TBT: Diem

Getting down with our experimental filmmaking selves with some added music theory.


Diem was our final project for Advanced Filmmaking at MSUM. Shot on glorious 16mm color negative and the project where I mastered the art of the love letter to the processors and learned the all important phrase "crush the blacks".

Even though I had shot a handful of projects in the past and tend to be a very hands-on director when it comes to photography and lighting, this project was the first that I was credited as Director of Photography. I also produced and co-directed and conceptualized this crazy little masterpiece.

Can I be honest with you?
I was terrified to be a Director of Photography, let alone THE Director of Photography on a project. It's pretty silly in hindsight, other than the fact that shooting anything on film is kind of scary.

At some point during film school, I realize that no one was going to pay a 20-something woman to direct, so I wanted to make sure I was expanding my skill set. I also had worked with one divalicious Director of Photography on a project (which is silly to think that a dude in film school would even consider being a diva, but ... egos are a crazy thing) and I never wanted to risk a project to stop dead in it's tracks because I didn't have the skill or confidence behind the camera to keep it going. Tenacious much?

I decided to start stepping up to the camera and the lighting gear. The joke (or reality) here is that even though no one would probably hire a young woman to direct no one would DEFINITELY hire a young woman to light or shoot. Chalk that one up to ignorance to the ways of the world, and my fervent love of shooting and lighting - there's so much magic made there, I could go on for days.
(Spoiler Alert: The whole shooting thing turned out alright in the end and I get to shoot, direct and edit until I can't take it anymore for a respectable salary, but sweet dear baby jeeebus it was a battle to get here - and continues to be some days.)

So, I decide I'm going to direct the hell out of this photography. I do the prep work, I shoot tests, I learn the lingo, I test lighting, I was also lucky enough to learn from one badass local G&E guy that I now consider a dear friend (and oddly enough everyone else was/is terrified of.)

I do all of this, and we start getting closer to shooting the project and what do I tell myself, "You're not ready." No, I'm not kidding. I've done more prep than anyone that I knew at the time who called themselves a DoP and I still didn't think I could do it.

I was surrounded by dudes who were blessed to think it was their god given right to wield a camera and very much talked and acted like it. I didn't know that that was about as real as my self doubt and had yet to master the important art of tricking my brain by "faking it".

The best filmmaking advice (even though I didn't think so at the time) was ever given was fromthe professor of the class at the time. We were at a film festival event and our shoot was fast approaching. I decided to whine to her about how I wasn't ready. Her response, "fake it".

It hit me like a slap across the face. Fake it?! What?! No, that's not what people do! I can't just fake my way through a whole production!

Turns out, all I had to do was fake the confidence to get the job done. I was already doing the work, I just needed to stop myself from crippling my abilities and the project with self doubt.
So, I pretended to be a person with confidence. I made decisions with confidence. I directed with confidence.

The thing about a film set is there is isn't a lot of time to waffle over decisions, and pretty much everyone is looking to you to have answers. It's stressful and overwhelming, but your cast and crew need to know they are in good hands.

Ever single production since then I have faked it. I've done the hours, days or months of prep work and I have faked confidence so much and so hard that sometimes I even believe it and the films or videos get made.

I want to say it gets easier, but each production comes with it's host of new challenges and hesitations on my part. The faking part has gotten a little easier and easier.
Maybe someday I will reach master fakery and won't even have to fake anymore, but until then you can just call me one big fake!


Now enough about me, let's talk about this colorful gem of weirdness.
Diem, ended up being sort of a strange follow up to Carpe (Carpe Diem, get it?!) they really don't have anything to do with each other. They are both strange, both characters are after... something but other than that it's just another step on my filmmaking journey.

Diem is a take on Alice in Wonderland with vignettes that apply music theory. My partner on this project was a music major as well and was fascinated with her music theory class.
I did a ton of research on color and music - Pythagoreus, wavelengths, hues, tones... it's a thing but I won't bore you.
I was also knee deep in attempting to major in theater with an emphasis in directing and taking some really cool classes in movement and dance, so get ready for that as well.

Each vignette is a part of a song: tone, melody, tempo, harmony... something like that - I'd have to go back to my notes.

We really had a blast making this and yet again I don't know how or why my friends put up with me and went along with this craziness.

Here you go:
Diem, 16mm color negative