Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Friday's filmed rehearsal of the New Project

On Friday Mark, Frazer and I gathered at Mark's house to shoot our "dry-run" pre-recording recording. We basically act out the storyboard as a filmed rehearsal. We get to work out a  lot of logistical problems in this early stage and the editing (of which I am halfway through) also lets me get a good feel of how the final piece will come together, and helps me identify what we need to change.

These filmed rehearsal sessions are normally a pretty laid back affair, we're not doing it on location so we're only working on an amalgamation of what the final project will be like. We don't have a lot of time before we film "for real" so we've had to settle for a date and location we could all do, but this didn't give us ideal conditions. Mark had just got back from Slovakia the day before, and the kids were home and Mark and Jana were hosting a dinner party in the evening. Now, I do take these pre-recording recordings seriously, we all do, but it does get hard to keep the focus when we're working among barking dogs (any given day at my place) or arriving dinner guests or  baby poop emergencies. The fact that we're also not working on location means that we're only guessing how the final filming will work.

These sessions are useful, but I feel they could be more useful, and I feel that I should plan them better. What I don't want to do however, is basically film the project twice, once as a "rehearsal" and then again as the final piece. I purposefully hold back during the rehearsal, and I don't insist on repeated takes or solid acting performances. I worry that the best performances will be in the rehearsal but the best lighting will be in the final version. I felt that we might have hit some of these problems when we did the Bangers and Mash music video, some of the spontaneity gets lost in repetition. My hope is that by having our rehearsal off-location we can all save ourselves from "going through the motions" and the event can feel fresh. This approach has it's own problems though, the biggie being that I'm not seeing the location (in person) until the day of filming.

I'm currently putting the video together from our rehearsal footage, and straight away I'm seeing lots that I want to change, so I'm happy we have this opportunity to iron out the kinks and to make a better version. I also have a better understanding of the sound issues we might face and continuity/camera movement.

As fun as it is seeing the project come to life, it is also painful because my work is so badly done. We filmed it mostly in one room, so the footage feels repetitive. The room served as several different "sets" depending on which corner we were in, including a toy kitchen that Mark's eldest, Oliver, would use to serve up slices of plastic toast to us as we filmed. He also proved to be a useful AD, and would operate the clapper board and yell "action" before a take. The kid's got a big future! Of course, Frazer looked ridiculous in the toy kitchen and there are only so many camera angles you can use when filming a full grown man on his knees at a toy oven. Hopefully filming in Frazer's actual kitchen will give us a lot more scope for moving around (unless it's as small as my kitchen. Dee and I tried to cook dinner together a few days ago and all those knives and hot saucepans whizzing around in close proximity was pretty risky).

Basically, I'm making a shitty version of the film on purpose just so that I can remake it better. My rehearsal filmings always feel like this.

I would never show ANYONE (not directly involved with the project) the rehearsal footage because I'm not even trying to make it with any standards. It's more important that I get done badly and finished than I get it done well and don't finish it. You can imagine my horror when one of Mark's dinner guests (a video production professional no less) arrived early and dropped in on us while we were filming. I stopped abruptly and my focus shifted quickly from getting the filming finished to doing just about anything else, helping Mark with his PC optimization problems,and standing around reading the script over and over like I'm arranging everything in my head, basically just buying time. I also felt for Frazer, who I'm sure didn't want to act in front of an audience, especially when that audience actually knew more than a thing or two about filmmaking, and we knew a grand total of jackshit. Andy is a nice guy - he even gave me a lift home with all my gear after the filmed rehearsal, but it's like Bruce Lee walking in on your ten-year-old self while you practice crane kicks and kung-fu faces in the mirror. I still can't help feeling like an utter fraud in those situations.

Call it shame, call it paranoia, I knew what I was making was shitty, but I didn't want anyone else to see it in case they think that this is me on any given day, a shitty filmmaker who rushes everything and doesn't even stop to consider what he is doing.

Or maybe that's exactly what I am, and I don't want anyone to know it.


  1. The amount of my photos that never see the light of day is amazing and a great percentage of those I know will be rubbish before I even raise the camera. But volume does help improve technique especially with the instant feedback of digital, the rubbish to okish ratio is definitely improving.

    Besides there are worse things than being caught by Bruce Lee, if Chuck Norris walked in feeling like a fraud would be a distant second to taking a roundhouse kick to the face.

  2. Love the bruce lee analogy. I know what you mean about having someone who's knows about stuff seeing the work that you do when you see yourself as more amateur. I bet he wasn't thinking any of the things you thought though.