Soul Searcher Previz

Back in 2003 when I was developing Soul Searcher, I tried my hand at making a videomatic for the first time. A videomatic is a kind of previsualisation, like a moving storyboard that shows not only the camera angles but the pacing as well, and often gives an idea of how the music and sound effects will work with the scene and what the VFX requirements will be.

Jurassic Park animatic
Jurassic Park animatic

Nowadays previz is usually CGI, but back in the day it was not uncommon to build crude miniatures of the props and people in a scene and film the previz in the form of a videomatic using a camcorder or lipstick camera. Pat McClung and co, when prepping James Cameron’s Aliens, made Drop Ships and APCs out of cardboard boxes and pulled them on strings through landscapes formed from rumpled paper and blankets. A decade later, when planning his deep dives to the Titanic wreck, Cameron had his team build a model of the ship and like-scaled models of the submersibles, so he could previz the shots they needed to get on the ocean floor. Phil Tippett went to the trouble of animating Jurassic Park’s previz in beautiful stop motion, demonstrating not only the angles and movement Spielberg wanted for the real scenes, but the lighting as well. Even Peter Jackson’s cutting edge Lord of the Rings trilogy employed cardboard mock-ups and a video camera to previz the flooding of Isengard.

In that fine tradition I attempted this videomatic for Soul Searcher:

Shooting a videomatic for The Dark Side of the Earth. Photo: Ian Tomlinson
Shooting a videomatic for The Dark Side of the Earth. Photo: Ian Tomlinson

Looking back on it now, it was quite a lazy attempt and suffered greatly from the poorly drawn storyboards, which are very hard to interpret, especially when bits of them are cut out and pasted onto the live action footage. Although I found making this videomatic very useful for my own process as director, and many of the Lego train shots were cut into the film during post-production until the final miniature shots were ready, it wasn’t much use for showing other crew members what work needed to be done. In fact, when I brought the model-makers on board in 2004, I decided to draw a new set of nice, neat storyboards rather than show them the videomatic.

My videomatic skills improved, however, and by 2006 I was shooting a series of them for my new feature project, The Dark Side of the Earth. You can view some of them here.

Soul Searcher Previz

Rewards, Distribution and Scheduling

Fresh from the duplicators
Fresh from the duplicators
Signing Video8
Signing Video8

You can say what you like about digital distribution, but nothing beats the feeling of opening a box of DVDs fresh from the duplicators, all packaged with lovely covers and on-disc artwork. The download generation will really miss out on an experience there.

Yes, today the DVD dupes of Video8 and The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot arrived, so I spent the morning signing them, parcelling them up along with thank you notes and posting them to the Stop/Eject sponsors. If you contributed ¬£50 or more and you haven’t given Sophie your address yet, then please do so because you’re missing out on your well-earned rewards otherwise.

Soul Searcher, signed
Soul Searcher, signed

The other thing that happened today is that¬†Soul Searcher‘s five year distribution deal expired. If you’re interested to know how that worked out for me financially, just click on the donate button to the right and you’ll get access to an in-depth video on the subject.

As for the film’s future, I can now reveal that Soul Searcher will be online to view in full for free from next Monday Februrary 6th. Watch this space for the link.

In the mean time, here’s another DVD extra that never made it to the disc…

Rewards, Distribution and Scheduling

Soul Searcher: October 19th 2003

So we start tomorrow. We finally got here. Funny, it doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal. I don’t know, maybe it does. I’m kinda excited. I’ve just been sorting out my equipment, trimming gels, charging batteries, that kind of caper. Edd’s been typing up call sheets – he’s been doing far more than I have – maybe I should get him to write something…

Howdy Ho! Edd here, Neils first AD. My abilities have been greatly exagerated (as has my spelling) but its nice to know I’m appreciated. I am very stressed, worried that everything is going to go pear shaped, worried about weather, extras not turning up, the council giving us the wrong type of power socket, the list is long and boring. But I know that in a couple of months we will all meet up in a pub, and then laugh about how it all went pear shaped (well Neil won’t, but hey). Anyway thats it from me. Back to the (Ose)man.

Thanks, Edd. We should make that a regular feature. Um, I’m afraid I don’t have anything else interesting to say. Tune in on Tuesday for news from the front line.

Soul Searcher: October 19th 2003

Soul Searcher: October 18th 2003

James had an experience with a nipple-shaped biscuit which he proceeded to drop in his coffee.

Edd arrived this afternoon and the three of us went to Doodies for a little production meeting. It turns out that more stuff was sorted out than I thought – it’s just Edd had only been telling me about the non-sorted stuff. I found a spare hour to catch up on a little storyboarding. That’s all. Two days. Pah, I laugh in the face of two days.

Soul Searcher: October 18th 2003

Soul Searcher: October 17th 2003

It’s coming home, it’s coming, my camera’s coming home.

I mentioned the repair problem to my dear father. He said something like: “You want me to call them up and give them an ear bashing? I quite enjoy complaining about things like that.” Must be a middle-aged thing. Anyway, he must have really enjoyed himself because he spent the best part of two days on the phone and rang me up this afternoon to proudly announce that my camera was repaired and ready for collection. Which just goes to show, when they tell you they’re waiting for parts to come in, they really are talking complete pants. Me and my naivety.

The production team got final confirmation on the street sweeper, which frankly had been worrying me a little.

I’m experiencing the exact same feeling I had in the last few days of pre-production on The Beacon. It’s a kind of empty, hasn’t-sunk-in-yet-and-never-really-will feeling. Anyhoo, must go. Corporate edit job to finish this weekend, unless I want to be working on it during the daytime next week…

Soul Searcher: October 17th 2003

Soul Searcher: October 16th 2003

Things that made my heart stop beating in the last few days:

1. Location for our first few nights of filming: having apparently cleared this with the council, I received an out-of-the-blue phone call on Monday from a guy talking about booking forms and running things by councillors and other things that sounded like they would take weeks. James was going to ring up and try to charm them into letting us do it. I don’t know how he got on.

2. Props: I got an e-mail from the props maker listing the items he would be bringing down with him for the start of the shoot on Monday. Two crucial items were missing. Fortunately a quick e-mail back sorted this out.

3. Having no camera. What is the one thing you can’t make a film without? What is the one thing I don’t have? Hint: they’re the same. The dumb asses at H. Lehmann Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent (I hope you all burn in hell) didn’t fix my camera by when they said they would. So I’m having to hire one.

All of which was fun, fun, fun. Some advice: never make a low budget film.

Soul Searcher: October 16th 2003

Soul Searcher: October 12th 2003

Ray was present when I wrote that last entry. I think it freaked him out.

What a fantastic weekend it’s been. For James it was his first opportunity to meet the cast, and for both of us it was quite moving to see the words we’ve had on the page for so long coming to life in the more than capable hands of our very talented cast.

Possibly the weekend’s weirdest experiences were going for meals with the actors in such infamous locations as Doodies, The Courtyard and even Deep Pan Pizza – where, fittingly, inaugural journal entry mentionee Deep Pan Sasha was working at the time. I can still remember showing James my earliest (and extremely bad) concept sketches of Luca in that restaurant, so to have Lara Greenway regail us with tales of learning to twirl toy guys on her fingers in the very same place was quite odd.

We finally got our Cadillac equivalent – Jonny Lewis (Ezekiel) turned out to own a rather nice 72 Mustang convertible. What are the chances of that happening, eh?

I’m off to London for four days of corporate shootology now, so no journal entries for a little while.

One week to go.

Soul Searcher: October 12th 2003