Roles and Responsibilities – Pre Production
My primary role on the FMP project was Director. As the story was my idea brought forward from the 360mc project proposal, I had an extremely clear vision of how I wanted the film to look and sound. I believe the project benefited greatly from the long pre-production period as we decided to leave filming until quite late in April. We had a small crew and so my other roles on the project included Director of Photography, Camera Op, Co-Editor and generally overseeing the project as production manager.
Our project went through a long transition with many things being altered from the beginning to end of pre-production. After the initial idea for the film had been conceived we began by location scouting in Donegal Western Ireland. After pitching our idea to Saskia Sutton on 30th January we became aware of the many problems in our script and the unrealistic decision to shoot our film in the remote countryside of County Donegal.
After sorting through these problems and relocating our project to Brighton East Sussex, I decided to set up a shooting people account with the intention of contacting cast and crew members in the Southern English County. Location scouting in Brighton was a joy. I was already a fan of the city’s surroundings and beauty as a film location and it wasn’t difficult for us to find various different spots for shooting allowing our story to have an interesting and eclectic foundation.
After I finished writing the script with Elouise based on my Stephen LaBerge and Lucid Dreaming research (see blog post in 361mc category) we went back to the university’s crit sessions to show our test footage, locations, intended shooting style and script progress with the intention of gaining some useful feedback. These sessions proved to be quite useful not only for improvements suggested for our work, but also as a boost of self-confidence. I think when you pour all of your time in to a project as huge as this one it is really beneficial to hear positive feedback and to receive a pat on the back to keep your spirits up. Negativity can drag a project in to the mud.
When the script was finalised I began the creative process of putting the words in to visuals in the form of a shot list for the purpose of eventually getting storyboards drawn to aid my work load on set at the production stage. My first task was to divide the script in to parts and make a note of every single shot in the film. I wanted to be sure to have this done well before travelling back to Brighton for the shoot. I have learned from previous experience as a director that if you have not planned each shoot meticulously you will end up having the cast and crew waiting around while you make decisions that should have been made months before. So I drew up a shot list which had five columns for, shot number, shot type, shot description, dialogue/sound and location and turned out to be 90 shots long. This allowed Elouise to go to work on the storyboards with her brilliant artistic talents. When we began shooting, each day went very smoothly based on this pre-production work.
I decided to do a number of test shoots to experiment with lighting and shot types well in advance of shooting. Having to reshoot material can be quite bad for the projects morale and time frame so I wanted to make sure I was ready for the upcoming production dates. One of the scenes in our film is a diary entry by candle light and I wanted to test the cameras capabilities with candle light alone. As it turns out it is not very good. Shooting by candle light means electronically brightening the image using the cameras ISO function which creates a lot of noise on the image. The next step was to bring in some lights and recreate the ambience of candle light without the stress of grain or digital noise.
Aside from establishing our visual goals there was a lot of paperwork, phone calls and emails to sort out. As Elouise was producer on the project, her role was most vital at pre-production and she was there to sort out a lot of these logistical areas. One of the things I took charge of was to sort out filming permission as I foresaw being told to leave certain locations while shooting which could have been fatal for the film. Brighton & Hove City Council were very understanding of our needs over the telephone. They wrote us our permission forms which allowed us to film were we wanted and charged us a minimum student fee of £50.
It can be difficult to arrange a shooting schedule around the working schedule of your actors. Something I learned on this production is to organise shooting dates as early as possible because they will likely have to change. Leave time and space for these things to change as actors can sometimes have busy lives with work popping up unexpectedly. Our shooting schedule changed numerous times for numerous reasons and the dates and times we finally managed to get were not really what we wanted. However I think we worked around these problems well because of careful planning.
Finding the best crew members particularly in university can be difficult as someone with a special talent will often be snapped up quickly. I tried for a long time to get a good sound recordist and I got some word back through Shooting People. However I struggled to find exactly what we wanted for the right dates. I eventually asked Sunil Singh to help us and ended up reworking the shooting schedule again to suit the dates he was available. Sunil is an expert with the h4n zoom recorder and I felt having him on board would benefit the technical side of the film to a great extent.
I decided to look for a composer for the film early on and didn’t have to look far. My brother is a music composition graduate working in a recording studio in Belfast who has an impressive resume of work. He offered to get on board the project in January and has created a lot of music to match our needs. We asked for dream-like ambient music and what he produced was an un-nerving electro synth sound track which really suits the nature and ambiguity of our film.