Mar 24, 2009
Silent Shoppers (2005)
Like many of my other projects, Silent Shoppers developed out of the remnants of an earlier film school assignment. So let's rewind - It was March 2005, and I unknowingly scheduled the shoot for my project, then titled Yellow Tag Clearance, on one of the worst possible days with temperatures reaching below -30C.
It was a painful, but memorable day. Yellow Tag Clearance took place in a mall parking lot, the story inspired by eager shoppers reacting to post-Christmas sales. My crew and I shot in 30 minute intervals followed by 15 minute breaks out of the cold, which resulted in a long day. In my production notes I wrote:
"My actors were frozen, I was frozen, the camera kept freezing on me . . . it was a long day. The weather was a huge obstacle because all anyone could think about was how cold they were. It had snowed the night before, and and the sun didn't come out until noon, so if there was a way to make a parking lot look any blander, this was it".
Yellow Tag Clearance really became an exercise in editing because of all the challenges that resulted from the outdoor shoot. The original concept was to put the movie together like a comic book, with over saturated colours, speech bubbles, and wacky sound effects. After several tests and rough cuts, the colourful and comic Yellow Tag was the project I submitted in April 2005.
Summer came and went, and for the next six months the original video collected dust with the rest of my class notes.
I never intended to revisit the movie, but in November 2005 I was without any production classes and was looking for a film project to fill the time. I remembered Yellow Tag Clearance was unique, but to me it felt distinctly like a film school assignment because of how over-worked it was. After watching it several times again, I was able to see more of my mistakes and inexperience and thought that there was still a lot I could do to fix it.
For starters, YTC could be shortened, the filters could be improved, and the audio could be cleaned up (which had a lot of wind distortion from the blustery shooting day). Tough to say exactly how things went from there, but within a week Yellow Tag Clearance had been completely revamped - it was now silent, in black and white, and titled Silent Shoppers.
Silent Shoppers Trailer
I suppose like my other re-edits, by the time I got back into it, the process was as much about making the footage feel new again as it was about fixing technical issues. I'm remembering how difficult the audio was to work with, which was probably what sparked the shift to go silent (or abandon the original audio at least).
I have clear memories of those several nights in November, because they were the kind that you love to have as an editor. Things clicked into place, I was on a roll, and above all, I was having fun seeing the footage transform into something I hadn't planned originally. It started to feel more subtle and funny, while still maintaining the consumer slapstick. In the end, Silent Shoppers was a new short, and significantly different from the look and structure of Yellow Tag.
Happy with the new version, I again let it sit for months before doing anything with it (no YouTube account or blog to share it yet). In February of 2006 I sent it to the Medicine Hat Film Festival Video Competition. I made the trek home to Medicine Hat later that March, and practically one year after the original footage had been shot, Silent Shoppers was voted the 2006 Audience Choice Winner!
My appreciation for the short, the experience it gave me, and the way it evolved all amounts to my continued obsession with developing my skill as a moviemaker. It's about working to improve despite often numerous limitations or challenges. My projects continue to evolve and take on new meaning the more I learn.
Shoppers conveys a simple and quirky message about consumerism, and our inability to escape it. It's also what gives the title its double meaning. Just another chapter in the old fandrix scrapbook. Enjoy!
Silent Shoppers (2005) Directed by Luke Fandrich