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Dissecting SRM: The Theatre

November 19, 2013


Starting a series, dissecting “Starring Rachel Miller,” the combination documentary/musical that was 10 years in the making (off and on, mostly off). Above is the clip I’m talking about today, and here’s the whole film.

So the opening of the musical was the easiest part – three characters at two chairs, nothing too tricky. The cast was great. Becky Phelps is the woman, who’s a very good friend, and Heath McCall (the young guy) is another friend, who also did a great job being the goofy guy. The older gentleman is Bob Kokol. You might recognize him from “The Waterboy,” but I didn’t know that until he came to set and my crew started freaking out that “Col Sanders” was in the film.

I saw Bob in “Picasso at the Lapine Agile” in a theatre in Fullerton, CA and he was awesome. The theatre got in touch with him for me and he agreed to come out for the day. Support your local theatre!

A couple of interesting notes: my Director of Photography (Ryan Boone, that day – there were three across the many months of shooting) taught me a good lesson that day on set. We were going in for the closeup of the headshot at 0:16 in this clip and I was complaining about how long the lights were taking (as I often do) for such a simple shot. I remember his words almost exactly – “I’m not a great cinematographer, but I know one thing – if it’s a simple flat shot, throw a shadow across it so it doesn’t look like crap.”

You’ll notice the title cards, which were filmed in my basement in New York, 3 years after the majority of filming wrapped, have a nice shadow falling across them. As do almost any other shot of a piece of paper that is in any film I’ve made since.

The title cards were a single light shining, with a sweatshirt strung across a chair to make the shadow. I set up the camera on a tripod facing down, and made a tape outline of where the cards needed to sit to be in frame. Then I’d take a blank card, set it on top of the title card, and keep pulling the blank off until I was happy with the motion. It’s weird how much you can fumble pulling a card when the pressure’s on.

We got the actors from contacting dance studios and asking “who wants to be in a film?” Weekend after weekend, we (mostly) kept getting people. I’ll talk about when we didn’t with future sections.

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  1. December 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm
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