Some filmmakers go to great heights to capture their story on celluloid. For Michelle Muldoon, those heights are movie magic in her short A Rendezvous, the story of two women and their clandestine meeting on a rooftop late one night.
Realizing that she couldn’t place her actors and crew at risk on top of a building for the shoot, Muldoon’s chance meeting with Amanda Tapping, star of the sci-fi television series Sanctuary, helped solidify the use of green screen for her eight minute short.
Green screen, or chroma key compositing, places the actors in front of a large green screen. During post-production another image replaces the green. In A Rendezvous, the green has been cinemagically transformed to a rooftop.
While the idea of using a green screen technique for her film was something she had already been considering, it wasn’t until Muldoon ran into Tapping at the Women in Film and Television Vancouver Film Festival in 2011. With Sanctuary itself taking full advantage of green screen technologies, Muldoon saw her opportunity and approached Tapping for tips and to find out what it was like for actors to work with the medium, as neither of her two actors had any green screen experience.
“She was very generous with her time, answered my questions and was very encouraging. She’s a strong believer in women becoming more involved in all facets of film, and challenging ourselves to break our comfort levels,” said Muldoon.
Grateful for the encouragement and advice provided, a mention of Tapping’s charity, Sanctuary For Kids was placed at the end of the movie.
“Because of Amanda’s generosity, we’ve placed a dedication at the end of the film in support of her charity,” said Muldoon. “The charity is helping children all over the world who are in crisis, and need help and protection.”
Despite its seemingly simple ability to change the setting of a film, shooting with green screen is not without its headaches for filmmakers, especially for those that rely on the generosity others. Taking 15 months to complete her eight minute film, Muldoon has learned some valuable lessons.
“We went through three compositors to get it done. It’s hard to keep people on a project when paying gigs come up, and you’re asking them to work for free,” she said. “Contrary to popular belief, you can’t fix everything in post, so when working with green screen, your whole process has to be planned to the smallest possible detail. With the right elements in place, yes, I’d probably do it again, but I’m definitely not in any rush for it.”
But while the technology used in A Rendevous may be complicated, the film’s message is a simple one: making connections.
“I’m hoping that people see this as a story about the human desire to feel intimately connected to our environment, and without that connection to our community we feel lost, and out of control,” she explained. “The problem is, sometimes we crave connection so badly, we miss the fact that it sits there right in front of us. We all need engagement, and validation in our daily lives, and that’s what intimate and personal connections give us. When you take the time to give that to another person, you gain it for yourself as well.”
Screens as part of the 2012 Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s Coast is Queer evening of short films by Vancouverites. Visit http://www.outonscreen.com for more information.