Yesterday, I had a film shoot for a special project I’m working on with some people. I arrived at the location. We set up the lights; the scene; the shot. And it came time to finally shoot a test run. The shot was elaborate, choreographed, and most of all, long. I hit the record button, and we started.
The test run was mainly desired by myself, so I could check my lighting, and composition in the midst of the choreographed segment. When we finished our run, I dumped my SD card, did a few edits, and we watched the take there and then; getting a feel for what we were trying to do, and whether it was being communicated properly.
The First Take
We watched, and we were mesmerized. The test run worked well, and there were moments in the take that were unplanned for, but still blew us away. There was only one problem. All of the thoughts in my head on what we could do better; the focus was soft, the shot wasn’t wide enough, the lighting could be better.
After we finished reviewing the take, most of the team was ready to call it there and then, but I proposed we do it again, and that we could really nail it this time. Everyone looked at me as if I was crazy. Not only was everyone tired after a long day of setup for this shoot, but no one thought we needed to do it again.
The Second Take
I thought they were crazy. You aren’t seeing what I’m seeing! It was late at night, and I had to pull the teams arm quite a bit. Eventually, we agreed to redo one last take, and so we did. We reset the scene, I changed up the lighting and lens, and off we went.
By the end, everyone was beat and went to bed; no one was in the headspace to stick around for a full take review. So, I got comfortable, and examined both. Watching. Comparing. I saw the changes I made. I liked them. But there was one thing that I didn’t like. The moments.
One take clearly had better moments, and it wasn’t the one that had the seemingly better production choices; it was the first take. Something in me got really tense at that moment. Knowing that I clearly knew which take was prettier, more captivating, and less abrasive, at the expense of the better production choices in the other take through me for a loop in my head.
Going back and forth between my choices, I found myself in a hard place. I’m one for production, excellence, and perfection. But, I am one for moments, art, and spontaneity. There was battle going on, as I thought the two were in utter conflict. Until something crossed my mind the next day while I was sitting at a coffee shop.
Could picking the take with better moments, in its self, be a better production choice.
I remembered a conversation I had with a member of the team, and I said “It’ll all be worth it when this art starts changing people’s lives.” And that’s the point. It’s about the art. And production is only a tool. No one will be talking about how amazing the quality, composition, or lighting was in 50-100 years. (They might not even talk about it at all). But what people will talk about, if there’s any chance they will, it’ll be about the moments.
Why do you think some retro video games have the replay value that some game makers are still trying to achieve? Why do some people still gather for movie nights to watch their favourite old film? Or why do extremely lo-fi records that were recorded with experimental ideas and techniques years ago still make it onto our top 100 playlists? It’s because everyone remembers the moments.
Sometimes we can get too caught up in the production, that we actually start treating the production as king, instead of the art that we’re trying to capture. Not everyone will remember what lens you used to make that video. But everyone will remember the way that video made them feel.