Siren — Trying New Things

Telling A Story In New Ways To Expand Your Vocabulary

Still from “Siren”

That image is pretty arresting, I think. A woman, covered in blood, and (in motion) breathing heavily. It grabs the viewers attention in a way that’s different from my usual opening shots.

I’m a very aesthetically-driven person. I enjoy lining things up in ways that make the image is impactful as possible, but usually in a painterly sense. a bright brilliant sky behind a dark and silhouetted foreground, or a footstep in the dirt, police sirens calling out on a sunny day with dogs running through the woods.

They’re intriguing I think, because if I didn’t like them I wouldn’t have written and shot them, but this is different. I’m the sort to meander and weave my way to the point of the story, adding detail and flavor to what may otherwise be a simple statement. I literally just did that with the previous paragraph. The difference is that Siren creates interest through “Oh no, what has she done” rather than “what’s going on?”

Spoiler: the blood ain’t hers.

The other new thing I tried was shooting it all handheld. The previous two movies I’ve, both much longer and more complicated, were all shot primarily on tripods, locked off and very planned-out shots.

Siren was not even storyboarded or shot listed.

The way I saw it, it’s a bite sized movie with a relatively simple sequence of events that’s easy to keep in your head all at once without overloading. If there’s ever going to be a time where I just throw planning out the window and “wing it”, this’ll probably be as good an opportunity as I can get.

So I grabbed my camera and my Helios 44–2 (amen) and dove in. The shots came out pretty well, and while they definitely fit in with my established aesthetic, there was one fairly large change that differentiates it.

Spoiler: it’s not his blood either.

The astute among you will have noticed that these images are all in black and white. In fact, the whole movie is.

The movie was shot in color, the idea being that being able to use HSL sliders in post to effect grey values would help in low-contrast environments or just in places where I needed an emphasis on a certain object or item, such as vibrant dark red wine that would have appeared a dark, near opaque grey like the countertop behind it rather than a more luminous one as it does now.

The challenges of black and white are there, but in a lot of ways it just removes problems by simplifying everything. There’s no color compression, less artifacting when pushing and pulling the clip, and even digital noise looks better in B&W because of the lack of color pollution.
The things I might have missed were not being able to show off the colors of the lead actresses dress, one in particular had a beautiful gold embroidery on the neckline, but the plot was not centered on her fashion sense so I think the trade off was worth it.

I used HSL sliders to help the separation between the skin and the flat wall behind her, as well as adding some pop to her eyes, and darkening the lips. In color, this image is horrific.

In conclusion, this is also the first film I’m festivaling and properly marketing from the get-go outside of my personal pages.

Specific Instagram and Facebook pages have been set up to help promote the film, as well as keeping my personal feed from getting confusing from the different projects I’m working on at once.

More information can be found at either the Instagram or Facebook pages linked above.

Martin R. McGowan is a filmmaker living in Aston, Pa.
He enjoys long walks in Helheim, Senua; and ignoring his responsibilities.
When not stressing, he can be found asleep, or pretending to sleep as the world around him may or may not be crumbling.

I can also be found on Instagram, and building a YouTube channel, about five years late to that party.