Random Software

The Joys and Happy Accidents of Branching Out

How helping on a film set led to me down a serendipitous path, publishing a new open source library, and getting an IMDB mention.

About a year ago, a friend asked me—along with some others—to help as extra hands on set filming the second season of an absurdist comedy mini-series she was working on called Look it Up.

Helping film anything wasn’t something I thought I would ever do, so I was excited to try it out. We weren’t necessarily trusted with anything difficult; carry equipment around, slate shots, clear the set, and move things around in general. It was interesting to see how much thought and effort goes into composing a shot, or storyboarding a scene.

Filming took place on a weekend. Five episodes, each under 2 minutes, took up about 2 days to film (including make-up, breaks, and lots of setup in between).

One of the cool things I saw in the filming process was how sound was treated. In the first season, the show’s creators enlisted help of another friend, Elizabeth McClanahan, to be their re-recording mixer. Her help salvaging a lot of the audio, mixing some sound effects for them, and also working with them to re-record some of the dialog was eye opening, and they entered their second season hoping to avoid some of the same mistakes (and try to learn how do to the sound themselves). So when I was there for the second season, we heard how a boom operator moving the mic too fast is enough to ruin the shot with wooshing air, and made a point to be silent, slow, and deliberate. I don’t think I had been as still for as long in quite a while.

Beyond being interesting, though, going out of my comfort zone for a weekend helped in a few fun ways:

  1. Being physically present, I was tasked with playing an extra for an opening credit. For some reason, that came with an IMDB credit. Kind of cute to cross off an item that wasn’t even on your bucket list to begin with.
  2. Caring about a friend’s artistic endeavor (wanting it to do well, get traction, etc.) caused me to think about practical tech solutions to problems I hadn’t occupied myself with.