A writer observes the making of her friend's movie: watching Moze Mossanen's Canadian dance film, Roxana, come to life.

Location: Ontario, Canada

A Canadian writer, story editor and teacher of film and theology. Looking to integrate spirituality and the arts in a celebration and love of visual and written language.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

amy's turn and shooting wraps

Stage 15 of The Toronto Film Studios seemed unusually quiet on Saturday evening when I dropped by for the last remaining hours of production on Roxana. Gone were the dancers, the bright lights and huge spaces. Instead, a small, now intimate family of people remained to shoot the final group of scenes: a series of inserted shots and sequences in which Amy eavesdrops and spies on Roxana with her lovers. The scenes are delicate. The dubious ethics of Amy's actions stems from a deep love: although what she does might appear like betrayal, Amy is almost the only character in the story whose loyalty and devotion survive all others.

For most of the day, shooting was absorbed by a solo to be intercut with a love scene occurring on the other side of the wall between Roxana and one of her lovers. The solo is both an echo of what Amy sees and a sensual projection of her own desire. As choreographed by Roberto and performed by Sheila McCarthy, it is aching and edged with slightly tortured longing. The movements are expansive and yet end by curling inward. It is the kind of thing that is rarely done in a dance narrative context and will provide an important insight and texture in the film's depth of emotion.

In the small space representing Amy's apartment, a vent had been dramatically overlit to allow a surreal spotlight on the floor in which her dance may occur, further accenting the uncertain boundary between reality and fantasy. In keeping with the production's very strong design values, the rest of the room was both well-appointed and sad, reflecting its owner's loneliness.

When the sequence was finished, another short scene was shot in which Amy watches again, this time from a darkened space, and lit from below by the grate. She slowly focusses her camera and fires. The magic of filmmaking was more apparent here, as only a small bit of floor space, erected on a scaffold, was dressed and used. It was surrounded by empty wide open space. (In fact over Sheila's shoulder was the shell of another plane set.) And yet when the camera was rolling, the feeling of intensity was just as strong as in the other spaces. Pulling the camera from her face to stare, the same longing is there.

Then it is done. At about 7:30, the last remaining actor was broken from the film. As soon as Sheila had said her goodbyes and slipped away, the only shot remaining for the night was a close-up of the grate itself. With the final wrap on the shoot so close, and such emotionally intense sequences behind them, some of the keys were giddy. "Moze, you have notes for Miss Ceiling?," joked Maria, and everyone laughed. The camera was focussed intensely on the wall and its little golden chute cover. "Standby," said Moze, and everyone laughed again. "And action!" The camera slowly glided toward the grate. Incredibly, but in testament to the perfectionism at work, the shot required 5 takes. "Can I print this one?" asked a weary Angela, the Script Supervisor, also grinning. The jokes played on til the shot was done. Suddenly, the end was here and hugs were exchanged in relief and happiness.

Outside, in the cold, a small group gathered to say farewells. As I drove out of the lot, I reflected on a whole new phase which now begins. From here, there is the five months now til the film must be finished, editing, creating the music, making the story work with what has been done and what is still to be created. This blog will continue throughout all. (Beginning soon with Moze's notes on the road ahead so stay tuned!) Roxana has been shot. And 'in the can' are thousands of feet of emotion and colour and story, soon to be woven into magical life.


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