Before we were due back in Devon, Kay was booked in to do two days of shooting with us in London. For this shoot period we would capture:
- Choreography prep shots with projector
- Extreme close up of Kay’s eye watching sex-ed video
- Bathroom shots of Kay shaving
- Underwater/inside sink shot
- Bedroom shots of Kay prepping Hip Hop performance
The idea was to have Kay, in the final section of the film, dancing in front of a projector using the archive images of himself projected onto it as inspiration for his choreography. Initially the plan was to not have Kay in silhouette and instead see the images projected onto him. I asked Alex to compile a short reel of the archive footage for the process. We booked G231 for the day of Kay’s arrival and in the morning started lining up the shots. It was very clear early on that getting the planned shot was not possible or necessary. The image was not distinguishable enough on my face when tested and it just appeared as a poorly lit shot. As we were trying to keep Kay’s appearance restricted, it just didn’t work at all. Instead, when I stepped towards camera a few feet, my whole body was in silhouette. Kay arrived and against the grainy saturation of the archive it looked really nice. Further to that, the silhouette added a mysterious quality and an interesting juxtaposition of images. In the same frame Kay was visible to the audience but only via his current shape and previous appearance. This, thematically and aesthetically, was absolutely perfect. We ran 4 or 5 takes and we had it.
ABOVE: The archive reel we stitched together to project behind Kay
Next up was the shot of Kay’s eye watching the 1950’s sex education film. I had seen a shot similar in the documentary Gascoigne – about the footballer, Paul Gascoigne. In the shot he watches a TV screen playing clips of himself playing football for England during the 1990 world cup – a memory that is melancholic for him. The lens is so close that you can distinctly see what he is watching in the reflection of his eye – all the while able to see any twitch of emotion in his eyebrow or eyelids. Now that I was going to incorporate the sex ed video into the film, i wanted to get a similar shot. Sam and I had tested it with the 85mm Samyang lens but we couldn’t get the definition in the reflection or close enough without losing focus. I managed to source a 100mm prime lens from Jon Cox and it gave us the perfect shot. I didn’t tell Kay about the plan to incorporate the sex ed film in order to try and capture some emotion in his eye. He was very co-operative throughout the whole filmmaking process anyway, so when we asked him to sit and watch my laptop he duly obliged without question. Despite having no idea what he was watching, he kept his eyes glued to the screen with subtle flinching or eye movements as he grimaced at the content. I felt odd betraying his trust in order to get the shot but I definitely think it was necessary and I’d certainly do it again.
The next day we had a mixture of some very simple shots to capture and 1 particularly difficult shot. In the morning we got all of the shots in the bathroom of Kay shaving. It was all straight forward and, as expected there were no major issues. The only difficulty was getting the shots in one take from each angle to avoid Kay running out of hair. We moved into the bedroom and got a few shots for the second segment in the film of Kay writing the Hip-Hop track (this wasn’t him actually writing it), placing a record on the deck and stepping away to start his performance out of focus. The final shot was an overhead of the record on the turntable. This I wanted to transition – whether it be by cute or fade – into an overhead of Kay sat on the roundabout in his local park. As we were still to capture the latter, we would use this shot as the template for it. With all of these successfully captured, we set about getting the underwater shot.
ABOVE: The underwater shot in We Need to Talk about Kevin
The shot was there for two reasons. 1: To add visual interest and, 2: To allow the audience a brief look at Kay’s face in full – albeit distorted by the water. I had seen this shot in We Need to Talk About Kevin and set about trying to create it for myself. I bought a large plastic storage tub and filled it with water. At home I have a dining chair that has a removable seat panel – leaving a square frame. I laid my GH4 on the floor facing upwards, pressed record and placed the tub over the chair. After a few attempts it looked as though it would work. As I had tested it by myself, the rest of the group had to trust that it was possible. When they saw me setting it up they were very trepidatious – Emily in particular. We had the Black Magic so could make use of the monitor and the record button on top. We had Jess, Emily and Alex holding the tub whilst I lit from underneath with a small LED panel. After a few takes,lens changes and propping of the camera on books, we had the shot.
This was the most successful period of the production process to date. We encountered no issues that caused great stress and any that did arise, were logically addressed by the team. Kay left at 16:00 and headed back to Devon where we would next meet for the second phase of the Devon shooting.