Memories Of A Film Shoot – The Good, The Bad And The Tennis

It’s a week after the shoot and my film – The Good, The Bad And The Tennis – is in the home straight. It is about three years since my last film and the nerves preceding this shoot seemed to have helped enormously. Never have I planned so well for a shoot. Even though I knew the script and what I wanted to see – I did write it after all – having decided to use non-actors in all the roles, I knew I had to be able to get my ideas across clearly.

Having put out feelers for a camera and sound person on the initial response was not good. Acting as the producer – I pay for everything – I offered a middling to low fee for both roles. For those who have never had to deal with getting a crew together, let me assure you it is both very easy and extremely difficult.

It is easy because there are loads – and I means loads – of talented people out there who want to make and be involved with filmmaking. Finding a competent camera person who is prepared to work for a fraction of their daily rate is relatively painless. Also, because one can easily look at their past work, it is easy to see if you like their work or not. With sound, it is more awkward. I have worked with both good and bad sound people. A good sound person is worth every penny of the hard earned cash you give to them. Make no mistake, bad sound will ruin your film no matter how good the story, camera work or acting.

It seemed to be going smoothly. I put out the calls for the two positions and begun to receive responses. The first response was for the sound person. The would-be applicant pointed out – no doubt he felt helpfully – that the pay rate was too low. He did not get the job, but I did raise the pay rate. I got a couple of replies from camera people and after settling on one, I was hoping I would be able to focus on a creating a storyboard. He quickly fell out of the project. As did the one after him.

When people start dropping from a shoot, it makes you question whether you have a viable project. I was beginning to panic a little as I had already got the actors and had set a date, but I had no crew. As luck would have it, the cameraman I used on my first two shorts got in contact with me. Having worked with him before, I knew what to expect. I still did not have a sound person. My camera guy came to the rescue again. He could supply the sound person. My crew was locked.

Besides the storyboard, I also decided I would create a shot list. A shot list is exactly what it says; a list of all the shots that will be used. The shot list serves two purposes: it reduces the amount of unnecessary coverage – very popular in the digital age – so one does not end up with so many shot options that the edit becomes unwieldy. It also allows you to keep track of the shots. (On my second shoot I had to call everyone back because I forgot to shoot some scenes.)

Another thing the shot list does, is it forces you to do is edit the film in your mind beforehand. When it came to the actual edit, I had completed a rough edit on the same day as the shoot, with the shots ninety to ninety-five percent locked.

The coloring, look and music are probably the things that have taken up the most time. Just finding the music has been a real job! As I did not employ a musician – I am not independently wealthy! – I had to use that vast and brilliant library known as the internet. We, filmmakers, are somewhat blessed in this digital and internet age, in that we can utilize the talents of people from all over the globe, that in times past would not have been available to us.

With my film now close to completion – need to shoot one more scene…! – and the trailers and promo stuff out, I am trying to ensure that my next project is not three years hence! Fear and laziness have kept me from pursuing my passion for filmmaking for too long, which is a terrible waste, as I enjoy the entire process immensely. I have two more short projects that are ready to go and many a written work on the go. Time to get back to the filmmaker dream.


A bit of a trickle…..

So the campaign is up and running (check it out here) and the initial enthusiasm has faltered. Not for the project, that remains as resolute as ever, but for the whole crowdfunding kerfuffle. I want to make films. I like making films; the writing, the casting, pulling the crew together, directing actors, working out scenes, this is what I want to do. What I don’t like is asking people for money. I am not even that comfortable asking people for money when it is for a service I am providing! So crowdfunding and its concept is way outside of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, though I may know a few people who are quite well off, none of them are relatives or people with whom I am comfortable enough to ask for an indefinite loan. Hence the crowdfunding. Back to the enthusiasm.
Putting together a crowdfunding campaign is not as painful as I am making it sound. Truth is, it involves many of the elements of filmmaking and in itself is quite enjoyable. The aspect that is not enjoyable is the launch. In the run up to creating and launching your campaign, the support for it will be overwhelming; that’s a good idea, yeah you should try that, you should absolutely do it! All very positive. Once the campaign is launched however….crickets. Even getting people to endorse your campaign becomes a battle. You see, launching the campaign is the easy bit. Maintaining the momentum – even if it is only in your own head – is the work. In effect – especially with film – you are selling a product that 1.) is unlikely to result in a financial return and 2.) not even made yet. You are asking people to take a leap of faith and back your enthusiasm, vision, apparent talent, in the hope that they will get a feelgood at the end of the process. It is a big ask.
Of course, before the launch, I believed, hoped, there would be an absolute stampede to my page. Do not ask me what I am basing this notion on. It is not as though I get thousands of hits on my FB pages, blogs or twitter feed! Still, one always hopes and expects. I must admit, it has taken the breeze out of my sails a little. The Brit in me remains firmly against bothering people and promoting myself. Foolish I know, after all there are a billion talented individuals on the inter-web, fighting for their fifteen minutes, who like myself, mistakenly believe that having a modicum of talent will get you noticed by the ‘right’ people. What the practical, pragmatic, world wise side of my brain is telling me is that I have to keep pushing on. Moving forward, being a bit of a nuisance and fighting for attention. After all who else is going to do for me?

The dream continues.

My next film is planned for Jan/Feb 2015. It had been slated for the end of November 2014, but an impending knee operation put paid to that. With a free fortnight to fill whilst I got over the op, I took the time to put together a funding project. Up until now I had financed all of my projects with my own hard earned cash, which is to be expected. Now I’ve got to a stage – fourth film, not exactly a massive body of work, but enough when all who have helped, have worked for the love of the craft and meals! Goodwill will only get you so far – so this time around, not only do I want to improve the quality and scope of the project, I would also like to thank my wonderful crew with cash money. I’ve decided to use a crowd funding platform – Indiegogo – to try and raise finance. I’ve fashioned a promo film and created some perks to encourage people to get on-board. Obviously running it over the Xmas period is not exactly a genius manoeuvre, but heh-ho, sometimes needs must! I will put the link up as soon as it goes live. Crossing my fingers….and toes!

two plus two is…

Another short film review this week – Two plus Two (2+2=5) – is a film by a Turkish filmmaker, Babak Anvari.

Set in a classroom, it shows how dictatorship is created and enforced, crushing dissent and rejecting all argument. A powerful and captivating film, Two plus Two was originally shot in colour, with no musical soundtrack accompanying it.

Though still powerful and effective, the addition of music and the starkness of converting it to black and white helps to enhance an already extremely incredible story. Using children also really works, giving the situation a sense of hopelessness, as those that are most vulnerable are dominated.

Powerlessness that can be understood by the masses, conforming even when they know something is wrong. The addition of music is inspired, playing softly throughout until a critical moment of choice happens and the music is cut, waiting for the outcome.

You can compare the colour version and draw your own conclusion. I will just end this post with the interesting conundrum – what’s more important – life or freedom?

Update – the black and white version is no longer available.

Oh Anna….

Anna Akana – – is an Asian actress, comedienne, and filmmaker with a channel on YouTube that has – including me – over one million subscribers. Her viewing figures are approaching the hundred million mark and she puts out opinionated and entertaining content on a regular basis.

Her monologues to camera, generally interspersed with snappy, comedic, skits are amusing and inspired. She tends to radiate a positive vibe, evident in most of her content output and monologues to camera.

As a fellow would-be filmmaker, I am a supporter of her works and enjoy many of her skits. Unfortunately, what I am not loving are her short films and it hurts me to say that! Let me first say, they are not terrible.

They do tend to be overly female-centric (she knows a lot of women!) and mildly dramatic. They are well shot, edited and framed. The acting is good, though – and I am no actor – the material does not give them enough to invest in, so they generally look as though they are acting.

Anna directs and mostly writes all of the films. She also tends to be in them; not always the star, but in them nonetheless. She also makes a LOT of films and content! In the past year alone she has made six shorts. Six. For anyone who makes films – especially as she also directs and appears in them – this is a lot, even if they are short films.

What is really disappointing is that pretty much every film is a good or great idea. I cannot help but feel that if she had taken more time to work on the scripts and explored the ideas further, she probably would have made a stronger, more resonant film by now.

My hope is that in 2015 she paces herself a bit more so that she might put out the great short film I am sure she is capable of creating.

Interesting all at the Ball

‘A red ball bounces past a cafe and a couple folks’ houses and then goes to the beach.’ As descriptions of a film go, this probably is one of the least accurate and least likely to make you stop and watch, given it is a pretty bland premise. That would be a mistake. A short film by Daniels – Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan – ‘Interesting Ball’ almost defies explanation, suffice to say, everything in an infinite universe is possible! Encompassing five simultaneously unfolding stories, it touches real themes; love, loss, friendship, anger, shame, and presents them in a unique and unusual way. Visually arresting, every frame packed with recognisable details, whilst a Dali-esque story unfolds in them; a prank going wrong; a wrong number followed by a chase; adultery; mismatched couple on a first date and the ultimate bromance. Five stories told in a way I guarantee that, outside of drug fuelled, sleep deprived night, you have not seen the like of. Light but haunting music accompanies the film, piano keys dominating the opening forty seconds, right up to the title. From then on the music waits in the background, building through out the film as the many interwoven, yet unrelated, stories take place. Daniels have made a highly watchable and entertaining film, abstract enough to be interesting, linear enough to be understood. Definitely worth twelve minutes of your day.
Watch it –

What about the rules?

For your fledgling scriptwriter, filmmaker, auteur, there are certain precepts that are recommended. Try and avoid voiceover; don’t film conversations flat on; don’t be static. For the director, Ivan Barge and screenwriter, Matthew Harris, these loosely defined rules were obviously missed. In their seven minute short film, “Snooze Time” they happily ignore all those rules, fashioning an engaging and clever film. Following the lives of Evie and Thom, the film charts their lives from young, awkward couple to an elderly Thom being watched over by his long time, committed spouse Evie, whilst in a hospital bed. 
   To take a seven minute film and encompass five decades is some achievement. The  meticulous attention to detail and the use of the mundane, everyday activities as story momentum, is clever and inspired. The images are accompanied by a poetic voiceover, charting the passage and relentless advance of time. Justyn Pickles’ music mirrors the voice, a constant, unavoidable rhythm.
   A story about the one thing that no one can control; time. A beautifully executed and complex subject, presented in an understandable, relatable way. You will not hit the snooze button whilst watching this.

Watch it here –

That time of year.

With 2013 drawing to a close – my second short goes live 31/12/13 ‘WebSights’ – the time for reflection is upon most of us. With this being a film blog and that being the dream I am pursuing, I have been reflecting on my fledgling career as a would be filmmaker.
I don’t know if it was ignorance, lack of confidence or just that it never came to mind , but I never harboured any ambitions to direct. Strangely, it never occurred to me to, even with the ease of accessibility of technical equipment- video cameras, YouTube – to make a film. I was always about the script. I suppose, if I really think about it, there was always a sort of safety in writing, in the story not leaving the page. As long as it remains a script, the faults – over writing, flat scenes, pointless lines – can be hidden in the abstract prose that is a script.
When you make the thing and edit it, it becomes a very different beast. There is also a sense of responsibility to the other collaborators; camera, actors, friends, partner, they are all trusting you to fulfil a vision that does not make them feel as though they wasted a day of their lives!
Getting a little off topic here – reviewing the year. I made two films. My first and second film, both as DIY filmmaking school projects; just jumping in and doing it, with very little technical know, just hurtling forward with wide eyed enthusiasm. I had, somewhat ambitiously on reflection, wanted to make four short films this year, but I am happy that I got two under my belt. Not only did I get to see my own work come to life, but I also realised and learned that I like directing my own work. Whether I would feel that way on a bigger project is something for the future, but for now, everything I write, I direct.
I also learned a lot about editing and colouring! My second film was such a learning, challenging and rewarding experience. From the casting, shooting, recalling actors, brutal editing – a nine page script became a four minute film! – colouring, recolouring and recolouring, quick edit promos, it has been hard and frustrating at times, but ultimately I am happy with the results and the lessons learned. In fact I cannot wait to instigate my next project! As far as my ambition in film is concerned, 2013 was a pivotal year, showing me that it is something that I not only enjoy, but something I want to do. Now that I know I can get a film made, I can’t wait to attack 2014.