Bill Thomas, professional director and all-round top bloke, recently celebrated the release of his first feature-length film FALLEN SOLDIERS, now available to buy at many online and street retailers. It’s best described as “Sharpe” meets “The Walking Dead” and it’s got zombies in it, so you should get a copy.

A few months back when Bill was going through the acquisition process, there became an opportunity to add some special features to the DVD, and Bill asked if I’d like to make a behind-the-scenes featurette and a director’s commentary. Of course I hadn’t been there to shoot anything during the shoot, but there was a handful of behind-the-scenes footage already, and we decided to shoot some interviews with the cast and crew, then stick them all in a room to record a commentary track. Phil set up the camera and Drew recorded the sound externally.

You can see the featurette and hear the commentary on your DVD, and I won’t go into huge detail about the decisions behind how we made it (on another blog, maybe). I did a chunk the edit, and as it got closer to the hand-in deadline, I gave it all to Bill to take over and finish up. As ever, there wasn’t enough time for me to get it as tight as I wanted. When I sat down to watch the final product for the first time on my copy of the DVD, I made a list of things I wanted to do differently next time I have the opportunity:

  1. Put each interviewee in a different place – even if it’s just the other end of the sofa – to give it a sense of variety and also avoid the sense of jump cuts when changing from one to another in a near-identical shot.
  2. Vary the background – having a selection of posters, or maybe screenshots from the movie, would have helped instead of always the same one. The white wall also appeared completely washed out and didn’t look effective, so some wall hanging behind would have helped.
  3. Music – if we’d had time I would have liked music from the movie in the background of the whole doc, either a hash of various tracks or one central theme.
  4. Jump cuts – when I began editing I tried to make an effort to cover any cuts in the dialogue with other footage or images, but didn’t have time to fix them all. I personally don’t like the effect of the ones which are left so I’d make more effort on that.
  5. Images – something else I didn’t have time to finish was throwing in effects on the images, probably just simple pans and fades so they aren’t too static or abrupt.
  6. Camera angle – in future I would definitely have either a) tried the interview setup at home in advance, to work out the best angle and distance etc., or b) turned up an hour earlier than the interviewees to work it out. We could have made much better use of the space and made the look much more interesting.

I love behind-the-scenes features, and I quite enjoy commentary tracks too. My favourites respectively are from Lord of the Rings and Shaun of the Dead. I’d like to get really good at them because it’s something I’d like to do again and be considered to do for other people.

And my favourite part is that the featurette says “Directed and produced by Ceri Williams”. So my name is on the DVD of a feature film which a bunch of people have bought. It’s a tiny thing but it’s exciting to tell people.

P.S. Buy Fallen Soldiers!

In the last two and a bit years we’ve completed and published four films (including today’s which sort of counts), but we have a further three in post-production right now, totalling seven productions under our belts. On average, each of these shoots costs about £100 all told. A big majority of that goes on food – shoots often last all day and sandwiches, Haribo and Capri-Sun are like Duracell batteries to a film crew. In the instance of A Russian Affair, we also put money into costume and supplies for fake blood, and we bought a bunch of bits and pieces for the props for Sparkle. But consistently, the Tesco run the night before is where the budget goes.

Seven shoots down the line I’d like to think I have a better grasp on what we need and how much of it. I thought I’d knock up a list.

  1. Juice – Capri-Sun is a favourite, and orange and tropical are popular flavours. People will rinse through these quickly. Pick up a box of 10 for every 4 people.
  2. Fruit – bonus is that it doesn’t get wasted, as someone will take it home at the end of the day. Apples are good because they don’t leave much rubbish. Bananas are a good sugar burst. Get a bag/bunch of each for a standard size crew.
  3. Sandwiches – easiest and simplest way to get carbs into people. Shop-bought are, in my opinion, more expensive, no better-tasting, and also leave rubbish. A loaf of bread, block of cheese and several packs of ham works just as well.
    1. Bonus: Get a list of likes and dislikes from your crew in advanced. Sounds dumb, but I don’t eat brown bread, and don’t forget your lactose/gluten/etc.-intolerants. Some people, when asked, will just offer to make their own – this saves you from asking them to but prompts them to think about the option of just bringing their own sandwiches. This means you don’t make too many, nothing goes to waste and no one goes hungry.
  4. Haribo – no rules. Get lots. Get all of it. Seriously though, get two or three large bags of Starmix. Avoid the mini packs – they’re convenient for people to carry in their pockets, but just as convenient to leave lying around. Wear big pockets yourself and become instantly popular.
  5. Water – even if you don’t think you’ll want it, keep a 2-litre bottle on you any time you’re away from civilisation (e.g. if you’re on location). You never know when you’ll need it, and it helps for washing hands, mixing up fake blood, creating mud to dirty up cast, etc.
  6. Baby wipes – even if you aren’t playing with fake blood, get one or two packs of these for removing mud, butter, juice, real blood (just kidding) from fingers. People feel better with fresh hands. If you know you are using any amount of fake blood, get another two packs.
  7. Fake blood – Zac Street helped us nail down the ingredients for this: 2 drops red, 1 drop blue, golden syrup, adjust thickness with water as appropriate. I would recommend 1x squeezy bottle of syrup per two bodies – that obviously depends on how bloody you want them, but that seemed to be how it worked out for us.

While I’m in list-mode, here’s some things I wouldn’t bother with:

  1. Paper cups – we’ve had them a few times but they’ve always seemed like an unnecessary luxury. Unless you have a base camp with a catering table and someone looking after them (or more importantly, picking them up off the floor), I wouldn’t bother.
  2. Cans – again, I’d only go for if we had a catering table. Boxes of juice pouches are lighter and the rubbish is easier to pack down and take away.
  3. Energy drinks – let people bring their own. They’re expensive and most people can power through on Haribo. This includes canned caffeine drinks and sports drinks like Lucozade.

As a result of Russian, I put together a box of non-perishables which I can use for the next shoot. For my own reference, it currently contains:

  • 2x bottles of golden syrup
  • 2-3x bottles of red/blue food colouring
  • More baby wipes than I thought Tesco could stock
  • 2x stacks of paper cups

I’ve a small list of kit and bits and pieces I’d like to add to this box for future – duct tape, penknife, realiable set of walkie-talkies, etc. Oh, and a clapboard. We owned at least three between us on Saturday and we still made Zac clap his own scenes.

I wanted to write a note to the team and also blog about yesterday and today, so here’s my combination of the two.

The plan for Saturday was thus:

  1. Ceri ingests and organises footage, then puts together a rough cut; simultaneously, Drew syncs the audio and video from the interrogation
  2. Ceri locks off the edit with the synced audio, then delivers the cut to:
    1. Drew, to write the music
    2. Phil, to record a foley track
    3. Chloe, to colorise the footage
  3. Aforementioned members of the team return their work to Ceri, to assemble and export a final cut and submit the film

There were a number of problems with the plan straight off the bat. I only pitched the idea of Chloe colorising the footage at the last minute, and although she was up for it, she’d have to come to me to use the Mac, which she wasn’t used to using – and she has a Real Job on Monday, so I couldn’t keep her up. I was the one who could stay up all night, but no one else could start work until after I was done. On top of that, Drew and I ran into issues with syncing the audio and video, which were exacerbated by his software failing to work and my failing to understand my software. Long story short, we didn’t lock off a cut until gone midnight, and Drew didn’t finish the soundtrack until around 3am. (Shoutout to Drew who had work in the morning and another project with a tight deadline to be doing.)

  • Phil, sorry I left you in the dark and was terrible and keeping you up to date, but sorry more that I couldn’t get my shit together quick enough for you to do any foley.
  • Chloe, sorry I couldn’t sort myself out in time to do any colorising – it would have been fun to work together on it.
  • Drew, sorry I kept you up late, woke you up early, and was generally difficult to work with. I owe you some croissants.
  • Also, Tull, sorry you couldn’t be involved. For what it’s worth, I think our method from last year – where someone who couldn’t make the shoot began the edit on Saturday night – would have been a huge help this year. Let’s do another Sparkle next time.

All of this would have been fine – we locked off the edit, with music, added vocals and even a tiny bit of colorisation from me, at 11am, two hours before what I think the deadline was. But it turns out even two hours wasn’t enough to save us from the ever-loathsome trap of export times. Getting the right export type caused enough hassle in itself, but coupled with the length of each export trial, then the issues of re-uploading it for submission, turned it into a minor disaster. We finally submitted, by email, at just gone 3pm. I’m still not sure whether we made it in time for judging, but they have been lenient in the past.

As I’ve said before, for my part at least, I’ve only ever entered SFL48H for the experience, practice, and deadline pressures it offers. I am immensely proud of everything we’ve come out with for this contest, but I don’t believe we’re in league (budget-wise, for starters) with the shortlisted entries just yet. That’s not the point. The challenge is not to compete, but to complete the film. We’ve done that, so I call that a win.

Where I feel like I fell down this year was on collaboration. Since we left a lot of the preproduction to the last minute, I ended up dictating roughly what I wanted us to do, rather than crowdsourcing ideas. And thanks to the aforementioned mini-disaster yesterday, post-production fell to two people, rather than the five or six people who could have benefitted from the experience (and enjoyment). Having said that, it is worth noting that we had more space for collaboration last year – the post-production Sparkle party wasn’t something we could have repeated this time round.

HOWEVER – big however – I’ve come away from this on a massive high, now that everything is done and dusted. I want to sit down and learn my software properly and get to grips with exports and teach myself some colorising. We did the bulk of our writing within the 48 hour constraints, which is kind of new for us, so we’ve got that going for us. We had what I felt was the hardest specs we’ve ever had before, and I love what we did with them. Most of all I love the film (sound issues aside). I’m super-psyched for Crossroads next month.

I hope, despite my ramblings above, everyone enjoyed themselves, like the final film, and felt that they gained something from the shoot. Better yet if that ‘something’ is two bags of apples. That’s another thing I gained. Whole ton of apples.

apples

I’ll write up the weekend properly later.

Here’s a list of things I’d like for this project next time:

1. Photographer. I say this for every shoot, but we’ve never yet been able to secure a production-stills-only member of crew, even when we have plenty of people on hand.

2. BTS cameraman. This one’s harder than it seems – we got some behind the scenes footage this year, but it immediately filled up my card and I don’t think it’s as easy as it seems to do this well. Again having a dedicated person would be good.

3. Credits. On Sparkle I had to lock off before finishing the art effects I wanted on the credits, and in ’13 and ’15 we’ve had to forego them completely, just because it’s always left to the end. We tend to have a list of participants well in advance; there’s no reason someone artistic with a vague knowledge of FCP, iMovie etc. couldn’t be doing this on Saturday, and make them super-fly.

4. Social media. I like the idea of Twittering mid-shoot, but it always takes up more time than I think it will. I’d love to have someone on hand to tweet pictures and updates as we go along, just for the fun of it.

5. someone to interact with sfl so i dont have to

I’d normally say “Watch this space for the final product”, but why not watch this space instead…

10934139_10155337262345408_7457439443300723889_o

(writing at 11am)

I’m uploading the rushes from yesterday, behind schedule because I forgot to pick up a CF reader from Isherwood last night (or should say early this morning). It’s taking its time and preventing me doing anything else.

Yesterday’s plan:

09:00 – Meet in Guildford, buy costumes and snacks, get specs and make sure we had our prop.

10:00 – Drive to location.

11:00 – Begin filming.

18:00 – Run out of sunlight. Drive to studio, get fish and chips, dress set in record time.

19:00 – Begin filming.

22:00 (aka a reasonable time in the evening) – wrap, strike the set, disperse crew for a nice early night.

Yesterday in fact went thus:

08:00 – Chloe picked up an airsoft weapon from Nat (aka Nataraptor) after we remembered at the last minute that we needed one.

08:30 – Picked up by Chloe and brought to Guildford for tea with Phil, Zac and Olivia and wait for Chris to arrive.

09:00 – Went to Primark (aka costume department) to buy several white shirts and black trousers, while Chris and Zac went to Tesco for all of the snacks. Try to hang around long enough to receive specs in case we need to buy a prop.

11:00 – No specs as of yet. Set off to location.

12:00 – Arrive on location. Walk up and down non-pavemented road looking for a tiny pocket of 3G to check my email/texts.

12:15 – Realise by means of SFL Twitter feed that our specs are not coming by email/text this year, but are in the account.

12:30 – Finally get into account to access our specs. Have a mild panic. Rejoice that we have the prop already on us.

13:00 – Begin shooting on location. We had three cameras – Chloe’s as main, Phil’s as 2nd, and mine for BTS and pictures. We fill it up pretty quickly. Chloe and I share main camera handling as I need to practice operating and using a higher spec DSLR than mine. Phil and Olive shoot additionally on his camera. Highlight was Chloe being a dead body. Thought we got found by passers-by who turned out to be Matt and Drew bringing more snacks. Got fake blood all over white shirts. Nearly cut Chris in half.

16:30 – Ran out of things to shoot, despite it being light for a good three hours more and us having only been filming for about three and a half hours. Agreed that it was more sensible to head back and get a head start on the studio.

17:30 – Crash in various locations for tea. Pick up sound and lighting gear.

18:30 – Reconvene at the studio and start setting up. Send Matt and Chris out for fish and chips. Eat fish and chips.

19:00 – Sit down with Phil and Zac (while Chloe sets up lights and Drew sets up sound). Talk through world facts, the character, what we’ve shot so far and how that ties into a backstory, character motives, etc., in line with our title and line of dialogue.

20:00 – Begin shooting. Chloe on camera, Drew on sound, Phil 1st, Olivia clapper.

00:30 – Finish shooting, and realise we may have missed all the last trains. Drive around a few train stations. Verify that there are no trains. Redistribute actors for crashing overnight. Strike set.

01:00 – Bed.

Our first time entering this competition in 2013 was our third ever film shoot, and the first one I planned without supervision from people who knew what they were doing (i.e. Bill and Kiera). We were nervous and excited and planned for months in advance. I remember remarking in 2014 how less prepared we were than the first year, even though the final result turned out (in my opinion) better, and how we probably shouldn’t end up in that situation again.

I’m not saying that this year we are less prepared than we ever have been, or that we’ve left preparation later than ever before (production meeting last night), but Drew is worried that we don’t have a proper script written yet, and anyone who knows Drew will know that he is the non-worrier in our relationship.

I’m waiting for Chloe to pick me up so we can go into town and meet with the rest of Saturday’s team: Phil, Chris, Zachary Street (whom we stole from Bill’s feature Fallen Soldiers) and Phil’s cousin Olivia. From there we’ll have an hour or so to grab props, costume bits etc., and wait for our brief, then it’s off to location.

We’ll have until sunset to film on location, but are hoping to wrap earlier than that. Then it’s back to civilisation, where civilisation is the home of the highly accommodating Nigel and Louise Williams – my parents – who have agreed to let us turn their dining room into a studio for the evening.

Not running two units simultaneously is new for us for this project – it was the original plan, but now we’ll be doing location first and studio later, rather than at the same time. It means a longer day but it also means more people on hand, more cameras, and best of all (for me) I get to be on both shoots.

Expecting the brief in the next two and a half hours…

#sfl48h

The Sunday Post-Production Party started at 10am at our house with me, Drew, Cédric, Phil and Tull piling into our flat and filling it with laptops and Oreos. We gave Tull’s rough cut to Cédric and Drew, so that they could start preparing for grading and composing respectively, and Phil and I sat with Tull to review the rough itself. I’ve never collaborated on an edit before and spent most of my energy trying not to make too many demands and force my opinions on everyone.

Between us we worked through the edit and finished with a cut of around 4:30 (which was a welcome change from last year, when we’d struggled to make it down to a final length 10 seconds over the limit). Throughout this process, having everyone in the same room was both a good laugh and also useful for keeping everyone in sync. Phil, Tull and I were on Macs, Cédric and Drew on PCs; I was editing in FCP7 and Tull was using X; and Cédric was using an Adobe package for grading. Constant communication helped prevent some of the issues we’d had in the past when mixing setups (like the Announcement soundtrack being a good ten seconds shorter than the video, or Wargames being shot in two different framerates).

dead_ceri

At around 6pm, we handed over the locked-off edit for actual grading and composition. Cédric and Drew already had a head-start on this from working on the rough, but Cédric would need to apply the grade shot by shot, and composing everything obviously takes time. Fortunately, Dan, Phil and I had decided we wanted the night-time cityscape which the film opens on, and we were a tempting fifteen minutes away from the gorgeous views offered by the hills of Guildford.

Phil took us up to the Mount, overlooking Guildford Cathedral and boasting a view all the way across to the Wembley Arches. After setting up some shots and waiting for nightfall, I did my first ever camera operating – granted, it was a motionless shot of a town, but it was exciting nonetheless. After about two hours of charging batteries, lightsabre battles and lying on my back in the grass, we came back with the 15 seconds which would be our film’s introduction. We then took to finding some kind of visual effect to throw over the footage using only FCP7, and ended up cobbling together the “sparkle” effect using a filter and various layers of fade. For a team with no special effects experience or software, it didn’t come out too bad.

We were hitting stumbling blocks, of course. Cédric’s grade refused to look the same in the export as it did in the editor. Drew’s music, as stubborn and self-assured as its composer, would not balance neatly with the narration. A full thirty minutes were dedicated to trying to find the perfect sound for our detonator, which we later decided sounded better in silence. But the agreement to lock off something–anything–before dawn meant that concessions were made and compromises met, and finally we piled everything together into FCP7: the locked-off, graded edit, the music and narration, and the “special effect”-ified cityscape. At around 3am, everyone confirmed their preferred name spellings for the credits, and Cédric, Phil and Tull were finally allowed to go home.

gun_phil

I love this short. I love the way the title juxtaposes the theme, and the backstory for the explosives which you hardly get to hear about in the narrative. I love the memories it brings up when I watch it of an enjoyable, fast-paced shoot without drama or stress. What I think I love most about it is how different it is to some of the other things we’ve made. Strings, as I’ve talked about before, was so tightly tied to my personal vision that it was hard to give anyone else creative input or accept when things weren’t perfect. Wargames was huge and I was wholly unprepared for the challenge. But I approached this with a level of indifference which I actually think helped it a lot, because I wasn’t working towards an idea in my head, and I wasn’t desperate for everything to be perfect, and I wasn’t afraid of the people I was with judging my ideas. We came to the idea and we tackled it as best we could and we settled for what worked, not what we felt like we needed.

Watch Sparkle on YouTube here!

Back to Part 1

At 11:00 on Saturday the 12th April, I pulled up outside Cédric’s house with a car boot full of improvised explosives.

Drew and I spent a few hours the night before dismantling old electronics, sticking wires and circuit boards all over them and smothering them in gaffer tape. We’d already decided to use makeshift bombs as props in our submission for the Sci-Fi-London 48-Hour Film Challenge 2014. We weren’t entirely sure how, but it would probably involve taping them all over Michael Vincent.

We received our brief at about 11:15 by email.

Title:
Sparkle

Dialogue:
There’s nothing quite like meeting people in person, and I look very forward to meeting you.

Prop:
A mobile phone being powered off

Armed with our gaffer tape creations, our team of six met up several miles down south in the Green Belt to get started on the photography.

This year’s 1st Unit consisted of:

Cédric Hauteville, Director of Photography for the first time with Flashcards

Michael Vincent, the face of Drew’s voice

Phillip Grigg, scriptwriter and assistant director

Alex Twinn, AD, “the extra with piercing eyes”

Gemma Druce, demonstrating her wonderful ability to look angry

And me, starring in a Flashcards film for the first time ever. Simultaneously, Drew Cunningham was on his bike and heading to London to record the narration with sound extraordinaire Toby Warren.

Before we began, we decided that everything would be shot handheld: this was partially to speed things up, but also to avoid the issue we’d had last year of cutting sharply between handheld and sticks. We also decided (tentatively, on my part) to grade the footage in post, which Cédric had volunteered to have a go at. Both of these decisions gave him several considerations while setting up the camera, for which he ran a few test shoots in the weeks running up to get used to various techniques. (My favourite of these is the focus pulling, which you can see in the final film.)

mike_guards

We were on a very tight time limit, not because of the challenge deadline, or even because of limited daylight, but because we only had one battery for the camera. This led to an enforced wrap after about five hours, and having this deadline encroaching on us all day led to a strict two-take maximum for most of the shots. It was nerve-wracking. Not only could we not watch any takes back, but due to our tiny crew, half of the time I was in front of the camera and couldn’t see the framing at all. Whenever I was on camera, Phil would step in to direct the shot, and Alex directed the final scene with both me and Phil on screen. Many of the artistic decisions for shots were left to Cédric. Whoever wasn’t doing something was immediately doing something else. Although we were far below the number of people we’d hoped for, the result of our tiny crew, made of up people who had all worked on Flashcards shoots before, did at least mean that we all knew roughly how everyone worked and how best to collaborate.

By all accounts, the shoot was a success, where ‘success’ is measured in levels of stress (or, in this case, lack of) throughout the day. I think this was largely due to the preproduction stage of this being vastly overshadowed by the excitement of Wargames (more info on that to follow), meaning that we rushed into this without much preparation. Rather than this resulting in disaster, it led to a pleasant combination of freedom to experiment and a lack of caring much for how it came out. We weren’t there to be shortlisted, or even to improve on our previous films: we were there to add clutter to the Flaschards YouTube channel in the shortest possible time.

That evening we headed back to Cédric’s house to review the footage. The result of our limited battery power was a total of 30 mins of footage (giving us a shooting ratio of 6:1). I could already see that Cédric’s test shoots were paying off: while we’d sacrificed the time to find the perfect angles for each shot, the handheld style gave the footage the edgy, dynamic feel that looks effortless but I always find harder to achieve. We could already see the shots we’d forgotten or things that hadn’t worked out quite the way we envisioned, but for this project it didn’t matter too much.

trigger_mike

I dropped the footage off with Dan Tull, first-time Flashcards editor, to put us together a rough cut that evening while we recovered. Drew showed me the narration he and Toby had recorded, half of it based on Phil’s script ideas and half written by them using the title and dialogue we’d been given. The narration took the story we’d shot (one man and his bombs) and tied it in with the new concepts (of the horrific compound and the explosives it created), giving the final product a nice sense of depth. We could see that there would be work to do in meshing the narration with the visuals, but that would be a challenge for another day. More specifically, the following day.

 

Part two to follow…

Kickstarter total at time of writing: £3574, 79% funded

The ADR

Now the deadline was starting to creep up on us. As the Kickstarter would run for a month, it needed to close before Christmas to match Ant’s deadlines, and that meant we needed to be up and running before mid-November. The edit had crawled on just long enough to eliminate the weekend of the 9th from being useful, and due to the Lambda site being close to the road, we needed to do something I’d never done before: completely re-record all of the dialogue. We managed to secure an afternoon the following weekend with Toby Warren, the same sound recordist we worked with on Announcement. That Saturday, the 16th, was Ant’s originally proposed deadline, but I reasoned that you couldn’t release a Kickstarter on a Saturday…right?

It was a weird day. The first half basically amounted to Ant standing in front of a mic with headphones on, listening to his own voice and repeating it back. Then Matt did his lines, then Drew, and even Chloe ended up recording some. The weirdest part for me – while sitting on the floor and eating vegan popcorn in the small windows between the recording light flashing on – was that after twelve or so hours editing the footage, I knew exactly what the lines sounded like, and I couldn’t understand why my actors couldn’t replicate them as perfectly. (Well, actually the weirdest part was probably Drew ADRing the sound of another man having his tooth ripped out. That was also pretty weird.)

I also learned on this day that Toby is a phenomenal sound recordist and editor. He captured line after line seamlessly and effortlessly, mixed down a first draft in twenty minutes while we were there, and turned around the final track overnight and had it back to us the next day. I’m so grateful and glad that we had him in our list of people to exploit volunteers.

ant

The Final Stretch

With the ADR finished, all that remained was to hand everything to Drew to make us a soundtrack. We knew that Kickstarter required up to three days to review and approve the video, which made time even tighter. While I messed around with the remaining footage, Drew spent an evening gathering, editing and mixing together various samples and sound effects, from background music to ambient sound (including new traffic sounds to replace what we’d spent the previous day removing). We’d had some trouble with audio levels on Announcement, due in part to similar time restrictions, so Drew was keen to put in the hours to fix this for Hood. Finally, some time after midnight and after my last-minute requests, Drew mixed down all the audio levels and handed the export back to me.

I spent the following evening trying to stick the sound and the video back together; by this time the Mac was out of my reach, so I resorted to a half-version of Premiere running on my ancient desktop computer. The software itself wouldn’t play back the footage, so I had to export it and play it externally to ensure the soundtrack was in sync, not to mention trying to find the right export type for the footage itself. Three exports and half an evening later I finally had the completed video, though admittedly in the wrong framerate and at the wrong size – but no amount of tinkering or crying was going to improve things at this stage. I finally sent the video to Ant, and after some further back and forth and last-minute quality control, he submitted it to Kickstarter.

I thought we were in for a long waiting game, and all of a sudden I found myself surprisingly anxious about the whole thing. What if Kickstarter rejected the premise on account of the video? What if they didn’t think copious amounts of cocaine were that funny? What if we weren’t allowed to show drugs, tobacco, alcohol, knives, guns, torture – what were we thinking?!

And then, less than twelve hours later, I saw this Facebook status from Ant:

“And…We have approval.”

The Hood Kickstarter closes on the 19th December and is £926 away from the target. If you know people who are interested in comics, please share the page around. If you haven’t pledged, please consider it. And if you like short films with drugs, knives, guns, torture, tobacco, alcohol and Swiftheart Rabbit, then just check out the page anyway – you won’t be disappointed!

HOOD - the Kickstarter

Click the image to pledge to Hood!

Read part 2!

Kickstarter total at time of writing: £2,323, 51% funded

Day 2: Our house

The half of the cast required on Sunday were far happier to see me in our warm flat at 11:00 rather than the dark morning at Lambda. We had five scenes to shoot that day, and in the process Ant got flour all over my bedroom, Bill created a Harry Potter hovel under the stairs, and Matt used the phrase “Johnny Depp wanker” about thirteen times. The “office” scene used a five-person setup to shoot: Chloe holding the camera, perched on an office chair; Bill and Kiera moving the chair from one side of the table to the other (finally, successful tracking shots!); Ant acting as a “wipe” (i.e. holding a black folder for the camera to emerge from behind); and me with my ‘clapboard’ (letters written on my script).

Hood Kickstarter Video

Photo by Cédric Hauteville

One of my favourite things about this shoot was having a production photographer. Chloe is normally my go-to for photos so having her preoccupied as DP was a hindrance to this, until I managed to rope in Cédric, a fellow roller-derby-ist of the Surrey Jammerwockies. Good-quality production stills are important for marketing (of both your product and yourself), but having behind-the-scenes footage was also an extra-special treat.

The Edit

So we turfed all of the actors and comic writers out of our house and apologised to our housemates for moving all their furniture around. The shoot was finished. The plan now was to go through and label all the footage, then to pick up Bill’s Mac to begin the edit on Tuesday using Final Cut Pro. Sadly, as it turned out, Bill’s Mac, recovering from recent repairs, had been wiped of Final Cut and was therefore not available for exploiting. I ended up running desperately to Kiera’s sister Jemma, who agreed to let me borrow hers “for a short while”. (Fact: Jemma is awesome.)

Tuesday evening was taken up by a combination of long car drives, formatting hard drives and watching Jesus Christ Superstar on repeat while trying to shoehorn the footage into the Mac. By Wednesday evening I had a six-minute rough cut and was feeling pretty pleased with myself. On Thursday I bought myself Pokémon Y but still managed to dedicate the evening to the edit somehow. But Friday rolled around, and it became very clear that Jemma wasn’t getting her Mac back that day. I pleaded another day of loaning and promised its return on Saturday morning. The good news was that I did finish the cut on Friday night as planned. But what I hadn’t bargained on was how difficult it is to export anything ever. Bill and Kiera popped over, the former to help with the export and the latter to borrow my rollerskates, and I finally had the Mac back to Jemma early Sunday afternoon (with, of course, a box of chocolates, which I asked her to share with Robin to make up for, you know, the tights thing).

To be continued…

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