16mm Film the Right Choice for A Wife Alone

Published on website: October 24, 2011
Categories: 16mm , David Heuring , The StoryBoard Blog
Storyboard_A_Wife_Alone1.jpg
Scene from A Wife Alone

Before directing the noir thriller A Wife Alone, Justin Reichman had worked extensively as a script supervisor. That experience gave him insight into a wide variety of directing styles. When he was ready to direct his own feature film, he knew what he wanted. “I wanted to make my project personal,” he says. “It has a classic noir framework, with flashbacks and twists and turns. But I put my own spin on it, with some real comedy to balance the darker themes. It’s about newlyweds, and having just gotten married myself, I can understand the ethos.”

A Wife Alone is the story of a nervous, but ruthless and determined young woman whose female lover is a prostitute. The pair concocts a scheme to murder one of her clients, and rob his partners. The plot culminates in a dinner party where the weather is hot and the subtext is hotter.

Reichman and producer/editor Ben Chace raised money in part through Kickstarter, an online fundraising tool. Reichman had made several short films previously, and Chace co-directed Wah Do Dem, which won Best Dramatic Feature at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Storyboard_A_Wife_Alone2.jpg
Scene from A Wife Alone

For A Wife Alone, they found terrific locations in Reichman’s hometown Rochester, New York. The very tight budget led some of his collaborators to advocate a digital format, but Reichman and Chace both insisted that the Super 16 mm format was right for the project.

Chace explains, “Justin and I are big cinema buffs. There’s a certain formalism in the way the script was crafted, and the way we wanted to shoot. It’s a gritty story. Something about film grain and the look of Super 16 – that patina or texture – makes the images more interesting to watch than totally crisp, totally clean digital. We felt that the look of film did something for the story.”

The filmmakers did a cost comparison that showed the differences to be minor. “People seem to think that film requires much more time and equipment in terms of lighting, but that wasn’t the case for us,” adds Chace.

Reichman recalls that a few preproduction tests shot on New York City streets at night revealed that Super 16 looked great in low light situations. “When we saw the test, we realized that we didn’t need a huge amount of light. The film held enough for us to use existing natural light in some situations – streetlights and light from storefronts and passing cars. That test looked great, and it really made us want to shoot Super 16, and to go with a look that used minimal lighting.

The team used an Aaton film camera rented from Abel Cine Tech, at a rate considerably cheaper than the RED package they had considered. The Aaton was often mounted on a doorway dolly used with tracks and a jib arm to facilitate smooth, classical movement. The film stock was KODAK 500T Color Negative Film 7230. The production sent the exposed film to Deluxe Labs in New York City.

"We’re now in the editing stage, and we can see that the film stock really does have wide latitude,” Reichman observes. “Some scenes look quite dark, but there’s always information there. We’re quite impressed. … I feel great about the decision we made. Shooting A Wife Alone on film was absolutely the right thing to do. I’m so glad we didn’t cop out.”

Reichman and Chace hope to have the film finished in time to submit to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

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