The one big issue with using soft lights as your primary lighting source is that they don’t do a whole lot when you take them outside. They’re kind of by definition a blunt sword, and they don’t put off a lot of light, so taking them outside pretty much just turns them into a practical light, and who has one of those paper IKEA lamps outside? So, to shoot outside, we have to turn to our other lights, 3 LED lights with stands (a 1k and 2 500’s) that we can pretty much gel orange. We have no diffusion that I can find. We do, however, have some work lights.
You don’t want to use work lights unless you absolutely have to.
Our goal with the LEDs is pretty much just to try and make them look like streetlights as best we can. Really, we just want some motivated light to make sure people can see what the hell is going on in the scene.
Luckily, our first scene is in the garage, so we can use the existing light (replacing a bulb here and there). And the garage itself is one of those garages that you can only get by having someone live there for a long time who loves to tinker with multiple projects and isn’t such a fan of throwing things away. Not a hoarder, just a pack rat. There’s even an old car in there somewhere. A really old car. It might have even been new when they parked it in the garage.
It’s kind of perfect for Patrick’s character. I can’t even imagine how you would create a room like this from scratch.
From there we move outside, which really tests our lights. The 1k, as high as it will go and as close to the frame as we can get it, helps. But it ain’t great. This is where you really want to direct light, to pull out some flags and some black wrap and really create some shadows. Kind of like this:
But that’s not an option on a mass scale, and it doesn’t fit well with the look of the film’s interiors, so we do the best we can with the lights at hand.
The other issues at hand involve [REDACTED] being [REDACTED] and the inherent problem of attempting to do that without either actress actually being there.
Remember the old trick when you were a kid and you’d put pillows underneath your blankets so your parents would think you were in bed? You know how it never, ever worked, even though it worked so perfectly for Ferris Bueller? Yeah, it doesn’t really work when you’re trying to do it on a film set either. It looks fake. And that, of course, just won’t do.
That’s how we ended up taping Paul’s teenage daughter inside a sheet and shutting her in the trunk of a car. The big issue being how do we hide the fact that Paul’s daughter has a completely different hair color than the actress without it looking like we’re hiding it for the sake of hiding it. Or how we had a 10 minute debate about just how much mud we should put on UPM Katie Schwartz’s feet and how best to show it.
I can’t even imagine what sort of p*rn film the neighbors thought we were filming.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.