Le Reflet

Réalisateurs: Aaron R. Stewart, Natan Bouzy
Peintre: Françoise Clerval
Danseuse: Claire Trouvé 
Danseur: Natan Bouzy
Musique: "Becoming Human" by Ryan Taubert 
(licensed through The Music Bed)
Film, Montage, VFX: Aaron R. Stewart
Merci: Hélène Stewart, Philemon Bouzy, et Juliette.
 
Submitted to the Nikon Film Festival. Pre-selected in the top 50 of 1056 in competition. 
Read on for a behind the scenes look at the making of Le Reflet. 
The Idea
 
Ever since doing Le Danseur, Natan and I have been working (slowly) towards another project. I have two other parts to Le Danseur I would like to make, the first part dealing with Natan, and the latter part dealing with Joana. 

Claire, Natan, and I started discussing doing something in the fall, and she and Natan had found a short film festival by Nikon running in the winter that they wanted to join. I’m not a fan of short film fests, but it provided a much needed due date, and a theme that was open enough that we felt like it provided some good structure to doing something together. 
We had several ideas originally that we discussed over dinner. Natan and Claire had some ideas for music, none of which we could legally use unfortunately, there was some talk of doing the entire thing in candlelight, which can be difficult cinematically, and then when we started talking about introducing a painter to it all, that added another layer of complexity - a different location, a person not local, and what would the painting look like? If it’s too abstract, maybe it turns into an art film that’s less accessible….lots of things to think about. We ended up coming up with a loose concept - there’s a dance element, there’s a painted element, and the two interplay somehow with past/future, dreams, memories, etc. 
The Location
 
In October, Claire and Natan stumbled upon a location in Messery, on the other side of Lake Geneva, a little over an hours drive from me in Gex. They came up with the concept of dancing on the pier after seeing a magnificent sunset there. And later I scouted the location myself on a cold, rainy day.
We had also gotten the involvement of Natan and Claire’s philosophy professor from their days training at the Paris Opera, who also is a painter. Once Françoise joined us, we started formulating a story of something like a memory or dream that is being told and painted at the same time, and the viewer sees both unfold together, with some type of twist or something interesting to leave thinking about at the end.   
 
Production
The week before had been foggy, and I was really hoping for fog. I’d been shooting fog timelapses all week, and was hoping for this airy, dreamy quality to the pier and surroundings. 
But unfortunately, both shoot days were mostly clear. We got a late start on the first shoot day, and I realized that by 7:46am, the sun was peeking over the horizon, and shining directly on the dock. Which meant that all filming had to be done in between the 7:00-7:46am time window! Enough light to film, but no sun.
 
This is why I’d really been hoping for fog, it would elongate that shooting time period. To complicate things, scheduling was a bit difficult, and we only ended up with a single weekend that both Natan and Claire were available so it was now or never!
I ended up being thankful that I had scrapped the first shoot day and instead gotten some extra b-roll of water, which came in handy later. Scrapping the first day shoot also meant we had extra time to work on the complexities of the choreography and the movement in between the two piers, which it’s quite complicated to try to communicate that in 2 minutes - she’s on one pier, she goes to another pier, she comes back to the first pier….it seems easy, but it’s actually a lot to communicate in a short amount of time!
 
Shoot day 2 started early, and we were practicing when there was just enough light to see the pier. 
We managed to get most shots in our 45 minute window. A few shots of note, would be the “fall” shot, where she almost falls in the water. I placed them as close as they were comfortable to go (we had extra clothes and towels in the car), which was already really close, closer than you can really tell in the final unedited shot:
However, for the final shot, I knew it needed a bit of extra *yeesh* to it, so with a little simple VFX, the pier gets backed up unrealistically right to her toes, and we get that little ‘moment’ where she leans over the void. 
The closeup before she falls is shot in the grassy area, not even on the pier. That was a complete cheat, so that she could really lean forward.
A few weeks after we finished shooting the dancers, Françoise came out to Geneva from Paris for a day to film her final section at the end. She arrived in Geneva around 11am, we all had lunch together, then we filmed at 4pm so that she could catch the 6pm train back to Paris, same day. For her final scenes, I wasn’t happy at all with the lighting, it was just the worst time of day to be filming, but that’s what we had to do. I ended up modifying the ending heavily in post-production, which I’ll talk about later.
The final shoot day was the day after Christmas. My wife and I were planning on being in Paris over Christmas, but unfortunately at the last minute, plans changed, and we ended up being in Geneva for Christmas. Christmas eve, I bought a quick last minute ticket for the 26th, and we filmed the painting segments to complete the photography portion of our short film.
Post-Production and Music
 
Shooting an integral part like that means that most of the editing work had to be pushed back to the final days before the deadline (we were submitting this to a short film festival). 
 
One of the main things holding us up was finding music. Since Claire and Natan were dancing to nothing, we had to find something that worked with their dance, gave a certain atmosphere to the entire video, had enough weight so that the two minutes wouldn’t feel like two hours, and also had crescendos at the right places (1 approx 1 min in, 1 towards the end, then an epilogue of some type). Fortunately, after listening to probably a couple hundred tracks over the course of two months, I found something on The Music Bed that worked perfectly - Becoming Human by Ryan Taubert. I cut it down quite a bit (which is a shame, really), but it worked. And the licensing couldn’t be easier with The Music Bed. 
Quick and Dirty VFX
 
Visual effects of some type are always a part of what I do, even if they are pretty small. Even le danseur in Paris had some VFX removal work of elements in the frame I didn’t like, or I thought were distracting. This short film was no different. We’ve already talked about the pier trick, so here are a couple others.
 
One example would be moving Claire over when she was too far displaced in comparison to Natan when I zoomed in for a medium shot. Shooting 4k and delivering in 1080p meant I did this a lot, cropped in where I needed to, and so the result would be sometimes everyone wasn’t exactly well placed for a medium shot. VFX to the rescue. 
Another example would be (roughly) doing background replacements for ‘cheat shots.’ For example, to get this reaction, we had to film it in another place, so the background had to be replaced to be more similar to the above shot.
The very end where Françoise walks out on the pier to fall, was another sticky point at the end. I knew I wanted to heavily modify the original, and had originally shot it intending to do a day-for-night for the color, and replace the background in the end:
 
(original)
(original)
(day for night). The problem with the night sequence as a whole was 1) I wanted it to be a more realistic night, than just a blue cast, which meant it was darker overall and 2) the darkness was TOO dark - as in - it wasn’t showing up well on mobile devices, which would be a good percentage of viewers. So I nixed the idea. Gotta kill your darlings sometimes. 
Also went through a ‘sunset’ phase. Old/young? Sunset/Sunrise? I stuck with this awhile, before ditching it. 
But eventually settled on the same blue tones that all the pier shots have, but made it a bit more somber. 
There are a few other small VFX things, like getting rid of a fisherman in the background. Hey, I like fisherman (shout out to my Dad!) but this guy was in my shot! I guess it’s one of those things that you notice on a shoot day and it just bugs you until you fix it. Sorry fisherman. Hope you caught something. 
Another thing that we changed towards the end was just the general structure. What are the key shots we want the audience to focus on? I decided that the idea and shot of water at the beginning, which corresponds to her painting, should be a central thing, the main push of the video is revealing the relationship between what she is painting and her memory / vision / dream, and then seeing her in the reality of that. So when Claire comes back, the big reveal is the painting, and then the next shot it connects to is the reflection of the water, which connects to the pier that reveals that it’s Françoise walking out, not Claire. Unfortunately, learning from people watching it, they think it’s just a digital effect of some kind. If I had had some more audience tests, I might have rotated the end shot back to the original:
Instead of the rotated version that looks more similar to the painting:
I think that’s the one thing, that if I were George Lucas, I’d go back and modify in some way. But hey, it’s not a perfect film by any means, so I think I’ll just leave it, and count it as a lesson learned. It’s sometimes hard to know what an audience will “get” and what should be a bit more evident. 
 
Thanks for reading this behind the scenes look! We appreciate you watching the film, and hope that it means something to you. If you have an interesting take or story that you thought of when you watched it, I’d love to hear about it, just shoot me an email
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