Majorca Masterclass, part 1 – Ending up in a Philip Bloom short film
Last week I returned from our 2nd 3-day HDSLR / AF101 Masterclass in Majorca. Sebastian Wiegärtner & me did the first one last September, which was a great success, and so we got our friend Philip Bloom on board for the first time this year in June. We had around 30 attendees and it was sold out over 8 weeks ago. The great thing about a three-day workshop is that people can actually get to know each other and shoot a short film under our supervision. You are essentially able to shoot a short with Philip Bloom (and us) prying over your shoulder, giving you tips and ideas on how we would approach a shot or scene like that.
Before I get too much into detail already: I will be doing a separate blog post on the Masterclass shortly, we are just waiting for all of the 6 shooting teams to put their finished short films (which they planned, shot and edited in less than 24 hours during the Masterclass) on Vimeo. Once they are up, I am going to present you an extensive round-up of everything that happened during the Masterclass.
Today I want to talk about the end of the Masterclass – when we helped Philip shooting one of his “just for fun” films on the day after the class finished.
Philip, Sebastian, our assistant instructor Joel Conder & I arrived two days before the Masterclass started to scout locations in the surrounding area of the hotel. We picked this area (Sant Jordi) and hotel (Club Colonia Sant Jordi) because of its natural beauty and the very diverse environment it’s in. The beautiful long natural beach of Es Trenc is in walking distance, and so is a little forest, salines and a picturesque village, topped by a very cinematic-looking boardwalk and a harbor lined up along the shores. Many, many great places to shoot different films in, apart from the beautiful hotel properties themselves.
Before I go on talking about how this short film was realized, please watch it first to avoid reading any spoilers, and please note the end scene in particular 🙂
During our location scouting, Philip fell in love with the boardwalk area in particular and we started talking about shooting something there during our day off on the day after the Masterclass. Partly because he wanted to do something new and partly because he’s a little tired of some people online calling the shorts he shoots purely for fun “an assembly of pretty shots lacking a narrative”, he came up with the idea of shattering these people’s expectations by a very drastic end scene. Somehow, during the Masterclass not a single group ended up shooting at the boardwalk area itself, the range of other picturesque places was obviously just to wide. Of course Philip decided not to let this chance pass and so we ended up shooting the entire short in this area, run-and-gun style mostly, all on his new Sony F3.
One of our female participants is called Nino as well, which is a very common girls’ name in Georgia (the country), where she is from. She lives in Washington DC and therefore uses “Nina K.” as a stage name, because people tend to think she’s a guy when they hear the name (which is good for me I guess!). Of course it became an ongoing joke during the Masterclass that there was another Nino. Philip, being the charming English fellow that he is, ended up calling me “ugly Nino” as opposed to “pretty Nino” … ultimately leading to the idea that I would kill her in the end of his little short simply because “there can only be one Nino”.
(I really do not know another person with my name except for female Nino Kharabadze – my name is Italian, but here in Austria there is virtually nobody I am aware of who has the same first name as me. My parents are big Italy fans and I spent a good part of my holidays during childhood there, so you get the idea.)
Nino K. was happy to be part of Philip’s shoot because she stayed on in Mallorca like some other guys did, for example Ronald Vonk, who ended up being a great serial killer. (I find that usually people who are particularly nice in real life make the best movie villains of them all! Also, Ronny has something very Christian Bale-esque about his looks ;)).
Shooting the murder scene was really disturbing, because despite comprehensible initial reservations by Nino K. about being drowned over and over again on a public beach without permissions or medical staff standing by, she performed very convincingly, which made it all the more troubling for all of us (particularly shooter/director Philip) to watch. It looked so real, but she kept smiling and saying “it’s all okay” after each take, which didn’t make it much easier. Also, a group of around 50 spectators gathered overlooking what we did on the beach, which was also a little weird – and everyone watched the fake strangling/drowning scene over and over again. Ronald, as mentioned a particularly nice fellow, had a hard time acting someone he’s really not, but in the end, both of them did an exceptionally good job and I think the murder scene works beautifully. It could even be part of a Hollywood movie and nobody would see the difference, if you ask me.
Watch the original edit of the film, called “Insipiens”, which leaves out the ending with me (so it lacks the comedy :)) – Philip also recorded a commentary on the film which is fun to hear if you are interested in hearing his own account on the making of his short film.
Incredible turn-around time
Do you want to know what honestly impressed me most about this day? The fact that Philip shot this entire piece within little more than 4 hours. We started shortly after 5 and were done at around 9:30 last Monday. We were literally working against the clock as it was Philip’s last full day in Majorca and there is a very short timeframe to get the perfect light, starting at around 5 (before that, everything was lit very flat from above, the typical mediterranean noon look with incredible temperatures).
Turning something as cinematic-looking as this around in such a short period clearly shows his experience in the news field where he’s originally coming from (he used to be a news cameraman for Sky News in the UK). The turn around time in news broadcasting is devilish … I rarely do news, much more corporate and commercial work, but when I do every now and then, I know why it’s not my daily business. I shot a news report for the evening news the day I came back from Majorca, and we had to get three interviews, many pick-ups and several vox pops in three different locations across Vienna within around 3 hours. Unbelievable – but that’s clearly where Philip learned much of his craft. Combining his skills with talent and the cinematic images possible with something as portable as a DSLR or a full-frame camcorder like the F3 makes Philip a very efficient DP! Really impressive.
In the evening, after dinner, we quickly shot the end scene for the alternate edit, which reveals me as the guy who paid Ronald to kill the other Nino. Knowing how fast he works, I asked Philip if he would be able to edit it on the single day he’s at home in England before he leaves for Toronto. He laughed and said no. One day later, when I arrived back home in Vienna at around midnight, he put the finished short “Insipiens” online. That is how Philip Bloom rolls.
He even edited a third version of the film, which is my favorite, even though I am not in it (or because of that??). It includes foreshadowing hints of doom throughout the piece – I think I made Philip make think of this 🙂
I will post a BTS video of this shoot as soon as it is edited!