Alright! One film down, eleven more to go!! And I still think this is a good idea!
The idea for this month’s film came together due to two factors: The first as my appreciation of the work done by a company called RocketJump which you can find here. I strongly recommend taking a look and seeing what they are about.
You will notice that this website bares a resemblance in the content it provides (films, podcasts and a blog (RocketJump also has a shop)). I am not intentionally trying to copy them, but I would say that I am doing what I do largely because of the example they set.
They started out by making short sketches on YouTube and generating a fan base. They got started at the very start of YouTube’s creation, which is something to bear in mind. Getting somewhere first, even if you don't know what you are doing, is hugely important when it comes to anything on the Internet.
I admire the way they made their shorts as well, using the expertise of the people around them, friends and anyone who had interesting ideas. They created a small collective of personnel and decided they would make what they thought was worth doing in any way they could. This is never something you expect to be able to make a living off but sometimes it works out. Now RocketJump is in partnership with Lionsgate to create Film, TV and digital content.
That little diversion (again I feel it's an important one) brings me to February’s film. The web series Video Game High School (which you can find here) was something that caught my attention as I'm a fan of video games and I like Harry Potter (this show is mix of the two), and yes, the show was created by RocketJump (I promise that is the last I will mention them) but this is what introduced me to them.
I liked what the show did and I thought that it would be a good experiment to try and emulate something that they had done very well. In the show the characters play a computer game and while they play, the show presents it as if they were actually in the game. The idea is a little like what you may have seen in the movies Tron or the Matrix.
Whilst in the computer game world, although the humans are shown as they are in real life (just with a costume change) certain other things are represented in a 'digital' form. There is no easier way to sum it up than to look at a picture, so see below for an example:
This brings me to the second factor (if you can remember back to the top of this post, there were two), which is that I knew a few people who could play Frisbee, and play it really well. We were in the park one afternoon and I filmed these guys throwing a Frisbee around. The footage looked good, it’s a fast paced game so it was already exciting! One of these guys is called Andy (you can check out his stuff here) I also lived with Andy for I think 3 years? We were originally excited about living together as I like making stuff and he also likes making stuff. We have different expertise that actually match up pretty good; I like to shoot films and he likes to add what’s commonly known as 'Special FX' or Post to films. But in three years we did what most flat mates do: we went to the pub, watched the Wire (if you haven't seen it go watch it) and didn't make much stuff. Although there is a single reel of Super8 with Andy snowboarding (the only year that it was possible to do it in this country, 2010?) that we shot but never developed. We really need to get that done!
So this project seemed like a good one for us to do together.
Originally I wanted to shoot this in the park, as I liked the idea of a bunch of guys showing up and playing a futuristic version of Frisbee. This would include a computer generated pitch and Frisbee. That idea was maybe a little too complicated (also I wanted to shoot it at night and there are no lights in the park!) so I needed a physical pitch that would already be flood lit and not made of concrete. Living in a University town has a tonne of benefits. Everything is designed for the students who are generally fairly active so there is no shortage of sport centres. So naturally I picked a pitch at an all girls school. (It was close by and it was very well maintained). If you’re interested it has a claim to fame as the school that Emma Watson went to.
Once I saw the size of the pitch I realised that I needed a lot more players. Again it is really hard to align people’s schedules without a lot of notice (and without paying them) and people need to work. I got in contact with a local University Frisbee team (University towns are useful remember). The team was the Oxford University Ultimate which you can find here. You will notice on the website that they don't EVER mention the word Frisbee, I am using the word as I think its a little easier to follow all of this. Turns out that, much like Hoover or Sellotape or SPAM! Frisbee is a brand owned by Wham-O Toy Company. So not every Frisbee is a Frisbee. On the subject of Frisbee trivia, the scene in ‘Back to the Future III’ where Marty throws a metal bowl to stop Doc getting shot, on the bowl is the word 'Frisbie' and the pies back then were sold in Frisbie branded bowls. After eating the pie people realised it was cool to throw it around, and that’s where Frisbees come from (basically). If like me, you hate when stuff in films turns out to be untrue, in this case you can rest easy. They really are the films that keep on giving. If you don't believe me check this out.
Idea, Pitch, Team all sorted, I just needed a Crew and some Kit. Once again the incredibly generous Paul Hellard of ShootHD opened his doors and I was able to borrow a RED EPIC. That may seem indulgent to those who know what it is, but to do what I wanted to do I actually needed that camera. There was a lot of fast action in this film and I didn't want it to be hand held, as the postproduction would be a nightmare (ask Andy Coram about working with hand held footage). I also wasn't going to be able to get a Steadicam operator in time, so I turned my attention to something I could operate, something that would give a similar effect. There is a piece of equipment called the MOVI that is pretty popular at the moment and you can read all about it here. The MOVI is a stability rig for cameras, it only takes small cameras but anyone can basically grab it and get smooth shots (there is a little more to it than that). I wanted these 12 films to allow me to try new stuff so this was a great opportunity to try something new. The RED EPIC fits great on the rig and captures incredibly high-resolution images that would help out in the postproduction. The RED EPIC is also able to shoot at 50 frames a second. Typically this is a way of shooting to create slow motion, but in this instance I wanted the full 50 frames. You might have heard about Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ movies shooting in this way. Shooting at this frame rate gives you smoother motion that I thought would be a good look for this film. It’s a little odd as no one is really used to watching videos in this way but this is all about experimenting. You can read about ‘The Hobbit’ and what all this frame rate stuff means here. The best way to understand it is to see it, so check back here May 1st and this film will be ready in all its 50frames per second glory.
I have mentioned before that I enjoy operating the camera but this is not my biggest strength. For this project I wanted some one, well...better. Who better than Robert Shacklady (the name is all real, he is a lucky man). I have known Rob for a long time and he too likes to experiment with kit. Robert is an incredible DOP (Director of Photography) and we have shot many things together. You can check out his stuff here. Robert is a big advocate for another camera called the Arri Alexa, so much so that he owns a couple. He advised me that we should have a second camera as we were shooting sport. This made a lot of sense and allowed us to shoot more on the day. He was on one camera and I was on another. Robert was also able to convince one go his assistants to help focus pull. Louise Ben-Nathan I have worked with before and is one of the funniest (especially when Robert is around) and relaxed people to have on set. She had the particularly hard task of trying to keep in focus players that were constantly moving whilst the camera that was trying to focus on them was moving also. Not an easy task but she did it and i have to say she did an amazing job. So we shot with a RED EPIC in amongst the game as it was played and an Arri Alexa on the sidelines capturing another angle.
And that’s what happened on a cold (you will see the players breath) February night when we played some Frisbee.
I must also make a special mention to Gemma Harris for helping to cater for the players. Gemma is a runner (not the film kind but the athletic kind) and that meant we got lots of high-energy food. What that really means is rocky road and flapjacks all round. There were non-left!
Check out the pictures below.