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.
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.
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.
After months of scripting and storyboarding and organising actors and locations and getting continuingly shot down, Monday 11th of November saw our first day of principal photography. I was over the Moon to finally get behind the camera and to get the chance to shoot what Jannath and I had brewing in our minds but thanks to my determination in getting things on the road, we got there.
I spoke to my actors over Facebook and arranged a date and a time period for shooting that would suit their schedules before talking to The Red Lion Theatre’s Chairman in regards to the same matter. It was far more sensible that I set a date my actors were happy with rather than organising with the establishment and dragging them along. As the date grew closer and closer I was preparing more and more for the shoot by learning the script for myself as a director and finalising the shot list for the scene.
Thanks to the Media department at school we were able to book out valuable pieces of equipment that really helped the production process. I had two tripods in my own possession however, these would only serve purpose for the two cameras that I had and yet, I still needed something to hold up my lighting equipment. The department were helpful enough to let us borrow two tripods, sound recording equipment that you can read about here and a dolly and track. School also helped me significantly by letting me have a projector over night to create the cinematic effect. The pressure was on since this was an expensive piece of equipment that was cost me and Jannath considerably if it got damaged. With all this equipment I was taking to the shoot I didn’t think twice about preparing a checklist to improve my organisation and to make sure I had everything I needed. You can see this list below and the “BEFORE” column concerns what I brought to the shoot in my car whilst the “AFTER” is in regards to what I took home with me. This proved as a great tool to help me organise everything.
The location was as perfect for our production as I remembered upon visiting it. The classic red seats, the lighting, the size of the room, were all what I had envisioned for the scene. I was more than happy to work here and after greeting Shirley, the Chairwoman, inside I couldn’t have prepared for the shoot any quicker. From my car, Jannath and I unloaded our equipment and although we couldn’t use the light-box (seen in the top right of the image below) I confidently compromised in carefully setting up the projector with my DVD-playing-laptop in the ledge next to it (hidden by the curtain). Despite this set-back, it turned out fine and perhaps more effective in that it was lower to our actors which made a more dramatic effect. We set up the dolly and track, attached the lights to tripods and arranged popcorn as the actors came in right on time. While we were preparing our “set”, the actors went away to rehearse theirs lines as I instructed and were happy to do so. It was at this point when I knew we had something promising in that their line delivery which I overheard was great and far better than what I had expected.
Filming itself went great. Jannath controlled the lights by adjusting their intensity from low to high creating the film projector that would have been in the cinema. I focused on the actors, the camerawork, directing the production and managing the team’s time so we could collect enough footage and complete the scene.
In order to communicate the cinema-environment we had created for our first scene, in addition to the lighting effects, I felt it was important to have the appropriate props. With the script featuring popcorn being thrown it was important to have popcorn boxes for this to happen and so, through Amazon, I got my hands on some. Although they were scheduled to arrive on time for the shoot, during my visit to the West End Cinema in Boston I managed to get my hands on some boxes that were perfect for the shoot.
Through Facebook I could efficiently and easily to each actor or all the actors together and it was using this tool where I discussed costumes. With the “YOUTHS”, Sam, Gareth and Connor, I wanted them to wear darker clothes which could help the audience identify them as menacing and the protagonists. Also, visually this would contrast them and form a barrier between them and Peter who would be wearing clothes such as a white shirt. I wanted him to wear clothes that would communicate his age so the audience empathises with him more and I think this worked on the day of the shoot.
Myself and the Ritz had a email conversation concerning filming that ran throughout October. We discussed the films content, organising a date and things we needed for the shoot such as a piece of film being projected with no sound to run during the shoot. However, towards the end of the month there seemed to be a communication breakdown and I learned the establishment was extremely busy through undergoing big changes to its theatre. Jannath and I wanted to get a date sorted however, we both agreed it was important to not be pushy and apply pressure to the already busy Pete Genders who runs the “community driven project” of the cinema. I sent a few emails every so often but got no reply and Jannath thought it would be a good idea to contact that a different way.
The Ritz not being available to host as a location until December seemed like a huge problem at first but soon we realised it might turn out for the best. Shooting in December wasn’t really an option as we wanted to get filming on the road as fast as possible. We both knew the editing process can often take far longer than the production process and so we need as much time as we can to do a good job with that.
And so we had a challenge upon us. Unless we contact another movie theatre, how are we going to make the scene in the cinema work? Peter Glanfield who plays our main role as the “Old Man” in our short film luckily has strong connections with Horncastle’s Red Lion Theatre which , from a previous film project, I know has an ideal seating arrangement that consists of many rows of stylistic red seats facing a stage.
But what about the cinema screen? If we are to have a film being projected in the scene there’s no way the scene will be convincing if my group don’t do anything about the lighting. Together, Jannath and I came up with an idea involving the light from a projector bouncing of from a reflector and onto the characters’ faces. I did a camera test and here are the results!
I think they’re convincing and turned out great in that we see the movie in Jannath glasses and she looks forward to where the screen is imagined to be. Thanks to her standing in as a subject, we got a great feel for what we had to do during the shoot and was definitely a big and valuable part of pre-production.
Concerning “three point lighting” the projector almost acts as a backlight for our shoot and creates a great look for me that it replicated right when we’re in the theatre will be fantastic. Additional light are to be added to set a more atmospheric scene and to distinguish what’s going on in the frame.
All this preparation would go to nothing if we couldn’t get to a theatre and so through our links with the Red Lion Theatre in Peter, our main actor, we contacted Shirley Moffat who confirmed our shoot after numerous emails describing the details of the shoot.
Before arranging a date I spoke to all my actors through Facebook and we all came to a date we were all available to make, as well as a date likely for the theatre to be free. We’d realised through Peter that many dates would be taken up by the theatre company. Below you’ll find an extract from my conversation with the four actors involved in the production.
Like I said, with thanks to Peter we had an advantage. Being a member of the theatre for over a decade he knew what was going on behind the scenes concerning rehearsals and guest appearance and was kind enough to personally email me these details.