Shooting A Dolls House – A little project for Design for Stage and Screen for IADT
Dec 05, 2014

Last week I had offered myself to help a student, Helen McGinty, from the Design for Stage and Screen course shoot her minor grad on Friday – basically shooting a 2 or 3 minutes piece – based on “A Dolls House”

At the beginning I thought it wasn’t going to be interesting enough because we only had a black space, the cinematography studio, and Helen wanted to achieve a “soft and light” light coming through a window in daylight.

So, first things first: How do we make our space interesting enough for a person to want to see the piece?

Let’s break my thoughts down:

Where can we get a window in college? how do we make the shots interesting if we have no flats and no place to put anything? and more important, how the hell do I get a “soft light light coming through a window in daylight” when I’m used to work with 18Ks, 24Ks, Maxibrutes and etc and I only have blondes and redheads? Oh, and we were going to be just three people on set, the girl, the actress and myself.

I have learnt an important thing in college and it is that you have to be really creative to overcome all the difficulties of a “school production” and we started to think that way.

First thing, window

Creating a light coming through a window is no problem at all, but it is a little problem when you want to see the window :D, hence, we went through all the school trying to get a window and we finally got one! A very heavy and old window which was absolutely perfect, and Helen gets all the credits for finding it! Thanks Helen!

Second thing, set.

As part of the lighting kit that IADT has, there are some autopoles, so I asked for two of them with two tripods to hung or suspend wallpaper from them and create a “sense” of space with the wallpaper.

It didn’t turn out well because we were able to see the gaps between the wallpapers.

Again, we started to think about what we could do to make the wallpaper stay straight.. and we walked through the college and we luckily found three pieces of wood which we put on one of the autopoles.

We needed to put the paper in a higher position and we decided to hung it from the second autopole so we could put the rest of the wallpaper in each piece of wood.. and it worked better than having no pieces of wood :)

Third thing, light

I want to become a cinematographer and each time I have to shoot something I have little butterflies in my stomach because I think I won’t be able to do what the director is asking me to do.

I am a great fan of soft light but I know that to create an interesting soft light you need a big surface of light, I also like shooting at T5.6 hence the necessity of having big lights to create soft light.

However, we don’t have 12ks / 18Ks / etc in IADT (we don’t even have a 5K!), but we have 3 2K blondes which I thought could help achieve the mood that the director was looking for with a smaller number in the lens, T2.

We also have that great frame with 216 that I have mentioned before! :) and I said: Let’s bounce the blondes off the frame! even if it is made of 216, it has to give me something. and it does, it is not as great as a white sheet but hey! it worked.

Finding your artistic voice and your vision is what all the teachers are looking for and I love mixing color temperatures and using colors to enhance feelings if possible, I can’t help! if I have a chance, I will mix color temperatures so I asked Helen if she could bring a little lamp that we could use as a practical.

She brought a fabulous lamp, and all the bulbs we had to make the light dimmer didn’t fit, so we used the old ND trick, we dimmered the light all we could (not too much tho) and I put depron on top and on the bottom part of the lamp, that way, the light was going to be softer.

As I wanted the light a bit warmer I placed an Amber Bastard gel in it and I loved it! It’s such an amazing filter, ain’t it? :o

When we started to frame I fell that we needed something else within the frame to make the composition a bit more interesting and I placed a table with a cloth and some candles on it.
I don’t know if I did the right thing but it helped me a bit with the background and I had the perfect excuse to place a light for her in the back! a 300W with a single net, flagged and with Amber Bastard again :D.

I wanted to place a practical on one of the wooden pieces for it to light the background but we didn’t have either more practicals or the way to hold them!

Fourth thing, shooting time

The director and I agreed on moving the camera slowly to create a sense of dynamism and liberation which is very difficult when you are operating, moving the camera on the little rails and pulling focus at the same time! I had a great time tho!

I am usually not happy with the results I get, however, with what he had and seeing the result we got, I’m quite ecstatic!

Things I would have loved to try (but I couldn’t because of time constrains)

1) I would have loved to light the background a bit, just a bit.

The face was reading T1.4 2/3 and the background was reading T 1.0 so maybe half stop would have been enough because I think it looks very dull?

2) Maybe a warm kick light for her?

3) Definitely next time I will try to create soft light as an ambience and then throwing “a ray of light” through the window so we really see that it is daylight and we have the harsh ray of light there.

Regarding the grading, this is what I wanted and what I shot for.