REACTION

To improve the piece, I made a first cut, which needed some more work to it, and uploaded it onto YouTube so I could easily send it around. Using Facebook, I showed this cut to a number of other amateur film-makers and friends so I could get a reaction and learn from their experiences from the watching ‘PRAY’. What was so great about the replies I got is that they were very varied and often viewers had read into the scene and discovered meanings for parts of the film that I hadn’t thought of.

REACTION1Hearing compliments about something you’ve worked hard on is great but criticism is perhaps more valuable! The purpose of making  a rough cut was so that I could make changes to it later for the final cut and the reactions I got gave me ideas and a direction to make these improvements. For example on the left here you’ll see Jay advising me about the film’s soundtrack. The advice he gave me I think will improve the feeling I want to get in my film in that the viewer is lured into a comfortable place but soon tricked and the nice, friendly young man who comforts a distressed girl appears not a he first seemed.REACTION2_2

I also got a great reaction from Chris Elmer, a student studying a course involving film production at Leeds University, and he gave me a heavily detailed response upon watching the film. It was a great help to see what worked and also what didn’t. I didn’t expect people to like the frame of Tabitha that’s flashed to us at the end. I put it in there as an experiment and it’s gotten a generally positive reaction. On the other hand the main character’s smile at the end was something I really liked however, this break in the fourth-wall was often criticised for its humour and it being unnecessary. I was aiming for a cheeky, creepy and chilling effect but really that’s achieved depending on the viewer it seems! The advice, the compliments and the criticism I got will all be taken into account to improve my film for the final edit to ensure the best result possible!

THE SHOOT

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.

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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!

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Tabitha Bennett and Joel Dowson as the main characters in ‘PRAY’. Here is the camera positioned for a two shot of the actors.

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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!2

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.2-5

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.3

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.3-5

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.4

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.

ST. MARY’S CHURCH

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In preparation for our shoot, I went to our filming location, St. Mary’s Church, for many reasons. It’s useful to understand the size of the building instead of relying on memory so you can plan how shots are going to look, where to put cameras etc. I also got to find out where sockets were for my lights. Having already done a shot list was great as I could really get to where I wanted to shoot from and see if it worked as I had planned. There may be something in the way or things may be different sizes from what you remembered but luckily I was lucky for it all to work with my plans. Below are some images I took of the church’s interior.

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I was lucky enough to be given of a tour of the church while I was there by a group of ladies who also let me take videos to replicate shots I had planned for the shoot.

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One of the ladies directly me to the part of the church providing information about the building itself and gave me a leaflet which was a help. The leaflet had a great map of the church which I scanned and photocopied to help me during the shoot. Having these plans communicated the different stages of where the cameras, equipment such as lights and the dolly and track, and where the actors should be. Hopefully it’ll improve efficiency.

The leaflet I was given when visiting St. Mary's featuring a map of the building itself.

The leaflet I was given when visiting St. Mary’s featuring a map of the building itself.

SHOT LIST

To me, the shot list is one of the most important aspects of pre-production. If it’s planned and done right, it can make a film made by amateurs have a professional look, and is key in understanding what’s going on in a film and the ideas/emotions you’re trying to convey. The shot list can be planned with shot lists however, I prefer writing rather than drawing and so I take to my notepads.

NOTE BOOK 2And so with a rough shot list done, I waited a couple of days until I went back to it for a second look. This way I had given myself time for new ideas for creative shots to come to my head and/or better ways to communicate ideas. After a few adjustments I went on to typing the final shot list that I will take with me on set with I’m shooting. This, you can see below.
notebooksAnd so with this, I hope, I will make fast, efficient and good quality film-making. Having this as a reference helps me understand where I will need to be when filming, why I need to be there and for what reason/outcome. It also acts as a check-list so I know what needs to be done and in what order. We’ll see how useful using something like this is on set since this is the first time I’ve done something like this, hopefully all will be fine!

PREPARATION FOR THAT ‘FILM LOOK’

A great way of how to make something that looks professional and to have that ‘film look’ is to shoot in the right aspect ratio. The editing software, Adobe Premier Pro, allows you to add letterboxes to your footage to get this widescreen look.

letter box screen shotThe simply thing to do would be to film the scene, add the bars during editing and hope for the best. However, since a lot of the footage is being hidden it may ruin a shot. For example, an actor’s head may be cut off. Sometimes this can be fixed by playing with the motion of the clip but I wanted to feel confident when shooting that this wasn’t going to happen. And so I installed Magic Lantern onto my camera, a download for Canon cameras that increases its functionality.

ML-Logo-2-Joseph-03And so with this installed, I’ll have excess to a lot more specific options including crop-marks which will make my film look much better, in my opinion.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

Location in film is vital. You can have a fantastic script, a flawless cast, great music and more but if you’re shooting a World War One drama, for example, in a place that doesn’t fit or isn’t convincing these things will be seriously undermined. The idea of using a church came around when a member of my group, Joel, revealed he had excess to such a building.

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Although Joel’s church was great, due to where those involved lived, we decided to try St. Mary’s Church in Horncastle. Using their website I got the right contact information to ask them if they were interested.LOCATION 1Although they seemed happy to help Rev. Jon Wright was concerned about the story/plotline, which I understood. I replied with this email below.

LOCATION 2I was worried however, he agreed to help!

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SCREENPLAY – SCENE ONE

Last lesson, we worked together in our group to begin our script. After my last project I wanted to use a suitable program to format my screenplay and so I got hold of Celtx, which did a great job. I learnt the basics of the structure of screenplays online and took the time to work on the screenplay and script for the first scene we planned involving Joel and Tabitha’s characters. I’m happy with it at the moment but I think it needs work. Image