Things I learned on day two of our shoot:
- Whatever the administrators say, refusing to turn on the heating system in our building until the ambient temperature is 5°C is evil. We’re not Inuit, after all. This isn’t normal in Korean housing situations, is it? It seems new to me… and our actors were commenting on how cold it is in our place.
- A cast and crew goes through food like nobody’s business. The helpful thing for a low-budget production without people to run off and get food is that, once you get time for a food break — can’t call it a meal — you don’t care much how it tastes.
- A patient, pro actor is worth… well, worth every penny you can afford to pay her. The woman playing Jo Hyeja had a long break between a bunch of earlier shots and one last shot, and we had to do them in that sequence for a bunch of complicated reasons. She waited, staying in character a lot of the time, and even fell asleep while sitting waiting; but when it was time to roll cameras again, she was 100% there, and did a kickass performance.
- I am pretty sure independent film would be impossible without friends kicking in to help. Yesterday, one of Miss Jiwaku’s friends showed up and not only helped me with audio equipment (since that’s kind of a two-person job with the gear we have on hand) but also was very attentive, catching continuity problems just in time, and helping out with lighting, logistics, food, and so on.
- Horror is still really frigging funny; also, sound is really important in making those “scary” images.
- A woman screaming at the top of her lungs in an apartment for two minutes straight draws absolutely no reaction from neighbors. Not Koreans, not Westerners… nobody came to our door when we recorded that scream. (We didn’t want to do it in my apartment, but time was tight and the actress had to leave soon.) I was a bit shocked that nobody even came to check what was going on.
- Working boom mic is really, really hard. (It’s harder when your equipment has been used and misused by countless people and is prone to rattling and making unwanted noise. But even with perfect equipment, it’s a tiring, difficult job.) That said, I love the recorder we’re using, which is the H4N Handy Recorder by the Japanese manufacturer Zoom. It’s a great piece of gear, and (as audio equipment goes) quite affordable, too.
- When, during a break, some actors asked me about the script, and the original story it’s based on, I found that it’s really freaking hard to explain existential (especially Lovecraftian) horror to someone across a language and culture difference. Even when someone bilingual is in the room, it’s hard. Note, culture difference doesn’t necessarily mean Korean versus Anglo-Canadian. I’d count certain religious persuasions as culturally different from the frame of reference I hold. In any case, it’s funny explaining to someone how much influence Lovecraft has had on contemporary horror, SF, and fantasy when they already are familiar with the genres, but have no idea who he is. That, too, is not necessarily “cultural” difference in the sense we conventionally mean. Funnily enough, it was when I used Korean social issues as an allegory for existential horror, it seemed to make more sense to them than anything else I’d explained.
- Little things make a big difference. If you come up with a little idea during shooting, it might end up being a big deal in the final version of the film. This, I think, is why digital video is such a freeing thing: no need to worry about the cost of film. We had several such insights, and also improvised a lot. I’m sure filmmakers do this too — but if they’re shooting on film, they have to pay for every experiment. We don’t.
- Note-taking is very important. It’s worth having it be someone’s job, so that audio samples that are needed, re-shots of things, continuity in terms of clothing for different timeframes, and so on are all accounted for.
- When you’re shooting a film, there’s no point in big talk. There was another guy I know who made a short film last year, or earlier this year, and, well… he talked about it a lot. Not only that, but when he talked about it, he built up a lot of hype — and for me, it worked against his film when I watched it. (Then again, he did just get a job teaching filmmaking… but seeing his film, I’m puzzled as to how that happened.)
- Collaboration is the key in filmmaking. There are bits and pieces I can take credit for, such as a particular line spoken by an actress — my favorite being the throwaway about a Korean boy-band — but collaboration is the heart and soul (the beginning and end) of making a film. Things get changed, things shift. Writing a great script is important — but it’s an important start. The thing takes on a life of its own.
That’s all I have time for. Time to go shower and prep for today’s shoot!