Birdland Diaries: Day Four
by Katrina G
Signs that I am tired: I was 100% sure that I had already posted this Day 4 diary when I wrote my weekend one. Nope. Not even in draft form.
Anyway, day four! Feels like it was a month ago, not 48 hours ago.
After three days of slowly getting into the swing of things and getting most but not all of the scenes on our daily schedule done, we finally knocked it out of the park on day four and got everything we needed and more.
It was the end of our first week, so ending with a bang felt great, and made me feel much more confident that we’ll be able to get everything we need by the time the shoot ends.
If you’ve ever wondered why it takes so long to shoot a two hour movie, it only takes one day on set to understand the answer. Shots take a long time to set up. Cameras (and dollys, lights, or whatever else) take time to set up and place correctly. Scenes need to be blocked and rehearsed by actors, and then shot.
If you’ve got a big budget and loads of cameras, you might be able to shoot multiple angles all at the same time, but often, you have to do the scene multiple times in order to be able to get one character and then cut to another character who they’re in conversation with. If you want a wide shot to establish the entire room and also a closeup of the action, that’s another thing you’ll probably have to do twice, with time in between to adjust the camera position, the frame, and so on. It all takes a lot of time.
If you get through five pages of your script in a single shooting day, you’re probably doing pretty well. On our fourth day, we got nearly eight pages done, including a five-page, dialogue-heavy scene that we thought might be nearly impossible to get through. It took several hours, first to lay down the track for our dolly and figure out what positioning would be best for the camera, then to walk the characters through all their movements to ensure that they are never going to be off screen or blocking each other while the camera slowly moves around them.
There’s a rule of thumb about how a page of script equals a minute of screen time (so a 90 page script turns into a 90 minute film, approximately) but it really depends on the page. Pages with a lot of dialogue can easily take a lot longer than a minute to get through because the dialogue needs breathing room. There are pauses, movements, actions. Actors don’t just read the text, they, y’know, “act it out”. Our five pages will easily be ten on screen, because there’s a lot going on in the scene and we don’t want to rush it.
Some people on set are constantly running around, but many spend half their time waiting around, because everything takes so damn much time. It can seem inefficient, but it’s really not. When you’re making something with hundreds of moving parts, it takes a lot of time to choreograph it all properly.
I have a much better understanding and a whole lot of respect for good camera teams, after that long day of dolly-ballet and a that five-page scene which – did I mention? – we shot in a single take.
Phew. Week two starts tomorrow. Someone send me a gift basket of vitamins and a bucket of sleep.