This blog, brought to you by UPP Studios, discusses capturing unpremeditated moments while filmmaking. There is no question that having a detailed plan, and sticking to that plan to the best of one’s ability, makes for the best execution of an idea. That said, it is important that one allows for organic moments to occur, so that one might capture a wonderful unpremeditated moment. This is the job of both the filmmaker and the actor. For this reason, when a mistake is made during filming, immediately stopping the scene is not the best decision. One of cinema’s most famous quotes comes from an unpremeditated moment.
The 1969 American drama “Midnight Cowboy,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight was a low budget film. As such, there wasn’t room enough in the budget to pay extras, so the crew set a camera a ways back, hidden, and captured the actors walking in public. They timed out a shot in which Voight and Hoffman would cross the street while conversing. The shot seemed to be timed perfectly, but a cab jumped the light and almost hit the two actors. Instead of breaking character and stopping the scene, Hoffman decided to react as his character in the film would have, hitting the hood of the cab with his fist and yelling the now infamous line “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!”
In the 1972 critically acclaimed classic “The Godfather,” there is a scene in which Marlon Brando decides the unfortunate fate of another man, with a cat in his lap that he caresses throughout the entire scene. To this day it is unclear as to whether director Francis Ford Coppola placed the cat in Brando’s lap or if Brando picked the cat, but either way Brando stayed focused on the scene and it made the final cut of the film.
In the 1975 film “Jaws,” another infamous movie quote came from an unpremeditated moment in which the director let the cameras keep rolling. Roy Scheider was supposed to react at seeing just how giant the killer shark in the film truly was. Beyond the fearful look of disbelief and shock that Schneider was supposed to convey, no dialogue was written. In an inspired moment, Scheider delivered the infamous line “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Had the actors and directors for these films been determined on sticking solely to what was in the script, some of these iconic scenes may never have existed. Writers like Aaron Sorkin and the Coen Brothers write in such a specifically detailed manner that most feel there is no room for improvisation in their films. Even with films such as these, nobody can account for what will happen on the day of filming that might make for a glorious moment worthy of preserving forever.
UPP StudiosUPP Studios continues to learn, grow, and evolve. After much trial and error, it has been determined that there should always be “fat” in the filming of a scene. This means time before, and after, the moment intended for the final product. This extra time allows for unpremeditated real moments to occur. Even if the actual organic moment doesn’t wind up in one’s final product, that doesn’t mean the moment was useless. There have been many instances in which an actor will add a line or action to a UPP Studios sketch that wasn’t planned, but really works. While we may not use the take that the spontaneous moment came from, that moment then becomes part of the action when the next take is shot.
Like “Midnight Cowboy,” UPP Studios currently does low budget work. It is a more difficult task to make low budget cinematography look as though it is of high production value, but this is far from impossible. The best way for one to get the best product out of a low budget shoot, is for one to always be extremely aware of one’s surroundings. There is natural production value everywhere, it just has to be seen and captured. That sense of awareness shouldn’t stop once the cameras turn off either, for there may just be that one more great shot worth capturing.
Thank you for your interest in UPP Studios! We release a new blog every Friday, and an original new media sketch comedy video every Monday, right here at uppstudios.com, so stay tuned!