Things have once again been horrendously busy this week. I keep hoping to slow down soon, but that isn’t necessarily going to happen for a while yet. Quite why I leave it to blog so late on a Friday night I’m not entirely sure, I should definitely get out more!

There has been some editing happening behind the scenes on Etiquette. Unfortunately because of a graphics card failure we are slightly in a limbo state before things are able to resume. Please be patient, the Apple guys are on it!

I was going to cover a little bit about what I see as the key differences between the shoots of “Etiquette” and my debut “Gardening and other crimes” (which I will refer to as GAOC from now on).

1. Shooting time

The shoot for Gardening and other Crimes (GAOC) was longer. To be fair the script was at least twice the length. To be unfair one “fixing” scene was shot almost a year later. To be fair again, it was filmed whilst I had a very understanding pregnant wife and I had a few other distractions to contend with after the shoot. Conversely we only had two days to get the whole of Etiquette finished. In some ways this was great as it focused the mind. In others, it was nice not having the pressure of losing any locations or cast/crew if we didn’t finish on time.

2. Casting

For GAOC, I was already a friend of Brian Conroy who played Samaritan. He suggested his friend Frazz Jarvis as Daniel. Originally we had an actress in place suggested by Frazz (see what was happening here). Unfortunately this actress had to pull out at the 11th hour. Thankfully Zinta Gercans came to our rescue at very short notice and was thrown in at the deep-end! These were all local actors who were mostly from a theatre background. With Etiquette, I had Sherilee’s prior experience as a casting director/assistant to fall back on. So rather than word of mouth we advertised and auditioned everyone. The other key difference is that Etiquette has twice the number of characters. A comedy about a person with a social phobia meeting people who doesn’t meet any people would have been quite dull otherwise.

3. Crew

The crew had expanded on Etiquette. In “almost” the same words as wise old uncle Ben in Spiderman “With expanded crew comes greater responsibility” (and management). With GAOC I had mostly people I knew helping me and we kept the crew to the bare minimum (which was mostly the fab three – Jim Gwilliam, Sybil Mayard and Quentin Morrissey). In terms of sourcing for Etiquette, I still had friends involved (Jim Gwilliam again, this time with Adam Radley), Sherilee also did the same on her side (Adam Evans, Rachael Ballard). But for the most part this was a different and larger team than previous. Thankfully they were all great.

4. Sound

With GAOC Sybil Mayard was a constant being the sound-recordist and I have to say this was extremely comforting. Sybil has since moved from Oxford, and our original recordist dropped out at the very last-minute (you have to learn to deal with these things when dealing with unpaid work. I was readying myself for this job worst case). Thankfully we did manage to find two separate sound-recordists (Hannah Shaw-Williams and Peter Hudston), although both had differing styles/personalities. It’s not easy to tell what the full impact of this might is at this stage, but I’m curious to see if some scenes have a different “sound” because of this.

5. Directing actors

There was a noticeable shift in my directorial style between GAOC and Etiquette (hey even I noticed it!). GAOC was very controlled and static – which is pretty much what the script called for. We stuck to the script pretty rigidly. To be honest I was probably somewhat daunted at how I should be treating actors and worrying more about the technicalities also. This time, being a comedy I was happy to let things be more spontaneous and dynamic. I’d like to think I spent more time working with the actors this time and letting them put their stamp on their characters (no idea if they would agree – but they are all still talking to me!). But it seems strange that on the film where I *did* know the actors I spoke less to them than on the film where I didn’t! I’m curious to see how the performances differ between the two. I haven’t entirely settled on a directing style yet, but would definitely say I was happier directing actors on Etiquette. This is almost certainly a confidence thing.

6. Cameras

GAOC we shot on Sony HDV Camcorders. It gave the film a somewhat “Security Cam” look which worked nicely for that project. We also used a lot of synthetic lighting. On this one I wanted a more “fluffy” warm natural look, I think I said to Adam Evans “a bit like those Richard Curtis romantic comedies” (eg. Four Weddings and a funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jone’s Diary). It was shot almost entirely using natural light. One of the benefits of using HD-DSLR Cameras is their ability to shoot in lower light. This said, it could equally be a curse as it was also very sensitive. We had to watch the lighting levels and white balances very carefully – especially when switching lenses or angles. The majority of the film was shot on 28mm and 50mm Canon lenses.

7. Less bloopers

Expect a radically reduced Blooper reel this time. I’m not sure if we got my favourite “self-inflicted” blooper recorderd from Etiquette, so I will share it here. We did a take where Trevor (Alex) meets Alison (Hope) who is dressed up in horse-riding gear as part of her character. We start the take and Alex goes “Good neigh, I mean day”. I shout cut! Obviously feeling slightly sleep deprived and suffering director overloaded, everyone looks at me – why did he cut? I respond “The line was fumbled” and then the penny dropped with Alex’s little improvisation. Needless to say I suspect “Good Neigh” will be appearing in the final version.

8. Workflow

On Etiquette we had people copying off memory cards frequently, batteries being recharged systematically, footage being reviewed. GAOC we didn’t have this luxury as we were shooting on tape (we did manage to get a Sony MRC1 for one weekend) which was a Godsend, but after capturing the majority of our footage in realtime, I vowed never to shoot on tape again!

9. Untimely set-ups

One thing which worked better on GAOC was the fact we had a two (and occasionally three) camera set-up. I personally love these as it saves so much time and continuity just flows between the two angles. On Etiquette we had one only one Canon EOS 5D and a Canon EOS 550D. Now a Canon EOS 550D and a 7D would probably cut together fine, they both share a cropped sensors. But the 5D is superior with a full-frame. It became apparent after a few tests that this was going to look a bit off. So whilst we still used the 550D for second unit bits and bobs, we shot all the actor angles on the 5D. This cost us a lot of time setting up reverse angles and doing re-takes.

10. Hey, I have a Producer!

The biggest and most welcome change with Etiquette was that I didn’t feel like I had to do everything myself. I still stepped into the producer role occasionally and Sherilee also did more than just being a producer also. To be honest with GAOC I felt like I was spreading myself too thin, doing too much (which I also believe shows in the film). Having a producer to back me up took a huge weight off my shoulders. It was great knowing that I could trust Sherilee completely and hand things over without needing to worry. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but already I look back at the Etiquette shoot very fondly. There was a great cast, a great crew, we had tremendous fun, we are all keeping in touch and want to work together again! So in terms of the actual “production” filming, this “starter” project between Sherilee and myself has been a resounding success. Whether this also translates itself to the short itself remains to be seen, but let’s say I’m feeling optimistic and hope this is the start of something even bigger!

On a side note – not that I’m expecting too much now, but we have entered the final 24 hours now for sponsorship on the film on IndieGoGo. It would be great to go out with a bang, especially being November 5th! We will still need to soundmix, grade and add a soundtrack. Plus we have already paid for many of the expenses out of our own pocket already. We aren’t going to make the target, but if you would like show us some last-minute support, we would massively appreciate it. 🙂  http://www.indiegogo.com/fernyfilms?a=202297

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