A troubled girl must overcome her fear of change, love, and acceptance when she is sent to live with her uncle in the isolated countryside of Indiana.
Director John Lerchen approached me in May of 2013 and said he wanted me to shoot his first full length feature film. After funding was secured in July, we hit the ground running with pre-production.
I was currently working for Cove Creek Productions when I started on Dearest Jane, so I would do pre-pro at night while working on the documentary crew during the day. What made it even more challenging was the fact that the film would be shot in Indianapolis, but I was still in Pennsylvania with Cove Creek. Irregardless, the film entered production in August 2013.
The film is about the struggle between unity and division. Jane, the titular character played by Sydney Pierick, is forced to move in with her estranged uncle in Greensburg, Indiana while her parents sort out their divorce in Chicago.
Her character is caught in the crossfire of her parents division and, to make matters worse, struggles to fit in with Greensburg. To help convey the idea of division, characters are given clean singles whenever they're experiencing division. For the masters, I also composed the characters to be spatially apart or physically blocked by the environment.
Jane's uncle, Ben McDonald, is no stranger to division. With secrets to hide, he is the social outcast of the Greensburg community. However, Ben resembles and embraces unity, despite what the community may try to make him feel. To coney the idea of unity, Ben and others are given over-the-shoulder compositions and interact with eachother on the wide and master shots. The only other person who receives this type of coverage is Jonathan Jennings, played by Scott Myers, who eventually becomes Jane's love interest.
I used both visual styles with the intention of them colliding within the coverage for scenes. Scarlet Jennings, played by Janet Sussman, is the key Greensburg resident who despises Ben. When we first meet her, she has a tight, clean single while Jane shares the reverse space with Jonathon. From there, whenever the two ideals would collide, so would the style of coverage. In one scene, a character would have a clean single and the other would have a dirty over-the-shoulder.
Color played an important part in the film. Jane starts the film wearing only black, refusing to let life into her world. When she first meet her uncle, she is engrossed by the color, the life that he has. The costume designer, McKenna Duffy, made an excellent choice of clothign for Jane. As the film progresses and Jane grows, her wardrobe moves from black colors to saturated blues.
I wanted to light the film with a natural feel. My gaffer, Jesus Trevino, and key grip, Taylor Frontier, worked with me to take what our location already had and amplify it. Stylistically, I wanted my close ups to be incredibly soft unless a particular situation made sense to do it otherwise. Coined the B-Light, my crew would set up a big soft source close to the talent. I had them hone it in to maximize the always beautiful eye light we would get from it.
One of the challenges of lighting were some of the locations, with Ben's interior house a prime example. A good chunk of the film takes place there at various times of the day/night. The location and scheduling primarily made it only available at night. Trevino and Frontier managed to do a fantastic job of faking full day time by blowing out windows and using clever shadows.
I made the decision to distinguish day and night with our depth of field. Daytime scenes should be hovering around an f4/f5.6 while night time scenes should be around an f2/f2.8. Occasionally, I would break that rule conciously if the story required it. For example, we shot at an amazing tree near Greensburg. The plant had to be atleast four stories high and could be seen for miles. To isolate the giant tree, I opened up my lens as much as possible. Even at an f2.8 on a Canon 14mm, we managed to get a shallow depth of field and completely isolate the tree.
Coverage for scenes varied on the emotion of the moment. At the same tree location, the scene was shot as one long take, following the characters as they traverse through the soy bean field to the tree. John wanted long pauses of awkwardness to make the audience feel as awkward as Jane is in these new situations.
The film was shot in 20 days at Indianapolis and Greensburg, Indiana. We shot on the Canon C100 through a Atomos Ninja 2 Recorder. I used Canon L series primes.
I'm very proud of everyone who worked on this project. Their effort, skill, and passion are what made this film look so good. Thank you, guys.