Sunday, April 11, 2010

Inspector 42 -- Emmy Winner

Last night, "Inspector 42" won two College Television Awards (aka, the student Emmys). It won the 1st Place Award for Drama, as well as the Directing award--I believe those went to my friends Lyvia Martinez (the producer) and Nathan Lee (the director). A huge congratulations to both of them! The film also won a Bronze Award for Excellence in the Craft of Filmmaking last year, which was for the outstanding cinematography of Derek Pueblo.

Nathan Lee -- on the set of Inspector 42

And I realized that I should probably talk a little bit more about the actual production. I am even going to post some behind-the-scenes pictures (I uploaded them onto Facebook last year, and I completely forgot to post any here on the blog).

As I said in my previous post, the shoot was extremely ambitious, but it paid off in the end. At the time, I just remember thinking how insane the production was going to be, and being on edge leading up to the shoot, wondering if everything was actually going to come together. And I was just the transportation coordinator--I could only imagine how nervous Nathan, Lyvia, Whitney (the production designer), and the rest of the key personnel must have been.

Just to give you an idea: the film is set in the 1950s, which required a lot of work to make everything feel authentic. The film follows a shirt inspector (hence the title, Inspector 42) who begins to use defective shirts to fill quotas. The shirts then cause havoc in the community, as loose threads get caught in machinery, on window ledges, and so on. This results in some serious repercussions with friendships, a romance, and the lives of the people around Inspector 42. It's a nice metaphor that is played subtly: how often do we have "loose threads" in our lives, little secrets that come back to hurt ourselves and those around us? Things unravel and tear apart, exposing the fragile creatures underneath.

Alexis Wardle - "Seamstress 61"
Notice the colors of the outfits here--the designers had to look at things tonally, trying to determine how things would translate to black and white

The film was shot for black and white. I don't know the exact workflow, but I believe it was shot on color film first and then desaturated in post-production (I think...I know they talked about it during the production meetings, but I wasn't absorbing every detail about the cinematography).
Now for the fun stuff. An entire shirt factory had to be created, involving shirts, sewing machines, workstations, and costumes for everyone (not to mention the background props like chalkboards and signs with the company goals/quotas). The scene also had to be carefully lit, especially since the camera would be moving around at times, weaving in and around the workstations, following the storage bins and racks as they moved around the factory.

One of the extras -- sadly, I can't remember his name

And as I said in my earlier post, an entire city block in downtown Salt Lake City had to be turned into the 1950s, which led to one of the craziest days of filming. The buildings themselves were already period-ready, but then cars needed to be brought in, some stationary, and others moving (that was my job, coordinating the cars). It required dozens and dozens of phone calls to track down classic car owners in the Utah area who would be willing to volunteer their time and vehicles (it was a student project after all--so apart from lunch and gas reimbursement, there wasn't much we could offer). On top of that, schedules had to be coordinated so that the cars showed up at a specific time, and hoping like crazy it didn't rain that day.

One of the classic cars -- a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe

One of the scenes also required a process trailer, where one of the antique cars would be loaded on a trailer, allowing the actor to play his part without having to actually worry about driving. We couldn't afford an actual process trailer, which sits low to the ground (one company had a trailer that came just six inches of the ground, with enough room for the camera to be placed around the vehicle). It would have cost around $700 for a single day, plus insurance, plus a police escort (the companies required a police presence to direct traffic).

Instead, we used a U-Haul trailer. It sat higher off the ground (around 20 inches, I believe), but Derek Pueblo worked some cinematographic magic to create the illusion that it sat lower. I will say too, there was a moment where my heart skipped a beat, when we were loading the antique car onto the trailer. As the car was being loaded onto the trailer, the actor that was driving (I was going to drive it, but I needed to focus on making it secure) accidentally gunned it a little too much. Imagine my sheer terror seeing a 1957 Ford Thunderbird ride up out of the wheel well, mere inches from sailing off the trailer. I don't know how it managed to stay on the trailer, but it did--we nervously laughed, secured the wheels, and kept right on shooting. We tried to get twelve cars, but only ended up with four (a fifth car--an antique police car--was used on a different day). Once again, with some careful placement and rearranging between shots, those few cars seemed to multiply.

Our process trailer -- that's me driving the truck. It was a narrow street, and after each take, we would back the entire rig up the street and do it again...Have you ever driven a trailer in reverse? Yeah, we did that again and again until we got the shot right--

There were actually two camera units filming for awhile on this particular day, because there was so much that needed to be covered. If I'm not mistaken, Nathan acted as both director and director of photography for one of the units, while James Alexander was 2nd unit director, with Derek Pueblo as DP for the 2nd unit (I think that's right...I might be slightly off on that). We even had an RV rented for the day to use as a wardrobe and makeup area, as well as the production office.

That same day, a car wreck needed to be simulated (scary...considering the antique cars we were working with). It required the crew to move to another part of the city, including the transportation of the RV, trucks, generators, and antique cars. I even got to drive the '57 Thunderbird for a couple of takes while the actor was changing wardrobe. Nathan's direction to me for the take: "Go tearing through the scene as fast you can..." Trust me, tearing through on that car was absolutely exhilarating.

After the car accident -- the haze is actually smoke billowing through the scene. I can't remember why fuller's earth wasn't used

Luke Drake - "Inspector 42"

And this is mostly detailing one particular production day. Hopefully that gives you an idea of the scope of this project, and how hard every single person had to work to pull it off. I know I posted it before, but still check out the trailer for the film on Youtube. Don't forget to leave some comments, especially if you happened to be involved in the production (feel free to say what you did, or describe some part of the production!).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inspector 42

Cool -- so a picture I took last year on the set of "Inspector 42" took seventh place in a weekly photo contest. I don't know how many people entered, but when I looked on Wednesday, there were 900+ entries.

Anyway, the blog was . From their comment, it looks like they thought it was an engagement picture.

And I was really surprised this shot came out the way it did. It was really difficult to focus, because everyone was moving--the actors were moving towards me, while the extras were passing in front of me, and I was shooting wide open at f/1.8.

Anyway, the film was a student project done by several of my friends, but it was one of the most intense shoots I've been on. The film was shot in downtown Salt Lake, but the block we were on couldn't technically be "shut down." So the crew was having to deal with cars passing through the set occasionally, and it was a big shooting area. At one point, there were two camera crews filming different things simultaneously on the same block. The film follows a shirt inspector (aka, Inspector 42), who begins to use defective shirts to meet a quota. But then the defective shirts start wreaking havoc in the community...You can see a trailer for it here.

Like I said, it was a big project, but it was so much fun. I was in charge of transportation, which meant coordinating the vehicles for equipment, the crew, and parts of the cast. It also included driving an RV a couple of times (yes, an RV! It was a really big project), and coordinating all of the antique cars you see in the film.