18 March 2007

filmmaking for fun, but no profit.

I'm lighting a no-budget film later this evening. But, before I get into that a little background...

A couple of weeks ago I had a film screened at grassroots, a local youth project.

The project had landed in my lap a few months previous when Carol White, the woman who runs the video department, approached me about getting involved. It was basically an orphan project, someone had come to see Carol about making something, had scripted and had it shot, then promptly disappeared before post production could begin. Carol had recently found the project and decided to edit it together and brought me in because she knew I'd turn my hand to anything and also I guess to fulfil the 'youth' aspect of the projects remit.

It was a typical story for an adolescent (or post-adolescent, I dunno how old the guy was when he started it) to come up with; poor, socially maladjusted boy seeks female companion but cannot attain one through normal social discourse and so starts following a girl about, eventually ending up in her home... I won't go into any more detail, just in case I get it up here, but there's a nice little twist at the end. I can be a touch socially maladjusted myself and could completely relate to the scenario and wish-fulfilment element... even if it did weird me out a little.

There was a voice over already written, but it was crap. Simple connect-the-dots shit. I had something much more twisted in mind involving borderline split personality order and a guide to stalking written in the style of a Victorian etiquette book. The script for the voice-over can be found here.

So, I wrote the voice over, went through a couple of drafts, and then me and Carol recorded it a bazillion times and proceeded to figure out the best way to edit it all together. I gotta admit, it was mainly Carol editing, cuz she's there everyday and I only float by when I feel like it. I was really quite impressed with the depth and texture the voice over gave to the simple narrative of the film. I mean, I thought I was being all clever and cool when I wrote it but the way it turned out was beyond my expectations. It went from a productive waste of time to something I would consider putting on my show reel.

Then came time for it to be screened, along with another film that had been recently made at grassroots. I was apprehensive. My name was up there as co-writer and co-director, which felt weird because I wasn't there at the projects inception. The film industry is full of bastards screwing people over and stealing ideas, and I didn't wanna be perceived as one of them. I'm still wet enough behind the ears to not be completely cynical. Still, I had most definitely left my own indelible mark on the film so I forced myself to get over it. I invited a bunch of people, most of whom didn't turn up. A week or so later I actually got scolded by some Australian friends for not inviting them. Like I said, I was feeling apprehensive about my involvement, so maybe I subconciously only invited my waster friends because deep down I knew they wouldn't turn up anyway. Its okay though, I'll give them a private screening.

The screening went well. I'd even managed to hold the attention of the little chav reprobates that are generally grassroots demographic. I got kudos off a few people, including Les, who runs the place. And then, these two girls came up to me...

Their names were Katie and Jen, they were making a film, and they wanted help with lighting. I immediately jumped at the chance because lighting is cool and I'm generally eager to be involved with any film, such is my obsession. I gave Katie my number, got hers, and went upon my merry way.

A week or so later I phone Katie to see what's going on. We arrange to meet up at a pub near the exterior location but I ended bumping into her at the video department at grassroots ( "Hey, don't I know you?" "Yes, your meeting me later at the black weir tavern." "Oh yeah..." ) so we go to the coffeebar to talk about the film. She gives me the script and then we mission to the location, chatting all the way.

It was a cool place to shoot. a wooded area with some interesting trees right next to the river Taff. Also right next to a main road, but as there would be limited synch sound it hopefully wouldn't be too much a problem.

What they wanted from me at that point was a list of what lights they would need. My funky cinematography book was at home so I went to the uni library to look through their copy. Katie gave me Jen's number, as she was the director, and later on that evening I gave her the list. It was pretty extensive and I couldn't help but be pleased with myself, as it was the first time I'd ever had to think about these things.

It is important to note that all the while me and Katie were talking I was stressing the universal adage of film making (especially when you have no money), Finagle's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.

Or, to put it another way: "The perversity of the universe tends towards the maximum"


The next day, whilst on an ecstasy comedown, I get a couple of txts off of Jennie. She couldn't get any of the lights I'd asked for and we were being forced to use industrial floods to light the exterior, which didn't exactly lend themselves to the subtlety I thought the ethereal nature of the script required. I asked Jen if she could postpone the shoot so I could hustle up some better lights. Unfortunately, one of the main actors was buggering off on holiday shortly, so that wasn't an option. I impressed upon her how shit it would look, at how the script seemed to call for the creative use of lighting, all of which she knew, but they were all out of options. It was gonna have to be guerilla all the way.


So then, this morning, just as I'm booting up the computer to check to see if I had any mail off of them I get a couple of txts from Katie to inform me that the main actress was being a bitch and refusing to confirm for the shoot that night. Did I know any pretty girls who would be willing to take the part at such short notice?

Of course I did. I know lots of pretty girls. And what pretty girl wouldn't want to be in a film?

The first two people my head came up with were my friend Amy Cuff and my little sister, Bethan. I'd let Beth read the script a couple of days earlier because I thought she'd like it, so I knew that would help with persuading her. I thought she'd be better for the role anyway, because she's just turned 18 and is the closest to 'innocent' (implied in the script)
as anyone else I know. Then again, I am her brother, so of course I'd think that. Who knows what she gets up to when I'm not around?

Anyway, Amy couldn't do it. Mothers day plans. So, with very little cajoling I got Bethan to agree.

So now not only am I lighting a disintegrating no-budget short, I am providing the lead actress. Craziness.

Got another post for you people later, but right now I gotta have some breakfast, get a shower, and go buy my mum a mothers day present.