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Pre-production Starts!

Probably one the most difficult things about taking on a big project is figuring out where to begin. Tonight I had my first official production meeting for my next project; “The Girl With No Name”. I met with storyboard artist and fellow Scary Cow member Van Dyke Roth who was a big help in getting the project rolling. To start off, we went over the images I compiled in my look book, and discussed the mood, environment and universe in which the story takes place.

The primary sensual element we want to convey visually is a sensation of speed. Van had brought along some images he’d clipped from Terminator 2 that we could analyze and draw inspiration. Notice converging lines work to heighten the sensation of speed in this awesome sequence. The use of converging lines brought to mind Todd Vaairi’s excellent analysis of the use of converging lines as a visual motif both in The Dark Knight and The Shining. I’d been thinking over where the wall race in “The Girl With No Name” takes place, but hadn’t committed to any thing specific. After taking a close look at these sequences, I’m think putting the race in an alley way would be a great way to get those converging lines.

Of course, the low camera angle contributes significantly to feel of speed. Putting the camera as close to the ground as possible is technique used by George Miller in his Mad Max films and by Claude Lelouch in his classic C’etait un Rendezvous.

Van had also noticed that light also light plays an interesting part in creating a feeling of speed in Terminator 2. Notice how John Conner drives from zones of light to zones of dark and into the light again, as he passes under an overpass in the chase sequence.



Van had an interesting suggestion about adding adding in some very minor and almost imperceptible element which adds texture to the scene. He suggestion was to show some sort of impact, maybe a bug smashing into the girl’s helmet. Something that would contribute to the overall feel of danger and sudden death. I think I found a good example of such an element while re-watching Terminator 2 on Van’s suggestion:



Notice again the appearance of converging lines centering on Arnold Schwarzenegger. I hadn’t noticed the consistency of this visual motif  until I had created this composite image in GIMP. Out of this discussion we got the idea that the opening shot could be a Moth flying into a street light and eventually getting burned. The more I think about it, the more I like it. Again, the moth and bulb doesn’t really add anything to the plot, but as a thematic element it adds quite a bit to the environment of the movie.

We also tackled production design and what the world in which The Girl With No Name lives looks like. If every object in the movie tells its own story, what would the motorcycle The Girl rides look like? I was thinking something between a highly modified rat-bike and cafe racer. Something with attitude, no frills, clearly built and maintained by someone with not a lot of money and with no regard to safety or street legality. Van had a great suggestion that the Girl’s bike be scrapped and dusty, but the motorcycle of her race opponent is ostentatious, loud and polished. The Girl’s motorcycle might look like a combination of these:





Scene 3 takes place inside a warehouse office which I imagine to look a lot like this still from Ridley Scott’s Black Rain. I’d like to have the lightning flashes of welders outside the window be the motivating light of the scene. I see this welding lightnig to be a modern, mechanical perversion of the lighting we would expect to see in the villain’s castle from an old horror movie. An interesting observation Van made was how cool blue light pours through the rotating overhead fans, casting odd shadows across the character’s faces. Take a peek at 1:17 in the trailer. When I got to thinking about how we might actually shoot this scene, it occured to me that control will be critical. I’m really liking the idea of constructing a forground set for the principal photography, and use a model of the background factory composited into the image.

Van also led me to adding Bill Sikes as another prototype for Lt. Frank Wier. After tonights session, it seems like a Dickensonian pattern is emerging from all the references being made here. Maybe some modern take on the Dickensonian motif can be used in the production design…Maybe, gotta think that through.

Other idea’s from tonight’s meeting:


  • The girl has grease under her nails
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Moth tattoo or painted on the motorcycle
  • Motorcycle wheel as an image framing element