Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writers' Block Turns Into Film

The opening scene of About The Girl, shot in late September
at the mouth of Duchesnay Creek.

Writers' Block Turns Into Film

Community Voices
North Bay Nugget

Mike Humble turned writers' block into an award-winning screenplay ... About The Girl.

He admits he was writing a novel when he came to a gap in the story.

He put the novel on hold and turned his attention to a writing the screenplay, a first film for Somerset Productions.

"I've since finished the novel, but I thought making a film would be different," he said. "It was different; it was a whole different challenge. I thought having others involved would give me accountability to finish it."

So he turned to his friend Patrick Gilbert.

Mike and Patrick started Somerset Productions about eight years ago when they were working on a comic book.

"It didn't go anyhwere, but we have a single copy of a cool comic book, which is kind of fun to have."

Mike admits About The Girl was initially an exercise to see if they could make a film.

The duo brought in their friend Kevin Hoffman and recruited a lot of other friends to do sound, acting, and background. But still, there were problems and the crew quickly experienced its first excercise in creative problem solving.

They had been filming under a bridge on Main Street West.  the weather was bad and the wind continued to blow all day.

It wasn't until they started looking at the footage that they realized that the microphone cord had banged against a post for the duration of the shoot.

Patrick Gilbert, Ed Regan, and Kevin Hoffman prepare to film
a scene at the parking garage in downtown North Bay.

"We re-recorded all the audio inside and synced the actual script to what we were doing on screen and then built in actual layers of ambient noise like cars passing by, busses in the distance, and a little bit of rain," Mike said. "It was the first big challenge we had to overcome."

Because most of the cast and crew had day jobs and families, scheduling became an issue.

Filming started in September when the trees were green, but by the time it was finished the trees were bare and three inches of snow fell the night before the final day of shooting.

the entire length of King's Wharf had to be shovelled so the scene could be shot.

"It was a testament to our commitment to get our scene," said Mike.

There was one more step before About The Girl would be ready.  Mike sent it to a friend in New Liskeard.

"He wrote the music for it and it made the world of difference," he said. "You tend to think of film as a visual media, but you realize very quickly sound is just as important as what is on the screen."

Everyone was excited about the final product and they realized it was much different than they had anticipated. They decided to tak a chance and submit it to film festivals.

"We won best cinematography at the Northern Ontario Film and Music Awards," he said. "we were up against an Imax film about the Great Lakes and the rest were all heavily granted with government and BRAVO money.  It inspired us to keep working at it."

That was just the beginning for Somerset Productions. The follow up film was The Lake, which proved to be a bit more ambitious than its predecessor.

"We had a whole scene set in the 50s which presented a series of unique challenges," said Mike. "We went to Canadian tire on a Tuesday and recruited some of the vintage cars and we rented a few vintage bathing suits from a costume house in Toronto."

Bob Clout agreed to be aprt of the movie, and Mike admits he had the local veteran actor in mind when he wrote the script.

The crew set up a shot on the last day of shooting About The
Girl. From left, Kevin Hoffman, Ed Regan, Jeremy Cormier,
Mike Howard, and Michael Humble

"Kevin approached him with the script and he liked it," said Mike. "This put pressure on us. We had actual talent. With the first productio, we would rehearse the day before, or when we were setting up."

This was not the case with Bob who insisted on several weeks of rehearsal.

"The Lake is a simple story that I wrote in high school," said Mike. "It is based on a pretty naieve adolescent view on lov. I had to change quite a bit of it. Hence the difference between a story that works in print and one that works on screen."

Again, everyone was proud of the finished product and again it won the best cinematography award in Sudbury and the best international short at the Film North International Film Festival in Huntsville.

Next came the movie Missing and Mike, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it, said they surprised themselves.

"Pat did most of the shooting and used different angles and editing techniques," he said.  "Kevin edited and made some interesting choices as far as the music was concerned. It was a collaboration between the three of us."

Right now, Mike is developing a mockumentary, which he explained is a documentary with some not-so-real elements.

It's about a sasquatch creature that lives in the wilderness around Cobalt that he heard about when he worked as a journalist for the Temiskaming Speaker.

"I thought it would make a great film about friends going in search of Old Yellow Top," he said. "I have a passion for storytelling and when I first heard the story I was pretty sure it was just some of the locals pulling my leg as the new guy in town. But I was surprised when I actually found news stories about it."

While Mike hopes that Somerset Productions will be able to continue making movies, he admits they first have to figure out how to make it economically possible.

"It would be awesome to achieve some sort of sustainability."