Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Two Seconds, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Camera

It feels strange to be sitting with my feet up, and the TV on, writing a reflection on our end of year films. For a start, they mark the end of our time as the 'babies' of DFTV. As of next term, we'll be right in the middle of our degree and won't be able to blame silly mistakes on being young uns any more. Also, it's weird knowing that, as far as our films are concerned, I have absolutely nothing to do. After the last few weeks, the thought of having nothing to do seems a strange and alien thing to me but hey, I'm not one to question a free afternoon to myself.

vThe last few weeks have been a flurry of goings-on, pretty much as soon as we found out which roles we were taking on for our end of year films. Admittedly I was a teensy bit terrified that I'd been made camera op with no assistant, especially since it's been so long since I was even near one. (My last shot at camera opping was Candid Cabaret and that was pretty much 'press record, leave camera alone'). It was a relief to be working with Harry, since we seemed to have alot of similar ideas about how the film would look.

We had our first production meeting in a cupboard somewhere near the AGOS foyer and after that we were ready to go. The next week or so that followed were a headache of planning, scheduling and trying to work out shotlists, storyboards and other necessary things which seem extremely tedious and time-consuming. As most necessary things tend to. I was dreading doing the storyboards, since I haven't drawn...well, anything since finishing college. Once I forced myself into it though, it turned out OK. There were more than a few glitches along the way- mostly involving unwilling agents and promises of extras which fell through. Happily (for me), this was more an issue for our more-than-capable producers Sam and Julia to sort out, although I'm soooo happy we got sorted in time. I found the way the agency had treated us was appalling- surely if you have actors on your books, who are suitable for the role & have agreed to do so, it should be a relatively straightforward process? How is that going to work when said actors are out there trying to get jobs in the 'real' world? I'm just glad it wasn't me who had to deal with them...

We also had a shaky start with our sound recordist. Since we've only had two classes in sound, away back in February, none of us were overly keen to sign ourselves up. We managed to bag one, but true to form, he too cancelled on us. Grr! At the last minute, somehow, it was decided that our editor Michael would do sound on Sunday, followed by Gav on Monday. Location-scouting was alot more straightforward... for day one, we'd be building a three-walled set in AG10, and the second day would be in Harry's flat on Glasgow Green. Happy days!

Last Saturday we started building the set- it's a strange, bizarre thing to be in uni on a Saturday, with all the junior academy types floating around, but we kept out of the way. And thankfully, too, since I'd brought my scabby painting gear with me- which, YES, consisted of trackies and a stretched out old t-shirt I haven't worn outside in MONTHS. Not exactly hot stuff, but still, it was gonna get covered in paint. We had Sam's joiner friend on board to help with the actual, y'know, joinery, so all we had to do was paint...a good thing too, those flats were bloody HUGE!

The next day was It... The first day of shooting. I was determined to not make any mistakes with the camera, and luckily my fellow DoP Amelie is quite well-versed in all matters camera... or at the very least, she knew what needed done when I was in a flap about white balancing and such. Once I got going though, everything seemed to run pretty smoothly. We were lucky that Julia Jack, our actress, really got into her character- pretty essential for a film based heavily on a central performance!- and carried the emotional weight of the film really well. It was also good to see everyone growing in confidence as the day went on; and this continued into the next day as well.

The only real problem on day one was sound... apparently the camera was switched onto 'front mic', rather than coming through the mixer, and I was more than a little annoyed that this wasn't picked up on until we were about to break for lunch. ESPECIALLY since we only had an hour's worth of tape for each day, therefore couldn't afford to go back and re-shoot. Plus, I was really proud of some of my random shots I'd captured, which were mostly complete flukes and I didn't know if I'd get them again. It just shows how unequipped we are to do sound on our own, and definitely need a few more classes in this field...

The next day got off to a bit of a rough start, since the charger broke down and refused to charge anything. Nightmare!! Amelie, Harry and I got into Harry's flat to set up, but without batteries for the camer and monitor, there wasn't much we could do. Eventually, a new charger and a fully charged battery arrived, as did our three-month-old co-star... Sam's little boy cousin, who for purposes of the film we had to dress in a pink babygrow...I just hope it doesn't scar him too much! Keeping it in the family, the role of the daughter aged 15 was played by my wee cousin Samantha. It was good since uni and work mean I don't get to see as much of my family as I'd like, plus she got to see me in action too. I can only apologise though; after my auntie saying she could take the day off school to come along, the wardrobe requirements uniform. Sorry, Sammy!

Tempers were a bit frayed on the second day, but after some lunch in the sun I think everyone managed to chill out a little bit. It's a long, claustrophobic day on shoot and you tend to fall over each other quite alot- especially when you're pushed for time and feel under pressure to not only wrap a scene, but make it look the best you can. I think we pulled together well towards the end, and I'm really excited to see the first rough-cut. Or, in the case of the end-of-day scenes, AKA when the monitor battery ran out and we had to rely on what I could see through the viewfinder, more than a little bit apprehensive... the words "we'll just have to trust Ada's judgement" struck a teensy bit of fear into me, I must admit! I did find that I really loved doing camera though- I dunno if it's the narcissism of people seeing what I shot, the way I framed it, or helping to bring Harry's words to life, but I definitely know I'm over my fear of camera. And who knows, maybe it's even something I could see myself doing?? Watch this space...


  1. I forgot to mention that we also had a tonne of help from Ally and Steven from 4th year...bit of a slip up on my behalf considering we'd have been a wee bit lost without them!

  2. Sound was a blind spot for us as well. While we had a recordist, the quality is still fairly low and I've been having nightmares trying to edit around all the traffic noise.

    Sounds like you did an excellent job though :)