Roles

Posted in 264MC Short Film Production on March 17, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

One of the most important jobs we had to do before the shoot was decide our roles. With five of us working on this piece we had to make absolutely sure we were clear on our roles so that during the shoot especially there was little confusion and no lack of professionalism.

We decided the five roles to be taken were Director, Camera Op, 1st AD, D.O.P and Sound technician.

Here are the roles as we decided them:

Director – Mick Le Mare
1st AD – Adam Davies
DOP – Alex Hacking
Cam Op – Jake Humbles
Sound – Rich Neal
Editors – Rich Neal and Alex Hacking
Post Production – Jake Humbles, Mick Le Mare and Adam Davies

I am particularly interested in directing and was therefore pleased to be chosen for this role, whilst it carries much responsibility it also gives plenty of scope for artistic creation and I enjoy taking a front seat on occasions such as this. I am really happy with each of the roles that we have allocated and feel that everyone is in a position of responsibility and one that they can handle really well.

I have also included in the above role call the post shoot roles. Rich and Alex will edit our film whilst the rest of us collate all the necessary documents, permissions etc ready for the final submission.

I have been doing some reading up on the role of the director in a couple of books. One excellent book is ‘Making Short Films’ by Clifford Thurlow (2008) and in it he uses a simple phrase that was first said by Cedric Behrel, a director himself – “On a short film a Director needs to be persistent but flexible, ambitious but realistic”. During the shoot I really tried to stick to this. When I thought something was right and it should be done in that way I tried to make sure it went exactly like that and everybody knew how to acheive it but when suggestions were made or time constraints had to be met I was willing to listen and and adjust accordingly. An example from the day of the shoot would be when the pub we initially wanted to shoot Pete’s telephone scene in was made unavailable and another plan had to be made. I sent off the actors and the rest of the crew to grab some lunch whilst I quickly made other plans, I found that just around the corner there was an excellent place for an exterior shot looking at a pub that fit the bill just right. This flexibility is something I will try and continue when working on other projects whether it be as a director or in another role.

Here we can see the two actors in this scene, Charlie and Pete practising their lines outside the exterior inner city location that had to be found on the go.

I also feel that as a whole group we were very ambitious and therefore as the director I had to carry that ambition whilst remaining realistic. The balance that we struck was particularly good in terms of this – to shoot a short like ours in one weekend was quite an undertaking but not an undertaking that we thought was impossible, everything was so well planned that we feel that we remained grounded and realistic throughout our very ambitious project.

Another quote, this time taken from ‘Video Production’ by Dawkins and Wynd (2010), with regards to the role of the director further emphasises the reasons why we wanted to be so clear “Many student groups fail to work well together because some members of the crew find it difficult being told what to do by another student. They feel that the production should be a democratic process and that, when filming under a director, this democracy is being challenged” Never once during the shoot did we have to address this problem and I am proud of all of us for this.

I am so glad that we all fulfilled the roles we were given so well because the weekend could never have run as smoothly as it did.

Initial Ideas for Short Film

Posted in 264MC Short Film Production on March 17, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

Here are some of the ideas we put forward during one of our early critiques. Some have potential, others we scrapped fairly quickly.
Please Note: Unless it is stated that I wrote the idea, I did not write it.

Idea 1

Over The Hill:
Over The Hill is a comedy short film about three old friends who decide the time has come to experience a festival together despite age not being totally on their side. Each of the men throw themselves into travelling and preparing for their big weekend but all is eventually revealed when we see they have instead set the festival up in their living rooms.

Mick Le Mare

Idea 2

We see an old plastic digital watch light up from under a newspaper showing the time is 8am, this preludes the subsequent alarm we then hear. We see a rugged looking hand searching for it among a bed of news papers and a worn, muddy blanket we then cut to a man who gives the impression that his best years are behind him.
He gets up and stretches for a few moments, allowing the audience to take in his appearance and make an instant judgement on what kind of man this is, in the background we see a desolate landscape lit only by a murky sun rise with plenty of clouds in the sky.
The man briskly collects his belongings, which include a cracked photoframe (the photo is currently covered in dust and dirt), his watch, an old unusually thin belt (that he doesn’t put on) and his blanket. He heads towards the woods with haste, looking over his shoulder occasionally as if he was on the look out for something or someone.
Once in the woods he takes time for a breather and begins to search the ground, the audience assumes for fungi and other vegitation, but this is to no avail. He begins to get frustrated and kicks a tree in anger, letting out a yelp of pain. This cues a dog barking faintly in the background, the man stops and listens for a moment, looking almost scared, before running. The camera follows a succession of fast cut close ups of his feet crushing the wildlife among other, hopefully, beautifully framed and lit shots of the woodland. We don’t, however, see any dogs.
The man continues to run until he reaches a small hut, he kicks the door down and looks inside but finds nothing. His face breaks into tears and he sits down, he gets out the dusty photoframe and as his tears fall on it and he wipes them away, we see a picture of him and his dog.
Pros
An easy and simple idea that doesn’t require any outstanding acting talent.
Locations are easy to find.
Pay off is pretty simple and should be easy to understand in the 3 minute limit.
No script (Subject to change).
Will use powerful scores to create tension and meaning.
Only 1 actor needed
Cons
The ability to cry convincingly is a requisite
The lack of script may cause a loss of meaning if we don’t execute it perfectly.
Might be hard to find someone who can create a decent score.

Rich Neal

Idea 3

A man walking through the woods minding his own business, touching the bark of the trees, running his hands through the bushes with a smile on his face. This person is likeable, there is nothing strange or out of place about him.
He see’s a child sitting happily on there own scratching into the moss with a stick. The child smiles at him and the man nearly smiles back while the child runs out of shot. We know this is not real, almost dream-like as lighting is bright with a soft focus. With this he begins to describe his childhood… loving happily married parents and never too much trouble in school. Details would be picked out to bring the audience into a more personal level.
He finds an interesting location within the woods and decides that this is a good place to lie down. All is peaceful, shots give of the idea of calmness yet close-ups of his expressions suggest otherwise. There is something noticeably bothering him.
“What was she thinking?” – he thinks to himself, “she didn’t know where she was, and certainly had no one to look after her”.. Flashbacks/visuals of two drinks on the bar, one a beer, the other a cocktail. “Why else would she be like that?”
While laying down and staring upwards the man turns his head to the side, only to see another dream-like figure. A middle-aged woman is watching him, smiling. This time the man sits up and looks ashamed of himself. The woman’s expression quickly changes to a resentful one and turns away from him, walks and disappears.
The man then looks back up into the sky as a tear rolls down the side of his face. “Maybe I could have just got her number…” (vision of a hand sliding over a number on a napkin)…
“Please..(a woman’s voice)” – a soft but powerful word that he replays in his mind hits him like a sudden headache. The audience begin to work out maybe what the problem is. Voices in his head get stronger and more painful to contain, he is now tense and presses his hands against his head until he begins to run. Rushing through the forest he has no idea where he is heading, he just wants to escape his thoughts somehow. He continues to run and appears out from the woods and up onto a bridge. Standing in the middle looking down towards the road below he contemplates. Its all calm again as he pears ahead preparing to jump. He looks down again and there is a woman standing in the road, where there was nothing before. Shaking with tears pouring down his face, he whispers “what was I thinking…”
Pro’s –
Chances to experiment with flashbacks, visions etc.
Fairly simple to find locations
Could be a powerful narrative
Con’s –
1 main actor, 3 other small roles
Finding a suitable bridge
Needs developement
Always a bit risky doing something on suicide, rape etc. however the audience interpret it

Rich Neal

Idea 4
Three guys, planning to rob a bank, in serious need of money and an escape route from the life they live. Gathering blueprints, weapons, tools, essential equipment and a get away car, the group have an idea how to rob a bank they just need to finalize the notion filling there pockets with millions, a life changing decision.
Getting ready for the day, not noticing the time (16:40) continue to prepare, loading the weapons finalizing the route and the getaway driver. As they leave they pick up their masks, one mask is on the clock on the side table, once picked up revealing the time now to be 17:05, still unnoticed they leave the house and enter the car.
Pull up aside the bank in an alleyway; all take a look at each other and give a motivational nod. They’re ready, stepping out down the side street watching carefully for security, CCTV and police. Lock and load their guns, burst round the corner in a quick dash, stop to kick the door down. One kick is given… The bank is shut, 17:00 closing on a Wednesday. “Maybe tomorrow boys?”

Jake Humbles

Idea 5

The Artist

A renowned artist, old, respected character portraying a rustic feel, gravely voice and old tweed jackets. It has come to the public that he now will be retiring; this will be his last product, the last artifact to his collection. This will be worth millions states the media, ‘his best piece yet’. The public knows that it will sell for millions, everyone will want to see it and it will be the best piece of art to this date. A high expectation to be fulfilled here, with a public expecting so much he finds himself under so much pressure.
He visits many locations, scanning landscapes inhaling the world’s beauty in its entirety. Scouting countryside, mountains, streets, rivers and streams. You see him sketch ideas and notes about the scenery, people and the surrounding areas. All theses ideas logged in an old bound book that contains his life work within.
The last two scenes consist of, the artist working on an easel, in an art studio, working away, taking inspiration, drinking tea, struggling through this art, sleepless nights. Finally he brakes through, working so hard, filling the days with colour and inspirational work shown through facial expressions, yet you still do not see the artifact he is creating. He has it all finished, titles it unknown, releases it to the media and places it in a gallery of his choice. The public shocked, uncertain on what to think…
We cut back to the studio as the camera tracks round a semicircle around the to on over the shoulder shot, looking at the blank canvas! We look down as he places at the bottom, By Henry maiden to finish off the sequence.
Little do they know that the last shot is of the security guard walking down the long corridor locking up for the night. The lights all flicker off as he locks the door and flicks the mains switch.
The last set of lights above his work flicker off and the emergency lights turn on, one is replaced with an ultra violet light. Reveled on the not so blank canvas is a beautiful outstanding piece of invisible ink art never to be seen by the public until the secret is discovered.

Jake Humbles

All the ideas have potential. Also check out my post on our fishing trip idea that unfortunately fell flat on its face. We were very keen on that until disaster stuck.

Our favourite idea…the one that got away!

Posted in 264MC Short Film Production on March 16, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

One of the most astonishing things happened to us during our initial ideas process. Whilst sat in the pub discussing different ideas one came to me about two old boys who set off on a fishing trip in the countryside and put very simply one plays a joke on the other and it backfires. I won’t tell you what the joke is because from watching this youtube clip you will see exactly the idea I had –

This just proves that everything has been done before. This was exactly the film I outlined to rest of the group. Until tutor Pete Woodbridge showed us this we were all set to go…and then our world came crashing down!

Montage of Beautiful Things. Process and Development

Posted in 260MC 5 Post Submission on March 16, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

A hanging from Mick Le Mare on Vimeo.

Time. Time is such an open brief. I wanted to do something different to the work I had previously been doing which was a little more experimental. I knew that I wanted to shoot a short naturalistic film with a voiceover from a novel or a poem so I began to research.

The process of research was fun because I began to think about books or poems I had read and famous monologues I knew of. I also spoke to my family about text that said something to them about the passing of time and before long one began to stand out that I had read years ago and they were all fond of. Here is a link to George Orwell’s ‘A Hanging’ – it is only short and a beautiful read.

A Hanging

The thing that stood out to me when thinking about time was that this was a perfect illustration of it’s passing. Is there any other occasion when one is as acutely aware of time and it’s passage than the moments before a certain death. My absolute favourite section from the story is when the prisoner is described passing a puddle:

When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive.

The subtlety with which the point is put across that one remains totally human until they are no longer is so moving and this lends itself fantastically to powerful voiceover.

Now of course whilst this story is short it is vitally important that short videos such as the one I intended do not go on too long so I had to choose my section. I decided that around three minutes was the optimum length to retain interest in the monologue. My intention from the start was to shoot the piece as one long take. I had recently been watching some Orson Wells work especially Citizen Kane and I am a huge fan of his long slow one take shots. I am so bored of seeing fast cuts, sharp jerky edits and over complicated transitions that it was important to me to be different in this way.

Here is Orson Wells’ opening to a Touch of Evil where you can see the amazingly powerful use of a single shot.

Luckily my brother is training to be an actor so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind being my actor which he did not. I recorded his voice over prior to shooting the piece because I wanted him to be able to listen to it as he acted, because he will be saying this to himself internally it is important that he can hear exactly what he is supposed to be thinking. Once that was recorded and exported I set my scene. There are mentions of cigerettes in Orwell’s piece so I wanted there him to be smoking as he contemplated and this would also give further visual interest during the film. I always intended for the final cut to be in black and white so it was vitally important that I had my lighting right as I didn’t want to lose detail on his face. I am very pleased with the eventual lighting situation as his eyes, the main focus of the final minute or so of the shot, are highlighted beautifully.

If I was to shoot again I would almost certainly change the light that I used, it looked a little modern, but other than that I am happy with the set. It was simple and effective for this.

I shot A Hanging on a JVC700 which at the time I was fairly inexperienced in using but having spent a day getting to grips with it I was fairly comfortable to use most of its basic features to create the piece. Each of my takes, of which there were three, worked in different ways. I had three quite different performances from my brother but because of my eagerness to have my edit as one shot it was I had to choose one. The reason I chose the one I did was because I really like the ending with a tear forming in the left eye. The focus begins very soft as the close up of the face occurs but gradually sharpens towards the end and this works rather nicely I feel.

The reason I have written about this piece with regards to my development is because I really feel that from researching it to publishing it I learnt an awful lot. My grasp of using a professional camera was greatly improved, my experimentation with pace and timing proved successful, my skills of direction working with my actor in relation to the camera were honed(this is a skill I am very keen to work on due to my interest in Directing and has since proved helpful working on my short film Over The Hill) and I enjoyed experimenting with close ups and looser shots within one scene.

A couple of pointers for me to improve on would be using a tripod slightly more effectively, there is the occasional jerk which is due to my usage of the tripod and there is also a couple of zooms and focus pulls I am not totally happy with. This however is totally part of the learning curve and I wrote myself notes of what to work on and therefore improve next time I attempt something similar.

Actors

Posted in 264MC Short Film Production on March 12, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

As the idea came to us during our discussion we very quickly formulated the characters in our heads. The story does not hang together if the film isn’t about three very old friends who really are just a bit too old to be attending a rock festival. We discussed exactly how old these people should be and decided that really it was important that they were the further side of 50 for our twist to be viable. Having decided this fairly quickly we began the process of casting. To cast our net as wide as possible we decided to use the internet as there are very very few students who fit the bill for our characters!

We uploaded our character profiles and film outline onto Casting Call Pro and fairly quickly had a three or four responses. Each of these responses were positive and all liked our idea and script. One applicant in particular seemed very interested and quickly suggested on reading the script that he had two friends who were actors who also were looking to have some fun and make some short films. We were sent a picture of the three of them…

We almost couldn’t believe our luck – these three guys really WERE old friends and each of them fitted the bill perfectly. We immediately took Charles, our main contact, up on his offer and negotiations begun. We knew that we had some complicated journeys to be planned but because all three of them based themselves in London we are able to shoot a film that could potentially have a large budget for a three minute short, on a shoe-string. The actors have agreed generously that they will not ask for payment and we have agreed that all their expenses will be paid.

We know that they have been reading through the script and are looking at placing a few of their own sections in and finding areas at which they will ad lib. This is exactly what we want and are more than happy for this because we want to get across more than anything that they are great mates so they must act as if they are. These three men will already be totally comfortable with each other and that is going to help us so much on the day of the shoot. I look forward hugely to working with them.

Montage of Beautiful Things. Research

Posted in 260MC 5 Post Submission on March 11, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

Light was the most open word we were given. Light is obviously an absolutely fundamental part of lens based art and affects every single piece of art ever made. My research into this word was so enjoyable because of the fantastic artists I researched and the stunning works they have produced. Of course I could have chosen any artist and in some way related their work to light but I decided to investigate specifically pieces that had a less abstract approach and very much had a source of light for their basis as a piece.

One of my favourite pieces which I saw at the Tate a few years ago is The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson.

Obviously you can see in this photo that it was a spectacular event of which there have been so many in the Turbine. Eliasson used mono-frequency lamps to recreate the sun. What is fascinating about his use of light here is that his conscious decision to use mono-frequency means that he changes the the colour of everyone and everything that surrounds it. Rather like streetlights mono-frequency bulbs produce such a narrow frequency that only black and yellow are really visible beneath it and I love the idea that the audience are becoming part of the art. Eliasson also used a mirror on the ceiling thus using his available light to create another effect and also sprayed a fine mist across the room for the light to catch. This multi usage is fascinating and researching into Eliasson’s work has made me realise that utilising all available light in the most imaginative way possible can make for extraordinary creations.

Now seems an appropriate time to show you my light work:

I did not edit this, only shot it.

Juggling from Mick Le Mare on Vimeo.

You can see how beautiful the light was on the day I shot this, the purest of sunlight shining almost directly at my wall. The reason I chose to use the balls that I am juggling with was because the sunlight brought out their vibrancy to great affect and in contrast to my fairly cold plain colours I think they look fantastic. Unfortunately I am a little over -exposed but it was so key to have the red brick of the wall correctly exposed because the light hitting it looked extraordinary. I adore the colour that has been brought out and I stress that whilst the footage has been heavily edited there has been no colour correction or fiddling about with contrast, this is exactly how it looked at the time. I think, whilst totally different in terms of size and medium, Eliasson’s Weather Project has influenced me in that it utilises all available light and this is what I have attempted here.

Another Exhibition I saw a few years ago at the serpentine immediately sprang to mind when I began thinking about light. Anthony Mccall is an amazing light sculptor installing fantastic interactive exhibitions. His main body of work, and that of the exhibition I saw, consists of sheets of light projected onto various surfaces. These beautiful ethereal shapes are so delicate but almost look as if they have a physicality about them, as if you can reach out and touch them.

You can see from the photos above the way people have interacted with the light. This form of art is of great inspiration to a videographer because of the movement involved. Although of course you can’t see this in the picture lots of Mccall’s beams of light are moving slightly, some are moving dramatically and some stay totally still. The dust in the room hitting the light would make such a beautiful video – it is a shame I couldn’t get get access to his work when deliberating how to approach light.

On a technical level I have been researching into controlling light when using cameras. I shot A Hanging on a JVC700 which responded fairly well to the lower light but since then I have become fascinated with moving image shot on DSLRs. The juggling piece is shot on my 60D, of course I had fantastic amounts of light to play with here and the camera responds fantastically to this but I have also been attempting to shoot some stuff in lower light and this has proved more tricky. Having done research on Vimeo Video school, which is a great place to find clearly given advice on many aspects of video production, I have uncovered some of my issues. If you use an ISO which is a multiple of 125 when shooting in low light you are likely to have far more noise than you would using non multiples. I have been testing this out and it is extraordinary the difference that it has made to a couple of tests I did. This research has proved invaluable because shooting in low light is notoriously tricky on DSLRs so any improvements that can be made are warmly received.

Shooting Video with a DSLR from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo.

Rapid Eye Movement 2011 – Warwick Arts Centre

Posted in 260MC, 264MC Short Film Production on January 26, 2011 by Mick Le Mare

Last Tuesday was the Rapid Eye Movement short film screening at Warwick Arts Centre. It was so nice to see so many interesting films that have been funded, filmed and produced in the Midlands, there is a thriving short film making community and it is great to begin to move in these circles. There were too many films to talk about individually so I will choose the one that stood out the most for me.

This is, again, a piece filmed on 8mm and truly shows the beauty of the footage that can be created. All that happens is that one voiceover talks for eight minutes about the history of the boathouse whilst these beautiful, seamingly timeless images play out. Here is the film:

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Here is a short article from the BBC about one of its successes.