This is a series of blog posts designed to give insight into the biggest production I’ve been a part of to date. It will be part exposition, part learning, and offer overall reflection on how to become a better filmmaker for myself, and maybe some others too.
Hello Film Dudes & Dudettes!
Just over a week ago I wrapped production on the latest short film for the IBeAFilmDude YouTube channel. I say ‘wrapped’ but really I mean part-finished. It was 48 hours of blood, sweat and tears, pre-ceded by 6 months of even more blood, sweat and tears. It has been the biggest production and challenge that I’ve been a part of… and we’re not done yet!
I wanted to start to put my thoughts down before they fade away, and hopefully help sort through what went well and what didn’t go so well, since we will also have another two days of filming before I can start getting stuck into the edit. Film school for me has very much been through the films I’ve put together over the last several years, and this production is no different. You get to try new approaches, gain new skills and if you’re like me you try and use every opportunity to grow and become a better filmmaker…. and I certainly have a long way to go!
At the start of the year, I completed short film ‘Version 1.9.84’ in the fastest time that I’d yet completed one in, about 3.5 weeks from concept to completion. A constraint in itself (I actually had to put in over 30 hours work in 3 days over a weekend to get it done!) , I had a tiny turnaround time to meet the deadline for a short film competition for the inaugural Stage One Film Festival, but that’s not the constraint I want to use as the example today.
The constraint I wanted to talk about was actually that the short film had to be a ‘one-shot, one-take’ short film. Essentially, the camera had to start recording and record the entire short film in less than 7 minutes, with the short film ending with the shot itself. I had never tried a short like that, and it presented a few extra challenges than your standard film shoot.
The last few weeks, maybe even last couple of months have been a crazy fast blur fest. It started with a simple notion, to begin to create bigger and better productions with a small budget. To help me produce narrative films with a budget, I ran a fundraising campaign via crowd funding website Pozible, which helps people raise much needed cash flow for a plethora of creative projects from feature films to filmmaking tools, to music EPs, comedy tours and much more.
I wanted to make a couple of posts outlining the story and my experiences so far, from the perspective of both Producer and Writer/Director of this short film, so that those of you who are interested, can maybe get a little bit of insight into what it’s like trying to make independent, very low budget (with high production value) narrative films.
When wearing many hats in producing one’s own content, probably the first thing that you must allow for is the amount of time it may take for even one task to be completed. A perfect example is my crowd funding campaign for what began life as ‘My Roommate Is A Serial Killer’. I picked Pozible as our avenue for fundraising, as it is specifically for Australia based creators, and has a few nice tools in helping create a page for the project. My experience with Pozible was very positive. It was simple and easy to set up, and you basically ‘pitch’ the project to Pozible’s team and receive an invitation to start fund raising. I like this idea as it gives me, as Pozible’s customer, a sense of exclusivity. I even received a personalised message from the creator of Pozible and giving me his own take on my intro video and what he has seen work best when raising money.
And so, my first fundraising campaign began! I had a goal to raise $600. I came to this amount by knowing that I wished to create a 10 minute film (my longest to date), and wanted keep the message simple of what exactly people would be contributing to. So, I had the theme of $1 to create 1 second of my film. Donations could be any amount from $1 to $100. I created a intro video, to give people a sense & style of how the finished piece would look. Here it is below:
Was the campaign successful? Yes and No. We raised our $600, (btw, this was not the total amount I thought we would need, to make a realistic short film I estimated the budget to be approx $2000), but I felt that if I had planned for more time which as I mentioned above is reduced drastically when you also perform other roles in a production, I would have been able to maintain and gather hype/interest in the story itself. Lesson learned for next time!
Once the funding was raised, I took a long break as Producer as I had to switch to Writer to flesh out the story. Another lesson learned…whilst I had the premise and outline of the story, had I of been able to move ahead with a full script in tact, I may have been able to market the fundraising more toward getting other creatives/talent onboard, such as actors. It would have been great to get online auditions, video blogs and the like.
Anyhow, once the script was effectively written (it has changed form drastically from it’s original concept, and now called ‘Journey From Madness’), I moved ahead once again to tackle the next logistical issues. Locations. I wanted to secure locations that added production value (read interesting), to avoid something I feel that many short films (especially mine) fall into, and that is poor locations. You can have as dynamic and emotional scene that anyone has ever read, but an audience will get lost in that scene just that little bit extra if a location is chosen well. A piece on someone contemplating suicide is much more dramatic if filmed atop a cliff rather than against a plain bedroom wall.
The story was written to be set on a train journey, so naturally I wished to go down a few avenues to see if it was possible to film on one, but I also wanted to play it safe and pursued filming aboard another icon of public transport…the bus. Now, many low budget/gorilla shoots will forgo location permits, as there is just not the funds available, and I have shot many a scene with nay a permit secured. I’ve never hit a barrier personally, but this time I wanted all cast & crew to feel safe and secure, especially on board a potentially busy and crowded train/bus. The less stress we felt on the day, the better the shoot would go.
RailCorp were my first port of call, as they operate both train platforms and commuter trains in NSW. The process was actually very straightforward, and I was quickly put in contact with the special events team in RailCorp who were incredible in helping accommodate my needs and exceeded all expectations. My hats off to them. Once the location was secure, I made sure I put in place relevant insurances, booked out our production gear, and we were ready to go!
Our locations were simple. We film on board a train from Newcastle to Central, and then back again, and complete filming in Newcastle Train Station under the helpful eye of RailCorp OSM (Safety Manager) Bryn. Thanks again for your help Bryn. All went smoothly…well nearly. A couple of delays in the morning meant we didn’t start filming until approx 1030, and we were forced to alight at Hornsby rather than Central due to overcrowding, but things will always go wrong on the day, it’s how you adapt and problem solve as you go which will determine whether you overcome those barriers.
I now am waiting to put my producer hat back on for post-production, as soon as the rough cut is done (by myself). We have some great footage, and I will run through thoughts on the story and experiences in relation to directing on the day when I can soon. For now, I hope you enjoy a few pics I managed to have taken for us.