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Nicolas Ayerbe Barona March 29, 2011 Ian Kerr FIPR 437 - Advanced Cinematography Production Book Final Assignment: Terrance Azzuolo Presents: A Short Zombie Film Project Goals: •

Short Film based on an original idea

200 Budget (mainly for food). Equipment support from Film Program and friends.

A week of prep in-between other commitments. ~20hr shoot in total.

Directed and written by: Terrance Azzuolo Genre: Zombie Horror/Dark Comedy Synopsis: In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Andy and Malcolm manage to survive while trapped inside an abandoned storage room. They pass time with left over beer and foreign language films in VHS. When the poor Elaine desperately calls for help from the oncoming zombies outside the locked door, the pair clash as to whether they should risk the comforts of their new safe-haven. Abstract: My project stemmed out of an initial idea between Terrance Azzuolo (classmate) and I, one night that we wanted to shoot a zombie film for the fun of it. Terrance developed the script rather simply, because it was intended to be shot as something for the heck of it and not necessarily as something more serious. However, at the time we were unable to shoot it. When this assignment came along it then seemed as the perfect moment for shooting it, because of the simplicity of the script which lent itself to interesting shot ideas that could be easily developed in the rather short time that there was for prep and shoot. Terrance could then be the director of the show, while I could then helm the DP role. Moreover, a friend of mine--Denis LeBlanc--had in the previous year won the “Best Zombie Costume” competition at the UBC Film Society’s Shaun of the Dead Beverage Garden. Knowing full well that the zombie makeup would be awesome, I was confident enough of being able to shoot this project. I found it a challenge, as shooting a horror film was something I had never done before. It was interesting to work on a project that required low key lighting, but which at the same time asks for gruesome makeup to stand out. Assets: •

Friends from the Film Program volunteered to be crew members and actors.

Access to Film Program’s and Film Society’s Equipment free of charge.

Access to The Film Production Building’s rooms free of charge.

Canon 7D available from 2 friends, together with Follow focus, Viewfinder, and Rig. A monitor was also available from another friend.

Props and Set Dec easily acquired at the Recycling areas near the University’s Residences.

Friend with a knowledge and passion for making the zombie’s makeup and costume, as well as an interest in playing the part.

The script and locations allowed for it to be shot almost chronologically.

Limitations: •

Time. The due date for the project was the 26th of March. My entire month of March was already full of commitments to other school projects/classes. The close due date came rather unexpected. The script was longer than the minimum 5 minute requirement and it required lots of coverage that could slow down the pace of shooting.

Rough knowledge of lighting and little-to-no experience in the department. The possibility of having to go overtime existed.

Canon 7D shallow depth of field is a limitation as the director wanted backgrounds to be in somewhat in focus. It means that ISO must be pumped up, because more lights would kill the horror mode, so as to close down on the aperture as much as the camera would allow on low key lighting.

Rough script. The script could’ve done with better dialogue and more visual imagery. It was also rather slow in pace in its first half. There was little time to workshop the script and polish it. The director-writer was busy with the production of another film the previous week to mine.

Having to be my own producer. Even though my friend Terrance was involved as a director, he really only had time for doing that job on set. This left me with the job of organizing the entire operation.

Heavy equipment, lack of transportation and storage space. I knew that I would require lights and lots of set dec for this shoot, that I could use the space at the film building, but that after shooting hours I had to find a place where to store everything as I wasn’t allowed to in the film building.

Budget: I set aside about $130 for crafty for my crew and $60 for the zombie makeup, which was quite good for the film, because: 1. It makes for a happy crew, especially when most are volunteers; and 2. a good looking zombie (which in fact was probably what attracted most people to the project). However, it was a limitation because the budget came straight from poor

student pockets. •

Volunteer crew and cast availability. March is one of the busiest times at UBC with midterms, papers, and projects due. Other people were busy with their own Cinematography projects. Possibility that I would find very little to help out.

Locations: Room #2 at The Film Building. On location scouting, we realized that the doors opened the wrong way that the script envisioned. However, the central positioning of the doors was ideal, as well as the open space of the classroom, which with some set-dec could be easily turned into a warehouse, storage room, kind off space. It also allowed for easy transportation of equipment, since it’s right next door to the equipment room and the big doors lead to the street. Administration would not allow us to pull the classroom desks and chairs out. This meant that we had to cheat the back of the room with the side walls.

Other backup location ideas included: Room #104 at The Film Building, which was too big to be easily set dec-ed, and only has one small door. The Screening Room in the 2nd floor of TFPB, which was too small for all the intended equipment and dolly movement ideas. BC Binning Studios: Shared space with the Theatre Program. Prone to being booked by others in advance. The doors of the rooms didn’t match the intended visuals. No access to breakers if anything goes wrong.

Director decided to act in his own film. Terrance, the director decided to play the character of Malcolm. Since the actual script was his and he had volunteered his time for the shoot, I did not contest him acting in his own film. However, I foresaw the possibility that this could lead to a situation in which I would also have to care about performance, and act as an unofficial director.

Creative Master Approach: •

3-day shoot. 6 hours on the first two days. 8 hours on the final day. Subject to crew’s availability.

Camera: Canon 7D, 1080p24. Due mostly to it being easily accessible to us students, and because it allowed for my friend’s--David Bolen’s--Zacuto Z-Focus #Z-FF-1Follow Focus and a Z-Finder Pro DSLR Viewfinder to be used during two specific dolly movements. Manfrotto 351 MVB Tripod. Slate and Digital Sekonic Incident Light Meter. Sony LPM-770BP 7” Monitor Kit from Michael Yeung.

Lenses: Canon Zoom 24-105mm f4, and a Canon Prime 50mm f1.8.

Grip: 5x C-Stands, 2x Light Stands, 8x Sandbags, 6x AC Cables, 1x DV Dolly Track, 1x Single Net, 1x Double Net, 2x Solid Flags, Diffusion and Styrofoam Bounce Boards.

Lights: 1x 1K Arri w/ Scrims, 2x 200W Midgets Fresnels, 2x Kino Flo 400, 2x Lowel Rifa 750W, 1x LED Lightpanel.

Sound: Zoom H4n Digital Recorder, 1x Boom Pole, 1x Rode NTG Mic, 1x XLR Cable.


Director/Writer/Actor--as Malcolm 1st AD/Actor--as Elaine Camera Op/Sound/Grip Key Grip/Gaffer Grip/Sound/Transport Set Dec/Grip/Scripty Crafty/Props/Transport/Actor--as Andy Makeup/Actor--as the Zombie •

Terrance Azzuolo Julia Patey Ryan Bergmann Michael Yeung Carlos Dalmau Mark Laws Gabe Adelman Denis LeBlanc

Script asks for a single light bulb and a television to light the scene. Low key moody light is expected of a horror film . Will have to consider how to make the piece visually interesting with only two specific light sources. Dolly movements in certain scenes of action could add to the visual interest. Dolly-ing would then require following focus, which is why the Zacuto came as a great asset. The light from the television and from inside the fridge play an important role too.

Because the piece is mostly conversational up until the end, I realized that Mid-shots and CloseUps were more ideal than any wide shots. I left wide shots for the more action packed moments because the idea was to make the viewer feel as if he’s in the room with the characters.

The final zombie scene to be played out in one take and with a dolly movement. Zombie killing to be done off-screen.

Lots of fake blood is required for the shots where Andy is killing the zombie and spraying it all over. Have to be careful not to spray the camera or other equipment with fake blood, therefore camera bags, garbage bags and a cleaning supplies are necessary. The lens is protected by a UV filter.

Shooting Schedule: •

March 22, 4-9pm: Scene #1--Malcolm and Andy enter the room where they discover the fridge.

March 23, 1-6pm: Scene #2--Andy discovers the Television and watches VHS tapes.

March 25, 3-9pm: End of Scene #2--Elaine knocks on the door. Andy and Malcolm argue. Malcolm opens the door for Elaine, but Zombie enters the room. Andy kills the Zombie.

Conclusions: Things did not go as smoothly as planned, mainly due to the location problems and crew

availability. First of, the day previous to my shoot, one of crew member called to excuse himself from the entire project for personal reasons. The biggest problem, however was locations. Room #2 is a classroom at the Film Building full of desks and chairs, but which can be used as space for shooting our projects. However, the administration did not allow me to pull the tables and the chairs out of the room during the day because it would disturb other classes and the normal operation of the building. This meant that we could only shoot in three of the four walls in the classrooms, because we had to stack all the tables and chairs on one side of the room. The back of the room was inaccessible to us, but we had planned for shots that included that back wall. We had to quickly re-plan shots for that day, and fake the back of the room with one of the side walls. Other corners of the room also had to be cheated to look like corners of the back wall. This caused a great deal of confusion to everyone including myself, because we had no sense of the geography in the fictional room. The actors felt frustrated because they didn’t fully understand where their eye-line was supposed to be. Set Dec had to work extra hard in maintaining continuity and doing the best they could to fake the look of different areas, specially in situations when one corner of the room was meant to emulate other corners in the fictional room. Another issue was the door of the room. The script says that Andy and Malcolm barricade the door with boxes, random items and a fridge. However, the doors of the place open the wrong way so that barricading the door would seem like a useless enterprise. Previous to shoot, on location scout we took note of this issue, so we had to scrap those shots of Andy and Malcolm barricading the door and jump immediately to the dialogue where they argue. The jump in time is however noticeable partly due also to the cheating of space mentioned previously. The first day was quite complicated for those reasons alone. Shots had to be cut down or combined to save time and be able to achieve our goal of wrapping at 9pm. Even then I felt that we did waste a lot of time trying to figure out the geography of the room, and wrap actually came around 11pm that day. Some crew members also left early that day, citing personal reasons and adding to the frustration. The first shot with the dolly was also time consuming, because it required the actors to come into the room from the outside, so that they did not always hear the call to action. The easiest solution came by having the 1st AD talk through her cellphone to someone outside who would in turn cue the actors as to when they had to come in. The timing alone of the dolly/camera movement and the actor’s actions took several rehearsals and takes. Watching the footage afterwards, it becomes clear that the 1st day was not quite fruitful. We did not get the coverage necessary and so the scene doesn’t play out as intended. Having lost so much time with the dolly shot, trying to understand the physics of the room, and pretty much outright improvising

some shots on spot--since we had to scrap all ideas with the door and the back wall--meant that I was much more worried about finishing on time rather than with lighting. The first few shots are definitely the weakest in the film for these reasons. One can also tell that they are much brighter and flatter than what was originally intended, and it has to do with the fact that I was unsuccessful in balancing the practicals with the 200W lights that I used throughout. Later on the shoot, having established that single light bulb in the first shot, I quickly disposed of it and simply worked with the 200W lights. On the second day, things didn’t necessarily go down more smoothly, but it was a better day overall because we got all the footage that we wanted. Re-planning of the shots previous to the shoot that day allowed for a better understanding of the space and of the fictional geography. Shots were re-imagined and Set Dec was more efficient in recreating spaces in the room much more quickly. However, on this day three members of my crew were unable to join due to different reasons. My crew came down to five people. With no sound, my CamOp had to pass on the task of the camera to me and do Sound instead. Other little tasks had to also be fulfilled by the remaining three crew members. Because the team was smaller, we nonetheless became more effective and focused by the end of the day, but it did take time at first for everyone to accommodate to their new jobs. On the other hand, the LED panel came as an unexpected gift. I had only acquired it with the idea that it would be a useful fill light at any moment. I was expecting to recreate the flicker from the television with a Kino, but upon testing at the moment it became clear that the LED panel did a far better job in low key lighting and was easier to handle, creating an interesting blue outline that contrasted with the tungsten colour of the room. The LED panel would also become really useful in creating highlights on the blood that covered the Zombie and the characters, as well as serving as the light inside the fridge. I had also originally planned to use the soft light from the Lowel Rifa kits, but realizing that these were in fact too powerful for a low key movie, we moved on to use the 200W Midgets for most of the shoot, usually bouncing the light on to the ceiling, walls or upon Styrofoam Bounce Boards. The 1K Arri was also completely unnecessary and in retrospect only became a burden for transportation together with the Rifa and the Kinos. The Sony Monitor was both a gift and a problem. It was used at its best when we placed the camera inside the refrigerator, because I could see the shot. Otherwise, we would've had difficulty in achieving proper exposure with the camera inside the fridge. However, on the second and third days the Monitor had to be scraped because it has issues of compatibility with 7Ds. The Monitor simply wouldn’t show an image anymore. We had to move on with the normal LCD screen. The Monitor problem could`ve been averted if we had tested it beforehand with a 7D. The third day was equally rough, more so because we had more shots planned, we were behind

schedule thanks to what happened on Day 1, but most importantly we had an ambitious dolly shot once more with the Zombie. As we dollied forward with Malcolm, we also had to rack focus. Malcolm would then open the door to let Elaine in, but once the zombie was in we would have to dolly backwards when the zombie attacks Malcolm and pins him down the floor. The shot required nine takes, but it came out great and really excited the crew who for the past 2 days had been so anxiously waiting for some zombie action. Moreover, everyone had by know an idea of what the fictional space of the room was. We knew where all the corners of the room were. Actors had a good idea of were their eye-line was and thus I was much more concerned with lighting this time around. For this reason the movie seems to get better in all terms as it gets closer to the end. The final dolly shot really represents the best notion of what we had originally planned for the film. The shots where the zombie was being attacked from off-screen, were only an issue due to the fake blood splashing everywhere. Concerns were raised for the camera way before hand, so that we had all sorts of plastic bags to cover everything, yet a few splashes of fake blood managed to land on the UV filter and above the camera where the trigger button is. Nothing that some lens cleaning solution couldn’t solve, but for the future preservation of the lens, perhaps getting some sort of Plexiglas, or a clear filter, would’ve made everyone feel a lot safer about using the fake blood so close to the equipment. We nonetheless, went overtime on the third day going on until midnight when we should have finished by 9pm. However, I was lucky enough that the crew members who had been there all along-and had not bailed previously--wanted to see the whole thing through.They remained encouraged by the fact that the last shots had been a step up from the previous days. I found that as a DP there’s a certain responsibility in maintaining the crew’s morale. One alone has both the vision and knowledge of execution. A crew also likes to be challenged,: if a shot takes a lot of effort, energy, and comes out right in the end, people will feel motivated to continue no matter the overtime. This might of course just be different on paying sets. In retrospect, another one of the problems encountered during shooting was the issue of Terrance acting on the same film he was supposedly directing. I was hoping that he would be able to deal with both at the same time, but he generally only was concerned mostly with his own acting role. He didn't take his role of directing as seriously, unless he was not involved on the shot. At times this meant that certain directorial choices felt upon me. Next time I would consider devoting some time in finding anybody but the director to act, or actually consider being the director myself. Other things to consider for future shoots, include finding ways to be more efficient with my

time and finding a better way to communicate my thoughts. I often found that the only way I could explain anything was if I drew it on a storyboard for the person. Lighting is also something that I definitely need more experience at too. The movie is too flat at parts, and could’ve been even more visually interesting. The zombie shots and the dolly shots worked really well as, I hope. I find that horror really requires of a lot more strange angles, which I didn’t have too much of. Also it needs to be a much darker film, it really didn’t come out to be as gritty as I wanted it to be originally--not at least until the end. In conclusion, the project didn’t come out exactly as I wanted, there were tons of unpredictable problems, but nothing that a little of creativity and improvisation couldn’t solve. It was nonetheless tons of fun and hectic work all in one. It’s always a blast to be able to have an assignment were we are allowed to play with tons of equipment. With this experience and knowing that I have at least a few reliable people and a great zombie makeup costume person, I hope to in the near future make even more interesting horror films. This and the last assingment have really made me more interested in the Camera/Light Department, places that I never really tapped into as much before but for which I always had a certain curiosity.


Locations: Room #2 at TFPB

Reference/Mood Boards:

Nicolas Ayerbe-Barona Production Book  

FIPR 437 Final Production Book for "A Short Zombie Film" Sorry for the late submission. Hope you enjoy.