Long read about a short film

PART 4 — All quiet on set

APRIL 17TH, 2016 — POST 104

The story so far…

Having reached 100 posts, I’m going to try something different for my daily pieces. Instead of one idea per day, I’m going to spend a week diving into a single idea. This week will look at the short film I made in 2014 that saw a limited festival run in North America in the latter half of 2015. This isn’t a story about sweeping success, nor one of crushing failure. It is a story merely about something that happened. My intention is to write the story I wish I could have read before embarking on the process.

March of 2014 was blocked out to include 4 shoot days, one at each location. We did have a go at a screentest for the beach location, shot on Tim’s Canon 5D, but this was more for the sake of blocking. We’d have the gear we needed for those 4 days and not much else so there was not going to be any real possibility of reshoots. This fact adds an urgency that does wonders for the pace at which I could get what I knew I wanted but also forced me to move when the version of me sat editing weeks later wished I could have lingered. My biggest lesson was that I have to utterly separate myself basedon the discrete roles of writer, director, and editor. I shouldn’t only be getting what I (as director/editor) think I want, but rather be a director who could give an editor everything they might want. Being able to think of myself as entirely specialised for a short period of time was my biggest takeaway from this process.

Sound

We began on Wednesday March 12th, 2014 at our ‘Gym EXT’ location in Surry Hills. With hindsight, I’m not sure why I chose to shoot the most complex scene first but we did: a conversation between all 5 of our cast. I even took an extra role on-screen as a boxer meaning I was blind for the beginning of my production (thinking about it now this really was a dumb move). Once we’d got our masters out of the way, I was able to take to Tim’s hip and keep a tighter watch on performance. It wasn’t long before the single biggest ongoing problem with the production of Corner And The Cutman reared its head: on-set sound.

After only an hour or so, we started to hear music. Early-90s pop music was coming from somewhere in the building, completely crippling the possibility of recording sound. Calling the location manager, he informed us that a painter lives in a studio in the building and likes to listen to music whilst he paints. The manager basically said: knock on his door until he comes out and ask him to turn it down. Our knocks fell on deaf or already-occupied ears. The location manager came down himself and began hammering on the door, yelling at the painter. Finally, the guy opens the door wearing only underwear. Seemingly fueled as much by amphetamine as amplified music, he launched into a shouted tirade at the location manager, telling him to be left the fuck alone, that the building was owned by the manager’s sister and not him so he can fuck off, and shouldering the manager back to try and yank the door from his hands. All the while I’m standing there in just little shorts, still dressed as the boxer, wondering what the fuck I was even looking at. Whatever this guy had to do to work himself up to painting, it wasn’t going to be disturbed by the 15 people trying to shoot a scene outside.

It was here that Alex and I were resigned to utilising ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement) in post-production to cover the fact that everything he recorded that day would be useful at most as a guide track. However, this resignation ended up extending throughout the entire shoot. Our second day, at the beach, we knew going in would be a write-off because of wind. The third day, in Amelia’s kitchen, was too small to accomodate both the wide-angle I wanted to shoot with and a boom mic. And when we showed up at 9PM to the coin laundry, prepping for an all-nighter, the very corner on which the laundry sat was going to be having some all-night roadworks with all manner of noises thrown in gratis. We knew then that post-production would include Alex crafting the audio image completely from scratch.

But that’s for tomorrow.

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