A Bite Size Production For “The Big Meet”

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Executive Produced by Lane Carlson; producer, Jessica Mathews; screenplay, Christian Elder and Lance Dean.

A Los Angeles screenwriter with a severe drinking problem meets a mysterious stranger in a bar one night. Based on Lance Dean’s short story “Buy Me A Drink Nate, I Promise I’ll Take You Home,” the short film stars Lane Carlson, Mike Genovese, Jessica Mathews and Rachel Middleton, and for the first time teams up director Christian Elder with me as cinematographer.

In this dark but cheeky noir thriller, the mysterious stranger mistakes the screenwriter for a long lost friend, generously paying for all his drinks on an all-night binge. When the stranger takes the writer home to meet his two beautiful young lady companions, which he refers to as “wives,” the group of them seduce the writer into committing a hideous crime. With six practical locations around the Los Angeles area, a three-day shooting schedule and a very small crew, this film proved to be an extremely challenging exercise in the minimal preservation of artistic integrity.

I started work on the film only a few days before principal photography began. Thankfully, we were able to scout all the locations within those few days, enabling me to think ahead and prepare for each day’s shoot. We had a three-ton grip and lighting package, but never used more than three or four lights for most set-ups. We had Kino Flos and peppers for our work horse lamps. With budget and story in mind, we chose to shoot digitally in 4K raw with the Red One MX and a set of Red Pro Prime lenses.

Elder wanted a dark and dingy noir feel to the images. This excited me. I imagined a similar look when reading the script and I enjoy exploring the dark side of things. Light is interesting when it fights its way through darkness, having a life of its own, triggering an emotional response in both the artists and their audience.

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To help keep things simple and efficient, I worked with a monochromatic palette based on the natural light of each location. For Interior day work, the action was always set against big windows. We didn’t have the resources or the time to balance the exposure inside and out. My general rule of thumb was to color balance for the exterior, and work at the edge of exposure, keeping just enough detail outside while letting the inside go dark, adding what we could, as close as we could (a 2k with full blue and/or a 4×4 daylight Kino Flo) to give the actors an edge. At a restaurant location, we took advantage of foreground elements such as glasses and bottles. It was easy to light glasses and bottles for kicks and highlights. Those objects also helped balance the frame and hide parts of the set we didn’t want to see.

For night work, we motivated everything from practicals. At the house location where the antagonist lives with his two “wives,” we went for a consistent black and gold look by using peppers to augment the practicals, and by setting the camera’s color temperature to 8000° Kelvin. There was one exception — we wanted to emphasize the emotional change in the protagonist, so that when he enters a cold dark place in his mind, in preparation for the pending atrocity, he is also physically entering a cold dark place in the house. In this case, it was a bathroom, which we cooled off with a daylight Kino Flo. I also let some tungsten light spill in and mix with the Kino, giving us a little hint of green as if the bathroom was practically lit by uncorrected fluorescent lights.

For an exterior night scene at the same location, we couldn’t find anything to motivate the light. But we wanted it to look very urban, so urban that the moon was obscured by all the stuff built up around us in a city environment. We went with a sodium vapor look (as if coming from the lights of a nearby industrial center) by using a 2K tungsten Fresnel for a back light and tungsten balanced Kino Flos for fill, key and background light. And again, we set the camera’s color temperature to 8000° Kelvin as a time- and money-saving alternative to gelling all the lights.

The film is now in post-production. We’ll be targeting film festivals in 2013.

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*All images are frame grabs from the 4K raw footage and copyright 2012 The Big Meet, LLC