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How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Shooting in the Fog for ‘Man From Reno’

How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Shooting in the Fog for 'Man From Reno'

Man From Reno” is Dave Boyle’s fifth feature film, having previously directed “Daylight Savings,” “Surrogate Valentine,” “White on Rice” and “Big Dreams Little Tokyo.” The film is an ambitious bilingual neo-noir depicting a crime novelist and a small town sheriff teaming up to solve a murder mystery in San Francisco.

[Editor’s Note: Indiewire reached out to filmmakers with films
playing at the 20th LA Film Festival (June 11-19) to ask them about how
they shot their indie, and what advice they had for other filmmakers.
We’ll be posting their responses throughout the run of the festival. Go 
HERE for the master list.]

What was the most difficult shoot on your movie and how did you pull it off? Two sequences come to mind. We open the film with a set piece out on a foggy road that was quite complicated. We ended up dividing the shot list into things that needed to be outdoors and things that could be faked in a studio. We then spent one long day in a foggy warehouse, and an even longer night out in Griffith Park with a bunch of fog machines. Whenever the wind changed, we had to reset and do the shot over again. When we finally wrapped at 4am, I was pretty nervous about how it would all work, so I stayed up a few more hours and cut the footage together. I was really pleased with how it came together. It’s a credit to Rich Wong’s work as DP that the scene is 99% in camera–we only used a small handful of (planned) digital effects to bring it all together.

The second shot was more about making something complicated look effortless since Rich and I both generally dislike show-off camerawork. While most of the time we tried to keep it simple and classical, we did have one moment in particular that seemed to call for a “visual drumroll.” We wanted the camera to move completely around the main character as she jumps up on a bed to listen to something happening in the next room. The shot climaxes with a reveal on the opposite side of the room. Quite a difficult move without a lot of bells and whistles–not to mention the tight space and huge bed posts that would rule out a simple dolly move.

We discussed the shot at length during location scouting, and Rich said “leave it to me.”

On the actual day, I rehearsed with the actors on the timing and then Rich and his crew stepped in. They had a simultaneous jib and dolly move, combined with several crewmembers passing the camera by hand across the room to keep it steady. Quite a bit of coordination went into it, but amazingly, everyone pulled it off in a remarkably short amount of time. After a couple of takes, we had it and moved on. I don’t think the moment stands out as show-offy. Our hope was that the effort would be invisible and tell the story appropriately.

What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you BEFORE you started your movie? Making the obvious choice isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you can agonize and twist yourself into a pretzel trying to do something different for the sake of being different, when all you end up doing is losing the story thread. Simplicity is always the best policy.

What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got? Just do it, from all those Nike commercials.

What’s the best? Don’t be afraid to pull the plug on something that you know isn’t going to work. The earlier the better. 

I once hit a point in production where we were badly in need of an extra prep day, and one major scene–an entire day of shooting–was clearly not going to work. Everything about it was wrong, from the location, to the prep time allotted. I finally made the decision to cancel that day of shooting, and use it as a prep day. The scene was moved later in the schedule, allowing us to find what we needed to make it work. It was a scary decision to make with so much money on the line, but in the end it was best for the movie (and we probably saved money in the long run).

What advice do you have for aspiring or first-time filmmakers? Be careful what kind of advice you listen to.

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