Archive for May, 2014

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…