Student Choice Project, Update Week 2

My first steps upon creating this film noir recreation was location, casting and lighting study of the project and scenes.

The location in "Memento" was a motel room that was based at the time of the film (2002). My idea to keep this true to the recreation would be to find a motel/hotel that has been in fairly poor condition in which can give the essence of the motel from the film. From this I immediately thought back to my hometown of Canton, Ohio as it's been in somewhat of a time-warp and mimics the set of the 90's very well. I lived in Canton for 17 years and there's a set of motels near the Football Hall of Fame in which i've actually scouted in the area and it's safe to say they do a very good job of holding true to a 90s motel. The next step from here is getting permissions from the owners to set up lighting equipment and recreating the scenes. I plan on shooting this Sunday the 21st.

The inside of this motel is very red, along with the sheets. But the sign definitely creates a 90s vibe so I may end up using it for some extra images in the project.

The inside of this motel is very red, along with the sheets. But the sign definitely creates a 90s vibe so I may end up using it for some extra images in the project.

Finding an Actor

The next step in the process was to find an actor that not only matched the stature of Guy Pierce in "Memento", but someone who also had tattoos that I could be able to seamlessly give the vibe of Guy Pierce as well. I began thinking about friends in the Canton area as it would be tedious to transport someone along with equipment 2 hours solely for a shoot.


I chose fellow photographer Schyler Ames to play the role. Schyler collaborated with me and played the part of a fellow mobster in a shoot about a year ago I did. He's on the left in the above pictures.

My reasoning for choosing Schyler is a combination of his stature, tattoos and ability to light as it may come in handy for our day where he can assist in lighting set up. He's got an entire sleeve of tattoos on his right arm as well as stomach tattoos. I may end up drawing a few extra on him around the collarbones and hands just as the character from "Memento" had. 

The only image from Facebook I could find that shows his tattoos..... and a cat.

The only image from Facebook I could find that shows his tattoos..... and a cat.

Lighting Study and Shoot Day

The final objectives I set for myself were putting together a list of equipment needs for shoot day and setting forth a parameter of how to handle the entire process.

Equipment Needed:

Canon 5D MK II, 50MM 1.4, 24MM 1.4, Zoom H4N, Telephoto Lens, Manfroto Tripod, 2 Alien Bee Strobes, Paul C Buff Large Softbox, C Stand, Mole Light Kit from CCAD, Interview Light Kit from CCAD, Light Stands, Extension Cords, Rotary Telephone, Various light diffusers such as vellum to soften light, Black boards and White boards to reflect and block light, light reflector.

I'll be bringing Strobes and hot lights simply for the fact that in some situations we'll be unable to use the hot lights. Inside the motel we'll be fine, but when it comes to any outdoor shooting and pictures the strobes will come in handy. 

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There are 4 different composed shots from the scene. One wide angle of the entire room, one of the tattoo/it being pulled, a close shot crop of him on the phone and an even closer one of his reaction to the tattoo. EDIT::: After reviewing the scene it seems as if the shots of his face are actually a pan forward. So i'll be looking to get access to a dolly system for the shoot to recreate.

My plans for the next few days are to elaborately study the scene and it's lighting and work with Schyler onto properly deliver lines and actions. I'll also be thinking up potential narrative images to work along with the project if time allows.

Student Choice Project- Film Noir Emulation

A lot of work I do outside of school is based in the music industry, and a lot of that based on concert work and fast-paced, in-the-moment predicaments I may only get once. So how I handle these situations in order to avoid the meaningless distractions from things such as colors from stage lighting is to set my in-camera settings to black and white, shoot in RAW and worry about colors in post processing. This allows me to focus on the bare-essentials such as lighting and composition, rather than the thought of getting caught up in the colors that blend and overwhelm in a concert setting. 


Lights, Columbus. by Brad Heaton (BradHeaton)) on

Lights, Columbus. by Brad Heaton

Austin Carlile, Of Mice & Men, Columbus by Brad Heaton (BradHeaton)) on
Austin Carlile, Of Mice & Men, Columbus by Brad Heaton

August Burns Red, Newport. by Brad Heaton (BradHeaton)) on
August Burns Red, Newport. by Brad Heaton

Hundredth, Cleveland. by Brad Heaton (BradHeaton)) on
Hundredth, Cleveland. by Brad Heaton

Our Last Night, Peabodys by Brad Heaton (BradHeaton)) on
Our Last Night, Peabodys by Brad Heaton

I've adapted this thought process into other forms of photography such as portraits in order to keep the process the same. I'll shoot in black and white because in the back of my mind I understand that I should be focusing moreso on lighting, composition and focus rather than white balance and other instances like it. 

I began thinking of a way to incorporate this into video. I looked into films that incorporated forms of black and white footage to properly convey a message or ideal to  work with to focus more on the editing, cinematography and lighting aspect of filmmaking rather than getting caught up in the color of it all (though color does certainly convey plenty of purpose when intended).

The film that came to mind instantly that did a perfect rendition of this was the film "Memento" directed by Christopher Nolan. The film follows 2 timelines of the main character, one in color and one in black and white.


What I intend to deliver in the coming weeks is a completed, side by side mimic of the above scene completed with dialog and a recreation of the lighting situation of that in the scene. I feel like recreating the scene from "Memento" will allow me to think in a microscopic attention to detail sense that I typically avoid considering in concerts i'll shoot bands based on content and their presence based on the stage lighting provided, not necessarily via my own set up. I'll be shooting the entire project with my camera set to monochrome so there's no distraction from the final intent of this project. The final intent being attention to detail with lighting, composition of shot, nit-picking with direction and script. My goals to get out of the entire project is to look at my own projects more carefully rather than having a "run and gun" approach which i've developed over the years. Emulating this style will be a good way for me to incorporate it into my own work and further my work conceptually as well as visually. 

HeatSmith 4- Shoot Day

It was the Thursday before Spring Break and the team I had gathered to head the the location included members of the cast, crew, BTS photographers, editorial, make-up and so on. We decided to meet as early as possible in one mutual location to begin make up processes and go over the script. We met at 7am sharp on the 2nd floor of Kinney Hall.

My intent of the day was to shoot the zombie scenes first and the non-zombie scenes second considering we were limited on our time frame. Our actors got into character as well as our director....... 

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Walking around school got a little bit weird after the shoot.

Walking around school got a little bit weird after the shoot.

We created a basic re-enactment and headed to the location to get started around 8:30am. I contacted Kris and we met inside, signed some paperwork and proceeded to begin filming. Our crew hadn't been inside the location yet so a few minutes were spent browsing and myself giving them safespots in which they wouldn't be seen by the camera during filming.

Richard Smith and I spent a little bit brainstorming any last minute ideas for transitions and cuts that would be beneficial for the project and would help in the editing room. After this was completed I gave Richard, Connor and Ken a run down of their roles and each scene we'd shoot in which order. Our first scene we'd be shooting was Connor just after he had been infected and gradual work forward on the day. 


HeatSmith 3- Location Scout and Runthrough

When I was writing the script I was envisioning the location in my head of an abandoned warehouse. It met the criteria of the cliched "rap music video" we tried to emulate as well as would play well with our story and give plenty of obstacles for our characters to play with. The location I had in mind while writing was a location I stumbled upon outside of downtown and explored with some friends over the summer. Here are a few images from the location:

So my primary goal was to get access to this exact location for use to film in. I set out one day to do some scouting by myself and get some information on the owner(s) of the building.


The outside of the location I had shot in previously.

The outside of the location I had shot in previously.

I went to the location and a gentleman in a hard hat greeted me and asked "what're ya looking' for?" I asked if he knew the owners of the building and he forwarded me the information of the Events Coordinator Kris Howell. After a meet up with Kris he managed to explain the location was not fit for filming due to dangerous elements and the possibility and risk of injury with the cast and crew on filming day.

After discussing pricing options and other routes we could take, Kris suggested a different building he owned right next door to the one I had previous explored that was more suitable for the safety of our crew. I agreed to the terms without looking at the building and scheduled a meet up the next day to bring Karl Allsop along to do a run through of the script and scout the location before shoot day instead of running in completely blind.

On the drive back I viewed a few more locations that caught my eye.

Another location I found on the drive.

Another location I found on the drive.


Karl Allsop and I picked up a camera and decided to go en-route to the location to get an idea of lighting scenarios and the location itself. We met with Kris Howell and he was kind enough to give us a tour of the facilities we were eyeing for the shoot as well as another location he offered to us as a contingency. The first location he showed us was an artist studio space across the street from our intended shooting spot.

After a tour of the facility we worked our way across the street and browsed the location to set our film and develop a walk-through where I could properly direct our actors. A walk through of the location can be seen at the bottom of the blog post.

Without a doubt, Karl and I developed a strong confidence in our location after our run through and i'm certainly glad we had the opportunity to do so. 

A still from the run through at the location.

A still from the run through at the location.

Heatsmith 2 - Script and Story Development

Creating a story that isn't cliched is a hassle for a lot of writers in any industry. Many have searched for ways to avoid the cliche by inventing new ideas and ways of telling a tale through different methods, either leading to failure or complete success. My thought process when creating the story and script of "Sonitus Mortus" was to incorporate minuscule ideas of said cliches into one new idea. We have the cliche of a zombie story, the cliche of a savior/zombie killer, the cliche or handheld footage which is hot point in feature films nowadays.

These ideas, while on their own, tend to be boring and overused. Yet when combined with elements of another story and essentially "blended" at it's core, something new arises. This is the creation of the rapper making his new debut music video to pop off his new mixtape release. This invokes an entirely different niche all it's own. We've got the typical abandoned building he's chosen to shoot this video in, we've got his "posse" in the background as new elements, so on and so forth. 

Combining these two different ideas into one seamlessly was the intent. I wanted to imagine somebody being able to split the completed video in half and thinking 1/2 was a zombie film and the other 1/2 was a rap music video blog. 

Character development was the first objective of my the script. Who are the characters? What are their backstories and relations to each other and the world? I incorporated people i know personally as inspiration to create these characters in hopes they'd be able to add different perspectives of our story. Our characters are as follows:

Trap: The white rapper who has been making raps in his basement for a few years now in hopes for a "big break". His lyrics are the typical "bitches, drugs, money". 

Tamale: Trap's right-hand girl. A pretty blonde girl. She grew up in a rich suburban neighborhood and has a split personality disorder. Whenever she's can, she acts as urbanized and "Ghetto" as possible, yet in all actuality she's as timid as a barn mouse.

Thug: ADD. Quiet. Does his own thing, yet is still a valuable member of the crew. 

Homeless zombie: Has been decomposed and rotted in this abandoned warehouse trash haul for months. He's awaked by the group on filming day and is supposedly the first carrier of a disease. Slow moving.

Zombie Thug: Unlike the homeless zombie, Thug is fresh and limber. He's athletic before being bitten therefor he has intent and more spastic movement. Sprinter.

Zombie Trap: Our primary zombie. He's bitten by Zombie Thug in the second act and is less aware of his surroundings. He interacts with our cameraman Richard and as he's provoked becomes more and more angry.

Richard: Main character. He's been doing video work for quite some time but his skills are reminiscent of Trap's skills in rapping. It's one've the few times he's met Trap so he's somewhat shy about the ordeal, but does his best to direct the way Trap wants the music video to be filmed. 


Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The 5 stages of Death. This is the guideline to how I wanted Richard's character to react to the occurrences around him. He begins as a clueless individual after Trap is bitten, begins to become angry at the way he's acting, asks him to calm down, is trapped and goes through depression and acceptance in the final seconds of the film in which he finally confronts the zombie.


When writing the story I had to keep in mind we didn't have a locked in location. So I kept a lot of things open in the script such as where characters would be hiding and leaving, all based on the location we chose at a latter date.

Our characters/cast are as follows:

Richard: Richard Smith

Trap: Conplex

Tamale: Lauren Colbert

Thug: Ken Taylor

Update: Project HeatSmith

Unfortunately my Tumblr site is out of commission until further notice. My Yahoo account has been banned for reasons unknown and i'm unable to access my account to update my Tumblr blog. Hopefully it's only temporary, but here's my update on project HeatSmith.

I've spent the last week or so developing the script, scouting location, studying characters and development, studying found footage, etc. in order to properly benefit the upcoming filming from Sonitus Mortus (production name). The script is completed, but as with any production, changes are certainly applicable after further review.

I based the script off of the concept of DABDA, the 5 stages of death and accepting it. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Each having it's own element with our main character, the cameraman. He goes through these tribulations while outrunning his friend (former) Trap, the rapper. He'll go from complete ignorance of the situation, to fighting back as if it were him simply defending himself in a street fight. After these emotions are through Richard he begins to understand the situation at hand and the possibility of his life not necessarily being promised after this situation, so he confronts death face on.

I tried to develop ideas that hadn't been used before to set the script apart and create elements that may not have been seen before. Creating realistic emotion through the cameraman is a primary objective of the film, as well as using the camera not only as a barrier between the cameraman and zombie, but as a weapon, too.

I had to be fairly loose with the script in order to account for the location issues we're dealing with. So far our contacts and locations have been following through, so we may need to develop improvisation on set of wherever we manage to shoot.

In order to account for timing issues and creating the illusion that this is all one take of footage, we'll be creating several situations of motion blur and shake that will be easy to stitch in post production to give the thought that separate scenes weren't actually shot.

Next steps are to develop choreography and meet with the actors to create roles and give them an idea of their characters.

Wish me luck, yo.

Independent Study Proposal and Dates

Upon 2013, I've slowly started to realize how much i'm progressing in the field of photography yet neglecting my desires as a Cinematographer. After much deliberation i've decided to challenge myself in the field to start and make progression in lighting and cinematography aspects in order to better myself.

I've proposed doing so via a series of scene recreations from TV Series' and Films that i've admired and find that it would be beneficial if I learned certain lighting styles to recreate. I figure the easiest way to gather knowledge in a situation like this is to recreate and mimic the style of lighting, cropping, cinematography etc. The scenes i'll be emulating are as follows:

"I want you to hit me as hard as you can." - Bar scene from Fight Club

I chose this scene from Fight Club because of the combination of the ambient light with studio light that is observable from all angles.
I chose this scene from Fight Club because of the combination of the ambient light with studio light that is observable from all angles.

"Matt, don't be an idiot" - Discovery scene from Chronicle 

I chose this scene primarily because of the "found footage" type camera movement along with the on-camera flash used in unison with an off camera hot light.
I chose this scene primarily because of the "found footage" type camera movement along with the on-camera flash used in unison with an off camera hot light.

"Never pick up the phone" - Hotel scene from Memento

I chose this scene because of the single light illuminating the subject's face, the tight crops between him and the tattoo, and the final cut of the entire hotel room and how it's lit.

"Identity theft isn't a joke." - The Office

I figured a bit of comedic relief would be needed with the last 3 scenes being so serios. I chose this scene from The Office for the overall illumination of the office and quick cuts between the characters.

Timeline of Events

February 4th: Diagrams and storyboards of each lighting scenario created in order to ensure proper exposure at the time of filming. This time will also be used location scouting for the scenes. 

February 9th: Locations scouted completely. Actors chosen.

February 14th- March 5th: Filming and edits completed.

Follow Up, Conclusion

The recreation of the film scenes holds more purpose just than to learn a few ways to light things and to hold a camera, it's also to develop a foothold for the creation of my own film. While the events in the previous timeline are happening, i'll be writing and developing my own story for an 6-8 minute short film that will be using all of the things i've learned in the previous months. This story will be created with my ideals in mind and the genre of choice I wish to pursue in the coming years. The schedule:

March 12th: Storyboarding and completion of story and scripts.

March 21st: Locations scouted, script touched up, actors found.

March 26th: Filming begins.

April 15th: Filming concludes. Editing begins.

May 9th: Film completed.