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Film Noir Photography Workshop ~ The Ladykillers

August 21st 2016

In the Studio
In the studio
On Location
On location

Our 2016 two-part Film Noir workshop day took place on Sunday 21st August 2016, beginning with a studio session at the excellent Red Dawn Studio and ending with an evening location session at various locations around Aberdeen. Our models for the day were the amazing Artemis Fauna as the Hollywood movie star "Sarah Windaeopen", the Smurftastic Rachelle Summers as the mousey personal assistant to the movie star "Ivana S. Murphy", the lovely La Belle Eve and Emishima as two young starlets who are found murdered, Duncan Kennedy as the younger detective and Howard as the older detective. Jason played the Director's Assistant and throughout the studio session, Jason and Donald took turns to fill in for Howard to allow him to grab a few shots for this blog too.

The aim of this workshop was to give everyone not just an idea of the techniques used to create the images but to immerse them in the whole world of Film Noir. To this end we design our Film Noir workshops with a complete Film Noir storyline to them and encourage everyone attending to bring any props they think might prove useful. We also sourced a number of authentic period items as props to add realism to the scenes.

One of the reasons for the unique lighting atmosphere in Film Noir movies was that they were very often shot on a shoestring budget, so the company may only have had one camera and one light to make the movie with. The key to creating the drama was in improvisation and we wanted people to experience that, so we used continuous lighting only in the studio, with some home-made cookies to create effects like light coming through window blinds. For the outdoor scenes, we shot at night with only street lighting, large torches bouncing off reflectors for fill and small home-made torch cookies to modify the light further for throwing highlights into faces.

The title of this workshop was "The Ladykillers" and the script centred on a Hollywood movie set. One of the first things we did was to shoot images for mock posters and a portrait of the leading lady for the movie. We also had to shoot out of sequence, as some of the later scenes in the movie were to be shot during the studio session and earlier scenes in the evening session.

Studio headshot for the star of the movie
Promotional Portrait of the Movie Star Sarah Windaeopen.


Movie poster
Image for movie posters.


The story began on the movie set, with Sarah waiting on her spot as the Director's Assistant checks light meter readings for the Director.

Director's Assistant doing light check
The Director's Assistant checks the light-meter reading for the Director.

When the Director is satisfied that everything is ready, the Assistant operates the clapperboard and the Director calls "Action".

"Action!" ~ Jason as the Director's Assistant and Donald as the Director.

A couple of new young starlets arrive to audition for parts in the movie but the letcherous old Director gets a bit "hands on" and Sarah and her assistant Ivana look on horrified.

The letcherous Director and the starlet
The Director is a bit too "hands on" with the young starlet who has come to audition for a part in the movie.
Image kindly supplied by Karen Kennedy



The young starlet slaps the Director as he leans in with his hand on her thigh.

Another young starlet auditions and suffers the same treatment but the Director takes a real shine to her and gives her a screen test straight away.


Still letcherous
The second young starlet finds herself fighting off the unwelcome advances of the letcherous old Director


Screen Test
The young starlet receives instruction from the Director during her screen test.
Image kindly supplied by Karen Kennedy


That evening, as the young starlet is walking home with her head full of dreams, she is blissfully unaware that a shadowy figure is following her.


Daydreaming on the way home
The young starlet heads home dreaming of stardom, as a shadowy figure follows her.


As the young starlet reaches the bottom of the steps, she becomes aware that someone is approaching her aggressively and turns to face her attacker but is powerless to prevent being dragged to the ground and strangled.


Surprised by a killer
Realising too late that she is being followed, the young starlet turns and sees the face of her assailant


The shadowy figure strangles the young girl and leaves her body in the street.


Later that night, a Detective responding to a missing person report from the young girl's family discovers her body lying in the alley where she was killed.


Detective finds a body
The lifeless body of the young starlet is illuminated by the detective's torch.


In the morning the Detective and his young colleague arrive on the movie set to interview the cast and crew about the murdered young woman. The Director admits he had a crush on the young girl but points out that the star of the movie got her big break as a young starlet whom he also seduced. He suggests to the detectives that Sarah was jealous of his attraction to the newcomer.

Detectives interview Sarah
The Detectives interview the leading lady, Sarah, about her reaction to the young starlet's relationship with the Director as her Assistant Ivana looks on intently from behind her magazine.

Watching and listening
The star's Personal Assistant Ivana S. Murphy looks on anxiously listening to every word as the Detectives interview her employer.


After interviewing the cast and crew on the set, the Detectives are about to head for the mortuary to get the details of how the young lady was killed, when a scream comes from the dressing room. The other young starlet who auditioned the previous day has been found strangled with a stocking in the dressing room. The Director's Assistant shouts angrily at Sarah that she has murdered the girl out of jealousy. The Detectives return to the set to arrest Sarah and notice that her assistant has disappeared. Sarah says that Ivana has gone home complaining of feeling unwell. One of the Detectives takes her in for questioning, whilst the other goes to Ivana's home to interview her.

The second young starlet is found dead
The scond young starlet is found murdered in the dressing room.


Sarah is taken into custody and interviewed at the Police Station.
Image kindly supplied by Karen Kennedy


Shocked by a crime scene photo
Breaking down in tears, Sarah insists she is innocent as the Detective lays several crime scene photos on the desk face down.
As he turns the first photo face-up, Sarah covers her face in shock.
Image kindly supplied by Karen Kennedy


Meanwhile the other Detective arrives at Ivana's apartment and she asks him to sit and wait whilst she finishes changing her clothes.

Detective waiting
The young Detective waits to interview the movie star's assistant Ivana.


The older Detective goes through Sarah's appointment diary with her and notes that if the diary is true, she had gone out of town the night before and could not have murdered the young starlet on the street. He starts to suspect the Director may be involved in the killings and prepares to release Sarah and head back to arrest the Director.

In the meantime, Sarah secretly recognises something in the photographs and suspects her assistant Ivana may have something to do with the murders.

Suspecting the Director, the Detective advises Sarah not to approach him but upon seeing the crime scene photos, she secretly suspects her assistant Ivana may have something to do with the murders.
Image kindly supplied by Karen Kennedy and Photoshopped by Howard
This image was set as a Photoshop exercise for participants: pieces of blank paper sized to represent photos were placed
on the table and participants had to make their own scene of crime images fit the blanks


On her release from custody, Sarah hurries to Ivana's apartment to confront her about the murders. Fearing that Ivana might do something reckless when the Detective questions her, she hurries as fast as she can.

Sarah runs to Ivana's apartment
Sarah rushes throught the streets to Ivana's apartment, fearing she may do something rash when the young Detective questions her.


When Ivana emerges from her boudoir, she is wearing a revealing dress and lingerie and attempts to seduce the young detective. He is quite taken aback and responds to her advances, unaware that she may be involved in the murders.

Ivana flirting with the Detective
As the young Detective begins to interview her, he is astounded at the trasformation from mousey P.A. to vamp as Ivana starts to flirt with him.


Ivana leans in and loosens the young Detective's tie
Ivana leans in and loosens the young Detective's tie.


Ivana moves round behind the sofa
Ivana moves round behind the sofa, caressing the Detective's shoulders before grabbing his tie.


Sarah arrives in the street where Ivana's apartment is
Meanwhile Sarah arrives in the street where Ivana lives and looks for her apartment.


Sarah discovers Ivana trying to kill theDetective
Sarah arrives at the apartment to find Ivana strangling the young Detective with his own tie. She reaches into her handbag and pulls out her gun.



Ivana realises what is about to happen just as Sarah fires
As Ivana realises with horror what is about to happen, Sarah pulls the trigger.



Ivana slumps forward, dead
Ivana slumps forward over the Detective as Sarah realises what she has just done.



Sarah rolls the lifeless body of Ivana off the Detective
Sarah rolls the lifeless body of Ivana off the Detective and is relieved to find he is ok.




Ivana's dead body
Sarah and the Detective move out of shot as the camera zooms in on Ivana's body and the credits roll.



Behind The Scenes


Everyone got really into the atmosphere and several participants joined in by taking turns fulfilling small roles. The models were fantastic and really brought the story to life. Below are a few images from behind the scenes and out-takes.


Jason and Rachelle corpseing during the letcherous Director scene
Jason adds realism with a smutty comment during the letcherous Detective scene


While you're down there
More corpseing after a silly comment from Duncan


Rachelle twerking
As Karen provides improvised lighting during one scene, Rachelle decides to twerk in the spotlight to give Artemis something to look shocked about.


Choosing angles
Participants choosing their angles during one of the outdoor scenes.


Strangulation should not be ticklish
I'm pretty sure strangulation is not supposed to tickle ~ Rachelle being a little too gentle during the murder scene.


We had a fantastic time producing this workshop and it was great to have so many photographers totally committed to getting the most out of it. Massive thanks are due to everyone who took part but especially our amazing models, Rachelle Summers, Artemis Fauna, La Belle Eve, Emishima, Jason and Duncan.

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