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361MC Pre-production

Due to some controversial elements of the film I was very confident and prepared in making ALL actors and important extras sign off a release form for the project. After doing some research I found a ‘mock’ actor release form off ShootingPeople and modified it for the purpose of fitting this film and production. I simply did not want any problems in the future that may arise due to how the film portrays (or if they disagree with how it portrays) the artists in the final edit.

“The Artist gives all consents required under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or any re-enactment consolidation or amendment thereof in order that the Producer may make full use of the Artist’s services and any other moral rights to which the Artist may be entitled under any existing or future legislation.”

This part of the agreement ensures that I will be protected from any lawsuits should I have to face them. It’s better to be prepared than sorry in a court of law. I allowed these contracts to be signed upon completion of the film but I should have forwarded them BEFOREHAND as well; this would have minimised the chances of the actors dropping out. I blame my learning curve, but this experience was incredibly important in my development as a professional media producer.

The days that followed our so-called ‘fail’ were challenging. It’s difficult to describe one’s all-time low in life but I can assure you that this was really horrible to experience. At this point we believed that we had failed and messed up our film (and potentially our lives), far more than anyone else. It’s hard to believe there was so much stress involved in the production of a 15minute film.

The bigger the project the more people you have to rely on. I agreed with the producer that we were to assemble our remaining pieces of coin and give these nightclub scenes one last chance. It’s lucky that we could afford such a massive production, but as a pair we knew full well that we could pull it off if we gave ourselves one last chance.

We were determined to see where we went wrong and to never repeat the same mistakes, so we began producing, again. It took us a few days to get ourselves back together and we started sending out messages. We started messaging people via emails to see what times they were free on the week starting 25th March, we honestly dreaded getting all the same cast and crew for a ‘re-union’ on one day. Could we do it? Read on and find out…

I put my eyes on the last two days of the next week, March the 28th and 29th. I contacted all the crew and told them my intentions and thankfully they were all happy with it. The main cast was next, Levis was fine with it (but asked about being paid, we said no because we simply had no funds left. He complained about having no food on set but I assured him it would be sorted this time round). Grace said she could only make the next week because it was Good Friday and that she would  not be doing any other films at this time – yet she agreed to work on ours because she saw potential in it (as everyone else did). Getting Ted again was tricky. He said that he had many on-going rehearsals as well as work and that it was slim he would get a day off – however we met up with him on the Friday 22nd and begged for him to try and get a day off, he was convinced and said he would get back to us asap.

Next was the Club. On Monday 25th I got in contact with the assistant manager of ClubM but he was incredibly reluctant to let us use the club. After multiple texts and convincing we managed to persuade him but with a cost of hiring out the venue – for Thursday. This put our minds at rest and I started to message people on the new filming date. Then I received a text off Ted that he managed to get Friday off. I panicked but knowing that I was going to pay ClubM for the venue anyway, I messaged them saying changed I needed to change to Friday. They were fine with it…

I knew extras were difficult to get so I sent an email to the local newspaper (Coventry Telegraph) and they published my article. Unfortunately..

PaperI recieved around 5 emails for this, replied, and to no avail whatosoever…

Next day Tuesday 26th I received a message from the club saying that we could not, at any cost, use the club on the Friday because the manager (and company director) was coming down. I panicked again and started to ask Ted if he could change to Thursday.. This is when I found out that the Gay Guy Extra could not do Thursday either. So me and my fellow producer flipped in rage at the world and decided that it was time to find another club. It was either Friday or nothing else.

Whilst all this was happening I was keeping in touch with Roger who I had met at ClubM and was playing Bouncer #1 (executive produer) who was very keen on helping out and arranging extras for the club scenes. But he needed a club for the extras to go to! I had already told him that we would be going ClubM on Thursday but now I had to tell him we were doing it on Friday at a club that we had not yet found.

I had already created a Facebook page for extras – please understand that I had learned from my mistake but this page was for people to keep track of the event and not it any way confirming any attendees – this was used to notify some folk about the new venue. I was going to get extras the proper way.

NIGHTCLUB EXTRAS EVENT PAGE FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/events/500581223311257/

With my fellow producer, we started researching all clubs that we could use in Coventry for Friday:

  • Hush – gave them a knock and they said they couldn’t accommodate us due to some on-going maintenance work
  • Platinum – contacted the owner but he forwarded us to another placed he owned – ‘The Loft’, asked if we could have a look at it tomorrow  and he agreed
  • S7ven – contacted owner and asked if we could have a look at it tomorrow and he agreed
  • The Dog – owner said call 30mins in advance so we can see the place

Things were starting to look better, but we still did not have a guaranteed club. I created a flier (advertising for extras) for ClubM on Monday and still had the Photoshop file ready for modification; for some reason I was keen on S7ven so I modified it to fit that club. I messaged all the cast and crew and confirmed that we were to shoot on Friday at a venue that I would have to confirm the next day.

Wednesday 27th – We started the day by looking at S7ven, unfortunately it was instantly unusable because it had massive white windows and during the day it was bright inside. Obviously as a nightclub it would be only open in the night when it would be naturally dark. Next was The Dog. We finally hit solid gold with this one. It was perfect, small and manageable with a very friendly manager. The scenes would play out here far better than they did at ClubM.

DOGFlier used to advertise our need for extras

We agreed to use it and finally set the final stage of producing in motion. I wanted to see the Loft but apparently the owner was really dodgy so I was discouraged from using it by Roger, who I constantly notified about my options and situation. I completed the flier for The Dog and printed out 30 or so copies for distribution for tomorrow, Thursday, a day before the shoot. I also secured a runner from the first year of the same course as me as he wanted experience. He knew a professional photographer who would also be an extra at the club as well as do some production stills. I met a good actor to play Jasmine at ClubM so that made me feel more secure; all the cast were notified about the latest plans and they were happy with it. Downsides included:

  • The makeup artist could not make it because of personal issues
  • Could not get any kind of replies from the Alpha male
  • The Victim was unavailable on that day

However not all was gloom, everyone else was available and that was enough to tell the story we had imagined in the script (minus everything involving the above extras). The positives included:

  • Roger had arranged and confirmed 10+ extras for the club scenes
  • Jasmine was now secured thanks to meeting her at ClubM
  • We had now secured a runner, and two people to take production stills
  • We had secured 5+ extras for the club ourselves thanks to StarNow and other willing people
  • The main cast could make it as well as Gay Man, Bouncer #1 & 2
  • The rest of the crew were happy with the date and times

Thursday 28th was the very last day of preparation, that calm day before the storm. Me and the producer personally gave out the fliers which I had printed the day before to select townsfolk (plus stuck a few of them around town) in the hope of securing that last few remaining amount of extras. We also showed the DoP the new club and he was far happier with it – levels of light were higher, less extras needed to actually make it look full and the staff was far more friendlier and actually helpful for a change. The location and accessibility was great too because it was right in the centre of town – food was available easily as well as other amenities. It just made us realise that this place was far better than ClubM in so many ways – I just wish that we did not choose ClubM because it played so easy to get, but rather look around town and find the best possible choice. The Dog was also going to be an open set, meaning that people would walk into the club and double as extras (because it was an open bar during the day) which I thought would be of benefit. It was decided that Laura would get the earliest possible train from Manchester so that she could arrive on time at 9:30am. Regrettably, we had to work around the lack of makeup – although fellow producer had the brilliant idea of taking the female lead (Grace) to be made-up in the nearby Debenhams in the morning whilst preparations were taking place, certainly a grand idea. All was good.

We had just managed to give us one more chance to save the film, and for that we were grateful to ourselves and everyone that had helped. It was a very stressful and hard week but we had somehow pulled it off!

Producing for scene 9 was easy after what had taken place to secure the nightclub re-shoot. Only 3 actors were required and I could easily secure the availability of DoP and cheaper sound recording. A crappy-looking room was straightforward to secure as SQ bar had been known to let students use their facilities free of charge.

Sunday the 17th, 2 days before the shoot. After being notified that the sound recordist could not make it I was worried, again. This time I did not have a week to sort it, but instead 1 day. I knew I couldn’t make an ad on ShootingPeople because it was a Sunday and it would not get approved till the next day. The sound recordist that dropped out forwarded us to a website where we could contact other recordists in the Coventry/Birmingham area. I found 10 numbers and called all of them; 5 that had answered stated that they would only accept jobs for £250 a day, the standard rate of a professional recordist. I was about to give up at this point until I remembered that there was one last sound recordist application on SP that I had overlooked. Gave him a call. Strange beeps & no answer. Called again and he answered. He was in Italy at the time and would be flying down to England tomorrow evening (Monday) so he could make the shoot date on Tuesday. I even managed to negotiate the price down a little to make it fairer on my pocket. However he was to bring an additional boom operator with him to help him on the day, with a very small additional cost & expenses shared. I agreed. These guys were Italian and top-notch at everything they did. The main recordist would also be doing the film’s sound design in the future.

Finding Levis in 24 hours

When I thought I had experienced everything that had to be experienced in terms of people dropping out (I was in for a real treat), I received an email Sunday night (only 12 hours after the sound recordist had dropped out) from the actor to play Levis that his “Mother had passed away”. I was devastated and ultimately laughing at how unreal this situation was. I had to quickly accept reality and with my nature of never giving up and fighting till the end, I quickly got on Skype with my fellow producer and we had a look for actors in the Coventry/Birmingham area, found 3 potential candidates, and then messaged them details with an offer of payment. We gave a deadline of 12pm the next day if we got more than 1 reply. 1 actor fortunately replied, he was quickly confirmed and we forwarded all the relevant details to him. Phew. Since the hotel was already booked for the Levis coming from London we could re-use this booking for the new actor that was going to come from Birmingham, for one night less, however, because he was due to arrive on the Tuesday. Definitely one of the more crazier weeks of my life. But this was nothing compared to what I would experience on the first day of the shoot at ClubM.

CrazySackieMind = blown

The first DoP dropping out was a blessing in disguise. It allowed us to come up with that final final script version that we were 101% happy with. A script that was logistically sound as well as ambitious. The days leading up to filming were stressful and heavy but we kept on going. The majority of the actor extras were confirmed, the cast and crew were locked so nothing can go wrong now, right?

Pisswater

Original DoP… messing us over. DSLR gear, pfff.

Now that we were incredibly happy with our simplified script it was of question of arranging our crew. In panic I messaged a few DoPs on ShootingPeople but no-one replied. So after a bit of smart thinking I remember that someone from our university year offered to DoP projects (on the university course Facebook page) for £250 a day (with a Red Scarlet, hence the fee) so I quickly got in touch with him on Facebook and forwarded the script, schedule and recces. He was also the only one in the year who had proper experience with shooting on a red digital camera and being a DoP with that skill was something he consistently showed off. He liked the film idea and agreed to the dates. Even better he had his own crew of close people that would do the lighting. These guys doubled up as 2 toilet guys and one gang member. The more people involved in this project the more roles I could fill of these extras that I needed purely for body count. I knew these guys were local so that helped a great deal – I also met the DoP in person on a few occasions – to show him the club and discuss the shot lists. We agreed that he would come up with a revised shot list to mine and we’d confirm the best shots on the day. I knew I could trust this guy with my film – he had a good reputation and a professional vibe to him. His portfolio was fairly impressive (even for a 3rd year student) and I really liked his style of cinematography and his shooting of things with a sense of realism (the style I was going for, balance of tripod/handheld) – avoiding the student look whilst not looking too fancy or over-the-top beautiful. I wanted the film to be cinematic, but be realistic and gritty in terms of its shots and angles – he was the perfect man for the job. It was also evident that he has keen on getting and excited to get the best possible shot, with a Red.

Choosing a digital camera – Why was a RED chosen?

I wanted to:

  • I simply wanted to use a RED. Every filmmakers dream, if not, you’re not a filmmaker. It’s new tech, and digital is the way forward.
  • Avoid the ‘student’ look at all costs that is evident from most DSLRs – the University loan shop offered nothing better than 1080p recording either. The 5D Mark II was a massive no for the club scenes.
  • Capture the image equally to how my eyes saw it on the day
  • Use a proper cinema digital camera that was intended for filmmaking
  • Push myself to the limit in post-production (working with Redcine-X Pro) grading and colour correction – ability to adjust the camera settings in post-production after shooting, one of the benefits of Redcode RAW (R3D format)
  • Gain invaluable experience with working with a RED
  • Shoot in 4k resolution
  • A camera that performed far superior in low-light conditions so the Red Scarlet was chosen
  • I did not want to settle for anything less than professional quality
  • Ability to crop footage with no quality loss, e.g. turning some long shots into mediums and some mediums into close-ups due to possible time constraints

The biggest and most drastic change to the script came 1 week before the actual shoot. Our DoP who we had arranged from ShootingPeople dropped out because he said he could not refuse a paid job. This worried us greatly, but it made us come to a realisation, a realisation that I believe saved the film. Why not cut everything that we had not secured (all the office space scenes + misc) – consequently cutting shooting days and making everything far more cheaper. We were very fond of the nightclub scenes so why not make the majority of the film unravel in the club, with a short series of events that would lead to it. We agreed that we would cleverly reveal the background of the main character (Ted) in the first scene, which would also set the premise of the story, and the other two main characters (Grace & Levis) would be revealed in Scene 2. Our reasoning behind this is to reveal the characters as quickly as possible and then lead the audience to the nightclub to see the drama unfold. The nightclub was our baby; we made it the heart of the film with everything else leading up to it. We’ve always wanted to do it since the start so here was our chance. We set out the whole script onto post-stick notes and came to the best possible sequence of events, and after doing that we could easily modify the dialogue to incorporate the slightly adjusted and finalised story. Upon contemplation with the direction of the script, we removed all aspects of the violent end and instead replaced it with a more dark and sinister ending which was far more fitting for the story as a whole.

1 week before shooting I was happy to find out that the main crew were eager and dedicated so I booked a hotel for 2 nights for Levis (he was coming from London), Grace (Manchester), and the Makeup Artist (London) – I was serious and hoped that they were too.

We started producing the film with the ‘Out-Classed’ version of the script in mind so the locations that we needed included:

  • Office Space – Conference Room, Office Workstation Space, Canteen
  • Nightclub Space – Entrance, Corridors, Dancefloor, Toilet, Bar, Beer Garden
  • Concrete-Jungle Outdoor Space/Park
  • Misc: Apartment Room, House Room, Lab Corridor, Pub Space

For the office space we called various places on Gumtree – http://www.gumtree.com/office-space/coventry but we were quoted up to £500 for the facilities that we required for just 1 day (apparently they had to clean an area just so we could use the areas we wanted). This is something that I completely was against paying for. Locations should be free because I am potentially using it to advertise their businesses, etc.   I emailed various people for office space but no-one seemed to reply. The scale of the office space we required was simply too big so I guess people were unprepared to help because we were students with a severe lack of money. The problem with acquiring office spaces is that they are either all taken or simply being used for long period of times in a year. It simply wasn’t feasible or possible to hire out an office space. We kept trying to locate one, but we were unsuccessful – this was another driving factor to enter Mark IV of the script ‘End of Nights’ removing an office space from the script/story altogether. It was really demotivating being told that we had to pay grand amounts to secure a pretty crappy office space. Absolutely no-one helped us at this point, the best advice we could get was to use one of the rooms in Coventry University, I wanted to cry at this point. I wanted authenticity, not a university room.

We assumed nightclubs were going to be the hardest to find. The best way of contact to them was through their Facebook pages, so we started sending heaps of cleverly formulated messages to various nightclub venues (around 5 in total). None of them got back to us apart from Club M, Coventry. We spoke to the assistant manager of Club M and he was more than happy for us to see and use the place as long as we held an after-party there upon the completion of filming. We agreed. ClubM recces can be found here;

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/73462357@N06/sets/72157632864264447/

The club itself was fantastic. It had the latest tech, it was a genuine nightclub with pitch black walls, the box-office was perfect, the toilet’s walls were painted in blood red and car parking was aplenty. Technically we couldn’t have got a better club – it was perfect for the events in the story. We were really happy with ourselves for securing what we thought would be the most difficult task of all so we took a massive sigh of relief and moved forward. However the second time I came for recces (with the new DoP) the assistant manager who agreed to meet us on the day was actually in Scotland; this was incredibly devastating because I had to make the DoP (the final DoP who had taken time off to visit the club) wait 30mins, for no-one to even turn up. This looked bad on me and my fellow producer and showed the true nature of the assistant manager. He could have easily notified us about his absence. Fortunately he met us later in the week. DoP loved it but stated that additional lighting would be required. This club however was to cause us massive problems in the future – see Production at ClubM.

For the outdoor scenes we already had a location in mind, Stoke Aldemoor Park. We went down there and started taking some recce shots. It had a reputation for being ‘dodgy’ – one look at the recces explains my point perfectly;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/designbygeo/sets/72157632980200408/

I really wanted to use the areas highlighted 1 and 2 to feature the subway in the film. It would give the film a true sense of darkness and depravity, especially when the gang would be abusing a woman in darkness and Ted and Grace would walk right into that mess. The scene was simple enough so not much planning was required at this point. There was a road nearby that featured spaces for cars so I was happy with it, it also could not let us down because it was a park and a park isn’t going anywhere.

We had thought of Misc locations but were honestly not going anywhere with them. Parts of the script that needed them were minimal and too small to merit such effort to find them so we started to begin doubting parts of the story that actually needed them.

Again, this is what lead to the Mark IV change – ‘End of Nights’. Once that version of the script went gold we had already secured the nightclub and the outdoor locations so all that was left was finding a place for the councillor scene. Funnily enough we needed a realistic office, one room this time, so we asked around once again but to no avail. A friend of mine showed us a room but it was far too messy and filled with equipment to qualify as a councillor’s office. We did however find a nice somewhat suitable room in our university building (two actually) and booking it was comparable to selling your soul to the devil, so a lecturer advised us to walk in on the day and use it. And that we did.

For crew members we chose to use ShootingPeople (even with its small monthly subscription fee). It was recommended by our media production year group but we were to find it’s very misleading. Main ads were put up for a Cinematographer, Sound Recordist and Makeup; all expenses paid but the jobs themselves unpaid. Eventually we had two applicants willing to fill the role of cinematography, multiple for sound, and one for makeup. I chose a cinematographer (Sam) based on his work – I really liked his style, he had a Red Scarlet in his kit list and he too had a fondness for Irreversible (one of our film influences). He really kept us motivated during the weeks leading to the shooting date. We provided him with recces, draft schedules, and the latest updates. He was a really cool guy but very demanding. At one point he asked for a crazy amount of lighting kit, which even our university didn’t have and multiple red volt packs for the red. How the hell were we going to get these in Coventry? Honestly we had no idea what to do about that little issue. That would all pass because he was going to screw us over 1 week before the shoot anyway.

FilmShootingPeople

Adding our film onto ShootingPeople so potenial crew could get some little info before they get involved

Crew3ShootingPeople

Creating a crew ad for our film on ShootingPeople

Sound recordists were a pain. They wanted so much money for their equipment rent fees – £150 a day and more plus their expenses. I asked one of them for a cheaper kit and she agreed but then we found out that she was unavailable on the date. Another recordist kept messing us about saying yes he could make it, then he couldn’t, then he had to wait and see if he could.. then he completely forgot about us. Finally he said he couldn’t. So I used ShootingPeople once again to find another recordist, I managed to with a good price. Then all the way up to 2 days before the shoot when he left us dead in the water because a paid job had come up. If you wanted a sound recordist from ShootingPeople there was no way you could avoid their rent fees.

Crew2ShootingPeople

CrewShootingPeople

Evidence of all the applications we recieved and processed for our film

A makeup artist applied to be part of the film (we needed one for cuts/bruises lesions and nightclub sweat for authenticity). She was genuine and stayed in contact with us through the pre-production all the way to the production. It was important to keep in contact with all crew members and the actors we had confirmed. Always telling them we were working hard on the script and producing the film and constantly good news that we were getting our locations. Keeping everyone in the know was a very good thing.

I tried to get a producer from their too (as you can see on the screenshot) but it’s obvious that none of them would be interested in producing a student film, and we all know that students are not to be trusted.

So, 1 week before shoot and no DoP & lighting team, 2 days before the shoot no sound recording. Fantastic.