It’s been a while since I last blogged on here but it’s been a busy time for me recently.

I have been writing and re-writing a feature script, filmed more shorts, produced one, turned 40 and also had my day job to get on with.

So what I wanted to talk about was one, well three but really one (well really three) of these projects. This will make more sense shortly.

After the large productions of my previous shorts, The Tour and The Package, I wanted to do something on a lot less money, with a much smaller crew and limited kit. This was for a couple of reasons.

  • Could I still make something decent without the lavish production values, high end kit and 20 people all doing my bidding for me so I can concentrate on directing.
  • Would I therefore be able to make a feature film this way

So I embarked on what became my three shorts in two days project. It was initially three in three but I thought, nah let’s make it harder on myself and everyone helping.

So with a crew of five people (my DOP Guy Pearson, Special FX maestro Paul While, make up FX by Victoria Hayward and my ever helpful wife doing running for us) we set about to make my three short films. The casts were made up of Lucy Jane Quinlan, Ryan Spong, Tom Gordon, Amanda Hunt and my brother, Robert.

We shot on a Black Magic Pocket which for its size is a truly excellent camera, and can really grab a filmic look if that’s what you want. Whilst digital has made filmmaking more accessible, I still prefer the look of film. I bought some lights for £40 each which whilst cheap were more than value for money. This really was a minimalist kit (even out dolly action was a skate dolly being run across a table).

But what it did open my eyes to is that you don’t need huge cameras and lavish accessories to make a film. You need ideas, strong performances and the narrative aided by the camera. Yes it would be lovely to have used an Alexa to get a beautifully polished, high production value short but I don’t feel mine suffers because of using something stripped back. In fact I think it actually suits the shorts more.

It was a tough two days and not everything went to plan. We had to lose shots, even scenes, some things didn’t quite work in post, and we didn’t have the time we wanted. Two things short filmmakers always want are more time and more money. And they are the two things we can never get. But they were also a fantastic two days, there really is nothing quite like being on a set for me. Even though one of the sets was my brother’s old bedroom at my mum’s house. It was still a set.

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For anyone reading this that wants to get out there and make short film then just do it. There really is nothing stopping you these days. You could buy an entire kit for £1k. Camera, lens, cheap lights, mic, boom, sound recording equipment. Or use your phone camera and just buy accessories. You can get lenses now for them so you can have more option on your shots. My sound recorder is a Tascam DR-05 which I got for £70 on amazon. And I’m sure if you scour eBay you would be able to find that and much more at far better prices.

So stop giving yourself excuses to do this. If you don’t know how to use the kit then YouTube has tutorials aplenty to help. I had never lit a scene myself until I made these three shorts but having paid some attention to my crew, watched techniques on YouTube and asked some advice, I managed it. Is it the best lighting? No of course not. Its cheap lights and my first time. But did I let that stop me? No, of course not.

Never be afraid to put something out there. As soon as you are then you may as well stop (or not start) making films. My short played FrightFest just a few days ago and it was the first one in its selection block. When the others played I was in awe at the quality of some of them. But two things I noticed;

  • The one which probably got the loudest cheer was called Death Metal. In terms of production value it was non-existent. Filmed in a park, likely on a DSLR and with a cast of people that the director likely knew, yet it still worked so well. There was some budget in the gore fx but that was probably all. It was all about the idea and the execution. Personally I loved it.
  • There was a short which was shot for $60,000. It looked sensational. The performances were great and the direction was super slick but the narrative just wasn’t as good as everything else. And I personally preferred the cheap but hilarious Death Metal over this lavish, wonderfully shot film.

I know one of my three shorts isn’t what I had hoped for. This is due to not being able to film everything I wanted to for it due to time constraints. The scenes we had to lose do impact the overall film, however I will still put it out there as I am still happy with it. And it is once again something very different for me. People may hate it, they may love it. But I’ll never stop trying to improve and one way to do that is by finding out what people don’t like. If all you ever get told is “that was so awesome” how can you learn from your mistakes. And if you watch your film back and don’t notice the mistakes you made then either you are the first person to make a perfect film or you need to learn to recognise where you went wrong or you won’t improve.

So go… now… get that idea written up! Then film it! In the immortal words of Shia LeBeouf “why wait until tomorrow for something you can do today? Just do it”

And I will be listening to my own words and will go and make a feature film!

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