Archive for August, 2015

A few weeks ago, Chloe and I set aside a weekend to churn through a backlog of editing, colouring, movie-watching and general girl-talk. We had three main tasks:

Task 1: Plans for Crossroads, which we shot in April and which I have since been editing.

Task 2: Edit the music videos for Gun Hill Riffs, which we shot in June.

Task 3: Fix the colouring for A Russian Affair, which despite being technically finished has yet to be released (see here, here and here for details).

 

Task 1: Crossroads

Crossroads is a potential series originally pitched as a “Supernatural/It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia” crossover which turned out more like a “Shaun of the Dead”-style fantasy comedy. I wrote the pilot and we hired our first ever ‘studio space’ to shoot it over two days in March. I’m not really sure what the endgame for Crossroads is because I’m not really down to make a webseries and it isn’t entirely competition/festival quality, but I like the characters and the concepts so I’d like to keep making them.

The edit for Crossroads is more or less finished, but it has a few gaps. One of the decisions we made early on was to shoot in single takes (originally in a “Green Wing”-like style but it ended up more static), which meant that shooting went a lot more smoothly but that ‘problem’ takes are much harder to deal with in the edit. When I chatted to Bill about this, he pointed out that we were going out to shoot a final flashback scene anyway – why not get some pickups? Reaction shots can cover a cut between two versions of the same shot, and I realised there were a bunch of places where I could really use them. And we were already getting the boys back into costume…

One of my primary concerns with the edit was the second scene. It was one of my primary concerns on set, too: scene 2 was shot halfway through the second day, when people were justifiably losing a bit of momentum, and about ten minutes in I realised that my plan for the scene wasn’t going to work. It took us a short while to sit down and re-plan the scene, and then shooting it became a real headache. Although I was still fairly optimistic, I knew everyone around me was getting fed up, and I had no way to bring them up or make things right again. In the end all we could do was push forward with the new plan, and although it was difficult and painful, we got the scene shot. Thankfully the boys really turned it around and came through in the following scene we shot (almost in one take, first time).

The lack of prep for that scene really showed in the edit. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t make it flow. There wasn’t enough footage, or the angles didn’t line up, or people moved differently from shot to shot which meant they couldn’t be used together. Eventually, with Bill’s words of wisdom in my head, I hashed something together that ‘would do’, just for rough cut purposes. So I was not confident at all when this scene rolled around when showing the edit to Chloe and Matt. But Chloe was fully behind the scene, and I quickly realised that half of my issue with it was that it went some way off-script (and, consequently, off the vision I had in my head). And Matt, who hadn’t read the script and wasn’t on the shoot, also took no offence from the scene, and so I realised that despite its issues, it told the story fine.

And so we moved on. I pointed out the places I wanted to stick pickups in, and where Drew would be inserting his special effects, and Chloe offered a few suggestions as well. We talked quickly through the scene we still had to shoot, and then we put Crossroads aside for the night. That was one (admittedly the easiest and quickest) task off our list.

Next was the real editing…

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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!