‘No Tag-backs’ – Pre-production

We are getting closer to shooting our first short film!

After deciding that we wanted to shoot James Root’s script, it became obvious we needed a house to film in. Since all the other guys live in Halls, I asked my landlord and got his permission to film in our house.

Risk assessment, recce form, location declaration, letter from Uni that this is an actual study project – these are just some of the documents needed to start filming in someone’s house. We are working on them.

On Friday, Chris, James, Jack and me gathered in the house for an initial recce (By the way, amazing two hours – very productive and, may I say, professional :-)). We went through the script scene by scene to discuss how we want to shoot it, what props we would need, what problems there might be (continuity, lighting, reflections from windows, to name but a few), and we rehearsed some of the scenes on location. It soon became obvious we would need to change some scenes in order to keep the story flowing.

The main thing we needed to consider was that in the original script, the protagonist looks out of the kitchen window to check what is happening on the street, while the house we are using (and probably any other house we would have used) has the kitchen facing the backyard. So instead of looking out the window, the protagonist would have to check the front door.

The door turned out to be the next problem – the front door itself is not wooden (while the inner door is – and they are different colours), so it would be pretty akward to have the Unknown man knock on a glass door – it would change the nuance of the story. So we’ll probably need a moment in the film where someone leaves the door open.

Sound was the next aspect of the film we discussed. There were ideas to record and mix the sounds later, but we eventually agreed that it’s better to have a decent actual sound (even though it is not perfect), than to try and reconstruct the perfect soundscape later. Another important tip we remembered was to record 1-2 mins. of background sound at each location we are shooting – so that we can use it in the final edits.

Organisation and communication

Since the house is in a residential area far from the city centre (and Uni), there are a couple of things to keep in mind when organising shooting:

  • Moving people and equipment around
    No one has a car. And the crew will be 8-10 people, plus equipment. So basic logistics will help us keep costs (Taxi rides) and tension (waiting times, people wandering around) down.
    + we need to make sure we’ve booked out, collected and checked all the equipment before heading to the house
  • Shooting days and scene order
    Which is better: to shoot the big group of people first and then concentrate on the internal shooting, or the other way around? We also need to consider light changes (if we shoot too late, it won’t look like it’s morning), traffic (we will be shooting on streets, so if the traffic is too intense, that would be a problem), people’s other plans for the day etc.

Communication is the other big issue. Even though it looks like a small student project, there are more people and factors to take into account. We have already changed the shooting date and plans twice, and each change has to be well communicated with everyone involved.

While we spent good three hours planning and even taking pictures of the house and locations, I now realise we could have made almost a full storyboard with actual photos of the protagonist and shooting angle, but we didn’t think of it on Friday. I think it could be quite useful, so I hope to incorporate this idea in the next projects we work on.

Shooting is scheduled for next week, and we are all looking forward to it with excitement and anticipation 🙂

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