Peter Has An Angel – The Final Cut

After the music was added and the sound effects finalized, it was time to finally export the final cut of Peter Has An Angel. As I had such a major role in it’s production process, I decided to put my name at the front of the film. Happily, it is a project I am proud of. I’m glad of the way it turned out, and it is something I will show to potential employers to demonstrate my wide range of abilities in the industry.

However, as always, I am critical of my own work. It’s far from the best film ever made, but I do believe it is probably the best I could have made the film after the main shoot, and I couldn’t ask for more than that at this stage. For errors, there are a couple that stick out for me, but they are only minor.

The Presentation – Where it all began. How accurate were my predictions? It is not really for me to decide… but I think I did pretty good!

First of all, the good things. I think the acting was well-handled throughout the production. People have been critical of the opening sequence, which I’ve cut out as much as possible. I thought the theatrics worked quite well, and I’m sure in some films they do (they just didn’t seem suited to this particular one). In future experiences, how ‘theatrical’ to make the facial expressions on your actors requires some revision on my part.

The saturation levels reflecting the mood works really well (as I’m sure everyone will agree), and the sound is top-notch throughout. The forest was an ideal setting to place isolated characters, and the cut-aways give the forest some character traits of it’s own. The ‘twisting tree’ shot is probably my favourite, blurred in the middle by the change in saturation. I think this added to the imagery, which is why I decided to leave it in. All these elements come together well in the closing parts, which are always important as these are the parts you tend you remember a film the most by.

However, despite the audio of the dialogue being relatively consistent throughout, those with acute hearing will notice the ambience changing drastically at certain points in the film (not to mention some moments of evident peaking!). This was down to the segregated way the film was shot – namely, with three different sound engineers (three different levels of experience, and three different levels of hearing). The background ambience will change from hardly noticeable to overpowering in the change of a single shot. I created a backing ‘wild track’ to reduce this effect (as it merges all ambience into one background sound), but the shifts were too drastic in some parts for this to work. Thus, I resorted to ‘audio fades’ – gently rising and lowering the ambience in accordance with the dialogue. This was not an option at some parts however – I said “Cut!” too early, or the conversation was continuing at too fast a pace to fade. Basically, fading around quick conversations means you can hear the next part of the conversation ‘echo’ over the next shot (which, in the case of this film, was usually using a different audio track altogether!) The constant birdsong was also pretty annoying too – particularly in the darker moments of Amy’s monologue!

Special effects are not really my forte, as I’ve said many a time, so Amy’s introduction when she’s towering over Peter was purely down to grading, de-saturation and music. All the same, I would have probably liked to use special effects here – for a price, I will certainly consider using professionals for such cinematic moments in the future. I am not going to be a special effects designer in the future, so therefore this hasn’t hampered my professional development in any way. It was just something that could be improved upon for future projects (though in all fairness, I tried to use trick-photography to make this opening sequence more epic, but failed – I must learn from my errors there).

You may notice at the line ‘The day I lost my virginity was the day I died’, that the subsequent shot has raindrops in it. This was on Day 1 and Day 2, hence the change in weather. I didn’t think the light rain would pick up, but inevitably it did. Films in locations like this are always weather dependent – I think I got quite lucky to be fair. No matter what post-production trick I used, there was no denying that Amy Carter was briefly a lot soggier for a single shot!

During the extensive cutting out of certain scenes and dialogue, you may notice the conversation advances quicker at certain points than others. This was unavoidable – I always intended to cut the film after I’d got a rough cut. The problem was that this film revolves around a single conversation. You cannot simply cut parts out without a ‘chaos-theory’ effect down the entire timeline. If I cut out the part about her having black wings, the ending makes no sense. If I cut out any part of the flashbacks, the end of the conversation where these memories culminate has less power. Most of the editing came from the first half of the film – not only the entire chase sequence, but also any mention of the recession or the fact that Amy’s parents were bankers. The feedback I was given was that the script needed ‘less meat’, so this was the sub-plot that I scrapped altogether. There was also a scene where Peter tries to leave before returning to the log to talk about his family. This was cut, as I repeated some shots used later in the film. Again, something I must learn from, and avoid doing again in future projects.

The Job Interview – It’s been referred to enough, so now you can see for yourself the quality of my first film, and how the quality of my second film – Peter Has An Angel – holds up against it.

The quality was too noticeable between the Canon 5D and the Sony Z5. I was always aware of the risks – I just wanted to see the effects first hand. That 5Ds cannot operate slow-motion effects simply and efficiently is a big problem for me – I was intending to purchase one post-graduation, but set-backs like this make me not so sure. The trained eye can notice de-interlacing issues, but all eyes can see that the overall quality drops. I will need to investigate if any DSLR video cameras actually have the ability to perform smooth slow record, as my movie-making style relies on slow-motion quite a bit! (Think of it, slow-motion can add tension, horror, or humour to virtually any scene!)

The music is top-notch throughout and I have no qualms with any of the additional audio. It is yet to be seen if I incur any problems with the track I got online, and although Free Play Music has benefitted my projects tenfold over my time in academia, it is looking like I will employ professional singer songwriters and music designers for future projects – to put my mind at ease if nothing else!

The grading in this film works a treat as well – it was always my intention to play with the saturation levels. Bringing everything back to black and white at ‘the threat’ was something I added during the post-production process, and I think that added a lot more meaning to the script, and to the visuals in the film (it made the ‘saturation gimmick’ less linear). The colour and the music at the end work well, and I added ‘three weeks later’ just to make it absolutely clear that we were at a different point in time (as feedback had suggested this was not clear enough in the initial cut).

Several points in the film cut to shots of the forest – ferns, logs and the like (among them, some of my favourite shots in the film). These were to bridge gaps between the conversation. Rather than trying to carry on like nothing had happened, I forced a pause in the dialogue. Pauses work well in documentaries – they work less well here. But they suited my purposes of slowing down a conversation that was becoming increasingly accelerated in post-production, during my attempts to cut down the final running time (yes, adding footage actually cut the running time!)

On a final critical point, although it took me a while to even notice it, the text of ‘three weeks later’ may have looked better in the same font I’d used for the titles, or for the marketing materials. Something gothic may have been more beneficial than the overly-simply font face that I’d used (though in all fairness, this text as only there because feedback said the time change wasn’t clear. The text is only up for a few seconds, so people need to be able to read it quickly).

There is a saying in film making that one should always ‘show’ the audience, rather than ‘tell’ them. Looking at my finished piece, I have to say that there is a lot of ‘telling’ going on here. When pitching the script, a lecturer did tell me that the idea was more suited to a style of a theatre performance or a play. The idea was based around the notion of K.I.S.S (keeping it simple), yet I somehow managed to craft an idea so visually simple that just two people could handle the entire behind the scenes area of production. It was hard work knowing how to make a conversation between two people interesting, but that is why I chose to do this project as my FMP. Filming the conversation was one half of the production, and making it interesting was the other half. Music, effects, grading and camera angles were all additional to the narrative, and in their execution, you are able to see very clearly my current strengths and limitations as a director and a media producer. If I failed at any point, there is simply a well-written and well-acted conversation in the place of my failure to keep the audience engaged. This was in essence a fail-safe my for FMP, in contrast to having a film based entirely upon my ability to find creative shots or use lots of locations.

The brief placed emphasis on originality, and although I quoted several films in my research (notably ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’), I believe I have created an original film that has not been made by many people who have ever ran the Media Production course at Coventry University. Gothic movie-making is an expensive and dangerous area to delve in to, as it pushes your ability to ‘create’ and ‘be eccentric’ further than any other genre. This perhaps puts people off making films of this sub-genre, which is why my film should (in theory) thrive when drawn alongside other, more well-known genres. Peter Has An Angel is a weird and quirky little film, that was designed not only as a showpiece for employers post-graduation, but also as an experiment into the visual medium to further my own creativity. It is a massive improvement on my previous short film, and is thus one of my most accomplished works to date. I came to university with the hopes of making one of my short stories at the end of the course, and I have achieved that goal. Whether I did it well or not…

is now for you to decide:

The Final Cut – An entire academic year of work now holds up to scrutiny across the board. It’s got good points and bad points… as long as I know which ones are which, I’m on the right path!


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