White Lines // White Lies
White Lines // White Lies
White Lines // White Lies (WL//WL) began as a seven image photo essay, and evolved into a small, stop-motion film detailing a drug exchange.
Originally, the photo series was entitled “Powder is Powder,” commenting on the power we have in suppressing urges — even those as strong as drug additions. The phrase mind over matter was the underlining driver of the story, and the initial high and satisfaction the main character experiences comments on another form of the mind over matter theme: the placebo effect.
Spanning anywhere between one to two hours, this black and white film can be seen as a Film Noir stylized documentary. Riley (the main character) will be ‘conscience’ of the camera, making eye contact with -and looking for acceptance from — the audience. Camera angles will vary between: straight on shots, over the shoulder, close-ups, etc. The viewer’s connection with Riley is a crucial aspect in the success of the ending twist; therefore a small and intimate screening is most appropriate.
Continuing within the framework of Film Noir, the world within the film will be low contrast, underexposed, washed-out, and grey. It’ll promote a sense of doom and misery.
Within the beginning 20 minutes of the plot, lighting highlights within character close-ups will illuminate Riley face — these highlights are meant to draw Riley outside the grey ‘world,’ and suggest there still exist innocence within him (depicted below). As a typical Noir lead, he will be represented as a good kid, with a bad addiction.
Riley, a soft unisex name, is used to provoke a sense of youth within the lead. Riley will have no character background other than what’s seen on screen; the viewer’s character judgment will be purely based upon the first couple of interactions within the film. Therefore, Riley will be introduced as a young, innocent, struggling individual.
The severity, length, and cause of that struggle will be subject to the viewer filling in the blanks and creating their own interpretation of what’s being seen on screen. Therefore, soft, three-set lighting will be used to illuminate the lead, and a wide shot of Riley’s run-down apartment will feature as the character introduction (creating a feeling of pity within the audience).
Throughout the film, subtle make-up will be applied to Riley’s face — playing on the theory that humans cannot detect subtle changes as they occur. The opening scenes will feature dark circles below Riley’s eyes and white powder applied to his face making him appear pale. As the film progresses, the circles below the eyes will become darker and darker and the face paler. Riley’s hair will become dry and fragile, and immediately before the story reaches the climax he’ll have heavy makeup applied making him appear as a “crazy junkie.” Once the twist is realized, the audience will see how far Riley’s addiction has come by showing quick flashback images of him earlier that evening.
The Unnamed Drug Dealer will be introduced via an approaching silhouette walking on a white line (foreshadowing, and to provoke viewer curiosity). Just as Riley, the audience will know nothing about this character: no name, no background, and no voice, only a couple brief shots of his face. This is to mimic the confusion and anxiety Riley’s feeling throughout the entire trade.
The dealer will have cool, causal, and slow movements. To heighten the sense of mystery, the dealer will feature: deep black circles under his eyes, a thick black jacket, dirty fingernails, messy hair, something obscuring his face from being fully exposed to the audience, etc. The dealer will not be aware of the camera during the drug trade, but will afterwards. The documentary style shooting will include: close ups and straight on shot of the dealer.
Stylised filming methods
A unique feature of White Lines, White Lies (WL // WL): it’s meant to be shot in real time. Minute by minute the viewers will be following Riley’s evening (thus, a two hour movie will show two hours of his day). Naturally, following Riley will feature a slow build to its climax and ending twist.
Through the use of these visual techniques, the audience should experience similar feelings and emotions to Riley. For example: when Riley’s waiting for the dealer’s SMS, the audience will wait with him; when Riley’s waiting to meet this dealer, again, the audience will wait with him. This drives home Riley’s addiction and crave for the substance.
Expanding the idea of visually involving the viewers, WL // WL will incorporate a variety of different depths of fields and lens techniques. A purposeful shift from blurry to sharp focus will highlight the transition from Riley’s groggy, craving eye-sight, to a sharp, super focus state. The film’s beginning will be shot in a soft, slightly noticeable out of focus manner, and as the story progresses, the images will become sharper and shaper until the climax is reached. Upon the climax, when the line of cocaine is snorted, the images will become ultra-sharp, replicating the same feelings of alertness the lead character is experiencing. Yet, once the audience and Riley discover the powder is actually sugar, images will quickly become blurred and out of focus (more so than the beginning of the film).
The only exception to the film’s black and white color pallet will be the climax scene. To fully convey the explosion of cocaine — and the immediate release into a user’s system — color (in the forms of purple and green) and multiple, overlaying images (of Riley’s face) will fill the screen. Riley’s eyes will become bloodshot upon his head lifting.
WL // WL will have two primary locations: (1) Riley’s small, grungy, brick lined apartment as well as (2) the location of the drug trade — [as seen in the photoset] a location that includes a chain linked element. The links are a subtle symbol to Riley’s feelings of being ‘trapped’ and unable to escape the addiction. Other, secondary locations, will include, but are not limited to: Riley’s walk to the drug trade, the dealer’s white line walk, Riley’s walk home, and others.
WL // WL will be shot in 35mm black and white (except for the climax scene, which will be shot in HD), and a standard screen ratio of the 4:3 format.
A Hand for Rafo
Shooting the climax and ending scenes for WL // WL wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative effort of Rafael Marengoni — a talented photographer whom I meet during my stay in Melbourne. His help in shooting ‘the exchange,’ ‘the un-named dealer,’ and ‘the meeting’ was tremendous.
WL//WL was shot in three days, at different locations within the city limits of Melbourne, Australia. Four of the series’ seven photos were self portraits.