Filming Diary – 05/05/2017

On Friday 5th I did my first batch of filming. Originally I wanted to get all of my filming done in one weekend, and had planned for a second filming date on Sunday 7th. However, I quickly realised that shooting, essentially, four short films in one weekend was far too ambitious, so I decided I would cancel the Sunday filming date. Obviously, in the real business of film, this would be very disrespectful to all the people I’d hired for production who would be expecting work and a paycheck for their services. If I were a real director/producer, I would have to suck it up and do the Sunday filming regardless, since I’d planned it. But thankfully, I’m not a real director so calling off a few friends who hadn’t had plans regardless wasn’t a huge deal.

I knew that on Friday I would need to get a lot done. Filming was to commence at 17:00 (though some complications caused it to occur at more like 17:30) and I needed to film three out of the four poems that I was using for my final piece. I was also anxious because two of these poems required daylight and although it gets darker later in the summer, I still didn’t want to risk loosing daylight and missing the opportunity to film.

The first poem I filmed was Heart to Heart by Rita Dove. For this one, I decided to take a slightly different approach. In all of my other films, I would be using actors and nameless characters, but for this one I wanted to use objects. This poem is about the poet’s heart, and there’s a lot of symbolism within the poem. I used several objects, including an apple, tealight candles, a hammer, and many more.

I wanted the camera to remain stationary throughout the whole piece, so a tripod was a must. I already own a tripod so I didn’t need to book one out. I also wanted the view to be a high angle shot, as if the audience are looking down on what’s unfolding before them. I also had to find a suitable counter to use as the entire background for the film. I decided to use my kitchen counter which was suitable enough, however it meant that the camera had to be placed in an awkward and precarious position.

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As you can see, the camera is placed on the tripod on my kitchen counter, and it’s at an angle so that it hangs over the object placed on the counter, like a bird-eye-view of the object and it’s interactions. To be able to actually reach the camera controls, I needed to stand on a chair, and that comes with it’s own risk factors. However, I was careful not to fall or knock the tripod in any way that might cause the camera to fall, causing damage to college property or anyone in the room.

The camera being so high up also had good points to counter the bad. For this film I was using several viscous, or liquid components, and I wouldn’t want to accidentally get golden syrup all over the camera. Because the camera was so far up and out of the way, with everything else being so far away from it on the counter, there wasn’t even a chance for anything wet or sticky to get on and damage the camera.

I managed to blow through this poem fairly quickly, which I was pleased with because, as I mentioned before, I was worried about loosing daylight. If there’s one thing that I would change about this filming technique, it would be the surface that I filmed on. I chose the counter because it seemed to me at the time to be the best surface. Also my kitchen has lots of windows which let in a lot of natural light, and if I had decided to film on my dining room table (in a room which has no windows) it would have been low lit and I didn’t want that because it wouldn’t have been as quality work. On the other hand, I didn’t like the black grainy colour for the background of these shots. I was thinking that I could alter the colour in editing, however I think that would be tricky because the counter’s not one solid colour (it’s still worth a try though). I would have preferred the counter to have been a pastel colour, completely on the other end of the colour spectrum to black. If I were to redo this filming (which may be required as I’ve set back a week before half term to film re-shoots) I would use a cloth or fabric of a lighter colour to be able to have a lighter more pastel background. I think I might have to re-shoot this one if I can’t somehow fix the colour of the background in post-production.

The second poem I filmed was Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye (analysis of this poem can be found here). For this poem I had a semi-coherent narrative going on about two lovers, one of which dies. For this I used two of my friends I had invited over to be in the film. Here is the shot list I created for this film:

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I used lines of the poem to signify which shot I would be filming. I had all the shots written down in a notebook as well as a storyboard, which can both be found here.

This film contained the only shot that meant we would need to stray away from my house for the filming, the rest of the shots could be completed either in my house, in the street just outside (which isn’t at all a busy one), or in my garden. However, we didn’t have to travel far as it was just a two minute walk up to my nearest bus stop. In this shot I wanted to have two people stood at the bus stop, and one would be holding an umbrella, and would step over to the other who was visibly cold and exposed to the weather. This would be symbolising how the two lovers had met.

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I ordered the shots, in a way that would be most convenient. The first shot being the one where we had to travel the short distance to the bus stop, and then the shots in the garden for DNSAMGAW, then the shots in the house. I knew that I needed to be efficient and film the outside shots that needed daylight first because it was nearing the end of the day and I didn’t want to miss my window of opportunity. I also knew that I needed to film the indoor shots that required natural daylight quickly after the outside ones. The filming for DNSAMGAW went smoothly, although reviewing the footage after the fact I think I’ll try and reshoot some of the footage because there was some that I wasn’t satisfied with.

Next I moved on to film my last poem, which was City Dusk by F. Scott Fitzgerald (analysis of this poem can be found here). Here is the shot list, and the pre-production aspects can be found here.

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As expected, I needed to film these shots in the dark, so we had a (well needed and deserved) break until it got darker, although it was nearing dusk anyway so we didn’t have to wait long. During this time I reviewed the footage I had and was happy with it, with perhaps a few exceptions that I was confident I could reshoot at a later date without needing my actors. When it did get dark, we all headed out into my street to film the street scenes for City Dusk. Originally, I had wanted to film this on a cobbled street somewhere, so I was thinking about filming at the Barbican. However, I thought it would be too taxing traveling there because although it isn’t far, I wanted to confine the shooting to my house and within walking distance of my house as much as possible equally for efficiency and convenience. Also, I wasn’t too comfortable filming in a semi-unknown place in the dark, so I decided to use my street as, although it isn’t cobble stones, it still satisfied my vision for how the scene would look.

I directed my actors to perform natural movements and interactions with each other as they walked down the street. I’m really pleased with these shots because I think they look very natural and organic, as if the character’s on screen are not acting and don’t actually know I’m behind them following them with a camera. For these shots I used a figrig to stable my shots, although I wanted to have a little camera shake to add to that organic feeling. Originally, I had planned to book out an over camera portable light because I would be filming in the dark, but there weren’t any available for filming, so I had to suffice with using the torch on my iPhone. This wasn’t inherently a bad thing however, because the torch provided ample light for filming in the dark. The only difficulty was me having to hold both the light and the figrig, so it was a little precarious, but because I was using everyone I had on screen, there was no one to help me off screen. Perhaps for the next project, I’ll make sure that along side actors I have someone to help me behind the scenes as well.

After the street shots were done, we moved into my back garden to film some final shots for my City Dusk film. These shots once again required the light but because I didn’t have everyone on screen at once, there were people to help hold the light. I particularly like one set of shots I took where I instructed them to move the light as a filmed a close up of the face, so the light and shadows on the face would dramatically change.

Overall, I’m really pleased with this filming because I managed to get three of my films filmed. I know I’ll have to reshoot some of the footage because on reviewing it I found that I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, but I have plenty of time to be doing that so I’m not worried or stressed about that. I think I worked safely and efficiently, with good time management

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Filming Diary – 23/05/2017

Today I was filming for the fourth poem in my sequence, Heart to Heart. Heart to Heart is a poem written by Rita Dove, detailing her heart in a series of similes and metaphors. The analysis for this poem can be found here.

The idea for this film was inspired by the 2000 film American Psycho. It’s directed by Mary Hannon, and features one scene which I took main inspiration from and payed homage to in this film. The scene details main character Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) tells us the audience over voiceover what his skincare routine is, as on screen he performs this routine.

The shot list for this film can be found below. It was a very short shot list because there were really only four things that I needed to film. I have also done pre-production work, as well as work that was originally planned but later changed or scrapped, which can be found here.

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The filming commenced at around 3:30, me and Drew set up the equipment I needed in the lighting studio, which was a camera, a green screen, one light, and a tripod. The previous lunch time I had gone to Boots to purchase some cheap skin care products for this shoot. I ended up buying some moisturiser, a face mask, some facial toner, some face wipes, and some eye makeup remover pads. This came out of my own money but as it only came to about £6.50 I wasn’t too fussed.

I knew I wanted a green screen for this project, which was why I was going to be filming in the lighting studio as opposed to doing my filming outside of college. Originally I had planned to green screen in footage of people walking about, as if he was performing his skin care routine in this middle of a busy street. This I felt contrasted to how personal a skin care routine is, and in turn the symbolism to how personal the feelings in your heart are too. However, I decided that on such limited time I didn’t have the time to do this, as I was originally planning to film people walking across the green screen, and then layer it so it makes it look like there’s lots of people. I instead decided to green screen him so it looks like he’s in a very lavish bathroom, one that someone with considerable income would own.

I filmed him in sections, which amounted to him putting on four skin care items, so four shots. Originally, I was nervous that this wouldn’t be enough footage to last the entire voice over of the poem, but since the poem is quite short (it only looks long because the lines are written short and vertically) that won’t be an issue. First he applied the toner, which I decided to shoot first not only because it will be the first thing he applies in the film, but also because it’s the easiest. After that, I filmed him applying the eye makeup remover pads to his eyes. I know that these are used to remove makeup and aren’t a part of a skincare routine, but I wanted something to look similar to when people in films places cucumbers over their eyes. Obviously I did’t want to actually use cucumbers because that would mean I would have to carry around a cucumber all day, so I thought these eye pads would suffice. The I filmed him putting on moisturiser. This will be the last step in the skin care routine, but I wanted to save the messiest until last. That said messiest was the sheet facial mask. It wasn’t extremely messy it was just very wet and goopy and I didn’t want start with that as it would be the most difficult to apply and would take the most perfecting.

Overall, I think that this shoot went really well and I surprised myself in how quickly and efficiently I was able to turn this shoot around. I went from thinking that I would have to skip out on filming this poem because I had overestimated how much work I could achieve, to being able to film it in about a half hour.

Pre-Production

I created the storyboards and notes for these poem at relatively the same time, because I know that pre-production is vital to having a well conceived film and idea, and an efficient and easy-as-can-be shoot.

With all of my poems I started off by hand writing the poem into a notebook. I found that handwriting the poem and physically writing down the poem and my ideas helped me picture them more clearly in my head as opposed to just typing it all up into a word document. After I had written the poem I read it a few times to gage the meaning and my understanding and what I took from the poem. For some poems, for example Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye, I could conceive a proper story with an easy to follow narrative. However, for other, for example The Trembling of the Veil by Allen Ginsberg, I couldn’t so much picture a linear narrative as much as a series of shots that would be up to the viewers interpretation as to what they mean, but they’re all symbolic to what I took away from the poem.

After having an idea, I began to string certain shot ideas to certain lines of the poem, writing them on the next page. With a bright highlighter (so it was easy to see) I connected the shot with the corresponding poem line. Some shots were easier to come up with than others, but eventually I would have a conceptualised idea in my head and on paper of the shots I wanted to film for each poem. There were a lot of shots so I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I knew that I could manage it. I also knew that it was likely that a lot of these shots would end up on the cutting room floor during the editing stages, so I allowed myself the flexibility of not getting too attached to one particular shot that I wouldn’t be able to let go of even if needed be.

After writing these shot ideas into a notebook, I transferred them onto a storyboard. Realistically, I knew that I could manage without a storyboard because of the clear image in my head of each shot I wanted in my film. However, because the notes were made only for my eyes, and they were very messy, I knew I needed to have a story board as well, to make sure that I have a clear representation of what I want in my film. It’s good industry practice, because if I work in a company, I won’t be the only one working on the film, like I am for this project, so all the shots and ideas will need to be clear so that everyone can understand what’s going on and what shots are needed.

Poem #1 – The Trembling of the Veil by Allen Ginsberg

For this poem I wrote notes and created a storyboard. Although I didn’t end up using this poem in my final production for time constraint reasons, I’m still glad I put some practice into the art of storyboarding because, although I personally find it quite tedious, I think it’s a good skill to have, as it’s vital to the film-making process.

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Poem #2 – City Dusk by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Again, for this poem I wrote down notes in a notebook regarding my shot ideas, and then created a storyboard. I did end up using these ideas and this poem in my final production, and I found the storyboard vital to my filming and editing process. If I had just had the notes and no storyboard (and also a shot list), I would have found shooting this poem very difficult, as my notes were quite scribbled and messy. And if I couldn’t understand them easily, it would have been practically impossible for someone else who obviously isn’t in my own head swimming around with my own ideas to take on the shooting task. Having the storyboard also helped me in editing, because the shots were not filmed chronologically – as is normal in a filming setting, for efficiency and for convenience – really helped me figure out which shots had to go wear, and when I had to cut them etc. Again, if I hadn’t had the storyboard I would have struggled a lot more, and the editing process would have been a lot longer, maybe doubly so.

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Poem #3 – Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

This was the only poem I shot that I had not written a storyboard for. This was partly down to me having a clear image in my head of what I wanted to shoot. Since this poem has a stronger narrative that’s I’ve created film wise, it was easier for me to be able to string shots together in filming without the aid of a storyboard. However, a lot of the lack of storyboard was down to time management issues. I was originally planning on creating a storyboard after filming, because although I didn’t need one to help me film I thought it would be a good idea to have one to show for pre-production. However, I found that I just didn’t have enough time, so I sacrificed creating a storyboard for this poem to make time for more (in my opinion) pressuring and prioritised aspects of the projects that I still needed to finish – such as important blog posts, film logs, and editing. However, I did write up clear notes for this poem in the same way as the previous two.

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Poem #4 – Heart To Heart by Rita Dove

This poem suffered the same problem as the Frye poem, not enough time. If I were to go back and re do this project, and to keep in mind for the next project, I would make sure I had completed all, if not most of, the storyboarding before the filming dates, to avoid running out of time. However, this poem was quite a simple concept, although it was more complicated as first conceived, but when I changed the idea it was simple enough for me to feel like it didn’t warrant an urgent storyboard and that aspect could be put to the back whilst other important elements of my project were completed. Again, however, I did write down notes for my first idea, but not for my second one as I didn’t have enough time, and the idea was very simple anyway.

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