For this piece, I worked with multiple actors in a multi-camera scene. Adam Shuty and Ivy Livingston are very professional, very talented actors I had the pleasure of working with in Directors and Actors (DnA) workshops. This was their first time performing together, and their first time doing multi-camera.
We rehearsed for about an hour a few days before the shoot, then did a tech rehearsal just before shooting. I had a top-notch crew of public access producers who are committed to independent media and supporting each other’s work.
The tone of the scene is one of dark comedy. The biggest challenge in directing it was in pulling out the tragic aspects of the story (after all, comedy is tragedy happening to someone else, as they say). Other challenges included separating Olu The Writer from Olu The Director, and together with the actors, stepping away from our preconceived notions of what the scene was about.
My style of directing this scene can be described as theatrical meets daytime drama. The shots were framed more intimately as the scene went on, reflecting the characters’ becoming closer to each other emotionally over the course of the scene. I utilized dissolves at the end, a stylistic element you might find in band shoots but that worked nicely in this scene.
I added music in post production, one piano piece and two jazz pieces that showcased the type of double bass musicianship that inspired me to write the scene in the first place.
The intimacy between a musician and his/her instrument has often reminded me of two lovers. What if that idea became real for someone? This scene is an attempt to answer that very question, and I think we did a very good job of it.
I had the pleasure of working with a terrific, up-and-coming young actor named Gabe Vargas. Gabe adapted a monologue from Tyler Parry’s film “Why Did I Get Married” for an acting class, then impressed the audience at the 2010 IFNY Monologue Slam by doing an impromptu performance of it.
Adapting the monologue to the multi-camera format, I worked with Gabe on adjusting his performance for the camera versus the stage. I set it in a black studio with blue highlights on the actor.
I switched between 3 floor cameras, two manned and one robotic, mixing straight cuts and dissolves. In post, I added the instrumental version of “Song Cry” by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
I directed a multi-camera shoot for Different Voices TV Show that was an in-studio performance by the rocking soul band lead by Dali Blu.
This time out, my work as director combined directing and technical directing, as I chose the shots and operated the multi-camera switcher. We had two floor camera operators and a robotic camera, a groovy band, good team and a chance to do some creative things like dissolves and using a starlight filter. It was a blast!
The Dali Blu Band appeared on Different Voices TV Show on Saturday, December 17, 2010. Executive Producer: Poet Minor. Director: Olu Gittens. MNN New York.
With the new year, it’s time to embark on new adventures. In this TELEVISION section of the blog, I’ll be covering my experiences directing multi-camera TV.
As a film director working single-camera, I prefer to be near my actors while the camera is rolling – rather than perched at a monitor – watching for the performance, the connection, the eyes. In multi-camera directing, the director sits in the control room, a sound-proof space adjacent to the studio, watching 3 or more screens that simultaneously show the action taking place. Working in coordination with the TD, or technical director, the multi-camera director controls the rhythm and pacing of the scene, anticipate shots, highlight performances. I won’t be physically with my actors during the shoot! The intimacy between director and the performance must come from a strong vision for the scenes, effective rehearsals, hawk’s eye survey of all shots at once, and a good rapport with the actors and the control room team.
Multi-camera directing is known for being less “creative” than single-camera filmmaking because of the limitations of camera placement, generalized lighting to accommodate several shots at once, and because we tend to see it only in news, sports, talk shows and soap operas. But don’t sleep on it! The process is its own roller coaster ride of anticipating shots, editing on-the-fly, teamwork and timing.
So, here’s to multi-camera directing, one of the many facets of my work as a filmmaker. Let the journey begin! -O.G.