Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Shoot - Day One - 14.08.2010

So somehow, scAIRcrows became a reality on the 14th August.

We met the actors at 9am Saturday morning and proceeded to the location where we just about managed to set everything down before it rained.

Rain is a massive problem for scAIRcrows as it is set entirely outside and even if we were all prepared to work through it - it wouldn't have made any sense. If a bunch of friends are hanging out and it starts raining, they're going to pack up and leave. You just don't sit there in the rain when you don't need to.

So rain could have actually killed the production off instantly. The forecast up until a few days before looked good and then it suddenly changed. Problem I had was that I'd paid for a permit to film and a requirement of the permit was that I also possess public liability insurance. I won't disclose how much it cost me but it was a decent chunk of money. So I had no option but to carry on, scAIRcrows simply couldn't afford to pay that again for the same scenes.

I don't know what happened to me but the second we got the location I became incredibly focused on things, to my detriment. I couldn't see things that were obvious and Victoria, the actress playing Emma, the lead in scAIRcrows, suggested we just shoot under this huge tree that stood alone in the field we were at. It never struck me as an option and I think the reason for this was that I'd had this script in my head for too long and had the film already assembled. And a tree didn't feature anywhere in the film I'd envisaged.

But it made sense. Because even if it was hot, you would still want shade and not to be sat out in the sun all day. It worked better than what I'd been living with for the past two months. I don't know if it's the right approach to film making but I'm 100% open to suggestions because I absolutely recognise that sometimes, I can't see what's right in front of me. This was basically the approach I took to the entire shoot - to just let things play out as they naturally do and only then trying to steer things if they don't work. I don't know if it was weird for the actors to not be asked to do things again but in a different way but I felt happier behind the camera when the scenes were developing organically rather than being geared mechanically a certain way (more about that in the blog relating to the next day's shoot!).

So, with that suggestion taken on board, we started setting up and were shooting in about half an hour. scAIRcrows shot on two JCV HD7 cameras - they look small but for anyone that doubts their quality - do a search for it on YouTube and check the quality of the videos achieved by it. Obviously, a lot of that is also down to whoever is operating the camera but I'm happy with how the footage looks. Sound was taken separately due to the incident mentioned in an earlier blog and it's probably the one thing that's going to give me the biggest headache when editing scAIRcrows. We did the whole clapperboard (though it wasn't actually a clapperboard) picture and sound sync thing so it should be easier I hear there is software that can help do this too if the camera's recording sound - which they were.

We managed to rattle through the first scene fairly easily, it's mostly dialogue taken in one place - I hate to think how many times we read those lines and I'll suffer for asking it to be done over and over when I have to listen to it all in editing! I was probably more cautious about everything we shot, we shot until we nailed it and then a couple more times after it for security. It's probably par for the course but I felt I was starting to get a bit annoying asking for it again and again!

I messed up quite comically in one part of this scene. Basically, there's a part where there's just the two girls talking and I actually cut the scene early, whilst the actresses were still performing. Again, it goes back to being intensely focused. The scene ends with a single word but there's a very similar word further up the script that's all said on it's own and in one take, I took that to be the end scene word and stopped the cameras. Yes I wrote it but I was so fixated on everything else (and also absorbed by the performances) that I was operating instinctively, listening out for certain beats and words rather than actually following the script! It's one thing I'll need to work on, whilst it is obviously no bad thing to be intently watching the scene, you do need some awareness of what's going around. I was stopped a few times because actors said there were planes flying overhead. I didn't hear them until they mentioned it.

We had part of that scene where two characters are throwing a ball back and forth and it was fairly easy to shoot but one of the biggest lessons was learnt that weekend - if you have the actors returning the next day - play back ALL your footage from the previous day's shoot. That way, if something hasn't worked for whatever reason, you can pick up on it and re shoot whilst you still have the actors there. We had one shot in that little scene which stood out from the rest and it happened because of how specific I am about framing things.

I like space, I like keeping things at the edge of the screen if there's nothing else in shot, I don't like things being centred. And this one shot, as it was taken by someone else, was framed centrally and it just clearly didn't work alongside all the other video we had of that scene. We had back ups - two shots etc but because we had the opportunity to spot and re shoot, we did and gave the actor the shot he deserved.

So, always watch the footage back the same day if you have the opportunity to fix it the following day. Now, it isn't the best advice because it physically killed me. We got through watching all the footage at 1am (two cameras shooting - there was probably about 5 hours of footage all in). I then had to go back home and recharge all the cameras batteries. This is something that I didn't get finished until 4.30am at which point I went to sleep before waking up at 7am for the next day's shoot.

It was madness and made for a slightly more hairy Sunday but being able to fix a shot I was going to forever be unhappy with made it worthwhile. And I've caught up on the sleep now!

We had catering provided by Emily Rudge - she made amazing food that kept everyone happy both days of the shoot. It was another thing that I learnt that weekend, the little things count for something. Just having decent food on set kept everyone happy and in turn, kept me happy. Being an unpaid production (how I wished scAIRcrows had more money so that I could've paid everyone - they were more than worth it!) I knew I had to at least make sure my actors were comfortable and weren't out of pocket. If anyone is considering launching a film, paid or unpaid, don't disregard how important something small like food can be! And Emily is a great place to start as I, as well as all the other people working on the film, will testify.

The food also brought about an uninvited visitor to the set - Poppy the dog. There are pictures of her on the flickr/Facebook pages and, as much of a blur as that weekend was, I do remember the invasion distracted me (in a good way) from trying to co-ordinate the rest of the shoot. Poppy, you're welcome back anytime!

The next scene to shoot was an even simpler dialogue scene, one that takes place entirely in one spot and so was a nice thing to work on as it didn't require intense concentration on all the elements!

That scene came and went without incident and this is where I probably had the biggest smile that weekend - we were ahead of schedule. It was always a worry that shooting 20 pages over two days was slightly ambitious but the good thing was - it was mostly dialogue. The leads are the 'interest' characters. They're the ones we spend a bit more time with and there's only one action scene with them - scene 6. Two words I can't say together without inducing nightmares.

But I had that in my favour so with a couple of hours to spare, we went ahead and shot scene 6 up until the point where the action happens. We wrapped on time that night and went straight back to review all the footage.

I would say that Saturday was fairly uneventful - everything worked exactly like it should have done once we'd worked around the rain and had definitely left me confident that this film will actually work. I've probably said it so many times that they're sick of it (so sorry if any of you are reading this!) but the actors were amazing and totally kept the film moving. I would definitely keep an eye on the cast of scAIRcrows and again, if anyone's thinking of putting a film together, I truly doubt you could do better than this talented, committed bunch of people.

Same goes for the crew. No-one was paid and no-one had to put up with the long days but they all did - people like that are worth more than anything.

If scAIRcrows becomes a success - I can't take credit for it. The film is a team effort and the absence of anyone that was present would have hurt it.

Pressure is on to continue in that manner. I will put together a blog re. Sunday hopefully tonight too - it was definitely the more challenging day.

Pictures from the shoot are on the scAIRcrows Facebook page and flickr here:

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