My short film; Regeneration

I recently completed a Film making Bootcamp, hosted by the Media Resource Centre and Mindshare. In a team with three other people, Steve, Helen, and Sue, we all wrote, filmed, and edited this short film, with support from the much more experienced Victoria. 🙂

Our theme was Mental Health and Community, which we chose to express through the development of a garden. We called it Regeneration.

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It was amazing to be part of every step of this process, from the original cafe conversations about concept development and themes, to the writing of a script, then drawing a whole story board of every shot we wanted to take and working out what order we wanted them in for the story. Then, re-ordering them according to the best order in which to shoot them. This was very complex – we had only one day to shoot the whole film, and it took the whole day to shoot just 25 mins of film, which was edited to a 4 1/2 min final film! This presented us with some difficulties regarding weather, light and shadows. In fact, the very final shots of the cuttings in the door way were the very first ones we filmed while we had good morning light, as the doorway is in shadow for the rest of the day. We had to be very careful doing this particularly as our protagonist undergoes costume changes through the course of the film, and it was very easy to accidentally have her wearing a hat in a shot before she should be, or having nail polish that disappeared and reappeared. We also had a lot of complex scenery changes that had to be done extremely quickly so we could shoot all our footage before we ran out of light, Sue ran around potting plants and creating and unpacking sets while Steve and I set up shots. I have a lot of respect for the people who make all of these come together in full length movies! We grouped our shots according to costume considerations, the quality of the light, the type of shot (hence which lens we needed) and how important the shot was, so if we ran out of time and lost the last few it wouldn’t destroy critical plot elements in the film.

The filming process was so enjoyable, the very tight and highly edited silent style we went for was like shooting a visual poem. I would look at shots in the camera and suddenly shadows came alive and tiny details had great impact because each sequence was a single gesture or movement. We also chose to very rarely show faces so that the film became not one person’s story, but could be anyone’s story. We used a digital SLR camera so that we use a macro lens to take a lot of high quality shots less than 15cms from the subject. It was difficult to stick to the story board and not run about taking hours of footage of the breeze blowing through lavender or the way the light was falling on the leaves. It was quite challenging for Helen who did the acting, unlike theater which Helen is extremely experienced in, filming required redoing the same actions over and over, and getting tiny details like stepping exactly into a tight shot right each time. This film was also extremely bitty in the filming as we had only one camera and a storyboard that moved quickly from shot to shot. Much of the early part of the film where Helen was on the ground was cold and very uncomfortable for her. She did an amazing job of adapting from a theatrical style of acting where gestures and emotions must be felt by someone sitting forty seats away in a dark theater, to the very restrained and controlled style of acting required for a film half of which is shot with a macro lens.

Editing was stunningly time consuming but also really enjoyable. We did things a bit unusually by first choosing the best of all our duplicated shots, and arranging them in our correct story order. Then we went back to the music we’d already tagged as good possible matches for the story, and as it turned out nothing was quite right. We listened to many more tracks and late in the day discovered the track we used, 4 1/2 mins, moving through the 3 parts of our story naturally (isolation, growth, community) without being too maudlin or too upbeat. We then spent a whole day editing every shot down or removing it, rearranging it, and matching it to the music, which was not quite enough time for people like me who had never even used the software (Final Cut Pro) before. I have learned so many skills in this project and I am tremendously proud of the final result. My team were awesome, all of us brought considerable skills to the project but none us let our egos get in the way. We pulled together and put in a lot of extra hours to get each part right before we moved on to the next step. We were also really lucky to have Victoria mentoring us, who was a natural teacher, stepping in when we got out of our depth, and handing back the reins the moment we wanted to do things ourselves. The final result has a blending of all our skills and ideas. I love it, and I’m really looking forward to repairing my camera and making more short films like this.

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