Professionalism in Practice – 1st Assistant Camera and Co-Writer on “Tony”

This was one of the two productions this year that I was involved with in two different capacities. The first was as a co-writer with the film’s director Killiesha Bancroft and the second was as 1st Assistant Camera on set.

Firstly I’ll talk about my experiences co-writing the script with Killiesha before I talk about my experiences on set. When Killiesha first approached me to help her develop a script for her to direct this year, I struggled to come up with an idea that would bea story Killiesha would want to tell. After tinkering around with a script about a woman with sex addiction, both Killiesha and I did not seem to be inspired by the story within that script so we quickly abandoned it. We then opted to develop Killiesha’s screenplay Tony which she had wrote for the screenwriting module last year. I was familiar with the story so it was definitely the right story for both of us to be working on, especially as it had already gone through numerous drafts.

The main challenges in writing this script with Killiesha was nailing down the chemistry between Tony and Reece as well as trying to accurately portray the mental illness Tony’s mother was suffering from (which I had identified as paranoid schizophrenia from Killiesha’s earlier drafts). I believe we both did an adequate job in meeting those two challenge in terms of what was on the page, but I have to confess that I did not find the performances of the actors on set to be what I had imagined (especially the actress who protrayed Tony’s mother) from when me and Killiesha wrote the script. Whether the actors were miscast or whether it was down to Killiesha’s direction, I cannot say for sure, but it seemed to me that they did not capture the essence of the characters me and Killiesha worked hard to get on the page, a similar issue I had found in Mantas’ film which I wrote.

I think in regards to both Mantas’ and Killiesha’s films, the fact that I have issues with the way the film was presented may boil down to the fact that I have some experience directing in the past so I have been looking at these films throught the eyes of a filmmaker rather than a screenwriter, therefore I can identify things I would do differently if I had been directing. I think this is a habit I would need to break if I wish to continue writing scripts for other directors in future.

On to the production side of Tony.

Operating the follow focus on set as Sara and I try to capture a shot.

Operating the follow focus on set as Sara and I try to capture a shot.

I originally was not meant to have another techincal role on the set of Tony as I had already worked on the script with Killiesha, but having changed producers midway through pre-production, there were a lot of things that were arranged last minute. Amnah, the new producer, contacted me to help out as 1st AC with Sara and having no reason to turn her down, decided to accept.

On the first shoot day, we arrived early at a hardware store in Walthamstow to shoot the shop scenes. Overall the shoot day went pretty okay. The only major issue was the fact that Amnah had forgotten to book out a tripod, so all the shots that were shot in the shop had to be done on a gimbal. This proved difficult as there is a long dialogue scene between Tony and Reece in the shop so me and Sara had to take turns operating the gimbal as holding it for a long period of time can get exhausting. If we had had the tripod, shooting this scenes would have been much easier, but at the end of the day we had managed to get the shots we needed and ended up wrapping slightly earlier than scheduled.

Operating the gimbal in the hardware store.

Operating the gimbal in the hardware store.

The second and third day of the shoot moved on to the house interiors and exteriors. These shoot days were fine for the most part, except for the last day when the extras that were meant to arrive for an exterior scene did not arrive and had to be replaced very last minute by the director’s sister. This meant that production started later than scheduled and we therefore had to shoot behind schedule which was relatively stressful as we had many scenes to get through.

This led to Killiesha acting like 1st assistant director on set rather than as a director as she was very conscious about time and getting the shots done as quickly as possible so that we don’t fall behind schedule, rather than focusing on the quality of the scenes she was shooting. This could probably be attributed to the fact that we didn’t really have a 1st AD on set to help keep things running smoothly so that could perhaps be a factor into why we fell behind schedule.

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At the end of it all though, we managed to get the shots we needed too and wrapped on that third and final day. Looking back, I didn’t do a massive amount on set as I was hoping as Sara was adamant about operating most of the shots herself, which was understandable as she wanted to shoot as much footage as possible for her dissertation showreel. Overall I enjoyed my time on set and would definitely want to work with Killiesha and Amnah in future.

 

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Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

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