Being in a movie is a dream of many. As a kid, I kept changing my mind on whether I wanted to be in the front lines as the next James Bond and Jackie Chan or if I would be happy enough to be a stunt double.
I knew that it was rare for actors to be performing their own crazy stunts. With a few exceptions like Daniel Craig and the before mentioned Jackie Chan and a few others. Yet usually, I imagined myself as a protagonist without a stunt double. So bad-ass that I could pull off any fall, any jump, and any car flip required. How hard could it be, right?
A task came up to place yourself, using photoshop, into a random scene. I guess placing yourself in a live movie will come later with more practice and skill, but this was exciting. While others were thinking of original compositions and some even created their own scenarios, I was fixated on placing myself in a movie. I thought about face-swapping. It’s not too difficult and when we have a studio at our disposal to set up the lighting exactly as needed, it seemed pretty straight forward. But I quickly decided that’s not really enough, and kind of cliché, face swaps with a main character are fairly common to see, and usually not as interesting to share. Besides, unless you look anything like the main character, you will most likely stick out like a sore thumb. It was my plan to make it somewhat natural looking and leave the original scene as intact as possible, making me look like an actual part of the scene.
So I started by picking a movie I wish to be in. Sci-fi was instantly crossed out, costumes and make up would be a little too much effort than I was willing to put into this project, besides, time played a major part on this. So I thought about recent movies I watched and enjoyed. It was a no-brainer to head for my favourite director and filmmaker Edgar Wright. After shuffling through some of my favourite movies, I settled upon the newly released ‘Baby Driver’. This was still fresh in my mind, and so I was set. One of the better scenes to place myself in was the scene where Baby is introduced to Deborah, a lovely innocent waitress.
The scene itself had noone else in it, however you could see the empty diner clearly. As per my task I had to be in the shot in 3 different poses. That was slight overkill for my scene, but still not too unnatural. So I picked out 3 exact placements in which I will be seated.
I decided to place myself on the 2 different seats behind and in front of our protagonist Baby. And placed myself another time simply walking out from the scene. I finally got to live my dream of being an extra… It was such a special moment to me, that so far only a few select people got the chance to see this masterpiece. In fact, not many will ever see this. It’s not going to be on the big cinemax screen, not even Edgar Wright will have seen this by the time you’re reading… That is how rare of an opportunity this is, how big of a deal this project is.
Nevertheless I set up in our humble studio and set out to work. I got some shots of me facing the correct angles as well as having the lighting as close as possible to the original scene. This was what was gonna either make it or break it. I knew I was nowhere near good enough to fix lighting to that extent in photoshop. At best I could’ve done some filter gradients… and some masking,.. however, that would’ve been terrible looking.
Lighting was fairly straight forward. A large softbox on the right to replicate the light of the big window, some ambient light from above, and finally another softbox from the left to balance out the shadows so that the dynamic range of our camera did not feel too intimidated.
I made sure to face accordingly to every setting I planned on seating myself in, as well as change my appearance at least enough to make every character look different. This helped me achieve the more natural look in my final work.
I had an issue with placing myself so close to the camera, the blurring just didn’t look natural and it drew too much attention, in a scene like that, the eyes were supposed to not be focused on me but rather remain focused on Baby and Deborah. I was only an extra making the scene look more complete.
I removed myself from the front and added myself to the booth just in front of Baby. This meant that the booth had two people in there, and it made the scene again slightly more realistic.
What made the final even more convincing, I believe (even though this was purely incidental) was the fact the fact that I was looking directly at Deborah, as if I was really there, as if I was part of this scene.
This was a project I really enjoyed working on, and a project I sincerely hope I get to revisit. Maybe this time with a scene where the camera is moving and not just a still image. Nevertheless, that post and that project is for another day, I am very pleased with my current result, and am happy to share this with you. I hope you can appreciate the thought that went into this, even though there are still some minor mistakes in the work.