Category Archives: MDA3400 – Film Dissertation Project

Redfield – Final Draft Submission

Redfield [Pilot] [Final Draft]

I’m very pleased with the way the final draft of my script has turned out. It seems that most people from my cohort, my tutors and my friends and family outside university who have read my script respond positively towards it and that its something that is definitely worth showing to employers looking for screenwriters as a testament to what I can do.

I very much enjoyed the writing process behind this script. It was a huge challange for me to write a story set in a time period I don’t have much knowledge about and its definitely something I’ll be doing a lot more often, writing stories with a subject matter or setting I don’t know much about which would require me to do extensive research.

In future I’m definitely thinking of extending the length of this screenplay so that it could fit an hour’s runtime on television as I feel that this type of television pilot would be best suited to the hour long format rather than a half hour one.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

Professionalism in Practice – Editor on “The Art of My Scars”

20160503_130231

The Art of My Scars is a documentary that focuses on Kay J Browning, a transgender man from Tiverton, Devon (the director’s hometown), and how he utilises various art forms as a form of expression to communicate his pain and life story.

I agreed to edit James’ documentary a few months back as I thought it would be an interesting challenge to edit a documentary as I have never really cut one together before, especially a documentary such as James’ which is quite unique and hard to categorise as far as documentaries go.

Throughout the editing process, James had a very clear idea of how he wanted to visually represent the three different period’s of Kay’s life which greatly helped me try and figure out how best to make the three segments mesh well together. The very fact that James had such a strong idea of what he wanted was invaluable to me as his editor as when I was unsure of how to cut a certain sequence together, James’ input greatly helped me figure out what I was I needed to do.

Paper edit of the film's initial structure

Paper edit of the film’s initial structure

The two most challenging sequences to cut together were the hip-hop sequence in the middle and the dance sequence at the end. Both sequences required a lot of fast editing, but that wasn’t the major problem. One of the problems I had encountered whilst cutting these scenes together was that there were either inconsistencies in the quality of the shots (some shots out of focus, shaky cam etc.) or there were inconsistencies in the performances of the subject which made match-cutting in time to the music a nightmare. This was made doubly hard in cutting the hip-hop sequence together as I had to cut that performance together whilst showing as little of Kay’s face as possible so there were other angles that were better in terms of performance and shot quality that I could not use because it showed too much of his face.

The dance sequence was tricky in that the first cut I put together of it, I used a wide angle shot of the dance routine that was shot on the Panasonic GH4 as a master, whilst intercutting it with various other angles that were all shot on the Blackmagic. The end result was a dance sequence where the colour palette of the GH4 shots were drastically different from the shots on the Blackmagic. As I am not that experienced with colour grading, we were unsure as to whether or not we could get the footage from both cameras to match visually so we decided to abandon the GH4 shots and focus on cutting together a dance sequence using only the Blackmagic shots. The end result for this was a poorer cut compared to the one with the GH4 shots as the quality of the dancer’s performances were much better and sharper in the GH4 wide shots than the Blackmagic wide ones.

20160503_130241

After getting some technical assistance from Anna Barsukova and conducting a colour grade test between the GH4 and Blackmagic footage, we realised that we could in fact grade it to make the shots match. This freed me up to recut the dance sequence using the GH4 shots and the final result ended up with a much faster and smoother cut of the dance sequence as I had more angles to cut to.

All in all, I am very pleased with the final outcome of the film, especially with the positive response to the film people gave at both the rough cut and fine cut screenings. I have learned a lot about editing and storytelling through editing this documentary and hope that I’ll be able to utilise the skills and experience I have gained working on this project in any future projects that I edit.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

Redfield – Fourth Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [Fourth Draft]

Before I turned in my fourth draft to my tutors and to my cohort I was relatively pleased with how my script was shaping up; the advice I took on board from the feedback I got previously helped immensely I was writing this draft. People liked the visual link of John West’s hat to signify the passage of time between younger William and older William, they consistently praised the dialogue scene between Tessa and Sally and they commented on how well the dialogue was written as well as how visual my script was written, helping them to visualise the story and the setting clearly.

The only contstructive criticism I got around this time was that the end torture scene between Walters and Dick didn’t fit with how I wrote the previous scene between Dick and Jenkins. In that scene, Jenkins kills Albert (Dick’s father) and leaves Dick for dead with a gunshot wound. Thus, this raised the question why in the next scene between Walters and Dick when Walters is torturing him for information, why he doesn’t divulge the whereabouts of Jenkins to Walters sooner as he owed Jenkins nothing, and in fact should resent him. This made sense to me, as I didn’t notice how by including how the person who is getting tortured by Walters to appear in an earlier scene with Jenkins to determine how he knew where Jenkins was, I overlooked how important it is that these two scenes need to link coherently not just for plot reasons but for narrative reasons also.

As a result I’m considering on how I should approach rewriting the earlier scene between Jenkins and Dick to fit with Walter’s torture scene with Dick or vice versa.

Other notes of feedback consisted of not feeling enough flirty banter between Tessa and Sally and the notion on whether or not I could do more with the antique cutlass in the bank robbery scene with Patrick, Miriam and George Jenkins. At this stage I’m more inclined to take the feedback for the latter on board rather than then former. I feel that it would be dramatically unrewarding in the long run if I hint too heavy handedly at a possible romantic relationship between both Tessa and Sally in their first encounter. Reading it through, I think this scene plays more dramatically interesting because the homoerotic undertones are subtle and not too heavy handed.

However on the whole, I think this round of feedback has greatly encouraged me in my personal development as a writer as I feel that I am finally beginning to grasp the fundamental skills and aptitude toward becoming a professional screenwriter. I look forward to writing out my fifth draft with this newfound confidence.

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

Professionalism in Practice – 1st Assistant Camera and Script Editor on “Cigarettes & Alcohol”

In the first term, Nick had asked me frequently to read his World War II script and offer him feedback on it and I did offer him some advice on how I think he should take his story forward. Initially, I was of the impression that Nick’s script was a story about a survival in that a Jewish man would sink so low as to masquerade as a Nazi in order to survive and I thought that would be more of interesting angle to explore it from. However, exlporing that story idea from just an interrogation scene in one room wouldn’t be enough, and to pull off a decent war film with a small budget is no easy task. Nick however was adamant about keeping it all in one room as he likened this short film to be like the end scene to a much longer film that he would like to make in the future. I was initially skeptical about this approach but decided to go along with it and help him fine tune the dialogue as much as I could.

20160302_144750

Approaching the shoot period, I signed on to be a gaffer, but then was immediately switched to be 1st AC as there were already three gaffers on set. For some reason, Nick was under the impression that we would be able to dress the set and leave it dressed for the three days we were shooting but I remember Andre (the producer) saying that we couldn’t. There must have been some miscommunication between the two as the time taken to dress the set every day was not taken into account in the shooting schedule so we ended up losing like 3 hours of shooting time each day. This led to Nick having to drop shots and only keep in the ones that were essential.

This crunch time shooting slowly started to affect Nick mentally as he had apparently not eaten or slept adequately enough leading up to the shoot which caused him to have some sort of breakdown on set. This eventually resulted in Andre and Sam (the DP) having to sort of backseat direct the remaining shots we had to get as we were running out of time. Needless to say, this shoot did not pan out as I hoped it would because in the weeks leading up to it, I was convinced that Nick knew exactly what he wanted and was on top of everything as there had been literally no production problems up until the actual shoot day.

20160302_140507

After the rough cut screening, where Nick for some reason showed a cut that barely resembled a rough cut (more like a very rough first assembly), Nick decided that he wanted to reshoot some of the film as there were some shots we couldn’t get because we obviously ran out of time. However, since the place we shot in had been redecorated since we left and the Nazi uniform that the Nazi officer Hermann wears was different the first time around, we instead had to reshoot the whole film from scratch. To make things even more difficult, we were told that we would have even less time to get into the location and shoot which would make capturing this whole film impossible.

Sam however, suggested that instead of shooting during the day where we would have limited time and the sound would be bad (due to the traffic on the high street outside the location) we should get into the location when the bar closes and shoot throughout the night. This made all the difference in the world as we found that we were getting through shots a lot quicker and smoother than we did during the first shoot and that the sound was much cleaner although there were the odd noises of early morning traffic here and there. Nick also performed better as a director and didn’t suffer the same mental breakdown he did during the first shoot which made it all better.

All in all, this shoot was a unique experience to me in where I learned quite a bit. I learned that the flexiblity of the location you shoot in is vitally important when scouting locations and from observing Nick I learned that as a director you need to have a basic understanding of the technical side of filmmaking as you’ll annoy your technical crew if you ask for things that can’t feasibly be done.

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

Redfield – Third Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [Third Draft]

With my third draft I took on the advice of my tutors to remove the character of Doggett and replace him with Wyatt. Doggett only served a functional purpose with how he was written previously. By replacing him with Wyatt, a character whom I plan for having a larger role in subsequent episodes, it provides me with more opportunities to show glimpses of his character before I decide to develop him later on.

Additionally, for how I was going to show the visual link between William at 13 years old and older William at 21,  I was deliberating on what I could do to address this. Eventually I decided on having John give William his Stetson hat with the red feather right before he gets killed and eight years later we see William with the same hat the first time we see him on the wagon. I felt this link further emphasised William’s relationship with his father and his quest to avenge him in the sense that the hat could sort of be a physical representation of William’s father.

With the bank robbery scene, I decided to rewrite this scene and add a physical altercation between Jenkins and Miriam after Jenkins rapes her and is caught by Wyatt. I added this because I felt that in the previous draft I needed a legitimate reason for Wyatt to be able to escape Jenkins in a way that felt natural. The physical altercation helped that. Furthermore, I also added in a sequence of how we see Jenkins escape the bank after he is caught by Wyatt. This was raised as an issue in the previous draft as it felt that sequence could end a lot cleaner if we see how Jenkins manages to escape.

Finally, I rewrote William and Jackson’s dialogue scene on the porch toward the end of the episode. I decided on making William be a bit more inquisitive in his questioning of Jackson and use this as an opportunity to shed some light on Jackson’s backstory. This way I could successfully establish that both William and Jackson have been through similar situations where they lost someone they care about to outlaws , giving Jackson a reason to agree to teach him.

The general response to this third draft, taking into account all of the changes above were mostly good. The main points of feedback I received was that I shouldn’t have made William too inquisitive as it gave away that power of that scene from Jackson. Also this scene ran in contrast with the previous scene between William and Jackson in that Jackson steadfastly refused him but now opens up to him with no dramatic development to warrant that. A way I was advised on how I could address this was to have Jackson have the power of that scene, and make William’s desire of learning about hunting outlaws link into his backstory that sheds sympathy from Jackson.

Additionally, I also got feedback from my tutor that the dialogue scene between Tessa and Sally needed to be a bit more flirty in order to achieve the necessary amount of romantic undertones to establish a subtle attraction between the two characters. One way I was advised on how I could tackle writing the dialogue of this scene was to write the scene from Sally’s perspective as if Sally was a man trying to chat Tessa up at the bar. This is definitely a technique that could help me nail this scene and achieve the romantic undertones I want. Also people mentioned that the way that the conversation segues into the reveal of the Nickelwood bank robbery was a bit clunky with the two men in the bar talking about it being too convenient. In response to this I’ve been thinking about ways I could get Tessa and Sally’s conversation to flow into revealing this information.

Finally my tutor recommended to me that I try and figure out a way to intercut the endings of the three running storylines (William, Tessa and Walters) in order to have a cleaner ending as the way I’ve written it now feels like there are three separate endings playing one after the other. This is something I had also been thinking about and I feel I’ll definitely address it in my fourth draft.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

Professionalism in Practice – Gaffer on “Hand in Hand” Music Video

Originally I was not involved in this production in any capacity, but when Fred changed producers halfway through the year and brought Amnah on board, I was brought on last minute as gaffer as no crew had been sorted out by that point.

I was only involved on two shoot days, one which involved shooting a party scene which was tricky to light and the second which involved an exterior rain scene and interior bedroom scene. The party scene was tricky to light as there was a section that was outside in a patio that needed to be lit, but there was no visible light source in the space. To combat this we decided to put fairy lights around where the principal actors will be in order to lighten up the area and augment that light with the rotolight kit. The effect we achieved was that of a nice soft light on the actor’s faces that made it clear to distinguish them but it was still obvious that it was night.

Lighting the space with fairy lights.

Lighting the space with fairy lights.

The interior was a lot tricky however as I had to light a room that would traditionally be quite dark as it was a party scene. To address this, I merely used one rotolight and bounced it off the walls at a low brightness which added as a mild fill light for the rest of the room. James (the DP) had a light attached to his Panasonic GH4 and used that as a key light which helped capture the party scene atmosphere nicely.

13242042_10153685248683182_1766095136_o

For the second day of shooting, I did not really need to be there as most of the shots did not require any lighting at all. I couldn’t even get into the bedroom scene because the space was so small. For that day I mostly acted as a 1st AC and assisted James whenever I could with the camera, although he didn’t really need much assistance as the shots he needed get were simple enough for him to get on his own.

Overall, this shoot wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, taking into account it’s troubled production history and the fact that the producer changed halfway through pre-production. The result from the rough cut screening was a pleasant surprise and I look forward to seeing the finished version, as well as Fred’s second music video.

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

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.

20160518_000128

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project