Quiet on Set

In the film and media studies major, there are two tracks: production and critical studies. Film itself is a tiny major, though (I think) most students are production. So I’m in this teeny tiny minority of critical studies students. I love it, and I still get to flex my creative muscles by taking a few production classes.

A cornerstone of the film education, though, is working on set. My experience doing so is… small. Other than my time spent in the behind-the-scenes world on the executive board of Studio North (Hopkins’ student-run film studio, of which I was a founding chair!), my time on set has been nominal. It’s been helping a friend here, helping a friend there, stepping in to slate when a PA has gone MIA.

An insanely talented classmate of mine, Julia, tapped me to serve as Art Director for her film, though. I was so super excited because I one day hope to go into art direction of some kind, and this felt like great hands-on experience. Plus, I love her whole aesthetic and attitude and I knew we would work well together.

She sent over the script, and we had a couple meetings to hammer out the overall production design and look for the film. After a few whirlwind weeks of sourcing props, examining location photos, and strategizing things, it was shoot time.

Our crazy-talented Director of Photography used a fog machine to achieve this dreamy look.

Our crazy-talented Director of Photography used a fog machine to achieve this dreamy look.

I arrived on set and met the whole crew who I’d be working with. It was this awesome conglomeration of talented people from all over; a bunch of Hopkins kids, some MICA kids, some Towson kids, etc etc. Julia did a great job of harnessing the whole Baltimore creative network. This is something that is so important in the arts and something that, I think, Hopkins does an awesome job of. It’s especially easy with the MICA co-op to meet up with other awesome film people. I especially hit it off with a girl from Towson, and I may be helping out with her thesis film. Pretty awesome!

There were 5 actors for this film, three of whom are SAG affiliated, one of whom has been in John Waters films. I was personally responsible for painting his face with blue icing. This was actually a really, really important job. It’s central to the plot and look of the film, and a main gag throughout. Also, the icing had to look consistent between takes and shoot days for continuity.

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One of my favorite scenes from the whole film.

Some other highlights included converting a completely empty, bare bedroom into a fully designed set, icing four identical cakes as props, undoing and redoing several entire bookshelves, and eating free Chipotle.

After something like… 25? hours on set in one weekend, it was a wrap. The final film is gonna be around 10 minutes long. It was a fantastic lesson in how much work goes into film. We had 5 actors, around 10 crew members, and three shoot days for this one short film. It truly takes a village, and everyone was so supportive and eager to make Julia’s vision come to life. We were even shooting in the film department chair’s own home.

The film will debut sometime at the end of the school year at Studio North’s annual Premiere at the Charles Theatre. Ch-ch-check it out.

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Lighting was difficult on Day 2 because it was overcast (unlike Day 1!!). This bookshelf also shaved years off my life… our professor has it meticulously alphabetized and organized, and we had to perfectly replicate it after taking everything out!