Monday, 2 July 2012

Camera rolling....sound rolling...

I am pretty sure that Alfred Hitchcock spent his formative years taking shelter from the rain outside his local dry cleaners. Tarantino couldn't do anything unless the West Midlands Ambulance Service had passed by. And Spielberg was often to be found filming toast being made.

Yes. I'm pretty sure that's how they got started.

These were just some of the highlights of the weekend just gone by. While you were off doing whatever it is you do on a Saturday and Sunday, I was directing a film. And I'm here to tell you, it's better than gardening.

'Jess' is a wonderful short story from a young (well, young to me) and enthusiastic film & Television graduate from Worcester called Matt Johnson. Together with my partner in many things creative, Mike, we took this story and worked up a screenplay. The story aims to do two things; to document a day in the life of a young teenage girl (the eponymous Jess), and challenge a few perceptions.

We see young kids on the streets all the time. We talk about them in outraged terms. Feral kids. Hoodies. We dehumanise them. And sometimes our preconceptions are valid. But is that always the case? Jess seeks to give an alternative view.

It's a short film - less than three minutes. It has to be that length to be picked up by the regional and national film festivals that concentrate on short films. The last film we did was wonderful (I would say that, having written it) but at seven minutes long it was practically an epic of Tolkienesque proportions.

And let no-one tell you short films are easy. Samuel Johnson once wrote to a friend: "I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead."  He was right. Telling a complete story in 180 seconds-or-less is quite a challenge.

But it was great fun. We're not making money, and our budget was precisely zero. We overspent by buying a clapperboard. Oh, and a packet of sausages to use as props. Universal Studios should have our problems. However we pulled together a crew - photography, sound, the whole shebang. Our small cast of volunteer actors were great. I had people looking to me to tell them what to do. And they did it without fail. Our lead character, a 12 year-old girl, had never acted before but was a natural.

One scene has our heroine making herself breakfast, inclusing toast made from authentically-mouldy bread. We wanted a shot of the bread going in, and another of the toast popping up. To make things easy, we decided just to film the whole toasting cycle - after all, you don't know when it's going to finish - and edit it later. So we ended up - a whole film crew, cameras, sound, actors, fiming a toaster, toasting two slices of bread.It's 2012 and we can't CGI this stuff yet.

I'm sure some of us wondered what we were doing with our lives. I know I was.

But now it's all in the can. Or 'on the memory card', if you like. Now comes the editing part. We hand our precious files over to yet another skilled volunteer who will help us wrangle our shots into the finished article. I can't wait. Hopefully, neither can you.

Beats gardening, any day of the week.

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