How to Shoot a Movie in Two Weeks

Photo by Nicolas Genin via Wikimedia Commons

How can you shoot a movie in two weeks?

Steven Soderbergh has the answer.

The prolific director and producer, known for everything from Contagion and The Knick to Magic Mike, has a new movie coming out on HBO Max: Let Them All Talk.

Based on a short story by a Deborah Eisenberg, the film stars Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, and Candice Bergen. It’s about an author who goes on a cruise with her friends and nephew.

Soderbergh filmed Let Them All Talk in just two weeks, using a guerilla-style filmmaking approach that relied heavily on improvisation. Usually, principal photography typically takes around three months for a major Hollywood film.

“They would give us the outlines of a situation, and then we knew where we had to end up,” Streep told Entertainment Weekly. “But they didn’t tell us how to get there.”

It’s not something the actors were used to.

“I told [Soderbergh] he was gonna ruin everything for every director, and every production designer, and everything else, because he made the movie for 25 cents—I know that’s what I was paid,” Streep continued. “Then it was made in two weeks, and it was a free ride on the boat.”

Candice Bergen trusted Soderbergh’s ability to make it work.

“I think [Soderbergh]’s the most fearless filmmaker, and his intellect is so piercing,” she told the magazine. “He was doing the camerawork, so you sort of watched his brain right behind the camera, spinning like a top. It was really interesting. And short.”

Shoot a Movie in Two Weeks – The Soderbergh Way

But the truth is, it’s not really improvisation that explains how to shoot a movie in two weeks. Soderbergh simplified many other elements of his film shoot with Let Them All Talk.

“The only equipment was sound equipment,” explained Dianne Wiest. Steven held the camera in a wheelchair and just rolled along. None of the lights, and the trucks, all that stuff that goes into making movies, there’s none of it. There was Steven and this new camera.”

The camera she’s talking about is the RED Komodo Dragon camera, a new (as of 2019) digital camera at the top of its game.

But don’t feel like you need to invest in a brand new camera to be like Soderbergh. He actually shot his two films Unsane and High Flying Bird on an iPhone! It’s really all about using what you have and embracing the experimental.

As for the lighting and the trucks, Soderbergh filmed the entire film on a single boat. So if you’re looking to emulate his pared-down style, think about stories you can shoot in one single location.

You can also look for locations where you don’t have to use artificial light (lighting takes a long time to set up).

For more quick-filming inspiriation, check out Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk on HBO Max next month.

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