BL&F 17: CASE STUDY - THE BIG PUTDOWN
Updated: Jun 1
The Big Putdown brought Hutchings face to face with himself in more ways than one. As one of the first sequences he shot after Dave Birtles could no longer continue running camera on the shoots, the sequences not only saw Hutchings playing two roles at the same time but also found him having to shoot himself doing it. After repeated location reccies, storyboarding, test shooting and editing, Hutchings filmed the sequence over the best part of a month while he waited for replies to ads for new crew members.
Storyboard and shot comparison of when Django final meets Joe King.
In the script, The Big Putdown simply had Django seeing a ruin on a hill, then cutting to him entering it and Joe immediately beginning his attempts to joke Django to death. But as Hutchings scouted locations, he become more and more inspired and the piece grew to extend Django's isolation and Joe's destruction and thus reflecting his comedy character's inner dialogue between his comedic impulses and his joyful aspirations.
Early notes and storyboards for Django meeting Joe before Hutchings found "Joe's Thrown".
The whole sequence is pieced together from shoots at several different locations in an attempt to construct a ruin for Joe that feels as big as a castle. As with the scarecrow sequence, Hutchings had to economise with equipment, favouring the lightest he could find, and wear as much of the two costumes as he could as the locations were "up hill and down dale" and the more he took, the more he had to carry to the location. To make the shoot quicker, Hutchings recorded all the dialogue as a guide and dubbed both character's lines in post-production. Another strategy to keep the post-production quicker was Hutchings' decision to grade in-camera using a colour temperature closer to tungsten than day light. This gave all the shoots the same cold blue hue and meant that there was virtually no grading needed in post.
Storyboards, test shots and the final frames. Hutchings created the sense of Django and Joe walking down staircases to meet each other by inter-cutting shots of them walking down the same steps from different camera heights. Along with Days of Work, Hutchings created this location from shoots from several different locations using eye lines to sell the geography of the characters and the scene.
To get shots where Django and Joe are in the same frame, Hutchings had to devise a way that would let him change costumes between the characters quickly to reduce the chance of a change in the light, which would make a split-screen shot difficult to match in post-production. He would also not be able touch the camera to change the framing as the slightest change between the frames would also make matching them extremely difficult.
The method that Hutchings used to get the split-screen shots: wearing most of Joe's costume under Django's, Hutchings started the camera at the absolute wide frame. He then used the camera's remote control to frame in and shoot the mid shot as Django. He then changed into Joe's costume, shot the mid of Joe, then returned to the absolute wide to shoot Joe again.
The test shots for the wide and mid shots and the final overlayed wide and mid shots showing Django and Joe in the same frame.
More comparisons between the storyboards, the test shots and the final frames. Again, all different locations but that, when cut together, gave enough of an impression of Joe's fallen kingdom for Hutchings' vision of his Exifestern.
As he completed the edit of The Big Putdown, Hutchings began to get replies to his crew adverts. As he knew he could at least get this scene on screen, he was confident he could make the rest of film as he would only be playing one character in each of the other scenes and would also have help shooting them.