FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Jul 12, 2009

so i made a movie: VOYEUR, part three

Yes, another installment of So I Made A Movie. Voyeur is a short film written by, directed by, and starring Shannon Lark. I acted as cinematographer.

We just know how much you dug our silly write-ups for Ludlow, so we decided to continue the series. See what you've wrought? This is what happens when you pay attention to us. Part One can be read here, part two here.
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SHANNON LARK: Stacie and I hit the fucking streets like crazy wide-eyed hippies, fighting traffic with one fist between the two of us, and landed across the street from Harry’s apartment. Slowly we moved everything out of the car, again fighting traffic with one single fist, and started the ridiculous process of moving everything up to Harry’s apartment at a snail's pace. Stacie drove all the way down the street to park at the garage (F-YOU San Francisco parking!) and the “camera guy” arrived and started to unload the equipment I rented.

STACIE PONDER: First of all, I think San Francisco learned its lesson right quick: the power of our combined fist is not to be trifled with- The One Fist is strong, particularly when we shake it in a menacing fashion. Which we did.

Yes, Shannon sent me off to a garage to park the car while she waited with our piles and piles of crap; mind you, I had no idea where I was or really where I was going. I exited the garage…err, really not close to where I entered. Nothing was familiar (totally shocking, as I'd never been there before) and I had to wander the harsh afternoon streets of San Fran, stranger in a strange land…for ten minutes. Then I remembered I'd left a trail of Reese's Pieces to follow back to Shannon and our crap. The trail was helpful AND delicious!

SHANNON LARK: We met Harry in the lobby and followed him into the elevator, up to his pad. He showed me the ropes of the antique building, informed me of all their rules, and also made sure to let me know there was vodka in his cabinet before he took off at lightning speed into the wilderness.

STACIE PONDER: Harry's apartment is madness, like I've never seen. If Liberace was a living space and not a human being, he would be this apartment. The amount of stuff crammed in there was overwhelming! It all had this rococo, scallop-edged, ambrosia salad and gold leaf feel to it, which I found fascinating. It was immediately clear why Shannon chose this as her location- it was fashionably insane.

SHANNON LARK: Stacie and I slowly got everything into the service elevator (the other elevator was broken), up 6 flights, down the hall, and into Harry’s apartment. The crew began to show up and I gave out directions like a madwoman while Stacie sat down with the “camera guy” to figure out the camera and lenses she’s never worked with before in her life.

STACIE PONDER: Yeesh. YEESH I SAY. This is where my true anxiety came in: it's one thing to shoot someone's movie. It's something else entirely- something way more flop-sweat inducing- to shoot someone's movie with someone's zillion-dollar, super-fancy ass camera. I realize I'm ghetto, but…my camera has one button. This camera had buttons with…other buttons, and secretaries to make appointments to see the buttons, and it takes, like, three months to get in to see the buttons because they're so important and busy.

Okay, that doesn't make sense. The point is, though, this was a super sweet professional piece of equipment and I'd been freaking out for days and days over using it. But then, as I watched "camera guy" sort of bumble his way through putting an adapter on his own camera, as I told him what certain functions were all about and how to use them, as I got the gist of what was going on in a theoretical manner of speaking, I felt better. I was not going to be intimidated by some extra stinking BUTTONS, no- I was to become the Button Master. I relaxed, hefted that 30-odd pound bad boy up onto a tripod, and I was finally ready to roll.

SHANNON LARK: The other Stacy (whom we call Pippi) showed up and I appointed her Production Manager. After about 2 hours of Stacie (not Pippi, Ponder) learning the equipment we shot our first scene in the elevator. Oh boy. To those of you who have never worked with a Letus 35mm lens and adapter before, we have some information for you: move 6 inches and you're screwed. Stacie struggled to keep pulling focus but if I moved at all within the frame, I would go fuzzy. So we took the camera back upstairs and talked to the “camera guy” about our situation. Supposedly when working with the Letus, you will need someone to pull focus the ENTIRE TIME. We were informed that the Letus was really used for scenes where “people sit down and have a conversation.”

Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
STACIE PONDER:
Fuckin' Letus. It makes a beautiful picture, sure, but oh, the focus. Without the focus contraption thingy- yes, that's the technical term- and a Focus Puller, it quickly proved impossible for me to shoot. Actually the shooting was fine- it was…you know, the blurriness that was a problem. Although maybe we could have done the whole film out of focus and claimed it was some sort of artistic statement, and that if the audience went home with a headache, well, that was intentional.

SHANNON LARK: After disagreeing with the “camera guy” that we should just use the Letus “sometimes,” I informed everyone in the general vicinity that we are shooting a horror film and we do not have someone to pull focus nor do we have the time. The Letus was taken off and Stacie, Audrey (the wonderful sound girl), and I dashed into the elevator once again. We quickly moved on to the next scene and Stacie had me look through the viewfinder after we set the lights up. I knew from that very moment that Stacie was doing such a phenomenal job, and she had a secure idea of how I wanted the image to look: I wanted it to be pretty, dammit.

STACIE PONDER: Ugh, it was taking me for-fucking-ever to set up. The equipment was unfamiliar, I wanted everything to be as perfect as I could make it, and everyone was LOOKING at me whilst I was doing all this. Once we got that first REAL shot done and in the bag and everyone thought it was swell, I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in a bit. But just a bit…we'd only shot about five minutes of footage at this point, and we were so far behind our already-tight schedule…

SHANNON LARK: From that moment we were moving so fast that I couldn’t actually tell if I was doing a good job acting or not. I just had to trust Stacie to let me know if I wasn’t doing an action as well as I could be. We had to push for time since the camera fiasco put us back by about 2-3 hours, and we were supposed to be done no later than 2am. I cut shots to make it easier and Pippi kept me going by shoving coffee and avocado in my mouth.

STACIE PONDER: It became a mildly-controlled frenzy. One of the very first scenes we shot after the hours-long Letus fiasco was little more than an insert; I could read a sort of…I don't know, a mildly disappointed resignation on Shannon's face that things got off to a rocky start. I didn't blame her, as we'd been prepared to hit the ground running only to have, like, our shoes explode when the starting gun went off. I knew she'd bounce back quickly, but I wanted to make sure we didn't end up sacrificing quality or getting things exactly how she wanted them because of the time crunch. In other words, I didn't want Voyeur to become "Eh, that's good enough" when we both wanted it to be…well, fucking pretty.

SHANNON LARK: That’s exactly what Stacie did. Through the frenzy of needing to get the shots done, she refused to let me sacrifice the prettiness of the project. The crew was absolutely excellent, which is something I wanted Stacie to experience: like…where people help out and stuff. They were patient when they needed to be and they moved quickly when the crunch came. It was all women, which made it A-MAZING. The set was absolutely luxurious, and everyone seemed to understand stylistically what we were going for.

Around 11:30pm I was in the middle of doing the rape scene on Harry’s bed and had Bodhi, the Stylist, call Harry to let him know we might need more time (heh). He then said the glorious words, “I’m getting a hotel room, so take your time, and lock up when you are finished.” From that point, my brain just…relaxed. We were not going to get kicked out and be denied the final shots. We were golden!!

STACIE PONDER: Once we got the okay from Harry that we could stay, the room got a bit more energized. I don't care, I'll shoot all night long. It was good to know, however, that at the stroke of two we wouldn't turn back into pumpkins or whatevs.

The crew was indeed fantastic, but in a way they stressed me out- not because of anything anyone did, but because I loathe making people wait. I realize that movie-making is, in large part, people standing around waiting for things to happen, but I can't stand that feeling of not getting a piece of equipment to work, or needing to spend lots of time getting the lights just so, or dealing with the other irritating minutiae in every set-up…especially when everyone's standing around gawking at me. I suppose that's something I'll just have to get used to, especially if I intend to continue to make films with so-called "actual crews".

SHANNON LARK: I think one of the most annoying things that happened during the shoot was the camera, and feeling the pain of Stacie trying to make the stupid thing work. This was a 20 thousand dollar piece of plastic and lens, but it refused to white balance and would actually turn from a red to a blue hue WHILE WE WERE SHOOTING! This took Stacie a long time to get lighting right, because it was a tricky bastard. We began to believe that the camera and the “camera guy” was actually cursed.

We continued shooting and after a couple hours let the crew go; after going through what we did for Ludlow, Stacie and I knew we could do the rest ourselves. Pippi fell asleep on the couch while Stacie and I fought the camera’s evil white balance issues and continued to shoot. We wrapped up at about 3am and hugged.

STACIE PONDER: Another one down. It was such a huuuuuuge fucking relief when Shannon said something to the effect of, "I think that's it." I knew we'd get it done, but my brain was quickly slipping into the notorious Jello Zone. My contact lenses felt like salt and vinegar Pringles stuck on my eyes, and my arms were tired from holding that camera all night.

It's strange, these movies we do together (all two of them…so far) always end so quietly. Not that I expect confetti and balloons- if anything, I'd want a laser light show- but we seem to wrap in the quietest part of the day, when the sun is just starting to make itself known. It's generally just the two of us, and it's a little eerie-feeling to me…then there's that last shot and someone says "I think that's it."- then we start cleaning up. Well, we hug and then we clean up. One of these days we'll wrap early enough to actually give ourselves a toast with the friggin' bottle of tequila we always bring but never drink.

SHANNON LARK: It’s true. I think these last two films we’ve done together have been such a whirlwind of insanity that by the time we get to the last shot, we don’t know if it really IS the last shot. It creates that silent pondering on everything we’ve done: our minds trying to conceive of the idea that we were able to create that much in such little time. It’s like the light of heaven opens up, and everyone is speechless. I think it’s pretty fucking beautiful.

While we silently speculated I got my sweats on and joined the “camera guy” in the kitchen at 3:30am to extract the footage from the camera. Oh, how positively naive it was of me to believe I could just…I don’t know…get the footage from the camera onto my computer?

This is when the freakin’ universe stuck out its large middle finger and said “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

STACIE PONDER: The universe is such a jerk sometimes.

4 comments:

Jason Soto said...

I just wanna know why "camera guy" is in quotes. Was it a transvestite? Were you guys not sure? Was it really not a human being?

And anytime you talk about a movie you made (all two of them) I get the feeling you're gonna say "Well, I'm not gonna release them to the general public" and bury them with the E.T Atari games.
-Jason

Stacie Ponder said...

Heh, no...he was real. And as far as I know, he wasn't a transvestite- mind you, if he was, we probably would have called him Camera "Guy". I think Shannon is just trying to protect the innocent.

That and she loves quotation marks.

Trust me, these movies will be out there for all the world to see. Ludlow, as I'm sure everyone is aware, simply isn't finished yet...nor is Voyeur. We're not making these to sit on 'em...if we were, I certainly wouldn't write about them. I'd bury them out in that desert and no one would know except me and E.T.!

Jason Soto said...

That's good. I'm definately gonna donate to the Ludlow Foundation when I get some spare money cause I'm dying to see it. Along with this second project.
-Jason

Arbogast said...

Nothing, but nothing, beats an eye looking through a hole.