April 18, 1996

The storyboarding has gotten a lot easier now that I'm working on the final third of the movie. The middle section of the film, which is basically a blow-by-blow of the nightmare honeymoon, was agony to break down into shots: how many meaningful ways are there to film two people in bed? Everything is flowing much easier now that the script has moved back into the elliptical mode in which it started.

It's quite extraordinary how much the storyboarding of a scene depends on the blocking, on where the characters are placed relative to each other. If you change the blocking of a scene--even just to seat characters next to each other instead of opposite each other--and leave every other dramatic element exactly the same, you will almost always feel the urge to use a different visual rhythm. I'm starting to regard blocking as a much more fundamental building block of film style than I used to.

This film, like my earlier one, is heavy on scenes that are filmed in one shot, without cutting. This makes the storyboarding easier, but it will make the shooting harder. It's easy to blow a lot of film stock on multiple takes of long, difficult shots, especially if the actors that we choose have trouble finding the characters. And a film with our budget simply cannot afford a high shooting ratio.

Shooting ratio, by the way, is the ratio of film exposed to film used in the final product. A film with our budget should probably aim for a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. My last movie had a 10:1 shooting ratio! (I had a terrible time with some of the actors, and I was shooting on video, which is far cheaper than film and makes you careless.) Edgar G. Ulmer's 1937 Green Fields, quite a good film, is said to have had a 1.25:1 shooting ratio, which means that Ulmer basically cut the slates off and used all the rest of the film in the released version. Filmmakers were made of sterner stuff back then.

We now have several actors scheduled to audition next week. My fears that most actors would be scared off by the nudity seem to have been unfounded--responses have been pretty favorable on the whole.

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