With the semester now over, upon reflection it has ultimately been a success. Our initial goal of making a film that stayed true to a central theme was achieved, as were most of the goals that followed. I’ll now go into the three main stages of our process.
After coming up with our central idea as a group, of a lonely person that attempts to fill the void with a devotion to a musician, we proceeded to try and write some drafts individually. From here we took parts from both mine and tristan’s scripts, and merged it into one higher final draft. In this tightening process, we essentially stripped the story right back, as it simply focused on a day in the life of Tim in the lead up to a performance from his beloved band. So this meant that a strong focus would be on things like atmosphere, mood as well as the expression of actor playing Tim, as dialogue would be minimal. With our script close to set, we could really move into the preproduction process, as things like casting, locations, storyboarding and shot listing came to our attention.
The first of these things, casting, was luckily not a huge stress, as we only really had one character to cast. However, this one character was essentially the foundation of our film, so we had to be confident in our choice. As far as what the actor had to look like, I really had little preference, as Tim was sort of a blank slate in my mind, so it was sort of a ‘know him when I see him’ situation. We first decided to go with a nonprofessional actor, so our attention went towards our friends. From here came Jenny’s suggestion of her friend and long time student film collaborator, Jon Miranda. After seeing a short film that he starred in about isolation where there was little dialogue, I was quite taken with the idea of Jon as Tim.
Another vital element of pre-production was getting locations sorted. We had four locations to account for, including a house, a street, a library and a concert venue. The first three were reasonably simple to come up with, as we decided to use my house, the streets of Melbourne and the RMIT library. While these were simple to come up with, they weren’t necessarily as easy to get permission for, but luckily for me, as director, I didn’t have to worry too much about that side of things, as our producer, Jenny, worked for weeks on locking the public locations down. The final location, the concert venue, was perhaps the most complicated to sort out as we decided we’d like to shoot at an actual venue, during a performance. But again, the majority of the stress fell on Jenny, who was fortunately able to get permission to shoot at the John Curtin Hotel. As I’ll discuss when I get to production, this location was one of the most vital parts of our final film.
One of the aspects of pre-production in which I had a more significant role was storyboarding and shot listing. At first, we all storyboarded separate sections of the film, with me working on the final scenes. After this, I began a shot list. I found shot listing to be far more worthwhile than storyboarding, as just being able to write out every element of the shots I had in mind, rather than having to worry about my drawing ability, resulted in what I think was a much more in depth description of how I hoped the film would look.
Once we had sorted these things out, we were finally ready to schedule the shoot. We planned for three days of shooting, with one extra day to allow for possible reshoots.
Possibly the most significant part of my role in this film came during production. Thankfully, I feel it ran fairly smoothly, largely thanks to our producer, Jenny, and cinematographer, Tan, whose competence meant I never had to worry about much outside of directing. The first of our four shoots took place at my house in Footscray, and turned out to be around a four hour shoot. This shoot coincided with what was my first time meeting our Tim, Jon. With a drive from uni to my place before we started, I was able to talk a reasonable amount with him about mine and his feelings surrounding the script. While I do feel this talk was very useful, if I had my time again, I would consider meeting him earlier, as the value of simply talking about ideas and the script was apparent.
As filming began, another positive became clear,which was that I only had one actor to direct. This obviously allowed me to keep my focus firmly on Jon. This remained a strong positive throughout the shoot. As for the rest of the first day, a fairly in-depth shot list, which was made with the location in mind, meant we were never really confused as to what came next etc. Another element of this tight shot list was that I also had in mind many of the cuts, as I sort of followed the ‘shoot to edit’ method, rather than just getting everything form every angle (though I was sure to get a reasonable amount of extra coverage and cutaway material). The lack of dialogue and characters made this much easier to employ, but it is definitely a method that I feel I would use again.
With a fair amount of confidence coming out of our first shoot, we then had to move on to our second, and perhaps most stressful shoot, largely due to the perceived unreliability of the location – the Curtin. While this stress wasn’t totally misplaced, the night actually proved to go quite smoothly. A major reason for this was time, as we essentially allowed the whole night for shooting, when we maybe shot for a couple of hours. This allowed for lots of time to just keep our heads straight and not forget any major things. One of the great things to come out of the location was the coloured lights, which ultimately made for some of the best looking shots in the final film. These lights also saved us from our stresses over the venue being too dark to shoot in. While I feel much of the shoot went as planned, there were several shots that I changed on the spot. This included the shots of Tim in the crowd, which we initially were planning to shoot in an actual crowd. However, as this seemed like it may be too difficult, I decided to use a very tight close up, and the 5 or 6 extras we had available to make it seem like a more full room. This approach made for a much less complicated shot, as Tan and I could focus on things like camera movement and lighting, rather than whether or not we’re in people’s way.
The following two shoots were far less significant, as they both took barely an hour each, and by this stage we were all over what it was we had to do. These made for a very relaxing and reassuring finish to our production period.
Once we had done all of our shooting, we probably didn’t expect what came after to be more stressful, but upon reflection it may well have been. A large reason for this was our struggle to coordinate meeting times, for reasons out of some of our control. But luckily, it did eventually come together. The first step was to make a rough cut of all the footage, which I completed before handing it off to our editor, Tristan. From there, he did the majority of the editing, as I met with him several times to see that we were still on the same page. While this way of doing it ultimately worked quite well, I would ideally have liked to meet more often and maybe finish a little further from the deadline.
The final film was reasonably similar to our original vision, with one of the more major additions being the sort of dreamy sequences of the concert that recur throughout the film. This, I feel, gave the film more of a visual interest as well as more of a drive as to where it is the film is going.
Here I’ll discuss some of my specific inspirations – many of which I’ve mentioned in previous posts – and how they came through in the final film. In terms of the film’s tone and look, films like Taxi Driver and Foxcatcher very much informed me, as the nature of just being with someone, as they go about what seems like a fairly unfulfilling life.
This quiet and understated tone and look is somewhat altered towards the end of Tim, when he enters the bright and coloured lights of the concert venue. I wanted this sequence to be more poetic, as I took inspiration for things like lighting and music from films like Spring Breakers, as well as the TV series, Baskets, which I’ve discussed before. The slightly unobvious way I used sound, or more specifically music, in this sequence was somewhat informed by the article, The Spirit of Music in Art, which emphasises the ‘importance of music’, as well as the chapter, Screenwriting for Sound, which supported the idea of having these musical elements in mind prior to shooting, and editing.
Through each of these stages, I feel that we, for the most part, achieved what we had hoped for. While I’m mostly satisfied with how I worked as the film’s director, I do feel that I’ve learnt several things that I could do better. I’ve also learnt the importance of a strong team, as the film wouldn’t have been anywhere near what it is without each member contributing.
Baskets. (2016). (video) USA: Louis CK, Zach Galifinakis.
Denny, N. The Spirit of Music in Art. (2003); In Modern Painters. Vol.: 16 No.: 2 June p. 68 – 71
Foxcatcher. (2014). [film] USA: Bennett Miller.
Ida. (2013). [film] Poland: Pawł Pawlikowski.
Murphy, M. (2016). The Psychology Behind Celebrity Worship. [online] Celebrities.knoji.com. Available at: https://celebrities.knoji.com/the-psychology-behind-celebrity-worship/
Rabiger, M. 2006, ‘You and the creative process’ in Developing story ideas, 2nd ed., Focal Press, Amsterdam, pp. 15-19
Randy, T. (2011) Screenwriting for Sound; In The New Soundtrack; Vol.: 1 No.: 2 September. Pages 103 – 112.
Spring Breakers. (2012). [film] USA: Harmony Korine.
Taxi Driver. (1976). [film] USA: Martin Scorsese.