Over the course of the Christmas holiday I have been looking into options for the character of Imelda. Our main character Eli, played by Gabriel Owen, said he knew a few older women actresses that he would be able to put us in contact with. One of which being the very successful actress Vanessa Redgrave, unfortunately once she was made aware of the location being at Beachy Head she expressed she wouldn’t be able to be part of the project due to suffering from vertigo. She was very enthusiastic about helping us with rehearsing the script etc, which is an offer we will definitely take advantage of. A second option Gabriel suggested was the actress Mia Soteriou, who has been in very successful television series such as Game of Thrones, where she played the character Mirri Maz Duur. Mia was also very positive about the script, but the filming and audition dates didn’t work for her.
Below is a scene of Vanessa Redgrave in the 2004 film The Fever:
Here is Mia in Game of Thrones:
I find looking at director help tutorials very helpful when it comes to thinking about the sort of directorial decisions to make in my own film. One that I found particularly educational, and easy to follow, was ‘How to film a dialogue scene’ by Tom Antos.
In this video Antos discusses how to shoot an aesthetically pleasing scene of dialogue. As our film is centred on a conversation between two people, it is essential the dialogue scene is perfect. These are the notes I took from the tutorial:
- Best and simplest way to film a simple dialogue scene: 3 camera angle set up, wide shot that frames both the subjects and two over the shoulder shots to move in a bit closer to the subjects
- Rule of thirds: dividing the screen into 3 equal parts, vertically and horizontally and then using these lines when framing your shots for example, a shot of the horizon shouldn’t be shot dead in the centre, it should be shot either tilted up or down to have the horizon fall onto one of the lines; to create a better sense of balance
- Depth of field and perspective is effected by using long angle lenses
- 100mm lens; has a tendency to make shots look compressed; it’s easier to hide the surroundings with a 100mm lens, this type of lens is best if you want to focus on the subject rather than where they are
- Wide angle lenses like a 35mm lens puts more emphasis on where the shot is taking place
- 100mm lens, long lenses make a conversation more intimate and makes the subjects look closer together
- 35mm lens more or less matches the perspective of the human eye; so for perspective shots from the POV of Eli, use 35mm lens
How to make a short film – Important tips and advice:
- Don’t be overly ambitious – if you don’t have the money don’t be too ambitious – don’t write about a car chase if you can’t achieve this
- The opening of your film is the most important – it’s what people’s first impression of your film are. Don’t just have two people sitting around talking, open with something interesting, such as an interesting shot, or something mysterious that gets the audience thinking – something powerful and engaging
- Include conflict – while my film doesn’t have direct conflict, the two characters do disagree with one another, where Imelda tells Eli he should go back to Australia and Eli argues that he can’t
- Avoid narration – Joanna suggested having a narration, however, I didn’t feel it would add anything to the film, and over complicate
- Have an event or an isolated moment – your protagonist is faced by a conflict or an obstacle, but with that conflict comes a choice – in my film the protagonist Eli is faced with the conflict of suicide, he has to make a choice
- Keep your cast small
- Keep your locations to a minimum
- Try and write for locations that are interesting to look at as well as being practical – Shooting on location at Seaford Head has proven to be very difficult! However, I’m very pleased with the aesthetics of the location
Common mistakes beginner film makers make:
- Characters that lack clear goals – if your audience doesn’t understand what your character is trying to do they will get confused and bored; mostly with dramatic short films – very relevant for my film as it’s a dramatic short
- Undercooked scripts where things don’t make sense – story needs to be strong so people can understand what is going on
- Bad sound – makes you look like an amateur
- 90% of directing is casting the right actors – I feel like we’ve casted really well for our short film. I’m incredibly happy with our two characters
- Dead space – apply the rule of thirds – I’m really happy with our camera work there’s no dead space
- Badly composed shots
- Poor lighting – shots that aren’t lit look very flat, dull and uninteresting
- Irrelevant close-ups; we’re thinking of using extreme close-ups of our character Eli, to emphasise his state of anxiety
- Lingering – people doing uninteresting bits of action that don’t add to the film – make sure every bit of action has a reason behind it. We have decided to get Imelda to walk towards Eli at the edge of the cliff to show that she is almost his guardian angel, looking out for him. As the film is very static we wanted to add some movement. She appears from over the hill, in a somewhat ghostly and mysterious way, which implies she may or may not be real
- Static shots – boring and un-natural. Move your actors around, utilise the power of motion; this is why we want to include some close ups of Eli playing with his hands etc, to add some movement to the static shots where they are just standing at the edge of the cliff talking.
- Generic music – music that doesn’t fit your storyline
Not rehearsing my actors:
As director I have made the conscious decision to not rehearse my actors, as I want to maintain the illusion that they are strangers meeting at the edge of a cliff. During the audition they briefly went over a few pages of the script together, but other than this I have chosen to refrain from doing any full rehearsals. I feel this decision has really paid off, as the actors are practically strangers. I like the fact that each time my actors meet on set they are getting to know each other in reality, therefore throughout the progression of the shoot they are becoming more familiar with one another, and as we are shooting in chronological order, this will add to the sense of realism conveyed. From the beginning the actors were literally strangers, and as time progresses they will become more familiar with one another, alike actual strangers who get involved in a conversation.
Establishing your own directing style:
It took me actually being on shoot to realise the type of shots I was most interested in using for my short film. I had initially come up with a shot list, but on shoot some of the shots I had planned to get, slightly changed. One thing I found quite difficult was I had a clear idea in my head of some of the shots I had wanted to achieve on shoot, but when it came to it due to the location it was difficult to get the exact shots. We had to take safety precautions into consideration, and our actress Helen wasn’t comfortable with being too near the edge, which meant we had to slightly change the angles of some of our shots in order to create the illusion that she is standing on the edge of the cliff.
In the above photo it can be seen how far back Helen was standing for safety precautions. From behind it looks as if Gabriel is sitting on the edge of the cliff, when in truth he is sitting down with a ledge in front of him, and is actually nowhere near the cliff edge.