Christina here, back with the final post for my 'Directing Kelsey' blog series. Sorry this is a week late, I was super busy last week preparing for our IndieWorks: Best of Fest. But without further ado, here I go...
Episode 9 (Drive Through) is another one of my favorite episodes. Since episode 8 officially established them as a group, we were allowed to have a lot of subtext-heavy fun with their dynamics together; and we got to throw Joanne into the mix to make it more interesting.
One thing that makes this episode stand out is that they're not at any of their usual hangouts. They're also not drinking, which allowed for a change of pace in terms of our usual comedic go-to's. A lot of the comedy in this episode comes from tension between characters.
This episode is also special because it's our first/only completely linear episode. It's all one timeline with no flashbacks. It's meant to allude to what Kelsey Rauber & I planned for the next season, with Kelsey not living in the past quite as much. (Similarly, episode 10 only flashes back to the post-sex OMG's, the rest is linear). Additionally it , again, played into our plans to take the series in a more ensemble direction with Kelsey still as the central character but maybe not such an overt focal point.
Something else interesting about this episode is how we pulled it off. As you can imagine, we did not have permission from Dunkin Donuts to shoot there. So, like episode 4, we guerilla-styled it. When getting the Wide shot of them actually going through the drive-thru, Peter & I were in the car in front of them, and actually ordered drinks from the drive-thru so as to not draw too much attention to ourselves.
Alternatively, when we got the interiors of them deciding what to order & Tyrone speaking into the microphone, since we needed the car to be moving and had to shoot that scene on each character at least once, we drove in circles next to the drive-thru lane, not actually in it; and the 85mm lens worked in our favor by condensing the space between Daniel & the actual drive-thru menu.
As far as the look of the episode, we were on an 85mm lens almost the entire time, with occasional 50mm usage. Since we had already established the intimacy of the group with the shots in episode 8, we had less pressure to have dirty shots and chose to concentrate more on tight singles, at least at first, and the various ways we could play with them in angles.
However, as the interactions between the characters became more tension-fueled, we brought in Overs.
Working with the confines of the car, we were able to emphasize the close quarters when we did use Overs, which visually represented that they were all maybe a little too close for comfort in this episode.
We were also able to have fun with more stylistic shots like the mirror angles (also tension-fueled).
One of my favorite aspects of the episode, and I'd say Kelsey Rauber's writing in general, are the reveals and how they're established. It's never overtly stated that they initially thought they were going somewhere nice to celebrate Tyrone's new car when instead he takes them to a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru; it's merely alluded to, which left a lot of room for more directing choices. For instance, this is emphasized when Sam gets out of the car in her outfit.
A bigger reveal is that the Dunkin Donuts is just around the corner from Kelsey & Sam's apartment; again not something stated overtly, which made for fun when planning shots. This shot actually continues with them walking all the way to the door, but it didn't work for pacing. I think it still translates though, especially when we later imply Tyrone goes into their apartment to use the bathroom.
Fun Fact, Kelsey Rauber really did live on that block right around the corner from that Dunkin Donuts. I can tell you this because she recently moved. Sorry stalkers.
To wrap this up, I think it's a really fun & punchy episode that was easy in some ways but hard in a lot of other ways to pull off; and I'm really proud of my production team for making it work. Peter did a great job with limited angle options, as did Jordan (editor) with putting it all together & hitting the beats.
If I'm going to mention one thing that didn't work quite as well as the episode as whole, it's the scene building up to the kiss between Kelsey & Joanne. We never quite got a perfect take. I really wanted the entire interaction between the two to happen in a continuous intimate two-shot, no cuts. But it started to rain before we could get one take that didn't have any line blunders. So we had to cut from one sort of two-shot to the main two-shot, which was a little jarring and detracted a bit from the natural chemistry and flow of the scene. However, I still think it works despite the rocky beginning.
Something similarly unexpected that happened in post is that the scene between Sam & Rowan stayed as one continuous two-shot when I had originally planned to cut to Singles between them. Originally, the two-shot was just for coverage while the whole scene was meant to contrast the two-shot of Kelsey & Joanne by playing out with isolated Singles, implying their sexual relationship was ending while Kelsey & Joanne's was just beginning. However, Jordan brought it to my attention that it just didn't flow as well when he cut it with Singles. The scene worked so well as one shot because they played off each other incredibly well and had such great chemistry when they'd do full run-throughs, particularly in this take. I agreed with Jordan and we chose to leave it as one shot. I think the contrast still works because their two-shot is clearly less intimate & they’re at unequal planes.
Lastly, again alluding to the ensemble progression, like episode 8, this episode doesn't quite end on Kelsey, but on one last punchline for Tyrone.
The opening mirrors the opening of the pilot but on the much more flattering 85mm lens, which we were on for the majority of the episode, with, again, only occasional changes to the 50 for wider, establishing shots.
Since we were now at the point where we weren't focused on and restricted to following patterns that were meant to develop over the season, we could simply get the coverage we wanted. So we had very tight frames within the group, establishing the tight-knit feel the audience would now have with them.
This being the season finale, we had to wrap up storylines but introduce new ones as well, like the introduction of Kate.
I have to give Peter lots of props here because at this point in production, we had no gaffer (Sayo got a paying gig on a feature film and we happily excused her from her commitment to the show) and Peter was doing lighting all on his own. He managed to compliment everyone’s diverse skin tones with the lighting in one 5-person shot while still maintaining the intimate, lower key feel, and all with very limited lighting equipment. Not an easy feat, as any Director of Photography, I'm sure, knows.
The bedroom scenes with Kelsey & Joanne, I wanted to feel unlike any other times we had seen Kelsey in her bedroom.
Like their scenes in episode 7, we have very dirty, intimately framed Overs. I loved Peter's soft lighting, which was a big difference compared to the colder feel to her room in previous scenes (episode 1 & 6).
Kelsey’s happy. She's comfortable and confident in a way she hasn’t been in a long time, and the framing and lighting were mean to reflect & compliment that.
Initially, I felt like there was no point in hiding that it's Shane at the door. We're not very ambiguous about it, so were going to get a shot of her at the door. However, we couldn’t get Charlotte on the day we were shooting that scene, so I opted to just put her voice in, in Post.
But I think this ended up being for the best for that scene because I absolutely love Lauren’s dropped expression and wouldn’t want to cut away from it even if I had the Shane footage as an option. Her subtle transition from post-sex euphoria/ready-for-food excitement to surprise, which quickly becomes annoyance, and then worry for the future of her relationship is all so perfect, both in delivery and timing. I wouldn't want to shift the focus away from her to show Shane, so I'm really happy it worked out how it did in the end.
Lastly, unlike the past 2 episodes, the last shot is of Kelsey because, as the theme song says, it is still all about her; ensemble or no ensemble, she’s who the audience is meant to identify, or at least empathize, with most. We're following her journey.
We felt leaving the season with this shot/moment would be a great way to leave the audience feeling satisfied for the season as a whole but definitely wanting to come back for more and know what happens next. Based on the fan reaction, it seems we were right! :)
That's it for this 'Directing Kelsey' series! Thanks so much for reading it. I hope it was interesting & enjoyable. And, as always, thank you so much for watching & supporting the series. Fingers crossed we'll be discovered by new audiences and continue reaching people with Kelsey & her friends. Only time will tell, but we'll be sure to keep you updated. Kelsey & I shot a video a few weeks back where we talk about the future of the series & what else we're collaborating on. We'll be releasing it in 3 weeks. Be sure to check back at this blog and on Facebook & Twitter for updates on that as well as Screening/Press news. We can't wait to start telling you about our future plans.
Be sure to stay in touch with me via Twitter. Thanks again for your support,
P.S. Kelsey & I recently spoke as Panelists at the New Haven International Film Festival, read about it Here.