About two weeks ago, I was allured into the golden mirage in the desert, Las Vegas. A constant gambler on this life journey, ironically, I consider even standing next to a slash machine an utter sin. Prior to this trip, I have been to Vegas twice. A country boy and a firm believer into modest lifestyle, I have not been enchanted by the glamour of this glamorous city to the smallest degree. I went there for academic and professional enrichment. Kathie, the producer who has been kind enough to give me constructive feedback throughout the numerous revisions of my screenplay, had scheduled to shoot some scenes of her film and I was invited to visit her and the film crew. The original timetable was that crew did their initial check-in on August 9th, the shooting began no later than August 10th and the series of shoot would wrap up on August 17th. I made it to Vegas on the evening of August 10th and scheduled to take my departure on the early morning of August 16th so that I could get back in town in time to fulfill my research tool requirement at school. But due to some family emergency, Kathie couldn’t but push back the initial shooting date, my role and participation completely altered. Originally assuming that I wasn’t but a passive observer of the group effort, I was actually assigned numerous tasks, which truly excited me a lot. In addition to accompanying Kathie to numerous “field trips” to get the camera, props, and deal with last-minute withdrawal of some crew members, I was responsible for making the prop list for the scenes the team had planned to shoot by the 17th. To minimize the cost, Kathie would like to make the best use of artifacts available on the set. My task was to firstly hunt them down and subsequently, for clearance purposes, to remove any identifiable trademarks / label from those objects. And, I was invited to offer opinions on the color of a set. My day usually started with standing by around 9 ~ 10 am and it wrapped up around 11 pm. Frequently, when I go on an expedition, I love crawling in bed after dark entertaining myself with one TV show after another since I don’t have a TV in my dorm. Yet during my stay in Vegas, each night I returned to the hotel completely drained, finding the TV not having its expected mesmerizing power anymore. Shower and bed were what I wanted.
The initial shoot commenced on August 14th. I was exhilarated. During the 14th and 15th, I was assigned a new mission. I was inquired to document the work in process via my digital camera. Since my digital camera also allowed me to make some short video clips, in addition to taking snapshots, I clicked on the “record” button and followed the film crew and actor / actress as they prepared their roles, put the set together and rehearse. For 7 hours each day, I held my camera anywhere I went in the hope that I would not let any crucial moment escape my eye. Eager to portray the team as one whose members enjoyed working with one another, I did my utmost to catch the crew members’ / actors’ / actresses’ sunny smiles. I wasn’t part of the team but I was privileged to witness the historical moment of the start-up film company.
Schroeder in Peanuts / Snoopy Strips, in reaction to Lucy’s criticism on his clumsiness as he reluctantly danced with Lucy, bounced back, “Musicians don’t dance.” Once trained to be a classical pianist and then becoming an amateur composer who writes only to amuse himself, I indeed don’t dance. An artist of one genre, so much indulged in his own work, probably doesn’t bother to step outside his comfort zone. But what about critiquing? It is interesting that, while I write novellas, or at least, I once did, my academic interest now has nothing to do with criticizing short stories. And ironically, while I am trained to be a “film scholar”, or at least, that is what my advisor calls it, I have never touched a camera. I have had little knowledge about the filmic language and the utilization of different shots to achieve certain effects. I read a book about cinematography and the writer had detailed breakdown of how a series a shot achieved continuity. No matter how hard I tried, I just could hardly make out. The two-day intensive duties on the set helped a lot. Now I get it, or at least to some extent. The director is a senior and experienced film figure, once nominated for Emmy’s best cinematography. He was also a great mentor, currently teaching at a local university. It is truth that the director was giving instructions to those crew members, but I benefited from them a lot standing in the back taking notes mentally. I have gradually acquired the capability to visualize a story. My past training in English department allowed me to comprehend a story only literally.
I highly cherished every single second I spent with the film team. Now Kathie needs to go through the fundraising process again. I wish her good luck. I also wish myself good luck!
兩週前, 我去了拉斯維加斯 6 天. 我天生不愛賭博. 我連一般的橋牌都不玩. 拉斯維加斯我之前已經去過 2 次. 我想該看的我都看過了. 這回去賭城是因為之前指導我修改劇本的製片要在拉斯維加斯拍攝她電影部分的場景. 我應邀去參觀. 原本劇組人員 8/9 報到, 8/10 開拍, 一直拍到 8/17. 我 8/10 晚上抵達賭城, 8/16 清晨趕回學校做暑修課程的口頭報告. 然而因為製片家裡出了點狀況, 開拍時間延後. 我在拉斯維加斯的前面幾天, 製片還得忙著張羅拍攝的準備—租攝影機, 準備道具, 組員臨時退出得另找新人代替… 忙得不可開交. 我也沒閒著: 我負責根據要拍的幾個 scene 幫忙做道具清單. 可能的話, 就在拍攝地點就地取材. 因為牽涉版權的問題, 道具上面如果有任何註冊商標, 我得想辦法把那些商標去除, 而在去掉商標的同時, 我要確認沒有破壞道具本身. 另外, 製片請我為一個佈景的色調提供意見. 每天早上 9 ~ 10 點出門, 晚上 10 ~ 11 點才回到旅館. 平常我自由行到各地旅遊, 回到旅館就窩在床上看電視, 因為我學校宿舍沒有電視機. 然而, 在拉斯維加斯的那幾天, 每天回到旅館累到連電視都不想看. 唯一一個念頭就是趕緊洗澡然後睡覺.
終於 8 月 14 日電影開拍. 我很興奮. 14, 15 這兩天我有一個新任務—負責替演員與工作人員拍照, 以便製片可以在電影網站上呈現團隊工作的過程. 因為我的數位像機有攝影功能, 我同時拍攝一些導演指導演員與演員排演的短片. 每天 7 個小時, 我就一直拿著我的像機希望不會漏掉任何重要的鏡頭. 同時我希望能讓人覺得這是一個合作無間的快樂團隊, 我想盡辦法捕捉大家燦爛的笑容. 我不是這個團隊的一員. 不過我很高興我能見證這個歷史的一刻.
我唸文化研究, 而我其中一個專長是媒體與電影. 說來很諷刺: 我專攻電影, 可是卻沒拿過攝影機, 更不懂電影語言, 鏡頭的運用. 我之前看了有關電影攝影的書, 裡頭有圖解介紹. 可是不管怎麼看, 我就是不懂攝影機如何運用不同的位置 (尤其在只有一部攝影機的時候) 去造成螢幕上的連續性 (continuity). 這回在拍攝現場待了兩天, 我終於懂了. 導演是一位法國的資深電影人, 曾經得過艾美獎提名最佳攝影. 他本身也是位好老師, 目前在一所大學電影系任教. 雖然他不是替我上課而是對組員做即席指導, 我在一旁從他簡潔扼要同時風趣的解說中受益不少. 我漸漸可以從視覺傳達的角度去理解一個故事. 以前因為英文系的訓練, 我的認知只侷限於文字層面. 想必在賭城的日子對我目前劇本的修改乃至於新劇本的寫作有莫大的幫助.
我珍惜與劇組人員生活的每一刻. 製片錢用完了. 現在又得開始到處募款以便電影可以繼續拍下去. (獨立製片就是這樣.) 萬事起頭難—我祝她好運, 我也祝自己好運!