The Power of Max – Sound Recordist

  • Directed by – Josh Farrell
  • DoP – Julian Deane Jon Morby
  • Boom Operator – Bamba Diop
  • Camera – (Josh’s Friend)

Josh’s shoot was the easiest to get to by far, just a mile down the road from my house.  The snow caused problems for some of the crew (notably Julian who dropped out at the last minute due to fears over trains), although Orlando made it in and he lives in the same area as Julian.

 

During the day I saw some flashes of brilliance in the directing, mainly editing in camera (which I think Josh’s friend, who is also editing this, had guided Josh on in their rehearsal a week earlier).

There were some logistical issues in Josh’s kitchen due to a huge centre console, however, we worked around them.

As Julian pulled out at the last minute, Josh asked me to step in and act as DoP/Cinematographer, which I was more than happy to do.  

We got to use fairy lights, and Josh’s redheads which he’d acquired on eBay a week earlier.  

I brought my sound gear, including my brand new Rode NTG4+ which I had literally only taken delivery of the day before (Julian had been scheduled to bring boom pole and an NTG2)

The shoot went well, it seemed like a cast of thousands, all very well choreographed and scheduled.

 

Hat tip to Josh, with rehearsing the week before, and pulling in some professionals to steer the ship whilst also employing several HND students, the whole thing went very well and was a fun shoot to be on.

Lenore – DoP/Camera

  • Directed by – Julian Deane
  • DoP / Camera – Jon Morby
  • Sound Recordist – Alex (who left due to allergies) and Jon Morby
  • Boom Operator – Bamba Diop
  • 1st AD – Josh Farrell?
  • Script Supervisor – Josh Farrell?
  • Grips – Sammy OA, Hamed and Orlando Bryant

Lenore was the first of the student shoots, Julian had managed to sneakily schedule his shoot as an overnight shoot the weekend before my 1st day of shooting in Covent Garden … it was going to be “fun” doing an all night shoot, having Sunday to recover and then going straight into a 2 x 12 hour day shoot for my own project, however, I had agreed to assist, so here I am! 🙂

Rush hour traffic through Wimbledon was fun, and once there, finding Julian’s mansion was a little difficult, however, we were soon there and went through a quick briefing.  I will commend Julian on his preparation work, and the storyboards which his mother had drawn up.  All very professional.

 

I did originally think Julian had gone a little overboard with the equipment rental, including two 2k HMIs in the back garden, a Black Magic Ursa, as well as his own kit (Redheads, Strobes, etc), however by the end of the night we had raided the boot of my car for additional LED panels as Julian actually didn’t have enough lights to complete the scene as he had wanted it.  Thankfully, I had packed lights, camera, reflectors, etc just in case (what self-respecting DP turns up to a shoot empty-handed?!)

The shoot went reasonably well, although the sound recordist had a serious allergy to cats which meant he didn’t stay for long, the other help Julian had been promised from the local school failed to turn up, so I doubled up as sound as well as camera and lights for the night.  I did miss one reflection, which is annoying, especially as we can’t pretend it is moonlight due to the angle / position of the windows vs the picture that is reflecting the light.

Owing to the size and nature of Julian’s shoot, we really could have benefited from walkie-talkies for communication.  As it was I was cueing strobe effects on a countdown (3 …  – silent 2, 1) … and in the latest rough assembly, you can hear me shouting to the lighting guys outside … you can also hear the strobes “beep” as Julian had been unable to turn off their alarms, however, this should all be fixed when Julian completes the sound design and foley.

All in all, a well-run shoot … Craft services were acceptable, made all the better by Orlando bringing some hot food from Pret which he prepared lovingly in the kitchen during the lunch break.

Momentum – Sound Recordist

  • Directed by Sammy OA
  • 1st AD – Ana
  • DoP – Julian Deane
  • Camera Asst – Josh Farrell
  • Sound – Jon Morby
  • Boom Op – Bamba Diop
  • Runner – Arabella

Today I was co-opted onto Sammy’s shoot as a sound recordist, working with Bamba on boom.

The shoot went reasonably well, although everything did seem a little haphazard and it felt like no-one (including the 1st AD) really knew what was going on.  

Sammy chose to steal a few shots early on that weren’t on his shot list as we were waiting for crew to arrive, and we then found ourselves running behind before lunch.

The shot list, such as it was, was numbered in the most random and confusing way I have ever seen, with shots labelled as 1.1.a.iii and so on … Boy were we confused! 🙂

Sammy stole 15-20 minutes from lunch which started to get things back on track, and by the end of the day, we were pretty much on schedule.

There seemed to be some friction between the DP and his AC (different AC, but again??!) however Josh coped with this pretty admirably and didn’t let it get on top of him.

The location was Sammy’s house, plus a park just down the road.  The internal location was so confined / cramped that we couldn’t always have everyone in the room when needed, and on occasion, I had to assist Julian by making lighting changes or lense changes as either Josh couldn’t get through the bedroom door, or Julian couldn’t get from behind the camera to the lights.

It was also worth noting that Sammy/Julian didn’t allow enough batteries for the shoot and ended up having to borrow my Canon 60D to complete the shoot.  Fortunately, I always have 3 batteries and a mains adapter with that camera … and quite fortuitously I had decided to take that with me rather than the GH5 in case they needed any BTS footage.  As it was, Sammy hadn’t thought about BTS, but as I was now camera-less, I ended up taking what few BTS photos I did manage to take using my iPhone (oh the shame!) 🙂

Charity Beer Festival Promo Video

 

The assignment was to produce a promotional video for a client, either Raindance or an agreed alternative which needs to be approved by the tutor in advance.

 

After discussions with the tutor, it was agreed I could create a promotional video for Bushey and Oxhey Round Table’s (BORT) Charity Beer Festival.  I have long had an association with BORT, and have been involved with their beer festival since the inception in 2007 and it seemed right that a charity should benefit if possible.

Traditionally, being charity affairs, Beer Festivals rarely have the funding for professional promotional efforts and are instead at the mercy of the best efforts provided by volunteers.   As can be seen, by the examples below, these are not always the most professional (or stabilised) of productions.  It also seems that, apart from North Leeds, Harrogate and Chester – there are barely any promotional videos out there.

 

BORT is no different, and to date has only been able to make use of posters and word of mouth marketing.  It has been my goal to change this, and in both 2016 and 2017, I attended the festivals, with camera in hand, to record some footage to use for promotional videos.  Sadly, time and resources meant that, until today, I have been unable to actually complete the task.

The traditional format appears to be to create the video much like a TV news segment, with lower thirds and reporter style commentary.

And sometimes, the festivals do make local news channels – such as “StaffsLive” – Staffordshire University’s media channel created by their BA and MA students.

 

 

The videos seem to be, on the whole, considerably longer than the 1-minute segment requested for this assignment.  North Leeds Festival have posted 30+ minute videos showing the festivities including live music, drinking, competitions and more.  Several of the videos I’ve seen were incredibly shaky, handheld, iPhone footage filmed from the back of a crowd.  The few things they all have in common are Live Music, Beer and of course “fun” whilst emphasising the charity nature of the festival.

 

Having been involved in the Beer Festival for many years, and in fact having been Chairman of Bushey & Oxhey Round Table for a total of 6 years (6 festivals), I have a fair knowledge of the workings of the festival and the “client requirements” which meant that, apart from running through a basic checklist, I only needed to spend the bare minimum of time in research phase.

My checklist went along the lines of

  • Highlight the charity nature of the festival
  • Make sure Round Table is seen in a good light
  • Ensure the current Round Table branding is utilised
  • Ensure the current Ladies Circle branding is utilised
  • Round Table is a young man’s organisation (18-45), try to ensure that the portrayed demographic includes the younger generation
  • Highlight the live music aspect
  • Highlight the ciders – it is more than just a beer festival
  • Highlight the association with Ladies Circle (this wasn’t possible in the 1-minute time frame, although should be possible in a 90 second or 2-minute promo)
  • Arrange interviews with other stakeholders (this was impractical in the initial time frame due to the loss of 3 weeks with laryngitis).
  • Make something which can be re-used each year
  • Ensure that the venue (The Three Crowns) is seen in a favourable light
  • Highlight that the event is one for all the family, child-friendly beer garden, etc
  • BBQ food on offer throughout the weekend, as well as the usual restaurant menu.

At least for the milestone, I have been unable to arrange interviews with the Ladies Circle Chair/committee.  A mixture of snow and illness (both myself and the ladies) meant that interviews have been cancelled on more than one occasion so far.  I am hoping to be able to conduct the interviews and include them in a longer edit prior to the April 26th submission deadline, however, the 1-minute version is unlikely to change much and is already “packed” so adding content may prove counterproductive.

I will consider doing a Ladies Circle specific version, as well as a joint/co-branded version as the project develops.

 

Stylistic Design

I chose to run a voice over / commentary by the landlord as he talks about the historic nature of the venue, coupled with images of the beer garden, people relaxing and having fun.  We highlight the live music, as well as the large selection of real ales and ciders that are available, without naming any specific brands.  We show young men standing around, laughing, having fun, whilst also showing the older generation in an unhurried an unrushed environment, enjoying a half a cider.  

The festival covers 3 days, and is a joyful, family experience.  Unrushed, unpressured and it was important to encompass this in the visuals.

We show members of Ladies Circle working behind the bar, as well as the young members of Round Table.  We show a local dignitary turning up for a beer, paying for the beer, and then being invited behind to pour his own beer (used for press coverage after the fact).

What would I do differently?

As with all charity productions, you are limited by a volunteer’s available time.  If this were a commercial presentation, being paid for by a company, then the company would be more invested in the production and they would make their staff available (paid and during office hours) to record the necessary interviews or b-roll.  In this instance, we were hampered by the fact people needed to work during the day, were only available on certain evenings, and then these dates having to be postponed at the last minute due to illness.

 

The brief was for a snappy, 1 minute, delivery.  The content itself doesn’t really lend itself well to a 1-minute slot.  The whole idea of the beer festival is to spend a relaxing weekend chilling, not a hectic/frantic visit. 

There are issues to consider regarding the advertisement of alcohol, ensuring that we do not promote over drinking or binge drinking.  There is a voluntary code, as well as legal requirements which need to be adhered to.  In this case, I have erred on the side of caution and steered away from any direct marketing of any alcoholic drinks or brands.

For television, the slots would be 15-seconds or 30-seconds and would follow a simpler, more prescribed format – this said, the 30-second advert slot is now effectively dead [1][2], instead, being replaced by 6-second “bumpers” and skippable infomercials advertising products online (Google, etc).

Feedback and Peer Review

We went through a peer review session in class.  Comments related to the placement of the mic on the talent (done this way to avoid pops that we were experiencing), and about a transition at the end of the video – now covered.

There was also a lot of uncertainty about what is Round Table .. something the organisation as a whole does need to combat, however not something for this brief.  Fortunately, our target audience in Bushey is familiar with Bushey Round Table as we do a lot to promote our presence in the community.  Nationally the organisation really does need to do more to promote itself I agree.

Other than that, the feedback related to poor audio due to the quality of the Raindance speakers, and some confusion about whether this was promoting a beer festival, a music festival, or Round Table.  The answer was _all of the above_ so I guess it had the desired effect and brought in those who would prefer music and those who would prefer beer.  Only one respondent said that they would not attend the beer festival, simply because they do not drink alcohol.

References

  1. Time is running out for the 30-second advert, The Guardian
  2. Time runs out for the 30-second Television ad, The Financial Times

Project Santana – Post mortem

And so ends a rather hectic couple of weeks as I work on the final edit of Dating Dilemmas, part of my trilogy of short films as part of the Raindance HND and associated projects.

 

Day One

  • Director Jon Morby
  • DP Julian Deane Mihaela Obreja
  • Camera Mihaela Obreja
  • 1st AD Orlando Bryant
  • Script Supervisor Josh Farrell
  • Runner Fillipa Sebom
  • Photographer Tomas MH 

Extras

  • Anette Martensen
  • Angela Prince
  • Ian Macnaughton
  • Tomas MH
  • Fillipa Sebom

Lead Actors

  • Gin Mar
  • Dima Sol

 

  • Location 1: The Crusting Pipe
  • Locaton 2: Covent Garden Market

 

Day One was a shoot in Covent Garden Market.  I wanted this location for the bar scene (Dating Dilemmas) and also an engagement scene (Guardian Angel and the Raindance Valentines short film competition), and had written the scripts with these locations in mind.   I also (mistakenly it seems) thought that choosing a Central London location would have meant everyone could get there easily and without too much hassle on a Monday morning).

During the peer review phase at the end of last year, I had been told in no uncertain terms that my ideas were far too ambitious and that my script (Loves Tragedy – which since became Guardian Angel – 1/3 of the total project) was a £20,000 – £30,000 budget needing a huge cast of extras and multiple days to shoot.  I had always felt that this was, in fact, a relatively simple shoot which could be accomplished in the main with some basic “run and gun” techniques .. and after being told how impossible it was all going to be, I was left motivated to prove everyone wrong.  I knew there would be certain challenges, but at the end of the day, what is the point in doing something if it doesn’t help you grow.  If I wanted to spend the day in a daze, almost half asleep and bored, then I would have stayed in the office! 🙂

Permissions were obtained with relative ease from The Crusting Pipe (one phone call, “You want to film? When? How many? Sure, not a problem.  Just be aware that CapCo can be funny.” … and CapCo (Capital and Counties) who simply needed a RAMS (Risk Assessment and Method Statement), copies of the shooting schedule, a floor plan and copies of my Public Liability insurance.  The latter took the longest to arrange as we believed Raindance were going to cover the insurance, only to find out (after 4 months of asking) that we were, in fact, going to need to arrange our own – which I did through BECTU with the minimum of fuss.  The only problem ended up being that CapCo wanted £500/hour for film shoots with a crew of more than 5.  As a result, I had to do some creative juggling and ended up with a skeleton crew when in “CapCo Territory” and a large crew within the Crusting Pipe (as there were multiple permissions/domains).

Finding actors was relatively easy as I had already half written the script with a couple of friends (professional actors) in mind and when they read the script(s) they jumped at the role.  Finding the extras was a little harder, however, Anette Martinsen (professional actor and producer by day) soon made light work by roping in her son (Tomas MH – also a professional actor) and his girlfriend Filippa Sebom (yet another actor) to fill the gaps and she also volunteered as a runner for the day.  Tomas is also a photographer so he doubled up by providing BTS coverage over the two days.

 

The 1st AD was really busy planning their own shoot, so I ended up doing all of the scheduling and call sheets myself.   To this end, I found an online application called StudioBinder which for about $40/mo gives me all I need for planning and script breakdowns.  

My DoP / Camera Operator emailed me Sunday night  (11 hours before the shoot) to say that he was going to be unable to attend, and was terribly sorry for letting me down at the last minute.  I had to act quickly and managed to find a friend who, whilst having limited camera experience, was willing to take on the job and who wasn’t working the following morning as she was a school teacher, and it was half term.

What I hadn’t planned for was my leading actors turning up over an hour late due to problems with the trains.  The extras were all early, the crew (except for the 1st AD who was also delayed due to trains) were early, and we were sat around for some time waiting with the clock ticking.  When the leading actors did finally arrive, the 90-minute window we had to shoot all the dialogue scenes had become 20 minutes (we were against the clock as there are scheduled musical performances every 45 minutes from 10 am in the public areas which meant we would lose sound).  I knew of this, had planned for it, and as we only needed to record 5 lines of dialogue in total, it should not have been a problem.  Famous last words!

The crew worked quite well, however, the 1st AD really didn’t seem to know what his role entailed and rather than being my right hand, dealing with queries and organising things as per the schedule, they were rarely there when needed, and at one point they even managed to actually pick up the sound recorder and walked around with it recording in their pocket for an hour rather than having it hidden on set for backup audio/ambience.

The team at the venue (The Crusting Pipe) were amazing, and even provided a boardroom/large dining room for our exclusive use throughout the day, so we had somewhere secure to locate the kit, for actors to chill in between takes, change, do makeup, etc.

The morning’s shoot overran by an hour, due to the late start, and we then decamped to Pizza Express for lunch.  This was the most costly part of the entire day (in fact the only cost) and lunch for the cast/crew of 12 came in at £122 after a healthy discount thanks to the NUS discount of 40%.

In the afternoon we based ourselves at Raindance HQ and filmed a short “scene of crime” incident near Charing Cross Station as part of my second short (Guardian Angel).  This was the most “fluid” part of the day as this scene was still being rewritten over the weekend and wasn’t finalised until early Monday morning.  

Again there was some confusion, the 1st AD seemed more interested in being in the crowd scenes than co-ordinating the extras, the cyclist, as a result, kept missing his queues (or going early) and each time we had to reset there was a 9-minute wait for traffic flows to be “perfect”. 

During the CPR scene, several passers-by stopped, some thinking it was real, some realising that we were in fact filming – I did have some members of the crew with High Viz jackets (which resulted in some reflections in glass that the camera op didn’t spot), and we had put up some signs to say “Filming” – although they weren’t the most visible of signs I will admit.

The entire shoot wrapped at 4:30pm, some 2 hours ahead of schedule, which meant we had made up a lot of time in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, there were some issues with one of the final shots (high vis jacket reflections in phone boxes, etc), and I may have to go back and shoot some pickup shots when the weather improves (so far on the two occasions we have planned to do this so far, snow has been forecast for the Sunday/Monday).

 

We then decamped back to my car, which had been parked in the NCP at Covent Garden, only to find that someone had smashed the rear window and stolen my laptop, LED lights and a number of other essentials which were going to be needed for the following day’s shoot.

Problems on the day included the script supervisor losing their copy of the script and all of his notes, the 1st AD being sidetracked performing the duties of the runner, despite our actually having a runner on set, and issues with the viability of sound due to the late start, plus of course the theft from my car  in the evening.

Another major issue was with the release forms.  I specifically tasked the 1st AD with getting every single person on set to sign a release form.  Of the 11 people who should have signed a form, only 4 release forms were actually signed/returned.  This left me running around for a week trying to locate the various cast and crew members and getting them to sign forms after the fact.

 

Day 2 was therefore postponed while I dealt with the theft.  

 

Day 2 – second attempt.

  • DP Julian Deane 
  • Camera Mihaela Obreja
  • 1st AD Josh Farrell
  • 2nd AD Orlando Bryant
  • Script Supervisor Josh Farrell
  • Photographer Tomas MH
  • Boom Operator Bamba Diop

The guys at Production Gear – www.productiongear.co.uk – were amazing.  When they heard about the theft of my lighting kit, they stepped in and offered me free use of anything I needed from their showroom.  This meant that we ended up having considerably better quality lights on set than were originally stolen.  They also loaned Rode microphones, batteries and other assorted tech.  My hat is off to these guys, they are absolute diamonds!

Day 2 was set aside to shoot the internal scenes for “Dating Dilemmas”.  This was my backup script, written when everyone dumped on me saying how “Loves Tragedy” wouldn’t work, couldn’t work and was generally worse than anything created by Tommy Wiseau.  It also plays nicely into an extended/alternative edit for Project Santana, which I am hoping to put together in due course.

The final location we shot in was not my first (or even second) choice, however, we had lost the primary location due to concerns over how the landlord might react to a film crew turning up, the secondary location had a water leak and the builders were in, and a third location pulled at the last minute when they read the script (turns out she was a vegan!) 🙂  The lead actors volunteered their apartment, and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I knew we could make it work – even if it was south of the water and a nightmare to get to by car.

This time it was my turn to be late to set, stuck in traffic, and having to deal with mechanical issues with one of the cars we were using to transport the lights, camera, props, etc.

My DP (Julian) was this time able to make the shoot (he lived 6 miles down the road in Wimbledon, so didn’t have far to travel), however as we were a) shooting a number of bedroom scenes with a half-naked female actress and b) I still wasn’t 100% certain we would see Julian on this shoot either, I had asked my friend Mihaela (who has attended the Raindance Cinematography course and was keen to flex the muscles while the course is still fresh in her head) to be Camera Op and help with lighting if Julian was again awol.  This, I think, was the precursor to the problems which ensued later on.

Julian did make it, as did Mihaela, and unbeknown to me (initially) there was some friction between the two.  I was, at this stage, more focussed on the fact that I needed the room to be dressed in a certain way, and that I wanted the whole thing shot with the mirrored wardrobe out of shot.  Julian, on the other hand, was insistent that he could shoot the whole thing through the reflection in the mirror.  The Camera Operator also felt that this was a bad idea, and demonstrated repeatedly how the angles were impossible.  I kept saying how the lighting was impossible (we didn’t have enough of it, the dynamic range of the camera wasn’t sufficient, and besides which, it screwed up my entire screen grammar which I had carefully planned out).  We lost just over an hour going through this and the set dressing.

Shortly before lunch, after the issue between the DP and the Camera Operator had been brought to my attention, I stepped in, had a quiet word with both of them, and things seemed to improve in the afternoon.

The shoot went reasonably well, we got all the shots I had planned, although many of them as one-shots rather than 8 short inserts.  I had the inserts planned so I knew we had something to fall back on, and to highlight the coverage we needed, to ensure that we had all the key points covered.  It wasn’t until the following day that I discovered Julian hadn’t properly attached the XLR audio adapter to the camera rig, which meant that the adapter sometimes moved and we ended up picking up audio from the onboard microphones, rather than the boom mic which was plugged into the XLR adapter. 🙁 (and neither the DoP or the camera op were monitoring the sound as they should have been) – the quality of the remote monitor sound was generally bad, so whilst I could hear what was going on through the headphones I couldn’t discern the actual quality.

The kitchen scene was probably the most problematic due to the size of the room, the fact that the fridge/freezer kept making noises, and worse the boiler kept kicking in and we couldn’t turn either of them off.

The Edit

For the purpose of the HND first short assignment, I am submitting Dating Dilemmas, a short (tongue in cheek/satirical) comedy which pokes fun in the direction of vegans.

Editing this has been interesting.  Dealing with the foley, cleaning the audio, trying to do ADR on the missing audio, editing, dealing with bugs in the editing software (the SMS conversations randomly corrupt and the text fails to render) are all eating into what should have been a relatively simple edit process, but it is still quite enjoyable.

 

Lessons Learned

Working with the HND team is great fun, it is wonderful to work with like-minded and spirited individuals that are keen to learn and create.  This does also lead to some problems, however, as whilst I am used to working with professionals who have man management, project management and time management skills in my day job, the students are still quite inexperienced in these areas, and I sometimes forget and expect them to deliver more than they know how to.  I need to step back, allow more time to ensure I can monitor their performance and mentor them where necessary – and as a result, not expect to get as much done in a day as I could potentially do with a more experienced team at my side.

 

As a result, I need to allow more time for the shoot.   I also could have spent more time on set rehearsing with the actors.  We had spent several weeks talking online about the characters and performance, however, most of the focus had been on Guardian Angel rather than Dating Dilemmas, and there were some definite issues with the tempo of the performance on the day, which I didn’t pick up until I viewed the rushes the following day.

I am thinking we could perhaps make a “making of” movie, a little like “Disaster Artist” perhaps.  Certainly, there seems to have been enough drama on set/behind the camera to warrant a short movie!

I am definitely used to working at Mach-1 and have, over the last 20+ years, worked in teams where I am usually one of the slower team members.  I am sure that the guys will learn the roles, and know what is expected of them quickly, and we will be back to that situation in no time.  In the meantime, I need to be a little more patient, a little more observant and be prepared to mentor more.  

 

Other things of note. Whilst I did meet with Josh and discussed the shoot ahead of Day 2 (where he took over as 1st AD), I think additional crew meetings with all “heads of department” before the shoot would have been beneficial.  

 

In addition, we really needed a kit wrangler. One person/team whose sole responsibility is to check the kit in/out and make sure everything ended up in the right box/bag, and that everything we brought to location actually leaves location at the end. 

 

On completion of day 2’s shoot  we lost (left at the location, so I need to return to collect) a radio alarm clock, a mirror, and a hot shoe cover from the GH5. 

 

 

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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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* 🙂

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! 🙂 (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 £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 🙂

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.

 

 

 

 

HND Term 2 SWOT Analysis Update

This week we had to record interviews around our upcoming short films, my no holds barred reflective blog post on that process has just been uploaded.

We have been tasked with updating our SWOT and SMART goals

 

My original SMART goals were

Short – By 15th Oct – sign up for a Raindance short class

Medium – By 15th Dec – produce a short video blog about my holiday

Long – By 1st June  – Make a short film of at least 5 minutes duration

My short term goal was easily achieved as I had signed up for several courses that week and I have now completed all of those courses (I do need to attend the foundation course on Visual FX as this clashed with Mexico). 

My medium term goal is a little behind schedule, mainly because I ended up taking two holidays, and the first holiday included 3 days of illness, coupled with an admission to hospital in Mexico with food poisoning.  I am hoping to have that blog post completed within the next few weeks now that I am back from a month of R&R in South Africa.  On a positive note, it was nice to be able to spend some quality time with my mum.  I don’t see her anywhere near as often as I should, and having lost my father unexpectedly to cancer in 2013 (having seen him and mum a total of roughly 15 days in the previous 10 years) I want to try to make sure I don’t miss the chance and opportunity to re-connect / spend my entire life buried in work.

The Long Term goal is still on track, although the HND submission deadline is April 20th … hopefully I won’t miss this one! 🙂

Updated goals have been requested as follows

short term 13 Jan
medium term 9 Feb
long term 30 Mar

 

On the basis of limited time, and practicality, I can only really say that my short-term goal will be to have this blog post completed (it is already the 14th Jan at 5 am, so I’m behind on that one) – however as I only have Wed/Thu and Sunday scheduled to work on HND topics, due to “real world” pressures of a day job and running 3 companies, I am still within my own timeframes.

 

Medium Term I will again aim for a completed blog post on my travel exploits.  The footage is finally downloading from cameras and storage devices, and I am starting to think about a script which will tell the story of the trip(s) in a light-hearted and fun way.

 

Long Term, 30th March does not feel like long term, to be honest, and had I not written down the dates from Patricia’s presentation, I would have been certain that I had, in fact, got these dates wrong and that 9th Feb should be short term, 30th March medium term and September long term .. but hey ho.

 

By 30th March I will have hopefully worked out what my short film is going to be about, will have shot the whole thing, and be in the final throws of an edit ready to submit the finished work before the April 20th deadline.

I do already have a project plan, shooting schedule and I have actors lined up (2 leading actors and 5-6 extras) based on my original script(s), however, most of this revolves around locations – which includes some ambitious permit requests – these are being submitted to Westminster Council and the managing agents for Covent Garden.  If the permits aren’t approved (I will find out in another 2-3 weeks) or come back with any financial implications/requirements, then I am definitely on the back foot and working on a plan C (plan B already having been initiated due to the confusion over script design and shooting schedules – First off we’re told to write a script and don’t worry about any restrictions or limitations; then when we’ve done that we’re told we have to film it in Jan/Feb despite my script being set outdoors in the summer – because no-one thought to say “write a script that you can film in Jan/Feb 2018”, and despite the whole issue of the locations the script is set in being heavily permitted locations).

I personally think the initial script writing exercise could have been better explained.  However, it is what it is (and the rest of this paragraph has been redacted).

My SWOT Analysis hasn’t changed much (although I have added more threats), I don’t feel as though I have (as yet) developed any new skills, and as yet I have not really managed to resolve any of my weaknesses, although I do feel I am mellowing a little (learning to vent here rather than bottling up my frustrations) towards other people’s lack of planning/forethought and am taking that more in my stride and just getting on regardless, so maybe I am growing after all? 🙂

 

 

HND – Reflections – Short Film Interviews

Jon talks about Dating Dilemmas, his new short film

 

Term two and we were once again tasked with filming interviews with fellow classmates about our upcoming short films.

This is the second interview task, and we have been asked to reflect on how things went compared to the interviews we conducted in week one of the HND course.

The lighting and setup phase went quite smoothly, and we worked reasonably well as a team.  The initial setup had myself flagged as DP which made life a lot easier as I was able to guide set style and design, and we were also now able (allowed) to use lights and also sound equipment – which meant there was a chance for better production quality.

However, despite my repeated appeals, we were not allowed to record reverses, so the audio production quality is only roughly 50% better than it was before.  The consensus was that we were going to film over the shoulder – although when that decision was made and the lighting designed, we had not appreciated that Patricia was going to deny us the option of shooting the interviewer asking the questions; either with a second camera (which whilst being available was then allocated to behind the scenes shots) or using the single camera as pickup shots.  Not the end of the world, however I still found it frustrating as we were again hampered and limited for the sake of “simplicity”.  We were also instructed very specifically to film the interviews in black and white – something I double checked and asked for clarification on, as again that instruction wasn’t in the written brief, it was casually mentioned at the last second as we were heading out to collect the equipment.  Thankfully I caught this instruction, as when shooting in black and white, you need to light for black and white – you can’t (shouldn’t) “fix it in post” as some people would try to do (something I picked up from Zoran Veljkovic on the Cinematography course last year).

Also, this time, we worked as a single team (with a single set), as opposed to being split into three teams and sent to the arse end of Raindance to try and find a location to film with a mix of iPhones and a D700 (which for my group meant being sent up onto the street in term one and having to contend with a lot of passers by walking through shots and in/out of Raindance HQ mid sequence. (although at least we had half decent/natural light to play with) 🙂

It was nice to see how the group as a whole has developed, and how we were able to work together and not get under each other’s feet, we all knew and understood our roles (which rotated for each of the 6 recordings), and we all had a lot of fun in the process.

Personally, I didn’t overly enjoy being interviewed .. partly because I had not really had any time to prepare or rehearse (while others were thinking about how to answer the questions, I was working on set dressing, lighting and framing for the shots), and partly because even at this stage, I’m not all that sure what the film is going to be about, having had to change my story/script at the last minute to fit in with the shooting and submission schedule (my original idea is set in July/August and revolves heavily around it being summer .. with mild evenings and early sunshine)

My finished interview (shot in one take) will appear below once editing has been completed

Having watched the recordings and edited the above video, I am reminded about how totally exhausted and ill-prepared I was by the time it came to be my turn in front of the camera, having been running around dressing and designing the set, then acting as DP, Director and interviewer before suddenly finding myself in the hot seat, and conscious that we were already 25 minutes behind schedule when it came time to record my piece.  I hadn’t had a chance to run through the answers to the questions or even really think about them, beyond the 5 minutes that morning where I had to come up with answers for a new film, not being the one I have been working on for the last 3 months, but one I have spent about 20 minutes designing.

One of the questions was “why do you feel the film should be made NOW” … My honest answer to that was “because we need to have something to hand in for the assignment” … No real social motivation or desire, despite my attempts at saying something about “a social commentary of the time”.

 

Oh and the sound quality (recorded with a boom mic) is actually almost as bad as the audio from the camera 🙁

 

… It is what it is … or rather it was what it was will probably end up on my gravestone (a la Spike Milligan’s “I told you I was ill”) … uneventful and mediocre (hopefully just the film, and not my contribution to society as a whole!) 🙂

 

Oh and I tried to create closed captions in Premiere .. that didn’t go quite to plan as the srt file Premiere generated had a lot of HTML style markup in, which YouTube did not appreciate … so I had to export the whole thing as a text file, search and replace all the HTML and then re-upload.

I did not enjoy the captioning process … that I found decidedly tedious 🙁

 

Update – We spent the afternoon on Wednesday learning about “click bait” .. and I have now set up a second (more professionally edited) video with an array of subtitles and a “sexy” thumbnail image, optimised SEO.  Lets see how that does over the next few weeks/months.  Final version below

Jon talks about Dating Dilemmas, his new short film

 

I have also setup a website for the film and started working on the poster / artwork – click the image below to be taken to the new website – although I definitely need to work on the WordPress layout / presentation before this goes “public”

 

HND – Script Development Process – Dec 2017

The recent development review process has been an interesting experience, opening up your early drafts to review is I guess always going to be a painful and enlightening experience.

The feedback has been both harsh and constructive, as I somehow anticipated.

What people didn’t seem to pick up on was that this is a drama masked as a morality tail using reverse psychology to bring attention to mental illness and the plight of the homeless in London.  It is intended to shock on some levels, and fundamentally to make the viewer think and to feel something (anything) about the subject at hand.

The script is actually a condensed extract from a crime drama series I have been working on over the last few months, and this I think was picked up by at least one of the reviewers.  This being one episode, or possibly a doubleheader pilot introducing our hero detective.  

My original idea for this story was borne from early mornings sat outside Raindance’s London offices in the late summer, waiting for the doors to be unlocked.  Witnessing the homeless going through their motions in the morning, and I did indeed witness (sadly, on more than one occasion) members of the community dropping their trousers and defecating/urinating in the middle of the pedestrian area outside Boots and Next.  What was worse, one morning someone had diarrhoea and that left a lake that ran down the street, around the corner and into the space where another person was still sleeping.  Not pleasant, but part of a morning routine which seemed to repeat on a regular basis.  My describing this event seems to have made at least one reviewer extremely uncomfortable; however it was not made up, it was based on real events.

My intention with this story was actually to highlight the plight of the homeless and to make the audience think.  My main characters are intentionally 2 dimensional as they are not the real focus of the story, but they are written sufficiently that anyone in the audience could identify with them and perhaps consider themselves in that position.  Wealthy, in love, and spending a nice weekend in London.

I tried a simple “save the cat” of getting Roger to give £20 to a homeless person by way of showing “he’s not all that bad” and perhaps getting people to think “he’s better than me; I wouldn’t drop £20 just like that” – but also to highlight how for these 2 dimensional people, money isn’t really something they think or care about.  This seems to have been missed by everyone who read the script.

The inciting incident then leads to the character experiencing a mental breakdown/depression – again something which we simply do not talk about enough.  Grief can have an adverse effect on anyone, it can unhinge the most stable of people.

We end up seeing Roger now destitute and feeling as though he has nothing to live for.  He has left the trappings of his wealth behind and is now sitting on the side of the road, at the place where his love was killed, and he is no longer in control of his destiny.  Struggling to come to terms with what has happened, we see the onset of mental illness and grief at the loss of a loved one.  Having experienced depression and grief at a betrayal/loss myself, I know what it feels like to wake up one morning and suddenly find your own world turned upside down.  Having experienced suicidal thoughts, guilt at surviving and the feeling of trying to find someone/anyone to blame you do some totally irrational things.  Thankfully I had good friends and family who are helping me overcome my grief and try to start living my life again.

The shorts migration into a slasher movie wasn’t my main intention, I actually wanted to leave the audience to decide what they would do next/simply fade to black.  After an earlier review of log lines with Zulf I ended up putting the “slasher” element (from the detective drama) back in, but I’m not happy with it as it stands myself in the short.  For the crime drama, this is the inciting incident which leads to a “Jack the Ripper” style murder spree across London, where someone targets the homeless – London’s most vulnerable inhabitants – and we follow the Police as they initially ignore the problem and then eventually step up and start to investigate the issues, again highlighting how the homeless are treated as second-class citizens.  In the pilot episode, it comes towards the end as we are finally introduced to the murderer and we learn why he has been killing, his misguided search for revenge.  In the short, I don’t think it is necessary and I don’t think it works.

The references to litter and likening tramps to litter is intentionally “provoking” and meant to shock the audience, to make them think, to make them go out and notice the homeless and hopefully do something to help them.  For far too long, the homeless have been ignored and are treated as a scourge.  Our Government doesn’t do enough to help them, and I think people, on the whole, ignore the homeless and walk past them daily on the streets without giving a second thought.  The intention was to make the viewer think about this (in)action and, perhaps, stop and help the next homeless person they see, maybe with a donation, a hot cup of coffee, or even a letter to the local MP demanding the Government step up and do more (and more than just making it illegal to beg on the streets).

From the very outset I have said that I do not think this story can be made into a 5 minute short, but I have been encouraged to work on it – whether this is as an exercise to experience failure, or whether an exercise to try to bring the best out and find a way to make it happen I’m not sure.

There was mention of high concept budgets in the feedback and comments that this would cost at least £30,000 to film, needing lots of extras.  I, on the other hand, thought that this short could actually be filmed for £500-£1000 (and probably a lot less if we switch from The Savoy as that is likely to be the largest expense).  This, of course, relies on the “student” film approach of £0 cost in salaries, a small budget for craft services and a lot of guerilla filmmaking.

Where do I go now?  I don’t think this will work for a 5 minute short.  Not with the resources, time and budgets we actually have available – which includes the weather and the fact that I had relied on capturing the real homeless of London in the film.  If it could be sold to Shelter as part of an awareness campaign then perhaps we could get some funding, but I don’t think they will be happy with the negative imagery of the homeless, even though it is intended to shock viewers into action.

I have an alternative “comedy” script, although I can guarantee that this will inflame and infuriate feminists and vegans alike.  I think no matter what I do on this project, I’m going to offend someone .. but then at the same point, are we not mean to make people think and to garner a reaction?  If everything we did was “warm and fluffy and sweet” then we would all be Disney and there would be no shade, just light – which would be pretty damn boring don’t you think?