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May 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

Ever wondered what goes on in the CAMS department?  What follows is the chronicle of one CAMS major and the volunteers who are helping her see a short film through from script to completion.

Kristin Asp ’10 is enrolled in Fiction II, third in a three-class series of film production classes taught by Eric Tretbar, a visiting instructor.  The homework for the class is one giant project: to produce an entire short fiction film from start to finish.  The process starts with the selection or writing of a script.  Kristin chose to work with a script written by Rachel Sklar ’11 because “I enjoy romantic films but know little about writing them.”  The film, “Dining,” is the story of a disastrous first date that takes place in a diner.

Kristin and her team of actors, extras, and crew did all the film’s shooting at one marathon session over midterm break.  They shot on location in the Cave, so first, they taped trash bags over all of the windows to make it look like night.  Kristin set up the lighting and furniture inside while the actors prepped each others’ makeup.  CAMS students have a neat trick that they use for lighting sets: instead of shining a lamp directly onto the actors, they point the lamp in the opposite direction.  The light is caught in a silvered umbrella and diffused.  Liz Evison ’10, the sound tech, looked like a cyborg ninja with pieces of equipment draped all over her.

A lot of work goes into filmmaking, even the production of a zero-budget student film.  As it so happens, I was part of this process by working as an extra.  It was my job to sit in the background and look like I was reading a newspaper.  Each shot required several minutes of planning to get a few seconds of footage.  Janae Walton-Green ’10 manned the camera while Liz worked with the microphone.  Kristin walked the actors and actresses through the choreography of each shot.  Before filming could begin, they had to make absolutely certain that all parts of the shot would be in focus, properly lit, and that nobody’s forehead was shiny.

They double-checked the film speed and the audio recording speed, then positioned a slate in front of the camera with the shot number written on it so the footage can be identified later in the editing lab.  Then the action could begin.  If they were lucky the shot could be completed in one take, but as often as not an actor would skip a line, or the boom would be visible in the top of the shot.  Then the process would repeat all over again.

Often the same action must be shot multiple times over, first with one actor’s face in view, then the other, so that they can be intercut in the final project.  The “Dining” crew got creative when sourcing their props.  Did you know that from a distance, ketchup in a water glass will look like a chocolate milkshake?

Now that the filming is over, Kristin will take the work into the Scoville media lab where she will synchronize the audio and the video footage, edit the clips into order, and add sound effects.  When it’s complete, she will show the results of her hard work off to the class.