Wednesday April 11, 2012

Digital Cinema Studies

I chose this paper simply because film is a once-upon-a-time interest of mine and I wanted to do something that just interested me rather than work towards... whatever I'm working towards.

4 weeks into the year is when it started, and we had an intense week of learning several different aspects of film-making. We had 2 prescribed books, One on Final Cut 7 and the other called Directing:4th Edition. I'm still working my way through Directing.

We had to form groups of 5 however because the class was a mix of BCT students and Digital Design Students who'd all been warned about teaming up 4 weeks previously, we wound up in groups of 4. Long Story. Anyway, our group was 2 and 2. I've teamed up with Jackie, a BCT student and good friend, and 2 Digital Design Students, Joyce and Roslyn. The group seems to be alright and have good dynamics for the most part. Yes that's right I'm mentioning people by name from now on.

We had to come up with a story for a 3-5-minute movie and then shoot it. Properly. Get actors, make a budget, use proper equipment, planning... everything. So we have a treatment and it currently needs work (in my opinion). Right that's the short version.

The week I spent though revived my passion for film and film-making. Of course now it's all digital which is... better actually.

This leads into something I'm planning on doing from now on. Watching a movie a day. And reviewing it. Here. This will just help me remember movies I've watched, gain a critical eye, and gain experience reviewing things. And provide mirth/eye roll material to anyone reading.


    Friday April 20, 2012

Three's a crowd.

Quite a lot has happened in a short time and it would have suited different posts and cliffhangers but I'll have to just recap.

Jackie, our producer had advertised on a talent website Starnow for actors for the film. We were quite surprised at the responses we got really, we thought we'd be scraping. We had favourites early on but would audition everyone we could. Only two people answered the ad for the female lead, one dazzled us right from the start so we kind of knew we'd probably go for her. We wanted to audition the other person as well but it became difficult scheduling a time and we had discussions on how best to handle it because we probably wouldn't use her anyway. But this is getting ahead already.

We arranged to met up early in the week (Monday) to visit some locations and shoot them. I felt a little left out of some things and not entirely sure of some of the shot planning. Especially not a good thing to feel when you are cinematographer. Jackie recognised this and asked me if I was okay and just that recognition and concern perked me up a bit really. I decided I had to just plan the shots on a storyboard when I got home. After the day was over we discussed got coffee and discussed aspects of the film and I put forward my idea that the film not start in the first scene but have an actual opening shot with titles looking at a dresser with photos and memorabilia establishing the story (the dresser itself plays a role in the film later on). Jackie agreed so that was great. Our first actor, Rebecca emailed her that evening to say yes, she'd like to audition on Thursday at 12, did we have a script. That was something else we'd discussed, concerned that we hadn't written it and I had a feeling that there was some vibe undertone that we don't really need a script because most of it is visual. So anyway I offered to write it and that's how I spend my Tuesday. It took a few hours but I as quite pleased with the result and so was Jackie save a few small changes, and then so was Joyce and Roslyn so Jackie sent it to Rebecca, who loved it (that could have been actor-speak of course). On the Thursday 3 of us went to the audition and met Rebecca. I wound up having to play opposite her which I guess I should have expected but wasn't quite prepared for. I had to ask her to marry me and then in another scene have a vicious argument that would probably result in a breakup. I also had to play her 10-year-old kid. We filmed this however I'll have to get permission before I can post anything.

We decided we wanted her but played it cool for a day and asked the next day. She accepted and still loved the script.

That night a massive argument in the group ensued of our Facebook discussion group when Joyce had taken offence to a potential male actor's emails. He was just being professional, correcting her on how to contact him - how it's usually done. She took this as rude and got bent out of shape about it. The others took it as rude too, I saw no problem but put it down to an age thing and let it slide. It didn't really matter until Joyce took it on herself to send him a shitty email and basically telling him where to go. It was quite over the top. I hit the roof but explained as nicely as I could (I was with a friend at the time who stopped me a couple of times from posting slightly harsher words) that he was not being rude but she had and she had no right sending that email on our behalf. Jackie wanted to move on and avoid the whole argument but I pulled her up the the rudeness thing and that perhaps she shouldn't support Joyce at all on this. Which then caused a massive argument between us (this is not entirely unusual). However we came to some understanding I think and regardless moved on. Jackie contacted the actor in question, apologised and scheduled an audition for this Sunday which perhaps fortunately in this case, only her and I can attend.

We received an email warning us of a presentation on Tuesday at 10am where we have to hand in the script and production document. It's very fortunate that we have started on this then. We seem on track but this needs to be sorted out well and truly on Sunday when we're holding some more auditions. there is a lot to plan. We'll also be doing storyboarding. By the way, the post tile is the working name of the film. Hopefully not the final name.


    Wednesday May 2, 2012

Auditions

We had already auditioned Rebecca for the Role of Kate and really liked her. Jackie had scheduled 3 more people for Sunday. They were spread out unfortunately, from 11 to 5. Joyce could come after all, so 3 of us sat in.

The first Audition at 11am was Matthew. We didn't know what to expect from a kid really, but he seemed okay. He overacted expressions and didn't know the script very well but we could work with that and direct him probably. The audition lasted about 30 mins.

We had a break and then waited for Daniel to turn up for the role of the boyfriend. This is the guy who had our group arguing as to whether he was rude or not and had received a shitty email from our director.

He turned up and seemed okay, gave us a bit of input on the script and acted. Joyce and him apparently got over whatever (I was inside the auditioning room while they met actors outside and showed them in). It seems to me he gets a lot of real work.

We then waited for a few hours for the next appointment, a kid called George also auditioning for the role of James. In the pictures that we had seen on the talent website, he was very blond which didn't quite fit with the part, however when we met him he was less blond. He was also very articulate and knew the script and the character. He described what he thought the character was like - impressively and when he read the lines he did very well with inflections that suited what was being said. We asked him to put on expressions of how he might be feeling at certain times in the script, including one that is mildly blank but complete anger inside. He did that very well and believably. The audition didn't last very long because he sailed through it.

Unfortunately a couple of hours prior to him turning up Joyce had decided perhaps other projects would be served better if she went home. So our director missed the most pivotal interview. We caught it on camera but it was only a low-res point & shoot.


    Wednesday May 2, 2012

Presentation

The following Tuesday after the 2 -week "break" we had a class where we had to present our script and production document. The Production document was to be created in a document from a program called Celtx. It's a tool for planning films. I'd started using the program and adding things in the 2 weeks preceding and Jackie has filled in a few bits too and taken over the document. While Celtx offers cloud services for collaboration, it didn't seem robust enough so basically I started the document and Jackie took it over. Also, we'd probably have been the only two people to bother working on it anyway.

We didn't have a cost breakdown of everything which bothered me but that was difficult to do without group effort and it had started to become apparent that real group effort was going to be hard to achieve with anything.

We were the last group to present and Roslyn did the talking. I wasn't terribly pleased with the way she told the story. She had a cold or something and didn't have a clear head and said someone may need to take over if she couldn't talk. I was beginning to wish that would hurry up and happen. So the script was mis-represented as a bit more crap than it actually was. So that when we got the feedback, some of it might have been relevant but much of it wasn't applicable. Great.

Our storyboard had been cobbled together. I had started drawing it but it was quite difficult to plan shots. I originally wanted to plan it because it seemed to be going nowhere. But it was time consuming.

Other groups had a budget breakdown. We did however have one thing the other groups didn't, that was actors. We had auditioned people and that seemed to impress our tutor.

All in all I wasn't terribly happy, and Jackie was unimpressed for being pulled up by Joyce on sending an email to a child actor who we discovered lived in Wellington. She turned the actor down obviously. Three things: 1) She had consulted in the Facebook group, and we had discussed it. If someone isn't paying attention then... 2) Being pulled up for something when a week prior we'd all just had a big argument about Joyce sending a rude email to an actor on the groups behalf. Hello? and 3) She is the producer. She CAN make those decisions because she is the boss and because she organises all of that stuff.

So between us it's become apparent that there is a slight problem here...

Lots of little reservations I had early on but never mentioned because they seem like wild extrapolations based on nothing to any casual observer seemed to be germinating. They will no doubt become apparent in this blog too. I wonder how this film will turn out really....


    Thursday May 3, 2012

Auditions 2

The following weekend - last weekend (I was a bit behind) we had 2 more people to audition. A guy called Blair for the boyfriend and a kid called Lochlan. Lochlan was for 12pm but he pulled out because he had some other part in something else and I guess that was enough for him.

Blair was a second choice from the pics as far as I was concerned, Jackie was a bit more open-minded and Joyce seemed to be favouring Blair before we'd seen him. This was mildly predictable behaviour as she had the row with Daniel on email and would want to then push her point forward even if it didn't really make sense. I was glad I'd predicted that would probably happen to Jackie a week or 2 prior. She probably knew it too but it was good that we had verbalised it before it materialised.

Blair's performance was okay and he would have been usable. I lost some interest by this time on who we had because I didn't want another fight and sort of felt like I wanted to concentrate more on things that I had total control over the outcome, like my Studio project. No emotional involvement in fail stuff this year. I pieced together an edit of Rebecca and Daniel and then Rebecca and Blair arguing to see how well they worked. It was clear Daniel worked better, but Blair was better than I had originally thought. Jackie agreed, Joyce had some long spiel that drew a different conclusion and Roslyn said nothing. This is a microcosm of the current group dynamic.

The rest of the week dragged, Jackie and I tried to re-work the script to have more dialogue and plan certain scenes better. We ran into issues and if I go into it, my blog will seem like a massive character assassination (not of Jackie). Basically the first scene requires a shot of a dresser, as Jackie and I had planned, and we'd all discussed at various times and I think the word Dresser is the second word of the script and it's description follows through the next sentence. So when we asked for photos of this dresser so we could plan it's layout were told that there is no dresser and a bunch of blah about the layout of a house that we hadn't seen as we weren't allowed into on the day we checked out locations. These are ridiculous obstacles. At the same time I'm not really willing to stick my ore in with everything.

Yesterday Jackie sent an email to all the actors and potentials asking if they could come in for a second audition to see how well they work together. Blair sent a short email back saying "you either use me or your don't". On one hand I can see his point, I suggested that it might be asking too much of the actors. They aren't being paid after all, and they don't know if our film will be any good (at the moment I don't know either). On the other hand, it annoyed Jackie and we agreed that if Daniel was to reply in a more curtly manner than that really sealed the deal in our opinion. He did respond much more curtly.

Today I re-wrote the script alone and sent it to Jackie. While I really liked the idea of collaborating with her on it I think it's probably mostly a solitary activity which is why we didn't get very far together on it.

The dialogue is not great but it's something which is more than it was before.


    Saturday May 5, 2012

Actors meet up

Jackie had arranged for Rebecca, George and Daniel to meet up on Saturday. The original plan was to also have Blair meet up later on but seeing as he didn't want to come to another audition that was out and we really wanted Daniel anyway. It was short-sighted of Blair really as this was for his showreel which he doesn't appear to have much of.

It turned out Rebecca and Daniel knew each other which I half expected to happen. Actors in NZ who actually get work probably all know each other.

I was unimpressed that we gave them the old script to work off when I had written a new one. Sure it needs work but it had more dialogue.

Aside from being nice and friendly to the actors I sat quiet the whole time. I was silently annoyed. I had expressed my concerns privately to Jackie about group dynamics and lack of organisation (mostly because of the group dynamics) in a message but she wanted to meet and talk about it. Well, we never got to meet. She tried to raise it before the actors turned up but I wasn't really interested by this time.

Once again Joyce not having studied the script and clearly having her own idea of what would be happening despite it being on paper for the last few weeks showed it itself to us and to the slightly confused actors. Also just her shooting the whole thing annoyed me. The director directs the actors, but our director seems to think she has creative control over everything. Which would be fine if she was any good at it. Well it wouldn't be fine but it's definitely not fine like this. So once the actors were gone I left, not even wanting to talk to Jackie. I'll save it for our meeting with our tutor. That will be fun.

Oh and Ros didn't show up, couldn't make it apparently. yeah.


    Monday May 28, 2012

Lots

I gave up writing for a while because I was so disillusioned with the way things were going. My friend and ally in the group and I had a bit of a spat so communication there was getting difficult too which was a pain for me because without her I was just in some really crap group.

We had the meeting up with the tutor who gave us pretty okay feedback but I really think he was being a bit generous. I had a long list of grievances that I was going to bring up but it suddenly felt like a bad time to do it. So I felt like it was time to just give up and back out slowly. But the group wouldn't let me.

So we discussed some script revisions and how to further proceed then went our separate ways. For quite a while. I drew up a storyboard even though it seemed a bit pointless because I knew what would happen with it.

We booked the equipment and the actors time one weekend. A Friday and a Sunday. We got to the Parnell Gardens to do the scene that is there and I discovered that the intention was that the actors sat at a park bench. My storyboard had them walking. Turns out Jackie and Ros both thought it was walking too. Yeah...

So we made up shots on the spot. It was getting darker and the light was changing. We got it all and left. Didn't get a copy of the footage.

Sunday was planned from the whole day early in the morning. Daniel called in sick. WTF. We decided to continue and do the shots without him. The park scene was changed on the spot because apparently our director had always visioned the thing from a different angle. Once again it rendered the whole storyboard useless. We seemed to waste a lot of time but it wasn't so bad at this point. Rebecca, who was unimpressed with Daniel not turning up - but not surprised it turned out - said her boyfriend who is an actor could fill in if needed.

We then went to Joyce's house to film interior scenes. I'd lost control of all camera once again and was boom operator. Oh, this was a theme. Yup, cinematographer holds a boom while Director controls everything. Producer letting shit happen because she just feels like Director is controlling the show, and I'm trying to get her involved because she did want to do something of value too (she is operating the sound recorder and Ros is doing the clapper board).

The whole thing devolved though with ALOT of stuffing around.

I got the footage finally today and looked at it. None of it cuts together. Shots are badly framed. Too much depth of field.

On our facebook page she had said how she thinks in our next meeting we should plan shots more so we know what we are doing. Hmmm... Why didn't anyone else think of that?...

This is a really short version of all the events of the past 3 weeks. But you get the idea.


    Sunday June 24, 2012

Three's a Crowd

So that's the movie title. I regarded it as a draft title but we never changed it. A lot of interesting shit happened after the last post I made and it might have been good to document it as it happened but too much was happening and I didn't have time.

Let see now. This will look like I'm ripping into one person here. But I'm actually withholding a bit. There is no nice way to say some things some times.

We set up a shoot one Friday evening for one scene, the actors came but it started getting cold and dark rather quickly. We were shooting scene 3 or 4, whatever... which took place in a commercial garden. The location was Parnell gardens. I had produced a storyboard, slightly scribbly but had shot planned out. But we didn't use it. Apparently the script called for the two characters to be sitting while my storyboard had them walking down a garden path. But hang on... didn't I write the script? Later I asked Jackie and Roslyn if they thought that if the characters were walking or sitting. Walking. Okay...

Anyway we shot stuff, I wont go into it further, then we went home. Saturday no shooting, Joyce has some thing on Saturdays. Sunday, our lead male, Daniel canceled on us saying he was sick. wtf. We decided to continue shooting as much as we could without him, shot a park scene and then back to Joyces house for the interior shots. We didn't really follow a storyboard either, Joyce just shot stuff. It started to become disorganised. Our actress suggested a replacement if we needed a more reliable actor and we discussed it and Joyce suggested we talk about it on Facebook that night.

However before any of us were home, Joyce fired Daniel. We were going to have a meeting on the Tuesday and it was a struggle to get the footage off Joyce before then but myself and Jackie managed to on the Monday night. I reviewed it and was pretty annoyed. It was all terrible. There was 2 shots that looked okay in the park scene. Everything else was badly framed and had wide depth of field. There was crew in some shots marked as good.

I went in on the Tuesday morning with a rough edit of once scene and said how hard it was to get it working because of the continuity. Said that we needed to basically reshoot everything and this time be organised and use the storyboard. Joyce's response was to become slightly withdrawn an not give input. When questioned she said she needed to prove a point. We mucked around for about an hour and a half while Joyce was snarky then she went home. Jackie said she agreed with me and didn't care for Joyce's response much. Anyway what followed was the most productive day we'd ever had. Roslyn was more active and the three of us devised a schedule for the following weekend and drew up a storyboard that we all had input on. The difference was huge and that kind of cemented a few feelings on the subject of where Joyce had lead us amongst the group.

The next day I intended to create a detailed shot list and with that plan timings of the schedule in more detail and then hopefully work on Studio for once. But instead the day got stressful. Jackie was quite upset because she was having real problems getting all the actors to be able to come on the same day, then Joyce sent a text message to Jackie withdrawing her equipment that we needed. We couldn't get AUT equipment for the following weekend, it was all booked out. At this point I said there is no way Joyce is to remain director. Jackie organised a small meeting with our tutor and we told him of our dramas. He said to writer her a formal letter relieving her of her position, sign it the group, cc him in and get the filming done. So I wrote a letter, Jackie approved it and sent it. We got a predicable barrage back, but Joyce didn't want to come to the new shoot. We had organised a new location at Jackie's house (which was a far better location anyway). and organised the actors. We had somehow managed to get 2 good cameras and I created a very detailed shot list and shooting schedule. Joyce had decided on the Friday that she wanted to come to the Saturday shoot. We'd actually reached a point where we didn't her around screwing things up but couldn't say that. Oh yeah I was director now. I met one of our actors in town and accompanied her to Jackie's home and once everyone was there we started shooting. I pushed things along so we didn't run behind time. This was hard. And we did run behind time. We were driven to the local botanical gardens to shoot the the park and garden scenes. We had to delete the beach scene. We got back to Jackie's house to shoot the final home scenes and it was starting to get a little dark and we were losing light. It was getting stressful as things started to become undone near the end with so little light (it was actually still day but I discovered just how sensitive to light cameras are). We wrapped up shooting and everyone went home. The next day I went back to Jackie's house and we filmed an establishing shot in the park that we had managed to miss doing and the opening scene that her and I had planned from the start. We made a Dolly up for the scene and photographs for the backdrop. Joyce now had a role as editor but I made an edit too just in case.

The following Tuesday we had to meet with the tutor to show what we had. I wasn't terribly impressed with the edit either and Jackie bought up my edit (she knew about it) and so we viewed that and tried to plan the best bits of each version. The following Thursday Joyce decided she didn't want to edit anymore because she "had done so much" and myself and Jackie probably needed to do more. WTF.

So what followed was myself, Jackie and Roslyn coming in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to edit the thing. I also colour corrected, a job that Joyce said she'd do but we neither trusted that she could or would. So I did that too. Much of her editing didn't make it in either. She was now to do the sound which was my job originally. We had to screen this film on the Tuesday. Long story short it was completed at about 4am Tuesday morning and we screened it. While other groups said how much fun they had aside from technical difficulties, Jackie pipped up and said "we didn't really have any technical difficulties, we had group difficulties". After the screening, people from digital design came up to us and said they knew what the problem was. Why didn't they warn us at the beginning? We had to write peer assessments. Jackie got an excellent from me, Roslyn a very good and Joyce a poor. Her comments section was a mini essay detailing almost every way that she derailed the our work.

How did the film look? It wound up comparing quite well against the others. Yet we could have done it much better. Myself, Jackie and Roslyn made a really good team...

This goes to full HD if you fullscreen it.