Managing time is vital in filmmaking. Setting yourself and your team an appropriate time scale to do things is something to take much care in. In making Screen Three, I kept this mind and continued to organised my time strategically and so the production process would go with any problems. Lets begin with our first scene. Emailing was key in communicating between myself and Red Lion Theatre which was the location for our shoot. I first contacted Peter Glanfield, an actor at the theatre, who gave me plenty of advice about when to propose a day to shoot. This worked to my advantage in that I could more easily organise with the Chairman, Shirley Moffat. After a series of emails with her I was able to secure not only a date and time, but also an allotted time for when our people could be in the theatre. Because I was weary of problems for the shoot, I asked for an hour more than what I thought I might need to ensure we’d get the film done and the quality of our work wasn’t reduced because of any pressures concerning time. Also, I knew it would take a while to clear up the popcorn and pack away all the equipment (cameras, tripods, lights, projectors etc) and so having this spare time really helped. Whilst all this was being organised, I simultaneously organised with my actors to ensure everyone could make it. I contacted all my actors in a group chat using Facebook to make for a more efficient process. With the second scene which we intended to be shot in our school’s car park, I contacted the Deputy Head Master and after a series of emails, we managed to come to a date that worked for everyone and didn’t interfere with any of the events going on at school. I also arranged this with the school’s caretaker who allowed me to have power whilst on the shoot. Time really wasn’t an issue for our film after it was organised. Taking care in carefully managing time in pre-production can really boost the quality of a piece since it isn’t undermined by time issues. It’s something easy to organise and if you want your film to be successful, time must be addressed right.
In order to create the cinema scene, Jannath and I had the right location, props such as popcorn and popcorn boxes, and the right lighting thanks to a projector. But there’s something missing from this that would sell the scene – sound. A film is supposed to be shown right in front of Peter’s eyes. Recording the audio from the movie on set along with the dialogue would just be impractical, lack quality and undoubtedly ruin continuity. In the editing process it would be a nightmare.
However, I realised the best way to execute shooting the scene would be adding the film soundtrack later on Final Cut Pro. I could have used a soundtrack from my past films or possibly shot an entirely new audio track to place over but in my research I found an opening I could not refuse. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead served to create the old-fashioned atmosphere I wanted for the cinema which would be violently interrupted by and contrast with the youths.
But was this legal? In a short answer: yes. The 1968 film, and its soundtrack, has entered the public domain due to an “error by the distributor”. When the film was released, US copyright law required copyright ownership to be displayed on the actual print of a film (e.g. in the credits). Early prints of Night of the Living Dead had the title Night of the Flesh Eaters, under which was the copyright information. When the title was changed for theatrical release, the distributors apparently failed to include the copyright information – leaving the film uncopyrighted and in the public domain. So it was that the distributors received all the profit from the film, and Romero never made a penny from it. This also explains why there are so many different VHS and DVD recordings (mostly of poor quality) available today. Anyone is allowed to make and distribute a copy.
This all means I am free to use the film as I please and even add it into my own movie, which is exactly what I’ve done in Screen Three. Anyone interested in watching the film, click the link below – it’s legal!
The majority of the sound in regards to the first scene of our film, Screen Three, was recorded whilst we filmed. Recorded externally, I synced up the audio with the footage on Final Cut Pro’s timeline and worked to create the desired sound perspective and quality for the dialogue however, some sounds needed to be added in post production.
I wanted the “Youths” to be as aggravating as possible. They’re intended to irritate the film’s protagonist and also, the audience and so, in order to emphasise this idea, I recorded myself munching on popcorn and added it in when the footage needed it. When Gareth’s character bites into the snack for the first time in the scene we hear a loud crunch which arguably suggests his ignorance in his quiet, hushed enviroment and quickly gives the audience a first glimpse into his personality, especially when paired with the bashfully delivered dialogue.
The BFI Film Academy course I’m undertaking offers filmmakers, like myself, the chance to meet industry professionals to help us improve our talents. Recently I was lucky enough to meet Grant Bridgeman; a sound recordist who has worked on productions such as ITV’s television series, Mr Selfridge. He went through the do’s and don’ts of recording sound and made a short video clip highlighting errors inexperienced recordists like myself might make. This included distortion, interference with elements such as traffic and an insight into sound perspective. Sound perspective concerns a sound’s position in space as perceived by the viewer given by volume, timbre, and pitch. Getting it right is vital in creating the right effect. For example, if a wide shot makes an actor appear as small as an ant, having the dialogue he’s delivering seem close to the viewer and loud is very distracting and unnatural.
His job concerns“the art of capturing sound without comprising the image”.
Despite the lack of light, warmth or energy to much of anything, my father and I visited when he keeps his vehicles to record additional sound. With the Zoom H1 digital recorder and a pair of my UrBeats headphones, we recorded a range of actions such as the car starting up, lurching forward, braking to a halt and finally the engine simply running whilst the car’s stationary. Thanks to my headphones I could check for any interference while I was recorded and so I ended up with great quality sound that went straight in my film. I also recorded the pushchair falling over and a female scream to add to the intensity of the finale.
If you look below you can see an area of my timeline during post-production on Final Cut Pro. Each file is explained on the left of the image.
No film is made without inspiration, including that from other films. This video details the research process I undertook to make my film and how similar media products such as films, novels and music videos influenced my work .
The video delves into the likes of The Butterfly Effect, A Clockwork Orange, Scream 2 and ‘Movies’ by Alien Ant Farm.
I feel as though I was more than prepared for shooting this second scene which concludes the film and brings it to its tragic ending. Concerning location, I had done extensive amounts of research, planning and tests shots that really worked to my advantage during the shoot in that I really had gotten the right place to film which lead to no problems shooting there. You can see my work with locations around the area and specifically around the area my group decided to shoot at by clicking on the hyperlinks provided.
Cinematography was not an issue either. I had previously captured the car featured in scene extensively and was more than familiar with its shapes, which made me confident in making it look attractive in my shots. Examples of photos I shot can be seen below.
I had planned out what lenses to use for each individual shot, such as the first shot, being a wide shot, being filmed with a wide lens (18-55mm). Another example would be the close ups I featured in my scene which I filmed used a 55-200mm lens. Using a lens like this that’s capable of zooming in so far creates the isolated feel I wanted for the scene by compressing each layer in the frame in on each other. This isolated feel is also created by being able to get up close to our actor, Peter Glanfield, which also emphasises his emotion in the shot.
Lighting a scene is vital in filmmaking. Rarely can you approach a location and immediately start to film. As well as creating an atmosphere, lighting is significant in showing everything in the scene clearly. The camera is not nearly as sensitive to light as the human eye; just because you can see what’s in the frame well doesn’t mean the camera will achieve the same. I used three-point lighting for my scene which I discuss extensively in the video below.
Despite having these three studio lights, I decided to substitute the backlight for the car park’s street light as it seemed to appear more natural. I think the shots looked great with the lighting and everything that’s significant in the frame is lit clearly and effectively.
The image above was captured at the final position the camera poses during the first shot of the scene which was achieved using a crane. I think this is one of the best lit shots of the sequence due to the focus on the car, the insignificance of the background and the all-around well-lit subject. In order to achieve this shot, I first realised the natural light source was coming from the right side of the frame and so, to make a natural-looking shot, I positioned my key light here, and to balance it out and to light the car’s grill I used a fill light.
For the safety of everyone involved in the scene, Andrew took the time to go through the actions Peter would have to undertake for the second shot. Under my direction, Peter had to get in the car, appear preoccupied and anxious before starting the car, turning on the headlights, appear to run over a push-chair and show his reaction all in one shot. Using a 200mm zoom lens was how we achieve the effect of running something over. As I mentioned before, zoom lenses compress layers in a frame and so while the push chair was a few feet away from the car, it appeared inches away from the grill. This made the shot safe and unthreatening to those involved.
So what’s going on with mine and Jannath’s short film production? Thanks to our great organisational skills and my motivation I’d say we’ve worked at a good pace and right now have done a considerable about of work. Despite this there is more to do and it’s time to clarify what’s done and what’s to be done.
SCENE ONE IS DONE. This is the cinema scene and perhaps the most complex and difficult part to film however, it’s over and done with. The footage turned out great, the shots were nicely executed and the actors’ great performances really shine on screen. The audio recording, despite moments of noise, is at a great quality. I’m really happy with the result which has been taken to Final Cut Pro editing software and is almost complete.
What’s next is the second scene and part of this has already been executed by myself. I took the time out to organise the shoot which revolves around a car parking lot. The location and date has been set, the actor involved is ready to go and the car is available for us to shoot. All aspects of our pre-production has been completed and so I’m ready to take on the task of filming when it happens. After this is completed, all that needs to be done is editing it all together, finishing the film poster and the film review page. It’s likely our film will be close to being done by Christmas.
Whether we know it or not, we are truly blessed to have the internet at our disposal. Amongst other things it acts as a superb tool to educate the world and with this in mind, I took a lot of time out to learn more about DIRECTING.
Film Riot is such an awesome YouTube channel where the host and film-maker, Ryan Connolly, gives back to the filming community with tutorials, behind the scenes of his work and his own short films. In the video above he talks about something very important and that’s working with and directing actors.
What makes the video I’ve featured so good and so helpful is having professional actor, Todd Bruno (right), by Ryan’s side to further the educational supplement and to get a personal viewpoint from an actor. The duo discuss acting, directing actors as well as answering questions from guys like me who want to know more about this subject. Connolly and Bruno had amounted their relations from their work on Ryan’s shot film “TELL” which he wrote and directed while Bruno played the lead acting role as “Taylor”.
In a close look into filming day two of their short film, actress Bridget Kelly is interviewed about the director she wants to work with. Information that this is relatively rare to come across and very much helpful is educating a director. One of the most important things for her is for her to “trust the director” and “they have no what they want”. This is understandable and something I felt I’ve tried to achieve for my own work. With “PRAY” I took my time with shooting to really tell my actors what I was going for for certain shots and angles and passages of dialogues so while I meditated and revised that they got to know what I was going for.
Bruno discusses similar ideas with Kelly by saying it’s important to be “close” to a director, “to become friends” with him/her and it’s helpful to get to know each other. “The more intimate, the better the product.” The film set, he notes, is a place with “high intensity”; people are running around, things need to be done quickly and to a high standard while money is being spent, and, refering to the director, an actor needs to “rely on the person in charge of everything “. This trust is there so as an actor you can “put yourself in their hands and give yourself over to them”.
Similarly Connolly discusses them from a director’s point of view. Any sense of discomfort is no good during a film production especially for an actor. I know this from working with amateur actors who aren’t confident in the craft. Them feeling not right damages their performances significantly and so it’s important their in an environment they’re happy in. Although Connolly notes that this method of directing is “my method, not the method,” he continues to say how he talks to his actors directly after cut. He’ll begin with “what the actor did right” and “lead to the bad” whilst focusing on keeping “the actor’s confidence fully intact”. This balance between criticism and keeping their confidence is a difficult one but one that needs to be done, and done right, I’ve learnt. Afterall, the director, as Connolly puts it, is supposed to be the actors’ “safety net” as someone to fall back on. As a director you need to be someone who’s approachable, a good communicator and someone who does their homework and knows what they’re doing.
What does Connolly expect from his actors? Well, in my opinion, what every director should expect on an established production.
- They need to know their dialogue. Not knowing this slows down principle photography dramatically and gives off an unprofessional vibe on set. Not knowing the dialogue means a lack of preparation of behalf of the actor which may mean they’re not ready to fulfil their role.
- Actors need to understand and have a grasp on their character’s “motivation”. What’s driving them in a certain scene? Why are they there doing what they’re doing? Answering these questions and adding them into a performance is vital for an actor.
- Similar to the point above, actors must have a understanding of their character. From looking at the script, perhaps one might imagine and construct a past for their character that might create a more in-depth performance on screen.
This being said, actors have the power to evolve the character if the writer or directing likes where the path is taking their film. Connolly notes that this happened in “TELL”. Todd Bruno added something to “Taylor” that his director admired and thus was added in the script, and so the actor/director relationship is very much a collaboration.
Studying this discussion has been immensely helpful in furthering my understanding of how to work with and direct actors. Although learning on set through directing first-hand is immensely important, one must not forgot there is a whole world of directing out there to learn from, thanks to videos like this.
Below is the short film “TELL”; the film the duo are discussing in the video at the top of this blog. With Ryan Connolly putting this thing together and Todd Bruno’s acting role, this is not one to be missed.