Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 15 2006


After many months of looking for a good torture room location, we ended up about 50 yards from my front door down in Bitan, at the ruins of the old police station that was abandoned when the amusement park up on the hill closed down decades ago. I’d never gone inside before, but it was suitable, full of abandoned desks and chairs, old photo albums and cassette tapes and shelves full of mildewing park brochures. It would do fine if we could somehow get access to electricity inside. I stopped in at the dumpling store across the way and arranged to borrow their electricity in exchange for promises that the cast and crew would eat there.

On the day, however, it turned out that, due to some miscommunication, we didn’t have an extension cord long enough to reach the restaurant. Dean and I knocked on the door of the adjoining apartment next door and talked with a young woman, who gave us permission to run a line out a police station window onto their balcony. It didn’t look as if we could spend time waiting for dumplings anyway.

The room we were originally planning to use was too bright, even with the window coverings Dean had brought, so we used another, smaller room instead. In the end it didn’t matter too much as we spent the entire afternoon arranging things and setting up equipment; we had to remove a mattress and furniture, clean up the more unsightly parts of the garbage strewn across the floor, move a rather recalcitrant desk, and set up a single light above the “torture chair” Dean would be sitting in. As a result, the sun was setting as we got our first shots of the day.

In addition to Dean, Rowan, Sarah and our tortionnaire, Jaques Van Wersch, our guard de jour was Juan, who had agreed to help us out by donning the old red and maroon garb and taking his station next to the door. The dust was horrific, but thankfully Taiwanese never put much stock in insulation, so at least we were pretty sure it was asbestos-free dust.

I started off with wide master shots, as usual. I do this to get coverage, and let the actors get used to the scene being filmed without the pressure of a close-up. Rowan, who was distracted by all the fascinating instruments on display, was having some trouble with his lines so he took a break to memorize them better while I filmed Juan’s reaction shots as he had to leave.

When we got back to the main action, things went quite smoothly. The actual shooting was a challenge as actors moving into and out of the circle of light went from underexposed to overexposed and back very quickly. I tried to keep up by adjusting the shutter as well as the focus, but it was very tricky. Digital video in this format is very restrictive in this regard.

Still, the lighting, when I could keep up with it, was very nice. It will be a challenge to avoid exposure mistakes in the editing, but it should be a pretty good-looking, rather gruesome scene.

Eventually Paul and Darrell had to leave, but Dolly showed up, accompanied as always by Maurice. She was there to don the Lady X hat and glasses for the last time, a true historic moment. She looked great walking in and out of the light, smoking and teasing Dean.

We finished at about 11pm and began the long process of striking the little camp we’d made in the ruins. People left, we returned the lights to Paul, woke up the lady next door to get our cord back, and left the place for the ghosts once again.

posted by Poagao at 4:09 am  

1 Comment »

  1. Hello Guy’s,

    Great job, perfect lighting and good camerawork,
    I’am Belgium Director of low budget movies to and I’am
    working on a movie wright now. Keep up the good work.
    Never give up the courage.

    Kind regards,
    Bleyaert Guy

    Comment by Bleyaert Guy — January 25, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

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