Dog Day Afternoon – Master with Coverage

Overall response (2-3 paragraphs):

Write an overall response to your film in 2-3 paragraphs: Were you successful at achieving what you set out to achieve? What are you proud of? What would you do differently if you could remake this piece? What did you learn?

I wanted to focus purely on directing this time around, and I think it went better than I thought it would. I wasn’t as well prepared as I’d like to have been but the joint expertise of my collaborators (Nick, Spencer, Woody) made the project turn out well.

I’m proud of their performances! I worked closely with Woody to make sure he matched the character I was going for and the tone as well. I let Spencer do his thing because he was so prepared and had the expertise already there.

I would definitely fix the edit, and I plan to — the cropping is bad, and some of the cuts are awkward. I’d love to recolor it too.

Briefly discuss the following:

What, specifically, did you want to communicate? Were you successful? Why? Why not?

I wanted to get across the desperation and the emotional tenderness of the scene. I think it came across. The performances drove it home. I want to work on performance heavy stuff again!

How, specifically, did you try to communicate this?

Through their acting, through the blocking. Through the movement of the camera and the space between the camera and the actor.

What did you learn about storytelling:

Reaction shots are important. Pace is very important. Sometimes you should hold on a shot of an actor reacting to something. Overlapping dialogue is pleasing to watch.

What did you learn about working with actors and getting performance:

Ask questions, and give your ideas to them and let them run with it. Sometimes you want to ask them to do physical stuff as well, but make sure if they do it, they commit to it.

What did you learn about blocking the camera and actors?

You can tell part of the story through blocking. We had Sonny’s character get continually lower to the floor until he was sitting on the ground throughout the scene. We moved the camera and let him react to that movement to create a sense of his being powerless. It’s important to block them so their whole face is visible to camera.

What did you learn about visual elements such as lighting, composition, framing, etc.?

I learned through Nick how to use a negative fill! And I learned that cropping is important!

What did you learn about design and art direction?

Locations can do a lot for you. I would spend more time scouting in future, and try to add more to the backgrounds.

What did you learn about the Production Process such as pre-production, collaborating with crew, securing equipment, etc.?

Time is the most valuable commodity to crew — the more I can give them to prepare, the better.

What was it like to watch your film with an audience? Did they understand it? Miss the point? Why did they respond the way they did?

They understood it! It was a pretty straightforward scene. I think it went across well, even though it was long and held difficult subject matter.

Director’s Plan

1. What film or TV show is this from?
Dog Day Afternoon
a. Have you ever watched this film?
b. Do you have the actual script of the film—not a transcript?

2. After reading the entire script, in 3 sentences, what is the story of the entire film?
An impulsive man robs a bank to obtain money for his lover’s MTF sex change. He and his partner fail, and the bank is surrounded by the police. They take hostages, and over time, win the crowds over outside.

3. After reading the entire script, what is the theme or message of this film?
It’s based on a real event, so it’s about truth – specifically, the truth of Sonny’s struggle, psyche, and humanity.

4. In 3-5 sentences, what happened in the story immediately before your selected scene?
Leon, Sonny’s transgendered lover, has been brought from the hospital to the site of the standoff. He confessed his transgenderism to an officer. They’re convincing him to get on the phone with Sonny. Inside the bank, Mulvaney, the bank manager, has gone into diabetic shock. Sonny has brought a doctor in and has just been told that Leon will call.

5. In 3-4 sentences, what is the story—the beginning, middle, and end—of this scene? In other words, what happens as the scene starts, as the action rises, and as it ends?
Beginning: Leon calls, Sonny answers. They break the ice and talk awkwardly.
Middle: Sonny convinces Leon to escape with him, Leon tentatively agrees, though likely not serious. Sonny finds out the cops are listening in.
End: Sonny gets mad at the cops. Leon says he’s going back to the hospital. They say their goodbyes.

6. What purpose(s) does this scene serve in developing the plot and the characters within the larger story?
This is the crux of the film. This is the whole reason this film exists. This is why Sonny robbed the bank in the first place. What motivates him? Equal parts love and helplessness.

7. Reread what you wrote above for the theme of this story. Keeping that in mind, how does this scene explore or develop the theme of the film? Refer to your theme and be specific.
The theme is truth, and this is the scene that finally gets to the truth of Sonny’s motivations. Before this, we don’t quite know why he is doing any of the things he does. When this scene is set up, with Leon’s confession, we get a good idea of the why of Sonny’s actions, but not the specifics. This is where it is all laid out for us to see.

8. What does each character want at the beginning of the scene? (This will also be noted on your director’s script breakdown.)
Sonny wants to talk to Leon, and likely be assuaged, reassured, loved, by him.
Leon wants to get Sonny to stop, to end this craziness. He’s just tired, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, existentially.

9. What specific story details must the audience understand in this scene in order to remain oriented and engaged in it, as well as in the rest of the film? What specific moments/details must you be sure to shoot in order to communicate each piece of information?
As I’ll be setting this scene up, and as it has no exposition in and of itself, the only information the audience will need to know is what I will be telling them beforehand.
In terms of the scene itself, they need to understand how Sonny and Leon feel about one another at all times. That is what makes this scene pivot and move. Their relationship, tenuous and shifting in this scene, is key. The way they act and react off of one another is so important. These two men were married, were lovers, fell apart, and now one is robbing a bank for the other, perhaps to win them back, perhaps not. They were both in hopeless situations – Sonny unemployable and dirt poor, Leon incapable of raising the money for his operation. Could this be why their relationship fell apart? Is this why Sonny is robbing the bank? Hopefully the audience ask these questions as the scene runs.

10. What is the progression of emotions that you want the audience to experience while watching this scene?
From interest, to complete empathy to Sonny, to empathy to Leon and distrust/dislike of Sonny, to some hope about the way these things will turn out, to the bittersweetness of goodbye.
We’re rooting for Sonny, but he’s a complex character that we also kind of hate. Is he the bad guy? And by extension, are we the bad guys for cheering him on? Of course he’s bad, he’s robbing a bank – is his reason good enough to get us on his side once and for all?
How, specifically, do you intend to do this?
Through performance. Everything should take a back seat to these actors. I hope to rehearse thoroughly with the actors and send them long briefs on how to approach these characters.

11. What is the first image of the scene? What is the final image of the scene? Describe why you chose each image.
Sonny walks in to pick up the phone while the doctor tends to Mulvaney in the background.
Sonny hangs up and exhales.

12. Why is this scene personal to you? What specific personal experience(s) does it remind you of?
I’ve been in relationships that have devolved into tension and that weird mix of like and dislike. There’s that sense that you want them back but you know that if you got them back, you’d remember why you left in the first place. Your hypothalamus wants to be with them but your prefrontal cortex knows that it’s a doomed venture, a ship destined to sink. This scene feels like what could happen if I were to revisit a past, failed relationship – a tense, I’m-familiar-with-you-but-I’m-not sort of thing. That, and the exhaustion really hits home this late in the semester!

13. How should the lighting feel in this scene? Use the most descriptive language you can.
Lighting should look like a 70s documentary. Not that we don’t light, but that we light in such a way that it doesn’t look lit. Invisible to the audience. It should be as undramatic as possible, because the drama is on the faces of our actors.
Why should it look like this?
This whole film is about reality. If we add contrivance, we make it look fake, then nothing else will sell.
You may include sample image(s). (Not from the actual film!)

14. Which two specific visual elements—line, shape, space, tone, color, rhythm, movement—do you intend to use to purposefully communicate the emotion of the scene? (You will be graded on your execution of this plan.)
Movement – foreground/background.

How will you utilize the principles of contrast and infinity of these components to help build intensity to tell the story more purposefully.
Sonny lives in deep space, Leon lives in flat. Sonny is moving constantly in his space, Leon is perfectly still.

15. In a bulleted list, describe three potential obstacles you may face in creating a successful scene. Describe how can you be prepared to overcome these? Be specific!
Actors: Can they bring it? I hope they can! This is a demanding scene!
Dialogue: It’s written in such a way that they pulled from improvised rehearsals. It doesn’t read as dialogue. I’ll get them to improv where they can, instead writing out beats that they need to hit. And focusing on their feelings about one another.
Location: How do I find something that looks like a bank?



One thought on “Dog Day Afternoon – Master with Coverage

  1. This was a nice, low-stress shoot to work on. Daniel had a very simple vision of what he wanted, which helped me feel more freedom with my job. With the location’s restrictions, I found myself working hard to make the location more interesting than it was. For some of it, I think I succeeded, but the rest not so much.

    I wish I had gone to visit the location ahead of time. I am glad to have had some help this time around. It didn’t take much help, but Trent was super reliable and kept on his feet as much as he could. It was interesting shooting 4:3 — a first for me and Daniel. I hope to someday see a color-corrected 4:3 version since it cuts out the light stand and such (Daniel, just change the project file to 1436×1080 and animate left and right as needed to maintain the frame) since I’d like to include some of it in my reel.

    It was a strange script to try and visualize with all the dialogue over the phone, so it was extra nice to see it come alive with the actors.


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