Tomorrow I’m off to Derbyshire for a few days, this time to lens Sophie’s short film, Ashes. I’m sure I’ll have some interesting things to tell you about that shoot when I’m back.
But in the meantime, here’s one from the archives. This is one of the featurettes from The Beacon‘s long-forgotten DVD in which I break down a crude but effective VFX shot.
Compositing elements shot against black in my living room was an MO I heavily expanded on when I made my next feature, Soul Searcher, and you can see the extensive break-downs for that film by renting or buying the deluxe package below.
Following on from my last post, let’s take a closer look at how part of The Beacon‘s car chase sequence was created, in particular the bit where Sarah goes flying out through her windscreen during the crash and miraculously lands on the roof rack of the villain’s speeding car. This ridiculous feat garnered a round of applause at the premiere, but how was it done?
The car crash was done for real, as previously explained, but clearly I couldn’t afford the stunt team and wire rigs necessary to catapult someone through the air and then composite in the vehicles below, which is how you would probably do it if you had a proper budget.
In fact there are no visual FX in this sequence at all. The illusion is created entirely through editing, using quick cuts of Sarah (LJ Hamer) leaning through the pre-smashed windscreen, a close-up of her legs being pulled out through the windscreen by a couple of crew members stood on the bonnet, a low angle shot against sky where she’s not moving at all, and a dummy being thrown at the villain’s car. The dummy was pulled together from whatever items we had to hand and looked terrible, but only eight frames of it were needed in the edit before cutting to an angle of LJ (already on the roof rack) dropping from all fours onto her front.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth at least a million. So I’ve put together a little compilation of the rushes so you can see exactly what I mean.
A decade ago I was editing The Beacon, my stupid Malvern-based action movie made for about £3,000. The Cardboard Chase is most people’s favourite scene, but a close second for me would have to be the car chase:
Setting up car-mounted cameras
Pretty silly, huh?
The car chase was shot over three days, mostly on Castlemorton Common in Malvern. It was done totally guerrilla style – no permissions, no insurance, no safety briefings, no stunt co-ordinator. The red car belonged to one of the crew, whilst the blue one was purchased secondhand for the production at a cost of £120, then taxed for £90 and insured for LJ, the lead actress, to drive at £235. (This was just standard car insurance so she could drive it on the road legally, and in no way covered it for film stunt use.)
The crash was shot on private land. The white car belonged to a friend of mine who was going to scrap it anyway. Crazy cast member Si Dovey offered to double for LJ driving the blue car towards the white one (sorry, I know nothing about makes of cars so colours will have to suffice to identify them) and miraculously came out alive, despite not even wearing a seatbelt on the second take. Getting the wrecked cars towed away afterwards (which was a major hassle) cost £75, bringing the grand total for the sequence to £520.
So an action-packed car chase can be shot pretty cheaply, but of course you shouldn’t try it under any circumstances because it’s extremely dangerous and highly illegal on public land.
Additional (27/10/11): By the way, you can download the whole budget for the film, if you’re so inclined, from The Beacon page.
A decade ago today principal photography wrapped on The Beacon. To celebrate, here’s Behind The Beacon, a documentary previously only available to those lucky few who purchased the DVD. (I’m sorry, lucky few. I’m really sorry. I hope it was at least useful as a coaster.)
The documentary was made by David Abbott of Star Films, who also served as first assistant director, director’s chauffeur and action vehicle co-ordinator on The Beacon. Yep, The Beacon is a £3,000 movie with a car chase in it. How? Well, a crazy cast and crew, a quiet common and a total disregard for any kind of health and safety procedures. In fact, the chief requirement for involvement in the film, behind or in front of camera, was a complete lack of interest in one’s own personal safety. So I must of course write the immortal words: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.
Anyway, there’ll probably be some more behind-the-scenes video nuggets from The Beacon coming your way later in the year, so look out for those. And you can read all about the making of the Malvern Hills’ most action-packed movie ever by selecting The Beacon from the Blog Categories in the sidebar. And if you feel like you’ve missed something because you haven’t seen the film itself – trust me – ignorance is bliss.
Directing my 35mm pilot for The Dark Side of the Earth (photo: Richard Unger)
Greetings, people of the Interweb, and welcome to NeilOseman.com, the new virtual home of my filmmaking adventures.
I’ve been blogging about the films I make for many years, but up till now these blogs have always been on websites set up specifically for each film. The purpose of this site is to bring all my blogs together, past and present, along with lots of other stuff.
Sometimes it seems like all I’m doing on this blog is celebrating anniversaries of things I made ages ago. Hence my desire to start making lots of shorts again. Like The Picnic, which you’ve hopefully watched and enjoyed by now. But in the meantime, today is the tenth anniversary of the start of The Beacon’s shoot. The Beacon is a terrible 75 minute action movie about a bored admin assistant who finds herself the only person standing between a bunch of terrorists and their plot to launch deadly biochemical rockets from the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon in the Malvern Hills. Shot over about five weeks on a pitiful budget of UKP3,000, the film is essentially an excuse to string together lots of action sequences. Many of these are martial arts, some of which look a bit clunky in retrospect; some of them involve shockingly poor CGI (this project was crucial in forming my current opinion of CGI); and a few still hold up today as fun, energetic scenes – such as the infamous Cardboard Chase and the rollicking car chase. All in all, the film borders on the unwatchable, but I learnt a lot from it and without it I couldn’t have done Soul Searcher or any of my subsequent projects. Of course I kept a blog during the making of The Beacon and I’ll be making all of that available online again later in the year along with lots more related goodies that may help you learn from the few successes and many failures of the film, but for now here is the brief entry I wrote after the first day of photography, a decade ago today: “Did three gunshot effects. Were cool. Lit everything badly. Was rushed. Finished two and a half hours late. Tired. Watched rushes. Were better than it seemed whilst rushing through filming everything. Wish I’d scheduled more time for everything. Not as if I had to worry about extra budget to pay people for more days. Damn. Maybe next time. Ate Burger Star burger. Was Best By Far.”
The first screening of The Beacon at the Courtyard. Jesus Christ, I hate this film so much now. I can’t believe I have to sit through it AGAIN tomorrow. Why did I ever think it was a good script? The audience was a decent size, and mainly consisted of cast and crew’s friends and relatives. They all found Behind The Beacon quite amusing. I’ll never top the art college screening though. Those guys totally got it. Everyone who came tonight was either too close to it, or too old to realise it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. But I guess perhaps they enjoyed it on some other level. One couple who turned up after hearing about it from a friend absolutely loved it, even buying a copy of the video and asking me to sign it. Aaah. Simon Widdos, the SAS actor who’s been promoting the film in Worcester, has made a sale of three copies to a video rental store. Hopefully he’ll be able to sell a few more before I have to sign the rights over to Subsurface.
Okay, I admit it. It was behind me and a bit to the left. Satisfied now? So I took the contract to a solictor yesterday, and he had one or two concerns with it. Still, given that a couple of other companies that were interested in it have now come back to me with definite No Gos, and that Subsurface are willing to make an adjustment which the solicitor recommended, I imagine I shall indeed sign it, but not until after the Courtyard screenings, since of course once signed the contract prevents me from distributing the film myself.
I got an idea for a movie, and here’s my pitch: I get a job and quit my band and you stop being a bitch. But enough of typing the lyrics of the Vandals song I’m listening to right now. On to more salient information, such as the fact that in front of me right now (alright, that’s a lie – it’s actually behind me and a bit to the right) is a Manufacturing and Distribution Agreement from Subsurface Distribution in Massachusetts, awaiting my signature. I must of course get it checked out by a solicitor, but what it basically says is that they will make 1,000 copies, promote it through street marketing and sending it to 300 film publications and journalists, and then pay me 50% of the sales revenue once they’ve recouped the costs of the above. So I may yet make my money back on this financial black hole of a movie. Which is good, since I just blew quite a few bucks on a lovely new camera. By the way, I’ve shut down the on-line ordering system since it was doing less business than a condom machine in the Vatican. (An old Red Dwarf joke there – wasn’t that a great show?) You can still buy copies of the film by sending a cheque to me – details on the order page.
Went to The Courtyard to check out a few things for the screening. First up, a slight change to the times: the film will now begin at 8:30pm, with the doors opening at 8:15pm. And guess what’s playing on their other screen? Only bleedin’ Star Wars. Still, it’ll have been out for over a month by then. Hmmm, Star Wars or some dodgy low budget film? Such a decision…