Moving to Berlin on a DAAD grant - a six month matter for filmmakers
with no anticipation or requirement that one make anything - I moved
quickly to figure out the scene and lined up funding from SFB, the local
TV station. It was part of a package of short films made by various
other Berlin-based filmmakers, to do shorts. The budget was $30,000
or so, but with the unhappy kicker that by the time all was signed and
done, there were only 3 weeks available to shoot and deliver the film.
I decided the constricted circumstances required something drastic,
and cooked up an essay idea which could be 30 minutes long (maximum
they would allow) or a short feature, which I wanted. My version came
in at 70 minutes, all within the budget.
The entire work was shot inside a small completely
blacked out marionette theater, with overhead theatrical lights. The
first part of the film was fully worked out, and executed in 2 days;
the next 4 days were improvised, around a cabaret structure, though
Shaun Lawton and I had worked up a few written sequences. For me there
was a clear and deliberate intention to place the actors in a condition
of stress, locked up in the small claustrophobic space, with minimal
guidance, and see what happened. I knew however what my final sequence
was, and looked only to secure material which would lead properly up
to it. The actors all came from quite differing schools - Shaun from
English theater, ----- from Vienna, - from a minimal bit of German training.
Aside from Shaun they were unaccustomed to improvising or having to
invent on their own, which shows in the final work as there is a kind
of interior conflict and breakdown: when …. Breaks down crying
it was she had in reality begun to cry, not as acting, but because she
was stressed out with confusion. The tensions which the circumstance
of the shooting produced were anticipated and expected, and played directly
into the somewhat grim actual content of the work.
Filming was all done in 6 days, with the exception
of the technical shot of the pie in the face, done with a scientific
rotating prism camera, at 6,000 fps. The edit, mix and printing were
done in the following 2 weeks and the work was delivered on time, and
well in budget.
Formerly favorable critics, anticipating a step
into Hollywood from Chameleon responded largely with bafflement
or negativity. The SFB producer however was happy with his 30 minute
version, and I later completed the post-production on my 70 minute one.