Way back in the hazy late summer of 2013, myself and the Giant Dwarf crew decamped to Stoke Bruene to work on a short film project, a period piece set when the sixties swung and university lecturers were (apparant) lotharios. Conceived and written by Lisa Ronaghan, John and Jane was the most professional shoot I’ve worked on yet, from the calibre of the actors involved to the sheer size of the crew. There were three of us on camera, leaving James free to direct, whilst the dedicated audio team ensured the best sound quality of any production I’ve been part of (well, except maybe this one, but apples and oranges…). We even had a runner, and as always when everyone only has one set job to focus on, we were able to get the best results. The fine selection of pastries helped as well, I won’t lie…
I know that post-production became a protracted process for all involved and was completed against a mountain of other things, but there are some really nice touches in there – the vintage grading, opening montage, and the soundtrack (by the hyper-talented Viv Sharma) are all fantastic. I’m glad to have contributed to this film because it gave me real insight into the production process, and how filmmaking is supposed to work. Valid lessons to learn before I make it at this for real.
M is for MEAT is from October ’13, and was our submission to the ABCs of Death contest. We didn’t get in but making the film was a great experience – basically, James Millar called me up on the Friday and asked if I’d like to be involved, and on the Saturday we both met up and hacked out the locations, production schedule and key shot list, before being joined by actress Lisa Ronaghan. I was working primarily as AD whilst also getting pick up shots, and I think the three of us worked well together to get the film made in such a short space of time. A big shout out to James’ brother Ash as well, who (spoiler) had to endure being tied up and soaked for the final scene (end spoiler). He took it like a man!
James came back with the first edit and some soundtrack samples, after which I did the complete audio mix, re-recording whatever was necessary and making extensive use of my soundtrack library. I actually completely rebuilt the audio for two scenes, the petrol station interior and the woods, which I think turned out alright. Phil Chapman did the VFX work to re-frame shots and remove logos whilst James did the grade, and we tweaked the final edit together before submitting it. We may not have won the contest (and the winner is one of my favourite short films I’ve seen), but I’m proud of what we pulled together, how quickly it came together, and what we learned from doing it.
On a related note, I’m focusing on sound design with my individual production project for university, and so I’ve posted about rebuilding the audio for the petrol station here on my mandatory project blog. From realising the possibilities of audio mixing on The Damned to getting it wrong on LOCAL and The Hunt, I’m making sound a priority over the coming months so that when uni is finished I can focus on making a high quality short film that fires on all cylinders. After all, when I graduate, there’s no more hiding places. It’s time to start meeting some potential!
It may have been a while since I last posted here, but I’ve been continuously filmmaking…
I shot and edited the above film over a couple of hours yesterday morning, as a test for my new lens and also to scratch a bit of an itch. The week before last I AD’d and sound edited a short horror film for the ABC’s of Death competition, and a few weeks before that I was camera operator on a short showreel piece, a period drama which is still being edited. I also took my first paid role as camera operator for a day on a music video shoot, and most impressively made the finals of the Raindance/Collabor8te 48 Hour Film contest, which led to a screening in London. I have blog posts about all of these things planned, but as you could probably guess, I’ve had little time to write any of them.
Speaking of blog posts, I’m also back at uni. As an aside, my advice to any HND students considering doing the top-up year is don’t. Go and get a job instead. Intern. Start your own company, whatever, just don’t get sucked into the quagmire of academia and ego.
I sure wish I hadn’t.
Anyway, for my course I’ve been keeping another blog, outlining my production process. You can read it here, but I warn you now that the idea is currently being reviewed for an overhaul.
Or at least it might be, if I can get a clear answer on what exactly it is I’m supposed to be doing…
I did say I’d start showcasing other short films on here; makes sense to start with something from someone I know!
This is a music video by my coursemate and frequent collaborator Alexandria Jones that deserves a bit of attention. She’s a hard worker whose camera work has improved massively over the last two years, and I’m really impressed with a lot of the shots and the editing in this film. Furthermore, as a fellow independent filmmaker I have massive respect for how she’s executed the concept. With just one actress (the talented Lizzie Mounter), I’m guessing that the whole thing was shot in one day with just the two of them, the sunlight and a camera. I’m constantly trying to scale productions back to make them possible, but here’s an example of using the bare minimum from the concept stage to maximum effect.
I’ve worked with Alex on The Arsonist’s Daughter, Renew and How She Rolls, and would happily do so again. Give the film a watch and let her know what you think!
LOCAL is finally, actually, finished. The edit took more tweaking than I thought it would last week, and there are some issues with it that I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely happy with, but it is finally done.
Regardless of its flaws, LOCAL has been a massive step forward for me in terms of understanding both narrative and production processes, and as I look at the completed product I can’t help but feel proud of what myself, the cast and the crew managed to pull together in such a short space of time.
Even with the stress and sleepless nights to get it finished for the deadline, I still had a blast making it. I hope you enjoy it even half as much!
When I posted yesterday that LOCAL was very nearly complete, I can understand any scepticism you may have felt – I have been saying that for months, after all. Hopefully this proof of the first completed DVD case can help change your mind on that score…
After further tweaking over the last two days, refining the audio mix and credits, I’m happy enough to call the film pretty much finished – I’m going to give myself a few days distance from it, see how it looks with a fresh pair of eyes, and call it after that. Then I burn the DVDs and get copies to the collaborators, before finally, finally getting it online and turning my attention fully to the next project.
At this point I can’t wait for people to finally see the finished cut of LOCAL. I hope it’s worth the wait.
On the subject of next projects, I’ve recently started a new Moleskine journal of film ideas. I love these notebooks, having completed two already, and this one’s off to a good start with four different film ideas taking basic shape. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging though, I’m just really excited for each of these concepts.
I think all writers suffer crises of confidence at points. I’ve gone through about a year of having to force through story ideas when nothing seemed to flow naturally, and I’d started to run out of my stock of half-decent older concepts. Regardless of my technical ability, a period like that really made me begin to question myself, and I felt like a fraud amongst so many other talented filmmakers in the area. Having fresh ideas that I know have an energy to them has been a shot in the arm for my creative aspirations, but now I need to do more. LOCAL was worked and reworked against compromise and deadline, and it was this process that refined it into the narrative it is. Each and every idea needs the same attention and work to get the best out of it, or I risk ending up with half-rendered crap that won’t fly.
So seriously, I’m not bragging – that little Moleskine is going to equate to a lot of work…
I actually took this photo. Feel free to use it for your inspirational blog post called ‘Just Dump Him Already’ or whatever.
For the first time in a while I don’t have a film to post, and that’s because it’s been an all-round rubbish couple of months. I have written up a long post detailing the various lows, but having slept on it for a week or so, I’m OK with not sharing that with the world. So instead, on to the positives…
- I feel like I write this a lot, but LOCAL is almost, hand-on-heart finished. The edit’s done, and I just need to tweak the soundtrack a little more before I’m happy enough to release it.
- I’m continually gaining commercial videography experience, with another shoot on Thursday. Now I need to figure out how to get paid for it.
- Over the last few months I’ve learned a lot about what you need to pull a production together, by being involved in productions that haven’t pulled together. Hoping I can get a success story out of it at some point soon.
I’ve been watching a lot of short films of varying quality recently, I think I’ll start posting some of the better ones up here. If anything, it at least keeps them all in one place for my own viewing pleasure!
Super 8: J.J. Abrams got stick from some quarters for making a film influenced by the films and filmmakers he loves… I’m not going to start with what’s wrong with that. Super 8 delivers a chaotic action movie with a big heart, and features a group of adolescent protagonists the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Goonies. It’s visually polished and sufficiently dark enough to exist in the 2010′s without being a complete throwback to the 80′s, although it’s not flawless. I got the feeling it didn’t go quite deep enough with the main character and his sense of loss, or his relationship with his best friend, and the PTA meeting (straight out of Donnie Darko) where the panicked woman blames the Russians – that felt out of place. All-in-all though, thoroughly enjoyable – between this and Star Trek, consider me an Abrams convert…