Category Archives: MDA2900 – Producing & Directing: Film Form & Practice

Lamentation – Final Project [Rough Cut Screening Feedback]

The rough cut screening of my film went better than I had anticipated. The general consesus was that the motif of the flower was very prevalent and clear in my film compared to the other two Lamentation projects. People also praised the performance of my lead actor which I couldn’t be more happy with as the audition process behind finding actors was a long and gruelling one.

The thing that people pointed out or had a problem with was how quick the drama gets resolved, saying that it plateaus to quickly. As I mentioned in my earlier post about how the objective eye of the director can get clouded if the director themselves are also the editor, this was something that I did notice. However I soon realised it wasn’t a problem in the edit itself, but more in the script as the way the film is edited is quite frankly, strictly to the script in that how every scene transitions into the next is scripted and purposely constructed. This left me little breathing room to play around with the structure of the edit.

People made suggestions in to how I can counter this offering different alternative ways I can cut the scene. I ended up not going through with many of their suggestions as I felt that if I listened to them and changed my film accordingly, then it would not end up being my vision. If my film is going to fail or be successful, then I as a director want it to be on my own terms in accordance with my directorial vision. I do understand that in the real world that test screenings for films encourage filmmakers to change their edit of the film, but I think there is a fine line to making adjustments to your film and completely altering your film.

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Lamentation – Final Project [POST-PRODUCTION]

There are three reasons why I decided to edit Lamentation myself: One, is that I don’t feel comfortable barking orders over someone’s shoulder in the edit suite as it makes me feel like a dictator. The second reason is that I did not want to schedule the days I come into the edit with any potential editor of mine’s schedule. The flexibility of coming in to edit myself whenever I had the time to was invaluable, especially during the tail end of the semester when so many other people are busy with their own projects and may not be free when I am free. And thirdly, it’s because I myself enjoy editing.

The edit suite is where the film you shot actually becomes a film; editing being the only aspect of filmmaking that is unique to cinema. I’ve nearly always edited (or co-edited) the projects I’ve worked on in the past and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

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The only problem with a director of a film editing their own movie is that they lose an objective eye on their material. Something I noticed in my experience editing Lamentation which is something I’ll go into detail in my next post about the feedback I received from the rough cut screening.

Moving on to my actual process in cutting Lamentation together, the process was longer than I thought it would be. This would be due to me having to sync the sound together. This is something that I have never done before in post as in my previous experience I had used cameras that have the XLR cables of the boom microphone connected to them, recording sound and picture on to one file.

This process was lengthened even further due to the fact that we did not use a clapper board throughout the shoot so I could not use the auto sync on Premiere as there was no point of reference. Coupled with the fact that Rita, as my 1st AD, did not fill out the camera reports properly (not using the proper camera report template) and not having a sound report, this made sifting through the sound files take much longer than need be.

This hit home to me the massive importance that clapper boards, camera and sound reports have when it comes to editing the picture of a film together as they make the life of an editor all the more easier when sifting through heaps of footage.

I managed to put together a fine cut of the film relatively quickly as I knew in my head exactly how the film would look like edited (another one of the advantages being both director and editor).

The sound mix with Peter Williams was relatively quick also as there were only a few sound effects that I wanted in order for me really make the film come to life, not relying solely on the ambient noise. Me, Rita and even Peter himself contributed to doing the Foley on some of the sound effects which was a lot of fun. After our session, I looked forward to playing around with the sound effects we recorded in the edit and see what I could create.

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The colour grading took me a few days as it had been a while since I used DaVinci Resolve so I had to get my head around it. But in the end I managed to colour grade all of my clips to suit a colour palette that I wanted which resulted in a bluish tinge for the first half of the film (symbolising my protagonist’s grief and depression) and a golden hue in the second half of the film to illustrate the change in disposition of my protagonist Donald to a more optimistic one.

Looking for a composer as well as getting the music onto my film on time proved to be a major challenge of the post production process. I contacted a colleague of mine who I went to the BFI Film Academy Residential with in 2013 at the NFTS who just happens to be a freelance composer and asked him if he was available to score on my film.

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Initially he was happy to do it, but he contacted me a few days later saying he had too much paid work on his plate with similar deadlines to my film and therefore could not devote time to working on it for free. Seeing as me and Rita did not have the money to spend on him (considering we went overbudget already), we decided to look elsewhere for a composer.

Luckily Rita stumbled across a 3rd year music student,Josiah, who was looking for film’s to score on. We met up with him after our sound mix session and I communicated to him what I wanted musically for the film. He took all of my direction on board and after sending him a rough cut of my film I awaited his contribution.

After sending me his first rough composition of the music  I sent him a comprehensive email of the changes I wanted to the music.

Now, I have never directed a composer before (in the past I usually plucked royalty-free music from free music websites) so I made the rookie mistake in initially sending Josiah a cut of my film with the audio still attached (I had not yet tweaked the audio levels). This resulted in him sending me a rough edit of my film back with the music and sound effects being too overpowering.

Therefore my submission was a film where the audio levels were not crisp. I asked Josiah to send me the music files separately from the video and he did so, allowing me to incorporate the music to my original timeline edit with the audio levels adjusted, furthermore allowing me to edit the music levels also.

 

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Professionalism in Practice – TREMORS (Sam and Andrija)

For Sam and Andrija’s shoot, I was employed intially as their gaffer. I was unable to be on set during their first day of production as I was in the middle of shooting my film, but I was present on all subsequent days, eventually taking on the role as director of photography after Andrija’s original DP, Sara, could not be available afterwards due to the challenges she was facing with her own project. My first day on set as a gaffer was shooting the house scenes in which I learned on the morning of the shoot that Andrija had fifty shots to get through coupled with the fact that only one day was scheduled to shoot inside the house. This made me have some cause for concern as I wondered why Sam would only schedule one day to cover fifty shots. Then I learned that Sam did not receive any shot list from Andrija until early in the morning before the call time. DSC_0049             DSC_0051 Needless to say, this lack of preparation and tight time frame to work in made covering the scenes in the house feel very rushed as we had to run through so many shots in such a limited time. Ideally I would have liked to have spent more time getting the lighting right for different scenes/shots but the reality was that I had to work faster than I would normally work just so could we get through as many shots as possible. Also, the scenes in the script vary between night and day so at times Andrija would want to shoot day for night which proved impossible as no prep had been considered for this. Had the shooting order in the house scenes been properly scheduled to have the scenes in daytime shot during the day and the scenes at night/evening shot in the evening then that would have been better. Alternatively, if we had to shoot day for night, then we would have needed to properly recce the location and gather the necessary materials (such as plastic bags or foil) to cover the windows to make the interior look darker. All of this made me realise how important is to properly recce a location and to schedule shoot days properly in accordance to the amount of shots needed to be covered as well as the time of the day a scene needs to be in relation to the script. Had this all be done with this shoot day then perhaps we would have been able to get through all the shots Andrija wanted in the house and not have to stop and reschedule to cover certain scenes at a different location and at a different time. DSC_0045 Subsequent shooting days however ran a lot smoother. We shot the bathroom scenes at a different house location and the doctor’s office scenes (both interor and exterior) a few weeks after with little major issues that got in the way of production.

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Professionalism in Practice – ORDEAL (Dmitrij & Deborah’s shoot)

I had the opportunity to operate as director of photography on Dmitrij and Deborah’s shoot of Ordeal. I made a real mess of things on the first day of the shoot in which I arrived an hour late to the unit call due to my oversleeping. I have never been that late to a call time nor I have ever overslept when I knew I had to be at a unit call in the early hours of the morning. This is a mistake I would never repeat again in future.

Onto the shoot itself, principal photography lasted three days long and I learnt a lot of new things during this shoot from the DoP’s perspective.

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One thing I learnt is the subtelty in how to light a scene in a night-time interior. In a book trailer last term were I served as gaffer, I was able to successfully light a night time interior, but this time round I struggled. Partly this was due to the fact that it was hard to pinpoint a natural source of light. The only one came from the TV and generally TV lights flicker but the artifical lighting we used for that did not flicker at all (the light from the actual TV source wasn’t strong enough), making the action within the scene look softly spotlit rather than “dramatically lit”. This is something I’ll have to learn for future in that it is hard to manipulate natural light from artificial sources (e.g. TVs, house lights) so to counter this I would have to procure better lighting equipment to replicate the “natural light sources” on a living room night time interior.

This was also the first time I have ever properly shot day for night by covering the windows with kitchen foil to replicate a night-time interior.

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This really helped capture the interior night-time look that was needed for the scenes we were shooting inside the house. Although they did cause a problem sound-wise as the wind from outside would cause the foil to rattle loudly at times. Perhaps employing the use of black bin bags would be a better alternative material to use to cover windows in the future.

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Relatively, I think the shoot went smoothly with a few hiccups. There were a few instances where we only got one or two takes of an individual shot and I think Dmitrij could have been more involved in actually directing the performance of his actors as I felt their performances were very flat. Normally when I’m DP’ing a shoot, I like to pay attention to everything that is within the frame on a superficial level and tend to ignore the performance of the actors as that is the director’s job to watch closely, but I couldn’t help feel that the performances in this film stood out to me as not great even as I was not particularly focusing on them. I did not want to undermine Dmitrij’s authority as a director when I began to notice the stiffness of the acting as I would not want a crewmember to do so to me if I am helming the director’s chair on a project. However I did offer suggestions to Dmitrij in terms of the blocking of the actors’ movements as well as inquiring whether he was happy with the performance of his actors in a certain take, somehow trying to get him to really consider their performances and to direct them accordingly. I cannot say for sure whether these subtle tactics of mine worked or not but after viewing an initial rough cut of the film in the edit, I could see that the film could do with a lot of work, performance-wise with the actors.

Also, I cannot say whether or not my subtle tactics were something I should have done in the first place as it isn’t the DoP’s job to be concerned with actor’s peformance but I just tried to help Dmitrij shoot his film in the best way it can be shot.

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Professionalism in Practice – DEAD BURGLARS’ SOCIETY (Nick & Jorge)

For Nick and Jorge’s shoot, I took on the role as sound recordist and boom operator.

Production on their film, Dead Burglars’ Society, had a very sprawling production schedule that I found to be very inconvenient at times. Given the nature of their script, many actors and location were required to cover the scenes they needed to shoot and I wondered before production whether they had bitten off more than they could chew.

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At times, Nick would call me or message me when and where they were shooting without providing a call sheet or anything of the sort which resulted in mutiple days where shooting commenced in short bursts (e.g. three hours shooting on a Saturday afternoon).

Despite not having to endure long shoot days that can be pretty tiring, I found this method of scheduling shoots to be very unprofessional as well proving an incovenience to me as I had other projects to work on, as well as my own projects to finish. The fact the shooting in short bursts means that an end to the production is nowhere in sight made me feel as if I was forcing myself to commit to long-term thing that wasn’t being handled very efficiently from a production stand-point.

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Because of this, I withdrew from myself from the production toward its final stages due to the uncertainity of its schedule. I did not know when they were planning to shoot anymore, nor did I know where and I could not afford to keep my days open and free when I had other stuff I needed to get done as well.

From this experience, I learned that organising your production meticulously and planning and scheduling everything out thoroughly makes principal photography on your film run a lot smoother. Also it helps in the sense that your crew knows exactly how many days and hours they are needed for, allowing them to fully plan out their personal schedules ahead of time.

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Professionalism in Practice – LOST AND FOUND (James and Hannah)

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As a gaffer on this shoot, I learned the value of utilising natural light in interior settings. As of recent I had it in my head that everything that is shot inside needs to be lit, but sometimes that is not the case as very good natural light can achieve easily what artificial lights can never achieve (or it would require massively expensive lights and rigging to achieve a similar effect).

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I was not present for the first day of shooting in the house scene, but was there for the remainder of the shoot in the care home/clinic. It was there that I learned to rely less on artificially lighting a scene and more on the natural light that was coming through the windows. It was early April when we shot so the weather outside was very nice, casting very good sunlight that diffused through the windows to create a nice soft light with a clinical feel to it due to the mise-en-scene of the location we were shooting in.

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There were only a few times where we had to use artificial lights to cover a shot. These were mainly close-ups or shots that had actors positioned in front of windows, so the backlight made them look very silhouetted.

In future projects, I think I will learn to use natural light more as the effect it creates can be very nice, allowing to achieve a degree of naturalism a lot easier than with artificial lights. However I understand that not all environments and locations I shoot in in the future will be camera-friendly lighting wise so I wouldn’t use natural light carelessly; I would still recce locations and judge accordingly what would be the best source of light to use. And of course, shooting during the spring/summer months allows for more flexibility when it comes to lighting as natural light would be more available due to the longer days.

 

 

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Lamentation – Final Project [PRODUCTION]

The entire shoot of my project Lamentation lasted for four days. Initially, Rita scheduled a five day shoot but after looking at the scenes she scheduled to be covered on each day, I convinced her to reduce it to four as she scheduled an enitre day’s shoot for only a few shots.

The first day of the shoot was in the park and we were unfortunate to be hampered by bad weather as it rained softly in intervals throughout the early afternoon. This restricted us in the sense that we couldn’t use the sound equipment to record sound. Luckily, Erin, our runner, had an umbrella with her so we could still record with the camera (keeping the camera under the umbrella at all times of course). I knew this would potentially cause problems in the edit as when we moved in to shoot closer shots, the rain had stopped, effecting the colour temperature of the shots we were getting.

Annoyingly enough, the rest of the week had clear skies and decent weather. Had we swapped one of the shoots of the other days with when we shot on Monday, we would have been able to make our film look better by filimg outside on a bright and clear day. This made me realise how paying attention to weather forecasts is crucial especially when it comes to scheduling exterior shoots.

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Moving on to the interior house shoot. This lasted us three days as the majority of the film took place within the house. There wasn’t many problems we faced when shooting within the interior of the house. The only part of the house scenes we shot that I wasn’t entirely happy with was the bedroom.

The bedroom itself is originally a student room so it looked like this initially:

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And we had to turn it into a bedroom that would look like an elderly couples’. No easy task. But this is what we came up with.

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Luckily we do not show too much of the room in the shots we cover but I still would have liked to have shot in a location that looks more visibly appealing instead of having a large mass of white walls.

All in all, the bed itself was the major issue. Lacking a double bed, we had to make do with a blow-up bed as a substitute. At first glance, you wouldn’t notice a major difference so this was beneficial to us, but I think that in order to consider myself a professional filmmaker, I should learn when not to compromise on things like this due to budget constraints. This experience made me learn not to immediately say yes to the first location we manage to secure as if it doesn’t fit in with the type of mise-en-scene that you want for your film then that is when as a director you should step up and say so. This is something I’ll definitely take on board for future projects. If a location doesn’t suit my vision, I will say no and tell my producer, location manager etc. to find somewhere else.

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Overall, I think the shoot days went well in the house. Despite finishing late on the first two days, we wrapped production several hours early on the last shoot day which was a bonus. Also on the second day of shooting in the house, toward the end of the shoot day we ran out of card space on two of my CF cards. This was something I should have foreseen. Had I already transferred the footage onto my hard drive, we could have freed up space and had more time to shoot the last shot of the day. As a result I only had two usable takes of the last shot we shot that day. Those takes weren’t ideal as my actor David doesn’t completely leave frame in one of them making cutting to the next scene feel awkward.

Next time I will ensure that I have transferred footage at the end of each shoot day in order to free up space and not put myself in the position where I was on that Saturday.

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