Archive of ‘Writing for film’ category
Statement of intentions
For the upcoming media exhibition day, we have been asked to provide a one-minute screener for the presentation, as well as a visual poster, a page on the Writing For Film blog and a compilation of longer clips for the exhibition. Bonnie and I have divided said deliverables fairly and equally in order to best showcase our hypothetical feature, Black Flat. I will endeavour to put together the one-minute screener, Bonnie will make the poster and together we will write the page for the blog. I hope that our work is well received by the media community and the amount of effort that went in is recognised.
The media exhibition day was a fantastic opportunity to not only showcase our own work, but also see what the rest of the cohort has been up to. And who’s gonna say no to free nibbles and drinks?!
As for Squadron’s contribution, Bonnie and I divided the deliverables fairly and equally as planned. I was responsible for the one-minute screener, while she took on the Black Flat poster. We were luckily both able to churn these out pretty quickly and were satisfied with the quality of each. Bonnie’s poster looked a treat, featuring a number of screen grabs, relevant imagery and succinct descriptions of our objectives and practices.
My experience editing the screener was actually really positive and I was pleased with what I was able to create in a short span of time. While there was mixed suggestions as to what we could include in the screener (clips, text, voiceover etc.), I decided to focus on creating something of a high quality that would be engaging and intriguing for the audience. With that in mind, my aim became to merge our scenes together into a trailer format in a way that showcased the best of our work, whilst encapsulating the eerie vibe we originally set out to establish. I was glad I got the opportunity to do this as the outcome was in fact more so what Squadron intended to create from the beginning of our project. As seen in the presentation, Jackson and I only had time to piece together the two complete scenes in their entirety, and we did not get the chance to take this extra step to merge the two scenes together. Thus, the exhibition presented perfect opportunity to undertake this step, as I knew we had some great moments that would suit the trailer format seamlessly.
In terms of the stylistic tools utilised, I made the effort to colour grade and add music and text to the screener. As we did not have a chance to properly do these things for our complete scenes for our week twelve presentation, I was keen to see to what extent they would transform our footage. I believe the colour grade really tied it all together, with the blue hue giving it a cinematic feel and creating the ideal dark and creepy mood. In addition, Jackson’s score had a similar effect: in its complete form it was ideal for the length for the clip, and I used it as to guide the pace and build-up of the trailer. The titles, albeit cliché, also served to enhance the dramatic nature of the screener and worked well to transition from one scene or moment to the next.
I would say that the most challenging aspect of editing the screener was trying to condense our footage down to the one-minute mark. There was lots of great conversation between Emily and Ted that I was forced to cut out, but I was conscious to include the highlights whilst ensuring it still flowed in a logical order. Whilst I was in the suites, Paul stepped in to give me a hand with some of the technical aspects, which was a big help as it opened my eyes to some different ways of doing things. Putting this screener together ultimately tested my skills as a solo editor, but I think I was able to do did a decent job. I certainly learnt a lot about pacing, titles, transitions and colour grading in the process.
Bonnie and I also collaboratively wrote the blog post for the website through the use of a shared Google document. We used the script for our week twelve presentation as a template then edited it accordingly to provide a more general, well-rounded insight into our production practice. We also added our film poster and a few behind the scenes photographs to enhance the visual aesthetic of the page, as well as of course our three final film prototypes. While it was hard to gauge the level of engagement of onlookers with our film, based on comments from my peers I think it was quite well received. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback on something you’ve worked so hard on, so that was a bonus for me.
Upon reflection, the presentation and exhibition was a great opportunity to showcase our work to like-minded others. As a class, I believe we collectively had some strong outcomes that we can be truly proud of.
Our screener/teaser trailer can be found below, and the blog post for the website can be found here.
Squadron – made up of media students Laura and Bonnie, and creative writers Sarah, Alex and Jackson – aimed to explore the key elements that make good thriller film through the creation of a trailer/teaser for our hypothetical feature, Black Flat. The idea stemmed from deciding on Warrandyte as a location and using the surroundings to inspire our characters, build our storyline and influence our shot decisions. We looked to other thriller and horror trailers for inspiration and went location scouting for the ideal, eerie vibe. From there, we developed prose for our overall concept and wrote a script for the two key scenes we eventually came to shoot.
Pre-production was an important step for our group in order to maximise our efficiency and level of preparedness. Between casting, permissions, call sheets, safety reports, storyboards, shot lists, and weekly timelines, we went to great lengths to ensure we had all bases covered. We also allocated crew roles, decided on the appropriate equipment with transportability and our skill set in mind, and organised wardrobe and props. Evidently, a lot of work went into the pre-production phase, but it was certainly all worthwhile and contributed to the creation of a higher quality product.
As for the shoot itself, we had endeavoured to film Tuesday of Week 9, which (quite literally) by the force of nature, we were forced to reschedule the shoot because of hail. This in hindsight was a blessing in disguise. It gave us a chance to regroup, and discuss important changes such as the addition of both male cast members – Chris and Scott.
Location One down by the river provided mixed weather conditions and Bonnie as camera operator had to ensure that the cloud coverage remained constant throughout the shots. This was to avoid cuts going from light to dark for the all important continuity element of the teaser. Progressing onto Location Two out at Black Flat, we knew time was of the essence. We managed to wrap the shoot on 3pm, but in hindsight we could have used more time in the morning to not be so rushed.
Sound recording and design was another crucial element of our production. Sarah was our designated sound operator, capturing both ambient sounds and of course the dialogue of all our actors. As our cast had varying levels of experience, this presented a few challenges as the varying volumes of their voices sometimes got lost amidst the sounds of nature. This was combatted however with a bit of vocal direction and simply waiting till disruptive sounds (ie. wind, water) had passed. In terms of sound design, Jackson composed an original score for the teaser by reimagining the original Teddy Bear’s Picnic. His resultant dark and creepy track was ideal for our production as it ticked the box for one of our aims: to investigate how sound can influence genre.
It was most logical to approach the editing process by structuring our scenes as they were written in the script, and to later experiment with the highlights and key moments of our footage captured to condense into a trailer (as seen in our screener). This process led us to acknowledge the importance of continuity as well as the power of audio editing and layering in the thriller genre.
Overall, our experience in this project was invaluable as we learnt a lot about collaboration and the necessary conduct for all stages of production. The challenges and successes we came to encounter will undoubtedly inform our future film and writing endeavours.
Please enjoy our final prototypes below:
Rough Cut Scene One (Full):
Rough Cut Scene Two (Full):
Although I have brushed over elements of collaboration across a number of posts, I figured an additional post to address it specifically would be best.
Group work is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Squadron – made up of Alex, Bonnie, Jackson, Sarah and I – fortunately got along well from the outset and we were quick to become friends. This was a huge relief as it made working with one another for the next six weeks a great deal easier.
I would say that communication is where we excelled as a group. The quality and quantity of our conversation meant we were constantly thinking about our project and were all on the same page. Over Facebook chat – our main means of communication – we would constantly conjure up new ideas, express queries, concerns and everything in between. Issues would occasionally arise, but we would always be diplomatic and fair when it came to finding a solution. It certainly helped that we had all become friendly with each other, as I find it is much easier to express my ideas and honest opinions when I am comfortable around those I am working with. Given conflicting schedules, it was difficult to organise additional times to meet in person, but we certainly compensated for this through our consistent online discussion.
For the most part, our group was collectively committed to the task at hand as we shared the mutual objective of producing a high quality outcome. We all made a conscious effort to participate and it was rare that any of us were absent from consultations or classes. However, the fact that we were not marked on the media we produce did prove to be a bit of pitfall for our group. This had the perverse effect on our activity as it lessened the level of motivation of some group members. This was slightly frustrating, yet understandable at the same time.
Throughout the various stages of our production, I worked closely with different group members to get our project underway. One of my very first collaborative endeavours was with fellow media student Bonnie, as we embarked upon on long day of location scouting. This felt less like work, however, as it was a beautiful day to walk around a beautiful area and take photographs. Nevertheless, I was happy with our efforts to get on top of things early and ultimately maximise efficiency when it came to eventually shooting. Sarah and I also worked particularly well together in the pre-production phase, as we both took on the initiative to make storyboards, shot lists, call sheets etc., which we came to rely upon heavily down the track. As for the presentations, we distributed the work fairly and equally and were each more than willing to put the required level of effort in.
Come the shoot, the girls and I managed to collaborate in a professional and productive manner through the means of communication, cooperation and problem solving. Although we had allocated crew roles, we did not restrict ourselves to these positions as we worked best as a team. Alex and I assumed the most authority over directing the shoot, yet valued the opinions of anyone who had any alternative ideas. While this may not be the most conventional methodology, it was most effective for our purposes as we were all relatively new to a production of this format, and it didn’t make sense for one person alone to lead the pack. With that, it essentially became a case of ‘four heads are better than one’, as we all put our creative minds together to figure out what would be the best approach from one take to the next.
Finally, Jackson and I’s working relationship was crucial in making ‘Black Flat’ come to life, and was perhaps my favourite collaborative experience of the entire project. Together, we completed all of the post-production and learnt not only a lot about the editing, but also how to do it best in a pair. I think it benefitted us to have a second opinion to fall back on, as it provided a sense of reassurance when making changes to our film. Jackson and I agreed on most things which was convenient, and I think we collectively did a good job of putting our rough cuts together in a relatively a short period of time.
Group projects are always challenging, but overall I think Squadron did a great job of working together to create something of a high standard. I think it’s imperative in this field of work to have to capacity to be able to cooperate with anyone and everyone, and this project certainly helped me develop my collaborative skills and get to that point.
The colour grading exercise was an effective way to gauge how the colour palette of a shot can change the mood, vibe, and even time of day associated with it. In this way, it had a similar effect to my ‘how music changes mood’ blog post, but of course by manipulating a different stylistic tool in post-production. The video below shows our original footage, followed by three different colour grades that I put together on Premiere Pro:
I attempted to create three dramatically different looks so it was easier to differentiate between what worked and what didn’t. I consciously set myself the challenge of colour matching the shot of Emily running with the subsequent close-up of the mobile phone. This particular shot was actually re-shot on a different camera, a different day and in a different location, and funnily enough they’re actually my hands instead of Christina’s. To me, these differences are obvious primarily due to the variation in colour (grass looks much more vibrant in the CU). With that, I wanted to see if colour grading would make the shots more continuous and seamless when put in conjunction with each other. In each example, you can see that I was able to achieve this level of continuity. This is reassuring for future shoots for when the colours across raw footage doesn’t match.
In the original footage, the colour palette is relatively cool and it appears around 10’oclock in the day. It’s a little dull and doesn’t look overly cinematic.
I then wanted to create a dramatic change to the original footage by adding a blue hue over the clips. This immediately transformed the shot as it now appears to be dusk and the mood is much more dark and eerie. While it may appear a bit over-the-top when juxtaposed by the original footage, I think this colour grade does a much better job of encapsulating the mood and time we were going for. It appears much more cinematic and would likely be the colour grade of my choice for this particular scene.
In the next clip, I upped the saturation and added a more warm, red/orange hue over the footage. Again, this dramatically changes the time of day and the mood. As it looks sunnier and warmer, it would likely be around midday, and the warmer tones suggest a more positive vibe. The hue also changes the colour of her skin tone significantly, which makes it appear quite unnatural. I know in Final Cut there are ways to isolate and adjust skin tones, and although I did not seek it out, I presume Premiere would have a similar feature. If we were using this colour grade, it would be necessary to take this step to make her skin tone look more natural in relation to her environment.
In my final colour grade, I went a bit crazy with green mid-tones and blue highlights. To me, this is purposely the most unnatural appearing of the three colour grades and looks almost alien-like. As the green of the grass is almost fluorescent, it detracts from the presence of main figure as the environment almost consumes her. I suppose this could be a look that someone might choose if they were going for something a bit less conventional, but for my practice it was a bit too left wing.
Evidently, this exercise taught me a lot about how colour grading can transform footage in terms of mood and time, as well as ensuring continuity. For our 1-minute screener for the upcoming Media Exhibition Day, I will endeavour to colour grade the footage as it makes SUCH a difference in terms of completeness and impact.
Apologies for continuously referring to content I had not yet posted! Without futher adieu, please enjoy our rough cuts for scene one and scene two of Black Flat. In this blog, I will break down each scene by identifying the highs, lows and learning curves associated with putting these two sequences together.
As you can see, scene one is the tense exchange between Emily and Damien in the lead up to their wedding. Emily is feeling apprehensive about their future together and lashes out at Damien in attempt to cope with her anxieties. Meanwhile, poor ol’ Damien is feeling rather belittled and hurt by his domineering fiancé. The pair are both on edge after their conversation by the river and viewers are led to wonder what will come of their future together.
Although I am mostly happy with scene, it turned out a little differently to how I had originally envisioned it. When the script went under revision, a few lines were cut which effectively made Emily come across as more aggressive than how she was first written. Damien on the otherhand becomes a bit of a pushover, claiming he was ‘kidding’ when merely suggesting they grab pizza for dinner. While this was not the original character profile that Jackson or I had planned, it served to create a new dynamic between these two characters, which effectively translated onto the screen.
In terms of shot composition and the like, originally we had planned to have the characters walk along the river side-by-side as they casually conversed. However, we deemed this would be too difficult to shoot as we would need three different backward tracking shots, requiring both Bonnie as the camera op and Sarah as the sound op. to be mobile. We unanimously agreed it would be wiser to have them stop somewhere for a conversation so that we could perfect the frame and have better control over sound. I think this shows through the technical qualities of what we were able to produce (note the frame composition, off-side lighting and well-balanced sound).
Editing this scene was relatively straightforward for the most part, yet few sound and continuity issues limited the number of cuts we could make. For example, when Damien says ‘Babe…’ and ‘What?’ we were unable to cut back to his face as Emily’s hand placement kept changing. Nonetheless, we made the best of the footage we had to produce something mostly continuous.
Admittedly, this scene was not originally intended to come across as overly dramatic, instead aiming to simply set the scene for what was later to come. As we did not get the chance to film the really thrilling content however, Jackson and I thought we should play around with his score to see how we could transform a relatively calm scene to make it more intense. Through the addition of the music, we were able to achieve this effect, despite it coming across as slightly exaggerated and over-the-top.
Nonetheless, we are pleased overall with how this scene turned out and will take the above issues on as something to learn from.
Scene two is the intentionally uncomfortable and slightly creepy encounter between Emily and Ted. As Emily goes for a run to clear her head, her phone dies and she finds herself unsure of which path to take when faced with a fork in the track. Along comes creepy Ted, who stops Emily to ask her what she is doing out there all alone. Ted seems nice, yet something is not quite right about him.
This scene was certainly the most fun to shoot and edit as the relationship between these two characters is so awkward and cringe worthy. In this scene, we see the vulnerable side of Emily (quite the contrast to the previous) as we sense overt fear, apprehension and angst within her. Ted on the other hand, whilst appearing quite friendly on the surface, leads viewers to think that there’s more to him than what meets the eye. Ted’s true colours (ie. his inner psychopath) would’ve been further explored in the later scenes we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to film.
When it came to shooting this scene, time was of the essence. We stuck pretty close to the script but we did make few changes on the fly as we noted words or phrases that worked better, eg. ‘sweetness’ was creepier than ‘sweetheart’ (thanks for that one Scott). As the scene was quite long and wordy, the two shot was perhaps the most time consuming as it took a while to get a seamless take. The handheld shot of Emily running up the hill also took time, as it was difficult to perfect the framing whilst doing the reverse tracking shot. The fact that this took five takes or so to get it right made me very relieved we hadn’t attempted to get the same type of shot for the conversation between Emily and Damien! In terms of framing and composition, we made use of some purposeful shot types to make the characters look a certain way to the viewer. For the close-up on Ted, we used a low angle to make him appear domineering and powerful, whilst doing the opposite for Emily to have the reverse effect.
This scene was also relatively simple to structure in the editing suites as we had select shots that needed to be simply ordered, timed and layered appropriately. There were also a few additional shots that I later gathered on my own (establishing shots, the CU of the phone, POV shot of Emily looking left to right) which conveniently matched the shots with which they were juxtaposed quite well. If we had the time to colour grade, this would’ve made these shots appear even more fluent and seamless in conjunction with each other.
Overall, I think this scene does an excellent job of fulfilling its sole purpose of establishing the relationship between these two characters. Viewers sense that something dark will come from this exchange, but the question of what remains.
Ta daaa! These scenes are essentially what we spent the entire semester working towards. While there is always room for improvement, I’m proud of what we were able to achieve and feel as though we came a long way in a short span of time. Go team!
Thursday’s presentation was essentially an overview and narrative of our experiences in our group – the challenges, the successes and everything in between. It also provided the chance to showcase our creations to the rest of the class.
The following are the slides for our presentation. I acknowledge that some of them won’t make sense without the context of what we were saying, so I will explain briefly what each group member was exploring below:
Sarah began by providing an overview of our previous presentation to refresh everyone’s memory of our objectives. She also outlined our subsequent pre-production preparation and the allocation of crew roles.
Bonnie took over to explain the reason behind our new film name ‘Black Flat’ whilst showcasing our ‘official’ film poster. She then when into detail about how our shoot played out in relation to scheduling and time, film techniques and coping with the nature of a public, outdoor environment.
Sarah chimed in again with her experience as sound operator –recording ambient sounds, managing the sound pickup of our cast, the challenges of disruptive sounds ie. wind and water, and so on.
Alex then talked about the relationship between script editing and directing, and what she had learned through her participation across these two roles. Whilst Alex was speaking, we played scene one of Black Flat on mute in the background as unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to show the whole thing.
I was up next and explained how Jackson and I tackled editing process, specifically in relation to the structure and organisation of shots, continuity and audio editing and layering (see previous blog post for my full spoken piece). We then screened scene two of our film, Emily’s exchange with creepy Ted, which seemed to be really well received by the audience
Jackson concluded our presentation by talking about the score he wrote and produced for our film. Inspired by the original Teddy’s Bear Picnic, Jackson reimagined the track into a really dark, eerie version that fitted our footage seamlessly.
Overall, I think our presentation went really well as we provided an in-depth insight into Squadron’s last six weeks of working together. We made sure that we covered all of bases of the production process to give listeners a well-rounded understanding of our work, including pre-production, shooting, sound recording, editing and sound design. It was unfortunate that we were unable to screen both scenes due to time limitations, but we made the best of the time available by enabling each person a considerable length of time to speak, whilst still being able to screen the full version of scene two. Despite the thrilling nature of our work, I think we did a good job of keeping the presentation light and entertaining, as this is what audiences tend to appreciate the most.
It was interesting to see how everyone else’s production journeys had progressed through listening to other groups’ presentations. While some stuck closely to their original intentions, others took quite a different turn to what they had originally set out to do. It was reassuring to find out that we were not the only ones who encountered a few complications and setbacks, but nonetheless, all groups were able to take something away from the experience that will ultimately guide their approach to future filmic endeavours.
I think we all deserve a pat on the back for what we were able to achieve this semester. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride to say the least, but at the end of the day we’ve managed to pull through and produce some great content.
The following is my spoken portion of the week 12 presentation:
So Jackson and I were the chief editors for our teaser trailer for Black Flat. Within this process, we learnt a lot about structure and organisation of shots, continuity, as well as audio editing and layering.
The process of structuring shots was relatively simple as obviously each was motivated and carefully planned. On the day we stuck close to the script and corresponding shot list, so we were thus able to work sequentially through the footage and audio in the suites. This was also made easier due to the fact that we labelled the video and audio file in line with the shot list – so if on the shot list it was scene 2, shot 2, take 2, then the files were labelled accordingly for painless reference and ease of synchronisation. During the shoot we also took notes about which takes were particularly good to ensure maximum productivity in the suite – saving us from the hassle of having to go through hours of footage we weren’t going to use.
Ensuring continuity was perhaps one of the more challenging aspects of shooting and editing our teaser. It can be quite hard to get your head around the little things regarding continuity whilst on set – things can fly unnoticed such as changing hand placement and movement, and things like cast members rolling their sleeves up and down. Even your sound operator’s feet may find themselves in the background of a shot… Oops.
With that, some shots did not line up seamlessly and the challenge became to carefully select the shots and cuts to MAKE them line up seamlessly. It very much became about experimentation and trial and error – putting shots in juxtaposition with each other to see if they flow or not. Video transitions also aided this process, as they suggest a shift in time in the event that things do not appear continuous. Through these strategic measures, Jackson and I were able to make the best of the footage we had to produce something mostly seamless and continuous.
Sound levelling and layering was another crucial part of our editing. Thanks to Sarah, our levels for dialogue were great, but there will always inevitably be variances due to the differences in volume of speech and pitch fluctuations. Jackson and I therefore went through each clip and brought the levels up or down accordingly to ensure they were within a suitable range and peaking at -6. We also consciously avoided audio clips with excessive wind and cut it out where possible. In terms of the scenes without dialogue – so establishing shots and the like – we layered sounds to match the action in the shot. For example, whilst Emily and Damien are walking along the river, we had the ambient sound of the location – so the flowing river, birds etc. – and footsteps fading in and out as they neared the camera.
Unfortunately due to time constraints, we were unable to properly colour grade or add text to our teaser. Hopefully you are still all able to pick up on the eerie vibe we were going for, so without further adieu:
This week, Jackson and I had a busy week of editing our teaser trailer for Black Flat. To begin, I went through by labelling all files in accordance with the shot list and merging the corresponding sound and video files together – a tedious yet necessary process. Deciding it would be best to treat the scenes separately, together we made an assembly/rough cut for scenes one and two. From this point, the plan was to assess the footage acquired and use it to determine the need for a second shoot.
I strongly believed we did need to do a second shoot, as the footage captured did not really delve into the thriller genre – rather setting up the scene for the thrilling content to come. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with the scenes and what we able to achieve, but I just felt as though we did not have enough content and did not deliver what we promised. I was confident that in the time remaining I would be able to create a rough-final cut of scenes one and two, and at least an assembly cut of scenes three and four in the event that we filmed them, which was passable as what we made did not need to be polished. Jackson shared my viewpoint and he and I made plans for what to do when in terms of editing the footage. It was do-able.
Sunday rolled around and we still had not discussed as a group whether or not we were definitively shooting on the Tuesday coming. We had our pre-production documents in place and our actors Chris and Scott locked in, so I finally put it to the group once and for all expressing why I thought we should shoot again. However, the rest of our group thought it would place unnecessary pressure on ourselves for an assignment that is not even marked on the media we produce. I understand where they were coming from – the fact of quality over quantity is a valid point, especially since we’re not being marked on what we create – but it bothered me to bail on this thing when it was merely half complete. However, I had been overruled so I accepted that and let it go.
As it turns out, I really struggle with the fact that we are not marked on what we make, nor are we expected to create something complete/whole. If we were, we would’ve surely shot at least twice and actually completed what we set out to make. I understand that it’s valuable to analyse what we make and learn from the process of getting there, but to quit on something unfinished just doesn’t sit well with me. I think I was also disappointed that we didn’t shoot again for more personal reasons – the fact that I could’ve made something really great to show for myself.
Don’t mean to rant, but rather reflect on something that has had a significant impact on my experience in this course. My next post will be more positive I promise, haha.
In Thursday’s class, we took the time to debrief after our shoot and determine our next move. As we did not get a chance to delve into the thriller-esque moments on the previous Tuesday, we decided that a second shoot would be necessary so we could really hone in on the content of that style. However, we no longer had Christina as our lead actress so we needed to think fast and act quick.
Sarah came up with the idea to turn the focus on Damien and Ted to instead build a dynamic relationship between them. In this instance, Damien would be out new protagonist as Emily had (literally) gone missing. We all bound together to develop this new idea – which I actually came to really like despite it not being our original plan – and Jackson and Sarah volunteered to write the script:
See the full script by clicking here.
From this, Sarah and I devised the shot list. We discussed making another storyboard, but we found that this document was not as crucial to our practice. In our first shoot for example, we found ourselves constantly referring to the shot list, rather than the storyboard. Evaluating on this, we determined that the storyboard was not worth spending additional time making. Nonetheless, see below the shot list we collectively created:
To see the full shot list for scenes three and four, click here.
Throughout all this extended pre-production, I was in contact with Scott and Chris and informed them of our new intentions. Unfortunately the only day that they could both do was the upcoming Tuesday – of which only Sarah and I would be available to crew for. As there was seemingly no other option, we agreed on this date and booked this equipment from the techs.
HOWEVER, the plot twists again as Chris messaged me today (Monday) saying that he was no longer available to shoot tomorrow. SIGH. This put us in a inconvenient position as the only other time we could then all shoot would be the FOLLOWING Tuesday of week 12 – the week of our final presentation and a week before our final blogs are due. What seemed to be under control quickly turned manic.
Evidently, all these twists and turns have made our production schedule a little bumpy. We can say we’ve learnt to think on our feet by turning negatives into positives and grown accustomed to working under pressure. If we had more time, we would not have any difficulty turning out what we originally set to do, but unfortunately a few inevitable obstacles have set us back. At this point however, shooting again is not out of the question – I still believe it is do-able, especially seeing as we’re not expected to hand in polished pieces of work. In our consult with Jasmine, we established that we would assess the footage that we have and this would inform whether or not we should risk shooting again.
Shoot one – check! Our pre-production paid off as our first shoot ran pretty smoothly. As a whole, we were satisfied with the footage we obtained and got most of what we needed for scenes one and two. But what’s a shoot without a few complications? I’ll delve into the positive and negative outcomes below.
We were stoked to have our three cast members actually show up, arrive on time and be totally dedicated to their performance. Christina’s experience really translated onto the screen, as did her attitude and actions behind the scenes (making suggestions, asking questions etc.). Chris and Scott, although less experienced, certainly put their best foot forward and pleasantly surprised us with their performance. Scott in particular, though struggling at first to remember his lines, captured the essence of Ted perfectly. So a big thanks and well done to our wonderful cast!!
Unfortunately on the day we found out that it was our Christina would not be available for a second shoot. While we were informed a few weeks prior that she would be going away in or week or so, we were under the impression that there may be some time before then that we could catch her. We found out on the day that this wouldn’t be possible, which put is in a bit of a pickle as the second part of our concept revolved around her character, Emily. Forced to re-think things after the shoot, we turned the setback around as we decided to transform the story into a ‘missing-persons-unit’ and have Damien as our new protagonist – Psycho style. I was proud of our efforts to come up with this alternative scenario by working with the limited resources we had.
Timing wise, our call sheet was pretty much on the money. In saying that, I was secretly hoping we’d get through it quicker than expected so we could do MORE than what was scheduled. In the event of this rare scenario, I had an array of thriller-esque shots planned, as the scenes we were shooting on the day simply set up the scene. As expected though, we ran out of time and only had time to complete the scenes rather than delving into the more intense, thrilling moments. I acknowledge that setting the scene was our priority on the day however – hence why it was only this that I wrote into the call sheet – so I was satisfied that we were able to get that far. Hopefully we get a chance to hone in on the more thrilling content in our subsequent shoot.
Furthermore, due to time constraints we also needed to prioritise the shots with our cast in them, rather than the scenic establishing shots. Christina was of particular concern as she was no longer available for a second shoot, meaning we had one chance and one chance only to film the shots needed with her. We therefore needed to be selective and choose the shots that were absolutely necessary first, followed by those that were less so. Alex went through the shot list to determine the importance of shots listed to guide the order in which we did things. I suggested we put all the establishing shots to the side, as while they are integral to our film, I volunteered to get them by myself at a later date. In doing so, I must be mindful about weather conditions to ensure they mimic those of our shoot.
Shooting outside is always a risk – especially in Melbourne! We were fortunate on the day however as we were blessed with the perfect mild temperature and cloudy skies. These were ideal conditions for shooting as a) we were not uncomfortably hot or cold; and b) clouds meant we didn’t have to deal with harsh shadows created by the sun. While wind was an issue at times, it was not excessive and we were able to work around it. It was extremely lucky that we delayed the shoot as the previous Tuesday saw constant rain and hail throughout the day. If we were burdened with poor conditions on the day, I feel like we would’ve had no choice but to cancel. Phew!
Shooting in public spaces also has it’s disadvantages in terms of public interferences. As the walking track along the river is a popular spot for Warrandytians, at times we needed to wait for passers-by and dogs to exit the frame. Luckily it was a fairly quiet day and we shot strategically along a stretch of track which is less frequently used, so the disruptions weren’t overly problematic.
Prior to shooting, we had allocated crew roles as follows:
Sarah: Sound op.
Bonnie: Camera op.
On the day however, we ended up chopping and changing a fair bit between roles. While Sarah remained committed to sound, Alex, Bonnie and I switched it up between being director, DA and camera operator. I use the term director loosely however as we all worked together to get the perfect shot – each making suggestions and assuming varied levels of creative control. At times this approach led to conflictions of opinions, but at the end of the day we always prioritised what was most logical as we held the mutual goal of producing a high quality outcome. Communication was key in this situation in order to ensure we were each being fair and just, whilst being mindful not to put anyone down.
Oh! An exciting moment of the shoot was coming up with our new title! As we were entering the state park via Tills Dr, Alex noticed a sign that said Black Flat – the actual name of the state park our film would be based in. This was so much more fitting than “The Pines” and it conveniently sounded quite dark and mysterious, in line with our film’s concept. Yay for productive coincidences!
Overall, I was very happy with how this shoot went down. We worked well as a team and exerted a degree of professionalism through our engagements with cast and our ability to work under pressure. We relied heavily on our carefully prepared pre-production documents, which effectively allowed for maximum efficiency. For my first formal shoot for a narrative piece of work, I felt as though we collectively had a strong grasp on what we needed to do and how to do it with relative success. Our experience on set certainly will serve as a valuable learning experience for future projects down the track. Hands in, go team!