My aim for this major project unit was to further develop the aspects of production which I had written about in the pre-production package. These included crew, props, costume, budget, locations, schedules and marketing. I undertook more research that helped me further develop aspects of production such as how to handle the budget during this stage, editing and marketing techniques. Throughout my research, I learnt the importance of a script read through and how to evaluate the casts' performances. Another benefit of the read through was so I could give out all the necessary forms required for filming, such as artist contracts and bank information. After creating an estimated budget in the pre-production unit, I had to continue managing this throughout production. I carried out some research into way in which I could handle this and learnt about money expenditure logs. These ended up being really helpful in recording outgoings and keeping track of the travel fares. I also used this time period to look further into aspects of production that didn't quite work in the pre-production unit. For example, I look at alternative locations to carry out the dog hit, and from Alex's requirements of a mixed residential and rural area, I found an adequate location in Margate. In addition to this, as a group we worked out how to conduct and film the dog hit. We did this by practicing the different methods we had in mind, whether to run over a big bag and carpet or simply move in a certain way to imply the fact we had just hit something.
I gained additional crew on board with our project - an on-set dresser and a photographer. Throughout the shooting period, I realised how beneficial it was to have the extra members of crew. They allowed the shooting period to become smoother by taking roles away from Katie, Alex and myself so we could concentrate on our own. I prepped a lot for each shoot day, checking we had all props and the cast knew about their costumes. I also filled out the required risk assessments to a good standard so I knew about the control methods to keeping my cast and crew safe on set.
I believe I worked well as a creative producer on the shoot days. I made sure we had all the shots we needed for each day by crossing them off the refined shot list. Due to this I believe I took my research into the shoot days by becoming "ringleader, seeing to it that all the elements come together as planned" (Martin, 2013). In addition to this, I also found that I could act as a 'second director'. While not getting in the way, I was there simply for support for Alex if he needed it. I also constantly made sure the original vision for the film was realised while shooting. This was possible by having the shot list with the initial plans on it. I listened, looked and reacted, as advised by Blaine Deutsch, on the shoot days to ensure everyone was happy and help out if there were any problems. I had to put this into practice at one point in production on the second shoot day. We were taking scenes 7 & 9 slowly because we had time before shooting the night scene, however, I could notice that the cast members were getting cold and bored from standing around while decisions were being made regarding filming and blocking, so I reacted by pushing the filming along slightly so we could get going. Even if we did a few more takes of the same shot, at least the cast weren't stood around getting cold. I was available on every shoot day to ensure all elements came together as planned. I felt this was important advice to take forward from my research into creative producing. While Alex and Katie were concentrating on blocking and filming, I was making sure everything was captured and we were on time shooting specific scenes each day, which ultimately meant that all elements came together by the final shooting day.
I was prepared with the make-up aspect to the film as this is such an important part to our visuals, particularly the blood. I conducted a trial run with the make-up artist I had got on board in the pre-production unit. The results we gained from the trail run were beneficial for the shoot days as I was able to liaise with Alex and explain what we created. This made the day simpler for all of us as we weren't spending loads of time deciding what make-up to do. Beth was able to get straight on with the make-up and blood when she was required to do so.
I organised and conducted the re-shoot and voice over day in the exact same way that I approached the main shooting period to maintain professionalism throughout the whole project. I also took the creativity through to the re-shoot, by again taking control and making sure everything was captured and we were on schedule. This allowed all the elements to come together as planned prior to the test shoot, i.e. shot lists, blocking.
In the post-production stage I was the rough cut editor. Throughout my research I found that this means I had to resemble the edit to look like the final product. I followed the script and storyboard while assembling the initial footage and audio together. As I was making sure the original vision was being realised in the shoot days, I had to continue with this and make sure the edit was also resembling the initial plans, as a result of this, I constantly checked the script and storyboard. I understood from other research that the structure of the film may need to change. Just because the story worked in a script, doesn't mean it'll work on the screen. Fortunately, I didn't feel the need to change the structure and this maintained throughout the entire project, from plans to final product. I added parts in to the edit that weren't initially thought of, for example, the voice over and GVs but these didn't change the structure of the story, just added to it.
In addition to my research, I also looked into editing comedy and in particular the editing of The Thick Of It, our inspiration for VET-MAN which helped me edit the rough cut. I made sure to follow their techniques of using camera movements like zooming and panning to my advantage, and I also held on appropriate reaction shots, as long as they added to the comedy aspect of the film. I initially took on Anthony Boys' advice about watching every frame by sitting with Katie when she briefly cut the first two shoot days together. His explanation of how timing is instinctive, I cut the specific shots when I felt it was right and then to get a second opinion, I asked other students with fresh minds to the project when they would cut it. As I learnt, there is not set way or time in which to cut something in comedy, it is purely down to when it feels right to do so. I took on the advice of not being afraid to cut something, if it wasn't working, such as some of the voice over we had planned, then it was cut. The storytelling of the film is the priority when creating a rough cut. The refinement of the film continued into the fine cut when Katie took it over with a fresh mind, allowing the comedy to flow better.
To continue with my creative role of producer, I scheduled fine cut viewings with Alex and Katie to view the progress of the film. As producer, I need to make sure everyone is on task to help "bring the creative vision to life" (Martin, 2013). As a result of this, I need to be involved with the whole production, from beginning to the final product so it was necessary that I had the opportunity to give feedback as well as Alex, as the director.
- During my research of the script read through, I discovered that it was known to organise first meetings like this in someones living room. While reading this, I had already decided that without a doubt the meeting would be held at the Studios, due to the more professional environment and ease for everyone to get to. During the main shoot week, I found out that this was the correct choice, as I was talking to one of the cast members about meeting with new people at the beginning of projects and they explained that they are always weary if the first meeting is scheduled in someones house. They found this uncomfortable as they haven't met the new group yet and to meet at someones house first could be dangerous for all they know. Once I had heard about this, I immediately realised that organising the script read through for the Studios was the best possible scenario. If I had arranged it for someones house, it sounds as if we might have lost that cast member as they wouldn't be comfortable for the first meeting to be at someones house. Although, Alex and I met with all the cast members at the auditions, they didn't meet each other until the script read through, so I can understand where the uneasiness would have come from. Thinking back to that shoot day, I am very pleased with myself for following my mind and agreeing that the Studios was the best place to meet.
- The blood splatter in the re-shoot went really well. We managed to get the splatter in one take and we were really happy with the result. The blood stained hands also looked effective, especially when Tim touches Sheila and Luke's arm and gets a hand print on their clothes. As the blood was a vital part of the story, it had to look right in order to help the story along. In this sense, it was worth putting more money into the budget to allow the re-shoot to happen, as we didn't have the same reaction on the first rough cut than we did on the third when the new footage was in place.
- The production schedule stayed the same throughout the whole of the shooting period. We either finished on time or earlier, we didn't have to stay later on any of the days unexpectedly. I believe that this shows I created an achievable schedule, and the fact that I created it at the beginning of the project before the shooting period makes me believe that I thought ahead and correctly decided how long we would take to shoot each scene. By keeping to schedule we were able to complete additional tasks with the cast, such as capture the poster photos.
- In terms of shooting locations, I only had to change one of them from the pre-production package, however, this didn't interfere with any other aspects in production. For example, I didn't have to let down a location and try to contact another. As the location I changed was only a road, I simply just had to contact the residents and let them know what we were planning on doing. I also contacted the Kent Film Office, but as I hadn't done this yet with the initial location, I didn't have to do it twice. As a result of this, changing the location was simple. The other locations didn't change. We had doubts about one location in the pre-production stage (Tess' house), however, we were able to use this in the end with no problems. Although I was constantly updating The Bell Inn throughout pre-production and production, they easily could have contacted me and explained that we couldn't use it anymore. Fortunately, they didn't and we had a successful shoot day on their premises. I was confident that the Owl Academy wouldn't turn us down as Alex is good friends with the owner, however, it was still a possibility for them to say that we couldn't film there, so I was grateful that we were allowed throughout production. The access we had on site was also really beneficial for the shots we wanted and for the promo photos.
- During the shoot days I realised how much we benefited from having the additional crew. Gina and Harriet were very helpful in terms of doing jobs so we didn't have to. BTS photos and production stills are a requirement for the major project hand in so it was helpful to have someone there taking high quality photos for us. We wouldn't have been able to get as many as she did if we had to take them ourselves. Harriet was also really helpful in terms of making sure the props were in place ready for shooting. If we didn't have her I can imagine that we would have needed to reset more takes than normal because we probably would have had realised that a prop was out of place for the character to use.
- I believe I successfully helped us keep to the shot list and production schedule on the shoot days. We captured everything we needed by the end of each shoot day. Even on the Margate shoot when we felt rushed, we managed to get all the footage we needed, it just wasn't up to the standard we wanted which was why a re-shoot was required. Keeping everyone on track on the shoot days was originally Simon's suggestion, and as it went well, I believe that I followed and carried out his advice accordingly, creating a number of smooth-running shoot days.
- I worked on the edit as a whole like I was advised to. This made the edit process easier when it came to viewings. The only time when a part of the edit may have been more developed than the rest was just before the re-shoot. I worked on the scenes that didn't need re-shooting and then worked just on the new footage after the re-shoot, however, I didn't do a lot to the other scenes just a bit of refining until I was able to work with the new footage. Once it was all on the timeline, I was able to carry on refining the edit as a whole.
- When aspects of filming didn't quite go to plan, I was able to think quickly as producer or editor in order to help resolve them. An example being during the night scene when we found out about the sensor light, we all thought quickly about how it could work by using it in the story. This worked really well in the end and we didn't lose any production value over it.
- In the end, all 8 shoot days were very productive, including the re-shoot and GV pickups, I was there primarily to make sure the shoot days went smoothly under the control of the director. To ensure we had all the shots that were listed in our pre-production package, and to make sure the production schedule was followed. I believe I took on the role of producer well during the production stage and incorporated some of my research of essentially being a second director and just making sure everything was controlled. I suggesting ideas to Alex where I could which were beneficial in some places of the story.
- I actually enjoyed budgeting for the film. I found a simple way of doing it by reading through the script drafts and noting down items and costumes that would be needed. In terms of travel, I was able to get an estimate of everyone's travel costs just by knowing where they lived. When it came to reimbursing the money back to the cast and crew, I believe I carried this out professionally. I reimbursed the cast and crew the day after we wrapped on the main shoot week, and I reimbursed them again the day after the re-shoot and voice over day, without fail. I explained from the start that I would reimburse on the following day after the wrap and I followed this through on both occasions. In addition to this, the reimbursement process was mentioned in the feedback form, explaining that it was 'simple, transparent, and prompt'.
- I believe that I created achievable production schedules for what needed to be completed on each shoot day. There wasn't an occasion where we ran late, only on time or earlier than scheduled. Again, the feedback form reflected this as one of the answers explained that we 'always finished on time or sooner, which was especially helpful for planning travel home'. The successful schedule was helped by liaising with Alex to find out what specific scenes he wanted to do on what days. Once I had this information, I was able to find an achievable way of doing what he envisioned for his shoot days.
- In terms of the feedback form, overall the answers were very positive. The questionnaire was anonymous so we couldn't tell who said what answer but I was grateful for the good feedback. My questions were primarily about the organisation of the project, whether they felt kept in the loop throughout production, food choices and reimbursement method. Generally, they felt that they were kept updated throughout the production. One answer mentioned the voiceover day which were weren't quite prepared for, however, Alex and I made sure the day wasn't a waste and thankfully, the cast member acknowledged this. We were able to conduct other work to do with the film on this day. After reading this answer, I was grateful that they understood the fact that Alex and I tried our best to make the day worth it for them coming in. Another answer detailed that 'communication was professional, polite, and friendly'. This was an important point for me, as the producer, I need to make sure everyone knows what is happening and feels comfortable throughout production, and after reading this comment I believe I did this well. All of the questions aimed at the organisational side and production of the film were answered with a 4 or 5 (5 being the highest) so I was pleased with this.
- I believe I got the last rough cut to a good standard ready for Katie when she took over. My reasoning for this is that the final film doesn't look too far off from my last rough cut. Katie also only made minimal changes to the visuals which means I took on the role of rough cut editor well throughout the post-production stage to get it to a good standard. I believe that getting it to the stage it was before passing it on was also down to the good relationship with Alex. As editor and director, we worked well throughout the edit. By having good communication skills I believe I was able to get it to it's best before passing it on.
- I believe I referred back to the pre-production package many times throughout this unit. This was beneficial in the fact that I didn't have to research again into aspects of production, I was able to spend that time wisely by further researching and reflecting back on the package, instead of re-doing the research.
- As I mentioned previously in my comparison of the final product to our initial plans, I believe I took on the creative side to producing well, ensuring we had every shot which was originally planned to make sure our final product matched with our initial plans and ideas. When it came to passing on the edit for the fine cut, I scheduled regular viewings with Katie and Alex to see how the edit was going. I was there predominantly to ensure our initial vision was coming across in the edit, which it did really well. The fact that our final product isn't far off the latest script draft is evidence of this.
What didn't go so well
- I was really disappointed with the doctors bag. As shown in Shoot Day 1 & 2 blog post, I had ordered and paid for a second hand, leather doctors bag which would have been perfect for the father's work bag. However, it didn't arrive. The night before the first shoot day I was still waiting and tracking the postal service but unfortunately it didn't turn up. As a result of this, we had to improvise and re-design one of Katie's bags. The bag was a leather briefcase bag, but it was slightly smaller which gave off a feminine look to the bag. From the script, the bag seemed as if it was big, bulky and manly, so when we decided to use the smaller bag, I knew it wouldn't give off the same impression the bag on order would have. Nevertheless, Dan explained that the small briefcase bag actually looked quite comedic. The fact that we built up the tension for the bag in the first scene and then it turns out to be a small, more feminine type of bag made the idea of the iconic bag funnier in his opinion.
- The make-up didn't look quite the same in the trial as it did on camera. This wasn't the make-up artists fault, if we had known that the black and red eyes looked slightly unrealistic on the camera then she could have easily changed them as she is experienced in that type of make-up. Unfortunately, I didn't think to review the footage that day, as long as the shots were crossed off I was positive about the day. Nevertheless, the make-up looked better once the colour grade was complete.
- Simon suggested that we should have kept Tim in his blood stained costume and mask rather than getting him changed. Having Tim attend the Owl Academy in blood stained clothes would have added to the comedy aspect more. However, none of us thought of this during the shooting period. Initially, it was my job to source the costumes that Alex wanted for his cast. He wrote in the script that Tim changes into a hoodie, and as a result of that, I told our cast member to bring clothes to change into.
- Although I said budgeting and scheduling went well, I also lacked on these skills slightly as we ended up going over the budget and we didn't follow the post-production schedule well. I struggled to think of every single aspect we were going to have to pay for when I first planned the budget in the pre-production stage, however, I made sure we were on track throughout the whole of production and I made sure these extra costs were affordable for us. I also checked with Katie and Alex to see if they were happy spending the extra money as well. These extra costs allowed us to create the best quality film that we could. We didn't keep to the post-production schedule during the beginning of the edit because I didn't schedule everything which needed to happen in the edit, and therefore we went over the schedule. I found it hard to plan something so far in advance and as I was very busy during the pre-production stage, I wasn't focusing on the post-production as much as I should. I know schedules are inevitably going to change and develop, however, we would have been on schedule more if I had considered time to sync the audio and given more time in-between rough and fine cuts for re-shoots.
- In terms of actually writing the blog post, I wasn't entirely sure how to approach the shoot day posts. As director and DoP, I understand that Alex and Katie would have a lot more to write about, however, I struggled to write a detailed piece. I am taking on the creative role and organisational role of producing but in terms of being creative, I had to make sure we had all the correct shots from the shot list and make sure we had all costumes and props ready for the shoot day. I was also able to act as a second director as I found throughout my research, but as Alex had it under control and had his own ideas, I didn't need to intervene as much as I thought I might. As a result of this, I used the time in the blog post to explain and evaluate my producer tasks from the pre-production package, such as crew, props, costume, location etc.
- Marketing was definitely my weakest point within the producer role. I struggled with this in the pre-production unit as well. Although contacting Oscar and Emily helped me think of additional ideas and more creative ways to tackle advertising, especially on social media as this was my main marketing method, I still didn't quite feel satisfied with my final advertising methods. Advertising and marketing my work was a new experience for me in the final year of University and it's not something I did for previous work. I think my lack of experience shows in my marketing attempts as I wasn't confident in them from the start. Contacting different people did help and give me inspiration for ideas I wouldn't have otherwise thought of, however, I am unsure whether my marketing techniques were as expected.
What would I do differently next time?
- Throughout my research I learnt to conduct the script read through as early as possible in case I felt that one of the cast members wasn't quite right for the film. However, due to everyones busy timetables, I could only schedule the script read through for a few weeks before we were due to start filming. Luckily, as I thought, all our cast members were perfect for their parts, however, if we weren't as lucky, we would only have had a couple of weeks in which to find someone to replace them which would have been difficult and possibly impossible given the short amount of time the new member would need to get on board and learn their lines. As a result of this, if I was to do a project like this again I would try harder to arrange a suitable time in which to conduct the script read through, giving me a sizeable amount of time before the filming period where I could have changed cast if it was needed.
What did I learn?
- Make sure I give time for every aspect of production. We struggled to follow the post-production schedule because I hadn't given enough time for the rough cut or any room for re-shoots. These are vital areas of post-production and I have now learnt how long they take to perfect. To do them correctly, they need more time to be scheduled for them.
- Although I ordered the doctors bag well in advance, I have learnt to order items even further in advance to prevent them not turning up. If I had done this even further in advance then I would have had more time finding out where the parcel had got to, and I may have been able to amend it before the shoot day.
- I have learnt to check the footage myself on the camera. Reflecting back on Tim's make-up, I was surprised as the difference to how it looked on camera to how it looked in person. If it looked terrible on camera I have no doubts that Katie would have said something, I think I still should have looked to see if it could be made better. This wasn't a big issue as it was corrected in the colour grade, however, it may have saved some time in the edit.
- I have learnt a lot of valuable things about producing. I didn't realise how much responsibility the producer had on shoot days as their job is primarily in the pre-production stage. I also didn't quite comprehend the role of creative producer in our previous unit, but I believe that I have learnt from further research and I took to the creative side of producing well, helping to bring the creative vision to life.
- Martin, G. (2013). Why Producers Are More Important Than Any Good Photographer. Available at: https://fstoppers.com/interview/why-producers-are-more-important-any-good-photographer-1525. Last accessed 3rd Feb 2019.