought the windows way down. Other times we would tent the window in, and bounce some light into the window. I almost always made sure the production designer had put in a translucent curtain over the window so I did not have to worry about seeing detail outside.

We started with a kitchen table scene. I simply cross lit the two actors from wall spreaders. This scene was our first scene with Karen Dyer. Karen is black, and the other actor is white, so when the two are moving around the lighting situation can get a bit tricky. That said, Karen is not particularly dark skinned, in fact I really enjoy photographing her because she takes hard light so well. The only real change I have made is that I add ¼ blue to her light because she has a very warm skin tone. In some situations where I wanted to go really dark with the scene (such as a “no light” look during a scene with her waking up from a nightmare) I asked the makeup people to add some shine to her face. I find it helps me get away with less light. I also have been using a polarizer with her, whenever I have enough light.

The biggest challenge of the kitchen stuff was getting a wide two shot in the kitchen. I had to have my operator (Chris Rice) go outside the room and shoot through the window.

Latter we did a shot of the actress going to get something from the fridge. I used a Mini-Flo with ½ plus green on it to act as the refrigerator light.

We later did a night exterior. It was pretty simple, just the front of a duplex with the actor walking in.

I used some 650s on the roof as architectural lighting to bring the shape of the building out some. I then used a 1k PAR on the roof toward camera to make a bit of an edge on the actor (and building), then when the actor got to the door I had an Image 80 with 250 in front as a soft side light I then used a large(ish) unit as a general ambiance (it was either a 2k or a 10k, I can’t remember, nor can I tell from the picture), but once I got it up and played with it on and off, I decided not to use it at all.
We then latter did a profile shot of an actress looking out through her front door at the person we shot the exterior for.

I went really dark with this scene. This particular character’s story is very dark. The director told me he wanted to shoot her story like a horror film. We shot it with more wide shots, and dolly moves as opposed to the handheld we have previously done so much of.

To light this shot I used a small unit bounced off a bounce board to make some ambient light on the wall behind the actress (for separation), and then when she looked out the blinds, I used an Image 80, but really far from the window so that the light took on a harder quality. The shot came out really nice.

The next day we did more work with Beth Grant. The scene was her coming to the door of the duplex (again).

(Beth – Sorry I took that picture with you in mid sentence ;) )
The biggest challenge for this scene was that she was under an overhang, and I did not want to blow out the background. I metered under the overhang at an F8, and outside of it was a 22 (and spotted off the white walls behind her was between a 32 and F48).

To combat this huge contrast I did a few things:
One: I brought down the background as much as I could. We flew two 12x12 solids from the roof to bring down the sunlight for as far a distance as I could.

This really just took down the white walls, and also made the middle-ground darker, and thus less distracting.
Two: I brought up the foreground (the actress). I used two HMI PARs (don’t remember what size) through a frame of 250.

Then for fill, my crew made a cool way of holding a bounce board (we could not get a stand in because of the shot):

(The white walls were not at an optimal bounce back angel, thus the board)
For additional fill I used an Image 80. The scene worked out real well.

We latter did a scene of the character throwing up into a toilet.

I used a single source through the dirty windows in the bathroom, and just cut it up.

We then shot a close-up of the actress at the mirror. I just used that same HMI with Opal on it. She takes hard light really well.

(I don’t know who that odd looking person behind the camera is ;) )

We latter went back to the same profile shot of her looking through the door, but this time at day.
By this point I was just bored sick of Kino Flos, so I just wanted to do something new. We shot a small HMI (1.2k PAR) through two 4x4 frames – One 250, one ¼ Grid. It was a super soft light that looked great.

The character we have mostly been dealing with this week is, as I said, is scared of the world, and thus we are shooting her story more like a horror movie. We had a scene where she was carefully, and timidly making her way down a dark hallway to find a light switch.
The thought of shooting in this boring white hallway, and creating a “no light” ambience just was really un-appealing, so I asked the director if she could be walking with a flashlight. He agreed, and so I just told her to hit the white wall some, and this bounce board we made with small squares of shiny material (Mylar I think) on it.

I explained to her that she controlled when we could and could not see her, so she could play with that concept. Worked out good, but required a lot of rehearsal to get it right. I also had makeup department make her shinny.

In that same hallway we had a tracking shot of the character placing nightlights down the length of her dark hallway. The problem was that the hallway was way too narrow to fit a dolly in.
To make the shot work, we used a furniture pad on the smooth wood floor as a dolly.

It worked surprisingly well (despite it looking ridiculous). As you can see in the picture, I had a mini-flo attached to the dolly, and as she got more lights in place, I brought up the light level on her.
I just placed the mini-flo ballast at monitor, and dialed the level to taste during the shot.

We finally moved to a new location on Saturday (six day weeks are fun . . .). I lit most of the scenes all from the outside, and cut all the lights from the outside. It made a clean working environment in small spaces, and I think that helps the actors.

We just used two 1200s again, and cut to death. We really have been using the 1200s more than any other units because they are so small and light. Plus, we don’t have to run cable up flights of stairs, etc. They pack plenty of punch.

For this characters story I used ½ CTO just to subtly make the image more golden (the HMIs were burning at 6200 K, so ½ CTO is really more like ¼ on these lights).

Pretty basic week, but we did get to do some interesting things. We are behind schedule some, so I am sure there will be additional days added. The biggest time killer is the amount of coverage we are getting. Despite mine, and the AD’s best efforts, the director just wants/ needs a lot of coverage. So I try not to fight him on it anymore, and I just try and light fast to give him more time. This is just the way he wants to make movies, it’s just lucky they budgeted for more days.

Kevin Zanit

Agenda Productions

Just thought i would thank you again for your time and effort Kevin.

Sounds like it has been pretty smooth right through production besides the coverage situation. Do you think when it comes to cutting time the director will look at the rushes and think to himself "wow, i probably didn't need two masters and three angles of that CU" or do you think he will benefit from this style of directing?

It's been good seing how you work.



It has been a fairly smooth production, but by no means trouble free.

I think when he gets to editing it; there will be times where he is glad he got his coverage, and times where he realizes that you can only cut to so many shots for a given scene.

We have shot a lot; I was talking to script supervisor about what we have done: So far (not counting today) we have shot over 400 setups for 67 pages of script. That is an average of 6 setups per a page. It is the most I have done on a project, and we are not even nearly done yet.

Our "A" Camera is on roll 40 and our "B" Camera is on roll 11. We are shooting a lot.

Kevin Zanit

Barry Cheong

New member
Are you finished shooting Kevin? I've been waiting for you to post Week 4 :p. It's been enjoyable to see real set photos with descriptions. I just shot a short film where there was way too much to do in the time we had to do it. I'm finding it a real challenge to work fast and create something good within the time. I hope to get better at it.

Hope your shoot has been going well.



I am sorry for the lack of updates. This has been for several reasons:

One, it takes a long time to put them together (and I have had very little time between doing additional shooting, and prepping two other projects at the same time).

Two, the stuff we have been doing is not particularly interesting (lighting wise), as it has been mostly covered in past updates.

I will be sure to make more updates soon; I just have to find the time.

Thanks for waiting,

Kevin Zanit