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Rehoboth Iyobosa

How do you shoot a suicide scene

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Hey guys,I'm shooting my first feature and the story requires a scene where a man attempts to commit suicide but fails,we are tasked with shooting this scene as it requires the actor to struggle through 3 minutes of screen time in a single wide shot..any suggestions would be appreciated (ps ; he intends to hang himself on a ceiling fan) The director also does not want to use any vfx or special effects,he wants everything achieved on set

Edited by Rehoboth Iyobosa

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Hey guys,I'm shooting my first feature and the story requires a scene where a man attempts to commit suicide but fails,we are tasked with shooting this scene as it requires the actor to struggle through 3 minutes of screen time in a single wide shot..any suggestions would be appreciated (ps ; he intends to hang himself on a ceiling fan) The director also does not want to use any vfx or special effects,he wants everything achieved on set

 

That sounds like less of a photographic task and more one for the stunt department...

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yeah, definitely a stunt department task. safety harness + cleverly hided wire supporting the actor + fake rope which is not dangerous for the actor and does not support his actual weight. if the wire or harness can accidentally be seen in couple of frames it can be masked out later in post if the performance is otherwise perfect. your stunt coordinator will know how to archive this scene safely and efficiently :)

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I achieved an effect similar to what you're mentioning for a feature I shot this summer. We had our main character hang himself in his apartment after finding out he has a terminal illness. We knew we didn't want to do it live because there were no rigging points in our location so we ended up shooting plates and getting other coverage ("feet fighting against the freedom of the air below them").

 

For the hanging plate, we contacted our local theatre and used their fly system and wire harnesses. I put up a green cyc behind him and we suspended him 4' off the ground. The harness was put under clothing and our fly wire was threaded through a large hemp rope. For the noose around the neck, we basically created a velcro chocker from hemp and then never connected it to the fly wire. This made it appear like he was hanging by his neck, but he was never in any remote danger and we always made sure he was comfortable.

 

I should also note that I was working with theatrical professionals trained in the operation of fly systems and rigging. This is not something that it is worth "D-I-Y"ing because it could lead to someone "D-I-E"ing. If you can't afford a stunt coordinator to pull off the effect, just get creative with the coverage. For our coverage shots, we hung a goalpost rig above our actor and had him do a pull-up and kick the chair out from below him.

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If you can't do this safely with an experienced stunt coordinator and a good key grip, even if it means painting out a harness cable in post, then don't do it at all. Just do the goal post chin-up rig and frame him waist down. If the director insists on the actor attempting to hang himself for real with just some idea that someone off-camera will cut the rope to release him, or run in to save the actor if something seems to be going wrong (how would you tell the difference if the actor is good at faking choking?) everyone including the actor should walk away.

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Follow the suicide preparation and at some point drift the camera out the window and stare at the meaninglessness unfolding in the street outside. Dwell on some painfully trivial incident across the road, the soundtrack to which is the muffled choking and corresponding silence. Wait for the reverberations of those last sounds to dissipitate. Wait one more beat and cut.

 

C

Edited by Carl Looper
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Certainly safer - even professional stunt crews get hanging wrong! (E.G., "Back to the Future Part III") Yikes!

 

Which is why when I did a short film involving suicide, I used 'pills'... and no shots of pills actually going into the mouth...

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Which is why when I did a short film involving suicide, I used 'pills'... and no shots of pills actually going into the mouth...

you can replace the pills with relatively similar looking candy pastilles in wider shots so they can be "swallowed" (it can be very unpleasant for the actor/actress however if you choose to use very strong pastilles, for example some strong menthols and they have to put quite a lot of them into mouth :wacko: )

 

One can get empty gelatin capsules which can be filled with for example powdered sugar or other harmless substance and even swallowed if needed, although I think it could be quite harmful if you swallow dozens of them at the same time <_<

Edited by aapo lettinen

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