Finding the Story

I watched the movie Road to Perdition again last night. I remembered it as a great film, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig. It won numerous awards including the 2003 Academy Award for Best Cinematography by Conrad Hall. Of course, it resonated with me because I’m an image guy. But it was also an interesting story well told and a visual treat.

As people we are all looking for the story. It’s simply a part of who we are as a species. When presented with a group of images we automatically start searching for a connection or common theme between them.

Those are “Red” things and “Round” things in case you got lost… 😊

The extension of this phenomenon is that we enjoy films that require us to look a little closer to find the message. Sometimes the on-screen action is so fast and frantic we struggle to keep up. In other films the story develops more slowly, and the message is in the details. Crafting scenes with dramatic lighting, unusual camera positions and other techniques is the art of cinematography. Filmmakers have developed their own signature styles like the action blockbusters of Michael Bay (Transformers and Armageddon) to the monochrome deadpan presentation of Wes Anderson’s work (The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums). Check out more at https://screenrant.com/directors-with-a-signature-style-tarantino/.

As a maker of 2-minute website introduction videos I certainly don’t include myself with these icons of the industry. However, basic understanding of storytelling and creating interesting scenes is a part of my toolbox. Viewers subconsciously respond better to crisp, colorful and well composed images. Clear and easy to understand audio is an equally important component of a well delivered website video or social media video message. At times, I am simply the cameraman filming the client’s ideas of what they want. However, I’m usually able to suggest a more creative way to tell a client’s story.

My budgets are consistently less extravagant than the $147 million Michael Bay spent to create Transformers. But let’s get back to the more reasonable $87 million Road to Perdition.

It is a crime film set in 1931 based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Max Allan Collins.

As many times is the case, the film adaptation of the novel bounced around Hollywood for years before finally coming to production. It was filmed in 2002 in and around Chicago and made use of the many buildings and neighborhoods that remain architecturally intact from the great depression era. It was also filmed with minimal digital effects, meaning that street scenes, signs, cars and costumes were created primarily in front of the camera rather than being computer generated.

Although a mob/gangster story, the inherent violence and gore was minimized. From Wikipedia;
“In the film, most of the numerous acts of violence are committed off-screen. The violent acts were also designed to be quick, reflecting the actual speed of violence in the real world. The focus was not on the direct victims of the perpetuated violence, but the impact of violence on the perpetrators or witnesses to the act.”

In many films important plot details are delivered indirectly requiring the viewer to search for the story. Sometimes only a partial face or a quick glance is seen adding importance to what that person has just heard or seen. Additionally, a new character can be briefly introduced early in a film, but we don’t understand their significance until an hour later.

As a maker of short website videos (2 Minute Films), I employ some of these same filmmaking concepts. I try to create interesting visuals rather than just walking up to a scene, plopping the tripod down and shooting it. Sometimes if I just walk around the room or area for a few minutes I will find a more interesting or thoughtful way to shoot it. In the editing of an introduction video, I’ll sometimes open with a series of detail images while hearing the person speaking and don’t show the speaker for 10 or 15 seconds. Just because I only have two minutes, instead of two hours, doesn’t mean my films can’t also be interesting stories well told and a visual treat.

Thank you for reading our 2 Minute Films Blog!

Written by: Bill Sallaz, Owner
Specializing in Web Video Production Services
Sarasota Video Production | Video Production Bradenton FL

Equipment Packages

About 20 years ago my wife Sherri Barber (www.sherribarber.com) and I were shooting sports every week. She was a newspaper photographer and I was a free-lance sports photographer. We had an equipment “Package” for each sport. A selection of cameras & lenses, fanny packs, knee pads, rain slickers, ear protection, sunscreen and accessories all designed for the effective coverage of whatever the day’s event was; basketball, football, golf, skiing, car racing, tennis or rodeo.

Not often but occasionally I need to build a new package. That was the case last week when I was going to the east coast of Florida to shoot stills and video for In-Situ Inc., a Colorado based manufacturer of water testing devices. We were going to be out in boats, wading around on sandbars and doing some half underwater half above water filming too. We were using Nikon HDSLR cameras and GoPro’s on this trip.

The gear we have now is so much easier to use than what we were working with 20 plus years ago. But it still requires some pre-planning and adherence to a schedule, you can’t just go for a boat ride and expect to get everything you need.

I didn’t want to work from my normal “Lightware” cases with their porous Cordura fabric covers yet I didn’t really need to have my cameras completely protected in underwater housings. For my primary camera bag, I ended up buying a new variation of a dry bag from Gill, a sailing supply company. It opens along the long dimension rather than the traditional roll down end of most dry bags. I added some structure inside with a small box and a lens divider from a Domke bag to keep my gear separated. I wasn’t too concerned about cameras bouncing around I just wanted some level of water protection. My other gear, lights and strobes were packed in waterproof, bins and dry bags.

Fortunately, our primary shoot day was sunny, so I didn’t have to use any portable lights on the sandbar. I decided to sacrifice my oldest tripod and just plant it in the saltwater and rebuild it after the shoot.

I managed to keep the head dry so dismantling and cleaning the legs and feet was all that was necessary this week. Obviously, I was knee to chest deep in water all day, so my uniform was board shorts, Keen sandals and a long sleeve fishing shirt.

I have long been in awe of the crews that shoot the fishing shows and how they function in that challenging environment. Especially when the key moments are when the wild fish are being stalked and caught. I’m certainly no water sports specialist but I’ve been around the block more than a few times and can usually cobble together a package that gets the job done. At least on this shoot I could laugh at my mistakes and tell everyone to “Reset, we’re going to shoot it again”.

Here is a little “Behind the Scenes” video from the trip.

Watch for the dolphin surfing in the boat’s wake.

Thank you for reading our 2 Minute Films Blog!

Written by: Bill Sallaz, Owner
Specializing in Web Video Production Services
Sarasota Video Production | Video Production Bradenton FL