Slap Me with a Wet Fish!

Yes, that’s right. The title of this post is, in fact, “Slap Me with a Wet Fish.” That is also the name of a film I made last semester with two classmates. It was our first project in the excellent class Cinematography and Lighting and my only experience shooting on actual film.

My major was “Digital Cinema Arts” which is basically a pseudo-film degree. I say “pseudo” because we didn’t actually use old-fashioned physical film and because most people think you have to go to California to get a film degree.

Having never shot on real film before, this project was quite an interesting little challenge. There was no LCD viewfinder. No deleting or ignoring bad takes. No instant playback of our footage. And no helpful displays of any kind. It was just a plain old box with film inside and a lens on the front.

We had a single 100 foot reel of 16mm film which equated to approximately 3 minutes of footage at the standard 24 frames per second. We had no ability to edit our footage so each shot had to be done in one take and in sequential order. There was no sound recording either which is a shame because I feel like it could really do with some old-timey music.

The footage looks kind of like it was recorded from an old VCR (that’s what we used before DVDs players and DVRs, kids) for two reasons. For one, this was shot on an old Russian camera which is the source of the flashes and the jittering. Secondly, it has undergone transference from film to digital which is never a good thing for quality.

In the words of Tom Ostertag who graciously took it upon himself to convert the footage of everyone in class, “The color, resolution, and dynamic range suck compared to the real thing” so keep that in mind when watching. Even though the transfer is less-than-ideal, these wouldn’t see the light of day at all without his hard work. Thanks, Tom!

Like all projects I did in school, this one began with a great idea. Oh, no wait. I mean it began with the complete and utter absence of ideas.

Actually, that’s less true of this project than most. My original idea was to shoot a chase sequence of some kind but given our limitations I think it’s probably good we didn’t attempt that although one could say we sort of ended up with a slow, creepy chase scene of sorts.

My other idea was the “crosshair” shot. Ever since I saw the banisters in the theater building at Lindenwood I wanted to shoot something like that. They always looked like crosshairs to me but that’s probably because I’ve played too many shooter games. Since we were in the theater building for this project and it fit the story we were doing, I suggested we try the shot. I wasn’t sure it would work but I think it did fairly well.

I’m also quite fond of the first shot where we see the stalker’s face. It’s good old-fashioned monster lighting. Reminds me of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster.

We came up with the title by using some sort of random dialog generator online. The generator, of course, spit out total nonsense. The phrase “Slap me with a wet fish” stuck out to us. Marie, the female lead, couldn’t stop laughing about it the whole time. I think it’s wet part that does it. Imploring someone to slap you with a dry fish just wouldn’t be as funny.

We used Tom’s Macbook to shoot intertitles. We basically wrote the dialog at random as we came to it. We didn’t really know why Tom was displeased or why he was stalking Marie until we shot the end.

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