Whilst watching my short film I hope you realise how much effort, dedication and soul went into producing it; only taking 4 hard months of pre-production, 4 days of hell in production and 2 months of vigorous post-production. One can see the level of thought and passion through the images on screen. The journey was a long but one that had taught me far more than I had ever imagined. Creating such an ambitious project was part of my plan, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I wanted to prove myself as a media producer that anything could be possible as a student. Majority of people were shooting films in a house, I was shooting it in a nightclub. I wanted that extra bit of showreel material that would sell myself to employers, this was the guy with the biggest student project and he was the one who pulled it off.
Working together with a very talented writer I was able to make my ideas heard, the writer would do careful research into each part of the story so that the film would be realistic and legitimate. Everything in the film had meaning; nothing was ever random or just put there for being for the sake of it. Everything was governed by an interesting ideology; this gave depth to all of the characters as well as the events in the script. It was the importance of understanding the writer’s vision that allowed me to transfer his script to visuals.
I learned that money is the one of the biggest parts of filmmaking; I could only rent the best camera with a hefty amount of cash, I could only use the best sound equipment by paying a big rent fee. And if I offered to pay less or not at all, then people would just drop-out – like the first DoP and multiple sound recordists. Actors dropping out plagued me less, but I should have issued legally binding contracts to actors taking part in the production to minimise this – I only learned this when Levis dropped out a day before the shoot, which almost ruined it. Mentioning expenses meant nothing, you always had to have that extra bit of cash to offer as payment for people’s time. It was really important to do so. People who are good at what they do and charge nothing is impossible to find in today’s society, on top of expenses you have to pay people, and even a small amount will suffice. Even if you do show people your showreel and state that you are fantastic, there is no guarantee that someone will watch it and fully commit themselves to you. Contracts and payments are the way forward.
And then there were the extras (an integral part of the film that would actually make it believable as film) a part that I completely overlooked, and to no surprise, failed at. But this made me learn that organising extras was another science that had to be respected and followed. I had to remember that they were not getting anything from it in terms of showreel so I had to offer them something other than payment and arrange and confirm them individually. I was lucky enough to meet a person on the first day that would prove to be an invaluable contact in getting people to act as nightclub extras thanks to his son’s company, Destiny Live Performance. It made me learn that making good contacts as a media producer was crucial because the more people you know the more you can organise, the more links you make and the more professional you get as a filmmaker. The more you can achieve. This took me from zero experience of organising extras to knowing exactly what to do if I needed them in the future.
Directing on the set was insane. At points I just wanted to drop dead on the floor and shut my eyes to the world – but I couldn’t, I had to prevail with an iron fist. Last time I worked on a 15min short film was back in the 2nd year of college (I went from 2 years of HND to final year top-up at Coventry University) and we didn’t even arrange any other actors apart from our college group. It was child’s play compared to this film. You’d probably imagine me being completely mad going from something as petty as this to something as grand as ‘End of Nights’ but I needed to fill in that missing gap of familiarity with proper film sets, working with proper actors and a professional crew (which I also ALL produced with my fellow producer). Just 4 days of production gave me first-hand experience in working on a big set – it is not for the weak, it is not easy and it is certainly one hell of a task. As the director you have to be the man in charge – you are the one calling all the shots – everyone is under your command. You have to make very important creative decisions in order to make the film succeed, especially when you want it to have no similarities to the work of students. You have to tell everyone what to do and how to do it the way you want it. Now that I can easily sit down and look back at it, I realise that I loved every minute of it. I constantly push myself to the limit because I just want to get better; I want to make great films. I believe I have what it takes.
Project management as a whole was satisfactory. It was rough at parts and only got serious a week before the actual shooting, but can you fault them if I managed to complete the film to the highest of standards as well as keep it affordable? There is room for improvement and I know what needs to be improved and taken care of the future. Legal documents are of utmost importance, sure we got the release forms after the project, but the forms in pre-production were just as crucial. This project has made me realise the importance of every little stage in the process.
In post-production I have never in my life worked with a Red or 4k footage and this project gave me that chance to. I enhanced my technical skills and devised an incredibly high-quality workflow to handle such epic footage. As an editor you gain experience with every project you work on – the bigger and more ambitious projects grant you massive rewards upon completion – you look back and think, wow, I did that. You devise clever little ways of bypassing silly errors and mistakes that were made in production and you make the film flow and give it depth and meaning, this is the part where the script transforms into fantastic visuals. The power of grading gave me insight into how the colours can emit a dominant meaning and combined with talented sound design and an interesting and fascinating story, a legendary film is born. A film I created.
On a finishing note I will quote my friend once again: “It is better to have great ideas but have to work within realistic limitations than weak ideas that you have to try and polish into something better”. I hope you enjoyed my film.
Producer, Director & Editor of “End of Nights”