Monday, June 17, 2013

Being "Reactionary"

  I'm from the old school. This is the school where you, get marks, watch a rehearsal, set up, do a first team rehearsal (stop and go), and then shoot. This still seems to be the norm in television, where time is of the essence and the understanding of time budgeting seems to be a little more evolved on a day- to -day basis. Features, lately, though, seem to work on a more catch-as catch-can basis, where no time is given to the camera crew to work out the bugs of any given shot. Our old friend Sanjay believes that this is a result of digital filmmaking, which has worn away the old discipline of rehearse-mark-rehearse-shoot. We now seem to turn the camera on and just roll, and roll around, hoping to get good pieces. I agree, and I see it more and more. Pixels are cheap, compared to film stock, and this has resulted in lowering the bar on a technical level for those of us directly related to the final outcome of any given shot. I used to lament about the editor using the one bad take out of four that had a bump or bad boom in it. Now, there's just one endless take that we extract pieces from. In a way, it's actually raising the bar. You have to be right every time, but in a different way. It's like auditioning on the first take every time and having to sight read music. I've heard this called being "reactionary," or reacting to what unfolds before you and finding the shot within it. To a certain extent, this can be fun (given that your operator trusts you). On the other hand, it's total crap. I've got to get well around six hundred pounds of dolly  or four thousand pounds of Technocrane arm moving on the whims of a twenty-something actor who never does the same thing twice. My competitive nature says, "Bring it on!" and my common sense says, "You people are out of your mind." Not too long ago, I spent twelve weeks working this way on a huge movie and it made me almost ready to go back to TV. Believe it or not, the talents of the dolly grip seem to be more respected there. In the feature world of today, stuff just gets done and you either roll with it or you're replaced by someone who does. In either case it comes down to this: spending a little more prep time and getting a spectacular shot, or doing it on the fly and half-assing it. I'm not a half-ass kind of guy. It all comes down to trust. If you're doing this kind of reactionary show, you have to have the trust of your DP, Operator, and Director. WIthout it, you're gone.


The Grip Works said...

The other aspect that gets me is the directors who want to shoot the whole scene from every angle in the story board. Even the OS and reaction shots being run from the top of the scene ... it makes everyone, actors included, brain dead.
And it stems from pixels being cheap and abundant.
I hate it.
disclaimer - not all directors are like this with digital, but I see it more and more on set now.

Wick said...

Amen to both your comments.

Sam said...

I am about as new school as it gets. I have been studying film for about a year and a half. I much prefer the old school way of operating.

I think about my shots before hand so I don't over shoot. I make sure that the actors and camera person knows where the marks are. To me this is the proper way to shoot anything. My goal is to finish with the best possible product as quickly as possible especially since I am not paying anyone.

Pixels may be cheap but time isn't. I don't get why having to pay less for film makes people forget that actors, equipment, crew, and locations cost money.

I thought the aimless shooting was reserved for student filmmakers (I have seen plenty of that recently). It amazes me that a director on a major film will dick around like that.

Anyway very good post. The next time the director insists on using three cameras for every scene I will include this post in my argument.

D said...

Sam, my friend, you have not begun to see dicking around.