Production notes from filmmaker and HCL-sponsored artist Kate Raney’s blog:
The Cleo Project is an experimental short that uses Agnes Varda’s film Cleo From 5 to 7 as a prompt to explore performance and gender. Multiple women will enact the same scene from the film while being given direction and adjustments on set as cameras roll. One camera will shoot the scene as it plays out. An additional camera will document the director working through the process of performance with the actresses.
I just received the production stills from the Cleo shoot from Kara Clarke, and thought it would be a good time for some behind the scenes information. It was a pretty intense two day shooting schedule, but full of so many talented and charming people that it was also really fun.
In the scene the ladies all had to wear a hair piece which they pull off part way through. I was so busy sewing robes and buying props and generally trying to keep everything together, that I forgot about the wigs until the day before the shoot. Late that day. Christy picked up the wigs the morning of the shoot from a limited selection, so they were a little ridiculous. The one that Sophia and Mary had to use was particularly challenging. It was huge, curly and much more red than either of their hair colors. The color looks okay under the lights though and all the ladies figured out a way to style the wigs that worked for them.
Speaking of lights…
This was a pretty common moment between shots. We went through 30 daylight balanced photo floods during the shoot. HCL is a beautiful space with really great windows which is part of the reason I wanted to shoot there. We had to light quite a bit so that the windows weren’t completely overexposed and those lights only have a 4 hour life. There was a lot of swapping out dead bulbs and turning lights on and off at the beginning or end of a shot.
Again, check out how amazing this space is! They also have a beautiful piano. This is during the dolly shot, which was the last scene we shot with each actress. We were using a wheelchair as a dolly with the camera and tripod carefully balanced on it. You can just see it on the far side of the piano. It took three of us to the maneuver the dolly each time, two to actually pull it while holding the camera and one to guide them. We wound up shooting this a lot because of various difficulties with the dolly (cables in the way, backing into poles, bad timing with the actresses walks…)
Scott followed Christy around with a camera almost non-stop the whole weekend. He was supposed to document the process of Christy preparing and directing the actresses for their performance. We dubbed this “The Christy Cam.” Because I didn’t know what would be important to me in editing and what wouldn’t, he shot almost continuously. It makes up the bulk of the footage and has taken the longest to sort through. Before I finished going through it all, there were many nights when I woke up in a panic about whether or not we got a shot of figuring out Chloe’s wig or if the audio turned out during a very quiet conversation. Having now watched it all, I can safely say it’s pretty great.