Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.


Saturday and today I was working on an insert shoot for the last movie. Inserts are those really really close up shots – a pack of cigarettes, the face of an alarm clock, a hand reaching for something, a newspaper headline.

They’re usually not shot at the same time as the main movie, and they usually don’t use the actors – since all you’re seeing is extreme close ups on body parts, a double will do.

The editor’s usually there as well, since he or she knows what needs to be shot. They have playback of what’s been cut together so far – and the playback is checked constantly, as they have to match the lighting, costumes and props so everything will cut together (although a lot of time the lighting in inserts doesn’t match at all and they’re counting on the fact that you – the moviegoing public – won’t notice).

This time, they have the DP from the movie (running “A” camera. The “B” camera DP wasn’t on the movie), the same gaffer, the same electricians and the same grips. This is a very good thing as we usually remember how we lit something – especially if we did something unusual – in Saturday’s case, it was a scene in a diner where the gaffer had put a really yellow light outside the window, and the B camera DP wouldn’t have been able to match it had we not been there.

Tomorrow I’m back on the TV pilot. It’s supposed to rain, so it’s a good thing that we’re on a stage.

Filed under: Work

5 Responses

  1. Sometimes smart directors will shoot inserts when certain things aren’t working and they want to make the best use of downtime. Most famously, Spielberg shot lots of inserts in Jaws (like cleats being ripped out of the hull of the boat by ropes) when his mechanical shark kept breaking down. Everytime I watch that film and see an insert like that, I imagine the special effects crew is off somewhere in the background, up to their elbows in latex faux shark skin and grease.

  2. moneyca says:

    I really love how simplistically you describe everything. I’ve lived in LA and have worked around all of this for almost 10 years but it wasn’t until I started reading your blog (about two weeks ago) that I started to understand it. Thank you for educating me!

  3. Meg says:

    Heh, insert shots. A few years ago, my husband the grip was called to do a day on some insert shots. It turned out to be -ahem- some fairly graphic “insert” shots. A shower scene, with soap and sex and violence. I stopped by the set for a visit and found the “hero” was someone I had gone to high school with. He recognized me before I recognized him, since he was lathered up and in an awkward position (grin) Ah yes the glamorous world of acting….

  4. Charli says:

    It’s been raining here in Santa Cruz a lot, so I feel ya. Love the insert shots.

  5. Anonymous says:

    can i get something pretty over here?

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