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Holistic Filmmaking: The Silent Dynamics of Film Production

Interrelating the Silent Dynamics of Film Production

Photo by Chris Murray on Unsplash

Too often we all become secularized in our own job without seeking a holistic approach to filmmaking.

So… the beautiful lead actress said to me, “Excuse me, but I just thought you should know, your gaffer and boom man are in a fist fight.” (This is really true!) And I looked, and sure enough she was right! It was odd to see two grown men on the ground in an elementary schoolyard brawl. But there it was.

What had happened was that the sound boom man had accused the lighting gaffer of purposely lighting the set in a way that there were no “spaces” between the shafts-of-light to “hide” his boom, so the shadow of it would not be seen.

Of course the gaffer accused the boom man of purposely positioning his boom exactly in the way of the lighting… “The guy used to be an electrician, he should know better,” the gaffer said, attempting to prove he was right.

I never really discovered who was right or wrong. Perhaps both. It didn’t really matter because both men were simply trying to do their job extraordinarily well. It was a very fast shooting schedule and like most movies, we were moving quickly trying to get more shots than we could fit in the day.

But that day I realized the importance of really taking the time to understand how the different positions on a film set interrelate.

Too often we all become secularized in our own job without seeking a holistic approach to filmmaking.

Producers produce. Directors direct. Actors act. Gaffers gaff. Often without much understanding of what the other is about. It seems the amount of minimal necessary collaboration between the various departments changing over the decades only based upon the dictates of the technology of the era.

For example, during the so-called “Silent” era the [noisy] camera moved freely around as an orchestra played mood music off set. But that abruptly changed with the advent of “Talkies” as the camera was forced to be entombed in a large unmoving house-like room to allow for quiet on set to record sound.

And perhaps this is the birthplace of the often adversary relationship between picture and sound.

I’ve often thought that the entire paradigm of creative compromise in filmmaking can be summed up in the dynamic between microphone placement and camera framing. Is not the best audio recorded with the mike closest to the actor, but also in the shot? So, a balance must be found, a holistic compromise allowing both sound and picture to be successful in their individual endeavors.

Understanding how these all interrelate is the key to this holistic approach.


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