August always feels like the beginning of the end of the year. To me June and July make up the core of the summer and when August hits you are on your way to Winter. I had one complicated project behind me and 7 films in total. I was getting very close to achieving what I set out to do (soon I would have 12 films).
This feeling of getting towards the end of the year I think comes from school holidays. In August your thinking about going back to school after the summer break. Your school life revolving so much around the holidays. As soon as you went back after summer it was Christmas holidays next and by Christmas I would be done.
Don't get me wrong, I was enjoying making all these films but it was hard. July was a tough one and September would be another big project. August's film would need to give me a bit of a break and allow me time to prep for September.
Because of this necessity, Augusts film is inspired by a style that I really love, The Long Take.
The Long Take is a single shot that has no edit points. It can be one long shot or it can be lots of smaller shots made to look like one big one. It is likely that you will have seen this technique and not really know it was happening. Thats the idea, It effects your subconscious. You know something is different you know something is going on but your not sure what. It can give great energy to a scenes or create tension, it is also excellent at bringing out drama. The actors must keep their performance going like they would on stage as if it was live. Some of the more famous scenes are from films like Rope, Goodfellas, Children of Men, Touch of Evil, The Shining, Atonement... There are many others if you check out this link.
The Long Take was going to take editing out of my hands. Which might seem a little contradictory as I actually started in this industry as an editor. I still call myself an editor but its not the only thing I do now. The director side of me (in this case) was going to leave no work for the editor me (thanks director!).
I set this film in my flat as I needed a location I had complete control over. The idea was always going to be based in a house or a flat and it needed to look very lived in. That meant trashing the place! I figured better to do this to my place than some other poor person (the clean up took a while). I didn't go over board it just needed to look like someone had not left it for a few months. It was contained space and there are only so many rooms which helped to focus the choreography. The downside is wouldn't be able to light the whole house, so as a practical and stylistic choice I would film in black and white. This does two things; One, it makes the image clearer (black and white is a lot easier to focus on) and Two, it meant I didn't need to be so fussy as to where the film was shot. I have pink carpets in my flat! (not by choice). If I shot in colour this would not look good. So black and white helps me cover up a few questionable design choice and give me a clearer image in the end. You can read all about why black and white images always appear sharper here. Dues to the lack of lighting I was able to use a fog machine which (like the choice to go black and white) killed two birds with one stone. Its Created a haze effect in the house giving it a more lived in look, dusty and old but also the fog helps to bounce light around. So any window that could let light in was opened and the fog helped brighten the scene a little more. The sequence would require the actor to move from one room to the other with me on the camera following.
For this all to work you need to rehearse... a lot, or as much as you can. There are alway going to be unexpected things that happen in each take but thats part of the appeal. However you need to reverse enough so that camera and actor know where each other is going to be at any one time. I needed to know where he was going to go next and he needed to know where the camera was going to end up. It's very important that the camera doesn't restrict the movement of the actor.
So who was the actor...
Anthony Comerford was interested in appearing in one of the 12 Films and seemed open to a interesting idea. We had met on a previous shoot so I knew Anthony could act but it was nothing like this. We had a chat about what I wanted to do and he agreed to give it a go. Anthony was incredible! We spent a while walking through the house blocking out where he would be going, where I would be and what he would do at each stage. We had to sort out the props for each stage as well. I had already pre-trashed the house but there were many key items he needed to collect along the way.
Walking the scene through was incredibly satisfying! Working out a kind of routine for Anthony and the fact that there would be no way to 'edit out' around a problem. We needed to find a way for him to get from point A to point B then to point C in the most efficient way possible. There would be no cuts, just many many takes!
My hat well and truly goes of to Anthony for his ability to just keep going! We did a fair few takes and they were not short. We had our senario and just needed to get it right (or close to it). Each time something different would happen, I would get in his way or something would happen out of order. These are all things that make the Long Take interesting but there are times, really depressing times when you are 3/4 of the way through the take and you have to should 'CUT'. But each time we were getting better. I know Anthony was getting fatigued but that just added to the performance.
My arms hurt, Anthony's brain was probably melting with the marks he had to hit yet we got it done. The shot that you will see in the final film has no cuts, it is exactly as filmed. It does have some errors, things I would have liked to do again but with the Long Take you can't always have everything. I hope it has the desired effect.
A big thanks to Anthony for lasting the day, it was August so it was still pretty warm and the flat got hot! I also want to thank Anthonys girlfriend Yanxia who was there for the shoot. She helped us out during each take by moving some of the key items so the story could move along faster. While me and Anthony moved into one room she would be setting up in another. This was tricky for her as we were using the entire house and not cutting so she needed a place to hide. It turned out he only place that she could be without the camera seeing her was crouched right under the desk in the spare room. So thanks Yanxia for your help and putting up with the uncomfortable hiding place for the duration of the shoot!
And thank you Bert for stepping in a the last minute to help me out with the VO for this film. I wasn't sure if it was even going to get one as I just couldn't get the tone right. As soon as I did though Bert came though and did an incredible job once again. Yay Bert!
Some more Images below...