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AN INSPIRING EVENT
The story for “Somewhere Like This” was actually inspired by something I experienced. Last year, my cousin (who lives about an hour away) asked if I could pick up some snowboard equipment for him. He bought online from someone that lives fairly close to me, so of course, it wasn’t a problem. While driving to the seller, I thought how this would be such a great setup to meet someone. Safe, not too creepy, and totally relatable. Unfortunately/fortunately the person selling was not my ex-girlfriend haha. I had a good setup, but to add more drama I thought it’d be interesting to make the seller someone from a past relationship. On top of that, I wanted to force the two people to revisit a past memory– to throw them back into what they last remembered of each other. That’s where the telescope came in.
As many of you have noticed, I like to put a certain emphasis on objects in the shorts I write. Whether it’s a shell, umbrella, pinwheel, or telescope, I enjoy showing objects as characters themselves rather than mere props that the actors interact with. These objects carry their own story and memories just like a supporting character in the narrative.
I chose a telescope to represent the optimism and hope of Scott and Irenes’ relationship in “Somewhere Like This.” A telescope’s most basic function is to help see things that are far away. On the surface, Scott gives Irene the telescope as a gift before she leaves for college because she once told him she wanted to go stargazing. But on a deeper level, the telescope and it’s ability to bring distant things closer to us, represents the notion of not losing sight of their relationship even when they will soon be separated.
“I know you’re gonna be busy with classes but if you can, it works best if you somewhere far from the city lights. That’s where the skies are the clearest and the stars are the brightest.”
The characteristics of how the telescope works are also reflected in the couple’s relationship. If you live in a metropolitan area, with a lot of ambient city light, stars are difficult to see. It’s not that the stars aren’t there, but the night sky is already lit from buildings, cars, etc. so the stars are less distinct. Scott’s advice to go somewhere away from the city reflects his hope that Irene will not let her new life at college shake their relationship. She is about to start an exciting and different life with new people and experiences that could potentially distract her from Scott. Just like the telescope, their relationship will work best if she doesn’t let the new elements of her life consume her entirely. In essence, Scott knows there will be new factors and obstacles to consider once she leaves, and he hopes she will take the time and effort to remember what’s important.
“Scott you really don’t have to. I mean, I don’t even remember when it stopped working”
“Let me take a look at it. I want to try. I don’t think it’s totally hopeless”
Whether the characters realize it or not, the entire conversation on the driveway as Scott leaves can be seen as reference to their past relationship. Irene has let it go and moved on while Scott wants to take the opportunity to fix it and see if it can work again. When writing, I feel like everything that’s shown, should have a purpose. Why it’s shown, how it’s shown, and when it’s shown. While the telescope as a symbol may not be obviously apparent, I like making connections between different elements in the story to further the themes that are being explored.
SCOTT AND IRENE
While the histories of Scott and Irene are not entirely revealed in the short, I did develop their backstories in my mind. Scott and Irene met in high school and began their relationship during that time. In their last year, Irene got accepted to Northwestern University for journalism while Scott stayed home in California to work at his family’s auto shop. Sometime shortly after going to college, the distance and the new experiences took their toll on Scott and Irene’s relationship. Sadly, they parted ways. After finishing at Northwestern, Irene got an internship back in California and that’s approximately when we meet the couple in the story.
Julie Zhan and Robert Ryu were a pleasure to work with. They nailed the performances and I couldn’t be happier. The script itself is relatively short. There’s not much dialogue between the characters so it was their subtleties that really shined through. As for the dialogue, It’s nothing extremely poetic or dramatic. I was aiming for a very “everyday” exchange. When Scott and Irene bump into each other again, I wanted it to play out as realistic as possible. Sure, there could have been more exposition to reveal more, but I felt like a situation like that would actually be pretty concise and more interspersed with uneasy silences.
While shooting these original pieces, I always hope every scene is visually interesting. A personal, but unsaid goal is for any moment of the short to look like a photograph. In other words, I’d like for the viewer to be able to pause anytime and that shot should be able to stand alone. Stylistically, I think it’s noticeable that I have certain tendencies while shooting. If you look at the shots in all the shorts I’ve written it’s easy to spot the patterns. I’m drawn to extreme wides where the subjects occupy a small portion of the frame. And more often than not, I like the look of bokeh and very shallow depth of field. I like how natural light hits the lens and creates flares. I like looking at things that might not normally be seen as beautiful. The best example of this is the dust on the floor of the house. When we went to check out that location for the first time, I noticed dust particles floating and trailing in the sunlight as we walked around the house. At that moment, I knew I had to capture that shot for the short. Because of time constraints, we actually had to go back to the house on a separate day to specifically get that shot. It was totally worth it.
While writing the short, I pictured many of the scenes taking place during golden hour– that period of time the sun hangs just above the horizon before setting entirely. Specifically in the house, I wanted to keep most of the interaction within tight shots with blurred objects in the foreground and puddles of sunlight in the background. I found myself squeezing between doorways chairs and tables to make that all happen. Natural light cannot be beat. Especially when working with time constraints, you learn to take advantage of what light is given to you. Sometimes it’s direct and contrasty, sometimes it shines through trees, and other times it bounces off walls with the perfect softness. No matter how the sunlight shows itself, I think there’s always a way to make it beautiful.
Many of the shots (and themes) in “Somewhere Like this” are repeated from previous shorts like
and “Two After Noon”
I remember constantly listening to Kina’s “In Your Arms” while writing the script. The song itself is upbeat but has a sense of melancholy to it. I chose to place the song near the end of the short to help convey the bittersweet feeling. Without the song, I think the ending would have been more somber and sad than intended. Visually, the scene of Scott driving away after he realizes Irene has moved on, portrays disappointment and defeat but with the song’s help, we are brought up to a more optimistic and reassuring end feeling. In addition, Kenson’s amazing score blended seamlessly with every scene. We worked together to make sure it could be integrated at all the right places and in the right way. It helps that he is just as meticulous as I am. I’m also very pleased that he incorporated the “In Your Arms” melody in the score. You can listen and download the score here: http://youtu.be/qB7gaxX1nEs
“Across clear skies. Among glowing stars. That’s where I’ll find us.”
The confidence in their relationship is forever captured in the note that Irene gives to Scott. It’s something Scott never let go of, even after they separated. When he bumps into Irene again, Scott feels like there’s an opportunity to maybe remind her of what she was once so sure of. But as he soon learns, some things are out of our control. At the end of the short, he leaves the telescope but keeps the note. The fact that he has fixed the telescope does not mean it will ever be used again. This can be directly correlated with their relationship. There are countless elements that need to come together for two people to emotionally find each other again. In this case, time has run its course and it’s unlikely their paths will cross the same way again. Scott keeps the note because it is a reminder of how good something can be and ultimately, it’s what he hopes to find again.
I bought the telescope from an someone online (coincidentally haha). It was slightly damaged and I still don’t totally know how to operate it. To be honest, I think I just need to go somewhere away from the city lights. harharhar. I painted the three white stars to add some more character the object.
I made two versions of the folded note before settling on the final. The earlier versions used white paper with watercolor. The final version of the note was cut out of a brown paper grocery bag.
We used Christine’s parents home for Irene’s house. Her house was also featured in our WFW where we cooked ramen and the One Millionth Subscriber sketch.
There were some visual elements that were added in post production. The plane flying away was added, one of the murals in the house was removed and replaced with a Mark Rothko painting. One of the shots at the park was meticulously enhanced to add camera movement. Kenson did a great job of enriching the short with subtle visual additions.
The amount dust and haze in the house was exaggerated with household flour.
For certain closeup shots when we didn’t have the actors, Kenson and I doubled as hand models (see if you can spot us!) Christine doubled for Julie feet for one of walking shots in the house.
Scott’s room was actually shot in our office. I rearranged furniture and used different things to cover up the windows. The “bed” is actually one of our couches with an old curtain covering it like a bedsheet
We found ourselves chasing the sun (as usual). For the park shots, we were literally running to stay in the sunlight.
[Behind the Scenes video coming soon!]