Jun 25, 2010

This Is Not Poetry - Production Wrap Up

Note: this post is long overdue, and my head space has already moved on to the post-production side of things, so excuse the sloppiness of this entry!

Slate it!

The thesis production went very well, and much to my liking. It was my very first time running the show as both producer and director, and I must say it was an enjoyable experience. Of course, no production would be complete without the many downs and problems. Yet overall, we got some great shots and coverage, I worked with a fantastic, but small crew of four, and I had great actors who were accepting of my ideas.

I worked with a small, small crew. It consisted of four - a Director of Photography, who was also the camera operator and gaffer; a sound recordist, who was also boom operator, and a bit of a 2nd AD; a make-up artist; and a wardrobe manager, who also acted as my production designer. I initially wanted to have a small crew based on the idea that a short film doesn't need a dozen hands to work. They teach us about how to design a crew and what sort of roles are imperative to the operation of a film on and off set, but they don't really tell us that it's not always necessary for 1st Assistant Directors, production managers, gaffers and boom operators. To me, on a short film like This Is Not Poetry, there was no use for a bigger crew than I had already organised, yet I still had classmates and even crew members wondering why I never considered it. I even had my Director of Photography complain about how I failed to organise a gaffer to set up the lights for him. Filmmaking isn't about having lots of different hands on set in production. We are film school students, and we know about the roles - so why waste space with another body to do a job I know my crew members can already do?

Shooting the sunrise at Circular Quay
(From left to right) James, Karan and myself

We were sorely behind on schedule on the first day. Having organised to start at 5:30PM and finish around 11:00PM, we ended up spending far too long with make-up and hair dressing, and too much time shooting each scene. We spent so much time in all the wrong places, that we eventually finished at 4:30AM the next morning. I had two out of three of my actors sleeping in my apartment, one sharing the bed with me and another on the couch; and one other crew member taking the floor in a sleeping bag. All of us had at least an hour's sleep, as we had to get up to start shooting at 6:30AM, much to our distaste. I wondered, after the shoot, would this have happened to us if I had a proper First Assistant Director who was focused on making sure I was getting the shots I wanted in the scheduled time, or was it just a failure in scheduling and planning? It could have been a mixture of both. Nevertheless, the crew and cast worked even better the next morning, despite looking half-dead and about to collapse.

I worked with an open mind all throughout the film. At times, being too open-minded to different ideas and allowing your cast and occasionally your crew do what they feel is best can be considered lazy. I felt otherwise. I wanted my film to be as honest and organic as possible. I changed the names of each character to the actors' name, and I made sure the actors possessed similar if not the same qualities of my characters. I had given my actors directions that were open for them to play with. This was an experiment I wanted to play with, as based on previous experiences, often times when you work with experienced actors, they can tend to make action and emotion feel awkwardly fake, and inevitably spoil the entire film. I didn't want this to happen to mine, and so I gave my actors the freedom to 'do as they would', but at the same time, made sure they channeled and concentrated on the emotion of it all. It was, much to my surprise, a success.

The actors with the wardrobe manager
(From left to right) Arnie, Lucy, James and Genesis

All three of my actors were around my age. Two of them were younger than me, and the other was my age. I felt that this helped me work with them better because we were all speaking the same language with each other. Another great thing about working with younger actors is that there is a sense of honesty in their performance, and they are continuously open-minded to different ideas and techniques. Out of the three actors I worked with, only one had experience in theatre and film. My lead actor had no experience in film, while the other had some training but through short courses and school. Truth be told, I was concerned about this. I was worried that their inexperience may project through the camera and onto screen, but it never did. They were fantastic. I was extremely lucky to have found my three actors, and I won't lie - they were all chosen out of gut feeling. In the end, they looked great together, did an amazing job and were such a delight to work with.

I think this whole production has been based on luck, to be honest. Both my composer and lead actor were from mutual friends, and I even had to contact them via Facebook (a la stalker style). Others like my wardrobe manager and make-up artist were creatives who I really wanted to work with - my wardrobe manager Genesis is a good friend and ex-uni mate of mine who really introduced me to film with my first Wong Kar-Wai film, while my make-up artist was someone I had worked with previously on a short film I produced. It's so great to work with people who are like-minded, and who share the same vision while having the ability to enhance it with new and different ideas. The right people were there for me, and that's what made the production work so well.

Most of the team at the end of Day 2
(From left to right) Karan, myself, Lucy, Genesis and James

When a film works out that way, it's such a great feeling when you look back on how far you've come.

And now it all comes down to putting the film together. The final product is due in 8 days, next Saturday 3rd of July. I'll have an update on how the edit is coming along. I've got a few sound problems, but hopefully nothing I can't fix.

* Photos taken by Mimi, our make-up artist

Jun 18, 2010

This Is Not Poetry - Stills

A few production stills from This Is Not Poetry to keep you going.

Jun 15, 2010

Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE Trailer

This is the latest and first trailer for Sofia Coppola's latest film titled Somewhere. It's about an A-list Hollywood actor who begins to re-examine his life when his 11-year-old daughter visits him.

As I have been sitting infront of my computer all day, TweetDeck was going off the hooks in regards to the new trailer. People were claiming that it was very reminiscent of Lost In Translation and that the film was 'nothing new' for Coppola, who previously directed Marie Antoinette as well as Lost In Translation. That argument is invalid to me. To me, a filmmaker makes films that reflect who they are, and their experiences, emotions and stories. I saw this trailer and thought this looked great - sure it is reminiscent of Lost In Translation, but hey - who didn't love Lost In Translation?

I think what makes a filmmaker great is when they write from the heart, and from their own stories and experiences. It's true, and honest, and I feel that's what makes a great film. Her new film Somewhere looks great, and promising. Subject matter aside, I love her work and if it is as close to Lost In Translation, I will probably love it just as much.

So stop hatin'.

(I know I promised an entry about the thesis film production, but I've been sitting infront of this computer for the last 6 hours syncing the sound to picture of the edit, so I must go before my corneas burn into themselves. Later)

Jun 10, 2010

This Is Not Poetry - Day 2.5

We wrapped on Tuesday afternoon, with most of us having had not more than an hour's sleep from a 5 hour over-time. It was a tiring shoot all together, but we managed to make the best film we can as seen in the rushes. I've been labeling sound clips and matching them up to their respective shots, but it takes time when you don't have a professional sound recordist on set to do it for you.

It's now 5:35am and I am waiting for my DOP, wardrobe manager/production designer, make-up artist and of course, lead actor to arrive. We're heading over to Circular Quay for a sunrise shot - that is - if everyone gets here on time - just had to let my make-up artist in. First to arrive, that's respect.

I'll write up a proper update once this is over.

Jun 6, 2010

This Is Not Poetry - Day 0

19 hours to go till we begin shooting my thesis film This Is Not Poetry.

Excited? Yes. Nervous? Very much so.

The fact that my film is very simple in its execution plan, I'm continuously feeling as if I've missed something or have already made mistakes. I think a major concern right now is how I'm putting a whole lot of trust on my actors (two of whom are inexperienced, the other is otherwise) to help me bring vision to reality for the camera. I've only had one rehearsal with all three actors, and this is partly due to lack of time and other commitments. I put Kieran (as he leaves for South Africa. Left just today) at the top of my priority list over my film, which may have been a sweet mistake - but I shall never know otherwise. Apart from that, actors have lives too and it's just hard to arrange a suitable time that works for everyone. My DOP/Camera operator is acting in another classmate's film, set in Nowra, while I haven't had a face-to-face meeting with my 1st AD/Production Manager about the film at all (besides the phone call I just had with her of a run down for the film's plan of action).

However, all this lack of organisation and preparation may work out. I've had quite a lucky run with this film from fortunate acquaintances and such, and I feel like maybe this film will be just fine at the end of the day.

I'll touch some wood before I go to bed, just so I don't jinx anything. Also, my mum just arrived from Malaysia and brought a little babushka-like doll made completely out of a Keyaki tree from her trip to Japan before coming over here. I don't know what it is, but it has a body of hair painted on its chest. Well there's a hilarious tangent for you.