Category Archives: Film making

Day 25: Christmas Teaser

Well sadly there just wasn’t enough interest in the Christmas song (thanks to those who did vote however). In place of this – I’ll share the teaser I previously mentioned on Day 18. It’s only rough but features some new music and I hope you enjoy the very first glimpse into the project. Meanwhile I’d love to know what you think, so please feel free to leave a comment below. And with that, I wish you all a very merry and peaceful Christmas!

First teaser for The Choice



Day 12: Crossing over

Most familiar with filming know about “Crossing the line” (also known as the “180 degree rule”). I won’t cover this in great detail but essentially when doing reverse angles and cutting between the shots if the alternate camera angle crosses “the line of sight”, the characters will flip sides which is unsettling to the viewer.

See an example in more detail here. You can also see how Stanley Kubrick used this to good effect to create unease and a sense of duality for a character on The Shining here.

This doesn’t apply only to actors, you should also consider doorways, windows, props, etc. In most cases, it easy to know how to do this with one or two characters (such as the popular over the shoulder reverse shots). But the more people or elements introduced, the more difficult it will be (you can go slightly mad even just trying to figure out something which seems deceptively simple). Of course you can also “cross the line” with camera movements as well. If you factor filming in confined spaces (let’s just say a narrow corridor for argument’s sake!) – it can also be impossible to set the camera up where you need it to be to make everything work correctly. Pretty much all of this applied to us.

The Choice Opening Scene

We did however use the trick of “cheating the eye line”. For example if you have one character looking at another, you can make them “appear” to be looking at each other when in actual fact they might be looking at the light on the ceiling or the door handle. The illusion still works when cut together because you are drawn to a single person’s eye-line.

Thank goodness I also storyboarded the opening stairwell scene for Emmi, I suspect it might have been an editing minefield if not (apologies for the terrible art below).

The Choice: Storyboarding

It acted as a sanity check for me and also helped everyone visualize the requirements in a way that no shot-list can convey.

Directing The Choice

Day 10: The Rush

Whilst Emmi had a pretty long script development process, the production came together incredibly quickly. We pretty much pulled the project together in little over a month. Once we knew what the budget from our fundraiser, we made ends meet accordingly. This didn’t always make for comfortable experiences but amazingly it came together in the end. Locations were falling through and their availability was changing on an almost hourly basis right up until the day before shooting. The fact we only had certain locations for a few hours in some cases – made things even more difficult (the staircase was particular legendary):

The Choice: Gillian Running

The production was originally scheduled as a four day shoot. However we condensed so much down due to limited availability, we finish ahead of schedule (three days). How’s that for efficiency? You can’t help but embrace the rush of film-making!

Day 8: Bah Humbug!

I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the whole advent blog thing, mostly because I don’t have the time to juggle family, work, blogging and Christmas (which is now ramping up at great pace). I tend to write my blog entries on the day (rather than write a number and store them for later release). I’ll *try* to find the time to add some more content rich entries, but don’t be surprised to see a few lower-key entries (eg. “Behind the scenes” photos). And with that, here is a “Behind the scenes” photo from the Let Nothing You Dismay shoot yesterday by Nicola Armitage as posted on the Film Oxford Production Group page (wish I could have been there, looks like everyone had fun).

Let Nothing You Dismay Carol Singers

Day 7: Let Nothing You Dismay

After yesterday’s post, this might look like yet another non-Christmas entry. Good news however, it is! As I type, the Film Oxford Production Group is out filming a motley-crew of choir singers for the Let Nothing You Dismay, a comedy short where the Death gets bored at Christmas and decides to take a holiday in Oxford (as you do!). I was hoping to make it along to the set today to be an extra, but sadly I can’t make it. However I did pop in to the crypt location (just down the road from me), so will share a few photos of this instead (along with it’s wonderful set design):

Death's Crypt Photo 1

Death's Crypt Photo 2

Death Made-up Photo

I’ll be on music composing duties for this one, so expect to hear a bit more about it soon!

The A-Team

In due course I’ll post my experiences about filming Emmi. Before I do that however, I would like to thank the amazing team who helped make it all happen:

Adam Radley:
Adam Radley
Thanks for your friendship over the past 20+ years (feeling old now) and offering support whenever filming happens. You have been invaluable over the past couple of weekends (as you proved during both Etiquette and Spare Change). It’s great to see you flex those prop-skills again!
Alex Abbey-Taylor:Alex Abbey-Taylor Welcome to the crazy world of film-making! It was fantastic to see you tackle all the challenges, even if they involved redressing/painting one of your bedrooms as a set and letting a bunch of mad people move in to cause mayhem!
Amy Harris:
Thanks for being our amazing Sarah and bringing her to life, giving her the warmth you naturally exude (which wasn’t always written down in the script). Sorry for making you traipse around in PJs in the dark. Was a real pleasure collaborating with you on this. And you’re a Spooks fan, so can do no wrong!
Barbara Deane:
Barbara Deane
Thank you for coming in at the last minute and being so patient with us, despite all the waiting around and dreary weather conditions. I’m really pleased we were able to give you a bit more to do and hope you found the experience enjoyable.
Dan Edwards:
Thanks for your offer of help at just the point we needed it (ie. extremely short notice). Really appreciated all your logging/scene lighting efforts (that damn stairwell!). It was great to have you along for the ride.
Daniel McGregor-Gill:
Mr Gimble! Thanks for all those wonderful smooth shots you produced for us, plus occasionally scaling dizzy heights so we could black things out (having tree surgeon skills obvious helps). Your good humour was infectious and kept the whole team going through-out.
Diego Carvalho:
Diego Carvalho
Brilliant having you back helping with make-up after Etiquette. Really sorry you missed that Halloween party and your car misbehaved on the first day 🙂 Great to have you in the film as an extra this time also.
Gillian Kirkpatrick:
Loved your insights on other productions, dread to imagine what you’ll say about our production! Thanks for hitting your marks absolutely spot on during that amazing mad dash at the end. I’m expecting to see you on an episode of Doctor Who in the near future.
The Hoodies:
Adam Gilday, Ben Wooding and Lara Stead – you all look menacing on camera, but were all extremely polite and patient with us behind the scenes. Sorry to get you all out of bed early on a Sunday morning just to be rained on and stand around in a grimy underpass.
Jo Lewis-Wood:
Jo Lewis-Wood
Thanks so much for allowing us to film your little one and being so calm, patient and understanding with us. Without your adorable (and amazingly tolerant) little girl this film simply wouldn’t work! There is a toy penguin heading your way soon!
Laura Jones:
Laura Jones
You contributed a lot during the initial stages of the project, then other things then came up. It was wonderful to have you and your enthusiasm back with us for the actual shoot.  Thanks for your cat-wrangling skills and all the lovely food you brought along to keep the team going – massively appreciated!
Mel Cunningham:
Mel Cunningham
Thanks for all your lovely photos and offering to help out in any way behind the scenes whenever the help was needed (occasionally in the form of cconfectionery). It was awesome to have you back on this shoot with us! Can’t wait to see the poster concepts.
Natalie Martins:
Natalie Martins
You knocked the character of Emmi (the script’s most difficult character) out of the park! Thanks so much for doing this, making it all seem so graceful/effortless and being game for pretty-much everything we threw at you. You were mesmerising to watch and hope we can give your performance the justice it deserves.
Oliver Richards:
Oliver Richards
Thanks for just being there and jumping in for whatever we needed help with, be it logging or the occasional bit of sound recording. I’m hoping we can put some of your after effects skills to good use in the not-to-distant future. Meanwhile Salsa!
Philip Hind:
Phil Hind
You were there from the very beginning. Thanks for all the lovely camera work, focus pulls and fastidious attention to detail (during both the production and pre-production). Loved your dry wit and no-nonsense attitude, can’t wait to see that assembly edit.
Polly Biswas Gladwin:
Polly Biswas Gladwin
Thanks for being our ears (usually in more than one way) and recording the majority of the sound for us. Your diplomacy was much appreciated on many an occasion and it was brilliant have another “original member” help us all the way through the project.
Rachel Pooley:
Rachel Pooley
To think we thought you might be the quiet one in the team before we started shooting – haha! We really missed your on-set banter and antics after the first day of shooting. Thanks for playing Ali, carrying buggies/babies all over the place. Wanting to play that 1 second music intro game again now.
Susie Stead:
Susie Stead
Last but by certainly no means least! The whole project would have never happened without all of your enthusiasm and last-minute problem-solving. And of course your script which attracted everyone to the project in the first place. I feel we complimented each-other very well, not sure this is how writers/directors are supposed to behave on set according to film-making folklore. It feels strange not speaking to you on a daily basis about “the next set of obstacles we’ll need to over-come”.

Finally thanks to everyone in the production group and Film Oxford who all helped out behind the scenes. My hope is that everyone on the shoot had fun making it and what an amazing team you all made!

If you’d like to keep up with additional information about this and other projects as they happen, visit the Ferny Films page on Facebook.

The Flat, The Cat, The Penguin

Yes the post-title is referencing the original tag-line from Batman Returns (which whilst not the best film in the series, is definitely the most stylish and under-rated). Although this isn’t really going to be a post covering the caped crusader (this time).

Batman Returns

This blog has been very quiet recently, but not down to any inactivity on my part. We will be filming our mini-opus in 3 days time (I’m not sure why I think I have time to write this entry really, I just need a break and this is as close as it will get). The film is by far the most ambitious thing I’ve attempted to date. On paper it all sounds so deceptively simple, in reality it isn’t.

The Flat
Most of the film takes place in a block of flats. So the first decision is do we go for grim/gritty (in which case is it safe?) or do we go for somewhere a little nicer (safer)? As most of our characters don’t really want to be living in this place, this  influenced our decision. Cue fun times scouring around the city in all the lovely glamour spots trying to find something suitable and hobnobbing with the locals (one of whom introduced himself with “You don’t know me, but I’m the bad boy of this area.”). Nice!

Towerblock location

We did consider filming in the above location (which may still be used for exteriors), but the place was both unsafe, unclean (the room we looked at is to be fumigated this week) and we didn’t have any real control over the environment. So we have been frantically looking everywhere for suitable locations which can double as flats without upsetting the locals. Hopefully it’s mostly together now, although we still haven’t finalised all locations (yes, I know – we are filming in a couple of days – but a lot can happen in that time – right?!)

The Cat
There is a popular show-biz saying “never work with small children or animals”. Nothing like a challenge, we are doing both (young baby and a cat), not only this –  in the same scene together. Goodness only knows how this aspect will work out! But at least we *do* have both a cat and a baby, we just need them to perform on cue and on camera together (laughing maniacally to self).

The Penguin
The Penguin is just one of the many props we need, (and perhaps the easiest to source). We are now frantically flapping trying to get all the set dressing, props and  costumes ready for the shoot. A lot is dictated by the actual locations. One of the biggest problems with filming in more than one location (aside from the time it takes to move a small army from A to B) is making sure everything appears to be part of the same environment. This is a massive headache (it’s not as if I don’t already have enough to sort without worrying whether the carpets/doors/windows match across the locations – newsflash – they probably won’t!). We also have limited kit available, but to be honest this is probably a good thing considering some of the confined areas we are going to be working in.

Did I mention that most of it is also set at night? I’m pretty sure I said after Spare Change, that I definitely don’t want to do another night-shoot again!

So at the moment, disorganised chaos (even the crew aren’t entirely finalised), although the reality we are shooting in a few days has definitely kicked in (I need waaaay more sleep!!). The one thing which has clicked however is our amazing cast, who I couldn’t be more thrilled with!  Small victories such as this are just the beacon we need to counter the fact we are lacking money, time, space, sleep and whole bunch of other things which will need to happen before the weekend. Once I’ve recovered from the first weekend of shooting, I’ll aim to post an update on how everything went. That is – if I make it that far!