Working with mirrors is often a challenge because you're constantly working to keep the camera and lighting equipment out of the reflections. In this case we ended up finding a way around all the headaches by making the mirror work for us rather than against us. It became an interesting way of being able to see more of our main character's face. We were always looking for the most powerful angle to place the camera while also maintaining strong compositions. We liked shooting down the length of the room because there wasn't much space to look across at a 90 degree angle to this frame. This way afforded us better positions to frame the scene and incorporate the production design more aesthetically without resorting to extreme wide angle lenses.
This frame was part of a long dolly shot that followed Anna (in the gray shirt) out the door, down the stairs to the mailbox and back toward the steps where she met with Betty (in the purple hat) and they took a look across the street at their neighbor's yard. On this film I worked with a director who would always make an effort to limit a scene to as few shots as possible. For something like this in which the actors cover so much ground, it became necessary for us to also choreograph some interesting camera moves to complement the blocking. We go from leading her, to trailing throughout her trip to the mailbox and we use the camera movement to reveal information when she sees a "For Sale" sign across the street; this ends up leading to the significance of the moment depicted.
We didn't want to be constantly moving the camera just because we wanted to have as few shots as possible. In this situation, we placed the camera outside the kitchen window and let the whole scene play out, then we blocked the actors so that we could still see their faces when we needed to. The lighting for the entire film was intended to be naturalistic since the film feels like the kind of situation that anyone could find themselves in with a close relative. I tried to watch how the light naturally played in the room and then mimicked and intensified it to be strong enough to reach exposure on film.
One of the great advantages of shooting in the middle of November was that we got to make use of the beautiful fall colors. We also had the softness and organic grain of 16mm film to help us achieve this look. We decided to go with a film workflow in order to get those imperfections rather than the pristine look of digital camera systems.
It was important for us to always find a camera angle that would evoke the character's mind state at all times. We felt that looking down at Anna in this lonely moment toward the end of the film helped to show how little relief she got from battling her sister over their mother's house. Getting the railing in front of her gave us some distance to disengage a little from their heated argument and look more at what, if anything, they really accomplished.
This is the closing frame of the film and really encapsulates the heart of the movie. We end with the two sisters still pitted head to head, with all their mother's belongings packed away in a truck as they're getting ready to leave it all behind. Of course we staged the scene with the house in the background because it symbolizes their entire troubled history together. Having it weighing down on them in the final moments of the film seemed highly appropriate.