The Making of a short film

Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Movie Game

It's Thursday night, and I've had a crazy week of filming.

Stunt coreography and rehearsals. Gemma and Scott came around for the big fight scene, and Dean came to arrange it. He did a blinding job, and Gemma excelled herself - there are cartwheels, fancy throws, jumps, it was breathtaking.

More rehearsals.
Julia came over for her newsreading scenes, and we had a lovely long chat about theatrical tours. Howard arrived later and we got his delivery down pat.

Things started fairly well. We got most of the important scenes shot and I finally got to meet most of the cast and crew at once. Penny couldn't make Monday so Bev was AD. Joanna came to help finishing off the sets. Elspeth and Mel came to run and ended up being invaluable. James did the sound, Paulo did cinematography, and Dean co-ordinated stunts (and became an evil milkman). Nathan turned up and stood in as an evil milkman and a ministerial aide, as did I. Rick was another milkman. Gemma, Howard, Scott and Steve came and acted their socks off, and only dropped a scene.  I was so pleased I went out and  got rather drunk, singing in the karaoke and then generally messing about until four in the morning. Oops.

I overslept a little, and everyone congregated in my kitchen while I mustered myself. We drove straight to the the location, and I went to see the manager. Everything was fine until about ten minutes later. Penny came over and in hushed tones told me that the boss had arrived and was making unhappy noises. I sent everyone except Gemma back outside and went to speak to him. He was a thickset scouser in a black suit and shirt, clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur. He led us into the conference room and sat the opposite side of a huge table. Flat out, he refused us permission to film. then he started sermonising abnout how we shouldn't be disappointed by this (I found out later that Gemma had been trying her "puppydog" expression) as it's life, and then insisted he knew about film-making, and that getting money to make films is easy "from a russian millionnaire." Half an hour later, after he'd disagreed with everything either of us had said, he leant back in his chair and said, "I'll tell you what, I'll let you film here today, but with two conditions. First, you pay for the member of staff to supervise you while you're here, so that's a fiver an hour. Secondly, you have to mop the floor at the back afterwards." It was the most ridiculous thing I'd heard, but I decided to acquiesce; he had us over a barrel and he knew it. We started planning shots and he came over with a coffee. "Those racks are in the way of your filming really. You can move them over onto some pallets and they'll be out of your way." "So, is that instead of mopping the floor?" I asked. "No, instead of the fiver an hour." I was starting to feel like Lando in the Empire Strikes Back. We moved the racks, and did the filming quite quickly. there were stunts, rolls, jokes, throws, brushes and mops. when he left, he said, "I'll keep on to your card, I might have some contacts for investing in your movies." No thanks, pal, keep your dirty money. I should have won an Oscar for the way I smiled and shook his hand as we left. We got back to the studio and I took Nathan with me to the workshop to collect the plane set while the others finished off the duct. It looked unfinished and wrong, so I spoke to the boss there. "It'll be ready tomorrow by 10," he said. Nonetheless, we finished the duct, and had great fun crawling through it for daft photos. That night, Mel came out for a drink, and we had a few more, and some more karaoke. I walked her back to the station but thanks to a misjudgement on my part, there were no trains. She ended up sleeping on my floor, and I still feel bad about it. Oops again.

Today was reserved for the duct and plane shots. We went to pick up the set and it wasn't any more built than the day before. And the door was locked. I hjeaded out with Penny to get a plane model and a rucksack. the rucksack worked out great, but there weren't any model planes anywhere. I decided instead to do it digitally, and I hope it turns out OK. We shot the duct scenes and after lunch I went back over to the woodwork department. The boss effectively said "not my problem." So, no set. In order to salvage the day's shoot and decide how to shoot the plane scene, I took Gemma and Paulo to the dairy where we hadn't been allowed to film, and tried to grab some quick external shots. A man was watching us from inside, so I went to say hello. Once he found out we weren't trying to gather evidence for an accident claim he couldn't be more helpful, and even arranged for a milkfloat drive-by. A total contrast from the scouser. We ended up shooting the plane scene against bluescreen, but it was a bit washed out, and I'm not at all sure if it'll work.

We shot the news report against bluescreen, and it went really well. Julia also agreed to voice the self-destruct computer, so we taped that. After lunch, Gemma arrived and we did the kitchen scene and the bedroom scene in my halls. It's not ideal, but we managed to pretty it up a bit. After that we re-shot the plane scene, and then I had an idea for a skydiving shot. It might work. Things in general went a lot better than the last couple of days.

Friday now, and we'll see what happens.

Posted at 11:49 pm by Paul
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Friday, April 13, 2007
The casting process

I have some crew, some cast, and some considerable amount of stress.

The ad was a success, and I now have a DoP, two 1st ADs, a 2nd AD, a few runners, a production designer, a sound recordist, a stunt co-ordinator and a make-up artist. I'm working on getting more, but there isn't that much else I need.

The casting process started on Tuesday, and already I think I have three of the main roles filled. I have more auditions tomorrow and on Saturday, and hopefully that'll be it.
We have the rough schedule, and I'm hoping the final draft and script breakdown will both be finalised by Saturday. I'm also expecting the set designs to be ready by then, and on Monday I'll approach the university's woodworking department for their construction. At some point I'll also need a lot of cardboard for filling frames, and probably a great deal of foil and green/black paint. I'm also leaning away from using CGI wherever possible, as it'll probably be down to me to sort it out and I don't know if I can be bothered with the hassle.

I have more auditions Friday and Saturday, and I hope by then I'll have the roles all filled. fingers crossed.

Posted at 12:30 am by Paul
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Saturday, March 31, 2007
How all occasions do inform against me

Finally I have the script written, and things are starting to snowball at an alarming rate.

I put this advertisement on various industry messageboards on Wednesday:

I am planning to shoot a short film during the week commencing April 23rd:

When terrorist milkmen (and milkwomen) hold the dairy hostage, it's up to baker and former soldier Ann Sutton to free the milk.

Milky Thursday intends to challenge and subvert many of the clichés of action films, without taking itself too seriously in the process. It will be shot on MiniDV or HDV, depending upon available resources. The script is now at the stage where I can frantically assemble my creative team and start stressing about everything.

I require the following crew for this project:

-Assistant Director-
The shoot will need to cover a number of locations over as short a time as possible, so I'm looking for someone who can plan and act with remarkable alacrity. The ability to supply fresh bandages, should my brain start leaking, would also be useful.

-Director of Photography-
I am vaguely interested in recreating a particular aesthetic, although I'm only the director and know little of such things. There will be one or two green/bluescreen effects shots required (I have access to both colours). There may be some room to maneuvre in regard to the camera we will be using, and I have access to an average array of lighting equipment.

-Art Director-
This is an ambitious project, and I need an Art Director who can achieve the right look at minimal cost. And just to make it harder there may be a tiny amount of set building to be done. I say "building", but it won't be much more than a duct, really. And I'll do most of it, provided my dodgy knee holds up.

-Location Manager-
I'm looking for someone who isn't afraid of blagging up some good locations for specific scenes on the cheap. In fact, if they could pay us then so much the better.

I'm looking for excitable people who can follow instructions and carry my crutches for me. Did I mention my dodgy knee?

-milk float driver-
I may need one of these if things go very well. If they go extremely well, this role will become royal chariot driver.

-CGI artist-
I need someone to make (or adequately find) one or two realistic looking things using zeroes and ones, which will need to fit into the ugly green/blue holes made by the Director of Photography without seeing the join.

About the Director:
I am a final year student at the University of Bolton, reading BA (Hons) Media Writing and Production. As such, the word "budget" is something of a misnomer. I will be able to pay some expenses and supply food and a copy of the finished film, but that's probably about it. Local is good.
That said (and seriously for a moment), I will be treating this as a professional project, and I am totally committed to creating the best film possible. I am confident that we can create something we can be proud of. And that I can show off with.

I can supply a copy of the script and provide more detailed information upon request.

Did I mention the food? I'm quite a good cook.

Please contact me at

Since then I've had over a dozen responses, most from people wanting to help, and a couple from people who just want to wish me luck.

The thing that worries me is that I have a large amount of wotrk and a small amount of time.

Posted at 10:40 am by Paul
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Thursday, January 18, 2007
Guns Are Cool

I watched a TV programme today about guns in society, and it was excellent. I've been thinking about this from a filmmaking point of view for some time, but the programme has served to crystallise these thoughts.

Gun crime is rife in the inner city areas of the UK, and predominant amongst the contributory factors is American culture (another is the news, but that's another story); not just hip-hop stars such as 50cent (the Reebok ad where he recounts the number of times he's been shot and then laughs was a particularly evocative image), but also cinema from the US. There are images glamorizing guns in so many film posters; The Terminator, Casino Royale, Hot Fuzz, and even Pirates of the Caribbean. The problem is that guns are shown to be empowering (which they are to some extent), and to a disempowered demographic, they are enormously tempting. As a filmmaker and citizen I find myself given a great responsibility, in that I lean towards action films in my subject matter, a genre notorious for glorifying violence. Within the themes of my films, I can either add to the culture of gun-love, or try to negate it.

I did a quick survey of the films I have made which involve guns, and how they are portrayed. A positive image is one that shows guns as non-aspirational, a negative image is one that glorifies them:


1.      Bad Eye. The protagonist has a condition where he has hallucinations of bad things. He attacks his friend who he is convinced has just drawn a gun on him. He then discovers it was a mobile phone. My opinion: Positive image. The gun isn't fired, and its appearance breaks down the friendship.


2.      Vengeance. The protagonist has a shootout with his twin brother, fatally wounding him. His brother tells him he missed on purpose, and then dies. My opinion: Slightly positive image. Although there is glorified gunplay, the protagonist discovers that he has killed his own brother.


3.      Through The Bullet Hole. The protagonist is a hit man who arrives home to find (and despatch) two intruders. My opinion: Ambiguous. A hit man killing someone on-screen is obviously a negative image, but making him effeminate offsets the gun as an aspirational accessory.


4.      Milk, No Sugar. The protagonist loses his wallet in the back of a van, and finds out that it is full of weapons. The driver comes through the side door and fires a shotgun. My opinion: Slightly positive image. The hero has no gun, and the driver is an antagonist and immediate threat, which he must evade.


5.      Somnium Illis. The protagonist encounters two men in black, who chase him, before a zombie kills them. There is also an armed guard. My opinion: Positive image. The hero has no gun, and the men in black are instantly portrayed as the bad guys. They use their weapons against the zombie, but it is futile. The soldier is also immediately an antagonist, and never fires his gun.


I was relieved after I had done this little exercise. I enjoy watching the use of guns in films but, paradoxically, I don't agree with their use in real life. It seems that this subconscious, pacifist agenda has been with me all along. Now I'll approach the short with a different view.

Posted at 01:41 pm by Paul
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Thursday, January 11, 2007
Impaled upon the horns of a dilemma

Hello, and welcome to my Director's blog.
This is the first entry for my blog about the short film I have to make before May. I haven't decided what it's going to be about yet, so this is all coming right from the start.

So far I have two options for the subject of my film.
  1. Lost At Sea. I wrote a 60-minute screenplay for my screenwriting module, a tense thriller about revenge, set largely on a mini-sub. If I choose this option, I'll need to rewrite the script and condense the best bits of the story into about ten minutes. I'll also need a submarine set and art director, a stunt coordinator, and a CGI artist for most of the exteriors.
  2. Undefined action movie. The other option is to write a short screenplay which incorporates many action conventions (explosions, chases, fights, and so on). A year or two ago I shot most of a short along these lines, but for various reasons it had to be abandoned, so theoretically I could use this script as a basis (author permitting). I'd need to rewrite it, and then sort out a stunt coordinator, stuntmen, cars, vans, fake weapons, and possibly a CGI artist for car crashes and the like.
I have to come up with a decision pretty quickly, as these things take time to get done (especially if I have a set to build), so watch this space!

Posted at 02:52 pm by Paul
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This is the log of the short film I am making for my final year project.

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