Alright, month five. I am starting to get somewhere...
This month’s film is probably one of the more complex films I have tried to make. On the surface it is similar in style to January’s film. In fact, January, May and December all form a sort of spiritual trilogy. This one, however, I say is complex because I am interpreting a character everyone knows. And I mean every one!
Even if you don't care for the genre this character sits in, you will certainly be aware of him. Anyone aged 3 - 300 knows who this guys is, what he can do and what he stands for. So as not to labour a point, I thought this would be a really interesting idea. Turning it onto an effective film however, I'm not so sure.
The costume would also be of the upmost importance. I wanted it understated but noticeable. This required a shopping trip and then some modifications. A big thanks to Gemma for stitching the lining of the suit! A hugely important addition if not seen all that often (sorry).
Avoiding copyright infringement is the aim with this one. Not because I don't want to get sued (although I really don't) but because I don't actually feel its necessary to name the character. It’s not the point of the film. The point of this film is to explore what memories mean to us and I couldn't think of a better point of view than this characters!
I had this idea in my head long before I started thinking about making 12 films in a Year. This meant that I already had someone in mind to play the part.
I have known Bert for a fair while now; he is an Actor, Musician, and Model amongst other things. I met him though Bruce who you will have seen in January’s film. Bruce and Bert are very good friends and until very recently lived next to each other in a mansion! It’s not as glamorous as it sounds but was still pretty cool. The mansion was the setting for the short film me and Bruce made called 'Compulsion which you can see here'. Anyway, Bert has a certain look about him (as you will see) and I thought that would be an incredible look for the character he would be portraying. So it was pretty fortunate that Bert is also an amazing actor and there is no one else I know that could have pulled this part off but him!
You will be seeing more of him in later films!
As this was to be similar in style to January’s film it would be another intimate affair with myself, Bert, a camera and the streets of London (and a bit of Oxford). Again the Canon 5D (I don't receive any sponsorship from Canon by the way!) would help us cut through the issue of filming where we shouldn't. And so we took off across London. The tube is a very moody place, always lots of people, and the aim was to show our character observing other people. So we spent a lot of time down there. We went to the History Museum, War Memorials and eventually the Shard!
This was both a great experiment and a test of security, as if you have ever gone up the Shard you will know it’s a little like getting on a plane. You have to put all your stuff into a box and then on to a conveyor belt; that’s bags, shoes, belt, anything you have in your pockets! This was a little bit of an issue. Although I didn't have loads of stuff I had a camera bag, a monopod and the camera itself. The security staff were not happy about the bag. So I had to take out what I thought I would need (2x lenses, spare battery and CF card) and leave the rest behind. Next they turned their attention to the monopod. If you don't know what one is, it's basically a tripod with one leg. I thought that due to it being a little less cumbersome than a full tripod they would let me take it up. However, due to the unique nature of the view they don't want you taking great pictures. Why would they when you can buy a postcard? So you can't take anything that touches the floor up with you (unless you have a walking stick). So all I could do was grab a gorillapod which would try to give the camera some stability (but could never ever touch the floor).
We headed through security only to be met by the strangest thing I have seen in a while. Before you enter the elevator to go to the top you are shepherded onto a green screen. They then proceed to take a picture of you in front of said green screen, the reason why will be apparent when you come back down. For now though we got in the elevator and went straight to the top. It’s really cool up there! We went at sunset to try and get some interesting light. It was a little cloudy but the view is great. There are two floors, the second of which is a little disorientating. Unlike most attractions of this nature (the London Eye) the windows are open, you can't jump off but the windows reach a certain point and then stop. You can hear the wind and feel a breeze and it’s a strange experience! You can pretty much stay up there for as long as you want, but we had things to do so we got to work. I wanted Bert looking out over the city so we did a few shots close up. I was a little nervous due to the security treatment downstairs that they would try and stop us. In fact it was the exact opposite. Some of the attendants were hovering around us and I thought we would be finished early, turns out however that they were just interested in what we were doing. Bert as you can see form the pictures stands out a little and it was obvious due to his costume that we weren't just taking pictures for the fun of it. They asked us questions and seemed quite excited. Not once did they mind what we were doing. Trying to explain the idea to them (or anyone) was tricky but they let us get on with it and we came away with some really nice shots. I guess they were just bored, the most interesting thing that happens up there are all the marriage proposals (even one whilst we were present)! They must lose the unique appeal eventually.
It got dark so we headed back down.... and so the green screen!
It turns out that when you enter the Shard you get your photo taken so that when you come back down you can buy a photo of yourself. Every one has done it at some point on roller coaster and rides like that. I wouldn't call this a ride but what you end up with is a picture of yourself with the view from the shard composited in the background. So, you have just been up to see the real view (and you can take pictures up there) then you come back down and are confronted with a picture that not only do you know isn't real but doesn't even make an attempt at being real. Even as far as souvenirs go this is bad. I sincerely wish I had brought the print now. From what I can remember Bert is posing as normal (imagine Bert is a lot like Barney from 'How I Met Your Mother’) and looking great, I on the other hand just look a little bewildered.
This film also involved a day of green screen shooting (ironic given my previous rant) which was necessary if you have figured out who the character in this film is. If not then these shots will totally give it away. As all these films have been made to a pretty tight budget and the green screen shoot consisted of the following: my office, a green screen, a few lights and a leaf blower! Green screen shooting usually means you are inside, even if what you want to replace the green screen with is actually an outside scene. So it was necessary to create some artificial wind. Now if you go to a nice big studio they will have huge fans for this scenario. I had a leaf blower, which you can see in the picture below!
That’s how you make movies!
This months film also introduced me to the incredible James Bariscale who's brother I was using in another months film. James as well as being an actor has a very respecable back ground as a voice actor. He lends his vocals to many of the computer games we play today. He was kind enough to help out and give this film a more international feel. I think a lot of people making and watching films and TV realise the difference an American accent makes to a project. Its probably that we a brought up now on American TV but there is just something way cooler about the american accent. I think the Americans feel the same way about our accent so its all fair.
Back to James.... As I mentioned he has done many voiced for many different games and There is one in particular that stick out... He plays one of the main characters in Valiant Hearts. This is a game that I cant recommend enough. Its a puzzle game set in World War One. What sets it apart is what you learn form it. I think we generally know much more about World War Two than World War One and thats a shame because it is not something that should be forgotten. This game does an amazing job of teaching you what the hell happened whilst playing a game. Its factually accurate and if you have it for your iPad you get a updates every now an then telling you what happened on this day in World War One. A little bit of an aside but James is the connection here and you will be hearing more, much more of his voice in the up coming films!
A few stills below...
As an additional to this month’s film I also did some pick up shots for January’s film. Pick ups are shots that you either didn't get first time around or (once you have started editing) shots that you later realise you need. I always knew I wanted to contrast the soldier in the woods with shots of kids playing in the woods. Almost like flashbacks to childhood. Getting two kids together for this was tough. I didn't really know any! So I started asking around.
Asking parents if I could film their kids in the woods was not something that seemed 'normal'. I was a little afraid to ask if I’m honest. However it was once again Paul Hellard who assisted. Paul is married to Becky who I knew as she used to be the Producer at Juice. She was there when I first started and is awesome. She even helped me learn how to drive! She also has two amazing kids, Ben and Joe. Ben and Joe had been in a few of the films shot at Juice during the time Becky was there, so they knew what filming was all about. Also the fact that Becky knew me and knew the industry meant that filming in the woods wasn't such a foreign idea.
Paul helped as we set off into the woods just round the back of their house. Then just like with Bruce back in January I said 'Go and play war'. Which they did and without even needing to give any direction they were off grabbing sticks and pretending they were guns. Exactly what I needed!
A huge thanks to Becky, Paul and of course Ben and Joe! Thanks for all your help!