How I Went About Producing My First Scripted Short Film
BYE BOB was the first film I’d ever written a script for. Sure, I’ve filmed a couple of short docs and profile pieces, but until now, I’d never written a script for a film. There was something quite nerve-wracking about it, and to be honest, I put it off for months.
Coming Up With The Idea
The initial plan was to write a script so that I could shoot a short film in order to enter the My Rode Reel 2017 competition, and when the competition opened, I began thinking of ideas for stories. I came up with a few, but began putting myself off, and planting seeds of doubt: what if I couldn’t find a location within my non-existent budget? How on earth was I going to find actors and crew willing to collaborate? What if the film turns out to be complete rubbish? When I eventually talked myself around, finalised the script (which I wrote in Adobe Story), and started to seriously plan the production (within 3 weeks of the competition closing deadline — cutting it fine, I know), I started to feel excited.
Finding Talented Actors
The moment I began my search for actors, was the moment it all began to feel real. The first thing I did was post a casting call in a Facebook group for UK actors. Next, I began creating my project on Shooting People so that I could post ads for the actors and crew that I needed. Once the ads went live, I received so much interest in the character roles, which was really encouraging, and after looking through many Spotlight profiles, I found the two actors (David and Iona) that I thought would be perfect — and they really did turn out to be. They made the roles their own, and had such synergy on set.
Finding a Great Crew
Given that I was going to be Director and DP for this production, I knew that the other crucial crew members — for me — would be a Sound Recordist, Boom Operator, and a Clapper Loader. Though I also had a lot of interest in these roles, I had some people pull out at the last minute, but luckily through a friend, I found Dion who was keen to come on board, and he took on the role of Sound Recordist and Boom Operator.
Having behind-the-scenes footage captured was really important for this production, as it was one of the submission rules for entering the competition. I eventually found Graham, who ended up not only shooting the BTS, but also took on the role as Clapper Loader, which was such a huge help when it came time for me to sync up the audio with the footage in post-production.
Before making the decision to film in my own house, I looked for various locations on Airbnb, but in the end, I just didn’t have the budget for it. So, it just made sense to use what I had at my disposal. Because I wanted to use natural light, using my house was actually perfect because in the week leading up to the shoot, it made it easy for me to monitor the light during different times of day and during various weather conditions. So I knew no matter what, I would be fully prepared on the shoot day, and most importantly, I knew how much of the day I’d have before the light began to change and we’d have to call it.
Storyboards and Shot Lists
Given thatI’m not the most gifted when it comes to drawing, I was finding storyboarding to be somewhat of a chore. It was taking me ages to get perspectives right, and yes, I could have taken photos and drawn stick figures on them, but in the end I decided to just not bother. As I was going to be the one filming it anyway, it wasn’t a big deal. What I did instead was film a few test shots — essentially blocking the scenes, and then putting a very crude rough cut together, so I had an idea of the main shots I wanted to get on the day. Then I wrote up a detailed shot list.
My Gear Setup
The gear that I used for this was quite simple. I used my Sony a7s II with my Atomos Ninja Assassin. I recorded directly into the Assassin for this production as I wanted to have the best chance at having decent colours when it came to colour grading, and I find the a7s II to be a little bit on the yellow side when it comes to skin tones, but if I record on the Assassin, the skin tones are much better. I used one lens, the Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L USM IS. I don’t own any prime lenses anymore — I sold them a little while ago now as I shoot more documentary-style films, so on those shoots, I don’t have time to switch out lenses, and instead need a good zoom lens. Due to the fact that the bedroom had so much natural light streaming through, I didn’t find f/4 to be an issue.
In terms of audio, the Rode NTG4+ on the Rode Boom Pole was used, with the audio being recorded into the Zoom H4n.
One of my favourite parts of the production process is the actual editing, because it’s at that point that all the pieces are put together. As I mentioned earlier, having Graham working the slate was such a life-saver when it came to matching audio clips with the footage, as well as for syncing audio. It didn’t take me as long as I thought it might have to edit the film, but then again I knew exactly how I wanted it to be cut and because I filmed it I knew what to look for in the footage. I had also already pre-selected the music that I wanted to use, so it was literally just a case of putting all the pieces together.
I shot the footage in Slog2.SGamutCine1 and I used a base LUT to convert the footage from Slog2 to Rec709. I used Adobe Premiere Pro’s Lumetri panel for basic colour correction, and then I used FilmConvert for grading to give the film it’s final look. I knew I wanted the film to have a natural look and feel, so I didn’t do too much to adjust any hues or tones.