We still need your help!! Everything we raise beyond the 10K goal is going to cover the costs of post-production (scanning and printing the images) over the next year, so every little bit helps so much! As we count down the hours your donation is so tremendously needed and appreciated. Thank you!!
The paintings and photographs I often find most compelling when I visit a museum involve people arranged in a staged tableau, whether it’s the spare one or two people in an Edward Hopper painting or the more crowded photos of Tina Barney’s family and friends. I instantly start making up stories about who these people are, what kind of life they have, and what their relationship is both with the other figures in the frame and whoever’s behind the camera or canvas. I become like a detective, deciphering the visual clues of a person’s expression or gesture, clothing, and the environments they have crafted for themselves to understand what happened before and after the moment captured in the image.
In this photo series, I take this one step further. The series tells several interlocking short stories using photographs ordered in a specific sequence—a wordless story with a beginning, middle, and end. Over the course of several dozen still images, the same four overlapping circles of friends weave in and out of the pictures, gradually creating the sense of a whole world beyond the frame. The story functions like reading a comic or the silent woodcut novels of the early twentieth century—but each image stands alone with the quality, scale, and emotional resonance of a painting you'd see in a museum.
Over the last year, we’ve shot forty of the sixty-five images in the story and we’re shooting the final third of the story this spring. Each picture requires such keen attention to detail that we can only make one image per shooting day. And organizing each shoot involves the same level of production you’d need to put together a small movie with actors, costumes, sets, lights, locations, cameras, and makeup.
I’m shooting on a large-format 4”x5” camera, which requires a more thoughtful approach to blocking out and executing each image. This slower process gives us a much larger negative from which we’ll eventually be able to make 40”x50” prints—large enough that the viewer in a gallery or museum could dig into all of the small nuances of expression from the actors and the objects we’ve placed so carefully in the frame.
The project involves an enormous amount of time. Each detail of set dressing and costumes must be carefully selected and arranged. So it takes a huge team of collaborators to execute even just one image in this series. “A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army,” Orson Welles once said. And after three years in the making I have a lot of sympathy for that position.
Over the last year, our production team has grown from seven college apprentices learning about set dressing, lighting, and costume to a crew of twenty-five part-time volunteers. They spend the weeks leading up to each shoot sourcing objects and wardrobe pieces that tell the future viewer in as few “words” as possible who these characters are and what their lives are like.
The story explores the nature of friendship in the twenty-first century, especially among twenty- and thirty-somethings living in urban centers far away from family as they try to start their lives and build community. It also looks at the paradigm the twenty-five year old movie When Harry Met Sally has embedded in our culture, revisiting that important question: does romance always get in the way of men and women being friends?
We’ve cast twenty-three principal actors to play the main characters that compose the four overlapping circles of friends. Half of the story takes place in their apartments and personal spaces, while the other half takes place in the bars, restaurants, cafes, concert venues, and workplaces they frequent. For those public spaces, we’ve cast an additional army of extras to bring this world to life.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
The money we raise will go toward the ten locations we still need to rent, like the tapas bar where one character meets her future boyfriend for the first time, and the concert venue at which another character plays an open mic night.
It’ll also go toward covering the cost of film. Every time the shutter clicks on the 4”x5” camera, it costs $6. And while the benefits of a larger negative are substantial for how large we’ll eventually be able to make prints for museums and galleries, by the time we wrap shooting, we’ll have spent nearly $10,000 on film alone.
Anything we raise beyond our initial goal will go toward the post-production costs of scanning the negatives in the highest resolution possible by building our own film scanner from scratch and making and framing prints for gallery exhibition.
For anyone who donates, we have a selection of rewards ranging from a thank-you postcard signed by me to postcard prints of the images, video diary updates, a VIP party, original one of a kind Polaroids, a PDF booklet about making the project, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the final image selection process, a portrait session shot on the 4”x5” camera, and limited-edition fine art prints of a finished picture.
For those looking for an even more personal experience with the project, there are additional rewards at the $1,000 level and up, involving set and home studio visits, dinner with the cast, and even a walk-on role.
At the conclusion of post-production, the finished pictures will be put online for easy viewing so everyone can share in the final product and make up their own stories about who these characters are. And eventually you’ll be able to experience them in their full-size printed glory, hung in a gallery in New York and elsewhere for digging into all the little details we’ve hidden away within the frame.
Tom Wilkinson is a fine art photographer and filmmaker. He is currently working on a large format sequential staged narrative photography project telling four interlocking short stories that interweave the lives of twenty characters over the course of sixty-five still images using actors, lights, locations, set dressing, and costumes. He TAs at the International Center of Photography and tutors privately in Photoshop, Lightroom, photography, and lighting. He previously assistant directed several small indie films (The Cult of Sincerity, Favorite Son) and worked in locations on movies (Premium Rush, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Ghost Town) and TV shows (Boardwalk Empire, The Unusuals). He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Alissa.
Risks and challenges
We’ve been in production for over a year now with a cast and crew of tremendously talented people working with us. With two-thirds of the pictures behind us, we have a good process in place for executing this last leg of the story. The risks are minimal but include unforeseeable challenges like inclement weather and actor availability. Based on our actors’ current schedules, we’re committed to wrapping principal photography by the end of June and then spending the next year on post-production, which should afford more than enough time to prepare all of the rewards for our backers by the winter of 2014.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)