I stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back
That is a paraphrase of a famous quote from Nietzsche, but doesn’t it read like something Poe might have written? Actually I hear this line in the voice of Werner Herzog, as imitated by Mark Kermode, who will often quote Herzog saying it on his BBC radio review program.
Which is to say, in this P&P shooting diary entry, we stare into the abyss, or more specifically Poe’s dark deadly Pit.
On day four of the shoot for my musical short film Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre“, we were still capturing shots within the lightless cell our protagonist finds himself in, this time filming his discovery of the pit in the middle of the cell, a pit into which he may have fallen to his death had he not tripped over some rocks and found himself on the ground, his chin at the pit’s edge.
Above is the overhead shot as it appears in the film. Below is how the shot looked on the on-set monitor, with set elements reflected on the monitor’s screen surface.
Here is a close-up of my profile as I lie on the ground by the pit’s gaping maw. This black and white look, as described in my previous on-set diary post, represents the fact that there is no light in the cell, and the protagonist is rendered effectively blind. He feels his chin is resting at some crevice, sensing peculiarly smelling air wafting up from below.
For this shot the circular opening of the pit was cut into a platform that rose maybe half a foot above the ground.
Here is another angle of that same moment. However to catch this angle from within the pit and below its opening, we built another platform which raised the pit’s opening at least 5 feet off the ground. For various practical reasons we couldn’t use that set and the regular cell set at the same time. So this shot was actually captured not on day 4, but on day 7. That’s the way it sometimes goes with film shooting logistics. You have to return to a scene on a completely different day to catch an angle that wasn’t possible on an earlier day.
I feel for and grab a small stone – shot on day 4.
I drop the stone into the pit – shot on day 7.
I listen to the stone fall down the pit – shot on day 4.
Something really upsetting happens after the stone drops – I will leave what that is for another blog post, for now let your imaginations run rampant – this reaction was shot on day 7.
But me scrambling away from the pit and pushing back against the cell wall, that was shot, you guessed it, on day 4.
Another set of shots we captured on day 4 were what we referred to as the “Blue Heads”. These shots required a small black curtained space and lots of blue light. This was set up in one smaller corner of the studio space while the main cell set was being redressed for shots we would capture later in the evening (and which I will discuss in the next shooting diary post).
The “Blue Head” shots capture my head in blue light in four different angles and attitudes – these will be images that will not be seen on their own but will be added to the corners of other shots like ghostly apparitions.
Below are VFX designer Jimmy McCoy and producer Henry Borriello looking at the footage of the “Blue Heads” we captured this day.
Here are the four different Blue Heads positioned roughly in their respective corners, as seen on Jimmy’s computer monitor on day 4 while we discuss the shots.
But why did we shoot them? Poe didn’t write about no blue heads! Where and how do they fit in the film of “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”?
I’ll get back to that…