When given a year to complete my senior project, I struggled for quite some time to realize how I wanted to spend my final year of my undergraduate. While I was planning to start a career in design following graduation, the last thing that I wanted to do was to design a pretty book or create a branding identity for a company. I had my whole life to do something like that and never again thought I would have quite as much freedom to create a project completely on my own, doing exactly whatever I want to do. Ever since I was little, I have completely been enamored with film and storytelling. And the more I thought about these two elements, the more that I realized that what I really wanted to do was something completely different from any project that I had done before; I wanted to create a story. And with that new initiative in mind, In Deep Shadow was born.
Now that I knew what I wanted to create a narrative, I began ideating at what story I exactly wanted to tell. And it all happened incredibly organically. I began writing and within in a few days had the starts for a film noir inspired screenplay.
From the start, I knew that I did not want to create a live-action film. There were certain individuals that I knew would be perfect for the roles who were not actors, and I decided against testing their slightly amateur abilities. It then hit me that the best way to tell this story was through cinematic photography. With my mission in mind, I began to scout for the rest of my cast, travel around town to find the best locations for my scenes, create shot lists, find props, read every film noir screenplay and watch every film from that genre that I could get my hands on. Through dramatic cinematography, gritty storytelling, and many late nights, In Deep Shadow was complete.
Below, I have included a few images from the final project, which was projected and each image played in the sequence to tell the story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and all that ensues.
I drew heavily from film noir and post WWII Italian cinema, and maybe even more importantly, neo-noir. As I looked through the classics, such as Citizen Kane, the Conformist, and Notorious, I was greatly inspired by something a little more recent. Drive, directed by Nicolas Refn in 2011, employs many of the cinematic aesthetics of film noir as it tells the story of a quiet man who moonlights as a getaway driver who find himself in trouble with mobsters. Through moments of heavy shadow, thematic color overlays, and graphic shot compositions, Refn creates a beautiful yet gritty modern day noir.
As I was also writing a screenplay for this project, I felt that it was only necessary that I find and read some film noir screenplays. I fell in love with the screenplay The Big Sleep, written by one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner. From this and other screenplays, I was able to gather inspiration for creating the gritty tone that I wanted to convey throughout my story.
Additionally, I spent quite a bit of time scouting locations. Walking through old theaters, libraries, and alley ways, I found a selection of locations that perfectly matched the look and feel that I wanted for my story.
Rackham Graduate Library in Ann Arbor, MI, turned into one of the most important locations for my scenes. Built in the late 1930's, this beautiful building sang art deco and was exactly the feeling that I wanted for my modern meets classic film noir story. While Rackham seemed like an obvious fit for my story, one location in particular that quickly became one of my favorites to work in was a garage storage space hidden in the back of the Art & Design building in Ann Arbor, MI. With this small space, I was able to create the chiaroscuro lighting that was essential for my scenes involving the villains of the story.
For my cast, I had written the screenplay with two individuals in mind for my villains. Both professors that I have had class with, Endi Poskovic and Jim Cogswell had the exact look that I wanted for my villains. However, neither of them had at all the personalities associated with those roles. I then turned to the theater school to recruit other cast members and after meeting with many, found Lindsey Meekhof to fill the role of femme fatale. As for the leading man, I had originally started to work with one individual but found that his brother (whom I had class with), fit the role perfectly. So, after a session, Paul Provenza quickly became my new unlikely hero.
This was truly one of the most wonderful projects that I have ever worked on, and was so lucky to have had such an opportunity.