Behind the Scenes of Triste

I wanted to tell a sad story. I also wanted to challenge myself to include the basic elements of a drama: a protagonist (a tree), an antagonist (a man), conflict (the tension between the tree and man, building to a climax) and resolution (however sad it may be).

My original idea was to tell a story of someone (representing many people) who had many dreams that never materialized, leaving him feeling rather unfulfilled and haunted by his sad reality. I visualized a man being tied to a post over a pyre, reflecting on his dreams from childhood on through adulthood... each one taking the form of the individual pieces of wood that comprise the pyre. The fire would burn him, but never destroy him... just cause endless suffering. Even death would fail to save him. In effect, his abandoned dreams were the source of his endless burning and suffering.

When nobody stepped up to be the star of that production, I tried to think of this story in more abstract terms. I began to envision this story from a tree's perspective. I used trees and objects to create an obvious link between visual elements: wood. I begin the story with a variety of shots of trees, then begin to show objects made of wood.

I shot this with a Sanyo FH1 in 1080i (although I thought I had set it to 1080p). I created a list of collection requirements (see earlier posts) based on a storyboard I sketched out. I collected my shots and found others "on location" that I liked. I only had troubles trying to collect a few shots chopping down a tree. I zoomed in on a piece of cut wood to get a shot of my axe striking the bark. I also had to get shots of the pieces burning in a fire, so I had to shoot a fireplace (which I don't have). I went to my in-laws' home (where I shot most of the other footage). First, I shot ashes... then the fire.

I had most of my footage early on, so I began placing shots in a sequence that I felt provided a variety of compositions, motions and vectors. In addition to the soundtrack, I used simple techniques to add texture and drama to the video. I used shots with cast shadows to add drama, zoom-ins to increase tension, slow-motion to build tension and jump cuts to jolt the viewer... all in hopes of building tension and reaching a climax (when the tree got axed). I also used my focus settings (although I could not adjust while I was recording) to add texture to some otherwise boring shots. I did a few different things, most of which I mention in the tips post from a few days ago.

My favorite sequence is the build-up when the camera shows 1st-person POV picking up the axe, then the tree's POV watching him approach. I wanted to use slow-motion to draw out the fear and jump cuts to jolt the viewer (and shorten the sequence). The axe swings in front of the camera as he walks by, then it returns to the 1st person POV (walking through the woods to a tree). I used slow motion again for the axe chop.

I ended with a POV shot of the man walking toward the fireplace to place cut wood onto the fire, shots of the fire burning (jump cuts to wider angle shots), burning embers and ashes. I used an audio clip (suspense accent) and black screen in the final shot to jolt the viewer one last time, making them both sad and uneasy at how life can play out so much uglier than we dream it will.

I hope the viewer understands the main concept and experiences a short emotional ride, ranging from relaxation and serenity to (minor) anxiety to sadness and uneasiness.

Click on the Vimeo button to the right to watch Triste in HD.