Friday, January 29, 2010
Foggy days often make me want to write something creepy. It's easy to let your mind get lost, right along with your other senses, on a nice foggy day. Having ideas fall into place like they did today is a great feeling, especially when there weren't really any solid ideas to begin with. That often ends up being the best kind of story though, one that surprises you as you write it. Definitely a satisfying feeling. I'd better go fill in some details to this new story before it slips away again.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"When you put it that way... I mean who really wants to say goodbye? Hello is great, it holds promise, but goodbye is the dreaded final punctuation at the end of the story. Now that I think about it, every time I have seen you over the past decade or so (as few and far between as those visits have been), I have been all to cognizant of an undercurrent of remorse knowing full well the fleetingness of the situation and the inevitable conclusion looming just over the horizon. It is always great to see you, invigorating even, but just a goodbye would be infinitely worse than no hello."
"I miss you and wish that we had been able to share a few moments, but in retrospect, I am definitely glad I didn't get to say goodbye. Next time, let's work towards the infinitely more promising hello, and with any luck, at least a few hours of quality face time. I'm good with that if you are."
Off to the Word Processor. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
His story began, like so many stories before, once upon a time…
He was not always regarded as a figure of legend and an ominous warning designed by all parents to ensure the good behavior of their children. He was not always regarded as a dark and sinister shadow that creeps through the night in search of terrified young victims.
He was not always regarded so, just as he wasn’t the first to be regarded in such a way.
I've had this story brewing for a few years now, essentially about the birth of the Boogeyman and how he got to be the way he is and the thing he is. It's an interesting concept that I need to stir around a bit, but it is getting to a point where there could be something to it. In fact, we are now toying with the idea of turning it into an animated short, not unlike the ones the National Film Board would have done back in the day. I can see it as a rough and scratchy piece, dark and impressionistic. I can see it that way, but I'm just the writer so I guess that will really be up to the artiste. Based on The Gloaming and the rough sketch he did for the novel I'm working on, I am sure he'll figure it out.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
As an added bonus, once the film goes live, the link to watch it there will too so make sure you bookmark that space now. For any overseas, or beyond-the-borders-of-Canada viewers, I'm afraid the site is only open to Canadians.
We are working on some exciting developments behind the scenes right now though and we hope that these new developments will allow us to make some of our past projects available on a more global scale in the near future. We need to wait out some of these festival runs first though. These festivals work very hard to develop exciting programming and we want to ensure that we aren't stepping on the generous toes of those who select our work to feature in their festivals. Showing a film that can be seen on YouTube isn't exactly a red carpet affair (unless you happen to have red carpets where you do your YouTube surfing).
Anyway, bookmark that page and hopefully in early February, you will be able to see how our hard work paid off on this latest project...
CUT TO: P.O.V.
A woman lies partially obscured in the undergrowth. She is bruised and battered, her clothing torn and disheveled. She is very obviously dead.
Did you trip over your shoelace
or was it all those big words?
CUT TO: WIDE
DAVID glances back and forth between COLIN and the body, a panicked look of disbelief still on his face
I... There’s a body. In the
DAVID glances back but the body is gone.
FADE TO BLACK
DAVID and COLIN are sitting at the bar. The only sound is music. COLIN is laughing and talking animatedly to some friends. DAVID remains motionless, the pint in front of him steadily draining and refilling without him ever raising his arm. Eventually, he stands and the noise of the bar fills in.
I gotta go.
Stay for one more.
Not tonight. I’m beat.
DAVID stands, ready to leave and catches a glimpse of the DEAD GIRL in a mirror. He quickly whips his head around, but there is nothing there.
Are you sure you’re okay?
I’m fine. Just a little drunk.
You didn’t see another dead
body did you?
The GROUP laughs and with a shake of his head, DAVID wanders out.
CUT TO: EXT. BAR
DAVID steps out into the night and sets off down the sidewalk. The door bursts open behind him and COLIN appears.
Dave! Hold up. Are you sure
I’m fine Colin, just a little
Are you sure?
And you... Haven’t seen
It was just a shadow; leaves.
Of course it was, but I want
to make sure you’re okay.
A little drunk, and in need of
a bed. Epicurus was right, all
things in moderation.
DAVID wanders off down the street and COLIN eventually turns and re-enters the bar.
FADE TO BLACK
That's a small snippet of the story, but it spirals outward from that moment. We're trying to branch out a bit and try some new directions and styles and we thought a ghost movie might be fun to attempt. Some camera tricks, a bit of ominous lighting, some eerie sounds and hopefully a few bumps in the night. I'll be revisiting the script over the next few days seeing what I can trim, and what can be tightened. It should be a good exercise in the art of the judicious edit.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A sharp tongued protagonist battles fearsome foes and saves the beautiful dame from distress. It was a little rote, but a fun time nonetheless. The one thing that really stuck out about the episode was the music though. It was this grand orchestral sweep, when a more low key techno score would have served the show better. More jarring was the use of the music - during a fight scene towards the end of the movie, the hollow orchestrations swelled up bringing to mind the Titanic surging towards its inevitable rendezvous on the rocks; or maybe even Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia riding in silhouette along a distant dune, the sun setting in a fiery glaze of pinkish orange behind him. What the music did not communicate was the very scene playing out beneath it. It was a huge disconnect and the entire scene suffered, all because of one inappropriate music cue.
Music plays a vital role in building your scene and your world. Imagine Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Superman without John Williams, or the works of Tim Burton without the whimsical bombast of Danny Elfman.
Now imagine scoring a fight scene to Moonlight Sonata? It probably could be done, but it would be done to create a dramatic parallel in the scene, not just to accompany two tough guys pummeling each other. Music sets the mood. Keep that in mind, and to see what I am talking about when I say that music can break a scene as easily as it can make one, check your local listings for Human Target... A potentially decent show, lost in really bad use of music.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Finding Miss M...
A most righteous event has occurred. My good friend M has finally obtained his life's goal; true love. That's right, he recently met the girl of his dreams. The ultimate prize and yet the ultimate price to pay!
M had always been a pretty happy guy though he often told me how he often felt completely alone. I personally believe it had something to do with his struggles in the Questings of Love. He had always wanted a lover whom he could love and cherish and yet, as with most nice guys, he often fell short. Sure, he had his share of lovers but in them (or perhaps himself), he always found something missing, something wrong. M's big problem was that he was never happy with what he had. For him, half the fun was wondering how SHE felt. He spent his nights lying awake in bed wondering if his current "dream girl" liked him or if it was a one sided delusion.
"Sure," he once admitted, "it's agonizing but I enjoy the curiosity. Once I get them, the fun is all gone."
M would often meet great women; beautiful, funny and highly personable yet he would always find some fault. "I don't like her laugh," he would confide in me, "it annoys me. I just don't think we're going to work out." There was always something wrong with M's girls; usually, it was another girl.
"I don't know why but there is always the one I dream of, my Ms. Right but they never happen. It is a depressingly endless cycle. I don't know why I can't be happy, I just can't."
Now don't get me wrong, as I mentioned before, M is of a generally cheerful disposition. I have known him for just over four years and in that time the only sadness was caused by rejections by his "dream girls".
I remember one occasion quite vividly. It was a summer romance (or so he thought) and when it went bad, he took it to heart. He had loved that girl a lot. Who could blame him though, she was small, beautiful, well built and fun. They spent a lot of time together developing a beautiful relationship and when he finally had enough courage to ask her out, she backed off and became cold and distant. M was devastated but he managed to pull through. They are still friends, but things will never be the same.
She was one of the two girls he had ever loved. WAM! right in the heart. An icy arrow that clipped his wings, the Wings of Desire, and sent him crashing to the cold, rocky ground of reality.
He recovered, then he fell in love again. If he was crushed so badly the first time then why risk love again? He said it just 'happened' but I know better. M is a reckless guy and I believe that this was just another risk to take.
He walked up to me as carefree as can be and said, "I fell in love the other day, it was nice.
It was kind of weird and I wasn't sure if I could believe him or not. He told me how he had met a beautifully humorous blonde girl and described her as "the perfect compliment" I realized that he was very much in love and smiled as he described their meeting.
"It was a hot day," he began, a huge grin smeared across his face, "unlike any you have ever known," he continued, "because it was pleasantly hot. I met her on a beach you know. I was walking along with no real destination or thoughts, I was just sort of... walking. Being September, the beach was quite empty. Anyway," he announced, shaking his head as if to clear it, "I was walking along when I heard someone whispering my name. I looked about but there was no one to be seen. Isn't that strange? I remember looking out over the lake..." He paused to collect his thoughts and an even bigger smile passed over his features.
"The sun was setting so at first I saw nothing but the bright orange fear sinking into oblivion," he explained, "then I noticed a silhouette approaching me. She ran her fingers through her long golden hair and the closer she got, the more she came into focus. She's beautiful, really beautiful. More so than the spectacular sunset that had at first, framed her lovely form. She was completely naked and her hand was stretched out towards me. What was I supposed to do? I took it into mine and she looked deep into my eyes. She read me like a book as I looked helplessly into the chasms of her piercing green eyes. They were perfect, unlike any I had ever seen. She talked to me in a soothing voice, tranquil and mild yet full of power." M paused for a moment. "She wants me to return tonight and I want you to come."
I remember looking at M for a long time before agreeing to join him. We got our stuff together and went down to the beach. He chattered excitedly all the way there.
We walked along the sandy beach for a while then M stopped me. "This is the spot," he announced. Soon, as the sun was setting, a figure became visible in the orange glow. She was naked and her body gleamed enticingly in the soft light.
"Hello M," she purred in a voice smoother than silk.
My heart skipped a beat. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. More beautiful even than anyone I had ever dreamed of.
She held her hand out towards M and said one exotic word: "Come." M took her hand and followed her out into the lake. He didn't even look back. I never saw M or the mysterious woman again...
I now live in a small house down by the lake, not far from where M fell in love and in the end, paid the price. He gave his life for an eternity in ecstasy; a price any sane man would be glad to pay.
Every now and then I think I see two people walking out into the setting sun. Two lost souls swimming in a bright orange fishbowl. Year after year I see them and year after year I long to be with them; to know what love feels like with no inhibitions. I long to see through the charade and into the substance.
M suffered through his hardships and found his paradise. I fear he has left me behind on an endless search for ecstasy, not knowing that my paradise is already lost...
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
When a rough scene is finished, it is exhilarating. With About The Girl, each new scene brought a renewed interest to the process and inspired us to keep working through the often tedious editing process. Uploading footage, from all those different angles we captured, took a great deal of time. Stringing it all together, even more. Still, with each new scene, we were closer to our goal. We were happy with our progress, but there was something missing.
We were missing music. As a quick patch solution, we added some temp tracks added into the scenes, stuff that we had lying around in iTunes, and they finally started clicking the way we had imagined. The problem was, using popular music can be a very costly endeavor and this was no-budget film making.
When I first sat down to write About The Girl, even in the early noir version, the opening scene was always the same slow reveal of a beautiful dead girl in a creek. I had a song in mind for that scene and I decided to rekindle an old friendship to see if it might work. In the end, my good friend Mark Bradford was happy to supply not only Pete's Dam, the song that I had envisioned for that opening scene, but also a full soundtrack to our film under the guise of his recording name punch me hard. Do yourself a favour and visit that link.
There is no denying that the music of punch me hard resulted in a more powerful story than even I had imagined. A perfect example is the final scene, as the three weary friends walk out to the bridge and read the note. We had a song in place, one that had become inextricably linked to the scene thanks to repeat viewings and refinements to the scene, but when we replaced it with happy new year, Mark's punch me hard effort, something surprising happened. The scene suddenly felt complete. Mark's beautiful song increased the melancholy, beauty, and perhaps most surprisingly, the hope of our closing scene. Hope was not something we had envisioned for the closing moments of our film, but thanks to Mark's incredible talents, we realized that hope was something that had always been there: it just needed the right cue to make itself known.
Music can change your life, and it can change your movie too. Many of the scenes that we had grown accustomed to with temp tracks, took on subtle new characteristics and sometimes, a refined emotional resonance with Mark's input. I have always respected Mark as a musician and a friend, and that is more true than ever after collaborating with him on our first film. Mark's music provided our film with a strong thematic through line and served to reinforce not just the action on screen, but the emotional journey our characters had taken. I look forward to working with him again in the future. He is a talented musician first and foremost, but he also provided us with the perfect direction as to how his songs should be incorporated. That is a totally different skill set. Collaboration is the key to success for no-budget film making and if this is something you are going to attempt, you should make sure you surround yourself with talented artists. It will make your experience all the more pleasant.
You should really take a minute to visit the link above and check out some ofthe music on the punch me hard site, including Happy New Year, which closed out our film. You'll be glad you did.
Next time: How to premiere your movie (unofficially), with no-budget.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
When we were shooting About The Girl, we encountered a challenges and setbacks that could have threatened to derail the entire project. For starters, our first day of shooting was in early September, a time of year where the days are generally warm, and the evenings cool. We were shooting some "summer" footage and planned to hold off a bit to capture some great fall colours for the primary outdoor scenes, but we soon realized that shooting a no-budget film was a rather time consuming endeavor. Any number of factors can affect your production, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. He are a few of the bigger obstacles we had to deal with...
1. Scheduling Life
Favours were called in and a cast and crew formed with everyone generously participating on a voluntary basis. This meant that a wide range of work and familial obligations had to be factored into our shooting schedule. There were many late starts, few rehearsals, and fortunately only one day-long hangover that resulted in a last minute recast of a major speaking role on the day of shooting, and subsequently some last minute "summer" re-shoots in early November.
2. Water Temperatures
In the opening scene, the camera slowly pans across an ominous structure, slowly drifting down to a dramatic final reveal: a pale redhead lying face down in the coppery waters of a slow-flowing river beneath a train trestle. We filmed the shot a dozen times but wound up using the first take, the only one where our corpse wasn't shivering too violently to be convincingly dead. It worked out beautifully, thanks to the stalwart dedication of our "dead girl". She was a trooper through and through.
3. Bad Audio
We spent a cold October afternoon huddled underneath a dripping bridge, struggling to get the words to spill forth from our chattering teeth. It was a fantastic location, but on that particular day, it was like being in a wind tunnel, assailed by a constant barrage of icy rain pellets that were driven in sideways on the gusting winds off the lake. When we got back to the studio to review the footage, we soon realized that the only sounds our boom mic had picked up were the howling winds and the hollow clang of the microphone cord pinging off a metal support beam. Still, not many people realized that the voices, cars, flowing water, wind and cackling crows in that scene were all added in post.
4. Real World Locations
Sometimes a passing car or plane would drown out our shot, or people would walk around a corner and find themselves suddenly on camera. These were fairly easy issues to deal with compared to the evening we decided to shoot our dive bar scene in an actual dive bar with actual dive bar patrons in attendance. While the crew set up the dolly track and equipment, the two principal actors rehearsed their lines, including a scene where a brief skirmish erupts. Despite the congenial approach, the rehearsal was quickly broken up by the owner who didn't want any trouble and who was clearly confused when we explained that we were just practicing our lines. After sorting out the misconception, we started rolling cameras, but were shortly after interrupted when one of the patrons fell down the stairs on her way out and we had to break while the bar was flooded by the flashing red lights of the ambulance that had come to her rescue. Still, despite all the confusion, the background smoke coughers added a lived in feeling to the production, and they were very accommodating of the "movie people from New York". It was worth the extra time we invested in that scene, and just as well we didn't need re-shoots because the bar wound up closing the following day.
5. Inclement Weather
We arrived on set for our the last day of shooting, anxious to have the last scene in the bag, and surprised to find almost three inches of snow had fallen overnight. We were scheduled for a 10am start, and it was 1pm by the time we had shoveled, swept, and flooded the snow from the dock and reestablished our autumn time line. It was more work that we anticipated and by the end of the day, we were racing the setting sun to get our final shots. We did in the end though, and it couldn't have worked out better.
Adapting to change and last minute crises is part of the thrill of film making. We the shooting done, we settled into the editing suite and the hours bled into days, and eventually weeks and months. During that time, About The Girl slowly took form and after a quick pick-up shoot in the spring to smooth out a bumpy scene transition, we were ready to add the permanent soundtrack.
I'll tell you about that next time...
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
About The Girl was our first project, a simple story of lost love with an investigative twist; a murder mystery that intentionally bordered on cliché and proved to be a much more ambitious undertaking than we had initially planned. Early drafts of the script leaned towards a film noir set in a small Northern Ontario town sensibility, a concept that proved to be conceptually appealing, but somewhat beyond our range as a starting point for what we were dubbing “our experiment in film”. And that really is what the film was to us, an experiment to see if we could bring together the people, technology, and artistry required to produce something that would not be a cringe-worthy and abject failure.
Keep it simple, was the request from Kevin Hoffman, our elected director. After nearly two weeks of back and forth deliberation about the merits of concept vs. the benefits of practicality (primarily conducted as an internal dialogue with myself), the script was completed – now re-purposed with 50% more simplified dialogue and a streamlined story. Attentive viewers will notice that a few of the initial noir elements remain in the script, mostly in the form of some of the more colourful wordplay. I think it makes for a nice everybody-wins compromise, and a handful of entertainingly awkward line deliveries.
With the shooting script finalized, we were ready to start filming and on a chilly evening in September of 2007, we filled a small apartment bathroom with lights, cameras and the slightest hint of action – and were hooked right away. The first scene we filmed was a pensive bathroom mirror scene, a last-minute addition to the shooting script that was designed to create an added layer of intrigue in the story. It was a small scene, but a perfect test of everyone’s mettle, from the acting, to the direction and technical aspects of film. We spent the better part of an hour rigging up light reflector panels; angling and repositioning lights; testing sound levels and ambient noise; and setting up a simple yet dynamic shot. It was not an overly exciting process, and it took an insanely long time to capture the ten seconds of footage that appeared in the final scene, but it was exhilarating, methodical, thrilling and above all immensely satisfying.
Everything exploded from there and we spent the next several weeks jumping from location to location; shooting and re-shooting scenes; uploading, reviewing and editing footage; and planning our shoots days in advance to ensure that we were able to cover all the angles. Having multiple speaking parts and a single camera to shoot with meant that even the simplest scenes required multiple takes to get all the coverage and multiple angles we would need to build a dynamic scene. Our baptism into film was never destined to be a smooth procedure and we hit a number of bumps along the way. Here’s the thing though, each time we did hit a bump we came up with a quick and effective Plan B.
Here is my first piece of advice to any budding film makers in the audience today. If making movies is something you think you would like to do, make sure you plan everything in advance and know that your plans most likely won’t play out the way you anticipated.
Inclement weather, technical issues, wayward cast members, medical emergencies… There are any number and combination of things that can and will get in the way. I would even say that you would be wise to make sure you have a Plan B… for your Plan B. Improvising is a great skill to have in film: it can be used by actors to build a better scene and rapport, and it can also be used to achieve equally wonderful results by directors, cinematographers, producers, editors and writers.
This post seems to have turned a little educational – I’m still figuring out the voice. Next time I promise more laughs, more explosions, and some dramatic insight into some of the many insane things that nearly kept us from finishing About The Girl. Again, comments and feedback are always encouraged. Thanks for tuning in!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Yes, like our embracing of film as a medium for creative expression, so too has it taken us a while to embrace the inherent virtues of blogdom. We may be slow to adapt, and slower still to figure out what it is we are doing, but we are here and we hope to maintain this presence for your sake (or at the very least our own amusement). You are our dedicated fandom (hi mum, hello dad) and it is the least we could do for you.
We've had a great run so far, from finishing a whole issue of The Gloaming (in full colour at that!) to our first handful of short films being produced shipped and somehow accepted to a handful of fairly prestigious festivals. Our first filmed effort About The Girl, managed to surpass its nerve-jangled origins to win a handful of nominations, recognitions and even a couple of awards. We were also approached by the producers of a program on a major Canadian broadcast network (cough, The Border, cough, cough) to feature our program in the background of theirs. Not bad for a first attempt.
Our most recent project started out smaller and simpler than About The Girl, a down and dirty shoot that was meant to be over in day, or maybe two if the pull focus wasn't clicking. Of course, good intentions for a speedy shoot always end up in flashback scenes set in the '50s. Not so fast and dirty after all, but there is good news. After some behind-the-scenes reshuffling, we completed The Lake, and the end result is a rather beautiful testament to the enduring power of love - or was it an enduring testament to a crotchety old man (beautifully assayed by Mr. Bob Clout) and the aloof youth he torments for sport? Either way, we are all very proud of our efforts with The Lake and were thrilled when we were notified we had once again been accepted into the annual National Screen Institute of Canada Online Film Festival.
We should be featured in early February so make sure you check back. I'll post the link when it becomes official. Until then, thanks for tuning in, thanks for the support, and thanks for making sure to come back often for more scintillating insights from Somerset Productions! Up next: a brief behind-the-scenes history of our first production About The Girl. I know, it's exciting!