Monday, August 30, 2010

"We're goin to need a bigger boat"

The other night I watched a documentary about one of my favorite movies "JAWS". This documentary really made the point of how disastrous of a production JAWS was. It tripled it's original shooting schedule and budget. At the time this meant the almost certain career death of the 27 year old director, Steven Spielberg. This was only his second major film. While making JAWS, Spielberg made many decisions as director. However two of those decisions were bigger then any of the others. One directly resulted in most of the major production problems and the other decision turned the mess into the first ever Summer blockbuster and an absolute classic film. The decision he fought for and what caused all the problems was he insisted on shooting the film in the Atlantic ocean and not a hollywood tank or a calm production lake in California. Hollywood movies were never shot on the open ocean and for good reason. The ocean was completely uncontrollable. Weather, tides, currents, salt water and boats on the horizon all plagued the production severely. Another major problem was the star mechanical shark was an epic fail in the water. They never got it to work properly. Everything got so bad that the entire crew pretty much considered the film a lost cause. Rumors were flying that Spielberg was going to be fired and replaced any time. Imagine the stress on a 27 year old Spielberg. Knowing your project is over budget, over due, your crew has lost faith in the project and at any time you may be replaced. Then he makes one of the most incredible decisions of his career and as a filmmaker. He decided to almost completely remove the shark from the film. In an interview he says the decision was relatively easy because the mechanical shark just wasn't working and almost laughable. The hard part was deciding how to proceed with the movie after making the decision to remove the physical shark from the movie you are making about a shark. The mechanical shark was originally storyboarded into almost every scene that involved the fictional shark. In a moment of desperation and maybe clarity he decided to fall back on what he knew. He decided to film the rest of the movie as one of his predecessors, Alfred Hitchcock, would do. He was going to let the audience's imagination do most of the work. All he had to do was create the feeling that something scary was under the water. He did this in some really great cinematic ways like shooting with the camera really close to the water line. A perfect example is in the opening scene of the girl getting attacked while swimming at night. Originally he was going to show much of the shark attacking her. The new idea he came up with was to attach cables to the actor and have crew members pulling her from different directions. The scene is absolutely terrifying and it's because we never see the shark. A brilliant example of serendipity, creativity and hard work all coming together. He knew that if he could craft the right tone, the audience would create something much scarier then could be actually shown. I am really inspired by this ability to stay focused and eventually realize the creative opportunity of a complete disaster. The movie JAWS that we know was not the movie Spielberg originally set out to make. However when the disastrous production was almost unsalvageable he had the knowledge,courage and vision to completely change directions. At the center of complete chaos he was able to let go of what was causing the chaos and embrace a new idea......a much better idea.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Minneapolis Photographer / Groups

Shooting groups of people is always challenging. There is only so many positions you can arrange groups into and still have an interesting composition. Also it takes a lot of concentration to make sure everyone is in position and doing what you need. Recently I had two different assignments shooting groups......