I am a big fan of Spike Lee and totally understand the constant battles he has to take in trying to get his films to screen but his latest attempt in trying (and winning) in the crowd funding battle leaves me in two minds on the overall landscape.
For Mr. Lee, rather than go hat in hand to the studios he can make his films sans interference and get his vision out to the public faster with total freedom for the kinds of stories he does. This is a plus as i don’t think Do The Right Thing would get the green light today and films such as this need to be made. Also to mention that Spike has been honest about his intentions including the obvious question, why crowdfund when he is rich and successful already? Read his page to get the answers.
I feel the downside is that the studios/ Distributers will now wait for these established filmmakers to get their films crowd sourced and then do a ‘Negative Pickup’ and push it to market without having put up any initial outlay at the beginning. Esentially the fast money to production with a slight feeling that the entire enterprise is being hijacked. Where does the money go?
That said, i am in Spike Lee’s corner as he deserves the money and it’s better that it goes to him than a Michael Bay-esque mindless travesty.
I was chatting to a guy I know and he was worried that with the advent of cheap digital cameras and edit suites, his skills in the professional world would be diminished. How can a filmmaker shine with so much content being made? What brought on all this paranoia? Well, we separately just watched the doc, Side by Side about the transition of the chemical film process to digital, which has polarized the film community.
My personal view is that it’s a great thing for a number of reasons. I started when you shot on film as “that was the way” and it was bloody expensive to get the film processed and this limited to how much you could shoot. You really needed some heavy cash behind you to afford such luxuries. In terms of editing, I also had the fortune back then to work for a post house that had invested in an Avid (retail: 80 grand!), which was an immense cost saver. Some filmmakers weren’t so lucky.
I still love the look of film and am more than happy that digital is now at a better quality compared to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and Mike Figgis early digital efforts. Even though these filmmakers were pioneers their films still looked like digital video and hence flat and inferior. Now, Red and Arri have both closed the gap and for me the peak so far is the lush quality of Skyfall. It helps that people like Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher try to push the digital limits for quality so the audience benefits.
Starting on film is a great learning curve for me because you were physically have to splice the film (I cut on a Steenbeck!) so you had to really think about the cuts you were going to have to make otherwise you have to unpick the film and start again. Every film editor will also say that when you spool through a 500 foot roll you might catch something that you might use. On an NLE you tap a number and go to that scene. In digital editing you can make as many sequences and edits and to the undisciplined eye you can really get bogged down with too many options and lose sight of the film you envisioned. I have seen it with new editors when going through their bins.
The short film I recently did was a godsend due to a low budget and cheap gear! Also you have to note that just because everyone has access to cheap kit doesn’t mean it’s going to be good and there are some really dreadful shorts out there which also is good as it makes the great projects shine. The elitism of filmmaking is eroding and people like Shane Meadows get a chance to have a voice. Hell, even those from Black and Asian backgrounds can now create content which used to be the exclusivity of the middle class.
Take a look at this clip from Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse made in 1991. Francis Coppola had the same vision right there, one that I wholeheartedly share.
I thoroughly recommend watching Side by Side to see how much of a revolution is taking place
The Post Production Phase
So, the main shoot was a slight disaster in getting what I wanted on screen, a situation that Christopher Nolan never had to go through but then again he had money, lots of money! I just had third party camera insurance and some travel expenses.
I have a background in editing and always enjoy the challenges of cutting but this is way beyond what I expected or signed up for AND THIS WAS MY FILM. Why? Most of the projects I have worked on have a decent budget and big crew and pretty much the entire script filmed from various angles over multiple days. My film didn’t. Also I wasn’t as prepared to deal with everything like that little nugget called continuity.
After the first viewing of the rushes I noticed the lack of continuity of the scenes involved as we had to rush through the script due to the extreme cold which would depress any mere mortal. I have all the shots that I need to build something but it’s not the vision I had in my head but hey nobody really gets everything they need, do they?
Now, if had to farm out this material to an editor I would have plainly been screwed as working for peanuts, one expects at a minimum, footage that looks good (which it was) acted well (which it was) and cuts together easily (ermmm….). Nobody wants do be bogged down in fixing something unless you are getting full pay or you have that Steve Jobs style of enthusiasm of saying magic is in there. Coppola was great at keeping his post staff motivated during his darkest moments of Apocalypse Now and he did well out of it. I can now watch Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse and say I lived the dream!
Luckily as I am editing this I can find ways around the footage and even better I am going in an eccentric direction, which is putting my film in an interesting position. If all went well during the shoot it would have been a nicely edited film like so many other shorts but I have a chance of being different. I allow myself the chance to experiment in my darkened room.
I am back on track and enjoying the problem solving, as that is what I do best.
The title is based on the temperature in which my filmmaking burned. More of that later so let me start at the beginning.
I decided to direct a short film so I can push to achieve two things. Develop my writing, have material I can edit with and eventually have something I can show to the movers and shakers. In actual fact my Cameraman friend convinced me I could do it and his encouragement pushed me to give it a try.
Initially I found the setting up daunting as I have never had to produce/ direct but you know what? It was initially easier than I thought. My cameraman friend showed me a suitable location in Fitzrovia, which was perfect. Next was permission to shoot on that location. I went to the Film London website and to my amazement they say “as long as you are not causing an obstruction you don’t need permission to shoot”. For added security you can pay 25-75 quid and have a notice to shoot in case a concerned passer by walks by and wants to be a pain in the ass. The note is not enforceable by the way, just an act of legitimacy so I didn’t bother getting it. Public Liability Insurance (PLI). Need to get one in case a person dies on set but where do I get one? I am a member of BECTU (a British union dealing in Post Production) and automatically I have PLI. Surprisingly sorted!
My cameraman/ friend supplied the kit so next up is actors and sound crew. Ads put out in castingcallpro and mandy.com got me connected to the people I needed. All on board and ready to meet up in Fitzrovia for the shoot day. That is where the easy part ended.
As the shoot date loomed I thought I was prepared, I had a fair idea of what I wanted and rehearsed with the actors before the shoot. The weather said sunny but that was only the bright spot (sort of). It was 8 degrees and bitingly cold (hence the title). One actor turned up in a blazer shirt and tie (in keeping with the character) and would suffer the consequences later.
I set up the first scene and expected the actors to run through the whole 10 minutes, which was a big mistake as it was asking a lot. Where was the logic in my head where we break it up into short pages and make it easier for the actors? The actors kept flubbing their lines due to the short rehearsal window I had. This isn’t theatre where you have weeks of run through. The shot list I had in my head (the worst place to store such information!) was falling apart so I had and a lot of improvising had to happen.
The weather really started to bite and slow down momentum. Three hours in and I did 4 pages out of 10… oops. Break for lunch and hope we shoot the rest. After lunch it started to rain even though the 2 respected weather sites said it was sunny (liars!) so the rest of the shoot was sheltering until the light rain stopped and continue until it came back. Never have I looked at the sky for two reasons in my life and don’t get me started on how I was going to get around the continuity. At one point I blurted out that it was my Lost in La Mancha moment, which got a chuckle.
By 3pm the cold just bit the actors who were unable to say the lines properly due to the intense cold I just rushed to get the lines said in extreme close up so I had *something * to cut with. I was line reading them just so I could get all the words filmed and don’t know as of this post whether it cuts together.
Thank god I am editing it because if I had to present these rushes I would have gotten a disheartening response in terms of what I can use. At least I can squirrel away and get something out there and get inventive!