Scenes 3-1 to 3-2

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Scene 3-1 Board Scene 3-1 Still
Scene 3-2 Board Scene 3-1 Still


The wide angle shot here is one of my favorite shots in the movie. We began developing our “look” by studying the paintings of Edward Hopper. I have always loved Hopper’s paintings and to me they had the feeling of loneliness that I felt was totally necessary for this movie—ultimately, Katie’s problem is that she is fundamentally alone.

Of course, Hopper was just our jumping-off point. Over time, our sensibility developed into a visual style of our own, but, even after months of planning in pre-production, this shot remains a direct homage to Edward Hopper. Everything from the cavernous space with a single figure in the background, to the frontal lighting (it has that brilliant ‘warm cool’ lighting that is characteristic of Hopper’s paintings—thank you Tim and Carlos) is a direct rip-off of Hopper; only the angle is not quite Hopper.

I loved this wide angle so much I was really tempted to just let the whole scene run in just this one shot. It would have made the critics happy, they always seem to love long long shots. However, in many ways this conversation sets up the whole movie, and I felt her reaction provided information that was necessary for the movie to work. Specifically, I thought we really had to see her react to her mother’s story to give us both a sense of how much she wanted a child and the idealized way she wanted to have it, and we had to see her whole demeanor change when her mother mentions her husband.

One other thing; looking at these shots next to the storyboard, I realize that they are very different. It’s kinda funny, but I hadn’t realized that we’d changed it so much. The storyboard is, at least for me, really a first draft. It’s like the Hopper stuff, it’s just where I start from. As my thinking develops, as my aesthetic concerns fill out, and as our practical hurdles make themselves apparent the storyboard is continually evolving. And I say storyboard rather figuratively, because once I’ve gone through the exercise of making the storyboard in the first place, I don’t really ever look at it again. I guess I just have a very visual memory. I need it to get my mind started thinking about each and every shot in the film, but once I’ve done that, I don’t need it anymore. There is a drawback to this system: your DP and Art Director can become confused if you aren’t sure to keep them well-informed of all the changes you’re making.

In this specific case, the changes I made were both aesthetic and practical. Aesthetically, I came to feel that these shots were too dynamic; this movie is about the difficulty of breaking out of stasis so all the movement in depth had to go, at least as far as the camera was concerned. However, I felt the center of the movie had to be even more static in order to communicate Katie’s trappedness, so I added the lateral drift. It gives it a bit of motion but puts the viewer in sort of a clinical, observational mode—I wanted people to think about this movie, and I wanted to get that mode of viewership established early. But there’s more to it than that too. As a director, your job is really to achieve the aesthetic affect that the movie requires using the means available to you. The fact is that we didn’t have a large enough crew to make the original shot plan practicable.

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