Dating Dilemmas – Production Notes

This is going to be a living document detailing thoughts and issues as the pre-production and production phases get underway

Initial version 3rd Feb 2018

Updated 15th Feb 2018

Reflections on the Production Process

Dating Dilemmas is a comedy short, part of my year 1 HND assessment.  The requirement of the HND is that the short be 5 minutes or less in length, written, produced and directed by myself, be a low to no budget film, and it must include at least two HND students in some capacity.  We are required to document the whole process, ensure we get relevant permissions, waivers and contracts signed by those taking part, and we need to deliver the finished article no later than April 20th.  There will be a screening later in the year (hopefully) to exhibit all the HND student’s films.

Script

Developing scripts is something I have always been weak at since even before failing my English O Level,  I have struggled with fictional writing – however, this is one of the skills I wanted to strengthen, so the game is afoot! (to steal a saying)

I have been working on trying to build some form of association with the characters, making the viewer almost put themselves in the shoes of the hero – so I have tried to (intentionally) leave them a little 2 dimensional, rather than fleshing out a huge backstory (plus this is a 5 minute short, and it would take 30 minutes just to design and show a true character arc for anyone)

This was also not my first choice, as the original script was written to take place in the middle of summer, and requires warm nights and dry days for the film to work.  Having discovered we need to shoot in Feb/March I had to rewrite and come up with a new topic that worked within the resources available.  The original idea was based on a storyline from a detective drama I have been working on, and I chose the “inciting incident” for one of the characters in my drama – the problem here is that this is a 2 hour pilot episode, and requires the viewer to learn details about several of the victims first, their backgrounds, their families, and to put a face to an otherwise anonymous victim.  This simply cannot be done in 5 minutes and I think it was a bad idea to even try, however with some additional tweaks I think the story could still stand on its own, and I intend to shoot some of the scenes for this storyline at the same time as shooting Dating Dilemmas, on the basis that the actors, locations and crew are the same and the additional scenes will take maybe 2 hours to shoot.

Script Breakdown

This is something I am in the process of doing currently … an interesting (and time-consuming) process

Crew

Finding the right people for each role is proving more time consuming than anything.  Just as one person agrees, another drops out due to clashes or work commitments.  Yes we’re all doing this for free and yes this is only a hobby for most, and yes we’re calling in favours from everyone, but it is still stressful! πŸ™‚

I totally understand that paid work has to come first, I just wish I could afford to pay everyone for their time.  One day I will, one day we will have proper budgets and be able to pay scale .. but not today sadly, so people drop out.  That said, people will drop out of paid work just as readily if a higher paid job comes along, or they are ill or have a family issue .. Just like running any business, your workforce is your biggest asset and your biggest headache! πŸ™‚

Storyboard

Being graphically challenged, and totally unable to even draw believable stick men, I have been struggling with the Storyboard aspect of the project.  Whilst I have a vision in my head, getting it down onto paper has been difficult.

Then I discovered Storyboarder by Wunderunit.  This tool works on MacOS and Windows (with an iPad version “in the works”) and it has helped make my life considerably easier.  I have been working with clipart/stock images to portray the look/feel of what I want from a scene.  Not perfect, but a great start – and I can annotate the images, draw lines and diagrams on top, and generally start to get my vision across.  I can also add camera shots/angles/etc to the Storyboard and even lines of dialogue to flesh out the story and help communicate it to my colleagues.

Pre-Production

Historically I would have just run and gun, perhaps with a second person to help with sound.  The Raindance way seems to be “do it like Hollywood” with a crew of 20+ and every little job split 4 ways, so even the clapper loader has an assistant to hold their pen.  I’m finding this frustrating, and even more so trying to schedule the shoot with HND students (as is the requirement for the module).  I have 8-10 actors/extras, camera equipment, location, insurance, permits, everything organised, but I can’t get two HND students to commit to a shoot date.  This is “frustrating” to say the least!

I am currently experimenting with various tools to make the project management and line production roles easier.  I started with Trello, found a Gantt chart module which didn’t work too well, found another Gantt chart module which worked better (TeamGantt) but it still isn’t quite right.

I have now moved on to StudioBinder, and this seems quite powerful, however, at $49/mo for the “Pro” version (which includes Production Calendars, etc) this is a little out of my budget currently.  Their “free” version only allows you to import 50% of your script and to have 1 project on the go at a time, and whilst I could circumvent these restrictions with cunning, I would rather not start out having to game the system just to see if the product is usable.  If it is, then I’ll be using it for the next 20 years (if they stay in business that long) and would be more than happy to pay for the service once I start to earn some money from this new skill I am developing.

Production

Permit requests have gone in and have not, so far at least, been that troublesome.  Locations have agreed to allow filming on site, and again the “Raindance” way is to get releases signed for the locations.  Whilst I can see the benefits of this, in the long run, trying to get some of these places to sign a waiver is going to scare them off more than bring them on-side, however, waivers it is – and yes I do see the wisdom in doing so.

Colour Design

I have been trying to decide a colour design for the short.  This is a comedy sketch, so it needs to be bright and fun, I am a student of action/thriller/sci-fi genre films, so coming up with a palette that embraces comedy and fun is proving challenging – especially when I don’t control the actual locations, and can’t do anything to change what we have when we get there.  The locations are grey/yellow, with cobblestones.  I am going to try and work within this.

I have stumbled across an Adobe tool to help with the Colour Palette design, which may prove useful going forwards – Adobe Color CC

 

Publicity

We have had a couple of classroom exercises on designing posters and a basic introduction to SEO and metadata.  Thankfully this is something I have some additional experience with from my day job.

We recorded an interview video about the upcoming film, my thoughts on that can be found in another post.

So far, the video has been viewed over 100 times and has definitely brought in some interest from 3rd parties.  One even stopped me at BSC Expo this week to ask how the production was going!  The power of marketing! *shudder* πŸ™‚

What Went Wrong on the day

12th Feb was day 1 of the shoot

Josh and I were on location before 8 am.  The official call time was 08:30 for crew and 8:45 for actors, the intention was to start shooting at 09:15 as we had to have all the dialogue in the can before 10 am when the Opera and Classical Music started.  There should have been ample time to get set up, mic the actors and get started.  Everyone knew we only had 2 hours at this location and that every minute counted.

This lead to the first problem as due to train problems, the two lead actors and half the crew were late.  The extras, however, were all on location ahead of their call times.

There was then a delay while costumes were sorted and actors revisited their lines (more on this below).  The long and short of it was we didn’t start filming until 9:45 which meant we didn’t get much if any of the dialogue that we needed – which is why this is now a silent movie! πŸ™‚ (yes I could ADR, but I quite like the idea of it being almost entirely without dialogue)

Everyone had been provided with copies of the “final” script at least a week in advance and were all told that there was a rewrite happening over the weekend as we were changing the ending to better tell the story.  The final script was sent out on Saturday night with the call sheets.  Unfortunately, the lead actor managed to ignore this and printed out the original draft script he had been sent a month earlier (v1.05) and not the v2.01 that he had received by email 24 hours earlier .. so he wasn’t aware of the additional lines, or the scene changes.  

I did have plenty of copies of the latest script on hand, however, that meant we burned one take when we discovered he didn’t have the lines, and then lost 10 minutes while he learned the extra scene.  Not the end of the world, but a lesson to learn.

Other issues included the script supervisor putting his script and shotlist down and them disappearing, so we ended up without an accurate shot list.  

Post Production

  • Editing
  • Foley
  • Mistakes Made?

 

Thoughts on the process

  • What have I learned?  lessons, skills, etc
  • What would I do differently if anything?

 

HND – Assignment 1 / Task 1 / Milestone 2 – Pre-production Update

Risks

  • Still waiting for proof of insurance.  We are required to demonstrate Β£10m of liability insurance in order to film on location.
  • Most locations are subject to permits and insurance.
  • One private location has not yet responded to my request, I am working on contingencies just in case

Notes

  • Pre-production planning goes apace, and permit requests have been submitted – however, approval is on hold until insurance documentation can be provided.  I first asked Raindance to provide this in November 2017, and have chased periodically since then. 
  • I have found Trello with TeamGantt to be a viable project planning tool and have used this to lay out the basics of my shooting schedule.
  • The script rewrites are ongoing, I am close to a finished script at which stage I can start planning the shots
  • My lead actors have accepted and are currently learning v 1.05 of the script whilst on holiday in Madeira at a family birthday

Reflections

I am sure I must be doing something wrong … people (other students at Raindance)  keep telling me my plans are ambitious and that my shoot is complicated.  At the same time, I look at the plan and the shoot and figure I could probably do the whole thing in an afternoon, but I’ve scheduled two whole days to do the shoot along with a bunch of contingency.  Where I think an outdoor shoot will take 5 to 10 minutes I have allowed 2 hours.  The one thing I have absolutely no control over, however, is the weather.  We need a sunny day for the outdoor scenes.  If the heavens open then we fall back to plan B and we may have to shoot some of the transit scenes either another day (I have actors booked for 12th and 13th Feb, they are also available on the 14th if necessary) – so lets just hope we don’t get downfall of biblical proportions, if it rains at all πŸ™‚

What would people think/say if I told them that for one of the scenes I have an idea to shoot in front of a green screen – now this I do think is ambitious, and may not (probably won’t) work – however I am factoring this in as my contingency and not as a must have for the story/film.  If I don’t do at least one thing a day that challenges and scares me then I am not pushing myself and I start to become complacent.

Worst case, the whole thing can be shot in my local pub’s beer garden (weather permitting), it won’t be quite as “swanky” as I would like, but I have that “rewrite” in the back of my mind if the permits either don’t come through or the cost of the permits is prohibitive.

Thankfully I have been able to secure a small amount of sponsorship/funding for this exercise, should it be necessary, however, I am keeping the powder dry on this option and holding the offer(s) in reserve for future projects.

Most of my cast has been secured, although I may need a few younger actresses for the disco scene,  I can film that with whatever talent turns up on the day (night).  Lighting day for night is something I haven’t done for a while, it shouldn’t be too difficult though – mental note, I need to try and book out the lights from Raindance … there has however been some debate about whether or not the Raindance kit is available for students to use off-site.  (At least three HND students have so far said that the kit can’t be used).  If this is the case, I can see a quick trip to a rental outlet or a last minute Amazon Prime purchase to supplement the LED lights I have currently.

My budgets are on the high side, but that’s usually how I operate.  If I put in a stupidly low figure and it is accepted then delivering is impossible.  I find it always much better to under promise and over deliver, as with budgets, always leave a surplus for next time when you can.

 

 

 

 

Digging out old Projects (Steve’s Birthday 2009)

I had long promised to take Steve (one of my life long friends from Round Table) up for a flight.

In 2009 I finally delivered on that promise, and we went for a bimble for his Birthday.

Earlier today I was digging through some old footage on one of my backup drives when I stumbled across this video “birthday card” I made for him, and thought it worth uploading for prosperity.

 

Whilst the camera is a bit shaky, you have to remember that the person holding the camera was not a professional videographer, and they were using what can best be described as a “Box Brownie” (Panasonic Lumix TZ10 if memory serves) to film things from the back seat whilst I sat in the Captain’s seat as “Pilot Flying”

Still, it was a fun day and I think (hope!) that Steve enjoyed the trip!

I guess by 2019 I need to take Steve up for another flight, and we should actually land away somewhere .. perhaps Le Touquet for lunch .. or maybe somewhere further afield like Nice or Malta!

Raindance HND – Prologue

Not long now until the start of the Raindance HND.  I suspect I will be the oldest person on the course by far, certainly in my group (Group B) although I have now met some of Group A and they seem like some really nice guys (especially Simon and Orlando!)

People are asking me why I’m doing this, as well as what is going to happen to my business(es) while I’m working on the course.  Well the answers to that are somewhat multi dimensional, but I will endeavour to clear up any potential misunderstandings or just dampen the FUD πŸ™‚

The future of websites and the internet is most certainly video.  YouTube is already the world’s second largest search engine, only eclipsed by Google – who oddly enough now own YouTube.

I think it is wise to invest in the future of the internet and future technologies early, and as such I am working to re-skill and re-tool before the flood gates open.  Now of course this is slightly selfish as video and film has been a passion of mine for many years (I think I made my first short movie when I was 8 years old on super 16mm film) … So a tad indulgent maybe, but I still maintain that it will be beneficial to the business(es) and our customers as a whole going forwards.

As for what is going to happen to the business(es) I run now (Fido/etc) – they will continue to operate just as they have done for the last 16+ years.  I am not leaving the planet, I will still be in contact daily, however I am going to be in pre-arranged “meetings” Wednesday and Thursday for most weeks until 2020.  This isn’t much different to how things have operated in the past.  I’ve operated the business whilst being in South Africa, America, France, Germany, Spain and many other Countries.  I have holidayed and the walls haven’t come tumbling down. In fact, on the whole, I’ve found the business has thrived and has hardly missed me on a day to day basis. 

Staff well being is key to a successful business.  I have been struggling to find things to keep me happy for a while now (especially since the divorce), and refocussing my energies on an HND and MA will (I think) be good for me, and as a result will be good for the company as a whole – which also means good news for customers.

I will be in London a lot more, if anything I will be closer to a number of our customers and potentially able to make meetings or perform out of hours maintenance more easily.

In summary I see this as good for Fido, good for my own mental well being and good for the future of our endeavours as just when everyone starts to say “do you think we should be doing something with video on our websites, we seem to be slipping behind the competition because they have lots of video explainers / they have a slick marketing campaign with video / etc” – I will be able to say “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!”

So don’t worry!  The Future is Bright.  The Future is still Fido! 

(and yes, I have formed a production company called “JFDI” … and yes, I do hope that it will do exactly what it says on the tin!)

JFDI

After hearing lots of “we really should make a film of this” and “we really should get started” and lots of other “really should” and “don’t know where to start” comments from friends and my thinking “for God’s sake just JFDI” I decided it was time to get involved and help out.

 

This is where JFDI (The Joint Film Development Initiative) πŸ™‚ came from. Β Instead of sitting back saying “I wish we knew how to” friends can now say “Jon we want to do this” and we have a framework and a structure to get started.

 

The idea is that we now have everything from script writing, scheduling, funding, Β a pool of Actors and locations, Directors, Producers, pre and post-production and more.

 

The chance to get out there and start doing … hopefully the chance to make that dream come true – and at least have a lot of fun while we’re doing it!

 

So if you have an idea and you don’t know where to start, get in touch and lets get that screenplay written, the shoot scheduled and start to make a movie!