Eating In – From Script to Screen

Writing ‘Eating In’ was the easiest part of the process for me. It was a simple, clear, straightforward story that just needed some minor tweaking to make it to a final draft. The plan was always to have just one location. I’ve heard people say that you should write without thinking about budget, but I had none, and I also wanted to make a film. So I ignored that nugget of wisdom.

The premise is simple, a couple having an argument over dinner. This would last around 5-6 minutes, so the usual setup for this kind of scene – two shot with both actors, medium shots of single actors, would be a bit dull after a few minutes.

spagbol

Mick Duncan as Kevin

To counter this I decided on moving closer as the argument got more heated, and a few close ups along the way to match certain dialogue points – the first being Kevin letting his spaghetti fall from his mouth.

That’s still relatively simple, so I took a suggestion from DoP Graham Bollard, which I really liked. He thought that at the point where Kevin snaps and shouts at Celine, we should break the line and switch camera positions. This gives the audience the sense that the tables have turned and that Kevin is now on top.

We’re also, at this point, looking up at Kevin (Mick Duncan) and down at Celine (Aislinn Ní Uallacháin) – the reverse of the rest of the film. Celine is dominant in the conversation up until this point and I wanted to have some shots where she is very clearly ‘above’ Kevin in terms of the camera angle. We see her from eye level but look down on him. It makes it very clear who’s in charge.

eating in 3

Kevin gains the upper hand

The final few moments see both characters at eye level, to match the argument ending and no one really having the upper hand.

Camera moves were minimal, the dolly out at the end was added in post by cropping in and using motion. It lets us leave the characters to their dinner and romance.

The background was mostly designed by DoP Graham. He wanted fairy lights everywhere, which look quite nice out of focus, and we both picked up candles for the table and background. Behind Kevin I wanted bland and plain, so we blacked out the windows to look like night, and closed the blinds.

Kevin wears green, a sort of bland green too. He’s normal, down to Earth and a bit dull. Celine wears red, and has red lipstick. She’s passionate and fiery. I wanted to emphasise character before we hear anyone say something nasty and I think having a defined colour palette really helps with that. Myself and Graham went for that contrast between vibrant red and dark green.

Lighting was really simple, two LEDs bounced off silver umbrellas. The room lights stayed on to give that high-key lighting look, familiar to anyone who’s seen a romantic comedy, so the LEDs just gave some boosted light to the faces of Celine and Kevin. The candlelight also played nicely on their faces when they leaned forward, so the dramatic moments seem that bit more dramatic.

Eating In still 1

Aislinn and Mick, with fairy lights in the background

We chose handheld cameras to add a bit of drama and tension to the argument. There are times when it veers into ‘bad shake’ territory, and to be honest I’d go for a tripod if I could shoot it again. It does give a little drama to the shouting at the end, but I’m not sure it works that well overall. Maybe I just hate the extra shake. I was using an 85mm lens for some shots of Kevin and it just wasn’t steady enough. I was tired, my arms got sore. Can’t get everything right I guess.

For the edit I wanted to make things move quickly , so I took out some natural pauses and tightened up the dialogue. Mostly though, Mick and Aislinn played a blinder. They’re both naturally very funny. Very easy to direct, with minimal guidance from me.

Mick’s interpretation of Kevin was quite far from my own in rehearsal. I wanted a cynical, world weary couple, but his innocent Kevin was just funnier, all wide-eyed and confused by the more… worldly… Celine. Aislinn just got Celine. Simple as, knew what I wanted, read the script and imagined the same person I did.

Back to the edit. I removed some lines that fell a bit flat and cut rapidly between takes. We shot with two cameras most of the time, so it was easy to cut, even when splicing in close ups. I went out of my way to use takes that weren’t too shaky looking, but couldn’t avoid it, and chose good performance over good camerawork where the choice had to be made.

For the final look I pushed up the saturation, lowered the sharpness and gave it all a soft, romantic look. There are a couple of missed focus points I think, but they’re not too bad, and the film has a soft look in general. It is a romantic film after all.

The sound was the hardest part. We shot in an apartment building with a bunch of kids playing outside. This didn’t exactly mesh with the tone and dialogue. They eventually stopped screaming at their football or GI Joes or whatever, but it stopped us repeatedly. I felt for Laura and Niall, who were the sound recordists.

Music was a few classical pieces, and I added some rain quite deep in the mix to give the subtle impression that it’s night. The music was playing on the idea that Kevin is making this romantic dinner, and we hear that and Celine saying thanks before we see anything, to make that very clear. He made the effort. She’s still annoyed. Fade In.

Ultimately I’m happy with the film. There are a few things that I look at and get annoyed by, shakiness mainly, but I think Mick and Aislinn did a brilliant job. The look is consistent too.

‘Eating In’ will screen at the Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin on May 26th.

 

 

Cast:

Celine: Aislinn Ní Uallacháin
Kevin: Mick Duncan

Crew:

Written and Directed by James Keating
Director of Photography: Graham Bollard
Sound Recordists: Laura Emily Downes & Niall O’Flynn
Edited by James Keating
Co-Edited by Laura Emily Downes

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