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Marc Beurteaux Blog
June 25/2007

Marc Beurteaux talks about Procrastination

The only time I ever do housework and I mean EVER is when I'm supposed to be shooting a film. I think this is the reason why my partner supports my filmmaking - it's the only way to get me to clean the toilet.

Like every other artist, filmmaker or musician, procrastination seems to be key to the creative process. I'm not sure how this works but by not working on my film and doing every conceivable chore instead, it is part of the way I work. I even include procrastinating on my production schedule, I just call it pre-production - but please don't tell my funders.

However, I did shoot some footage the other day (after I had dusted the tops of all the window frames in the house) and I think it looked alright. However, there are a couple of little flubs in the practical truck-out I did and I'm wondering if it needs to be re-shot. The first take of this scene took me four hours so you can see why I'm procrastinating - I either strike the set and set-up for the next shot or I spend another four grueling hours re-shooting. Faced with this terrifying decision one can see why I am doing housework instead of shooting.

I've just gone and re-checked my last shot, again, for about the fiftieth time. You know what? It looks fine. As for those little flubs, let me rejoice in the filmmakers' mantra: I'LL FIX IT IN POST! Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Everyone loves saying that!!! Except, of course, for those poor saps who work in post-production. They are a touchy lot and it is best to learn how to plead, whine and beg to get them to fix the mistakes you were too lazy to correct when you were shooting. But that comes later, much later. First, I gotta shoot my footage.

Okay, I've returned to the studio. I've backed up my footage onto DVD and to an external hard drive, everything is safe and sound. I just take a coupla' of photos of the set and then demolition commences. In about an hour I take apart the set that took me about a week to build. It's a fun thing to do. I feel like Godzilla towering over a miniature forest. I'm like some overly efficient mining company - ripping up trees and altering the landscape.

I move faster and faster, getting engrossed in the violence. I lift giant rocks with one hand, I pull apart a mountain with the other! The feeling of omnipresence is all consuming! The bloodlust of destruction makes me crazed!!! My hair stands on end, my eyes bulge, flecks of drool spill at the corners of my mouth as the orgy of violence reaches its climax and then.... I spill my cup of tea on the carpet. I no longer feel so mighty. I have a feeling that all-powerful gods don't drink earl grey. Most likely they drink blood from the skulls of inter-dimensional beings. Nevertheless, I go get a sponge.

The moment of annihilation has passed. I deal with the tedium of scraping hardened pools of hot glue off of the set table. Soon I'm ready to set up for a new shot.

I look at my shot list to see what scene is next. I then stare at my storyboard for about ten minutes. I'm checking the correlation between this shot and the shots it cuts from and to. I re-check camera angles, axis and lighting directions. I also note what set pieces I have used already in previous shots - do I need the same ones or something different? I check everything before I start setting up - I've learnt that being as organised as possible saves a lot of time in the long run.

Once I'm sure that I know what's going on with this next shot, I position the camera and place in some key props for composition. I try to follow the Rule of Thirds, which is the theory of composing your shot by dividing your frame into thirds.

I then dress the set, checking for composition and how the colours of the props interact with one another. I'm very careful with colour - too many colours muddy up the frame so I choose maybe three key colours with one dominant colour. I also use colour to create depth. For instance If I have a red key prop in the foreground/camera right, I'll put in another red prop in the background/ camera left.

Once I'm happy with my prop placement I start probably the most difficult task other than animating - lighting. I am always humble in the presence of an experienced director of photography. The magic they weave is awe-inspiring. I've learnt a lot by watching these people light a set - it's a skill I will always work at. Anyway, lighting takes ages to do, but it's so important in selling the believability of the animated world.

Next, I place the puppet or puppets in the shot and do a "pop-through". A pop-through is where I place the puppet in its key places on the set and shoot a frame. For example, if a puppet is walking across the set, I'll place the puppet, say, every six inches along its path. A pop-through is necessary to check lighting and composition.

Once I'm happy with everything I tweak the props, set, lighting and camera angle until I feel nauseous and I'm ready to shoot.

But first I ask myself the question: What else can I clean? Oh I see the underside of the kitchen counters need polishing - excellent!

To see a film on procrastination, CLICK HERE and check out Richard Condie's GETTING STARTED (1979):

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