The City: A Film Noir Series Inspired by Sin City

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They say we are the product of our environment. If that is true then I am a mixture of comics, movies, games, and tv shows ranging from comedy to science fiction/horror, with a few romance stories thrown in for good measure. Add to that a strong and strict southern upbringing and there is no telling what will come out of my head on any given day. A few weeks ago what rolled out was a desire to shoot a film noir styled shoot in the style of Sin City.

If you are not familiar with Sin City it is a very gritty comic book series by creator/writer and artist Frank Miller. Two major motion pictures have been produced which capitalized on the high contrast style of the comics by lighting the movies in extreme film noir lighting style. Another aspect of the Sin City movies is that everything is filmed on green screen. The backgrounds are obviously composites and the lighting is dark and dramatic.

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Being I’m a fan of the film noir style of images it was only natural that I would want to do a series of photos in that genre. I had previously done two film noir style shoots involving a character called Detective Cranston. One was a murder mystery the other was more a supernatural tale, but both were in color and shot on location. For this I wanted to shoot in black and white, plus I wanted to composite the entire scenes. This allowed me to include backgrounds that are not local to my area and customize the lighting for each person individually versus trying to light an entire scene.

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To pull it together I enlisted the aid of a cast of eleven people that I was friends with or at least knew personally. I then rented a studio to create the images. It took around a month to make all the plans, get the people and design the images. During that time I did a practice run on the lighting and compositing with one of the cast members. By the time the day of the shoot arrived I had already worked out what we were shooting, how to light it, and figured out most of the bugs in the production. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have things go wrong, we had people not show up, cancel at the last minute, and the studio forgot we were going to be there and booked a session on the same day. Thankfully none of it was an unsolvable  problem, I altered the shot list and changed the roles people would play to cover for our absentee cast members and started earlier in order to be finished with the set before the overlapped booking time. In planning any shoot you have to expect things to go wrong, just keep a cool head and look for a solution. Getting mad and having a tantrum only blocks creativity and throws the mood of the set off for everyone.

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It is important to pursue projects such as this. Its not about money or even landing a job (though that is always a bonus) it is about pushing yourself creatively. I normally like to create everything in camera so planning an entire series of photos that are composites pushes me outside my normal comfort zone. It also allows me to deal with problems that are similar to a shoot for any client. Even though this is a personal project it still requires coordinating the set from making sure all the necessary positions are filled from assistants to make-up artist. Projects such as this allow you to practice in a safe environment working with various personalities and motivations. As a photographer I have to be an expert on not only how to take a great photograph but also how to be an organizer, wardrobe stylist, makeup artist, counselor, peace maker, and if it is a commercial job for a client an accountant. There is a lot of hats that I may wear as a photographer so practice makes perfect.

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