Real and Imaginary Places

Yesterday I (Kelly, writer, hello!) and director of photography, Tobias Deml, took a field trip to San Francisco. It’s an elite coding school, which was founded by several of writer/director Matt’s college friends, will serve as the main shooting location of Other Halves.

Matt has visited several times, and has generally explained the space to me, so I had an idea of what to expect. But the picture you have in your head never quite matches what you encounter when you get there.

Future Dioramas of Death

Some things just start to make sense; I immediately understood the Dioramas of Death scene  when I saw the above offices. These spaces can be used for much more devious things than chair storage (can’t say more than that or I’ll give too much away!)

Toby takes photos of the Alumni Lounge

But, as a filmmaker, analyzing space is more than just saying, “Hey, that’s a super cool exposed brick wall!” You’re taking a place that exists, and turning it into an imaginary location that tells a story. And everyone has different perspectives from which they view space.

As a writer, I start piecing together the logic of the story: the location has three kitchens on three levels, but in our story there’s only one kitchen, so I start erasing kitchens in my head. We have also created fictional spaces in the script, like a server room, that don’t exist in reality. So I start looking around, wondering can I use this lounge, this office, this corner, to be something it’s not? Can I rearrange furniture to create the world I have in my mind? What can I use that’s already here and what am I going to have to build?

Touring the space with our DP was enlightening for me. While I’ve been behind the camera in a directorial capacity, cinematography and lighting is not the lens through which I see the world. Toby walks around imagining LED strips tucked behind molding. He saw frosted glass office doors and pictures how he can use them to create silhouettes. Film is art created by capturing light on film; a cinematographer paints with shadows and color to create these images.

I have contemplated how to describe emotion through facial expressions, mapped fictional spaces to understand the geography of the the story, and choreographed the movement of my characters into a dance of  suspense. I certainly see scenes as dark, or bright, or romantic, or sterile. But until this point I have not considered the physical how in terms of creating these tones.

One of three kitchens

But that’s the beauty — and the challenge — of film. You take dozens (or more) of artists, each with their own perspective, and throw them together to make one unified piece. A writer imagines this world in their head. The director pictures the flow of action through a camera’s lens. DPs, costumers, and designers build story through color, texture, line, and light. Actors breathe life into imaginary people. And editors and special effects people take all of these puzzle pieces and somehow fit them together and find the reality in all of the rest of our craziness. You might bicker with each other, push each other, challenge each other, but ultimately, if you’re doing it right, you end up with something that’s greater than the sum of the parts.