There was once a plan for a short film.
We wrote the script.
We shot the scenes.
We captured the footage.
And then, the wheels came off.
Any story has a backstory, and this particular tale is no exception. Last year, I participated in a study abroad program through the CHID program at the University of Washington. I lived in Berlin with a group of fellow Huskies and our task was to study the cityscape and history of the German capital through the perspective of film and cinematic memory.
The actual coursework consisted of weekly screenings of Berlin films, discussion of both the films and of pertinent readings related to them, and making short films about our experiences in the city. We were divided into groups, and luckily I was paired with my friend and roommate Kelly, with whom I had studied second year German and Werner Herzog's documentary filmmaking.
My first night in Germany, before any of my roommates had arrived, I had an idea for a short film. It was a simple love story about an American who falls for a German, their courtship, and ultimately their parting of ways. After writing the script, we realized that we had no real way of portraying our experiences in the city through this characters - mainly because we wrote the script within the first two weeks of arriving in Berlin and had not had many experiences in the city at that point. We also realized that we needed more time to properly capture and convey the little nooks of the city that we were discovering and the significance of those locations for us. Ultimately we scrapped that idea in favor of a documentary discussing how we would go about filming our original love story concept if we had more time.
But still, I still had this simple and bittersweet love story in the back of my head.
When we all returned to the states, I started kicking around the idea of a short film about two seemingly star-crossed lovers who have their hearts broken at the beginning of the film and who, after several months of being single and learning to be okay by themselves, keep almost
bumping into each other. To accentuate the notion that these two characters were in the same places at the same times but in seemingly different planes of existence, we would keep the characters in split screen, thus giving the viewers multiple perspectives of the same action. We also hoped that this tactic would drive up the audience's desire to see the two characters finally meet. However, the characters wouldn't meet until the final scene of the short, and the screen would fade to black before any definitive answer to the question of "Do they get together or what?" could be formed.
I approached Kelly about the idea. She was into it, so we set about writing the script and drafting possible cast lists. The entire process was slowed due to school and professional commitments. However we did finally nail down principals, locations, and a shooting schedule. We began shooting in and around Seattle on the final weekend of September and picked up our final locations during the second weekend of October.
The shoots themselves were sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating. However, this is to be expected when you shoot with no budget, your own out-dated equipment, and there are only two of you running the entire thing from framing and blocking to lighting and sound.
And it is the sound that has turned this project into something else entirely.
Over the course of a couple of days in early November, we captured all of the footage for our film. I began to work on a rough edit of the key dialogue scenes between the two main characters and their friends only to discover that the sound for these scenes - the only scenes with dialogue - were not usable. While we were getting good audio levels on set and on location, we apparently weren't getting good audio to tape.
This is where technology can lie to you.
I was quite distraught about this. I immediately called Kelly to inform her. She was quite level headed about it, and suggested that we may be able to pull some friends in to help us out. However, I knew how bad it was, and that these scenes were unsalvageable. After calling my co-writer/co-director, I called a friend and asked if I could come over for a hug, which she agreed to without any hesitation.
The next day, I woke up and started kicking around ideas about how to save this thing. I talked to Kelly about it, and she added her perspective on how to save the film. This past week, Kelly and I met with a mutual friend to go over the damage and to talk about possible solutions. We are going to try something different involving the strongest portions of our footage. Our hope is that we will be better able to convey the basic elements of our star-crossed love story.
We begin with heartbreak for our two characters. At the end, as they wander around the city throughout their series of near-misses, it is apparent that they are ready to love again. And it is only after they are ready to love again that they meet. They bump into each other in a bookstore and immediately recognize the draw toward one another.
Sometimes it is as simple as this: Love begins with hello.
I do not want to show what happens after they meet because whatever happens with two people once they begin to slowly build their relationship is a private matter. No matter how many friends you talk to about what is going on between you and your person of choice, you will never be able to accurately convey what you are feeling. You won't be able to explain how the smell or taste or simple presence of that person near you is both desirable and comforting. And it is only the two of you who know the way that desire makes your bones and muscles ache for each other in such a deep resonance that it's as if your bodies are like bowed cello strings.
We all know those feelings. We remember flirtatious first glances. We remember the first time that our person of choice grabbed our hands and how our fingers instinctively found the easiest and most comfortable ways of interlocking.
We remember these things. We lived these moments. Some of us are living them now.
And that is the point for cutting to black. The initial moment of hello should trigger these memories in all of us, and in so doing, it will allow us to imagine the characters of a film forming their relationship in much the same way that our past or present relationships were formed. After all, characters are there for us to project upon.