Continuing the story from last week of my friend’s film director experience. I’m a little bit confused by the spelling – cineage or cinage – but never mind. let my friend tell his own tale.
But suddenly came December and we had to choose three scripts written by ourselves to turn into three short films with the inevitable disappointments for those whose scripts were not selected. I reconciled myself with the realisation that my rejected script involved complex production logistics that would most likely be over-budget (This is called being in denial). But I did get to become the Director of another script and hence our three person Cineage student directorial team, (Director, Producer, and Associate Producer) endeavoured to prepare for the early January filming in a pre-Christmas period made even busier and pressurised. Accordingly before we departed for the Christmas break we were issued with a 24 page production Passport with 18 check list forms, ranging from a Pre-Production Schedule Plan to a Health and Safety Assessment, all variously requiring approval stamps and signatures. We were also issued with a 119 page Student Production Manual incorporating The Companion Guide to the Production Passport. (Cancel the Christmas Break)! However although there were indeed procedures to be followed and some signatures and permission to be arranged, much of the form filling requirements were for fully fledged film projects. However, any delusions that we were now fully qualified film makers were put into perspective with the reality of how much procedural planning was needed to make a film and how many potential problems had to be anticipated.
Some say that “problems are merely challenges looking for solutions” and the first challenge our Directorial team encountered was to find a suitable location to meet the requirements of the script’s narrative. We needed a vestibule or hallway space with interior letter boxes (as in flats) as a space between an inner and outer door into which the subject of our story would find himself locked and trapped (‘Trapped’ being the title of our film script). We looked here and there for such a location and time was rapidly running out. We had a quick consideration of my own front porch, but rejected it as too small and with worries about the walls being mainly glass, though at the time I thought the glass might have filmic (?) possibilities. Then a local landlord came to our rescue and we found what seemed to be a suitable venue. We emailed photographs of the space, walls and doors (and included a few pictures of places we had rejected) down to London to the project’s Director of Photography (a graduate of the Northern Film School working professionally). Guess what – the DoP preferred the rejected location of my own front porch, suggesting that the glass walls could make for interesting photographic qualities. Following lengthy telephone discussions, obtaining the agreement of my wife, Maria, and apologies to the landlord, we (the Cineage student directorial production team plus the DoP) all agreed that ‘home’ should be the location for Trapped. (Perhaps Maria’s approval was influenced by the possibility that as a former nurse she would be considered by other Cineage crew for a brief appearance in their film – that just happened to include a short scene with a nurse)!
And so it was on a cold but dry early January morning in 2015 that a film crew and its equipment descended upon our house for two days filming. We Cineage student volunteers had done a filming exercise early on our course with a small camera on a tripod and a sound microphone and this was what myself and my wife Maria expected. But then a big van turned up with a full size digital camera, a large adjustable camera stand, yards and yards of cable and connectors, gantry poles, light reflectors and diffusers, booms, microphones, monitors, battery chargers and several other boxes of filming stuff. Luckily we could use Maria’s back yard studio shed to store some of this equipment when not in use. The Call Sheet that had been emailed us the night before kind of forewarned us that quite a large entourage would also turn up, (the catering crew had already arrived at dawn to prepare breakfast) and accordingly there arrived at about another 12 people – sound and lighting and camera crews, production assistant and continuity, make up, general assistants, the course organiser and so on. (Whatever will the neighbours think –especially once the externally placed high powered lights were turned on)? Oh and then later on the second day another film crew turned up – students of the Northern Film School making a documentary about Cineage and filming the filming!
Anyway, back to the first day. I was beginning to be overwhelmed by the gathering of so many people and also began to wonder whether I would have any meaningful role, there being a very experienced DoP and also one of our course lectures up from London as the designated 1st Assistant Director, also very professionally experienced in film making. I decided to begin on a positive and assertive note and donning my Director’s baseball cap, called everyone together over the morning breakfast, made a kind of rallying pre-Agincourt like speech and ended with a Hill Street Blues type call of “let’s get out there and get filming!” (Or maybe I imagined I did)
Certainly the professionals were very helpful and supportive but I soon discovered that I did have a genuine director’s role, making decisions about particular shots, directing the action, trying to keep the pace going, deciding on re-takes (of which there were many). One thing became apparent, that as the actual filming evolved within the particular characteristics of the chosen set and the actor’s nuances, the script became a little more flexible, to such extent that it was through the actual shooting that we decided to change the ending. (It was a kind of organically arrived at decision, talked through and determined by the nature of the action as it evolved as a visually performative narrative – a kind of cooperative creative osmosis). We all worked very well together – students, hardened professionals, and Cineage elders during an exhausting but immensely satisfying two days. While undoubted the post-production process –the editing, the sound effects, colour harmonising and background music, would also contribute to the final product and while the final outcome will be the collective responsibility and work of several people, my brief sojourn as a Director was an immensely rewarding creative experience – especially in being able to decisively utter those magic words – “quiet please! Sound? Camera? ACTION! “To be followed shortly later by” CUT! “What creative power. Growing old was proving not to be too bad – thanks to Cineage.