Monday, October 17, 2011

Madness and Method.

Yes, my post-shoot blog post was a little bleak and Yes, I have cheered up since then! I was just wiped-out, perhaps a little emotional and a bit disappointed in not getting everything done in the week. I think in the entire week of shooting I slept all of 30 hours, out of 168! And then came off that straight into broken nightmare sleeps... so no, probably was in the best frame of mind. Still, it was how I was feeling at the time and as this blog has the word Journey in the title I have to tell it as is goes.


I've since settled back into normal life and have caught up on sleep (as much as my soon-to-be two year-old daughter lets me! - but I guess that is normal now!) and I was talking with DOP John Lawlor yesterday about a fun idea for a new project!!! It's a sort of sequel to Derelict, but it's a comedy. I think I need to do a comedy after these last few years! It's all been very dark indeed.

I've been logging all the footage (no editing yet) and I must say it looks good, I'm very happy with how it's turned out. I need to finish logging and labeling and start choosing and syncing and then start the edit. I had hoped to have had it started by now but, well, life pokes it's head in and reminds you of the other things you put off while making the film - like finishing the bathroom and bringing the ever increasing pile of recycling to the centre and the contents of the attic to the charity shop! Not that I've actually done any of that mind you... Procrastination!

We're going back in two weeks to shoot pick-ups for a day and then the week after for two days, and that will everything, I hope, should be. I'm looking forward to getting it done. I know it has to be sooner rather then later for risk of it not being completed. I'd rather do it when it's fresh in our minds. And it deserves it of course, both for the film and for the work everyone's put in.

The scenes we're going back to get are really the most important in the film, at least the most important for those characters. One is the scene that changes everything for all the characters and leads to the eventual outcome, and it's just a simple conversation between two characters. The other, the same, a conversation between two characters, that is really theme of the whole film and the emotional center of the piece. So they're important to get.

I was sad we had to drop them in the main shoot, but now I'm glad in a way. Given their importance I'm glad we can take our time with them, settle in to them, spend a day on them rather than a rushed two hours.

In saying that though I don't feel the shoot was rushed... OK, it was a bit, and more in some places than others - But, I think it leant itself to the scenes themselves. For example, when we were shooting the opening scene of the film, where everyone arrives, we really had time constraints on that one, we flew through it, didn't stop for anything, and people got testy and edgy and probably felt rushed - but that was what the scene was about, the characters being on edge, testy, rushed.

This happened again and again, we ended up in similar situations to those being portrayed, which, was my point in doing it this way from the start (see old posts) - being in a situation as close to the real one as possible so we could feed off the energy in the room... albeit a very dark, oppressive and negative energy! But again, we weren't making a romantic comedy here! I always felt like the energy was right, which was probably why I wasn't running around panicking. I was getting what I set out to get - So you see, there was some method to my madness!

Hopefully some more images soon, not too many thought, I don't want to give anything away. Maybe a trailer... probably not for a while though and maybe some outtakes, there are some funny ones I have to say! If I say the words Tone and Jesus, I know some people will already be laughing. More info too on the edit, and pick-ups as they come.

Meantime Thomas and I are back writing on Iscariot. Trying to get a new draft done by the end of November to go looking for money. Will be interesting to see how that goes. So I have one feature to edit and one to write in the next six weeks! Should be fun!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gotta Love October!

As I settle in the edit 'Derelict', two of my short films are off doing their thing around the world.

New Poster (design by Lisa Kay)
First 'Raise My Hands' is screening this week as an Official Selection at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis (my fourth film at the festival since 2006). Trailer on the right -->

And 'Slán agus Beannacht' will be broadcast on RTE2 (Ireland's National Broadcaster) on October 24th as part of their Short Screen series. Very excited about both.

October's turning out to be a busy month!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

First Teaser Poster

Teaser Poster (including first image from the film)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

5am? Let's do one more.

Last Sunday 15 people locked themselves in a dusty, blacked out, 200 year-old abandoned mill to make a film. None of them were ever seen again. Some images and random footage survived. This is their story.

The schedule was out the window before day one had even started. Our lead actor, Michael Bates, had a commercial in the middle of the week, which he had told be about, but assured me it would mean he'd be a couple of hours late one of the days, and to put it to the back of my mind. On the last day of rehearsal he got a call to say he would be needed for two full days, 5:30am pick-up to 6:30pm. Basically meaning he would have to leave early on Monday, be gone all day Tuesday, and be late Wednesday - remember, this was a five day shoot, and Michael was in every single scene of the film. So we were up shit creek from day one.

Michael Bates as J
Let me just say before I continue, this is no slight on Michael, he was fully committed to the film, and on the Wednesday, after a 5:30am start he came straight to the set and shot till 3am. Bad timing was all.

I decided to start shooting on Sunday, what was to be the blocking day, and to make things even more complicated I decided to start with the most complicated part of the film - the end. If you want to know if you're ready for something, get the entire cast in a room talking, shouting and pointing guns at each other. I very quickly realised just how complicated this film really was. There was me thinking a few people in one room would be easy, but it was tricky and mechanical.

The first night was tense. People were on edge. We got started late and then had an issue with the sound equipment. First it went missing. I was supposed to pick it up at 12, but Sue ended up going to get it, wasn't there, took them an hour to track down the guy who had it and then she had to drive into Dublin to find him to get it. Then when she got back the harddrive wouldn't work, wouldn't start up, took Sue two hours of rebooting and phone calls to fix it. So we started 4 hours late.

We got a alot in the can quickly and although we went till 5am, and didn't get done what I had planned to do that night, we still shot 11 pages in that first night. But it wasn't a great start to the week, morale-wise. It got everyone tired right away. The schedule was shunted again, which meant no-one really knew where and when they were.

By mid week the schedule was changing hourly. We were working with who was available and on set. Someone showed up who should have been told they weren't need, things would move. I was just trying to keep one foot in front of the other and not side step off a cliff. I was concentrating on what was in front of me in the moment. But that often meant people were hanging around all day who didn't need to be. Still, we were getting footage in the can.

Painting with Light
The week was up and down. Good days and bad days. I think the lowest ebb was Wednesday night. A particularily difficult and complicated shoot. Everyone's energy was sapped and the energy in the room was throw the floor. The break room that night was silent. Nobody talking and nobody looking at me. I felt hated. I felt as though I was losing my grip on the project and if I'd said 'Let's just leave it' people would have happily exited the building never to be seen or heard from again.

I was asking a lot from people, and although they were committed, they were there, when the schedule started slipping I do believe some people lost their faith in me and perhaps even regretted their decision to be a part of the project. You pick up on a vibe. You see how people look at you. You hear whispers in the corner when they think you're not close enough. That was hard for me. I felt upset and it made it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. I went home that night more depressed then I had ever been on a film. I wont say I cried. But I was close.

I managed a good sleep, which always helps, and came to set with the previous day behind me. I smiled at people as they entered, well aware that everyone was on my project, there for me, and feeding off my energy. If I was sitting in the corner of the room not talking, then that's what I'd get back. So I stood at the stairs and smiled a warm hearty welcome to everyone as they came in. I hope it work. People seemed a bit more cheery that day and we got good work done that night. I was never as low again during the shoot anyway.

Amid the mayhem I believe the film was coming together. I was getting great performance from all involved, and even when at times actors weren't happy with what they were doing, or unsure, or not feeling it, I was continually blown away. The moment of the week came when Elaine Reddy delivered a stunning performance that floored everyone in the room and had us all reeling afterwards. She said she wasn't happy with it, but Fuck Me! I had goosebumps. When I said 'Cut' everyone in the room let out a huge sigh, because they'd all been holding their breath watching her.

This happened again and again for me. I knew scenes were working when I forgot where I was, when I would be watching the monitor and I'd forget to yell 'Cut' because I was at the movies, completely caught up in what was happening and waiting to see what was going to happen next, and then realising I still had to film that part!

It was interesting watching how the actors worked, there were 8 actors and 8 different processes in the room. It was difficult at times. But for me it was working. There was tension, but it was in the right place. People were constantly telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing, I believe they were trying to be helpful and I'm happy to take suggestions, and if they're good I'm more than happy to run with them. But it gets frustrating when people are questioning you, and basically saying you don't know what you're doing. I did know, I knew what I wanted, I knew what I was getting, I knew to keep going if it wasn't their yet. If it takes an extra hour to get the take that makes it into the film and raises the film to a higher standard, then I'm willing to go to bed at 5am instead of 3am.

Bright Star - Catherine Wrigglesworth
There's a sense during any film, or any job, that a some point midweek you've broken it, the majority is done and the final run in should be easier than it has been so far and things can be a bit more relaxed. That's didn't happen on this. I didn't feel we'd broken in until the very last shot on the last day, which still left us with 2 days to pick up later. I know those two days will be more relaxed. But it was tough and tense right till the end.

There were one or two blow-outs during the shoot. People lost their patience. Which was fair enough. I remained calm through out. I almost lost it at one point. I forget exactly what day, Friday night maybe. I'd had enough of people telling me what to do and was building up to a blow out. I figured "Fuck it, I'm done, I'm gone. I'm going home to my wife and daughter, I'm sick of the lot of you..." I was waiting for the moment someone pushed me over the edge, but they didn't so I had a conversation with myself, I calmed myself down and I chose not to embarrass myself and waste everyone's time. We shot the scene and we moved on.

The level of commitment through out really blew me away. People brought their best work to the table and I enjoyed watching everyone work. All the cast brought their best. The crew were outstanding. I'm not going to single anyone out, but there were some star players, and they'll be the people you see go far. I was so grateful, and lucky, to have them.

There are still some scenes to get, the opening of the film, the conversation that changes everything for the two main characters, and the end of the film. All two handers. So hopefully we can go back and get them in the coming months. After all, it's nothing if it's not finished.

I was happy with everything that was going in. I haven't looked back at it yet. But I know there's a film in there. I'm not sure what it is yet though. Something different came out in that room. Something a bit more frightening then I had planned on. It's closer to the bone I think. I'm not entirely sure what I've made. It's the film I wrote. But I'm kind of afraid of this film. We'll see what arrives in the edit.

Me and DOP John Lawlor
Things I've learned on this one: Plan better. Schedule better. Be realistic. Fights are complicated. 8 people in a room talking is complicated (especially when they're pointing guns at each other). Good continuity is so important. An 1st AD is essential. 5 days is probably impossible. Two weeks is better. It's always going to cost more then you had planned for. Shooting in a filthy old building is a pain in the arse. Shoot in a comfortable hotel next time. Shooting dark material can effect you mentally. Remain positive. Focus on what's in front of you. Be in the centre of the room. Step up. Lead. DON'T PANIC.

I'm quite drained this week. I had the first good nights sleep last night. Previous to this it was broken with a lot of anxiety dreams of still filming and nightmares. Today I feel extremely low, which is probably just the come down from such a busy few weeks. So maybe I'll cheer up soon and be dying to get back on set!

But trying not to end on a dull note I am extremely happy with what's been done. The shots are beautiful looking, the performances are outstanding (wouldn't be surprised if there weren't a few awards on the distant horizon) and I think I've made the film I set out to make. I'm looking forward to the edit, I love editing and I'm so excited to start putting all this together, especially to Dermot O'Mahony's score. I think we've got a good film on our hands and I'm looking forward to finishing it and to showing you, especially all those who have supported it over the last year, and those who have believed in me.