The One-Minute Video

A piece of work that most believed to be part of a separate module ‘Professional Practice Portfolio’ was realised mid-way through the final week of 361MC. This video was a one-minute short about you as a person and as a professional film maker. It was important to note this was not really a professional showreel to show to employers – it was designed more as something for our degree show.

Luckily for me, I’d been working on my showreel for another module anyway, so automatically my ‘best bits’ of university were already on an FCP timeline. My showreel was at three minutes, so all I needed to do was to cut it down to one. The opening and closing shots of my video would be of me helping to film a music video on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach (something yet to be blogged about on my 364MC blog), so people could see what I looked like. I decided to make the rest of the one-minute piece out of footage of my work, complete with a voice-over.

The voice over was recorded using a standard Marantz 660. I’ve always used these, complete with reporters mics for best sound. However, my response was rather… ‘dry’ in relation to the cheesiness of previous efforts at videos like these. I have recently discovered Karl Pilkington and the ‘An Idiot Abroad’ series, but to be honest I’ve always been a fan of deadpan comedy (Jack Dee, Dylan Moran, Larry David etc.) This was a typical project where everyone would naturally say ‘I’m wonderful at this, I’m creative, I’m really enthusiastic and engaged with the work of… ‘so on’). Of course, me being me, I completely contradicted this, and purposefully opened with the line ‘What’s ‘creative’?’ to demonstrate this point. After the visuals and voice over were sorted, I used some stock music from Free Play Music to play over the background.

I blasted through some of the things I’ve done during my time here at university (though as I say, this was essentially one minute of a three minute video – possibly a sample of the ‘best of the best’ of my work). The humour – as all of the comics quoted – is an acquired taste. It is not designed to be offensive, just humourous. I’m sure people who see this will think it’s something more important than it actually is, which makes my closing line ‘I’m passionate about media’ when I’m very dull-faced even more humourous. This was not accidental! (And also quite representative of how tired I am on the lead-up to hand-in!)

Old Versus New – My old ‘one minute video’ above, taken at the start of my second year. My new one minute video below, taken at the end of my third year. See how far I have come as a media producer! (And do note that the monotone voice was actually intentional this time around!)

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PHAA – Marketing

The final part of the FMP production came in the form of marketing. My marketing campaign was formed into three areas:

  1. The DVD – This needed a box sleeve, and an image on the disc.
  2. The Poster – This needed the title and the release date.
  3. The Trailer – This needed to summarise the film.

In terms of The DVD, my first film ‘The Job Interview’ was also done as part of a university module, so I was vaguely familiar with how to create all the relevant designs. I looked up the size of a DVD box cover sheet on the internet, and then split the cover into three parts – ‘front cover’, ‘back cover’, and ‘middle strip’.

The front cover consisted of a still from the film, with a ‘gothic’ text font (Monotype Corsiva) used to advertise the genre through the words. I put ‘a short film by Adam Broome’ on the front because my name is – essentially – all over this work.

However, I have noticed that most other people have created some sort of fake company logo for their projects (‘Samantha Ryan Media’ presents, as a fictitious example). Maybe I’m just too straight-laced for this sort of thing, but unless I genuinely do have a company like Clever Lens or Prophecy Media backing me, then I treat this film as what it is – something I made myself, to demonstrate my ability and pass my degree. Maybe one day I will have a production company (or at least one sponsoring my production costs). But until then, this is simply a film made by a student. I don’t think that this fact makes it any less professional – in my eyes it’s more professional if anything, as potential contacts wont be looking on the internet for my non-existent corporate partners.

With this in mind, the back cover was equally simplistic – another still from the film (desaturated completely, because the half-and-half colour thing just looked odd on photographs), and some text under it in the same font style, explaining the story (reminiscent of the pitch and the outline I did all those months ago). I chose a black background to bring the two covers together (black for obvious reasons), and then added both covers onto my main template. All that was left was to add the title, rotate it, and space it out the middle strip. Et viola:

Note – I have since noticed a small red smudge on the front cover, on Amy’s head (no idea where that came from), that I will try and correct before the hand in.

The disc image was another production still from the final film. After playing about with the master black and white levels, I managed to create a black and white print, again using using the same font face to place some white text in the corner of the image. I chose black and white colours so it would suit the white top of my DVDs better. However, when it came to finding a printing station to actually print the image, I later found out (after a lot of footwork) that there were no printing stations in Coventry that provided those services! I have a friend who may may have to equipment to help me with this – if not, I have no choice but to hand in a blank-top DVD!

The poster was done in Photoshop on-campus. The major problem was that due to our tight schedule on the second day of the shoot, we had forgotten to get any marketing or promotional photos after the wrap had been called (plus, it was raining!) Thus, I had to make do with what I had. The final result turned out like this:

The image of Amy is actually the actress on a break from filming. She has a script in her left hand, which has been cut out of the picture. This image was graded to give it  purple hue. The text was the same as the DVD cover, and I made the text stand out more by adding a drop-shadow and making the letters glow. The text at the bottom was a little less fancy (‘Copperplate Gothic’ if I recall correctly), as the release time is quite important, and needs to be easier to read. The lettering was all made large so people could read it from a distance. The tag-line ‘Innocence Wears Many Faces’ was something I just added to make the poster look more complete – the date alone was just a little too minimalist. I avoided putting my name on the poster as well – my ego is not that big yet!  The last addition was the border at the top – taken from a Google stock image and cut out. My skills in Photoshop have never shook the Earth, but for me at least, this poster is actually pretty good!

The trailer was the final part of my marketing campaign. I simply used some of the rough cut exports to piece together some of the nicest shots and best acting featured in the film (to show off some of the best bits!). The use of the text (again, keeping the theme with the font style) was difficult for me to construct, as there wasn’t really anything to say about the events of the film. After the initial cut of the trailer, it was simply ‘A boy meets a girl for a chat, but nothing is ever that simple.’ I think that sums the film up pretty well, and still leaves a sort-of mystery to the main events of the film.

Trailers – The rough cut (above), and the final cut (below)

I decided to choose more emotive shots in the final cut (not just the biggest close-ups!). The scene where the two characters both look down to the floor worked really well, as did the scene where Amy grabs Peter. I wanted to include the flashback scenes for the same reason they were in the film – to add a little variety. And also, much like the film, I ended the trailer on a happy note, with the two first meeting and introducing each other. This almost introduced the audience to the film by setting them up up at the beginning of the story – if they want the rest of the story however, they’ll have to watch the film!

The music in the trailer is another of Free Play Music’s, used previously on a Tenerife project that didn’t make the final cut. I think the magical ‘ballroom’ style tune fitted the theme of the film very well. It was also light-hearted – something that all trailers need to be to a certain extent (heavy-handed trailers usually put me off, either down to directors trying too hard to make their film look good, or making the film look too intense). Needless to say, my trailer was more of a back-seat approach. There was not a lot to report, advertise, describe, or explain. The visuals summed up the whole thing!

There was an initial rough cut designed for feedback. During this time period, I deleted the entire bin as I cleaned out the original cuts of the film (whoops). I managed to recreate the entire trailer again, and it looked a lot better the second time around. I saw an example of a previous student’s work, which ended in the style of a hollywood blockbuster like this:

Again, I could put ‘in association with Final Cut Pro’ and things like that. But again, I think that detracted from my film if anything. Once I’m operating at that level within the industry, hopefully I will have demonstrated enough talent for employers to know that I can create a closing still like that with little fuss!

Distribution brought the marketing together, and as of current, Peter Has An Angel has successfully been entered into Roots To Shoots, a local film festival in Leamington Spa. It also has a seat at our degree show, and other entries into other showcases are still ongoing. At this stage, there is little else left to worry about other than the production folder and the actual hand-in!

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!

The Music – Why Do It That Way?

As I cut my FMP down more and more, the time drew ever closer to the tense moment when I would have to start adding sounds and music tracks not recorded on-site to my film. These varied from sound effects like mobile phone ringtones, to music by sound designers and musicians. My main fear of this part of the post-production process is that I lack any ability to create audio – thus, I would have to make do with whatever I found, or whatever I had arranged in pre-production.

Early on in the pre-production process I recruited a sound designer – another student at the university. I gave him a relatively ‘free-reign’ brief (the assignment briefs I issue are usually relaxed to give artists the most artistic control over their productions), with the only points highlighted that it was a gothic film, it needed background music for a rather downbeat conversation, and come up with as many tracks as possible. Some edits were given to me in March, which allowed me to provide feedback regarding which things I liked, and which things I didn’t. It put my mind at ease though, as it demonstrated that I was in successful communication with the sound designer, and that the sound designer understood what he’d been asked to do. The quality of the music was of a very high standard as well – the rough edits convinced me that he was a good sound designer capable of making my FMP better with his works implemented.

For most of the production process, we were out of contact, which left me to focus on other aspects of the sound scape. As the final ‘dialogue cut’ came to completion, there were several parts of the film I needed to take note of in terms of sound:

  1. The Chase – Peter jumps, he runs, he falls down. This was meant to be an exciting opening, and it still had that purpose, despite being heavily cut. The music needed to fit the mood of this part of the film.
  2. The Flashbacks – Ambience and / or music was needed for both Peter and Amy’s recitations – the rest of the main conversation was to be diegetic.
  3. The Threat – The shot I commonly referred to as ‘The Threat’ in the later weeks of production simply refers to the scene where Amy grabs Peter and warns him not to make passes on her. This was one of my biggest concerns, as it did not require music alone – more like a mixture of music, ambience, and effects at the same time to get the tone of the moment correct.
  4. The Ending – This was the smallest and biggest problem of them all. The final shots featuring Peter three weeks after the main events was to be accompanied by an acoustic / indie rock music piece. The sound designer would not be able to make this, and nor would I find anything like this in simple sound effect sites. I knew of a site that could give me some really cheesy indie tracks with no lyrics, but this would end the film on a goofy note rather than a happy one.

The ace in the hole from the beginning was a site called Free Play Music – it supplies loyalty-free music tracks to any who want them, and I’ve used the site extensively throughout all three years of my course. Sadly, the tracks are usually loyalty-free for a reason, but if you’re a good enough editor, you can make the music fit the mood of your film. The terms of use of the site were applicable to film festivals, but as far as I could tell only in the USA.

I had one track already that I knew would come in handy – ‘Witches Approaching’, which I’d used previously for my ‘Montage Of Beautiful Things’ project in Year 2. I figured I would use it in some way during the opening scenes (which I did indeed do eventually), but only partially, as I wanted to use as many different audio tracks as I could in the final cut (to add variety to the feel of the film regarding the fluctuating emotions).

I was keen to approach a local artist called Kristy Gallacher regarding the film’s closing track – her song ‘Fending Off The Frost’ suited the themes within the film well. However, as time went on, I realised I may well have had to pay to get the usage of the song. This was not guaranteed, but I wanted to investigate another option first – that of a local music video competition called 2Weeks2MakeIt, which I was hoping to help out with. If I could meet a musician through the competition, I would possibly have been able to secure a suitable track for a lot less trouble.

As it transpired, I did find an artist at the music video festival to help out with the final track – an artist called Matt Lakey, who we subsequently did the music video for. The song was called ‘Motive’, about love and ‘troublesome women’, which I again thought suited the theme of the film pretty well.

Battle Of The Bands – Kristy Gallacher and my initial idea for the end track, and Matt Lakey below, who gave me the final song I used for the film (though it is not the one here – the song I used was called ‘Motive’)

Once the final dialogue cut was done, I contacted the sound designer and asked him to send everything through. Within a week I had everything I needed (with the exception of the final track). I queued all the tracks up in the FCP bin (even ones I didn’t think I’d need) and began adding them where I thought appropriate. The film starts off rather depressed, and so all the more melancholic tunes were placed at the start of the film. These were mostly in the form of slow piano tracks. Sharp ambience served to play over the transitional period during the middle of the film (i.e. Amy’s recitation of her death), which was neither sad nor happy – rather, indifferent or horrific! This led for the aptly-titled ‘fairy-tale’ sound track to be added over Peter’s confession of his love for Rebecca.

Atop the music I added some basic titles and credits (I told you they’d be basic!), but I don’t think their simplicity detracts from the film in any way (I never do!). ‘Motive’ was placed at the end, the ambience was sorted at the flashbacks, and the ‘Witches Approaching’ track was placed very strategically at the moment when Peter ‘jumps’ upon first meeting Amy face to face during the opening scene.

The final things to be added were the sound effects, notably during ‘The Threat’, and also some of the cut away shots (such as the ‘twisting tree’ shot). Most of these were actually taken from iMovies and distorted using the speed modifier function in FCP (slower speed equals higher bass, but it can distort the sound too much if not used sparingly).

I really liked the metallic sounds in the ambience – it sets up Amy’s flashback to her death subliminally before her character has even been introduced. It also added a layer of threat and danger on top of the moody and isolated atmosphere. Black and white visuals, a deserted forest, and the melancholic and industrial music all fused together to create a unique mood for which the film was to operate in throughout. This complemented the gothic nature of the narrative, and made the film feel more complete, and together as a whole working artefact.

Overall, the music really changed the film on every level. The threat scene makes you sit up more. The loud music during the chase makes Amy’s towering form over Peter seem more epic. Matt Lakey’s track ends the film on an even happier and chirpier note. The industrial sounds make Amy’s recitation more harrowing. The ‘fairy-tale’ track makes Peter’s love for Rebecca seem even more fantastical. The audio make this film complete as a stand alone piece, and as my FMP. I owe all who helped with this part of post-production a big debt of gratitude!

Portfolio Panic!

So just recently I learned that the hand in for my FMP is to be done using a portfolio of paperwork. I knew the hand-in was physical, but I had no idea that I was being graded on how ‘official’ the shoot had been. Having been working with lecturers and industry professionals throughout the course of the last year, I know that in practice they are just a formality that are often buried at the bottom of the ‘important stuff’ and not really used.

However, if my grade is going to suffer through having not done paperwork, this puts me at a disadvantage. To clarify:

  1. This was a two-actor film, predominantly focused on two main characters. The three recruited for the flashbacks were paid £10 each, and the two main actors were paid according to hours spent and makeup used. To ensure they could not accuse me of not paying them, I had all actors sign a release form, allowing me to use a film that had them acting in, and confirming they had received payment.
  2. All locations were public-access areas. There were only three locations in the film – Wainbody Wood, Priory Place, and my house at Starley Road. My house is what I am living in for this academic year, I therefore have the right to film on my own property. Wainbody Wood was owned by the council, and therefore I asked for permission from the council to film there (which I got upon producing Public Liability Insurance from the university and my risk assessment). Priory Place is located in Coventry city centre, and is open to the public. I did not include anyone other than my actress in the shot framing, and therefore as far as I’m aware no paperwork regarding this location was needed.
  3. Public Liability Insurance was needed to confirm the legality of shooting in Wainbody Wood. I am covered by university insurance, as I am a ‘media producer in training’. I have this documentation and will hand it in as part of the portfolio.
  4. The flashback sequences required little in the way of crew or gear, and were much more informal than the main shoots in Wainbody Wood. A risk assessment was carried out in the wood as this was the most dangerous location of the three, featuring the most crew, the most equipment, and the longest working hours. The two flashback sequences did not have risk assessments, as they were shot within thirty minutes each time. Both the bench in front of the waterfall and my own living room were deemed safe areas where no additional crew other than myself and my camera were needed to finish the shoot successfully.
  5. A call sheet ‘thing’ was made and handed to the crew via Facebook. This was not printed out on the day, as I wanted to remain largely flexible regarding how the script progressed (and a good job I did too!). This call sheet was rendered useless in the final production – it was based upon a principal of shooting fourteen pages of script in a day, which I have since realised was quite a tall order!
  6. No log sheet was used during the filming. This made my job more difficult in the editing suite, and having been on projects since my shoot that have used them, I can understand their importance and will use them in future. However, critically, the lack of a log sheet has not affected the final cut of my film in any way.
  7. Storyboards were completed by the storyboard artist and handed to me mere hours before the shoot. They were largely incorrect (but we had no time to change them), and as a result we could not use them on the day. Again, I will include these storyboards in the portfolio, and again, the lack of storyboards did not affect the quality of the final piece.

Out of all the things missing, I think the log sheet and the call sheet are perhaps what need to be acknowledged. What I am wondering about is whether to make this ‘post-dated’ paperwork as I would have originally done them (i.e. based on one day), or how I would do them now (i.e. probably based over three days). I may do both, if only purely to demonstrate what I have learned from this project.

Another FMP – ‘Grandoise’

There has been a strange atmosphere coming over the course as the weeks head ever-onward towards the date of the final hand-in. I made all my plans back at Christmas and placed it all in a timeline, and that was the timeline that I stuck to. It was important to do this, what with trips to Iceland and the like, and this was the reasoning behind not doing a second day of auditions (the first was hampered by snowy weather), doing the shoot over one weekend, and keeping the idea simple from the start. All paperwork was done weeks before the shoot, and this allowed things to run smoother. However, not everyone is in the same situation as me.

Asking around, it appears that actually most students have finished their projects in recent weeks, or are just about to finish filming and are moving on into editing. My own film is lacking in sound design, now with only a little extra editing and a few music tracks to be added. I was sympathetic to others who were still trying to get their projects filmed, and with my camera operating (and newfound DoP) knowledge, I decided to help out as many as I could.

Most of my hands into these projects dwindled due to my own commitments – meetings were missed. However, some suffered from lack of communication – some projects never happened, and I have no idea what took place in their stead. But one project that seemed to need help was that of my previous camera operator’s film about the music industry. He was originally lined up to help me out with mine, but was one of the crew that pulled out before the shoot to film his own. Four weeks later, he was still filming it, so since I had a few days spare I figured I’d lend a hand.

Myself (right) and the director (left) on the set of ‘Grandoise’ (working title). Note the snacks he bought for us on the table – hospitality of cast and crew is always essential.

I had no idea what the film was about, other than it was based around music. I had no idea of the script, the locations, or the actors involved. It turned out it was a story about a man, who’s relationship struggles because of his ambition to become a rock star (at least, that’s what I deduced). The shoot for the day was to take place in a house belonging to a student friend of ours. We did the majority of the shoot in the kitchen.

It was a two-actor production for the day, and the filming set-up generally mirrored my own – one main camera, and one main audio operator. What I was interested to see was the log sheet – I didn’t use one in my own FMP. It recorded the ‘file number’ of every video taken, and what it was of, and then did the same with the audio (this sheet would have saved me a lot of time in my own editing suite). The log sheet did, however, add more time to the filming schedule.

I also noted the storyboards had been done by the director, not to any great artistic degree. Only he would be able to testify as whether they were any use or not – in my own productions, I know I wouldn’t have even given them a second glance! Communication with actors was good, and breaks were scheduled complete with food and drink ‘on the house’.

If anything, this project suffered exactly the same way my own did – I think there were too many people. The two cameras were actually both used more frequently this time around, but again it was probably best for the director himself to be behind one of the cameras, as he knew his own visual style the best, and he didn’t have much else to do other than make some decisions on the script and shout ‘action’ every so often (and to his credit, he didn’t use the broken clapper board!) Although I was pretty busy throughout the day, towards the end I handed my camera over to the other camera operator, as we’d switched to one of his own personal lenses, and I felt I should diversify the workload more. In the end, everyone had chipped in equally, meaning nobody felt at a loose end (like I’m sure some people did at some points on mine!) Interestingly though, we spent the whole day venturing through only two or three pages of script. In comparison, I had done seven pages each on my own day shoots (even the 1st AD seemed impressed at that tally!). Was this project better planned, and if so will that make it a better movie? All will be laid bare soon enough!

Further Research 3 – More Short Films!

In the following blog post I am going to examine some further short films – some of these films are even more removed from my FMP than the previous ones, however are still relevant to the module and the media industry as a whole. One short film I have always wanted to see is ‘A Trip To The Moon’ – a film made in 1902 that has little relevance to the media production of today, but contextualises the evolution of the industry. In this current year, ‘Kony 2012’ has been one of the most relevant short films, and perhaps has the title as one of the most relevant shorts of this decade so far. I have also found a locally-produced short film in a similar style to my own film, and it’s interesting to see some of the similarities.

But before I examine these, I first want to highlight something that caught my eye in a recent episode of The Nostalgia Critic. 

In this episode, the film critic reviews Jungle 2 Jungle in his usual sarcastic manner. However, a little way into it, he mentions how angels have never really fitted in with cinema as an art form (08:15 into the review). I usually agree with what the Nostalgia Critic has to say about films, so this came as quite a surprise. According to this man, perhaps the theme of angels, demons and religion are best kept in books or in paintings. I can quote a couple of films based around this mythology that – arguably – did not do all that well at the cinema, such as Constantine or Angels And Demons (the latter based on a mega-successful book franchise I might add). Although I have little plans to feature any angels in future films, fairies, demons, monsters, and the comparisons of these mythical beings to the dark side of humanity, all come into play. But as for my own FMP now, it will be interesting to see how the finished piece will be received. There are two things to note regarding the Nostalgia Critic’s remark:

1) His main criticism is using the term ‘angel’ to relate to a beautiful woman (which is indeed cheesy in any context). In the case of my FMP, there is an actual angel in the story; moreover, she is not a metaphor for something beautiful or pure!

2) The films quoted in the review – and the films I have quoted alongside – are all feature films. Indeed, Constantine was also based on a comic book which shared greater success than the film (this is also ignoring the film’s arguable ‘cult status’). Will my film fare better being a short film? I was quick to keep religion out of the script as much as possibly early on in the development – will this affect how the audience receives the finished product?

…I watched Jungle 2 Jungle a while back, and it looks every bit as bad as I remember! However, speaking of past times, something I have always wanted to see, but never actually got around to watching – was Georges Melies’s film A Trip To The Moon ( / ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune’). It was made in 1902, and was the first science fiction film ever made (effectively inventing the genre!). It was also the first film to use any sort of animation or special effects. Of course, at this point in time, the way the film is constructed is ground breaking on just about every level. I wanted to watch it though, just to clear up this long-awaited viewing. It’s always interesting to see what your current media production skills are based upon – something I’ve already found whilst watching films like ‘Rescued By Rover’ back at A-Level.

It’s interesting to know that the above film was considered a feature film back when it was made, yet today my own ‘short film’ actually clocks in a five minute-longer running time. Of course the special effects have come a long way since 1902 (though importantly, I can understand every film trick used here). This was a film that mapped out film production for the next two decades… maybe even longer. It’s usefulness of influencing modern media production is more limited, though it is still important to ‘K.I.S.S’ – something done to an almost painful degree in this film (I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that the narration sounded like a children’s book). But back then they were more innocent times, and the movie making industry barely even existed – it was exciting times for film makers the world over!

In contrast to a film made over 100 years ago (which means everybody directly associated with it is most likely dead – a sobering thought accompanying Beethoven’s quote: ‘life is short, art eternal’), a film that’s grabbed a lot of press recently is the Kony 2012 documentary, designed to be a film that utilizes the power of what is now commonly referred to as ‘the social network’ to get free distribution between the masses, uniting them to share a common goal in assisting in the downfall of an African warlord named Joseph Kony. This in an odd – but nonetheless amazing – comparison of two differing media productions created over a whole century apart.

Kony 2012

Indeed, ‘back in the day’, movies were made primarily to entertain. It’s not until the creation of the television and ‘mass broadcasting’ that the genre of documentary (or indeed general journalism outside of the newspapers) had any real place in media production. Once people were able to widely access various channels of media, documentaries grew in popularity for showing the ‘normal’ and the real. The invention and utilization of the internet has expanded mass access even more broadly, but films such as this (and ‘Life In A Day’) are bridging the gap between the simple idea of ‘mass distribution’, and the more interesting ideas of ‘viewer interaction’ and ‘user-generated content’. You could argue these factors will greatly influence the genre of documentary, which are after all about getting people’s stories out to the masses in the first place.

However, in the realms of short film, where elements of fantasy play a much greater role, aside from mass distribution it’s hard to say how the internet will affect the creation of movies any further than increased piracy, or using the audience to advise in your promotional material. Of course, we have 3D to contend with nowadays, as well as all the ‘remixing’ going on. A few films have had a lot of their success owed to the internet (e.g Snakes On A Plane, Cloverfield), but the films were still released at the cinemas, and people still paid to see them. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon – it’s a tradition that people still value. As with the said piracy controversies, if people stop paying to see films (and effectively fund them), then there simply wont be any to watch any more.

Audience participation will not likely affect the future of short films in my mind, as people watch films to be entertained and relaxed (their views possibly challenged, but the discussion is to be done outside the medium). It is still interesting to see how Kony 2012 created a huge debate across almost every platform of social media however. In fact, as I write this post, we are only days away from ‘April 20th, 2012’, when the ‘big movement’ encouraged in the film is going to take place across the world. It will be interesting to see how successful it is – although it made almost the whole world aware of Joseph Kony, it also brought about several anti-propaganda posters such as this:

What with all the left-wing lectures last term, it’s interesting to wonder how dangerous ‘free distribution’ through social networking really is. If we re-wind the clock ten years, and applied the internet there, would we see a video doing the rounds about weapons of mass destruction in the middle east, and joining the campaign to support the soldiers going out there to find them? In context, that is a historical extreme, but the point is still there. My problem with ‘Kony 2012’ is that I am unsure where the message is coming from. It is supposed to appeal to your good nature of not wanting children in armies (hence the use of the film makers own son – something I think was done in rather bad taste myself. If the message is strong enough by it’s own merits, you shouldn’t need to include family – It also made me think of that kitchen scene from Kill Bill, where the assassin brings out a picture of her daughter to stop The Bride killing her. You remember that?). But all I could think about was the motives behind the film – if you take it on face value, everything is great. Sadly, call me paranoid, but I never take things on face value. Stopping Joseph Kony should do more good than harm, and indeed it is only one step, but a step in the right direction. Needless to say though, he is reportedly one of many warlords in that region – for some reason he’s public enemy number one, and I just found myself wondering why. (You could argue it was down to the film maker’s personal experiences, but when you start bringing the government’s most wanted list in, and the political implications of allowing a video to spread virally universally as it has done, I again find myself back in those lectures about ‘spectacle’ and distracting the masses with the trivial. Like I said – call me paranoid.)

Before we start to descend into left-wing politics again, lets bring it back to short films and take a look at a more traditional form of entertainment – comedy shorts. This locally-made film from someone at Call The Shots was something I found on my Vimeo feed last week, and I’ve put it on here.

Unlucky Actor

I drew comparisons with this and my own film because they both feature a conversation between two characters. Although the genre is different (this is a ‘cringe-comedy’), the set-up is generally the same. The setting doesn’t change, and nor the do the two main characters. The film is about the vocal exchange between the two leads – whereas mine played more for finding out the mysteries of the characters, this film played more for the cringe-inducing laughs.

I have to say I was rather critical with my reception to this film. The bottom of the stairs – semiotically – I imagine was there to show that the ‘unlucky actor’ of the title is rather low-ranking in society. However, the background was primarily white for the majority of the film – something I was warned never to do in first year, as it doesn’t say anything about the setting or the characters (other than it’s bland, but we can deduce that from the events of the film!)

The film should have started with the cork popping straight out of the bottle, as this would have started the film with a bang… well, a ‘pop’. I noticed that it is also a decent way into the film (well over three minutes) before the two lead characters actually meet, and I found that the joke that ‘the woman is really successful and the man is not’ was not a strong enough set-up to keep the audience interested for a ten minute duration. Of course, comparisons to my own film can be made all over with this film though – it’s hard for me to edit mine at this point (it’s been cut to seventeen minutes so far), but if I can learn from errors made here, it should allow me to see fault in my own production.

My film is set in a forest, and also not in one location (there are two locations in the film – the path, and the log, excluding flashbacks). The characters have a degree of mystery – the angel more than the student, but the audience should wonder if the student will ever change at the end. The topic and themes also change – recession era-Britain, murder, sexuality, redemption and romance are all themes explored in the script (more or less in that order).  I think basing the conversation on a single joke may have needed more editing – keep the most cringe-inducing moments in the script and cut the rest (for me, the second half of the conversation and the scene with the couple on the couch). It was important to get good actors for this film, and this was true with mine also. The talent here pulls it off, and I like to think matches my own film, though the age range differs a bit!

Regarding my own editing, I consulted a lecturer about how to cut it down more. I was advised that the shots of ‘lingering faces’ never work in cinema (which I would argue with, were I not so hard pressed to cut my running time!), and also to ‘be brutal’. That last phrase made an impression. At this point, the film runs great. Every scene cut at this point is a whole scene in and of itself. An event in the script that had a purpose, just not a major one. I am being very selective about which parts are going, but at this stage, I must remove whole scenes instead of just shots and lines. The second rough cut was essentially the complete package – this is the first project I’ve ever done where I can make an official ‘Director’s Cut’! I’m still aiming for fifteen minutes – the sound will be finalized next!