Early into Olivia Forever!!, and by early we mean less than a couple minutes in, Tedward (played by David Schonscheck) proposes to Olivia (Adrienne Patterson). Well, sort of.
We intended it to be slightly ambiguous-- he asks, but does so in such a way that if she says no, he can pretend that he was kidding. Which is, not to spoil anything, more-or-less what happens. We wanted to add to this by having Tedward reach behind him for a hidden ring. He starts to ask, his arm goes behind the television set, she says no, his hand comes back, empty.
And we agreed early on that we should really leave it at that. Keep it subtle, underplayed, make it something that adds to the scene if you pick up on it but doesn't harm it if you don't. We didn't want to do the obvious thing and cut into the box, and see him put it back. Too schmaltzy, said us.
But it became clear as we were cutting the scene together that, no matter the take or the angle, it was too subtle. He's doing something with his arm, but it's nothing that anyone would really pay attention to. No one would ever pick up on it but us. And so, we decided we needed an insert shot of the ring.
But how to do it so that it wasn't schmaltzy, obvious, and boring? Everyone else would cut to the box in his hand, so how could we add something to that? How could we make that moment, that shot, into something special instead of something merely ordinary?
Our simple, hopefully elegant solution was to start outside the box-- an old box, its felt entangled with wisps of dust-- and to dissolve inside of it, to see the ring itself. It's the sort of little cinematic touch that we love to see in films-- watch how much aching emotional resonance Scorsese gets out of the trick in his Age of Innocence-- and the sort of thing that might ever-so-slightly set us apart from the cult of realism that often plagues American independent films.
Don't be afraid to be obvious-- better something be obvious than to be nonexistent. And don't be afraid to be stylish. What both things have in common-- obviousness and style-- is that both are the tools of the bold, of the confident, of the ballsy, and low-budget films are in need of balls.