'We’re here for a good time, not a long time’: Making the feature film

by Keith AlvendiaLeave a Comment

Following up from yesterday's post on this movie….

The story so far

From Kerry Harrison:

To be perfectly honest, I'd never had any intentions to make a feature film until I received the script for this one. The script was from an old friend, David Gledhill, and came with a note that said, “I don't know if you're crazy enough to want to make a film, but let me know if you are.” And I loved the script so much that I simply had to say yes; no matter how crazy it may have seemed at the time. Now until this point I'd only ever made short documentary based films, there'd always been a vague notion that I'd enjoy working on something with a narrative, but I'd never really given it much thought.

When we met to discuss the idea, David said that we’d need to raise around £50k in order to make the film. However, my understanding was that the most important thing would be to actually go ahead and make the film, instead of waiting around for funding which was, for me, a waste of time. It sounds obvious, but I've known countless people fail in the actual making of their film, and usually it hasn’t been their fault. I wanted to avoid the problems and delays of finding funding, using a huge crew, shutting down streets, etc. Instead, I just wanted do it on my own terms in a way that I knew would work.And crucially, I also knew that this could be done for way less than £50k.

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For a start I was really excited about the script, and had a very clear idea for the look of the film. I wanted it to be timeless and to not look dated in a few years.I wanted the whole film to have a distinctive visual tone, and so I drew up a colour palette for everything, which we weren't to deviate from. For instance, I knew that I wanted hardly any red in the film. This proved frustrating for everybody because every time a red car drove past, we had to stop filming. But it’s these details that really give a film a memorable look, and it meant that our film almost looked graded as we shot it.

I knew that logistically, with virtually no budget for locations and only 17 production days, we were going to have to be really quick with each scene. And so I opted to film with multiple cameras. This could be seen as adding more problems to the schedule as I had to meticulously work out the blocking and light interiors so they would work from multiple angles at the same time. But on the other hand, once I’d done that we were able to work with 2, 3 and sometimes 4 cameras at once. Another massive benefit for the actors was that we could get both performances at the same time. We did have a fantastic cast who would’ve been fine working with one camera, but I felt that it added to the feel of the film. And this way, they could really respond to each other and find subtleties that only arise when you're performing together.

Camera wise, I had many trains of thought. As a photographer, I used to love shooting on film and was gutted when digital became the expectation. I just love the way that film handles highlights and the subtlety ofcolour. And so my preferred visual aesthetic was always 35mm film, but I knew that our budget (or lack of) ruled that out straight away. I then considered hiring a RED camera, but the multiple camera way of working would’ve soon become very pricey with 2 cameras, 2 sets of lenses, etc. Also, I didn’t really want a super sharp looking ‘slick’ feel to the film. I realisedthat I really liked what I was already getting from my 5Ds, and that as long as we worked within the constraints of that camera, this would be the best option. One massive bonus was that I already owned the cameras as well as most of the lenses.Another bonus came in knowing that the small form factor would benefit us enormously when working within a small campervan, or carrying the kit up the side of a mountain in a storm.

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So, the decision was made, and thankfully The Flash Centre in Leeds helped out with extra lenses; including a 300mm f2.8 that Andy and Alex, the 2 other camera ops, would stare at longingly! As pretty much all of the film was shot either in gloomy overcast flat light or controlled interior situations, we could keep all of the information in the files and shot with a fairly flat profile.

In terms of being director, DOP and camera op at the same time, I feel that my ‘day job’ as a photographer really helped. I shoot people for advertising, branding and design agencies, and as a photographer you really are all three roles at once. The whole look of the images in terms of lighting and composition is dictated by me; I take the images, and I’m also involved earlier in defining the content of the images and how that works with brands and particular ad campaigns. So whenever I worked on larger budget TV commercials as director I would always specify exactly what the I wanted to the DOP and then often ended up actually operating the camera as well; all of which makes me seem like a control freak, but is actually just what I’m used to doing day in day out.When operating the camera on the film, I feltway more involved in the scene and could make subtle camera moves around the actors to highlight certain emotions or emphasise certain lines.

Here's an interview with Glen and Kerry which talks about making a feature film without a producer.

(cover photo credit: snap from the video interview)

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