After all the hassle of the main shoot, there was some further icing to be added to the cake – there were still two more shoots to go! Luckily however, these were much simpler scenes to accompany the main script. During the film, there are two flashbacks featured (both of which belong to Peter). The first is of his parents arguing at his home – he is commenting of the fact that he has concerns about his family life, which are playing on his mind. The second is of his student crush Rebecca (coincidentally played by a real-life ‘Rebecca’!), whom he is extremely fond of, despite the fact she is obviously not interested in him.
Both cut scenes were deemed rather important to the film as a whole. I did want to keep the audience in the woods as much as possible. As explained the beginning of the film, the woods are quiet and isolated. They separate the characters from the different worlds they are both rejected from, and concentrates the film around the central conversation. Namely, I felt it was relevant to the plot to separate the audience from the outside world as well. I wanted them to feel like they were inside those lonely woods with these two characters (hopefully interested in what they had to say, and curious to see how the film pans out as well!)
However, there was a very clear downside to a near-fifteen minute film being set in one location – with the exception of the opening and closing scenes, which featured Peter in a different part of the forest, the narrative is set almost entirely on a log in the middle of the woods. Acting, script, and the isolated setting were key, but even they would have difficulty carrying the film through the long running time. I needed to break the shots up without losing the sense of isolation, and this is where the flashbacks came in.
Each scene lasted about thirty seconds whilst Peter explained his inner emotions. During this time, the flashbacks would be shown in slow-motion. The slow-mo effect was taken using a Z5 camera using the same frame rate settings as the Canon 5D (to help with compatibility in the editing suites). I’d used the Z5s before and I knew what they were capable of – I could tell within seconds of shooting the shots that the footage was exactly what I had been looking for.
Two Steps – As easy as one and two!
‘The Arguing Parents’
So I was right back to square one with everything regarding these scenes – location, actors, kit, crew, and finances. I planned to take each scene both within an hour each, which implemented my ‘£10 cash-in-hand’ approach to the actors. I feel I should mention something about this here; one of my friends is making her FMP, but hasn’t paid her actor, and has been hassled and messed around a bit. I have always done my media productions on the premise that if you don’t pay the actors, they simply wont turn up (and my FMP was definitely no exception to the rule!). £10 for a fifteen minute shoot may seem excessive, and I even I was worried that I may have more money than sense at one point. But the fact of the matter is – if the actors are getting paid, they play by your rules, and to your timetable. When there’s external factors that are making your job difficult, the last thing you need is to get everything going right, and then get let down by your star. Money = incentive. They know if they don’t turn up when you say you want them, they wont get paid. That notion… goes a very long way.
The location for the ‘arguing parents’ needed to be in a middle-class suburban home, and I knew that it was often the simplest locations that proved the hardest to find. I asked Call The Shots for assistance, who directed me to http://www.midlandslocations.co.uk/. Sadly though, there was nothing on there of interest (in fact, the closest thing I could get was a warehouse in Leamington Spa if I recall correctly!) A member of Call The Shots tole me I could use her house, but after thinking about it, I figured I could use my own. It was free, I had the rights to film, and I had a big living room. It was a little dark… but then that set the mood of the scene (and indeed the film).
Darkness – Although a reflector was used, I knew the downside to using my own house was this dark living room. Although it is written that the the dad is not having an affair, I still always like the use of ‘half shadowed’ faces to insinuate hidden characters.
Next up was getting two middle aged actors to play the parents. I’d always had difficulty with this, as middle-aged actors are often more experienced and (usually) better paid, so to ask them to help with a ‘thirty minute shoot for a tenner’ usually seemed like an insult to them. However, Call The Shots again proved invaluable when I was able to secure both a female and a male actor after a single meeting. I had investigated local Coventry theatres beforehand, but most ‘middle aged’ actors were fifty or sixty plus, which I felt was too old for the scene I was trying to portray (namely, one of late working hours and jealousy over secretaries – it wouldn’t have worked if the cast looked too old). The dad was to be played by (in another twist of coincidence) a friend of the lecturer whom I’d just done the filming in Iceland with. The mum was to be played by (in yet another twist of coincidence) a woman who had starred in one of my DoP’s previous films.
I added Robert and Valeria to Facebook and used that to communicate. These flashback shoots were to be a lot more informal than the main one. I also (particularly from the experience of the main shoot) kept these little shoots to just me and the actors – no crew needed this time, as no audio was strictly needed, and I knew all the equipment inside and out. I agreed a time with the cast, booked out the kit, and we met up on a Friday afternoon and went straight into it. The shoot took roughly forty minutes to capture (and I made a short script to help with their argument – some actors are lost without scripts!). I am pleased to say both did their parts very well. Because I was shooting in slow-motion, the shoot took a little longer as the camera needed to ‘re-render’ each shot as it converted the footage to a slower pace. I paid the actors, finished the paperwork, and set my sights on the final shoot.
Finding an attractive female student to star as Peter’s crush was a relatively easy job to do – as aforementioned, mostly due to paying them £10 (I know how to secure academic interest!). It took a while to find the location, but I eventually decided upon Priory Place – again in Coventry, but home to a lovely waterfall backdrop, which I’ve shot in slow-motion before (almost a year ago to the week in fact).
The idea was to have Rebecca wearing blue. This would be in contrast with the relatively green surroundings of the forest (after all, these flashbacks were designed to break the forest shots up – though admittedly, the first half of the film would indeed be desaturated!). Costumes weren’t really a factor in the ‘arguing parents’ scene – I asked the actors for something middle-class, though Robert thought it best to wear a formal business suit, which I agree worked really well in the final shoot. In Rebecca’s scene, colour was slightly more important – the story has progressed a long way by this point, and the depressing mood at the start of the film is lifted significantly as we approach the final act.
The main trouble was filming when the waterfall was active – there was no clear way of knowing when it was going to get shut down or not on any given day. I chose the Sunday after the previous scene was filmed, when the weather was sunny and I still had the kit. I secured the location first (to make sure there were no suspicious characters lurking around), and then gave my actress a ring and told her to head on down. The student was actually experienced primarily in modeling – it was very similar to the role I had here, where she simply needed to sit in front of the waterfall and look all… pretty and stuff! The shoot took a lot less time – fifteen minutes or thereabouts. Payment was again made after the paperwork was done (what little there was for this one!) Although no long-standing members of the project were around to celebrate, the shooting officially concluded on Sunday March 25th – the whole film had taken primarily eight days to shoot. I was quite happy now in the knowledge that this FMP was a predominantly post-production exercise from now on.
She’s Not Into You, Bro – The waterfall gave this scene a dream-like feel (the whole point of filming in slow-motion in the first place). The quality on the Z5 camera was less than the Canon 5D, as you can see here, but I’m hoping it’s not too noticeable in the final edit. Fingers crossed! (Note the reflector illuminating her from below. It’s out of frame to the right somewhere.)
As a side note (and not wanting to jump the gun), it is important to note that the original script does not include any flashback sequences during Amy’s own recitation of her checkered past. If I do decide to incorporate any late into post-production, they will be blurry slow-shutter speed shots that will be hard to make out. The reason I chose not to include them is because her history is better left to audience’s imagination (after all, Peter is a character we need to understand as it’s his story essentially – she is the ‘other’ in the story, and thus keeping the ‘mystery’ around her should benefit rather than detract.)