Double Layer Red Velvet is my senior film project, which I produced, shot, and edited. This project was fun, stressful, and a great collaborative effort. The style and tactic I took to shooting it was born out of this collaboration as well.
It began with me asking my friend Elijah Dove if he would be interested in writing a script for my senior project. He agreed, but asked that I give him a basic concept from which to write. A few weeks later, I was brainstorming ideas and started thinking of how fairy tales are so often adapted and retold. During this, I had the idea of the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a spy thriller in which Red is a double agent whom Wolf is tracking down. I told the idea to Elijah, was glad that he liked it, and received a first draft a few days later. His clever script uses all the classic elements of the story, but without explicitly being an adaptation. The script was the first step in the development of the film’s style as it set the genre.
The second step was when I contacted Cat Mauter about doing art direction for the film. When talking about the wardrobe of the characters, she asked what era the film was set in. I had not yet thought about this but, thinking of the classic James Bond movies, said the 60s or 70s. She was excited by this and said the clothing styles of the 1960s were some of her favorites. This quickly established the era of the film.
With genre and era decided, I began thinking of visual and lighting styles that would compliment the characters and actions of the story. I then thought of the compellingly crafted, cast, and composed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a spy thriller set in the early 1970s. The film has a very interesting look of few sources, split lighting, low saturation, and a muted color palette of blues and browns. I decided to adapt each of these elements to my needs except for the color palette, as I wanted the film to be colorful enough to include the main character’s namesake.
Using the visual style of Tinker as an inspirational starting point and faced with a very limited amount of time on set due to scheduling issues, this project was one of preparation and simplicity. I first created a shot list by breaking down each scene to ensure all the dialogue and action would be adequately covered. I visited the locations in person (or looked at images on Google Street View) and formed ideas for light and camera placement. Although the actual shoot was still pressed for time, knowing what I was getting into and being able to confirm with the director that everything had been covered made the process achievable because I knew exactly what I was rushing to accomplish.
Overall, I’m quite happy with the final result. As always, some shots are weaker than others, but others came together quite nicely. I think both the visual mood and the simplicity of the shots helped make the story coherent and interesting. Most importantly, I was able to work with great people and learn through the process.
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