Posts Tagged ‘project flashcards’

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…

HOOD - the Kickstarter

Click the image to pledge to Hood!

Read part 1!

Kickstarter total at time of writing: £1,565, 34% funded

Those of you following me on Twitter will have seen copious usage of the hashtag #hood for the last three weeks. That’s because in that time, Flashcards have been working on a video for a Kickstarter promoting Hood, a graphic novel written by our mate Anthony Jones. You’ll have heard me talk about Ant before – I first met him when he sundered our nation and led us into civil war (disclaimer: events may not have actually happened). He’s a graphic novel writer, among other things, and the Kickstarter will be funding the creation and publication of the second half of Hood. The Kickstarter went live at about 7pm yesterday, and smashed the first £1,000 in four hours.

There are just under four weeks left to make a pledge to Hood. In that time you can read about the making of the video itself, Flashcards’ fourth shoot and second finished product to make it out of post-production.

Preproduction

A month or so before everything kicked off, Ant proposed the idea of shooting a Kickstarter video with the brief “more interesting than some geek blubbering into his webcam”. He’d had come across this video which had the style and feel he wanted to emulate. His deadline was pretty tight: once we’d settled on a weekend and Chloe had shuffled around her schedules to accommodate, we had three weeks from shoot to release.

The script presented challenge after challenge. The whole concept was built around tracking shots, which we didn’t have the gear for. We needed an indoor location because of the weather, but had no lighting. There was a lot to shoot in two days, and the sun set at 16:00. And we needed a man to wear tights. That was probably the biggest headache.

Thankfully in my arsenal of crowdsourcing and collaborating I had Kiera Gould, who is not only a remarkably resourceful and supportive friend but is also the sister of fight choreographer Robin – which solved our man-in-tights issue in a way only siblings can. Making shotlists and schedules is one of Kiera’s countless talents, and by the end of an afternoon we had a solid plan. On Saturday we’d return to ‘Lambda’, the location from Announcement, call time 07:00, and Sunday would be pickups at our house in Surrey from 11:00. The following few days were spent scraping together props and crew, and suddenly it was 05:00 on Saturday and I was off to cram Cédric, Phil and a wheelchair into my car.

Day 1: Lambda

At 07:00 we arrived at Lambda and met the rest of the team. We left the lads setting up scenes in one of the warehouses while I took Ant, Chloe, Kiera and Cédric around to a field to shoot what turned out to be a completely unnecessary scene due to my misinterpretation of the script. So far so…hmm.

Hood Kickstarter Video

Photo by Cédric Hauteville

But the rest of the day went well. It was the first time I’d needed to work to a schedule, but I’d seen Kiera work her 1st AD magic before, only this time I was the one being hassled by her instead of supporting her hassling from the other side. Drew turned up halfway through the day with a multitude of amazing sandwiches. I’d asked Ant to learn his lines, but Ant is two things: 1) a force unto himself, and 2) very good at ad-libbing, so each shot ended up with almost unique dialogue. Chloe particularly enjoyed being able to move around the site and actually use her camera properly on account of having two hands again. We had a brief downpour which I thought was going to cut the shoot very short, but it cleared up and we ended up wrapping slightly ahead of schedule.

To be continued…

Hood: The Kickstarter, promoting the upcoming coming by Ant Jones and Armin Ozdic

Click the image to pledge to Hood!

When launching Project Flashcards about a year ago now, I envisioned producing short videos at a rate of one every month or two months. Now I look back on my YouTube channel with a minor pang of regret for all the work that’s been done this year but without a great deal to show for it. But I think anyone who gives the filmmaking industry anything more than the slightest passing glance knows that the turnaround for films is inescapably long, and as many times as I add titles to the “Upcoming Projects” section, nothing is going to change this. My attempts to make myself feel better about this include Tweeting excessively while editing and planning shoots, as well as blogging about some of the work I’ve done, either as part of the project or other experience which will benefit the project in the long run. To prove that this isn’t just a post to push all my other social channels, here’s an example.

When I first offered (read: begged) to make a music video for Three-Sphere, my first point of contact to have my big plans and visions put into perspective was friend and film-making mentor Bill Thomas. After setting my budget estimations straight, we went over some of my ideas for sets and visuals, all carefully mapped out in my mind with precise dimensions and chair positionings and surface area of mirror glass. Bill’s responses to my meticulous descriptions all seemed to follow the same trend: “Why does it need to be X? Can it not be Y? I have Y in my garage right now.” Repeatedly I had to remind Bill that it couldn’t be Y, because Y didn’t have the right dimensions or colours or chairs or nearly enough mirror glass. (Fun fact: mirror glass costs a lot of money.)

A few months later Bill invited me to 3rd AD on a docu-drama he was directing. In between chasing actors around a massive stately home and being tied up in the back of a van, I spent a lot of time simply watching Bill and his team. Bill has experience in both directing and art department, so creating visuals is what he does, and he does it in a way that, to begin with, I simply couldn’t get my head around. As an example, the aforementioned mansion was the set for six episodes of the docu-drama, each focusing on a different character spanning several decades and states of America. One of the rooms, over the course of three blocks of filming, served as an army dorm, a school dorm, three different bedrooms, an interrogation office, a living room and several other ideal prostitute-murdering locations. The final footage is still in post, but I guarantee when it hits the TV screens, even I won’t be able to tell which scenes were shot in that one room.

It brought me down to earth a bit. Maybe once I’ve moved to Los Angeles to work on my blockbuster screenplay, I’ll have enough money and sway to shoot in sets made to my specifications, exact replicas of the “in-film” locations they represent. But even big established production companies don’t do this. Indeed, what is the point, when one corner of a room can be a police interrogation room and the another corner can be a psychiatric hospital? Probably the first piece of lingo I picked up on film sets is the verb to “cheat”. It applies to anything – cheat the angle of the room so it looks bigger, cheat the clipboard higher up so we can see it in your hands, cheat that 3rd AD so she looks like a fifteen-year-old boy. And if the local gaming store is offering to hire an upstairs room for half the price of a normal venue and your photographer friend’s grandparents have a barn you could put a drumkit in, it might not matter that the room is the wrong size and the barn has more horses in it than you envisioned – you might be able to cheat.

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.