As I opened up the most recent scene of Murder! A Love Story for editing and started watching the stringout, I cursed myself for perhaps the thousandth time in post-production.
We didn’t have much time to shoot our scenes, so we shot two cameras at once as often as we could and tended to cover dialogue-based scenes in the “master-over-over” style. Besides being fast, it fit with the overall style and tone of the film.
I must have been tired on this particular day. We were shooting in a very small space, the office of Westminster Hall at Grace College. Our master was already a little weird because it was being shot from the end of a desk, which filled the foreground with furniture and desk accessories instead of the actors. I’m not a huge fan of masters anyway; when I cut I tend to use them very little.
So you’d think this would be an ideal situation to make the over-the-shoulder shots really good so I could rely heavily on them in the editing room. What I decided to do, though (and for the life of me, I can’t remember how this conversation went), was put a 50mm lens on the OTS camera and shoot everything handheld.
If you’re not familiar with these sorts of concepts, a 50mm is not a very wide angle lens, and on the APS-sensor cameras we were using, it was realistically more like a 75mm lens. When shooting with lenses like this, the kind of shake you get from shooting handheld is exaggerated. I don’t know what possessed me to let the camera operator go handheld instead of putting the camera on sticks, but this is what happened. Consequently, all the OTS takes are shaky, and the focus comes and goes sometimes because the depth of field was relatively shallow, so every time the operator moves the camera even a little bit closer to or farther away from the subject the shot goes soft.
This is only the most recent in a long list of things I’d do differently if I shot this movie now instead of last year. Of course, I wouldn’t know to do those things differently if I hadn’t already made the mistakes that taught me those lessons. So there’s no use whimpering over it. As Edward Burns recently tweeted:
“Best advise i got when i was trying to make Brothers McMullen. ‘there are two types of pain. The pain of regret and the pain of hard work’ [sic]”
So I guess I’m experiencing a little of both right now, but I’d definitely rather be regretting my mistakes in production than not making the movie at all.