Dom Bush on FMP Pre-Production & … Dom Bush on FMP Research Dom Bush on FMP Pre-Production & … Dom Bush on FMP Pre-Production & … Dom Bush on FMP Project Proposal
This film is a fantasy film, going into the realms of sci-fi. This means that after releasing it on Facebook and YouTube there is going to be a reasonably large audience available, some of whom will undoubtedly hate it while others will love it. To improve the chances of “fantasy fan” audiences seeing the film; it will (as mentioned in this blog) be shared on specific Facebook pages and shall be tagged with relevant words so that it may appear on searches including those words.
My primary audience for this film are my family, friends and tutors, these people want to see what I am able to produce a film that fits a brief. They will want to see how their own contributions have been used i.e which shots were used, how does the costume look, is the dance of show-reel quality, is the narrative clear etc. This will also be seen by university tutors and prospective employers, who will of course be looking to see what I can do so that they have an understanding of what I can bring to a team and what sort of projects I like working on. These people will want to see that I am creative and am able to push myself to learn and try different things. In releasing my film on the right pages to the right people I hope to gain constructive feedback from fellow and more experienced, well established practitioners so that that I will be able to use this feedback in future projects.
As the final part of my brief requires, I must screen the film with a short presentation before releasing my film to the world. When I release my film, my options are to use Social Media and Festivals. Due to my music choices, at this stage I will not be entering my film into Festivals as it is not licenced for editing. Instead, I shall use my film as a show reel piece and will release it on Facebook ( on my profile and to various pages such as BFI Bafta Alumni) seeking critical feedback. I will also release it to Vimeo for quality online playback.
If I decide at a later date to enter my film into Festivals, I will either re-cut it with a more open licence choice of music or alternatively I will take steps to acquire a licence to use and alter the music I have already edited.
From my research on preparing to pitch a short film, (please see the research section) I gleaned some information that I believe is also applicable to preparing to do a presentation for the screening if my short film. The main transferable points I believe are as follows :-
Include the films title, and genre
Outline what the film is about, keep it brief and just cover the highlights
Consider what your audience needs/wants to know
Treat people how you would like to be treated yourself ie, be very respectful
Thinking about the third point above, I realised that my audience would include my tutors and that they would want me to briefly explain how my film fits the brief given and my main reasons for choosing this option. Thinking about the final point above and again of my audience, I reaslised that I need to be respectful and show my appreciation for all the help I have received from them during this project. As I expect , I will be nervous on the day I have decide to make prompt cards covering all these points as follows :-
The Title of my film is ‘Dance of the Dunes’
This is a fantasy /drama style film about a traveller making his way through a treacherous desert. He is attacked by a sand creature of the desert who has been drawn to the precious amulet that the traveller carries because of its fire bending powers. A short battle commences between the two characters.
This film fits the brief stimuli of flow. I hope you will be able to see this from the flowing sands, dance movements and from the flowing fire.
It has been a very interesting challenge for me….the vfx in particular have posed a much greater challenge than I anticipated but I have definitely learned a lot from trying them. ….mainly never again……leave well alone….
I have had a lot of support during this project.
And so would like to take this opportunity to thank :
Please enjoy…. if you have any questions or feedback for me please feel free to catch me later. Thank you.
For the screening we set up “the box” putting out a number of chairs for our audience so that they could have somewhere to sit with a clear view clear projection and good sound.
This FMP represented a huge learning experience for me. I have had to overcome obstacle after obstacle to complete it, but feel I have managed to achieve a film that closely fits the brief given and has a visual appeal for my audience.
Before I started this FMP, I was seriously considering taking my interest in doing VFX further, however, after attempting to apply some new techniques and levels of vfx in this project I have realised it is not the area I would like to go for at this stage of my career. I am much more of an up and about practical person than a sit behind a computer person. For this reason alone, I feel this particular project has been very successful for me on a personal level and indeed has been life changing. I now know where I am going and have no doubts cinematography and directing are where I want to be eventually.
I have undoubtedly, demonstrated my creativity in this project. Using tried and tested techniques, such as brain storming, word free associating and mind mapping, I came up with a wealth of ideas that fitted the stimuli given and I explored at least four of these in more detail to ascertain their strengths and weakness and in doing so managed to make an informed decision as to what I wanted to film. I ended up combining aspects of two or three ideas, that I was really drawn to in my final choice. This surely, meant my film would fit the brief of flow on more than one level.
I believe I have demonstrated in this project that I can plan effectively and prioritise my work load to meet deadlines given. I researched what other filmmakers advise you to consider when planning a short film and produced some very useful tools and documents for myself to keep on track and keep an overview of my progress. For example, I produced at timeline, planning checklist, production diary record sheet, resources lists, action plans/to do lists, a risk assessment and call sheets. I will recycle some of these in future projects as they have been a big help. The biggest strength of my planning though, is that from the ‘get go’ I recognised that I needed to ‘crack on’ and film as soon as possible as I could see I had a lost of post production to do. This primary aim, I feel has saved my project. If I hadn’t gone so full steam ahead at the beginning I don’t think I would have managed to get my film in on time, on this occasion. My timely, planning has allowed me to attempt new vfx and abandon them when I felt they were spoiling the continuity of my film and were taking me to far, off target. If my planning has one glaring weakness, it is that from my initial idea selection, right through to how many roles I took on and the shots I planned to do in one day, I have been massively over ambitious. I have got carried away trying to push myself to my very limits and to give my all, to this final project to the extent that my mental and physical wellbeing has suffered. I have managed to achieve all deadlines given but my family and friends would probably agree that other areas of my life such as contributing at home and keeping in touch with others have largely been neglected. My ambitions I believe, also don’t proportionately, reflect the grading criteria of this unit. My post production didn’t warrant the time and effort I put into it and is not justified by how the unit is assessed. I must add here, that my tutors did question me on this very issue at the beginning of my project and I simply did not give their cautions, the respect I should of. Next time I do a film project, I will concentrate on planning to excel in the more fundamental areas of film production of cinematography, shot planning, framing, colouring, directing etc. I will leave the vfx to the vfx department and hope they have a render farm to support them.
In this project I feel I have satisfied my proposal aim to demonstrate that my work is well informed, by both primary and secondary research. I have done primary interviews of a choreographer and a health assessor. I have done moodboards to seek the opinions of my peers, friends and family when designing my costumes. I held a preliminary meeting with my dancer and I have carried out extensive secondary research of relevant areas using books, online articles, websites and videos.
One of the most useful areas I researched was that of narrative development. It made me focus on including a clear beginning, middle and ending in my film as well as plot points, conflict and conflict resolution in the right places. However, I don’t feel in this project that I spent enough time considering the two characters, what their dramatic need is, what their back stories are, what incidents have shaped them etc and I feel this does show. The character’s are a little lacking in depth and detail. For example, it is not clear who they really are, what they need and why. If I were to repeat this project I would go into much more detail when thinking about my characters and would see if a narrative is more clearly, suggested from this.
Another area that I researched for this project that will be useful for my future, was how to pitch a film. When I pitched my film this time, I was thrown of course by nerves. I received positive feedback that I used good eye contact, had good body language and they liked the way I used power point in my presentation as my slides added to the visuals and didn’t take away from my verbal communications. Learning from the constructive criticism I was given, next time I will be more concise and take more care to outline the narrative to the audience as this is what they really need to know about. To help myself achieve this in future, I will write down the main aspects I need to cover on prompt cards, to have with me as a back up when the nerves take over.
Sadly, one area I researched extensively for this project that I may not get to use much again was that of choreography. As mentioned above I used both primary and secondary research to help give me confidence on the best way to approach this for my film and I was very happy with how our duet turned out in the end. I used words associated with flow and conflict and youtube videos to inspire us and called on our past experience of martial arts. I recognised very quickly that my dancer was of a much higher level than me and more used to improvising and I used this to make him the lead character and encouraged him to come up with his own solo. Feedback from my peers was that they loved the choreography and it’s building pace. Personally, I believe it fit the brief of flow closely and the poses we adopted were good points to emphasize and extend with cg fire at a later date. With hindsight it was too much of a challenge for me to choreograph the dance and perform it, as well as trying to direct my film and take on so many other tasks both in my film and several others. I would definitely, reduce the stress level and delegate the choreography and performing to someone else if I were to repeat this project.
Designing the costumes and makeup for my film was suprisingly, the part of my project that I enjoyed the most. Searching for inspiration, building moodboards, seeking others opinions, gathering the resources, drawing out my ideas and working with my mother and sister to bring everything together and refine them with trial and error… didn’t feel like work and were great fun. I was surprised how easy it was to delegate tasks and have learned that if you communicate your ideas to others they may well be much better than you yourself would be at realising your ideas. Feedback on my costumes was very positive from my peers and my dancer loved his costume and wont give it back. Both costumes fitted well, were comfortable to dance in and everything came in on budget. I feel they enhanced my narrative and fitted the brief well. On the downside, the costumes did not make my attempts at rotoscoping any easier as there were so many tassels to negotiate. The makeup I used for the sandcreature didn’t show up as well as I had initially hoped following my test shots and it was very cold to apply and the dried clay did restrict my movement a little. Wearing a skirt for my costume gave me an unexpected insight into the feminist argument that the clothes little girls wear can affect their behaviour, as wearing a skirt definitely restricted my moves. I simply couldn’t cartwheel properly with a skirt falling down over my eyes. The black ribbons I used to form criss cross binding on my feet didn’t work when it came down to the shoot day. I had to improvise on the spot and use some black electrician’s tape I had brought along instead. The props really matched the travellers costume and looked great on film but we did have a couple of dogs to contend with during the shoot days which I only have myself to blame for as I didn’t think about this when I used gravy browning to stain an old curtain pole. On the topic of props with hindsight, I think the amulet could have been of a more prominent design and would perhaps of benefitted from having been custom designed especially for my film. Although, it is in keeping with a desert feel, it doesn’t look particularly, special or powerful if I am honest.
When coming up with the shots for my visual narrative, I did refer to some good books on cinematography and shots/ angles to use and I found some interesting videos on how to film dance and fight sequences. Keeping these ideas in mind, I did come up with a comprehensive shot list and storyboard to help me communicate my ideas to my crew and I feel that we have worked well together to produce a film with a cinematic look with good use of depth of field, a wide variety of shots and some interesting movement and fluidity to the shots. The majority of the filming was done with a hand held camera using the shoulder rig to help keep the shots steady. From the screening of my film to my peers, one of the shots everybody likes is my opening, extreme wide shot of the flowing sands. This is the one sequence I filmed on my own. I used a tripod to steady the camera as the winds were making the camera shake and I did have to wait for a day with extra wild and windy weather to achieve the shot and walk to the edge of a scar with all the equipment. I feel justified in having waited for the right conditions for this pick up shot after the positive feedback.
Editing my film has been a challenging task for me during this project. After my first edit, I had a film that was over 6 minutes long which did reflect the narrative but had a pace that felt wrong. It gave me a good idea of what pickups I needed and what sequences needed retaking. However, it was difficult to cut sequences from it and get the right pace, without detracting from the overall narrative or spoiling the balance of the film in terms of the comparative lengths of the beginning, middle and end. Continuing to recut and refine my film once I had all the footage and was busy trying to apply vfx, required me to kill so many of my darlings I felt positively pyschopathic by the end of it all. My film did end up being within the correct time frame, with an appropriate size beginning, middle and end and from the feedback from my peers it had a good pace. In my editing I cut to the following in terms of priority: 1. Performance 2. Pace 3: continuity. This in theory should mean that I would be getting the best edit for telling the story though it could contain minor errors on scene changes. However, I definitely feel my narrative really suffered from so much editing and in particular the prominence and importance of the amulet to the conflict was lost. I made sacrifices I perhaps shouldn’t of and with hindsight I think some exposition shots at the beginning, some explanatory titles or a voice over, would have helped with the backstory and establishing the importance of the amulet.
As you have probably noted by now, I have spent a lot of time learning to do and applying computer generated visual effects during this project. In doing this, I certainly, have demonstrated that I am a good self directed learner not afraid to try and test new things. I feel that in the end the visual effects I did use, (the rotoscoping of the beach shots so they looked like a desert, and the cg fire) have given my film a good visual appeal for my audience and they have helped reflect the brief stimuli of flow. I think, I have ended up with an original film very different to any of my peers from having gone down this road. I do wish that I had spent longer on the first fireball though. It niggles me that it doesn’t have the same quality as the others and doesn’t fit well in the scene. The amount of work involved in adding vfx even for this short film has been a very trying and has affected my mental and physical wellbeing. As I want to take cinematography and directing further, I know it has given me a a much better understanding of the needs of a vfx team. The considerations a vfx team need in respect of lighting, colour, movement depth of field, costume, set design and pretty much every aspect of the visuals.. This is of growing importance given the rate at which cgi is impacting into all forms of media. In terms of the visual effects that I attempted, I now also better know what they need in terms of prossesing power and RAM (as my computer certainly couldent cope). In future, I shall be more aware of the equipment at my disposal and what it can do in the time given by performing some more thorough preliminary tests.
Towards the start of this project I completed a project proposal as the unit specification requirs. This was based on my reflecting on feedback from previous projects on this course and on an analysis of my strengths and weaknesses. The proposal was succinct and of the required word count whilst showing my main aims and objectives for the project. Thinking back to this now, I remember stating that I wanted to focus on delegating more and communicating better during this project whilst maintaining an outward show of positivity. I feel I have definitely shown I can delegate effectively and communicate well during this project as I managed to delegate the making of my costumes and props to my mother and sister. I managed to communicate my ideas to my dad to produce a storyboard. I communicated my ideas to my dancer Mattie using words and videos for inspiration. I also delegated the choreographing of his solo to him in recognition of his experience and talent. I produced call sheets, resource lists, action plans and shot lists and in doing so feel I have demonstrated a much improved ability to communicate with team members. I absolutely maintained an outward show of poisitivity during our shoot days despite having to improvise a dance, perform and direct proceedings. Both shoot days where pleasant experiences and I feel certain that Mattie (my dancer) is now a friend that I will be able to work with in the future. Matthew Tucker (my main camera operator) and I are both hoping to go to different Universities but are determined to stay in contact and work together on projects in the future so I must have been reasonably positive to work with. I feel any low mood I have experienced in the project came later in post production and that I have hidden how much they impacted on me from the outside world.
In my proposal, I stated that I wanted to demonstrate I was a safe pair of hands. I feel I have done this in doing a health and safety risk assessment and following the steps I outlined within this to reduce the risks has helped keep my cast, crew and the equipment safe. I will be able to use my research on how to risk assess in future projects and have identified that I need to have training in First Aid and also in Risk Assessing in the near future.
Similarly, in my proposal I stated that I wanted to demonstrate that I can be more flexible about adapting my ideas and that I would adopt an evaluative approach throughout. My response to the problems I encountered when trying to apply vfx certainly shows I ccna adpat my ideas and am not as stubborn as I once was. I devised a production diary record sheet when first, planning my project and in regularly completing these with the strengths and weaknesses of my activites noted and my regular reviewing of my progress against a timeline, I feel sure will have shown I can maintain an evaluative approach.
Over all I am happy with the way this project has gone and that I have largely achieved my objectives stated in my proposal.. I feel that my film though a long, long way from perfect looks good and making it has given me a good insight as to where I am now and were I want to go next. Its been fun (mostly :P) and all the hard work has brought me on as a filmmaker! I am looking forward to the screening on 20/06/17 to get more feedback on the final product and to take the opportunity to thank those that have supported me throughout. My film will be uploaded onto YouTube by the time you read this, it shall also be shared to relevant Facebook pages such as “BFI alumni” “film and TV network” etc as well as publicly for prospective employers and fans.
Planning My FMP
After I had explored my decision of what I wanted to film, I researched what other Filmmakers advise you to do when making a short film and took a good look at the requirements my tutor had given me for this unit. I knew from the outset that I had a lot of postproduction /vfx to do for this film and so my main planning aim was to ‘crack on‘ and shoot as soon as possible. This would not only mean I had more time to do the vfx but would more likely to be able to book the equipment out at college without any competition for it. I produced myself the following checklist of all the things I knew that I needed to do, and I will upload evidence of having done each of these in the relevant sections, as my project progresses :
write a detailed project proposal
produce a timeline/schedule to help keep myself on track
produce a production diary recording my activities, any changes in plans, and to regularly review and evaluate my progress
visit a couple of locations to consider there suitability, check the sun position and best times of day to shoot at the locations.
confirm my cast and crew
limit my resources to £50 that my parents have given me as a budget
carry out and document my primary and secondary research on relevant areas including how to :- develop the narratve, plan a short film, choreograph a dance, design a costume, what sort of shots to do, apply various vfx, pitch my film etc.
prepare to pitch my idea to Rebecca Day
delegate some tasks such as costume making and the actual drawing
of my storyboard ideas
decide on the overall genre and mood I wanted for my film and work with my storyboarder to put my ideas on paper for my crew
plan my shots and produce a shot list
rehearse and carry out test shots in costume and at location
produce resources lists for the shoot day and action plans to prepare for the shoot and help it to run smoothly.
Produce call sheets and either produce a health and safety risk assessment with the advice of my mother or delegate this to her.
Shoot my film
Prioritise my audio.
Edit, my film.
Refine and recut my film in response to constructive feedback
Write up how my film has developed and evaluate my project.
Produce a bibliography on the reference material I have used.
Prepare a presentation for the final screening of my film.
Add my film to my showreel, vimeo and youtube accounts, for prospective employers to view.
One Week prior to Shoot To Do List : Action plan
Check weather forecast to ensure it will be suitable to film. Add weather details to call sheet.
Confirm camera equipment is booked out with college
Confirm cast and crew still available and email or post them call sheets, check everyone has lifts, maps, directions etc
Go through resources list to ensure everything will be available for the shoot…..highlight any missing items and check with mum/zoe when will be bought or made.
Check and refine shot list if required
To Do List Action Plan for : Day Before Shoot
Lay out all the camera and lighting equipment and systematically check the lenses are clean, SD cards formatted and cleared, Batteries charged including spares, tripod and shoulder rig working and all parts available. Reflectors packed etc
Pack equipment you have checked in protective cases and put in corner of room ready to load the car.
Lay out each performers costume in separate neat piles and check everything is in a good state of repair and clean……..check from each characters top to toe that all items are there.
Lay out all props and check in useable condition including :
Lay out makeup kit and ensure black snazzaroo is enclosed and clean brushes and water available….
Check First Aid Kit stocked. To include: eye wash, sun cream, insect repellent, pads and bandages, tape, scissors, antiseptic cream, pain killers. Place in corner of room with checked equipment.
Check mobile phone charged
Store in the corner of the room :- the rake, shelter tent, box with wood, matches, firelighters, umberella, plastic bags, gaffa tape, electricians tape, dressing gowns and warm blankets.
Check music cd is in the tape recorder and that it is working and spare batteries are available…..store in corner of room ready to go.
Confirm with cast and crew that they are still attending and have call sheets, risk assessments, times, lifts, map and directions etc
Go through your resources list and tick off all items ready.
Check call sheet, risk assessment, resource list and shot lists are in a file with pens.
Check food and drinks will be made up and available for shoot.
0: Amulet taken from a pile of rocks – Shows amulet being taken still with shallow dof to emphasize importance
1: Wide pan down from the sun to traveler in the distance with footprints coming back past the camera. – Establishes vast desolate environment and shows that the traveler is aiming to leave the desert.
2: Billowing sands wide – Shows desolation and unforgiving environment.
3: Close shot of necklace. – Centered for importance.
4: Close shot of travelers face square on. (avoid camera reflection) – Introduces character yet despite the closeness there is still mystery to them.
5: Wide showing full traveler crossing the sands on the left third line. – Establishes them as a protagonist.
6: Close shot feet leaving prints. – Ambience / filler that also suggests tiredness and effort.
7: Close shot of scar on back of hand being scratched. – Hints that something is wrong.
8: Med shot walking towards camera. – Shows that they are now walking towards danger (trap).
9: Wide shot of traveler climbing a dune right to left. – Shows difficulty as it goes against gravity and “western” reading direction.
10: Close shot traveler turns to face sun. – Shows awareness of time
11: Extreme close reflection of sunset in goggles + silhouette. – Dramatic pause calm before storm.
12: Wide shot of traveler setting up a fire. – Shows their abilities and sets them up with an element of comfort.
13: Med low angle pov of firewood being added. – Shows their dominance of the element.
14: Slow mo sparks. – Aesthetic appeal.
15 Close traveler removes goggles and head dress and rests them down as a pillow. – Comfort but also slight vulnerability.
16: Close camera follows head as traveler tucks amulet into vest and lies down to sleep. – Comfort and vulnerability.
17: Close shot them clutching the amulet under there vest in their sleep. – Shows amulets preciousness.
18: Wide shot of the camp from top of hill which focus pulls just to catch the sand creatures hand leave shot. – hints danger rack focus for mystery.
19: Extreme close of travelers eye opening. – Shows suddenness and creates an intimacy with the character.
20: Close of face suddenly turning towards the dunes stick at the ready. – Shows anxiety.
21: Pov shot traveler scanning the dunes for whatever woke them. – Suspense
22: Mid shot of face they turn as a fireball comes over the dunes heading straight for them. – Kick starts the fight / dance sequence by breaking tension.
23: Mid side shot roll out of way. – Flowing movement with slight motivated camera movement to show energy.
24: Wide roll away. – Overview that shows that the threat is still hidden.
25: Ots shot from behind traveler end of roll follow to stand and turn. – Interesting camera movement and framing should interest audience and set up the scene.
26: Second fireball pov wide races towards traveler. – Filler Shows fire effects
27: Camera on traveler, right in front spinning stick. – Effects with collision and flowing stick movement.
28: Camera behind spinning stick. – Collision effects from a different angle
29: Med wide shot of traveler using stick to return there own firebolt via a under spin. – Flowing movement
30: Low angle wide shot of the dunes with an fiery impact before sand creature leaps up pan down following decent. – Angles exaggerate movement to make it less human.
31: The same wide tilt without sand creature but a hole in the sand at the landing sight this then follows the coke bottle running along under the sand. – Makes it look as though the creature is traveling beneath the sands (requires a large setup time)
32: Follows bottle from side close up. – Makes it seem to travel for a larger distance
33: Follow bottle from behind close. – Can show travelers reaction.
34: Med shot traveler scanning the ground stick braced. – Suspense build
35: Side shot sand creature rising out of leap out of ground grabbing stick whilst doing so. – Jump scare to shatter tension.
36: Shot from back of sand creature which rises into shot showing travelers surprise. – Jump scare different angle.
37: Overhead shot stick wrestle. – shows full event but keeps the audience at a spectators view.
38: Med wide stick wrestle. – Puts the audience in the fight.
39: High angle front med close traveler stick wrestle. – makes traveler seem vulnerable
40: Low angle front sand creature stick wrestle. – Makes sand creature seem dominant.
41: From behind traveler med wide traveler thrown back loosing the staff. – More vulnerability means higher risk of loosing the stakes which engages the audience more, also loss of the barrier *see research.
42: Med high angle traveler thrown back loosing staff. – High angle emphasizes vulnerability still.
43: Close low angle fire hammer fist sand creature. – Shows aggression.
44: Med shot high angle traveler dives to the side as fist hits sand follows up with a fire stream. – Close call to engage audience.
45: Traveler stumbles behind the camp fire, wide sand creature on the other side. – Circling and barrier *see research.
46: Side close shot amulet un tucking from travelers vest – Shows that the amulet is still important
47: Close of sand creatures eyes slight camera movement sideways. – Uses elements of a western for tension.
48: Close of travelers eyes slight camera movement sideways. – Uses elements of a western for tension.
49: Wide as the pair start dancing around the fire. – Establishes the second level of conflict.
50: Med of sand creature dance. – Demonstrate flow of fire power.
51: Low angle back sand creature dance. – Shows dominance of the element.
52: Med of traveler dance. – Shows that they too can control the fire.
53: High angle back Traveler dance. – Shows that they still don’t have the upper hand
54: Moving wide shot of both dancers. – Shows circling and barrier which with push and pull camera movement shows the conflict *again see research.
55: Med close as the dancers meet and dance head to head push n pull etc full duet. – Puts the audience within the dance.
56: Close shot within the duet of traveler. – Puts the traveler at neutral power.
57: Close shot within the duet of sand creature. – Same as traveler to show that they are equals now.
58: Moving around in and out of the dance med wide. – Push and pull communicates conflict.
59: Close of eyes – Intimacy with character
60: Close of amulet being torn off. – Peak of action as the object they are fighting over is now in neutral territory.
61: Close of amulet landing in the sand reflecting the firelight – Break in the action as the cause of the conflict’s circumstances have changed.
62: Med close face on an angle sand creature goes for the amulet. – Changes the direction of movement and conflict.
63: Side med shot sand creatures leg pulled back by traveler using creature to spin. – Traveler takes upper hand.
64: Wide they land facing each other. – Western style intro to the final battle.
65: High angle sand creature standing. – Tables have turned and the sand creature being distracted means that it is now the vulnerable one.
66: Low angle traveler clutched fist flame daggers. – Western gun in holt fingers twitching effect.
67: Western shot sand creature flame hands. – Western gun in holt fingers twitching effect.
68: Side shot sand creature horse stance punch – First to aggress showing desperation.
69: Side shot traveler horse stance punch fire in front and behind. – Reaction
70: Mid shot traveler gathers energy then releases a firebolt. – Raises threat for sand creature.
71: Sand creature barrel jump then part the flames gather energy return a low to ground fire followed back. – Shows skill over fire.
72: Traveler wide sandan part flame. – Traveler demonstrating that they can match the creatures ability’s.
73: Side traveler punch, punch. – Attacks rate increase.
74: Front angled side kick traveler. – powerful attack to show they intend to end the fight.
75: Side sand creature swipe, swipe get hit. – The downfall
76: low angle close sand creature clutching shoulder sand falling from between fingers. – Helplessness
77: Stick gets picked up by traveler. – Close and calm showing there victory is definite.
78: Sand creature pain on face close. – Engages with audience… sympathy?
79: Side big traveling stick spin resulting in fire stream. – Killer strike showing anger.
80: high angle sand creature blasted apart. – Death
81: As above only just sand – For the effect of disintegration.
82: Tracking med close shot seeing traveler breath relief throw down stick walk towards amulet. – Total resolution relieving all tension.
83: Close shot traveler picks up amulet. – Shows the prize.
84: Med wide shot puts amulet on walks to pick up head dressings. – Calm moments
85: Wide angle sand mysteriously churns (blows towards traveler.) – Tells the audience this may not be over.
86: Low angle traveler bends down to pick up head dressing then the amulet suddenly starts to drag them towards the floor. – Jump scare two
87: Side shot head hitting ground amulet first. – Entrapment
88: Over head traveler struggling with arms trying to push up and remove amulet. – Shows vulnerability.
89: Side shot travelers upper body is pulled under. – false perspective / keying
90: Med remaining leg twitching sinks into the sand. – End
91: Close shot goggles – Shows remnants.
92: Close shot head wrap – Shows remnants.
93: Wide shot entire area as the sun rises. – End
North Walney nature reserve:
Roanhead sandscale haws:
To prepare for the pitch we were given the themes below as a framework for the presentation:
Primary and secondary research
Style and genre
Narrative and themes
Principle production techniques
Sound and music
Audience and release
You must restrict the pitch to below 5 minutes, be professional and to the point.
To plan this presentation I did some secondary research as follows:
What To Do When You Pitch Your Script
Jacob Kreueger advises spending time making sure you pitch your idea to the right person where possible. Find out if they produce your kind of films and that you have mutual interests. He suggests you shouldn’t get into used car salesperson mode because if you have a good idea or script you have something valuable that the right people will really want. He adds that if your find yourself in a situation where you are pitching to someone who doesn’t have an interest in your type of film then make the most of it by asking for advice instead, networking by perhaps asking for introductions to the right connections.
How To Pitch Your Screenplay or Film Idea.
Paul Castro succinctly points out that it is very important to state the title of your film, to state the genre then to outline what your film is about in a cinematic, dramatic way with passion and enthusiasm. He advises matching the frequency / world of the person you are pitching to…..the pace they like to talk at and style of address they prefer. He adds that it is vital to believe in yourself and how you can add value to the listener’s business.
The Art of Pitching a Movie Idea Using the Rule of 3
Director Marc Zicree argues that it is essential to treat people how you would want to be treated yourself when pitching. He explains that you need to keep your pitch brief and not pitch about every beat or shot or you will bore the producer. He says never pitch in an inappropriate place for example, at a social gathering….and explains his idea of meeting someone 3 times before pitching your idea so more of a relationship is built up and the process is more respectful. He advises doing your research on the person you want to talk to and their right hand staff and to consider talking to these people first at events. He suggests showing your dedication and integrity by putting your own money into your ideas and by showing you actually do what you are going to say ….unlike 99% of people in the business who only talk about things. He tells us that being consistent, dedicated and
disciplined is important and that we shouldn’t focus on trying to be rich and famous but more about being free to do meaningful work…. What a lovely guy!
WikiHow to Write A Film Pitch
Wikihow advises us to follow the following 8 steps :-
1) Think of a tagline…one sentence to outline your film and grab your audience’s attention.
2) Include just the highlights in your pitch don’t go into too much detail.
3) Use your characters name to progress your story.
4) Keep your pitch short.
5) Include any suprise endings.
6) Avoid using cliff hangers.
7) Think about who will be listening to your pitch and what they need you to tell them.
8) Tell them your contact details.
Preparing for my pitch I also reflected on an extracurricular microbiology project I did in 2015. In this project I had to make a presentation on aseptic technique and cultivating bacteria, to do this I made a huge powerpoint full of writing and graphs. My feed back from this time was that though the powerpoint was good and well informed it was effectively a text book and that a presentation really wants to be as concise and visual as possible whilst remaining relevant and that really just the graphs definitions and photos were needed. So with this in mind I produced the slides shown below:
Powerpoint was excellent because it had pictures and very few words. Allowed us to pick up the style of the film easily. Mood boards were very useful.
Rushed through the narrative and had to explain it afterwards, but did it brilliantly when prompted. That needs to be within the pitch next time.
Don’t use the word risks, because it implies a negative. Use challenges or logistics as a term.
Overall, the idea is exciting, totally creative and engaging. Proved that he could make it work despite the odds.
You could tell there was some nerves but it didn’t affect the pitch negatively. Eye contact was there, good body language. Smile a little more perhaps, and introduce yourself. You need to watch a film called Desert Dancer, Google it!
This tells me that in my next pitch I have to remember that I am there to communicate my story idea and that I should do so with positivity and enthusiasm to boost confidence. I will have to remember that words like risk and the colour red carry natural warning connotations that can be extremely off putting for the people I am pitching to.
what i shall carry forward from this is that the use of pictures, test shots and mood boards to back up my words and instil confidence in the people I am pitching to that I can do what I say I can.
From my interim feedback I have found that my peers really liked my opening shots, costume design, my depth of focus, choriography and fight sequences, pacing, build up of the pace, western vibe, music, editing, originality, style and special effects. Constructive criticisms were three fold
Learning from this very valuable feedback (thanks guys) I will now do something about the fades to black. I will shorten the scence where the traveller takes the necklace out and finally, I will either redo the final falling ashes scene that forms the background to my credits or will try having some white space after my death shot and then go back to using my opening shots.
A story is a journey between beginning middle and end (in any order.) We tell stories because as a mortal creature we like to share our experiences and the things we have heard. We like to immortalize our reactions or to teach others about things and explain what we may not understand. Doing this helps us think we have created something that will outlast our lives whilst still provoking the same responses as they did originally. Stories help us to develop connections with people and gain a sense of validation in our ideas.
From Syd Field’s model I knew that I wanted the beginning of my story to be approximately 1 quarter up to 1 third of the length of my film and that I wanted my beginning section to be where I set up the location, context and introduce my main character. I knew that I wanted a hook point at the end of my set up that leads to the conflict. With these thoughts I decided to have opening shots establishing that showed the main character was travelling through a treacherous desert with flowing sands and undulating dunes on a lone and exhausting journey with a precious amulet. At the end of this set up, I then decided to add my first plot point and to alter the direction of the action by having the sand creature attacking him. This then leads to the middle section of the film which I want to be approximately half the length of film in its duration. In this section I will have the conflict. The traveller and sand creature will fight over the amulet and this conflict will build up to a crescendo towards the end of the middle section. I will have my second plot point at the end of the middle section where the traveller gets the better of the sand creature. In the end section of my film as Syd Field advises I will then have the conflict being resolved with the death scene of the sand creature and then the desert seeking its revenge on the traveller by whipping up a sand storm. This will bring the narrative around full circle and I will end where my story began. In doing so hopefully my narrative will have a flow of its own.
From my research I have decided to show rather than tell my story. I will use a variety of shots in order to do this. I will have extreme wide shots establishing the location and placing the traveller in the dunes. I will switch to close ups and then back to wide shots for a cinematic look, contrast and to move the narrative onward by showing the travellers emotions. I will use double shots when the conflict begins and change to single separate shots to show opposition and aggression. I will use low angle shots to show dominance and strength and high angles shots to show weakness particularly during my death scene. I will ask my crew to use a shoulder rig or steadicam to manually track the action and in doing so will have some circling and tilted shots to add to the confusion of the conflict and to add dynamism. I will have an over the shoulder shot, wide shot, when the sand creature spies on the traveller in the dunes to give their point of view and a sense of distance. I will add music/ Foley that doesn’t detract from the visual narrative but that complements it and will edit so that the visuals are given priority and the soundtracks take a secondary role whilst remaining a high priority.
With these ideas in mind I produced an extensive shot list for my crew, I then story-boarded my ideas with my dad who is a very fast and talented artist. Please see my shot lists, story board and a detailed justification of why I chose the shots I did under the planning section of this blog.
In my first year FMP I used my sister Zoe as my actress; in my film ‘Tenebrosity’ I used my parents as my actors; I have since, worked with Performing Arts Students in my film ‘Facade’. This time, I was determined to work with someone from outside my circle of family and friends and in doing so to work on my skills as a director. I know have to get used to communicate with new contacts and to learn from doing so.
From having attended dance classes at the Brewery Arts Centre for 15 months I knew of a dancer called Mattie Margison who is very committed to getting as much experience as possible as a performer as he is looking to study physical performance at University and make a career for himself in the dance world. I approached Mattie at one of the dance classes to see if he would be interested in taking part and to my delight he was flattered to have been asked and happy to be involved. It really was as simple as that. We swapped phone numbers and added each other to our Facebook Friends and I promised to get in touch with him to arrange times to meet and discuss my project, choreograph and rehearse.
Later on in my project, I did cast my sister Zoe as an understudy for Mattie (see more on this below).
There is very little to document here other than I had agreed to help Matthew Tucker out with his FMP and he had agreed to operate the C100 camera, to use a tripod and a shoulder rig to film my project. We had worked well together in our last film project ‘Facade’ and I find him to be very professional in his approach, positive and a lovely guy. Matthew who likes to be called ‘Tucker’ never moans, he just gets on with the job and he was happy for me to direct him and discuss all the shots before hand and afterwards.
For my second day of shooting, Tucker was not available and neither was the C100 camera. Luckily, my good friend, Ash Podda was available for the evening and I managed to get the FS700 booked out and a tripod and shoulder rig again.
One of the first tests I did for creating the sand creature was to try actually applying sand to my skin by having a small layer of Vaseline as a base and then coating it with sand… ..
This was very effective at making my skin look as if it was made of sand. It was quick to do and easy to wash off, however, my skin did feel sore and irritated afterwards. I was also concerned that I might blend in too well with the environment. This is an issue I have come across previously ( an actor wearing a dark blue jumper in a dark room in my ‘Tenebrosity’ film created problems for me ) and it would mean rotoscoping later would be near impossible for me. Moreover, the character would be too camouflaged to come across as a threat or as a main point of focus for my audience. I am happy to have learned from my test shots and from past mistakes on this occasion before having filmed and for the sake of my own skin will reject this, easy to do option.
Next, I considered using a CG, cracked texture as I had in my last film Facade. (Please see my research post on this). However, I remembered how photoshopping each frame was very time consuming and I was aware I would have a lot of other visual effects that I would have to spend time on, so for efficiency reasons I decided to try a more practical approach on this occasion. For ideas, I started browsing Youtube for makeup tutorials. One in particular was very inspiring (see my research for this) and pointed me to using Calcium Bentonite or Fullers Earth to apply a mask to the skin that once it dries cracks to create a sort of salt plane cracked earth effect. On checking Ebay I found that this Calcium Bentonite was readily available to be delivered to my home address in time for filming and to my delight was very inexpensive and was considered a product that is actually good for the skin rather than damaging. When the product arrived I enlisted my sister Zoe and my mother into doing some test applications. We tested it on my arm, finding that a thin layer did not quite give a strong enough effect for the camera.
We then tried a thicker layer and this generated a really good effect similar to the desired effect I had seen in the youtube video. The process of applying the Fullers Earth was quick but it did take some time to dry and left me feeling very cold. To overcome this my family used a hair dryer to speed things up. This greatly helped, so the next time it was applied, I not only borrowed two hair dryers but also a warm fan heater to help the process and keep me warm and comfortable throughout.
Further experiments with makeup led to me trying a multi layered approach. I used red body spray to highlight my tendons and veins and once the Fullers Earth had dried we applied a body glitter spray which created highlights that enhanced the cracking texture.
I liked this effect as although it was very subtle it did further take away from the humanity aspect of the creature and made me look a little more reptilian. The glitter spray also had the added benefit of helping the Fullers Earth to fix in place during movement.
I was also inspired greatly by Ballet Rambert’s production ‘Ghosts’
In this as you can see the Ghost dancers have tribal markings on their bodies that follow their main muscles and skeleton, helping define their movements. The Ghosts wear masks and tribal skirts and arm bands. I love the impact of these so decided to apply elements of it to the sand creature (please see my section on Costume development, for more on this). I hence, invested in some black stage makeup and designed some markings and tattoos to add to the creature design (please see my drawing of tattoo markings in costume development below).
When I summarised, my learning from having carried out secondary research on costume design (please see my research section); I came up with a spider diagram to depict my main points. Keeping this summary in mind I knew that I wanted the Sand creature’s costume to show the following :-
From my research I again knew that it was important to ensure that the costume fitted the performer, which in this case was to be myself. That it was important that it was comfortable to dance in, cheap to make, durable to dance in for at least 3 occasions in the windy /sand dunes and that it needed to reflect or add to the brief and visual narrative.
With all this in mind I thought about having the sand creature looking like a person made entirely of sand, like the characters from the short film ‘Sandcastle –
I liked this, as it takes the audience into the realms of fantasy. To try and replicate this idea, I considered having the dancer in a full bodied, sand coloured morph suit/ leotard or alternatively having them in black or nude coloured dancer’s shorts and relying on makeup to cover the exposed skin with sand texture (see above discussions on makeup). I researched various dance wear websites for appropriate leotards and underwear and it was definitely possible as a costume, as they are readily available to buy. The unitard below is available for £17.99 and the shorts are around £20.
However, there was nothing flowing or warrior like to these costume ideas, overall feel. I hence, looked at google images for further inspiration, creating a mood board based on other peoples ideas of sand wraiths / desert creatures
This lead me to explore making the costume have more of a tribal feel. Having already come across Ballet Rambert’s ‘Ghosts’ when researching makeup ideas, I remembered how the costumes of the Ghost characters not only have an unearthly creature like aspect about them but they have a tribal look and must be quite a practical option if a professional ballet company use them:
Moreover, I felt they were more in tune with the many of the pictures I had found of Sand Wraiths on google (see above). I particularly like the way that the tassels on the Ghosts skirts and arm bands moved in a way as to emphasise and extend the flowing movements of the dancers. This aspect of the costume felt right for my film as it not only would it match the audiences expectations of a more tribal, sand creature but would better fit the project brief stimuli of flow. This costume choice would also allow me to use the black stage makeup and tattoo ideas for makeup (as discussed above) to good effect.
I discussed my three different ideas with my family and friends and everyone reinforced my feelings that something along the lines of the Ghost dancers was more exciting, more visually appealing and right for my film.
I sketched my final design for the sand creature’s costume to help convey my ideas to my mother and sister who had agreed to help me make the costumes and had given me a small budget of £50 for the whole film. On the left of this drawing is a picture of my ideas for the arm bands, the skirt and leg bands. Some ideas for tattoos and tribal markings can be seen on the right:
With this in mind we set about raiding the sewing box and rag bag at home to try and come up with something that matched the drawing. We began using some thick black elastic, black ribbons and feathers to make some arm bands. The feathers proved to be a nightmare to attach to the arm bands and kept falling off with movement which led to my scrapping the idea of using them as an option despite having really liked how they looked. We then just made the arm bands out of strips of black ribbons and to keep the cost low we cut up some old black jeans to create half of the strips. Using the old faded black jeans brought the advantage of giving the costume a more aged and weathered look. This then led on to making a skirt out of a similar pair of old black jeans so all the materials matched. My mother used the waist band of the jeans as the waist band of the skirt and cut the legs into strips. She then added strips of black ribbon to give the skirt another layer. All of this took only a couple of hours one rainy afternoon, so was very time efficient. To match the skirt and arm bands I decided the creature should have faded black denim bandages on his feet, held in place with black ribbons crisscrossed so as to look like leather, thong, gladiator sandals.
With my costume and makeup decisions made I then did some further final test shots, on location in full costume and makeup with the equipment I was going to use. ….
I felt really happy with the creature’s look in the test shots and decided this was the final impression I needed for my film. I was not over camouflaged and could easily be followed by my audience and this choice of method would greatly help with my time management as it would help reduce the CG requirements for the creature whilst still looking sand like/reptilian. My family and friends agreed that my sand creature’s look was now complete.
Again keeping in mind the spider diagram I had drawn to summarise my learning from having carried out secondary research on costume design; I knew that I wanted my costume for the traveller to show the following :
Also I knew that it would be important to have a costume that was reasonably inexpensive, that fitted my performer and was comfortable for him to dance in and that he looked good in. I was aware, the costume needed to be worn on two or three occasions and needed to withstand some rough and tumble. I particularly wanted the costume to suit the brief stimuli and to add to my visual narrative.
In addition to the above considerations, I felt that as the character is travelling in a desert with blowing sands and glaring sunshine, that he would naturally be wearing head and eye protection. Similarly, that as he lives in a climate that can vary greatly in temperature that he would also be wearing layers and not wanting to be conspicuous on his journey I felt that he would probably be wearing clothes that blended in well with the environment. It occurred to me that his clothes would probably be sun bleached and slightly saturated in colour. That because they are on a long journey in difficult terrain that they would have stout shoes on that would be scuffed and worn. That they would need a water carrier for easy access to hydration. Also to assist them walking in the soft sand and aid with balance and self defence that they would probably have a staff. Thinking about all these ideas I remembered the sandbenders costumers in Avatar and I also searched google images for some desert traveller images for inspiration :
3) Google images : Desert Traveller
4) Google images : Desert Traveller
5) Google images : Desert Fighters
I discussed these images with my family, friends and Mattie my dancer. Images 1 and 2 came out as the most popular idea with everybody. The feedback was that they both looked mysterious and clearly, reflected a desert traveller. It was also felt that image 2 in particular had an element of flow about it. It was felt that images 3 and 4 were nice and flowing and definitely looked like they were of a desert traveller however, that both of these costume ideas would be difficult to dance in.
Image 5 was met with laughter from my family and hence, was rejected as not a serious contender. My father straight away put me off the idea when he suggested they looked more like overgrown boy scouts than desert travellers!
With image 1 and 2 for inspiration, I then sketched my final idea out :-
I raided my own dressing up box and realised I already had a Shemagh and some dark goggles that suited the costume plans and I then set about scouring the local charity shops for boots, belts etc. I still had plenty of money left in my budget so I bought a beige car wash blanket that I turned into a net over vest to go with the layering effect. I bought an old leather bag and hip flask that I asked my sister to age and scuff and make into a water carrier. I bought a webbing type belt and leather belts for 50p from charity shops and a cheap but new khaki vest and beige trousers off Ebay as these needed to be clean and of the right size for my dancer Mattie. I bought some scuffed old boots off Ebay again to fit my dancers size and these were suitably stout and lined with fleece to keep him comfortable. I cadged an old curtain pole off my gran which I sanded and stained with gravy browning to look aged and gave to my sister to add bindings and thongs to stylise to suit the traveller and to extend the flowing movements when he uses the staff. On reflection it was perhaps a foolish idea to use gravy browning to a stick that is to be used in a popular dog walking area! For a shawl my mother gave me and old black woollen blanket and my sister presented me with a brown patterned poncho but I didn’t think these matched the drawing and didn’t add anything to the costume. My gran however, had a sand coloured poncho that had tassels on the end which I felt would blow in the wind further linking to flow. Luckily, I managed to pursued her to let me borrow this and she loves to tell her towns women’s guild friends how her clothes have been used by a travelling warrior in my film. Finally, I bought a couple of necklaces from a market stall in Manchester that I felt would be suitable to represent an amulet in the film……
As this project progressed we did a dress rehearsal in full costume and Mattie’s feedback was that he loved the costume . He found it was comfortable and easy to move in which was very important for creating a flow of movement and getting the best out of him as an actor/ dancer which for me as a director is vital. It did occur to me at this point that the shawl in particular may cause issues for rotoscoping later however, I felt it worked so well and fitted Mattie so perfectly that it would be worth the extra time I would have to put in post. It became clear during the test shots that Mattie quite naturally wanted to spin and slam the staff down on the ground which inspired our choreography as it become a great focal point for the combat scene and I was excited about the potential to utilise this in creating more dynamic fire CG when post producing the film. I loved the aesthetic appeal of the travellers costume as not only did it represent the traveller well but felt it would add an extra dimension of interest for my audience. I was aware that overall it could be considered a little cliched and stereotyped however, as post modernist theorists would perhaps state here, everything has probably already been done before and sometimes cliches are as such for a reason.
I must note at this point that I had come across some difficulty in arranging times to meet up with Mattie who works full time and lives an hours drive away from me. Indeed, on one occasion where I had booked a rehearsal room at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal at a time and place more convenient for Mattie, that he slept in. This turned out to be a one off, but it did leave me feeling quite apprehensive about using Mattie and having to coordinate booking the equipment out, arranging crew to be available and doing this to coincide with good weather. I hence, decided a back up plan was needed and so enlisted my sister Zoe as his understudy as she is also a trained dancer and martial artist and is extremely willing, reliable and fun to work with. This meant of course that I had to have a backup costume available for Zoe to use and this can be seen below. Zoe had already got a suitable vest, khaki trousers and some old boots available and could also utilise the other items of Mattie’s costume to give the same effect……
One of the key aspects of the costume to me was the Amulet as it is so important to driving the narrative of the film. During our test shots we realised that the Scorpion Amulet better suited the location, and theme of a desert than the other amulet and was more in keeping with the travellers costume.
From my primary and secondary research on how to do devise a dance I produced another of my spider diagrams summarising the main points to consider when choreographing.
Keeping this in mind I knew from the outset that the project would benefit from having a preliminary meeting with my dancer, Mattie to discuss his experience of dance, martial arts experience, his availability, what my fmp is about, and what I hope to achieve with the dance etc.
Mattie agreed I could meet him at the coffee shop where he works so we could have a chat.
Over coffee I found out that Mattie has over 5 years experience of dance and that he attends Ludus Dance School to study contemporary ballet and physical performance as well as attending the youth dance classes at The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. I already knew he was a great dancer with ambitions to attend University to do a Foundation Degree in physical performance but I hadn’t realised we would be quite so unequally matched skills wise. I have only been attending dance classes for 15 months and hence, have only minimal experience! With this skills mismatch in mind I asked him to be the lead dancer and as to whether he could use any of his previous learning to help us come up with a dance. He agreed to this and reassured me that he loves to improvise and works best if asked to come up with something to music on the spot.
I explained my visual narrative to Mattie, the cause of the escalating conflict and how I saw the characters. Mattie told me that he also has some mixed martial arts training and we agreed we could use some of our fighting experience in the dance as a good starting point. I then explained about the brief stimulus of ‘flow’ and how I wanted to reflect this in my sand dune location and with flowing moves in the conflict that I would enhance with cg fire. I advised that our audience would be made up of my peers, tutors, examiners, friends and family and that I would also be adding the film to my show reel to show potential employers what I can do and that I may decide to enter it into Festivals at some point. Mattie was fine with all this and gave his permission for me to show the film to anyone and to use it anyway I wanted. I got his clothes sizes off him and shoes size so I could make sure he had a costume that fitted. We then agreed to meet up at the Brewery Arts Centre the following week to improvise some moves.
I contacted the head of dance at the Brewery Arts Centre and booked a room to rehearse. The following week however, Mattie slept in (as already discussed above). As Mattie works full time and has lots of other commitments we agreed he would work on a solo sequence for himself and I would work on a smaller solo for myself. We then agreed to meet up the following week for a long day in Barrow. We decided we would fit his costume first thing in the morning and would watch some video’s for inspiration and then would go to the location I had chosen and rehearse for a couple of hours. We would then have lunch back at my house and return at 2pm to the location to meet up with my camera operator Matthew Tucker and to film as much as possible.
This all happened the following week as planned. The weather was as forecast and Mattie drove to my house where we relaxed and discussed the different words Alleyna Woodend (please see my primary research on her contribution) had jotted down for me for inspiration and then watched youtube videos for further inspiration. I showed him a firebattle scene from Avatar that I like the poses in and explained if we could adopt some poses that this would help me add vfx at a later date.
There are hundreds of dance videos you can use for inspiration on youtube but the following video I found particularly relevant for the head to head flowing arms movement. Mattie could see what I meant when we watched this and we agreed to try something similar ourselves:
We then set off to the location and after a warm up session (and after my dad had thoroughly raked the sand to get rid of as many sharps and stones as possible) we had a go at improvising in full costumes to some music that had a good background beat. It was clear that the sand really absorbed a lot of the energy from our moves and we decided to adapt our moves so we didn’t have to travel up and down the dunes so much. We also decided it would be better for Mattie if his character took off the water bottle prop at some point before our fight sequence as it kept bashing him. Mattie showed me the solo sequence he had been working on and it was definitely the sort of thing I was after. It was clear that he would also have to put the staff down before this sequence though and we would have to have the character picking it up again later as I wanted him to use it in my death scene. Mattie, watched my solo sequence and as he thinks so well on the spot, he managed to adapt his solo a little, so our styles matched more. We practised a head to head sequence as in the above video and some mirroring of his improvised moves in stances that were opposite one another to show aggression and conflict. Mattie practised twirling and smacking the travellers staff on the ground. We then headed back to mine for lunch to return refreshed and rested an hour later to meet up with my crew as planned.
A week before my first day of shooting, I went through my to do list and confirmed the equipment was booked and would be available for me. I checked the weather forecast to make sure it was going to be suitable to film and updated/sent out my call sheet for day 1. I then went through my resources list to make sure everything would be available/bought for the following week.
The day before my shoot I went through my action plan of things to do the day before a shoot (please see under planning for exactly what this involved).
On the day of the shoot as mentioned above I met up with my dancer for the morning to work on our choreography. After lunch we met up with Matthew Tucker my camera operator and the rest of my crew of runners (made up of my parents and sister) promptly on set as agreed. I quickly organised my parents into putting up the tent and sorting out where to put the resources such as food, drinks and first aid kit etc and I asked Mattie to warm up again and continue practising with the staff, so I could turn my attention to Tucker.
I set the shoulder rig up and camera with the settings I wanted as follows :-
Aperture f-stop: 5
Shutter Speed: 50
ND filter: 0, 2
Lens: C100 Zoom Kit Lens
I then went through my story board and shot list with Tucker describing the style and mood I was after. We then proceeded as follows:
I would go through the next shot with everyone, explaining to Mattie how the shot fitted in with the overall narrative and marking out where I wanted him to move. Tucker would then do a practise film for framing and composition and to get used to any dynamic moves, we would then look back at this and reshoot either one or two more times depending on how confident Tucker felt about having got it.
The shoot progressed very smoothly and we systematically worked our way through my shot list wracking up a total of over 230 takes. We stopped twice for short breaks to rest my dancer and warm up but everyone worked really hard and remained very focused, energised and positive. It was an excellent experience, despite the fact that we were still improvising our dance to some extent as we went along and despite the fact that I was acting as a director as well as performing. I did have to concentrate very hard and remain quite seriously throughout the day so I could keep up the switching from my role as a Director, to a choreographer and performer. It was of a massive help to me that I had planned for the day so thoroughly. I felt prepared and confident knowing I had thought about our health and safety and had checked all the resources and equipment. This allowed me to concentrate during the shoot and not to feel irritated or frustrated by any trivial matters. The only minor problems that arose during my shoot were from two unseen / unpredictable sources. Firstly, there was a couple of dogs that decided to join in and were greatly attracted to the gravy browned staff Mattie was using and these needed scaring off by my dad. Secondly, however, much my dad raked the sand, over the day more and more pebbles and sharps came to the surface.
At around 20.15 we stopped for the day, lit the fire and had a half hour chill to watch the sun come down and flames. We then all headed back to my house to watch the rushes over supper.
I was delighted with our achievements but in some of the scenes, the shelter tent could be clearly seen and some of our duet sequences were not up to standard…..particularly the ones in which I had attempted unsuccessfully to cartwheel over Mattie’s shoulders and the ones where I appeared to be enjoying myself far too much….grinning happily from ear to ear! I knew I would add some retakes of some of these scenes to my shot list for day 2 of the shoot.
We then discussed meeting up again for day 2 of the shoot and it was impossible to get Mattie and Tucker on the days with suitable weather conditions, due to their work commitments. I therefore thanked Tucker for his hard work and involvement so far in my project and got in touch with my good friend Ash Podda to see if he could attend on one of the evenings when the weather looked good. He could attend on the following Friday and agreed to pick Mattie up in Kendal, Day 2 of the shoot was hence, now booked.
The following day I updated my shot list for day 2 of the shoot, booked some equipment out with college and sent out the call sheets. I couldn’t get the C100 for day 2 of the shoot but managed to get the FS700 instead, this was no problem for me as I am comfortable at using both and happy to support my crew to do the same.
On day 2 of my shoot, I was thoroughly prepared and had all the resources laid out again. However, my poor camera op got stuck in traffic on the way to Kendal, which left my dancer waiting and confused in Kendal and myself quite apprehensive (in full costume and clay makeup) back in Barrow. Luckily, I used messenger and texting to up date my dancer as to where my crew was up to and he waited. When everyone did arrive at mine, they were tired and needed refreshments and some banter to cheer them up. We hence, headed to the location over an hour late. This was a set back but I knew exactly what I wanted from the shoot with all the prep I had done and how to work with each person from having worked with both before. My shot list was also considerable shorter on this occassion and Mattie knew the drill from having done day 1 with me. We then proceeded much the same as on day 1. I helped Ash set up the shoulder rig and camera with the same settings I had used for day 1 to maximise consistency. I would then explain what the next shot was to Mattie, how it fitted in with the overall narrative and we would then mark it out. Ash would then practice, framing and composing the shot and we would watch the first take back and then redo it either another once or twice depending on how confident Ash felt that he had got it.
We finished shooting around 20.30 then packed up and returned to my house for a chinese takeaway and to watch the rushes back. I was happy with the rushes and felt I had pretty much wrapped. I thanked my cast and crew for their contributions and promised to invite Mattie to the screening.
In the first rough cut of my edit with the footage collected from day one I was happy that the footage I had was telling my narrative exactly as I had proposed, however i also noticed that even without the rest of my shots my film was over 4 minutes (6 mins) which meant that it didn’t fit the brief and if this was a TV commercial or short film the producer would have a field day with me and it wouldn’t be accepted. After my second day of filming I gathered all the footage into another couple of rough edits, beginning to cut it down to size, however it was still slightly over the time by a few frames and so in order to match the brief and not loose my narrative I have adapted the narrative so that now instead of both my characters dyeing now only one would die. I also sacrificed the amulets importance greatly showing only its value to the traveler (in the shots where they carefully tuck it in and tuck it out). For the pacing I also had to make sacrifices to continuity for instance you may notice that the canteen that the traveler is carrying vanishes half way through. In truth the shot shows the traveler removing the sash but the fact is that the time this takes was damaging the flow of the film as it slowed it down to much during a combat scene.
As mentioned in various places in this blog i spent an awful lot of time rotoscoping. To do this I would take my edited clip and open it in after effects using adobes dynamic link system (wonderful tool though not with out its limits). initially this was looking great and the aesthetic was very pleasing though as time went on I found that certain scenes just weren’t working as the rotobrush tool I had learnt to use was not able to locate the edges accurately as the colors were to simlar; a problem I had identified earlier on when designing the costume. In future if I were to go about this again I would use high contrast complimentary colors or just use a green screen as I have no issues with keying and they both follow the same principals of cutting at the colour difference. After three weeks of painfully rotoscoping I decided that enough was enough and that it wasn’t going anywhere. This was down heartening as it was 3/12 weeks wasted however it is also one of the best learning experiences I’ve had.
All the visuals that I edited were done so without music or sound as my research on Stanley Kubrick’s methods suggested. To do the sound for this film I had used a tape player on location with a regular beat so that I would be able to find a piece of music that would fit the dance quite easily later on. The music used was from ‘soundcloud’ and the sound effects were either Foley or royalty free sounds from YouTube. In total my final edit consisted of 23 layers (5 sound and 18 video) this meant that there were a lot of masks, alpha mattes and opacity / blend mode effects which I had controlled the dynamics of with the pen tool on the timeline. This was especially the case in my disintegration scene which used multiple layers; the fire, the background sand, the layer of me falling back, the multiple alpha and luma shock-wave layers that had been animated and which altered the speed at which parts disappeared and changed color. The skeleton that was pin warp animated to follow my movement and the inside flesh layer used to make it appear 3D. To learn how to do this I went back to a tutorial I had watched a while back, thought there are many more tutorials that do follow the same methodology:
The transitions in my edit changed throughout, though they are mainly straight cuts, I did have some fades in there (fades to black removed due to popular demand) were I transition from a fire ball to my dancer on the ground. I’ve learnt while editing this film how to use levels to create a transition, but like fades to black they have there place. many of the cuts and pacing I am happy with in this film, however there are still a few areas that had I more time I would like to try new ways of cutting, even if it required another shoot day to act as filler (b-roll ambiance for instance.)
After all the killing of darlings and cutting for pace I felt mixed feelings about were my edit was. I liked it and it tells the overall narrative, however I would like the narrative to have been stronger as it has been in the past. This has been an issue I have identified before, however and I realize that I must have been doing something wrong as I clearly haven’t learnt from my mistakes yet, so in my next film the narrative will be my absolute focus, it will be simple, well developed and everything shall revolve around it. When I edit I know that the story is going to be told in full within the time constraints and that it will be told with good understanding and the best possible fundamental techniques.
I don’t feel that this has been my finest hour for editing however I feel I have a better understanding of the cutting hierarchy for example the pace in this film had a greater priority than the continuity and performance higher still. This was evident especially in my first cuts in which I had the story, but the all important amulet had the mysterious power to vanish then re-appear, get torn off then be back again (though with re-editing this was no longer a problem.)
In my above tests I found that I was able to use both of the methods discussed in my research and discovered from playing with the settings in the particle renderer that I can achieved a better result in my renders by boosting the vorticity and dropping the voxel (3d pixel) size however this also effected my render time so that it was taking much longer to complete than I had hoped. On the footage I found that I quite liked the contrast I could achieve by manipulating blues skin tones and brightness on the original footage however I also found that in places this wasn’t working due to the brightness in the sky and the digital distortion it caused on the sand when the sun hit it directly..I tried using rotoscoping to sort this out (sky replacement) however after three weeks of going in every day rotobrushing frame after frame I found that this although it made certain scenes look really amazing there was no way that I could get it finished and have it all at the same standard so at this point I painfully decided to kill my darlings and get rid of all that work which all though it felt like I had wasted three weeks I had learnt a very valuable lesson and was able to deal with it. I did decide however that I liked having a vignette over the footage as it certainly controls the interest and as my footage is very even and balanced in its original color and so can do with something to help draw attention to the center frame.
To make the fire look good I used the following base settings though some of these changed depending on the scene:
Simulate while rendering: 1
Voxel size: 1.6
Grid size: 1213.339 X 364.002 X 485.336
Frame sub-step limits: 5
Pressure iteration limit: 1
Adaptive container: 1
Velocity advection: 1st order
Channel advection: 1st order
Adaptive tracer: 0
Cubic interpolation: 1
Less memory more time: 0
Collision objects enlarge container: 1
Smooth collision surface render: 0
Closed container boundaries: -Y 1
Up-res scale: 2
Fine turbulent intensity: 7.28
Fine turbulent small power: 0.58
Time scale: 100%
Velocity low clip: 2426.679
Velocity dampening: 0%
Particle velocity scale: 0%
Wind direction: 1,0,0
Turbulence intensity: 20
Smallest size: 4.853
Largest size: 19.413
Small power: 0.56
Temperature active: 1
Clip below: 0
Temperature diffusion: 0
Half life: 6.58
Buoyancy direction: 0, 1, 0
Frame offset: 0
Frame step: 1
Step size: 50%
Shadow step size: 50%
Birthrate editor: 1500
Birthrate editor: 15000
Start emission: 0F
Stop emission: 129F
Lifetime variation: 20%
Speed variation: 18%
Rotation variation: 100%
End scale: 1
End scale variation: 0
Emitter type: cone
X size: 6.177
Y size: 6.177
Angle horizontal: 5
Angle Vertical: 0
Falloff function: spline
I rendered and re- rendered at these settings mostly but changed them occasionally if the outcome was really bad like this example:
To animate the fire itself I key frame animated the emitter’s type size rotation and position to match the orientation and 3d position of the subjects hand within the container using a jpeg sequence as a background to base my positioning after my tracking hadn’t worked for the same reasoning as my rotobrushing hadn’t worked ( motion blur, fine edges, low contrast). The issues that arose with this was that if I touched the mouse wheel or certain keys my view would move with the background but not the particles so I would have to try and reset my view the way it was or start again. Once done I would 3d model a basic person and set them as an animated collision object within the container (gravity was controlled in this same way) this was then set to render with the background and collision objects defined as invisible. The longest fire scene took 36 hours alone to render and in total the fire ended up taking about three weeks to animate and render as a jpeg sequence.