Dalton Parkinson – “BELOW”, a poetry short film

BELOW is a short film that features original poetry by myself and original music by a friend of mine, Wytemi Co. The short film follows a young couple illustrated to struggle in keeping their relationship alive, causing them to sink to lower versions of themselves. This story was not a direct adaptation from my life, though I connect with it on some general and even some deeper levels.

I began the project with a mind map, pictured above. This led me to the text in gold, “breakup poetry”. I wrote this poem into existence drawing on a real experience where a romantic relationship suffered because of conflicting schedules, which caused them to rely on texting and calling. That relationship suffered and died. I was left a little raw about the ending of this bond, but this project began almost 4 months after the fact. Though this project was not intended to be my therapy, I feel some healing and closure in my life because of this creative outlet I found in my senior project.

BELOW, the poem which doubled as the script for the short film, was written in about 6 hours of work by myself and my friends, Savannah, Emma, and Collette. This collaboration resulted in the poem serving as the backbone of the short film, audible in the short film by way of voice-over. That process took Chaise, Chris, and myself around 2 hours each and then additional hours of work by Savannah, my audio engineer. In preparation for the production phase, I spent 10 hours on a shotlist (pictured below) and 3 more hours beginning a storyboard. Another hour went into simply planning filming days, what shots would be filmed, props needed, locations, overall efficiency… wow! I only intended for the finished product to be around 2-3 minutes in duration. I was so wrong… This summed up the preproduction phase, which has personally, always been an aspect of video production I didn’t fully enjoy and therefore felt uncomfortable doing. My crew helped me along and encouraged me along, though.

As production set off with our first day of filming, Wytemi Co began working on the beautiful music that backs the film. The first filming day was such a shock to me. I saw my poem coming to life through the lens of a camera. This was not the first time I directed a short film, but it felt so much more special than before because I had total creative control. I felt like a true hyphenated professional! I was a poet-cinematographer-director-producer-gaffer-grip-executive! I’m sure I could even extend that by quite a bit. That first day on set totaled to around 27 hours combined across cast and crew. The production phase is something I enjoy a lot and feel more confident in. However, this is where I needed to rely on others the most. I felt very humbled when I was asked for something to do as I had a hand on the camera and a hand on the light as I gestured instructions to my actors with sways and flips of my head that were likely very unclear. I retreated to my spot behind the camera and began asking something of every person on the crew. We quickly became a well-oiled machine in setting up for the next shot.

All the while, Wytemi was composing his track, World of Mirrors. This took Wytemi roughly 6 hours of composition for a 4-and-a-half-minute song. And then I gave notes about changes I wanted made to better fit the project. This took at least another 3 hours, resulting in an almost 5-minute song. Back in my neck of the woods of the production phase, we filmed another 2 days. By the time we wrapped filming, the project had reached 94 hours in total. Some of that time could be considered wasted because of having to re-shoot some things (see poorly manipulated set pictured below; tungsten lights in the blinds to mimic daylight simply look like car headlights. FAIL!) This is another humbling experience I had to go through as I admitted to my cast and crew that I was not pleased with the results of a portion of our work to date. Everyone was gracious as we began again to produce higher quality work. This proved worth it as we all agreed on the better product of this extra time spent. I remembered that most MARVEL projects in the recent year, namely “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, “Ms. Marvel” to name couple, underwent re-shoots to accomplish the same thing.

Over the course of several hours of editing, the project was cut into its final draft on a late night (or early morning, depending on how you look at it). I did all the sequencing, coloring, and audio adjusting myself in DaVinci Resolve. At one point in my history in video production, I believed to be most confident in postproduction, especially in editing. As I relearned DaVinci Resolve for this project (having not used it for around a year) I felt my confidence grow again. I was affirmed to have a very good knowledge of this phase.

That was what this project came to be about. I was “The Man” for preproduction, production, and postproduction. Although I intend and hope to work on a larger crew where I will likely not be needed to hyphenate my title with multiple roles, I learned that I could do it all. And I will always have a crew and support to help me. This project truly felt like a summation of all I have learned in my time at BYU-Idaho. I am very grateful for this experience and the others that this University allowed me to have.

The final product duration is around 6 minutes + credits to all the wonderful people that helped me in this endeavor, and it can be viewed on YouTube. The project as a whole involved at least 106 accounted hours of work.