Category Archives: Film making

One Take Wonder

It’s been an intense week leading up to the filming of ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.

Aside from the usual production headaches just before a shoot – we had one tiny issue to resolve: the script! We loved the concept of the story but had too many script variants.

A few days before filming I had a go at streamlining the latest 16 page draft into a snappier 9 page version. I was expecting Stan to hate it but aside from a few tweaks it essentially formed our shooting script. We also wanted the actors to workshop so they could bring their own ideas and interpretations to the table. Ideally you’d do this before the shoot date but time was not on our side.Slate

It was great to learn that Melissa Dalton (playing Kelly) and Louis Bernard (playing Rob) were traveling together on the same train. They had both bonded during the journey and had already come up with ideas and back-stories to their characters.  This allowed us to hit the floor running!Louis Bernard and Melissa Dalton workshopping

Natalie Martins (playing Michelle) arrived shortly afterwards, it was lovely to be working with her again after ‘Emmi‘.  We all bounced ideas around, fixing issues and occasionally adapting character motivations – it was a really productive morning! We encouraged everyone to improvise so they would react to situations at key moments (the script was more of a guideline), quite an exciting way of working!

After lunch, Daniel Epih (playing Harv) and Jacqueline Dunning (our make-up artist) turned up. We starting to doing some technical run-throughs to figure out how the camera needed to travel (and pick the camera we’d be using). We shot tests on a Canon C300 using a shoulder rig and a Panasonic GH5S on a gimbal. Personally I loved the look of the Canon more, but the Panasonic was shooting wider and seemed to be more forgiving (we settled on that).

Originally the film was going imply more than it showed, but our DOP Danny MacGregor pushed us to get more on screen. This created more headaches: additional make-up effects, costumes and props. Stan and I raced around charity shops and supermarkets sourcing items whilst our make-up artist Jacqui started getting actors ready. During the trip Stan confessed that it was madness doing this as a single shot film (oops – that might have been my idea!).Jacqui and Daniel Make-up

It was almost 4pm and we still weren’t quite sure if it was going to be more ‘Birdman’ (cheating by breaking the film into smaller chunks and matching the cut points) or Victoria (a true single take with absolutely no cuts). After practicing a few times without make-up effects we decided we could do it as a single take (no cheating). Maybe it was the euphoria of being on set, but it seemed to go extremely well – the only concern was it was all moving a little too quickly and we needed to slow things down. It feels somewhat alien trying to control everything in real-time when you are more accustomed to controlling the pace in an editing suite.

It took a few moments to readjust and reset after each take. The second take was better paced but it had a few technical issues. The next take was going really well until an air ambulance started hovering over us (a hazard of filming next to a hospital). When things had calmed we did another take which (wasn’t quite feeling it as we’d lost some of our momentum). We expected that one to be our last take being as light was starting to go and Jacqui had to leave to catch her train back. We decided to give it one final shot (just as well, this is the take we’ll probably use)!

I’m rather impressed with what was achieved in just a single day, the whole team was nothing short of amazing! There was a really excitable buzz on location, we all got along even though we were all being pushed outside of our normal comfort zone. Hoping the end-result will be worth it! The Team

Well done team, awesome work – we did it!!!

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Love Thy Neighbour

My latest collaboration with local filmmaker Stanley Mackrell is a short film called “Love Thy Neighbour”. We’ll be shooting over the weekend and I’m really excited to now share some details about the project.

“Love Thy Neighbour” is a thriller set in the flat of a couple (Kelly and Rob). After an altercation upstairs, Michelle bursts into their lives shaking in terror. Dealing with an unprecedented situation Kelly and Rob’s must act fast before the situation escalates. The film will be shot in real time as a continuous take. The film will be a co-production between Midnight Show Productions and Ferny Films.

I’m also pleased to announce the cast:

Melissa DaltonMelissa Dalton/Kelly
Melissa really impressed us in her auditions bringing out a side to Kelly which wasn’t written down on the page. Being a teacher, Kelly is someone who likes to take charge and is used to being the calming influence in stressful situations. Perhaps the biggest mystery is why she still puts up with Rob (it must be her mothering nature). For more information about Melissa visit here or follow her on Twitter.

Louis BernardLouis Bernard/Rob
Louis brings an element of charm and warmth to the seemingly ineffectual Rob. Rob’s is like a contented house-cat. Whilst he isn’t entirely lazy, he is perfectly happy coasting through life and isn’t anywhere near the ‘go-getter’ his partner is. Under pressure, Rob tends to crumble – so thank goodness he is partnered with Kelly. For more information about Louis visit here or follow him on Twitter.

Natalie MartinsNatalie Martins/Michelle
Playing Michelle is Natalie Martins who some of you might recognise as “Emmi” (it’s great to be collaborating once again). After an apparent one night stand gone wrong Michelle finds herself at the door of Kelly and Rob pleading for help. Whatever happened upstairs has made her scared and  unpredictable. For more information about Natalie visit her spotlight page here, her personal website here or follow her on Twitter.

Daniel EpihDaniel Epih/Harv
Playing Harv, the intimidating tenant in the upstairs flat is local Oxford actor Daniel Epih.

To follow how things progress during the production please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Finishing Emmi

It’s been a busy start to the year for our latest project Emmi but we have finally finished work on the film. The last slog is often the hardest!

In terms of finishing the film it’s been:

  • Music composing (I’ll no doubt expand more on this in a future post)
  • Special Effects (thanks to frequent collaborator Jim Gwilliam)
  • Creating titles
  • Colour Grading (thanks to Daniel Mac-Gregor Gill)
  • Sound Mixing (thanks to Oxford Audio Post Production who have given us a lovely 5.1 surround mix)
  • Creating a DCP (This is a new thing for me. Pleased to say that the digital projection file works – thanks to The Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford for letting us test this).

Of course the work does not end here, we are currently developing material to help us promote the film – including:

  • The Trailer
  • The Poster
  • The Website

We also will need to work on Festival submissions. We’ll update you with these things in due course, but for now here is the first look at the Poster for the film:

Emmi Poster
To follow live developments on this project, future projects and for any film-making discussion – please follow our new Twitter account here:

https://twitter.com/fernyfilm

Deafening silence

You would be forgiven for thinking I’d left my blogging days long behind! I haven’t – it’s just been ridiculously busy! Now that certain milestones (or is that millstones) have cleared I am able to do some composing and film making once more.

We are in the final stages of completing our short film (this was rather shockingly filmed over two years ago). In October I met with Susie Stead (the writer/producer) and we gave ourselves a deadline of finishing the film “before the end of 2016”, the reality is I’d like it finished it even earlier.

This period of inactivity has been helpful in allowing us to reflect with a completely fresh perspective. The most significant change is we have renamed the title from “The Choice” to “Emmi” (the character which the film revolves around). We felt the original title no longer represented the film properly and we wanted something which was short and snappy!

Emmi Title

The film edit is locked but there are a number of post-production elements still to finish: visual tweaks, colour grading, sound. In terms of the sound we are working with Oxford Audio Post Production. They have worked on projects including the Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the forthcoming Netflix “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

The aim will be to take the film on the festival circuit in 2017, exciting times ahead!

The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw

Cityscape 9

Recently I had the privilege to work alongside Artist Gareth Jones (1965). Gareth studied Fine Art during the mid 80’s before moving on to varied projects such as a new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (with Four Corners Books) and a solo exhibition at the Milton Keynes Gallery. In 2006 he received a Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Arts.

It was quickly apparent that Gareth influences are Utopian architecture, in particular Milton Keynes where he grew up as a child. In 2011 he produced a short film entitled “Looking for Milton Keynes“.

Spending time in Oxford provided him with the opportunity to explore this further. Rather than focusing on the traditional sandstone views of Oxford, Gareth wanted to showcase the city’s modernism, a side often overlooked.

Cityscape 9 - Viewing gallery

The end result is part meditative science fiction travelogue steeped in mid-21st century pop-culture and part art-house (in the style of La Jetée). If you are unfamiliar with La Jetée, its director Chris Marks didn’t have money to shoot on film and instead used black and white photographs to tell the story (with music and a voice over). La Jetée would go on to form the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s film Twelve Monkeys.

We decided to use a similar stylistic approach but with colour. I admired Gareth’s photographs taken from his tiny Olympus pocket-cam (the way he used composition, geometry and the contrasts between light and shadows). The rest of the film (scripting, sound recording, audio sound-scape, editing) all needed to come together very quickly being as Gareth was planning to show the film with his exhibition.

Hopefully we succeeded in showcasing a less familiar (and occasionally alien) side of the Oxford city landscape.

(Vimeo link: Cityscape 9)

An unfortunate sequence of events

Despite my best intentions (and claims) that I will never edit another film I’ve directed I’m back at it again. Unfortunately the original editor (being in a similar situation to me) didn’t have time to devote to the project. It’s now been about half a year since we filmed The Choice. To be fair, I should have chased harder. On the other-hand, it’s been several months and I’ve now dropped a lot of the baggage swimming around in my head during the production phase. In fact, I’ve rekindled my love of editing (at last I can see the forest for the trees).

The semi-frustrating part is that I’ve had to start right from the beginning again (would have been easier if Adobe Premiere was more accommodating with different versions – it seemingly supports Final Cut better than its own software). I began with what I believed would be the hardest scene to edit (it came together reasonably painlessly). As is so often the case with editing a couple of the seemingly innocuous scenes caused more grief. I’m now on the cusp of having an assembly edit (around 16 minutes).

Editing The Choice

I won’t delve into editing specifics for now but I will revise my original claim. I’m not going to edit another film I’ve directed unless I’ve given it a reasonable “cooling-off” period so I can look with fresh eyes.