Pre-production – Working closely with the writer

A friend once told me “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”.

We set out to make a film that was as little student-like as possible, we wanted to tell an interesting story that would captivate the audience and we wanted to prove ourselves as potential professional filmmakers. Together we wanted to shoot domestically and tell a really interesting and complicating story based around our home city. We wanted to push ourselves as filmmakers to the limits. We want our film to be the biggest and most ambitious of the year, and this was our journey.

With my filmmaking partner Rob, we decided our roles at the very start of this project. We were to be joint producers; I was to be the Director, Script Editor and head of post-production. He was to be the Writer, 1st AD and Editor. I was not the writer but only the person who gave the writer ideas that he could or could not use. My role in the actual writing, research and development of the film’s story was therefore low but significant enough because I had the power to change the direction of the story if I chose to. Having worked very closely with the writer in the past I knew I could trust him with creating a really interesting and engaging story that was genuine and realistic – it was his strong point.

Original proposal video: https://vimeo.com/57642075

The writer liked my original idea in the proposal video (3 clones’ story – where each clone, put into a contrasting way of life, is put to the test to see if he will commit the crime again. The original specimen was a killer from a violent background) so he began writing a draft version of the script. Whilst he was doing that I went about researching the best way of casting for the film, the camera we were going to use and the crew members we were going to need; I began producing whilst working closely with the writer on shot lists.

Our idea went through 4 different stages, stages which marked massive changes in the script; First:

  • Mark I –  Simulation (3 stories)
  • Mark II –  Façade (2 contrasting stories)
  • Mark III –  Out-Classed (1 long story)
  • Mark IV – End of Nights (final, completely refined, short story)

Each draft stage was sent to our lecturers and peers for feedback. As a script editor I looked at every version of the draft and expressed what I liked and didn’t like, I gave some ideas into how the story might have gone and progressed. The writer talked me through his work and let me know the reasoning behind each scene and event. He explained the character profiles to me so that I would understand each character and their reasoning’s. I had to be well informed because I was going to direct the actors. I understood the writer’s vision and could it into the visuals.

The first draft of the script was very long, each story was about 15 pages in length; so multiplied by 3 that would have been 45 pages/minutes. The story was based on each of the clones on contrasting ways of life (househusband, office worker, homeless man). From receiving feedback from various sources, we learned that logistically, this was very difficult to do (we had far too much going in, I’m talking in terms of a Hollywood feature length film) so we cut the script to two stories, and then eventually one story.  Based on my original proposal video one can establish that is was more of a proposal for a feature film than for a short. The three stories based around this ‘clone’ was an interesting and original concept but it would have required a budget beyond anything I could afford; this we found out after the writer completed the very first draft of the script.

The homeless man story seemed to not appeal to anyone because apparently a lot of students focus their final major projects on tramps or vagrants, basically it was cliché and we wanted to avoid any kind of student look or feel. The house-husband one was a little boring and thoughtless and seemed very similar to the office worker story, which was far more interesting and exciting.

This was the story we liked the best; Ted arriving into work meeting the new boss; walking home and being confronted by a gang and then saved; a series of events at the club which eventually lead to a powerful ending. We were fairly happy with this stage (Out-Classed) so decided to stick with this draft to see how much producing we could do to make this happen.

Social and ethical issues

I believe that contemporary society has reached a point where it needs to stop and take a look at itself; and what better way is there to do so through my own work? In this film I wanted explore the very meanings with the obsession of confidence – a theme that today, goes through a lot of people’s minds and is often overlooked in cinema. The main character has a severe lack of self-worth and without asserting himself, this is what happens, you fail in a society like today. The story is incredibly contemporary, demonstrating interracial relations – black and white couples, pointless obsessions with DJs, the depravity of male and female behaviour in clubs, and how the white man is now losing competition. The writer has carefully researched these issues and created a very compelling story that highlights such impacts in today’s society.

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