This post was written by William Cho.

My personal process for coming up with ideas starts with the visuals; the image. When I read "there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee" ("scratch" for brevity), I was instantly reminded of the vibe and atmosphere of director Wong Kar-wai’s 90s romantic films.

Reading into the poem, I saw the similarities with these films—they shared those experiences of love, fleeting hope, and underlying loneliness. My interpretation may be different from how someone else would have approached it, but the importance of directing a film is to provide your voice to the project and stick to it. What is it exactly you want to say through this film? I wanted to tell the story of someone who thought she truly found love, but the only thing it left her with was a scar reminding her of the time she actually believed.


A lot of my ideas come from what I’m interested in exploring or trying. In this film, I wanted to find a way to show these two characters’ feelings through lighting and unorthodox camera techniques. I also thought this would be a good way to add something extra to a film that’s story was mostly going to be told through narration. Movies are about showing the feeling, not necessarily the reality.

In order to pool all my ideas into one spot, I adapted the poem into a script, translating descriptions of these ideas into actions. Once I had the script I could annotate further on paper to flesh out those ideas.

Scratchscreenshots_5'there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee'

Making it happen

Let’s break down how we achieved the look in a couple of sections in the film. I’ll run through the intention, lighting, and camerawork for these sections as well as other interesting tidbits from that scene or shoot.

The bar scene—lighting with purpose

The bar scene had our two characters getting to know each other, and they lose their sense of time and space. Ben Stewart, our DP, had set one large diffused light to fill and shape around the dark wall. We then put a stick light above the subject’s head to get a nice rim light. We had little Aputure MC lights scattered behind the couch to give a little accent and depth to the flat wall.

“The wall was more challenging to light than we expected, as it was very reflective. We flagged off the soft key light a little bit to help counteract this,” said Ben.

Scratchonset-07_sunchintan_srivastava-1Credit: Sunchintan Srivastava

I wanted to isolate the two characters from the rest of the bar. They’re enamored with each other in their own bubble. The world around them is irrelevant—and this is reflected in the lighting. This was convenient, as we had to hide the fact we did not have a lot of extras and couldn’t fill the background.

We had little tricks of placing people in the foreground and having some crew members just walk through to give the sense that the bar had people around. There is a section in the bar scene where time starts whizzing past our two characters, and they watch the people filtering in and out of the bar.

That particular part was unique to shoot. We moved away from our normal shoot setup with a Blackmagic Pocket 6K to a  Sony a7R II because of the Sony’s ability to crank the shutter speed down to a ridiculously slow speed. This gave us a lot of motion blur and created almost a slow-motion effect but in real-time.

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The bedroom scene—going with the flow

The bedroom scene was a simple scene to shoot on paper—there is no dialogue, there’s just one action. However, lighting and set design took a lot of figuring out beforehand.

Not a lot of people talk about the shots that didn’t make the cut or didn’t work out, but I think it’s important for any up-and-coming filmmaker to understand that rarely everything goes to plan on the shoot day. I’m not advocating for skipping plans entirely. To me, that is not smart (but that could be just me—I’m not a winging it kinda person).

I think a good director should be ready to deal with uncertainty and be able to work with a sense of spontaneity. Rigidity/stubbornness wastes time and isn’t very collaborative.

I wanted this scene to feel lonely, but not in the sense that she lives in doom and gloom. In my mind, she has been getting on just fine, the loneliness is more just part of existence at this point. We do kind of allude to a bit of that dark attitude with the paintings she has up on the wall. We borrowed some amazing original art from Nick Burry, whose art evokes a lot of melancholy for me, which makes it perfect as a background piece.

Scratchscreenshots_5'there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee'

A quick tangent about set dressing

If you are working with a limited budget, contact your local second-hand or landfill shops—they often have loads of little interesting thrown-away tidbits. While a lot of the stuff in there is unusable, you can arrange things to make a whole that is greater than its parts.

Back to lighting and camera—we wanted to keep the lighting soft for the scene. I was pushing for something much darker and almost spotlight-y, but with the gear we had, it was pretty evident that wasn’t going to be possible.

Another thing that had to change on set was my idea of a slow push-in through a dolly or slider towards the bed. We had a very basic slider, but unfortunately, our camera was quite large and heavy, which made the shot unusable. We instead recreated this camera move in post, as we shot in 6K.

Vlcsnap-2021-08-05-16h11m37s035'there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee'

The street scene—using surroundings to keep the energy

The shots on the street that appear in the film were actually reshoots. Our first crack at the scene was in a different location and wasn’t quite right, from a lighting standpoint and a performance standpoint. I don’t put any of the blame on the actors, though. The original shoot was after the bedroom shoot, it was cold and wet, and we were in the outskirts of the city so the location wasn’t very motivated. So we gave it another go.

The reshoot was done right outside of our bar location in the middle of town. The various lights of buildings in the surroundings already made it a more dynamic and realistic scene. From a performance standpoint, we were following up on a scene that involved our two actors going on a date and becoming more intimate, so we were in a great position to keep up that energy into this shoot.

I think a good lesson to take from this is that if it’s possible, schedule your shoots to get you the best performance.

In the case of this film, shooting these scenes chronologically helped keep the actors in the same mindset and in the same position as the characters in the scene. In between takes, the actors (who are a real-life couple) were just being themselves in that situation, being a bit playful and intimate. When I saw that, I was immediately ecstatic because that was real, and I wanted them to use that in the take.

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For the lighting of the scene, we shot right next to a lit building window. It provided natural-looking and motivated light and it gave us a sense of freedom to shoot handheld, which gave the scene a feeling of spontaneity.

“We also enhanced this motivated light by using an LED panel to push more light into their faces, and shape the shadows in a realistic way,” said Ben, our DP.

Looking at the comparisons underneath, notice the change in lighting contrast. The original shot was very flat and even, while the reshoot gives a sense of depth and place. We took into account what didn’t work in the previous shoot and applied that to fix anything in this new shoot. Personally, this was my favorite scene in the film, because it shows reality.


So that was a (not so) brief overview of the production process of "there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee." This is all still a learning process, and my main goal from any project I work on is to learn something new—and possibly pass on my learning to others so anyone in my position can avoid the mistakes I make. Filmmaking is a community, and I’m hoping this will be helpful to anyone who wants to make their way in this industry, because it is a job with ups and downs, but to me, it beats doing anything else.

I want to thank everyone involved in the film.

Ben Stewart, my business partner, friend, and collaborator. Paula Harris for giving me this opportunity to do something creative. Sean Metcalf, an amazing soundie. Liesl Nortier, who is an awesome makeup artist and special FX artist. Suchintan (Roy) Srivastava for all the help and support on set (he’s a real G). Obviously, the actors, Mandy Eeva Watkins and Slaine McKenzie, who did such an amazing job in playing these characters. Everyone who pulled in favors from us to make this film a reality.

Special thanks to Angharad Gladding and April Lampre who kicked off the first couple of poetic films, you two knocked it out of the park! Best of luck to my friend Kieran Charnock who is directing the next film, I have complete confidence it will be nothing short of an amazing film with amazing performances.

The film isn’t public yet, it’s still making the rounds in the festival circuit. I was happy to find out it was a semi-finalist in Kino London’s The People's Film Festival in July. It’s a good first step for the film, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

A link to Paula Harris’ poem “there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee” can be found here.

Learn more about this team at Studio Halfgray.