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Some Production Notes From a Super Low Budget Feature - "Love Dogs"

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Hi all,

I thought I would share some notes and thoughts from a feature I recently shot back in April for those that are interested. What started out as a 25 page short ended up becoming a 65 page feature when the two directors had a change of heart! 3 days before shooting, the lead actress (who had the main location for the film) dropped out of the film, and rather than recasting her, the two directors decided to pivot and completely change the story with the remaining actors and locations they had. So, a well planned and shot-listed film got thrown out the window as we all turned to improvising what to do every day. 

I should note that this is truly a low budget feature with most people working on it (including me) coming fresh out of film school working for very little or no money. The budget mostly went towards camera, lighting, food, and smaller expenses. We shot on the Arri Amira with Zeiss Ultra Primes. Red Finch Rental in Salt Lake City gave us a great deal on the camera package and were super accommodating towards us. Their 50mm was out for repairs so they offered a different lens set to me, but instead I decided to keep the Ultra Primes and they shipped the 50mm out once they got it. Our lighting package consisted of 2 1.2k HMIs, 2 litemats, 2 quasar rainbows (RGB was needed and played a big part later on in the film), a 12x12 frame and an 8x8 frame, as well as some bounce cards and other grip equipment. I also had some tungsten units on hand including a 2k open face and some 1k fresnels, but unfortunately never had an opportunity to use it which I regret. This is the first feature I've ever shot, and have worked on some as AC and in Grip and Electric before, as well as DPing some shorts in and out of film school. There are definitely some moments I wish I had lit differently or had thought of some trick on the day, but those are the lessons you learn!

Production was a bit rough as we had to pivot and change all of our plans and often I was not made aware where to be or what we were shooting until the day of when I got on set. This made it hard for me to light things properly as I typically am a big planner and big believer in pre production work for lighting. However, there were some locations that had similar scenes to the original feature which I could light according to my original plans. 


Here is a lighting "sketch" I sent to my gaffer when we were scouting the location for this bar. The directors and I wanted a slightly surrealist 70s feeling to the film, with color playing an important part in various locations. We ended up turning off the middle pool table light for more contrast and shooting mostly around the end table with a litemat set to warm light to match some practical bulbs that were hanging from the ceiling and to have a neutral color on the actors. 

The 2 1.2k HMIs were my bread and butter for most of the shoot, playing for both daylight and moonlight in a lot of scenes, typically using the litemats or quasars as fill. I didn't end up using the 12x12 frame or 8x8 as much as I would have liked as most of the outside locations were either remote, rocky, or it ended up being a cloudy day. Overall, I made a lot of mistakes but I think I did some things right as well. I wish I had been able to slow down and think more about lighting than I had, but often we were rushing to get out of a location in time or get done with the day. I don't have any stills or videos to show yet, but hopefully soon in the coming months! We're doing some reshoots and additional shooting at the end of August, so I can share more stories from that. 

The shoot was 2 weeks long which of course is never enough time for a feature. Hopefully I can take what I learned to the next one. I would love to hear from anyone about your first feature experience!

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Here's that setup I showed from the lighting sketch. This is just a photo from my phone. We ended up having to switch the first two light domes because the first one didn't fit the 4ft quasar tubes. To the right of the image is the gaffer getting the litemats ready and the very left person is one of the directors who acted in this scene. PXL_20220411_063429884_MP.thumb.jpg.60ea542fd515dbfbd852a5193d1622b7.jpg

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