05 March 2007

Wellington Portrait


This week’s practical project was to create a portrait of Wellington. The brief made it clear that what is required is a personal view of Wellington rather than a cover-all tourist information type film. This is the last project where we are editing in-camera, and this can’t be over too soon for me. While the project is helping us focus on planning and pre-visualising our idea, scout locations, think about sequences and shot framing, I am just stressing about the practical problems of not being able to be frame accurate in-camera.

So, when I started thinking about what Wellington means to me as someone who only arrived 8 months ago, the first things that sprang to mind were: wind and sport. Wind, breezes, storms, gusts, all manners of moving air were the bane and fascination of my early days here. I had no idea that it is possible to be lifted up by a gust of wind while dashing across a road, or that I could worry about the house falling down from the howling storm round our bedroom. The many wind activities round town: kite surfing, sailing, etc, made me think about the other peculiarities I had noticed about Wellington: Everyone is sporty! Whether that’s kayaking, swimming, running, cycling or surfing, dragon boating or indoor climbing, hiking or cricket, rugby or diving, everyone is doing it.

I actually started shooting some footage round this theme but then came upon my final idea. My mum said that you can’t say you’ve been to Wellington unless you sat in Cuba Street and watched the people go past. It’s true, there is nowhere where there is such a range of interesting, strange, unusual or just friendly people than on Cuba Street. So I spent some time scouting for a location and thinking about the kind of shots I was looking for. I wanted to concentrate on the character of people, not just what they dressed like or what they did. I also wanted to really concentrate on the essence of each individual in a way we don’t normally do.

When I had come up with my idea, I shot some test footage to get the lighting and camera position right (although in retrospect I should have used a diffuser for the strong sunlight we had on the shooting day), as well as trying out a range of frames. On shooting day I had the help of Sara, Annie and Stuart (thanks!) to wrangle my subjects and help with the lighting (actually just a reflector to balance the strong shadows). We found lots of willing victims and then it was just a matter to judge the length of time to shoot each of them. I judged this in the view finder until it felt that it was time to look at the next person, and that was different for each face. Here is the result:

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