Due to the short time we had at our filming location, at the church, combined with the high standard of quality I wanted for the film, I didn’t have a lot of time to get a range of photos. I wanted to fully have my attention on filming rather than on documenting the shoot.
Just some of the equipment we had to take for the shoot. We brought along an additional tripod and also a dolly and track thanks to the school’s media department!
Tabitha Bennett and Joel Dowson as the main characters in ‘PRAY’. Here is the camera positioned for a two shot of the actors.
And so, with using the church’s website, I contacted the Reverend of the building and organised a two and a half hour space for us to film. Thankfully he was more than happy to help after I gave him details of the film’s content and purpose.
Production went under way from 4:30pm – 7 pm on Wednesday 26th of June. I’d created a Facebook event that included all those involved with the shoot and this, combined with a group chat of the same social network, provided us with easy communication and resulted in great organisation. However, I wish I’d got hold of my co-workers phone numbers as when we weren’t on Facebook it was difficult to get in touch. For example, there was a struggle about an hour before the shoot when school has finished and it was hard to get everyone together. But I’d allowed plenty of time from then to when we needed to be at the shoot so all was good!
Since I lived in the area, we all went to my house to gather cameras, mics, lights and more equipment and also to get into costume. Tabitha plays a young, vulnerable girl who is targeted by Joel, the short’s main character, and perhaps the antagonist one might say. She wore her old school uniform, usually worn by 11-16 year olds, to give her the innocent look I had imagined for her. I wanted her costume to be one of the many elements of he scene that helps emphasise her vulnerability. The uniform was burgundy and this purposefully contrasted with Joel’s black suit, suggesting a big difference between them both. I think Joel’s suit was great in that it being black made him stand out from his surroundings and Tabitha as well as suggesting something dark to his character. I was worried he would be overdressed and so Joel kindly brought along a range of different clothes to wear however the first suit he tried on really caught my attention and was what I wanted.
We made our way down to the church and I went in before everyone to meet Rev. John Wright. He was waiting for us and after a handshake and an introduction I told him I was who he’s been emailing so he understood who was who. I think it’s important to make people on a filming location as comfortable as possible. Any awkwardness and hostility is never good when filming and can only hinder work and so I took the time to introduce everyone to everyone.
To my surprise, John left us with the entire church to ourselves. He locked the front gate to ward off any people would thought it was open to avoid ‘intruders’ but allowed us to make our way in and out the building as we pleased. This is great since we should shoot anywhere in the church at any time without disturbing visitors.
I planned the shoot extensively and although it helped a lot it also hindered production. The first few shots are dolly shots and I’d organised the shoot so that these would be done with 5-10 minutes since I thought they’d be easy. I thought the only struggle would be to move equipment such as the dolly and track around however, it was difficult to get the shot I wanted and so each shot took a few more takes than I’d expected. This made us behind schedule and I felt a lot of pressure because of it. Similarly, a complicated shot that I thought would take extensive takes merely took one take! The next time I shoot I’ll have to remind myself to go with the flow a bit more and be prepared to leave things not organised.
Working with my actors was great. Joel had starred in numerous plays and had the confidence to do his thing, even in front of camera which is greatly difficult. Tabitha was more wary and I could see was nervous about filming. My job as a director is to make her comfortable and have confidence in herself and I think I did a good job with this. I let her take her time, which was often difficult due to time pressures, but she needed not to be rushed. I complimented her a lot and in the footage that didn’t make the film you often hear me ending a cut with ‘that was great’, ‘I really like that, guys’ or something along those lines. I also showed the guys footage and this is always a great thing to do. It shows them the work we’ve already achieved and can be motivating and exciting.
The shoot progressed and we luckily had time to take numerous takes for shots and move equipment around. Moving the equipment (additional cameras, lighting, dolly, track, microphones, tripods…) was much more difficult than I imagined because it was simply me who was doing the moving. I felt the actors had to remain in their seats to avoid continuity errors and this led to a lot of time being spent to prepare shots which lost us a lot of time.
Upon editing, I wish we’d spent more time looking over clips since there were a few continuity errors. For example, there’s a two shot where the two characters are looking into each others eyes. It then cuts to a close of Joel however Tabitha is then looking down. If we looked at the second clip we would have recognised this and re-shot it to avoid any problems. However, I’ve tried my best to solve the problem.
The shoot went great. I thanked John for everything and gave him ten pounds to put in the church’s collection. The only thing left to do is dub areas of the dialogue and add numerous diagetic sound effects. These include a variety of footsteps, nailing biting and heavy breathing to create the world of the film. And so I’m happy with the outcome of the shoot. Of course there’s areas I wish I’d do differently but that’s great in a way since I’ve learned things which will improve my next project.