The Challenges of Shooting Echoes

Aside from the usual challenges all productions faced during COVID-19, Echoes had additional complications in both production and post-production. Throughout production, one of the biggest challenges was shooting sequences where daytime became intercut with night. It wasn’t just a change in lighting, we also had to completely re-arrange the set to fit the depiction of the “the other world”. Our production designer Alexa Cha and her assistant completely re-decorated the set for every camera setup. This took some time considering how different the two spaces were supposed to look, it involved at least 40 – 50 minutes moving props and furniture around, clearing trash, while taking pictures of their exact positions for reference. Our tight shooting schedule and the limited available light made it even more challenging. For the daylight shots, we had to account for the time of day when natural light would come through the window (as we couldn’t stage any lighting equipment from the outside of the top floor apartment). This meant we could only afford a few takes per setup before the natural light changed outside. 

We use this technique many times throughout the film, but for the opening shot we had to wait for it to rain outside to get the night exterior – this took a couple of weeks. We then waited, with the camera still in position, until the following day to replicate the shot during daytime when the rain subsided. After we finished filming, I could tell that there would be a lot of post-production work needed in order to make the film really come together. I went ahead and started editing the film dailies together (even during the first day of shooting). The post-production process in of itself was the biggest challenge of creating Echoes.

Immediately what I found was that the makeup didn’t fully come through on the footage, so I had to improvise in the edit with lens distortion techniques, fast cutting, and re-framing shots. I started by editing the last scene of the film first and worked my way back from there. Once I finished the first draft, I watched it with a close friend of mine and we both agreed there was a lot more work to do. One of the biggest challenges was making the edit bridge the gaps between scenes, given that it’s a non-linear narrative, cuts seemed very jarring. I incorporated what I call the “Easy Rider” technique where you hop back and forth between shots to communicate a transition, but it still keeps you in the previous scene for just long enough – it also adds to the distorted timeline feel. We also realized that our initial dialogue and voice-over work wasn’t enough. I went back to the script-writing phase and drafted at least 10 pages of additional voice over lines to try out. I met with our lead actor, Dane Oliver, after the shoot and we recorded hours of these new lines and found a way to work them into the film. Overall, it took six months for the film to transform into the final product, in addition to a month to color correct and sound mix. Without that time commitment, the film would not be nearly as functional as it is today.

Overall, the final product turned out different from what was in the script, but those changes ultimately made for a much better viewing experience.

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