Lights will be screened at the National Film & Sound Archive today, as part of the ScreenACT short:seasons festival.
Originally I wanted to film Lights in a series of direct, static shots, in emulation of Ozu, who’s Tokyo Story I saw and loved recently. Nothing clever, tricky or extraneous. After five minutes on set, that already felt constricting, and I was back to framing shots through mirrors or from extreme angles. What’s more, after my first cut, the producer (Nick) requested more shots establishing character and setting, to “open it up”. He was right.
Mamet reckons all establishing shots are unnecessary and insulting to an audience, but that’s too harsh and restrictive. Done right, they can be artistic and satisfying on their own. Once something is established though, it’s insulting to establish it over and over. Or just silly – Alias used to sub in the same exact shots of building exteriors in each episode. Watching the show week to week, you might have brushed over it – watching several in a row on DVD, it becomes comical (do as Lou and I did, and turn it into a drinking game).
I wanted something different between scenes – fading to black felt like a wasted opportunity. Fading to a colour was something that stuck with me from watching the right-up-my-alley Submarine (and I think I read that Ayodade took it from Rohmer). I wanted to go one better than Submarine though, where the colours seem arbitrary, and to tie them to our theme. Lights takes place over the months of autumn – as the scenes progress, the coloured fades change from a mustard yellow to maroon to corduroy brown, in concert with the leaves of the season. It’s not a huge detail, but I like the thematic unity it gives.
I want to thank everyone involved – our actors Ben Drysdale, Cara Irvine and Julia Johnson, our walk-on cameo/scene dressing car provider/technical expert Ben Lane, sound recorder Paul Heslin, and production assistants Karell Duchesne and Louise McGrath. Nick and I are gradually building up a steady, reliable crew, and it’s the most rewarding aspect of putting in as much time as we are.