As we’re having our directors/producers meeting on Thursday to discuss cinematography I thought I’d pull together some ideas I had on the subject — these are notes, mind you, not directives.
For the doc segments:
- No shakycam.
There are a lot of movies that parody the documentary style, and for this to work it’s gotta be more than “Blade Runner meets Cops”. There’s lots of comedy in the movie but I hope we’re able to pull off such a straightfaced and deadpan style that the word mockumentary never occurs to people.
- Heavily intercut and constructed.
For the segments, we’re working with a very specific documentary model — a high-minded, constructed type of storytelling. Some touchstones are the visual composition of the This American Life TV show, the social anthropology of the 7 Up series, the documentarian-as-character style in Errol Morris’ First Person.
- Intense focus on the subjects.
The explicit intent of the documentary is to get the mainlanders to emphathize with the Torontonians — but there’s an undercurrent of “look at how strange and fascinating these poor people are”. Like the tragic-documentaries that focus on say, a Cambodian rice farmer and zoom in on his scars and pockmarked complexion, that linger on the strange angles of his face — ours will do the same but with white people.
For the in-world adventures:
We need to distinguish this from the documentary. Different camera settings at least — perhaps this is shared with the in-world time with Oscar at the beginning — maybe distinctive transitions. The documentarian has pieced this together, so maybe it’s told via a number of static shots as if from a number of security cams. This is the only footage where people don’t think they’re being filmed, so maybe he’d take the opportunity for extreme closeups.
For the mainlander show bookends:
Smooth and slow camera. Classy, sedate, intelligent is the tone. Maybe even trying too hard, like Inside the Actors Studio. I’m thinking Oprah in her book club discussions, with a bit of the YOU-get-a-new-car! Oprah slipping out.
For the flycam bowling alley scene:
At the moment the scene is written so that it all happens around a table, but I think it should follow people to the counter, to the alley to take their turn, and land in weird places and at weird angles. It can catch people in the middle of conversations, and maybe give the disjointed feel without the time lapses. Slight distortion when it hits the glass trying to get out.