Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Antigone: Part 2 - The Trailer

If I take nothing else away from Antigone, I take one very valuable lesson: when shooting a trailer for a play, set aside an actual day where you will shoot said trailer. This may seem obvious enough, but when working on a project as mean and lean as Antigone proved to be, taking a day to shoot a trailer is actually a luxury difficult to afford. Instead, I began to film the actors in rehearsals. Cobbling together footage from three nights, I found myself sifting through several hours to make the finished result.

The majority of the rehearsals used an upstairs space in the library downtown, which was great because of the Jeffersonian interior design. But actors were not positioning themselves for me to shoot, they were positioning themselves to their blocking. The tripod often had to be set aside to unobtrusively get shots, and after the first hour each night the shaky cam would get pretty bad.

After the first night though I decided that I could use this partially to my advantage, opting for a grainy high-contrast black and white look, inspired (though not replicating) the Italian Neo-Realism style of Rome, Open City. Anouilh having wrote and staged his adaptation of Antigone in Nazi occupied France, it seemed natural to draw from films and news reels of the time (though the final result flirts more with Sadie Benning). It was only really unfortunate in that it was a very similar look to the last trailer I had done for one of Anna's plays, cementing me to this grainy black and white style which I must now prove is not all I can do.

(To make matters worse, I want to use this look in a future film project of mine and have been asked to use it in a short film for a friend. At this rate I'm going to have to shoot something in technicolor just to prove I'm not colorblind!)

I was having some trouble trying to distill something from all the material, a synopsis that would be engaging and draw people in. Then one night the actor playing Haemon brought a soldier's helmet from WWII, wondering if it could be used in the show. At the end of rehearsal he had a few minutes to spare and agreed to pose as Antigone's dead brother. This really gave the trailer a shape. It allowed me to show in a simple image of what was at stake and let all the drama be framed around it.

Again though, I had to work with what I had, which brings me to the often asked question, 'why the line about the fruit?' Well... one it alluded to some moments of comedy in this otherwise very dark and serious play, and two, it was a moment of the lovers together quarreling. I was trying to get the trailer out early enough to generate buzz, so I couldn't film them at a dress rehearsal. As a result I was focusing on head-shots to avoid drawing attention to the actors' street clothes, which, again, really limited the pickings. So, I admit the 'fruit line' was not the best choice, but it was certainly one of the best of what I had.

All said and done, I'm very pleased with the trailer. It got roughly 2oo individual hits before the second show, which sold out, and with about 200 tickets sold in total (not bad for a debut show that only played three nights) I think the advertising campaign was a success.

To end on a fun note. Look very closely at the moment in the trailer where Antigone is smiling and stroking Haemon's hair... around the 1:17 mark. It looks like such a tender moment, but that was actually a moment where the actor made a joke and got slapped upside the head. I slowed it down and caught the smile then cut away just in time (I might have also played the shot in reverse). It's my favorite thing about the trailer.


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