Posts Tagged ‘film’

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.

Advertisements

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…

A short while before the emotional rollercoaster of A Special Announcement began, foley extraordinaire Phil Grigg had convinced me to let a friend of his edit Strings. This was mostly for practical reasons: I had no editing software of my own, and Phil wanted to submit the final film for his course at university, and the deadline was looming. He and Drew both needed time for foley and music, respectively, so we needed to move fast. The editor in question, James Berridge, had a lot of experience, some flashy software, and was keen to help out. After no shortage of consideration on my part, I agreed.

I’m not going to lie – at first I was not happy about the idea. Despite all the above practicalities, not to mention the risks of a first-time director editing her self-written film with very little experience – despite all that, this was, after all, my first ever production, lovingly and stubbornly clung to from the initial concept stages right through to the shoot, and I wasn’t sure I could surrender the footage to another editor. How could anyone else possibly achieve my vision?

But I did eventually concede. We were running out of time, and Phil assured me it would be a collaborative process, and I could have as much or as little creative control as I liked. And I had to remind myself that Project Flashcards is, at its heart, a collaborative project. A fresh set of (highly experienced) eyes was probably exactly what this needed.

That didn’t stop me creating a new storyboard based on the footage and talking poor James through it very, very thoroughly. I wasn’t quite brave enough to trust anyone else completely just yet.

We met initially to go through the storyboard and concepts, and put together the first half before I had to leave. James send me this first half for me to review, and I send him back a (fairly exhaustive) list of feedback. He incorporated it and sent be me back the redraft, this time with the second half as well. Once I’d reviewed that (this was maybe two weeks after our initial meeting) we met up again, and as time was getting on and deadlines drawing near, I decided that whatever we ended up with that evening would be locked off, without questions.

And after all that, I was surprised at how enjoyable and successful the experience was. If anything, James was just the right combination of willing to follow direction and prepared to offer suggestion, because what we ended up with, I am convinced, was as close to what I had in my head as the footage could offer, but ten times better than I could have put together myself. I knew just how I wanted each cut to look, but a combination of my terrible drawings, thorough descriptions and James’ educated efforts produced results which I am certain I would not have managed on my own.

This did make me realise that the collaborative aspect of Project Flashcards is not only to benefit others who are involved, but largely also for me to outsource all the bits I am not able to do myself (writing everything, being good at acting, owning expensive equipment and so  on). By that same token, maybe it will help me learn to outsource the bits I want to keep to myself, and take on the bits I am more apprehensive of.

With the initial madness of releasing the first installment of Project Flashcards a little way behind, I thought about writing a blog detailing how the challenge went, amusing anecdotes from the shoot, what I learned from the editing process and so on. Then I discovered that Chloe “I think I might have found my true calling” Isherwood had gone ahead and done it already. So in the spirit of collaboration I am handing over to the director of photography for A Special Announcement for her account of the shoot. As a preface, please find my account in statistics-form:

Hours in challenge: 48

Hours spent shooting: 8 (6 for main shoot, 2 for pickups)

Hours spent editing: 24

Hours spent sleeping: 9 (read: far too many)

Capri-Sun cartons consumed: 7

Times lead actor nearly died: 1

Hop over to Chloe’s blog to read her full account of shooting A Special Announcement!

Watch this space for 2nd Unit Director Andrew Cunningham’s account of the shoot from the other side.

A Special Announcement - click here to watch!

Welcome to my newly branded website! In an effort to celebrate, here is a miniature map of the new shape of the site:

Home!
From the Old English ham meaning ‘dwelling’, ironically where content changes most frequently and people linger the least

Modelling!
More pictures, less text; the best of my modelling portfolio, plus links to the other places you can see my face online

Project Flashcards!
A big part of my life at the moment deserves big fancy capital letters. The question is, which of the three movies currently in post-production will make it to this page first? (Hint: THIS ONE)

Writing!
My fiction, my featured writers, and my proofreading services

Blog!
This one, specifically

About!
Including links to other places you can find me online and other things that I like

As I’ve been pushing Flashcards pretty hard recently, here’s a brief update on how the project is going. In mid-January we shot STRINGS, the first short written for the project, utilising the professional help of Kiera Gould, Bill Thomas and Jon Boylan, among the other friends Kiera convinced to convene in the woods at 7am. Estimated wrap was 8 o’clock that evening, but following a joking conversation a week earlier, we had at the last minute arranged to shoot Ben Daly’s OUT OF BREATH the following day. Both shoots went surprisingly smoothly, with Out of Breath only marginally slowed down by everyone’s collective exhaustion and the only moment of panic in Strings caused by a stage light exploding on the Vincents’ driveway.

Having pulled several (proverbial) strings to make the shoots work, I left several parties eagerly awaiting the finished films, while my own interest was quickly snatched by the SCI-FI-LONDON 48-HOUR FILM CHALLENGE. I tentatively approached those who were already involved in Flashcards and scraped together some interest, which eventually became a team of twelve. Then, in a sleep-deprived desperation to meet deadlines, Phil Grigg and I made the painful (read: easiest) decision to remove the credits from the final product in order to stay below the time limit. So while the film sits with the judges with no names but that of the team, here are the awesome people who helped make it happen:

Andrew Cunningham (2nd unit director, composition, voice actor)
Chloe Isherwood (director of photography)
Alex Twinn (writer, production assistant)
Phil Grigg (production assistant, editorial assistant, foley artist)
Toby Warren (sound recording)
Fran Green (production assistant, and one of the first to encourage me to make this happen)
Gemma Druce (actor)
Jon Boylan (voice actor)
Adam Gould (voice actor)
Michael Vincent (voice actor, art department)
Matt Evans (voice actor, cybernetics consultant)
And Dan Tull (lender of Macbook and Final Cut Pro)

Curious? Watch A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT on Vimeo now!

Hello friends and followers,

Following an unnecessarily lengthy dark period over Christmas (where Christmas lasts from mid-November to late January) and a sudden burst of everything to be done, I’ll soon be completely overhauling and revamping this website, and until then I won’t be updating this blog regularly. Here are a few final updates to tide you over until the new website is up and running:

> I got a new job. Woohoo!

> Surrey Rollergirls were on GetSurrey and TGTSurrey recently, and we’re playing at Eastbourne Extreme  in July.

> In late January I directed the first two shorts for the newly branded PROJECT FLASHCARDS, both of which are now in a lengthy and incompetence-highlighting post-production.

> Isherwood Extreme informs me she has a few modelling shoot ideas she would like me to take part in, but in classic Chloe style won’t tell me what they are. I am hoping they involve warm clothes.

Two more shoots for Project Flashcards are in preproduction for the next few months, as well as initial planning for Three-Sphere’s first music video “Diamonic”. Until my new website is up and running I’ll be updating in miniature on Twitter, so follow me @cnhwilliams88 and look out for #projectflashcards and other such hashtags.