End Of An Era

It’s with intense pride, relief and joy that I’m happy to announce that the With A Little Help From Our Friends DVDs have been posted (and hopefully most arrived by now)!

They were posted out last week and I’ve had some people telling me that they’ve shown up on their doorsteps, which is really wonderful to hear. It was a bit of a process putting the DVDs together – designing the covers, printing, trimming, fitting the sleeve; designing the DVD menu; burning each DVD individually and trying to work out what design to put on the DVD itself. In the end, I was inspired by my sister who joked I should draw stick figures on them, which made me realise that I’d saved the figurines from the Indiegogo campaign pitch video.

The Indiegogo pitch video
The final DVDs

Once they were all packaged up at ready to go, I had to work out the best way to distribute the 40 DVDs around the world. I figured out that to send all the UK parcels individually to the UK would be the same price as sending them in one hit to Craig to post out again, so I decided to post them all from Australia. Some needed scripts, some were solely DVDs, all were hand addressed and packaged with lots of love and care by yours truly.

With several bags packed full of these, I trundled down to the post office to send them out. And ten minutes after I arrived, they were gone! Off to all corners of the world – from Moonee Ponds to Maidenhead, from Denver to Pontypridd.
It’s a strange feeling, having done everything now. The film is officially finished. The perks have all been sent out. I’ve had some wonderful emails, tweets and phone calls congratulating me on the film – some even with favourite quotes included, which does wonders for your self esteem as a writer and your appreciation of your wonderful actors who can deliver a line (Markus, Danny, Carolina and Victoria, I’m looking at you!).
So now, as ever, the next step. The next step in this case is to have a look into festivals that might be options to enter the film into. This is alongside writing other scripts and also toying with the idea of the next short film, one that I want to be bigger, better and stronger than With A Little Help From Our Friends. But right now, I’m going to focus on writing my comedy feature film and co-writing my television sitcom pilot and continuing to blog about random things that occur to me along the way.
Thanks for being a part of the With A Little Help From Our Friends journey. I can’t quite believe it’s over, but it’s been absolutely incredible!
Alli x

With A Little Help From Our Friends – Update!

I know what you’re thinking. It’s been a billion years since we shot With A Little Help From Our Friends, so why haven’t we seen anything in awhile? I want to thank everyone for their patience and support whilst we’ve been waiting for this to come around.

And it has come around.

I’m very pleased to announce that With A Little Help From Our Friends is finished.

And, to prove it, here’s a sneak peek of the DVD cover:

For all our backers on Indiegogo who gave us more than $10, look out in your inbox for the link to the completed film. For those who gave us more than $25, I’ll be in touch soon to double check your postal addresses to send the DVDs out to.

It’s been a long time in the making – but it does go to show that filmmaking is a long process. And I know for next time to schedule my post production a lot better so that it’s not as time consuming the next time around.

And despite how long it’s taken, it’s been a fantastic process! I’m looking forward to doing research into festivals over the next few weeks, once I’ve sorted out sending out the last few perks from the campaign.

Thanks again to everyone who got involved and helped out – we could not have done it without you. Hopefully it’s a little film that will make you laugh and you enjoy watching as much as we did making it!

When All Else Fails

I thought it was time for an update on With A Little Help From Our Friends and how it’s going in post production. I’ve had a couple of people ask me about it, so thought I’d give you guys some updates on where we’re at.

The cut is picture locked. This means that there will be no more edits to…well…the pictures. It was a bit long so I, with a slightly heavy heart, cut a few sections and the running time is down to around six minutes, which I think is a good length for a comedy short film. The sound is locked too, I just need to track down some credit music to run over the end of the film. I’ve been trying to hunt out a colour grader for the past few months and, after a couple have fallen through, I’m going to try to do a basic colour grade myself. If anyone knows anyone else who might be interested in helping out, any suggestions would be much appreciated!

It is tough going when you don’t have much incentive for people other than a great project and showreel material. It’s even tougher when you have to rely on other people to get your film finished and they don’t come through so that things drag for months and months. It is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast in some ways when you’re working with friends of friends on a favour.

So, when all else fails, it’s good to have the skills to do the job yourself.

I’m not suggesting that you become an expert in every single aspect of filmmaking. But I’ve found that a small amount of knowledge of the other areas of the job really helps for cohesion when you’re working together. I’ve worked in lighting departments before, so I know the simple things like don’t ever touch the lights. EVER. I’ve had great DOPs who were willing to teach me little bits and pieces about white balancing and focus pulling. I’ve cut several projects before so I know that sometimes the best way to get things done is to give your editor an idea and a deadline and let them work themselves.

That’s not to say if my DOP pulled out, I’d immediately step behind the camera. Not at all. But if his camera assistant was still there and wanted to have a shot, I’d be happy to let them try and work closely with them to make sure they were across everything (which they usually are. Camera assistants generally rock).

So, with slight trepidation, I’m going to attempt to do a basic grade on the film this week to get it properly locked before going on to hunt out music.

Wish me luck!

(Seriously though, if you know someone who might be interested in helping out, I’d love to have a chat.)

Writing Short Films: Location

Location is a really important aspect of low budget filmmaking that a lot of writers may not take in to consideration when writing a short. Fantastic locations add immense production value to your film and if your film looks snazzy, your script is fab and your actors zing, then you can take over the world.

Set your film a location that you have access to.

Really think about what you DO have access to. All the places you might be able to sweet talk someone into letting you use. I used to work in a restaurant, spoke to my boss about a short film I was writing and asked if we’d be able to shoot it there. The answer was yes. Suddenly the film stands out against others that are shot in someone’s lounge room.

Have you got access to somewhere different? A farm? A house by the beach? A skyscraper with a view of the Thames? A nightclub? Somewhere that someone else probably wouldn’t have access to? Go for it. Set your film there if you know you’ll most likely be able to swing the location. Make it easier for yourself to get your work made.

Likewise, if you visit somewhere and fall in love with it, then look into how hard it is to get permission to shoot there. It might be really simple. It might be really difficult. But at least you’ll know how much work you’ll have to do to get your film into production. You might not even have to do any of the leg work if you get a producer or production manager on board, but arm yourself with the knowledge of how difficult it’s going to be to shoot in the middle of the MCG before you write it.

It really is amazing how much difference it makes to set your film in a location that doesn’t scream ‘low budget’. Of course, there are certain films that have to be set in a lounge room or an office or a bedroom – that’s where production design comes in.

Think about what you’ve got in your arsenal and use it to your advantage.

Writing Short Films

Hey gang, I’m currently on restricted internet access for the next week, but I promise I’ll finish off my posts about auditions and introduce you to the cast I settled on really soon!

For now, I decided to gather together all my posts on writing short films and short film structure in one place, so that you guys can either give yourselves a crash course or reacquaint yourselves with my brilliant suggestions and ideas for writing shorts (if I do say so myself).

Here are the links!

Short Film Structure: Story Models
Short Film Structure: The Beginning
Short Film Structure: Characters
Short Film Structure: The Ending, Part 1 – The Twist
Short Film Structure: The Ending, Part 2 – No Twist
Short Film Structure: Audience 
Short Film Structure: Pace

And last, but not least:

Short Film Structure: THE STORY

Enjoy! Throw me any questions you’ve got and we’ll see if we can work out the answers!

Location, location, lo – what?

Hi all!

Sorry for the radio silence over the past few weeks. I’ve been busy gallavanting around the world with precious little time to post to the blog. However, all is not lost and you guys get a post today!

Whilst I’ve been away, Jack and Craig have been chasing up various bits and pieces. Craig is being very brave and attacking the budget and Jack has been politely accosting universities asking about permission to use their buildings for filming.

Locations are crucial to low budget films and short films particularly. I can always tell instantly that it’s someone’s bedroom dressed to look like an office or it’s a bathroom in a pokey flat that’s doubling for a school toilet block. The key to low budget filmmaking is production value. Just because you have no money, that doesn’t mean it has to look like you have no money. You can cheat so much on film. You just have to think laterally.

The other key thing I’ve found about locations and low budget filmmaking is that you want them close together. Ideally, you only want one location change for the entire shoot. Even better, no changes at all. It costs less money, it saves time and it creates much less stress on shoot day and there will be more than enough of that as it is. So be willing to compromise if you have to.

I’m not going to lie to you, blogosphere. This has been pretty tough. Jack is doing a superb job. Our locations are pretty simple – two classrooms, a library and something that looks like a main entrance to a university. We started brainstorming fairly widely – the script is set at a college, but we thought that we might be able to cheat a high school as one as we had access to one. We listed universities that had a film course that might be a tad more lenient when it came to requests to shoot. We had a list of about six or seven (helped immensely by Jack and Craig’s insider knowledge because I know nothing about London universities) and Jack started from that.

We’ve hit two main problems so far.

The first is money. Most places want to charge us a location fee that is generally over £500. One university wanted over £1,000! In a perfect world, we’d get a location for free. At the moment, both those figures are out of our price range. But, again, we will look at compromise. We haven’t done a recce on any locations yet. If there’s one that’s particularly perfect, we’ll figure out a way to meet the figure if we need to.

The second is that a lot of universities won’t allow us to shoot in their libraries. I don’t particularly understand why. At any rate, we were thinking about looking at a second location for the library but a location move on a shoot where we (in theory) don’t really need to move, I’m not entirely enthused about the idea of it. I’m confident we can find somewhere that will meet all our criteria. It’s simply a matter of digging deep enough to find the location gold or working out a compromise that will work for both shoot and script.

Wish us luck!

Any suggestions on how you handle location hunting? I’d love to hear what you guys think!

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

Sharing the Love

Two friends of mine and I are trying something new and different. Just for fun.

Jamie has popped up on this blog before (and he also has his own blog). Leilani hasn’t (but she, too, has her own blog).

One thing we all have in common (other than how awesome we are) is that we combine roles on our films.

This is a side effect of low/no budget filmmaking. Because you generally can’t book in a crew of twenty to thirty odd people, roles are combined so that you can still make something great with seven or eight people. Jamie and I write, direct and edit. Leilani writes, directs and acts. This isn’t always a bad thing; however, I don’t like to write, direct AND edit because I feel as though it brings me too close to the project and I often find that other people can see things I miss because I’m locked onto one way of thinking. Jamie sees it differently – but what’s life without a little conflict?

At a scriptchat session many moons ago when the three of us were chipping in our opinions on working with directors as editors and working with editors as writers etc etc, we decided that we would challenge ourselves to fall away from the habits we’d gotten into – writing and directing; writing, directing and editing; in other words, combining our roles. One of us would write, one of us would direct and one of us would edit whatever film it ended up being.

Jamie chose to edit, I chose to direct and Leilani chose to write.

At the moment, Leilani and I are moulding the script into shape. To be honest, it doesn’t need a lot of work. What does need a bit of work is my temptation to stick my nose in to Leilani’s re-writing process way too much. I’m trying to give feedback as a combination of script editor and director (although, I’m of half a mind to keep my director-y-ness out of it entirely for the moment as I feel as though that should come in to play a little later down the line). I’m trying to make it constructive to push it toward where I think the story is strongest without totally smothering Leilani’s voice and vision for the piece herself.

It’s an interesting exercise to test how well I communicate as a director with a writer. I’ve always directed my own scripts, so it’s strange to try to articulate my ideas to someone else to have them go away and work them onto the page instead of simply doing it myself. It’s also a new experience to work with someone I don’t know particularly well but whose vision and talent I trust. I imagine it will be the same working with Jamie in the edit – but I’ll let you know when I get there. I think it’s very useful to have an understanding of what the other departments on a film have to go through because it gives you a wider view of reality. Don’t expect fifteen minutes in make-up to be enough for a zombie western film set in the middle of World War Two. Don’t expect the edit of a twenty minute film to be turned around in a day. Don’t expect a lighting set-up to take three minutes if you’re shooting in a cave using generators to power the lights.

I’d recommend trying it. At this stage anyway. Leilani might totally disagree with me! But I think this will work because we all respect each other as creatives and filmmakers to make it work – which is very definitely at the core of filmmaking and having a cohesive crew environment.

What do you reckon? Do you share your heads of department roles around or do you prefer to do the bulk of the work yourself? I’m interested to know what you think!

Links

Follow Jamie on Twitter
Jamie’s Blog

Follow Leilani on Twitter
Leilani’s Blog

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!

Think About Your Audience…

Rewrites. 

A word that sends a shiver down the spine of most writers.

Not me. But I’m a bit weird like that.

I’ve just done what I hope is the final rewrite on With A Little Help From Our Friends. I’m not planning on doing any more until I’ve locked in what’s actually happening with it, but for now, it’s pretty much good to go. I read it for the first time in a few months and realised that something was missing. It took me awhile focusing on other things in the script – and, admittedly, a lot of the notes I made were more directorial than writer-focused which was an exciting twist on the usual process – before I realised what it was.

I was putting the audience in the wrong position in the beginning.

When I get to a certain stage in a script, I find it really helps push the story to think about who the audience is going to click with and who you want them to click with. For instance, if you’re writing a mystery film, you’re NOT going to reveal the killer in the first scene and so the audience clicks with the detective character. If you’re writing an action flick, you want them to click with the hero, not the villain. Or perhaps the damsel in distress character and then the hero comes in and sweeps her/him off to safety and they race away together.

In most scripts, there is a character who is essentially representing the audience. It isn’t always the same character either – it varies. Shakespeare did it: the character who identifies the characters, who doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, the one who is in the same position as the audience and asks the questions they can’t. In movies, it’s often the protagonist – they discover the rules of the world at the same time as the audience. It has become a lot more subtle (usually) since Shakespeare, but consider how you want your audience to feel in each scene and push that emotion as far as you can.

The audience is the most important thing you’ve got to focus on as a filmmaker.

After all, if you’ve got no audience, you’ve not really got much of a film.