Production: Day One; Part One

Day one of With A Little Help From Our Friends was a late start.

Because the location we’d managed to get was a theatre school, they had students in there until 1pm. So we scheduled the call time to be at 1pm on Saturday and we planned to wrap at 5pm and shoot two (and a bit) scenes.

However, Jack had been told on Friday afternoon that they’d hired out the theatre to a (wait for it) r’n’b hip hop band from 1pm -6pm who needed to rehearse, after assuring us that we’d have the place to ourselves for the weekend. They figured because we weren’t actually shooting in the theatre that day, that it would be fine.

The issue here, of course, was that we weren’t shooting a silent movie. As the location was on a main road, traffic noise was bad enough as it was, so the added DOOF DOOF DOOF of bass and drums wasn’t exactly a welcome addition to the soundscape.

There wasn’t much that we could do. We decided that we’d shoot as much as we could and if we had to, shuffle Sunday’s schedule around slightly to shoot a little bit more if we had to.

I headed up to High Barnet at about 11am. I wanted to be there early just in case things went entirely pear shaped and as it got closer to the call time, the more I just wanted to be on set. On the tube ride up, I went over shot lists and schedules and wished that I had reception on the Tube in case anything went horribly wrong. Nothing did. I caught up with Jack and we went and got some lunch (I had an idea for another short in the meantime) and by the time we got back to the location, we could go in.

But we couldn’t start doing anything until the kids were out. And the kids weren’t out until around 1.30pm-ish.

Everyone else was on time though, so we set the actors up in a room with the unit and drinks and I took Jim and Jamie around to show them where we were going to be shooting. After being unable to find a lightswitch for the room (hey, it was behind the desk at reception and nowhere near the room, okay?!), we decided the room was too echo-y for sound, so we changed our minds and chose the room we’d set the actors up in (the ‘green room’, if you will).

After dressing the set, I left Jamie and Jim to light the space and I took Danny and Markus (Des and Max) into the theatre to refresh the scene in their heads. We were going to shoot the entire scene in one go in a wideshot/two shot first, then punch in for close ups and then pick up any other sections that needed a little more coverage.

The boys ran the scene on the stage (which I told them was the girls’ set for the next day. Cue violent jealousy). Because we’d had the opportunity to rehearse, it was a matter of running the scene and only slightly tweaking their performances, as well as taking the chance to discuss alternate options in the week since the final rehearsal. Both Markus and Danny are fantastic actors (I always have to bury my face in my script when they run it to keep from laughing aloud) so it was a matter of them finding the rhythm and beats again. I didn’t want to run it too many times without the camera rolling as the scene can become too rehearsed and stiff, so we headed back onto set.

It was already 2pm by now, we’re already running an hour late. There was the added pressure of the fact that the r’n’b band who were going to ruin our sound hadn’t turned up yet so it became a little bit of a race to see how much we could get shot before they showed up.

But we were ready to go, so we started rolling.

The trouble with shooting a comedy is that the script is funny.

Luckily, I had crew who were focused enough on their individual roles that no-one burst out laughing on set.

However, that didn’t stop Markus from getting the giggles.

We’d done about three takes of the first shot when halfway through, Danny stopped, confused as Markus completely lost it laughing.

We’re running an hour and a half late, my lead can’t stop laughing at my script and the band have finally showed up.

And we’re only two hours in!

Updates!

Sorry for the radio silence over the past two weeks, but I’m back and ready to go!

A quick update on where we’re at with the film:

We’ve had to shift the shoot date by two weeks, due to a couple of little things popping up, so we are now not shooting until November. This is both a good thing and a bad thing – I’d love to get the shoot over and done with already but an extra two weeks in pre-production probably won’t hurt. The danger with having a long pre-production is that you lose enthusiasm because it feels like nothing is getting done. I definitely don’t want to shift the shoot dates again, so cross your fingers that it all comes off all right.

Our first rehearsal is coming up next Sunday which should be exciting because the cast get to meet each other for the first time and we can have a serious play around with the script and see if we can make it even stronger. It’ll also be really interesting to workshop the characters with the actors as well as see how they all bounce off each other to test the chemistry between them all. I’m looking forward to getting all our creative heads into the one room and seeing what we come up with together.

We’re also looking into potentially crowd-funding a portion of the budget to help us get it over the line. The film is a pretty cheap short film as it stands and a little extra money would be great (as always), so that’s an avenue that we’re thinking about exploring as well.

We also need to consider where we can access lights fairly inexpensively and am starting to think about post-production too (yes, it’s always better to consider everything, including post, during pre-production).

I’m off to enjoy my Sunday, but I’ll continue with the Audition Saga this week and round that off, just in time to start talking about rehearsals! Yay!

Pre-Production: Organising Auditions; A Cautionary Tale

Operation: Playstation

This week has been entirely flat out for me. Not only did we lose a day to a three day weekend (trust me, I am not complaining about that in the slightest!), but my ‘normal’ nine-to-five job has kicked up a notch in the past two weeks and it’s all go go go at work as well as go go go with the film.

Mind you, that’s just how I like it.

As you know if you read my post earlier this week, we’ve started organising auditions for actors to find our perfect Abby, Max, Des and Lucy. Finding actors to work for free is a hard task but I completely love casting. I think it’s something about knowing that when someone walks into a room, they could be the person who is going to BE the Max I created in my head nearly a year ago. Or they could totally transform Lucy into someone who I hadn’t even thought that she was. Not to mention the kinds of people you meet in auditions – I don’t know if you know this, but people are fascinating. Especially actors. Actors have a kind of zing about them. They always seem to get along quite well with my imagination and I end up writing a film for them to be in.

Which is kind of exactly what happened on the last short film I wrote and directed. ‘Operation: Playstation’. I had met an actor through auditioning him for a role the year before. Dylan was amazing and I fought really hard to get him cast in the film, but in the end he looked too young for the part (casting is all about the right LOOK as well as good acting!). But the two of us stayed friends and one particular time, a year later, we met up for a hot chocolate and I asked him if he’d read a script I’d been working on. He read it right there in front of me (always a risky move for both parties) and I couldn’t stop smiling when he started laughing at different points – it was a comedy so that was the right reaction. He said he thought it was great and I told him that I wanted him to play the lead because I’d written the script with him in mind as the main role.

His eyes lit up and he immediately agreed. Thankfully.

With Dylan on board, I was confident that we’d be able to get the other roles fairly easily. After all, the main role of Jack was the character that the whole film hung on. As we moved forward in pre-production, I put the call out for actors. Admittedly, it was technically a ‘student’ film, but it was my graduate film and barely anyone else working in the crew was a student – I pulled favours with crew I’d professionally worked with to help me out. Deliberately downplaying the ‘student’ side of it (I was treating it as a professional short film, after all), the ad was up for ten minutes before I had my first application. Over the next 24 hours, I probably had around 50 actors apply for the various roles.

I sorted through the headshots, viewed showreels and read cover letters to see who I thought would be good to see. There were people with a lot of experience, people with not so much, but I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of experience – if they can do a good job then it doesn’t matter.

I replied to about 30 of those 50, asking them to come in for an audition.

Of those 30, 15 booked in times.

Of those 15, 4 showed up on the day.

Sobering, right? I don’t even remember anyone ringing to cancel their time – people just didn’t show up. I’d asked Dylan to come along to the auditions, so the majority of the day the two of us ended up watching videos on YouTube.

But of those 4, 2 were great.

So I offered them the roles.

After specifying the shooting dates on the casting call, on the audition information and confirming they were still available, one of them declined the role because she was in the middle of a three week holiday.

The other actor didn’t show up to rehearsals and never returned my calls or texts.

CRISIS. We have no cast, besides Dylan. I talk to Dylan about it, who is very aware of how close this is to turning into a car crash, when he says he can talk his mate into taking a role. He’s an actor too. Plus, Dyl’s girlfriend is an actress. Then I realised that I knew a group of people from high school who I’d done drama with who might be interested as well.

Between the two of us talking to people we knew, we found the cast we needed.

And you know what? The acting is the strongest part of the entire film. In every single role.

Before you ask, the film still needs to be graded (sorry guys!) and it’s currently at home in Australia feeling lonely and abandoned, so no, you can’t watch it online anywhere. But what this did do was LOWER MY EXPECTATIONS. Not in a bad way, in a realistic way.

‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ has had about 90 applications for cast. Amazing. Because we’re restricted by time in the space, I whittled that down to 18 (which was incredibly difficult because there were so many who were dancing on the maybe line). Of that 18, 16 have booked in for auditions and an extra 1 has apologised because the time clashes with another project she’s rehearsing for.

I’m really happy with that hit rate so far. But I’m being realistic.

I’ll post a blog on Monday and let you know how it goes. And I’ll break down how I went about organising the auditions. I just wanted to post about how catastrophically wrong they can go – and you guys can say that it happened to a friend of a friend of yours and mean it.

And so it goes!

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you’re all wonderfully well and being wonderfully creative and productive.

I’m very excited to announce the fact that ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ is 100% back on track, thanks to a couple of people I met at the Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass at the start of June. Say G’Day to Craig and Jack!

 This is Craig.                                  This is Jack.

On Saturday, we had our first production meeting about how we were going to tackle the project. As it currently stands, we’ve set in a provisional shoot date (the end of September) and started talking about locations, cast and crew. We’re all going to chip in to cover the producer duties and on-set, Craig is going to be the First Assistant Director, Jack is in charge of sound and I’ll be directing.

We still have a fair few gaps to fill at this stage, but we do have a bit of time to work with at the moment. I’m going away for two weeks (so the blog will be quiet, methinks), but hopefully the boys have enough to keep moving forward whilst I’m away.

At the moment, we’re following up a few leads to lock in a location. The script is set at a university but we’ve also been considering schools that we might’ve been able to get access to as potential locations. Both Craig and Jack have been goldmines with this – as I didn’t grow up around or near to London, it makes it a little more difficult for me to know about potential locations to have a look at outside of the area I live in. A little insider knowledge never goes astray!

We’re also starting to think about cast. I imagine auditions will happen pretty quickly after I get back from my trip away (possibly the second weekend in August). This also means that I’m going to have to work on extra monologue-style pieces for the actors to read in the auditions, which I’m looking forward to writing. As well as cast, there’s obviously quite large gaps in crew which we’re going to have to start thinking about – at the moment, it is literally just the three of us running the show!

So now that we’re off and rolling, there’s more things to think about. I already know that pre-production is going to slip away disastrously quickly and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to work together well enough as a team to stop anything too chaotic from happening. To be honest, we all work pretty well together as it is.

I have a list of things I need to do that keeps getting longer (as is always the way) but it feels like we’re back on track and moving forward now, so I’ll be stressed, tearing my hair out and panicking but loving every minute of it!

That’s what it’s all about!

Links

Follow Craig on Twitter

Follow Jack on Twitter

Moving Forward

Sorry the post is a little later than usual this week, I’ve been otherwise distracted with very good things that have very little to do with filmmaking (i.e. my family flying halfway across the world to see me). As a result, today’s post will be a short update on what’s going on with the film.

A little bit of the backstory, for those not quite up to date.

I wrote a film for a competition last year. It got shortlisted in that competition and a producer friend of mine had a read of the script, loved it and wanted to make it. We developed the script on and off for a few months, moving toward pre-production when, due to various reasons, he had to pull out. That’s about where we’re at with it at the moment.

As you may also be aware, if you’re regular readers of the blog, I went to Chris Jones’ Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass earlier this month. It was a cornucopia of low/micro/no-budget filmmaking tips and tricks with some great examples from filmmakers who made their own way from making no budget shorts to multi-million dollar feature films. It was also a mecca for people who got inspired to make projects over the course of the weekend, many of whom I had the great fortune to meet. Because ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ was in limbo, whenever anyone asked me what I was working on, I’d mention it and where I was at with it. As a result, I’ve had a few people put their hands up to help out.

So in a few weeks, a couple of us are getting together for a production meeting to discuss roles, how to tackle pre-production and where we go from here. I’m looking forward to it – it’s a pretty enthusiastic team of people which makes up for any particular lack of experience and I reckon once we start moving forward, the ball won’t stop rolling until the final film is locked.

I’m pretty excited that we’re still going ahead and I’ll have some pretty nice filmmaking posts for you guys on the horizon. It’ll also be really good to get another short under my belt because I haven’t made one in a couple of years.

Watch this space!