SHADE (narrative short)
Director: Andrew DiCristina
DP: Devin Cutter
Canon 60D + Zeiss Jena M42
Official Selection - San Jose International Short Film Festival 2015
Official Selection - Green Mountain Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Interurban Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Monadnock International Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - Machetanz Film Festival 2016
Official Selection - River Film Festival Italy 2016
SAG-AFTRA Seattle Film Showcase 2016
Film Shortage - Daily Short Pick
After receiving a life insurance payout check from his wife's passing, a man reflects upon his past relationship and the attribution of finite value to a person's life in modern society.
Shade is a micro-short narrative that was completed in the spring of 2015. Comprised of only a two-man crew, the film was shot over the course of two days in Anchorage, Alaska. The concept for the film and title was inspired by Carl Jung's theory of "The Shadow," a notion in which he believed every individual possesses a suppressed darker side to their subconscious and personality. In Shade, the main character chooses to indulge himself in this darker aspect of his mind.
INITIAL CONCEPT & CASTING Shade is a short film that grew out of an even shorter story idea -- a man who receives a check for a large sum of money. What was the check for? Who was it from? Was the check intended for the man or was it received by mistake? What happens now that he has this check? The basic concept prompted numerous questions, possibilities, and outcomes. As we began to further develop a scenario, the narration was written with the hopes of featuring Ron Holmstrom in the lead role. Ron is the SAG-AFTRA representative for the state of Alaska, and a work affiliate of mine while I was a photojournalist for ABC and FOX. Ron is not only instrumental in how the final film plays out on screen, but he was a great asset in pre-production by helping us navigate through SAG paperwork in order to expedite our production approval time, as well as assisting us in casting Jill Bess to play his opposite.
EDITING IN PRE-PRODUCTION I am a firm believer that editing begins during the pre-production phases of a film. Pre-production is where the instructions for how to make the movie are created, and when done correctly, a film should be able to be "watched" from start to finish once its planning stages have been completed. It is ok to deviate from these instructions later on in production and in post, but they are "Plan A" and crucial to have. With this in mind and our small cast secured, pre-production advances shifted into high gear.
There are two primary environments to the short: the tangible present-day scenes of the apartment and the subjective thoughts, flashbacks, and memories. We wanted these environments to have their own styles and dynamics, however needed them to work together to progress the story without being disassociated or distracting. Key areas of the monologue were identified where flashback visuals would be especially powerful, and designated as individual scenes for location scouting purposes.
Cinematographic planning was completed in three main phases: shot listing, storyboarding, and previsualization. By first developing a detailed shot list, we had a contextual visual foundation for the film with a chronological depiction of shots, composition, and camera movements. With a film that has a runtime as short as Shade, it is important to list every shot. Shorter runtime equates to fewer shots which means that every shot carries significantly more impact to the piece, even those that would be on screen for mere frames. Only in this way were we able to have a complete roadmap for production. The next steps involved translating the shot list into storyboards. For this particular project, we incorporated a large format storyboard to have with us on location for reference during production. Not only was this a great tool that we were able to easily glance at when setting up shots, it was also valuable for the talent, providing them with a visual understanding of what each shot would look like between setups. Before we began production, we brought our ideas into the physical environments for previs testing. Of the three developmental stages, this was probably the most important as it provided an opportunity to resolve any conceptual discrepancies, dial-in lighting setups and blocking, and fine-tune camera settings before filming. Walking into production with all of this information already known made filming go smoothly, quickly, and efficiently.
BUILDING A LOOK Defining and remaining faithful to the traits of the two distinct visual environments helped achieve the desired aesthetic and pacing. Although the bulk of this planning was completed during pre-production, it was in editing and color that our conceptual vision took shape. The apartment scene serves as the anchor that tethers the viewer as they are intermittently swept along into the character’s thoughts and memories. These flashbacks are fast and fleeting, and progress in a seamless, fluid manner. To achieve this dynamic, each shot’s composition, camera movements, luminance, and focal points were intentionally designed in a way that would assist in creating a more continuous, rapid, surreal motion. These traits needed to be congruent and similar enough to a shot’s preceding and subsequent shots in order to work properly. Color design also influenced overall progression, and various color palettes, gradients, alterations, and leaks were introduced in the final color grade to help ease cuts and transitions.