Behind the Scenes: Agoraphobia

Five people, three weeks of preparation, and two days of filming led to “Agoraphobia”. This short didn’t require much technological or physical requirements, but it did require a lot of lines. As I face the unbeatable curse of the artist, the end result is not exactly how I envisioned it. There are moments of silence between lines. But it will be helpful in preparation for larger projects.

The Idea

As we have only focused on dialogue in a single video for 32 Cuts, I decided to make our next video entirely based on dialogue. I didn’t come up with this theme until earlier this year, and there are still several older video ideas that we haven’t attempted yet. Initially, the only quirk for this video would be that the dialogue was nonstop and the scene uncut. Once I figured out the story and wrote it down, that changed to fit the dramatic requirements.

Preparation

For the first time with any video project, I had to plan rehearsals. Everyone in the cast has performed in stage plays—in fact, everyone but Kimberlee has performed in stage plays together. Much of the planning for this video reminded me of stage plays. The only addition was the recording equipment.

To begin, I needed a script. I didn’t bother to write much notes beyond the lines, with only a few bits for entrances and the dramatic cut. This would be the script that I gave out to the actors, while I would have my own specific notes for cinematography. Way back when I had just written the script, Graham was lined up to play the role of the Human. We ended up shifting things around a bit, and I eventually stepped in to play the role while Graham got behind the camera.

We were originally going to have a single day for rehearsal, and then end up filming the video way ahead of time. The initial upload date was June 25th, but there were complications. Our first rehearsal went smoothly enough, although we had to practice without Graham. I figured I would go over his blocking notes the day of filming. On the 15th we were all set to film, but due to a lack of preparation we turned that day into a second rehearsal with plans to film officially on the 22nd. I have to give Aidan and Kimberlee a shout-out for their dedication to their lines, as they were the only two fully prepared on the 15th.

rehearsal

Life came along and blind-sided us the week of the 22nd, with complications causing Ix to become unavailable on the filming day. At that point, I didn’t really know when we could try again, and the project was put on hold. Everything evened out in time for us to plan our real filming day: July 29th.

Filming Day

We didn’t have any drastic hours of filming for this one. We planned to start at noon, but that had to be pushed back to 1:00. The 27th was actually the second day of attempted filming, and as such we jumped right into shooting without much more preparation. The location was my apartment once again, and just like with “Short Cuts” we had to turn off the air conditioning due to sound concerns. This resulted in a gradual rise in temperature, and before we had even filmed a successful clip we were all coated in sweat. It didn’t help that most of our costumes included long pants.

For most of the takes, we ran through the entire script without regard for errors. That meant an occasional line check or skipping small sections, but we were simply trying to get the difficult parts completed successfully. We shot 16 takes in total, and we didn’t get one that I liked until take 11. By the time we had done 14, we had to take a break and turn the AC back on.

Most of the problems for the actual filming day came about from nothing more than mis-remembered lines or skipping cues. Kimberlee, who played Courage, had never acted in film before and had only minimal experience with stage plays. As this entire video was similar to a stage play, I instructed everyone to extra dramatic. That included drastic motions and louder lines. Kimberlee was completely new to this, but adjusted admirably. The rest of us are stage veterans, and it was somewhat of a return to reality to realize that our wild gestures in conversations are not normal. We also had to rearrange the room a bit beyond what I had expected, as we needed room behind the couch for Aidan to hide somewhat comfortably.

aidan waiting

The camera work was simple enough, as I changed the motions the day of filming to remain more focused on the couch. The only new piece of the process was the inclusion of an audio recorder, which was placed on the floor right in front of the couch. This helped massively with audio editing, especially with the huge reliance on dialogue.

Editing and Review

This short has been the simplest video to edit for 32 Cuts. There’s only a single cut throughout, and with that I only needed two video clips and two audio clips to put the entire thing together. We made sure during filming to sync the audio and video with markers and claps, and as such I didn’t have to dig through much material in Adobe Premiere.

By itself, the video was a little too simple for my taste, and so I added the brief darkness when Fear arrives, and the redness when Anger shows up. I also went through and separated each individual line as its own segment of audio, which I arranged on different tracks for each different character in the editing program. I toyed with the idea of distorting voices for the emotion characters, but in the end I left them alone and simply stuck with the color changes. The separation of lines did make it easier to jump to character entrances, however.

As far as my video themes go, this may seem a little tame. But almost every short I’ve planned, including what comes next, relies very little on dialogue. That is not the case for full movies. This was good practice, and also reflected on me the importance of a separate audio recording device. I’ve had one for years, but simple laziness has barred me from using it very often.

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