So these first 12(ish) posts will form a recap, month-by-month, of all the films I shot last year (quite long, possibly interesting, catching up).
Or to be more specific Christmas 2013 was the time I decided that I wasn't doing enough and should probably make more films! This was not a planned decision, there was no forethought, but I think the idea came to me whilst sitting on my old bed at my parents’ house during Christmas. Lets say it was the 26th (Christmas Day is over and I guess like me many other people are thinking, 'What are they are going to do this coming year?') Given the way I have generally lived my life if I thought about the idea too much I probably would have put it off, found an excuse not to do it. Done nothing.
The only way I ever seem able to get stuff done is having a big fat deadline. So what made sense to me was the following, 'There are twelve months in a year which means I'll make one film a month'. That way I will always have something going on!
A nice contained idea, something that would be manageable and at the end 12 films to show for it.
All sounds reasonable...
I was pretty much ready to stop even before I had started anything! I had an interesting idea, which required a costume, an actor, a location, camera kit and.... A finished script! As this was the first film and there was no advanced planning I was already behind. Now I have been called stubborn plenty of times, and I fully accept this is the way I am, but it turned out this was the thing that got it all moving. You see if the first of 12 films was not shot in January then the whole idea goes out the window. Anyone who understands the concept of OCD will get that if you set out to make 12 films in a year it really has to be January to December. February to January will simply not do! Its odd!
Things picked up. I got a costume, which was cool as Army surplus stores are awesome! Follow the link if your interested (which you should be). I already had a gun (not a real one! This was one of the many MANY items I returned from Uni with). You know those Asian shops that sell everything? Well they also sell BB guns and as a film student it’s technically a potential prop. I find it especially gratifying (as someone who never throws anything away) when things come in handy, especially for their intended purpose. The gun was about 7 years old. The location was something I didn't think I would have any problems with, being that I only needed some woods. Trees are everywhere, Oxford isn't a big city and there are plenty of nice woods around. However...guns (even fake) and the public are something the police try to keep from coming into contact with each other. So I needed privately owned woods. As much as I would have liked people seeing some guy dressed in full army gear running around the woods, private land it needed to be. A few dead ends, which is when you find out that land is owned by the strangest of people, meant I found a nice self contained plot of trees. These were woods just outside where I work, which were small, but at least I knew the owners.
It was a relief to have things sorted: costume, location, props etc. and I even had an actor... Bruce Windwood. Bruce is a good friend of mine whom I met at my current job. He was/is a freelance Writer, Producer, Line Producer, Producers Assistant, Assistant director, Location Manager, Caterer, Runner... the list goes on. The (extensive) list is there because when I first met him he had just made his own feature film.: Twelve in a box. Which you can buy here. Turns out making a 90min film is hard work... who knew?
Talk to him and he will tell you all about it, or you can read his book, which should be available soon (or just ask him and I'm sure he will send you a copy).
If there is anything I want you take away from reading this Blog or listening to the Podcast it’s the following....there are people, people you probably know (or know through someone) that are doing things. Things outside of what you think they do or think they can do. Maybe they don't “talk good” or it never comes up in conversation, but people are always doing stuff. If you feel you can help or it’s something that interests you then get in contact. Any person or extended contact I mention on this site will be contactable. If you see something that interests you then write about it in the comments below or send me an email.
A diversion but an important diversion...
Bruce (above and beyond the previous list) is also an actor and he kindly gave up his time to come and help me. The idea of dressing up and pretending to play war is hopefully something you don't get asked to do every day. If I could act (more on that in a later post) I would want to be doing that. You can see an example of his work starring in a short film we made called Compulsion here.
Kit is something that wasn't going to be too much of a problem. I happen to work for a pretty cool company that actually encourages staff to do the things they want to do. They are called Juice Moving Images and you can find them here. They own some kit and I have spent a lot of time using and getting used that kit. Usually it's not wise for a company to own their own camera but when Canon released the 5D mark II it was too good to pass up. I won't go into too much detail but it's a Digital SLR (stills) camera that happens to shoot video. It became quite popular upon its release as its shooting style emulated film fairly closely, mostly due to its large sensor size. It was also comparatively cheap. Its popularity has died down as it made the industry realise that there was a need and an ability to make cameras that shoot a nicer image cheaper. They did, and people stopped using the 5D. I however I still like it...a lot. I’ll let you be the judge as I have used it a fair amount over this year.
In addition to the camera I decided to shoot this film entirely handheld and for that a shoulder mount and follow focus were necessary. This was provided by Paul Hellard at ShootHD which you can find here.. Paul has been one of the most generous people this year with his time and kit. He has made it possible for me to learn and experiment with different camera rigs and equipment, and you will be hearing a lot more about the help I got from him.
I will be listing all the crew who helped me with the shoots throughout 2014. This one (for better or worse) was shot by me. I wanted to keep it fairly personal, it’s a personal story, and I think minimising crew numbers helps with this. I really enjoy physically shooting things, it has its pros and cons but I believe having a little knowledge and experience in all areas of filming helps when asking someone else to do something for you.
Now with all the pieces collected it should be no problem to pick a day in January and shoot something. This is where things started to go really wrong. Simple fact: the more things you have the more you need to organise. The location was free one day; Bruce on the other hand was not. The woods being used for hunting (you cant just go and interrupt that) and when they weren't, Bruce was off doing something else! I did however have a costume and most of a script....
The script was mostly where I needed it to be so I could shoot. It had been written and rewritten a bunch of times but I was happy with it.
Then my reliance on technology disappeared. I really like writing things on paper; I have a big affinity for yellow lined paper and a pencil. This time however I had (in my naivety) written this script in the Notes app on my iPad. Originally I was just putting down simple ideas and bits of dialogue I liked. This got narrowed down to the script I was happy with. I thought it was fairly safe and backed up, everything on your iDevices is automatically backed up. CHECK YOUR BACK UPS! Turns out you need to check a box for apple to realise you want something backed up on iCloud.
Notes was not checked.
Denial is the first thing. “Of course it’s backed up. There are plenty of files, plenty of places it could be.” Next you check any computer you have ever plugged that device into. And after that there is recovery software. Looking back on this almost a year later I try to look at it as funny and eye opening. You will remember all the celebrity hacked phones, certain pictures of certain people were "found" and distributed on the Internet. Many of those pictures were taken from Apple devices. So it turns out iPads, iPhones etc. do back things up, even if you didn't ask them to. You can download plenty (and I did) of programs that can find and recover these files. I had found a bunch of previous versions of my script, not the most up to date though. If these were photos I would have most of what I knew I took...but not all of them. This is where my friend Tim Watts comes in. I met Tim at Juice and he is far smarter than I am. He runs his own company called 'box of clicks' which you can find here. I told him my problem and he kindly took a look into it. He managed to find a more up to date file. Not only that but due to his inhuman ability to type (really fast), instead of buying the recovery software he transcribed the free preview file it gives you. You have no idea how thankful I was.
Two things learned; there is always someone who can help you out, you just need to find them and ask them. And if you do take pictures (or create anything) you don't want anyone else to see on a web-enabled device, delete no longer means delete.
I’ll wrap it up as I know this has gone on a bit. I finally found a date and it was shot in January. The first of 12 films was in the can. It will be available to watch very soon. This was hard, really hard, but once you have started (and if you are stubborn enough) you will continue...
There is another section to this film that was shot later in the year (It’s not against the rules) and I will write about that in the respected month (May). You can however see some pictures from both days of the shoot below. Check out these photos of Bruce in his costume, looking particularly comfortable: