In a recent blog I spoke about how sometimes working on one project can lead you to work on something else quite different. At the time I was talking about the experience I had on working on my own film The Apartment. However, recently I was filming a winter wonderland wedding in Nottingham that proved it's not just in independent filmmaking that this sort of collaborative networking can be done. I love filming weddings as they are always different and again you get to be let in on peoples most precious of days; often in beautiful locations that I don’t usually get to visit.
This wedding in December, however, was different for a number of reasons. First it was the coldest day I can remember, once the sun had gone down it was around -10, but also because I finally got to meet and work with highly-regarded photographer Crash Taylor. It was a great experience to work with some so creative and passionate about photography. After that wedding, Crash got in contact about making a film. It was a completely different project to the ones I normally work on and it was using the Canon 5D; something I’d never used before for filmmaking. The idea was to shoot a series of stills with and film to accompany it all centred around the Strigoi Viu - living vampiric witches part of Romanian mythology. Immediately I was interested. So Crash organized the shoot and away we went. It was a great day, the weather just about held off, a great location and a great cast. The results of the shoot can be seen below.
It’s was a great project to be involved in and now there are exciting plans for the future. This includes a screening of the film and exhibition of the photographs as well as the next shoot which is being planned for May. We will be shooting on Canon 5D Mark II again and looking to push ourselves more, now that we can see both what he Canon is capable of doing and more importantly what we are able to do.
I've spoken to a number of companies who have turned down video in the past because of bad experiences. Many because the film company had an imbalance between the commercial and operational aspects of it's business; and so couldn't deliver what the client needed. To help you on your way to choosing the right film production company, I've listed a few things you need to ask and/or look out for:
• Ability to market themselves - is it up to your standards? Or could it use some work?
• Offerings in terms of marketing for you - are they just film production? Or can they offer marketing through video advice that's relevant to your business? What qualifies their marketing advice?
• Added extras such as PR and exposure of new video - can they offer this? Are they as switched on to NEW media and exploiting all avenues of advertising as much as you need them to be?
• Directing the film, rather than just filming - so often I meet other corporate filmmakers who are baffled when we state we have corporate film directors! We are baffled that they're baffled! Any big movie or TV commercial has a director - why should yours be any different? Isn't your company worth the best?
• The people involved in the video production - is there a balance between commercial, operational and creative? This doesn't necessarily mean you need lots of people, just a good indication (along with case studies or testimonials) that those involved can deliver ALL elements. Where were they trained? Where have they gained their experience in filmmaking?
• The project management element - producing a video is a big deal! It's not just about deciding what you want and getting it filmed. There's a lot more to it. Can your production company manage the project from start to finish? Can they fully produce a film? Don't be afraid to ask for proof.
• A variety of work that can be shown in addition to the snippets you see on their website/showreel (a variety meaning a variety of similar videos to yours as well as a variety of videos that show a diverse range of skillset from the production team). A good company won't give it all away on their site, they'll give enough away to allure your phone call/Email contact but will always be keen to share their full portfolio at a first/second consultation.
• Are they video-makers or true filmmakers? What are their reasons for wanting to produce films? What experience have they got to be listed as experts or gurus in this field.
• Quality – find a video you want. It maybe on YouTube, it maybe on your idol company's website. Regardless of cost, this is the video that will provide inspiration for yours. Can your chosen production company realistically deliver? Don't compromise that aim of video production because you're in doubt for any reason.
• Budget – set a budget before meeting a videographer. How much is this video worth to your business. How much business does it need to generate. What's the minimum? Are you expecting enough of your video?
• Understanding of a film set – I have met so many filmmakers who don't understand the importance of good lighting, of a good director or gaffer – you don't need to understand these terms, but you need to understand that your production company does!
• How will the production business understand your business – do they carry out a full consultation and reccy, along with costume, prop and script consultations? If not why not? Your business is worth the full works, so demand it!
• Are they outsourcing or using contractors for any part of your service? How much of the service is being outsourced and why?
• How many crew members are you to expect for your money and why are they needed?
• How long will the filming take? How long will the edit take? Can you edit with your production company in their studios?
• How will your video be displayed or hosted, if online? YouTube is great, and cheap, which fits right in with some first time users of corporate video. A good commercial videography company will NEVER suggest social media sites such as Vimeo as they have a strict "anti-commercial" policy.
• Have you a choice of stock music and tailor-made music? Has the company got access/do they employ a musician/composer?
• Can they provide a list of options/packages that are tailor-made to your needs? (Not just "off the rack" price lists.)
A badly produced video can prove detrimental to your business. Just today I was looking for a new forward thinking supplier for our business, and I relied on the way that their website helped me understand them to enable me to produce a shortlist. One website was fantastically well presented, but the image was destroyed by a badly produced video that can only be described as a "home video" done on a mini HD camera hosted on YouTube. This was the deciding factor for me, could it be the deciding factor for your prospective clients?
As you may know Light Films are currently in pre-production for their next short movie ‘Shelf Stackers’. My name is Tommy Draper; I’m the writer of the screenplay and this is my blog trying to explain how Shelf Stackers has gone from a blank piece of paper to the movie screen.
Toward the end of 2010, just after the filming of Coming Home finished, I met with Tom Wadlow to chat about working together on a new project. We had never met until then but I had been in contact with Light Films through Twitter and Facebook. During our first meeting we discussed movies we liked, movies we had made and the sorts of movies we wanted to make. We had several ideas flying around. One of the ideas that I had mentioned was about a group of people working the nightshift in a 24-hour Super Market; the title was Shelf Stackers. The idea was just that, an idea. No plot, just the thought that it would make a decent indie movie.
Cut to several months later and me and Tom are having regular meetings and working on several screenplays. Tom mentions that he’s had an idea for the plot of Shelf Stackers; a simple story of a young man working his last shift who falls for the young woman replacing him. We both liked the idea so I set about writing a screenplay draft.
The very first thing when creating a screenplay is to decide on the genre. For Shelf Stackers it was always going to be a comedy, which is both a first for Light Films and for me too.
Actor Jordan Hollis who is in the running for "Mike" one of the characters in the film
The next stage is to create the characters. I always start with the 3 main characters; the ‘hero’, the ‘villain’ and the ‘love interest’. I then think about the secondary characters. In the case of Shelf Stackers I knew I needed a Boss to manage the store, I needed to have customers.
All of these characters are lifeless and, like all good creations, need to be brought to life. Each character is given a name and a short biography. Everything written about them will help create a more rounded character, making them seem as real as possible.
Now that the characters have names, histories and personalities they need a world to live in, that world are the scenes which tell the story. This is normally when a writer will put together a treatment, something to be used as a story guide. With Shelf Stackers, as I tend to do with a short films, I usually just write the first draft from the character notes and any ideas that are residing in my head. The first draft came together pretty quickly but it wasn’t exceptional.
Just before Christmas I had another meeting with Tom where we discussed the first draft and how it should be changed. Tom had the excellent idea of telling the story from the point of view of the 5 ‘Shelf Stackers’. This would give each character their own story, so we would see the same incidents but from different perspectives to give different outcomes and play with viewers perceptions. This is a story telling method I’ve always wanted to try but never felt I had the story to justify it but for Shelf Stackers I thought it would work.
Tom Wadlow, Director, with Tom Murton, actor, during a recent improvisation/script read-through session
One snowy day (one of the many snowy days) in December I started again on the screenplay. Normally with a new draft you can take what you’ve already got and adjust it. But since I was totally changing the structure of the story I had to almost start all over again. The screenplay was one of the more difficult pleasures I’ve ever worked on.
After a couple of days of copying the old scenes, writing new scenes, adjusting scenes, checking for consistency it was finally ready. The second draft was 50 pages long, making it a 50 minute movie which for a short film is a long time.
Cut to early 2011 and another script meeting, both me and Tom agree that the script is way too long. The only way to fix it is to take out two of the character’s stories; this should cut about 20 pages/minutes from the script. But then there is the issue of which stories do you leave out? We know we need to keep the romance element of Fish (hero) and Katy (love interest) so their stories become the first and last; the bookends for the screenplay. As for the ‘middle’ story we decided on a very different point of view, the one of Gloria, the Boss of the store and the most unique and touching story (in my opinion) of the screenplay.
Jordan Hollis and Tom Murton, local actors who helped bring the script alive at the improv session.
The character stories decided another draft was quickly written and the casting call is sent out by Light Films and it gets a good response.
The screenplay is now ready; the stories are in place, the structure works. All that is left is to work on better dialogue, making it more ‘real’. To help do this my last meeting at Light Films involved an improvisation session (courtesy of Jordan and Tom – a different Tom, not the director one) which has given rise to many new lines, some of which I have used in the fourth draft of the screenplay which was completed a few nights ago.
So from here on in the screenplay (give or take an adjustment or two) for Shelf Stackers is complete. The pages that were once empty are now full of characters and life. The task now is to take those pages into the real world and create a short but entertaining movie.
I’m sure there will be more on the movie’s development soon.... watch this space!
We have recently held yet another Premiere at Derby Conference Centre for Ashgate Primary, St Wyston’s Primary and Gayton Primary, where each school produced their very own film incorporating the topic of Pantomimes and Fairytales. Each child had the opportunity to create their ideas for the story, write the script, storyboard their film and work to produce it by being the sound, camera person or the producer. I've been so proud of the students' efforts, and the end result was fantastic.
Our Summer School Movie Makers receiving their certificates and DVDs from me.
We were really pleased that The Derby Evening Telegraph came to see our work at Ashgate in November, whilst the film was being produced.
They published a fantastic article which also included the Premiere of Chellaston Juniors, the summer term holiday club and the Saturday Movie Makers club, you can read the article by clicking here.
Each and every student involved has worked really well, whether they have been behind the camera or in front. During last term it was exceptionally hard as unfortunately we had a technical issue, known as 'digital fallout' with one of the films that was made at a school. This is not something can be helped, however it was very difficult to have to tell the children that it needed to be re-filmed. It was disappointing for all of us, but we have overcome this by arranging a re-shoot and another film premiere. All the children are very excited to be able to film this project again and are really looking forward to it.
Are Renaya & Ruben following in their Mum's footsteps onto the cobbles of Coronation Street?
The schools this term, which include Brackensdale, St Benedicts, Mickleover Primary, and Walter Evans, are currently working to produce a Music video, enabling the students to write their own lyrics and to sing them.
They have been working hard to record these to music which has been composed especially for the after school clubs.
We are currently looking forward to our two holiday clubs that will be running during February half term. February 21st and 22nd 10am until 3pm is creating an advert and February 24th and 25th 10am-3pm is creating an Urban Music Video, to read more click here.