This post follows on from Keeping A Tight Control of the Budget on Two Short Films
We’ve loaded the kit from the hire company and now me and Rob the sound guy are on the motorway and heading for the ferry. Then, disaster strikes. Half way out there I get a phonecall – I’ve left a few VERY important pieces of kit behind – tripod, track and dolly and a handful of v-lock batteries. How the f**k did this happen? I can’t believe it. It takes a while for the panic to settle down before we realise things aren’t as bad as they seem. Dave on the Isle of Man might have alternatives for the missing kit. Big sigh of relief.
The sea is very calm and the sun is shining as we head over to the Isle of Man with three hours to finish off my script breakdown, shot list and shooting schedule. I’m making notes in the margins of the screenplay and drawing lines to highlight the shots and edits I have in my head. Those lines are then allocated unique numbers (usually scene number followed by letter, i.e. 1A, 1B etc). I’m literally editing the film on the page.
It’s not about building a large following on social media, it’s about building active relationships with people you are genuinely interested in and hopefully they find what you are doing interesting too!
Once I’ve gone through the script and made all my notes, I then move on to the camera set-ups and shot list. I use an application called Shot Designer, I set out the floor plan, put my actors and props in position and then play around with adding cameras. This app makes is so simple. I compare my script notes with my camera set ups to make sure I’m getting coverage. I then go through and make sure I’m not over doing it with the camera set-ups, can I get two shots in one and so on.
The limited time I had available to do all this on the ferry really did help me focus. I had no other option, I had to get it done. Check the behind the scenes documentary to see the above in action.
We’ve arrived on the island and unloaded the van, it’s time now to visit the two locations for the two short films for the first time. Location 1 is a care home for my short film, location 2 is a £million+ mansion for Dave’s short film. Each location came with it’s own logistical issues and responsibilities. The care home is full of residents and we only had access to two rooms for a limited amount of time. There were sound issues with buzzers, alarms, doors, residents and staff making noises throughout the day. A the mansion the whole crew were incredibly nervous as an damage to anything in the house could cost the production thousands and we were using false blood in the bedroom scene – you can imagine the panic. Luckily, we had a crew with enough common sense and care that the shoot passed without any major issues.
Day one of filming was on the Friday morning, call time was 0800 and we were there on time! We started with a group huddle, a chance for us to chat to the crew for the first time and lay down a few rules for on-set etiquette (mainly health and safety considerations). This would be the biggest piece of advice I could give any new filmmaker on set for the first time – have that group chat and gee everybody up with your enthusiasm and vision for the projects. Most of our crew had very little experience so we saw this as a good opportunity to give them some on the job coaching, which I think they appreciated. And it didn’t hold up the shooting schedule.
On set I like to have the following documents handy:
- Script with my director notes and scene breakdown
- Shot list in text form (with numbers correlating to the script)
- Shot set-ups in diagram form so I know where roughly I want the camera for each shot
The most exciting part of directing for me is working closely with the actors. Blocking through and rehearsing each scene, giving them my thoughts and then allowing them to add their own personality to the part. More often than not they’ll bring something new and interesting to that scene and something i might not have thought about. I think it’s really important for directors to give their actors creative license wherever possible.
Filming two short films in four days and with just three weeks prep was a great experience and one I hope to repeat again soon (in fact, I believe we’re out shooting another few short films in the coming months). I had my HD camcorder on me at all times to shoot lots of video diary moments and you can see 45-minutes edited together in the making of documentary on this page.