Calponia – Robinson Film Center Master Class

Robinson Film Center held a filmmaking master class, taught by Zack Godshall, an award winning filmmaker. It was a crash course in making movies, and 16mm film production. Me and about 10 other students, of varying experience from film students to experienced crew made up the crew for Zack’s new short film, Calponia.

Calponia is a story about a girl with a vivid imagination living with her brother and grandfather in a small village during the early 1900s.

Calponia at the Stake, and I'm at the Slate

We spent 5 days in class, with one day rehearsal, and 3 days of production, and I spent an extra day on reshoots. We read the script and went through it, making a shot list delineating props, characters, sets, etc. We then did a rehearsal with the two main actors, Brooklyn Bass and Eric, doing scene 2 and all of us doing our assigned crew positions. I ended up as 2nd Assistant Camera for the production.

I worked with Allison Bohl, Cinematographer, and Daniel Lachman, 1st Assistant Camera, two very good pros, the only two hired pros for the shoot. Allison has a few feature films, music videos and some other stuff behind her, and Daniel has worked on short films and has one feature film in post-production. We were an awesome team.

Leveling the camera for the shot of the horse.We had a three day shoot, three very long days. We spent the first day inside an old farmhouse, sweating it up. A cramped bathroom was our set for most of the day, and with all the crew in there, the actors barely had room to move. We got most of the shots in the can though, and made it outside for the lighting of the torch scene, with the 40 ft dolly shot. Day 2 was outdoors around the farm and wasn’t quite so bad, though we did see a lot of interesting bug activity. Wasps killing spiders, red ants, cow ants and such. The third day was in a forest north of Shreveport. Another long day, but not so cramped. Everyone was bitten horrendously by bugs, but we made it through to the almost end.

We shot all this on 16mm film, and I, the 2nd AC, had the job of making sure the right lens was available, the right scene and take were on the slate, that we had a slate, loading the magazine, carrying the camera, charging batteries, annotating film canisters, keeping track of our tape (which the grips kept using) and anything and everything else. It is one of the most fun jobs I’ve had, due in no small part to how great Daniel, Allison, and Zack were, and also how awesome being 2nd AC is. Zack was so nice to tell me that, “I’m really glad you turned up at the class, because I was wondering how we would have done this (Calponia) without you being here.”

When all was done, we watched the footage, and it was great watching 16mm, knowing it was 16mm. Grain all over the place. It turned out gorgeous, but Zack was missing a few key shots, some of which were dark, and some of which we didn’t shoot. So he and I and Brooklyn went as a skeleton cast and crew to reshoot the shots. We had to spend some time making sure the sets were just right, and waiting for the clouds to pass over, as the original shoot was overcast, and reshoot day was partly cloudy. We got it right though, got the shots we wanted, and were out by 3:00!

I’m looking forward to seeing the finished Calponia, and we had the chance to watch, with a live audience in a big theater, the rough cut without the reshoots. It was great fun.


About Orion Beaufort
I'm a filmmaker, businessman, drummer, and composer/songwriter.

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