Thursday, 28 October 2010

Turning 30 - starting my own script, and working on someone else's!

Turned 30 last week.

Don't feel any different.

Hmm.

Started working out the bones of my own script for a short film. Had previously tried but always seemed to hit a wall. I know I CAN do it, but when I sit down I feel underprepared. I think I need to be sparked by inspiration.

Funnily enough, some small changes to a story I've been ruminating on for a while actually sparked me a little, and the new angle got me writing. Or rather, sketching out.

I've been inspired to get cracking with making my own story because I read recently read a script by two members of the Explorer's Collective. Frazer and Mark wrote a script for a short film about a struggling SE London band who aren't going anywhere. It was actually pretty damn good, and having been in a struggling SE London band myself for 6 years (we called it a day almost two years ago) the script was achingly familiar. I thought if they can summon up the energy and will to actually write an entire script together, surely I can summon the gusto to start myself.

Interestingly, I have been asked to help the guys realise their vision for the film. So I am taking my first tentative steps on a short film project. It's early days, but we're going to have the band members Neil, Frazer, Pablo and Mark star in the project, playing characters that are loosely based on themselves. The benefits are that working with these guys is not new to me, and they can actually play a live set without miming so we can get some great live footage for use in the film, as the script calls for several gigs to take place. Frazer and Mark had written the script for a 3 piece band with a female singer, so they need to reshuffle the dynamics somewhat to fit the four piece all male band. Certain aspects of the story will need to be slightly altered and the script rewritten. They are beavering away at it now. We got together for a meeting which netted me free beer and pizza. Oh yeah, I'm living the dream!!!

We're getting together to do a read through next week. I like the guys, I've had fun working with them and directing them in the music videos, so I am really curious how this will pan out. I love the idea of working with non-actors and having non professionals helping me. I may well need to record sound seperately which would mean bringing a sound man in, more than likely a friend rather than a professional. I very much doubt anyone will be getting paid, so I need volunteers. I've already started looking at locations for filming. We have agreed that we will not rush this, and it will be a long slow process, probably at least 6 months. I really love the idea of just getting out there and doing it, and not being tied up by raising funds, hiring expensive equipment, or paying for locations. I want to make this for as little money as possible, partly because I don't have any money, and partly because I want to make something without money in the equation.

Whether or not my camcorder will be enough for film with is another matter.

Still, exciting times.

This project may end up being aborted or going nowhere. But we're taking our first tentative steps into the darkness.

Ooh, hold my hand.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Post Mortem - Half A Glass

As mentioned previously, now that the videos are published it's time to look back and see what went right and what went wrong, to help me learn what I need to do next time!!

Half A Glass:
What went right

  • I spent a whole day with the camera before shooting and learned everything I could about it, which meant there was no fiddling around on the day of the shoot.
  • We divided the days up by location and worked out a basic timeframe which made things much easier to organise
  • I got some very talented friends on board to help with some special effects which are the highlight of the video. Their work was better than anything I could have ever done alone.
  • We did a test run which helped us gauge how long each shot needed to be.
  • When it was fun, it was very fun.
  • The dead band scene looked great and was a joy to shoot, even though I was nervous as hell having that many people in the room.
  • This was the first time I'd worked with others on a video besides the artists. Everyone was on time, helpful, and eager. I could not have asked for more!
  • Pot.




What went wrong

  • Pot. (only on the first day!)
  • I completely underestimated how long everything would take, and tried to get far too much done each day. I became stressed and lost sleep and things began to feel like they were falling apart.
  • I didn't communicate effectively and failed to take charge of the proceedings. I became stressed and angry on the day but bottled everything up until I wanted to smash the camera to pieces. Everyone was waiting on me for advice but I didn't feel it was my place to give it, and as such I failed as a director. I couldn't direct!
  • I forgot the storyboards on the biggest day of the whole shoot.
  • I failed to check the white balance yet again, and also I failed to check the gain so some scenes are grainy and blurred.
  • I misunderstood the aperture settings on the new camera and the first half day of shooting was unusable.
  • I relied too heavily on autofocus and the opening scenes are out of focus because of this.
  • Special effects and bloody explosions almost entirely failed to adhere to my plans.
  • A last minute reshuffle of the available rooms for shooting meant we had to set dress a room I wasn't prepared for.
  • The paper on the walls was designed to protect the walls from blood spatter and look like standard wallpaper but it looked awful and obvious
  • Blood was running pink and thin by the end of the day. I ran out of ingredients twice.
  • The days were too long and tiring on everyone involved.
  • We tried to do too much with too little time and experience
  • The rehearsal fight scenes were practiced only for an hour or two and the storyboarding went right out the window. The lighting in the small room was hard to manage and by this shoot I was at breaking point. I rushed the whole scene and it shows. It looks shoddy and amateur and messy. We should have rehearsed for longer and I should have taken so much longer. I think this scene deserved an entire day and I gave it barely an hour.
  • I failed to organise the shoot properly and ended up with far too much footage and shots that went on for too long. Editing it all down was difficult and the final result suffers a little.
  • We didn't make the most of lighting. Lighting was a disaster.
  • The story for the video wasn't clear enough once put together and required re-jigging.
  • I didn't film any live footage so there was never any chance for cutaways. Also the video feels somehow weaker for it, whereas the live footage really worked with Grenade.

Lessons!
  • Take time, things will always ALWAYS take longer than you think.
  • Never rush things. I should have shot one scene a day. Not six a day.
  • Be prepared. Don't "forget" your storyboards like an arsehole.
  • Communicate clearly and ASK people to do things for you. They are not mind readers.
  • Check your white balance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Don't trust autofocus, or auto anything.
  • Watch footage back on a monitor several times a day to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting.
  • Spend time getting the lighting right. It really can make all the difference!
  • Thank the people who spend so much time helping you, especially if they are doing it for free. Ryan, I have some vodka for you!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Make sure you have fun!

Post Mortem - Grenade

Now that the videos are finished and out in the public domain, I think it's good to go back and dissect the experiences and provide a little post mortem. See what I did right and what I completely fucked up. If nothing else, at least I'll learn for next time.

Grenade:
What went right

  • The mix of live music and story footage was good
  • The synching of the music and the visuals was perfect, I found a good system using markers on the footage and simple mathematics to drop footage straight into the video and it would be perfectly synched.
  • The shoot was all at one location and required minimal set up. The logistics were simple.
  • The live footage gave me plenty of opportunities for cut-aways so I could always fall back on some useable footage if there were any gaps or mistakes in other areas.
  • Pablo looked fantastic in a dress
  • The mood during the shoot was mostly very relaxed
  • Some of the lighting in the office scenes was really effective!
  • The live footage close-ups looked mostly pretty good
  • The explosions at the end look great and the camera shake and chaos really works.



What went wrong

  • The set dressing for the "office" was pretty sparse, it looks more like a minimalist theatrical set-up than a convincing office.
  • Some of the office shots weren't planned properly, and in editing I noticed that because I crossed the line of action (the imaginary line between two actors in a scene) Frazer seemed to change the direction he was facing. I had to mirror the footage to make it work.
  • I didn't check my white balance often enough and some scenes drastically change colour from one shot to the next, which made continuity a little ugly
  • The break-up scene wasn't storyboarded tight enough and some of the shots were a little bland.
  • The projected visuals effect didn't look as good as I hoped in the wide shots. The "donuts" became pixelated and the light wasn't as bright as the projection was stretched across everyone. In a lot of the shots, and, most unfortunately, the opening shot, the projection is a little overwhelming instead of interesting. I also planned to use more than one effect but by the time we came to filming nothing else really worked.
  • The video has no ending... everyone just gets blown up. The message of the song is that life goes on and that you have to roll with the punches, but in the video it looks like everyone dies! Perhaps that works?
  • Lighting is hit and miss, I'm still finding my way with regards to that!
  • During a superior outdoor take, some dust on the lens only showed when the camera was pointed towards the sun. Luckily we did takes of Frazer walking both ways up the street, but the better take was unusable. Of course, you couldn't see the dust until the editing stage.

Lessons!
  • Keep your fucking lens clean
  • Check your fucking white balance for every shot
  • Keep it simple and relaxed
  • Storyboard everything, even the simplest shot can become bland or a mind bender without proper thought. But be flexible enough to find better shots on the day.
  • Find good locations, it's easier to use a real location than to dress one up.
  • Pay attention to lighting, it can make or break a shot!
  • Be careful with untested ideas. Try some dry runs.
  • Put Pablo in a dress.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Half A Glass - the full video (plus the original scrapped video)

HALF A GLASS



GRENADE



And if anyone is interested, here is the original idea for the video which we didn't really like, and we scrapped.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Finishing Half A Glass

Just doing the final edit to Half A Glass (version 2) now.

There was a little confusion over whether certain scenes were clear enough, as we had to fit so much story into so little space. I've been sending the video to friends and colleagues and getting feedback and have tried to make things a little clearer.

I'm about to export the final edit!! How exciting. It's always hard to know when to officially "finish" a project like this. You could go on tweaking it and making one-frame edits forever. But this was never going to be a perfect video, and I'm more than happy with it.

Not sure that anyone else will be, but screw that!

Video coming soon!!!

It is so nice to work on a video uninterrupted by computer crashes or the threat of sudden cpu shutdown.

Some screens: