Editing Stop/Eject

Since I’m about to hand over the Stop/Eject editing reigns to Miguel Ferros, now seemed as good a time as any to share a little insight into some of the kinds of things an editor has to think about while shaping a sequence.

This is the £700 public reward for Stop/Eject. (If you haven’t got a clue what that means, visit stopejectmovie.com to find out.) The total is actually up to £906 now, so there are two more public rewards coming your way: a podcast covering the third day of the shoot, and a breakdown of how the visual effects shots in the trailer were accomplished.

Here’s a little about Miguel, the man who will be taking my edit and polishing it up into a final cut. Miguel is the technical director of the Hay Film School, and indeed organised the Stop/Eject talk I gave in Hay last weekend. He’s also the director of Digital Film and Post, a consultancy company that advises on post-production workflows, helping to navigate the ever-changing landscape of tapeless acquisition formats, ingesting, off- and on-lining, distribution and archiving. His experience includes editing, VFX, producing and directing, mainly in the genres of documentaries, promos and commercials.

Stop/Eject marks a welcome foray into drama for Miguel, and I’m sure he’ll bring all his eighteen years of post-production experience to bear in fine-tuning the film. I’ll leave you with an award-winning Diesel Jeans commercial he edited.

Editing Stop/Eject

Stop/Eject: Shoot Day 2 Podcast

Day two of Stop/Eject‘s shoot and we move into the main location: the shop.

(We actually spent half of day two filming Dan’s death scene at the River Gardens in Belper, but sadly the B-roll from this was corrupt, possibly due to being recorded on a dodgy card.)

Thanks to a generous contribution from filmmaker Barend Kruger, Stop/Eject‘s post-production crowd-funding total has jumped up to £856, smashing through no less than three public reward targets. We’re going to stagger the release of these rewards over the next couple of weeks, but the above video was the first one.

In return for his contribution, I’ll be DPing Barend’s short film next month, a psychological thriller called Mary, Mary. I think this is a fantastic example of filmmakers collaborating to help each other’s projects succeed, and I’m really grateful to Barend for approaching me with the idea. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about his film on this blog, and the trailer for it will ultimately feature on Stop/Eject’s DVD.

Stop/Eject: Shoot Day 2 Podcast

FilmWorks: Ideas

Last week I was delighted to be accepted onto FilmWorks, a fast-track development scheme for regional filmmakers, based at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol. As part of the programme we’re encouraged to blog about our progress on the FilmWorks site, and I’ll be duplicating some if not all of those blogs right here on neiloseman.com, starting now.

FilmWorks kicked off this week with a masterclass on developing an idea. “Where do you get your ideas from?” is never an easy question to answer, but the speakers had plenty of interesting things to say on the subject. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Peter Lord, co-director of Chicken Run and Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Apart from a few FX shots in my feature Soul Searcher I haven’t worked with stop motion animators, but I’ve always admired and been fascinated by their art. Peter was very open and generous with his knowledge when I briefly chatted to him, which seems to be the spirit of FilmWorks.

The masterclass introduced me to mood reels, montages of clips from other films which demonstrate the tone and style of a project you’re pitching. In the past I’ve used concept art, scrapbooks, videomatics and even once a full-blown 35mm demo scene (see darksideoftheearth.com), but I never thought of just half-inching other people’s films!

The workshop session afterwards was mostly about us participants getting to know each other. The organisers have pulled together a nice mix of people and I’m sure we can all learn a thing or two from each other.

As the session drew to a close, it was time to focus on our own projects. In my case it’s Stop/Eject, a fantasy-drama about a bereaved woman who finds a mysterious old cassette recorder that can stop and rewind time – but can she undo her husband’s death? Currently it’s a short film in postproduction, but co-writer Tommy Draper and I have just embarked on the development of a feature-length version.

Where did this idea come from? I made a podcast last year explaining exactly that.

And what would be on my mood reel? Films that cover similar ground in terms of emotion, tone and story elements include The Adjustment Bureau, The Time Traveller’s Wife, A Thousand Kisses Deep, P.S. I Love You and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ll continue to ponder this.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading up on my fellow FilmWorks participants, checking out their websites and watching their work. (Hmmm, sounds a bit like creepy cyberstalking.) I particularly enjoyed Matt Freeth’s short, Luke and the Void, which you can check out here.

FilmWorks: Ideas

Hay Festival of British Film

Georgina Sherrington as Kate in Stop/Eject. Photo: Paul Bednall
Georgina Sherrington as Kate in Stop/Eject. Photo: Paul Bednall

I can now confirm the details of my Stop/Eject talk at the Hay Festival of British Film this Saturday, September 22nd. In the session, which will take place at Booth’s Bookshop Cinema at 3:30pm, I’ll show clips from Stop/Eject and discuss my experiences of using crowd-funding to finance the project.

This is an exclusive opportunity to get a sneak peek at some footage from the film and some segments of the behind-the-scenes documentary, Record & Play. For anyone considering crowd-funding their next film, this is an unparalleled chance to hear all the mistakes and successes of a filmmaker who’s been through the process. There’s more information on the Hay Film School website.

The festival takes place in the lovely Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, famous for its bookshops and its literary festival. Call the cinema’s festival box office on 01497 822629 to book your tickets.

Also screening are a trio of local short films, plus some great feature films old and new, including Dr Strangelove, Oliver Twist (1948), Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Hot Fuzz, Tyrannosaur, An American Werewolf in London and Pirates! In Adventure with Scientists. There’s more info on the festival’s website (although my event for some reason isn’t on there).

Hay Festival of British Film

The Making of Stop/Eject

While we have been looking for an editor to refine Stop/Eject, I’ve made a start on the behind-the-scenes documentary for the DVD. I can now announce the title of this documentary: Record & Play. Do you see what I did there?

Here are some frame grabs from the bits I’ve edited so far. Click the thumbnails for larger images.

I’ll be presenting some clips from Record & Play and talking about the making of Stop/Eject and what I’ve learnt about crowd-funding at the Hay Festival of British Film next Saturday. Watch this space for more details during the week.

The Making of Stop/Eject

The Role of a Script Editor

Here’s a video blog I recorded last year at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s an interview with Quay Chu, who served as script editor on my in-development fantasy feature The Dark Side of the Earth for several months. He talks about his role and gives some examples of how he helped me to shape the script.

Remember that you can get feedback on your own short screenplay, and help me to finish my current short film Stop/Eject, by visiting stopejectmovie.com/donate and selecting the £20 “Script Editor” reward.

The Role of a Script Editor

Script Feedback – Tommy Draper Interview

When we created the range of rewards available to people who sponsor our short fantasy-drama Stop/Eject, we wanted to offer collaboration – we wanted to share our skills. One such reward is Script Editor. In return for a £20 donation you can have your short screenplay (up to 15 pages) read by Tommy Draper, Stop/Eject’s co-writer, with constructive critical feedback. Just click the button below to make your contribution and claim this reward.

I recently interviewed Tommy about his current projects and his thoughts on writing.

Tommy on location for Stop/Eject
Tommy on location for Stop/Eject (from footage by Brett Chapman)

How did you get into screenwriting?

Tommy: I got into screenwriting quite a few years ago after posting my first short screenplay online on the website SimplyScripts.com.  The screenplay was called ‘Same Room Same Time’ and it was read by Miguel Gaudêncio who wanted to make it (at the time he was looking to take the step from commercials and music videos into movies).  It took several years but the movie was released into film festivals in 2008 and from there more contacts were made and more movies (shorts and features) have been produced.

What are you working on at the moment?

Tommy: At the moment I have 2 short films in pre-production with Hamburg based director Sascha Zimmermann.  I have been working with Sascha since 2009 and over the last few years we have ended up with a backlog of screenplays we want to make.  We are starting with two that are ready to go and I am about to work on new drafts of three other screenplays so these can be made in 2013 (and 2014 if necessary).  My zombie feature film Wasteland is a day or two away from finishing filming by Derby based Light Films Ltd, when this is complete I will be talking to the Producer and Director about what project we want to work on next.  I am talking to Stop/Eject producer Sophie Black about a feature film screenplay that she has written and would like me to come on board to rewrite, this project is in its infancy and will be worked on during 2013.  In addition to all of this I have a feature film script of mine called ‘Rock n Roll Romantics’ which I have been planning on writing for quite some time and I am getting the script ready in-between projects.

Why is it important to for a writer to get impartial feedback?

Tommy: Feedback for a writer on their screenplay is very very important, a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference.  Everyone sees the story and characters in a different way so the feedback you get can identify faults or create new and interesting paths that can take your story from good to great.  Getting feedback that is totally impartial is also very tough.  A lot of people, especially if they know you, won’t tell you exactly what they think.  A lot of the time it is more important for someone to point to out what doesn’t work more than point out what does and the best people to give you this kind of honest feedback is someone who doesn’t know you at all.

What is the most useful feedback you’ve ever received on one of your scripts?

Tommy: The most useful feedback I’ve ever received was on an old screenplay I wrote for Miguel Gaudêncio.  The screenplay was written prior to Same Room Same Time getting made and after a few drafts Miguel got an established writer friend of his to take a look at it.  I received a fair share of positives and negatives about the script but it was the negatives about the first act not working that helped the most.  It was too long, gave away too much and made the screenplay drag.  I took the suggestions and chopped out lots of scenes from the opening section (at the time I was reluctant to do this not seeing the issues) and the screenplay really took shape.  I then went through the rest of the screenplay looking for cuts to make and a much leaner screenplay evolved which worked a lot better.

In your opinion, what is the best-written movie ever and why?

Tommy: Tough question this as there are so many brilliant screenplays out there. If I had to pick one movie then it has to be Reservoir Dogs.  I think the script is extremely clever, the structure of the story with its flashbacks to give the characters depth is amazing.  I also love that the you never see the robbery but you know exactly what happened and what went wrong.  The best thing about it are the characters themselves, each one rich and totally individual.  You understand their motivation and once wound up they play out their role in an honest, unforced way, which is hard skill but Tarantino masters that in all his movies.  Reservoir Dogs was the first time I had seen a movie and then read the screenplay, it has been a massive inspiration on me ever since.

You can find out more about Tommy and keep up to date with his work at tommydraper.com and www.facebook.com/TommyDwriter

Same Room Same Time
Same Room Same Time (2006, dir. Miguel Gaudêncio)

Script Feedback – Tommy Draper Interview

Lighting without Movie Lights

After my last post ranting about the very limited usefulness of redheads, I was asked what the alternative is for cash-strapped DPs. There are plenty of cheap fluorescent photography-studio-type lighting kits available on eBay now, but they have their own problems. So can you light without any film lights at all? Yes, you can – and here are a few examples.

Check out my pieces to camera in the Stop/Eject funding pitch which follows the trailer in this video:

£2 LED camping light
£2 LED camping light

I was so lazy when I filmed this that even though I was only two metres away from where I keep my Arrilites, I didn’t use them. There are three light sources in this shot:

  1. My key-light is an ordinary, bare, domestic 100W bulb (NOT an energy-saver) clipped to a proper light stand. I wish I’d put it a touch closer to camera and a touch higher so that my right eye was better lit.
  2. My backlight is an LED camping light (£2 from a charity shop) propped up on top of a bookcase out of the rear left of frame.
  3. Behind me is a thin brown curtain through which daylight can be seen. Since I’m shooting on a tungsten white balance preset, this and the camping light appear blue.
Total value of the kit I used to light this: less than £5
Total value of the kit I used to light this: less than £5
By the way, if you haven’t contributed to Stop/Eject please do so over at stopejectmovie.com. We need everyone’s help to reach our funding total and complete the film.

Shelf Stackers (2011, dir. Tom Wadlow) is a comedy set mainly in the aisles of a supermarket – in reality a set in a conference centre. Colin and I rigged half a dozen 500W DIY work-lights to the ceiling using the method I described in a July post, in a line running down the centre of the aisle, all of them facing towards camera to provide backlight throughout the set.

I’ll confess there were a couple of Arrilites poking over the tops of the shelves, but often we used something much lower-tech as our key-light: a dozen 100W bulbs rowed up on a long piece of timber – the Cyclotron, as we dubbed it. The intention was to emulate the long, thin source of a fluorescent tube without the associated cycling and colour balance issues.

The Ikea reading light used as my backlight in the shot below
My backlight in the shot below

And here’s another one of me where I was too lazy to break out the proper lights. This is my living room, and the existing ceiling light – an energy-saver bulb in a spherical white Ikea shade – is providing the key. I made sure I stood in a position where this would illuminate both my eye sockets. I’m backlit by another Ikea product – a goose-necked reading light clipped to a bookcase out of shot.

Remember you can get a digital download of the full video, “How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie for £28,000” by donating £10 to Stop/Eject.

Lighting by Ikea
Lighting by Ikea

I hope that’s given you some ideas. And if you’ve done a good, cheapo lighting set-up yourself, leave a comment or Facebook me; I’d love to hear about it.

Lighting without Movie Lights

Why Redheads are Rubbish

Adjusting an Arri Daylight Compact 1200 (a 1.2K MSR) on the set of Ashes. Photo: Sophie Black
Adjusting an Arri Daylight Compact 1200 (a 1.2K MSR) on the set of Ashes. Photo: Sophie Black

If you’re a Director of Photography working in the micro-budget field, you’ve probably heard this phrase pass producers’ lips many times: “We can’t afford to hire any lights, but I’ve got some redheads you can use.”

I’m quite proud of some of the lighting I’ve done with only redheads over the years, but it’s rarely been subtle, often been tricky and usually been time-consuming. Redheads are ubiquitous because they’re so affordable, but of all the types of film lamp on the market, they are the least useful.

They’re too bright for most interior spaces and too dim for most exteriors. They’re horribly inefficient, spilling lots of light out of the back and wasting a lot of their power input on heating up the room. They don’t have lenses, so they can’t be focused. And most frustratingly of all, you need to cut out half their light by putting CTB gel over them if you want them to match daylight – and those are usually the situations where you need the most power out of them, to fight the natural light.

(By the way, you should never buy the cheap redheads off eBay; they’re not earthed and the bulbs blow if you so much as breathe on them.)

In this close-up from Hostile (2009, dir. Lara Greenway), light supposedly from the match is created by a Dedo set to maximum spot.
In this close-up from Hostile (2009, dir. Lara Greenway), light supposedly from the match is created by a Dedo set to maximum spot.

So point out to the producer how much it will help the schedule if you don’t spend all day trying to flag, diffuse, gel and generally coerce redheads into doing things they don’t really want to do, how the talent will be much happier if they’re not sweating out half their body weight, and how the electricity bill will be slashed by using more efficient lamps.

And if the producer acquiesces, of the dazzling array of lamps offered by most hire companies, which should you pick? Of course every film is different, but I frequently find the most useful hires are an HMI and a Dedo kit.

HMIs (Hydrargyrum Medium-arc Iodide) are efficient, daylight-balanced lamps that come in many sizes. The 1.2K and 2.5K models are most useful. Both can be powered off an ordinary domestic ring-main (though make sure you have 13A to 16A jumpers), come in fresnel (lighthouse-style lens) and par (parabolic aluminised reflector) flavours and feature dimmers for an extra layer of control. They’re perfect for blasting through windows in daylight interiors, and they’ll also illuminate a large area of nighttime exterior.

The 1.2K MSR provides window light in a "real world" scene from Ashes (2012, dir. Sophie Black).
The 1.2K MSR provides window light in a “real world” scene from Ashes (2012, dir. Sophie Black).

HMIs come with a box called a ballast which regulates the power supply to the lamphead and ignites the arc. You’ll have a choice of magnetic or electronic (flicker-free) ballasts. The former are heavier and cheaper, whereas the latter are designed to prevent flickering of the light when shooting at a non-standard frame rate (which in the UK means anything other than, or not divisible by, 25).

The term HMI is used interchangeably with MSR (Medium Source Rare-earth). Although there is a slight difference in the technology, for all practical purposes they’re the same thing.

A 1.2K HMI punches through the window in a frame from Hostile (2009, dir. Lara Greenway).
A 1.2K HMI punches through the window in a frame from Hostile (2009, dir. Lara Greenway).

Dedos are very small spotlights, usually 150W tungsten, though other types are available. They come in a kit of three or four and are fitted with dimmers either in the cables or in a separate control box. They’re brilliant for interiors where you want to create a very tight pool of light that doesn’t raise the ambient illumination or spill onto other areas. If they’re hooked up to a control box you can rig them all around the room and easily tweak the brightness of each one without getting back up on a ladder.

Both backlight and keylight in this frame from Lebensraum (2008, dir. Raes Mirza) come from Dedo lamps clamped to pole-cats just out of the top of frame.
Both backlight and keylight in this frame from Lebensraum (2008, dir. Raes Mirza) come from Dedo lamps clamped to pole-cats just out of the top of frame.

You can watch Hostile at bravesoldier.co.uk/hostile.html and find out more about Ashes on Sophie Black’s blog. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please visit stopejectmovie.com/collection or stopejectmovie.com/donate and help me complete my new short film.

Why Redheads are Rubbish

Tape Collection

Last night we launched a special collection of new rewards for Stop/Eject sponsors. Available only until midnight next Friday, these rewards are already going fast, so grab yours quickly before they’re all gone. At the time of writing, a screen-used poster, one personalised cassette and four t-shirts are still available.

The Tape Collection
The Tape Collection

In the top right is the genuine poster seen behind Georgina Sherrington (Kate) and Oliver Park (Dan) in the living room scenes of Stop/Eject, signed on the back by yours truly. At bottom left is a unique opportunity to have one of the screen-used cassettes from the film relabelled and beautifully calligraphed by Sophie Black with a date and 90 minute time segment of your choice (though please note the tape is actually only sixty minutes long). There’s only one poster and one personalised tape available, so don’t miss your opportunity to scoop them up.

Bottom right is a Stop/Eject t-shirt featuring Alain Bossuyt’s competition-winning poster design. These are printed to order in your size, and we only have four more available at the time of writing. Thanks to Sam Tansley for modelling this.

Visit stopejectmovie.com/collection now to make your donation and claim your reward.

Tape Collection