Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mary and Dan

This is a new film, but it's also a very old film. Why don't you watch it here!

Short version is, this is a recut and tweaked version of a short film I finished a long time ago and was never completely happy with. I'm not completely happy with it now, but I'm slightly more happy with it at least. If you want to watch the original version and see what I changed, you can watch it here:


Written, directed and co-edited by Will Tribble (also I filmed bits of it and worked on some of the stop motion)

Lauren Clancy as Mary

Alexander Wright as Dan

William Seaward as Ed

Awesome VFX magic and some of the editing and some of the stop motion animating even by Melanie Keyzor

Awesome stop motion model design and construction by Clare Porritt

Lovely music (that's now quite messed around) by Ian Flanagan and James Hyde

DOPing and camera operation by Geoff Gedroyc and Peter Booth

Animation by Bill Davies, Joseph William Peach, Clare Porritt, Gassan Suliman and Dany Woodmansey, and also me and Mel

Sound recording by Ian Flanagan and Simon Maeder

Sound design by James Hyde

Thanks to Rasheeda Nalumoso and Angela Udemba for letting us use their house, the University of York Drama Society for letting us borrow their boards, walk down the road and hold them outside Rina and Angela's front door, YTV for letting us use their studio, and the York Filmmaking Society for everything else.

So longer backstory:

While I was at university, I started making a short film. I wanted to do something short but also big and fancy looking, that combined live action with digital effects.

 I wrote a script very quickly (WARNING: if you do this, sit down afterwards and rewrite it, rather than patting yourself on the back for writing a script very quickly).  I made a first cut of the film using digital cut outs of cogs and gears and things but decided it didn't look very good, so I tried doing it with stop motion bits instead, and then I started gathering together people who might pause their busy lives to make tiny stop motion props, fancy VFX and a nice bit of music to a silly student film, and it all started to spiral out of control a little. After Clare had built a lovely moveable model I set it up a stop motion set in the back of our garage, with a big green cloth blue tacked to the back wall, and we animated it when we had free time. After deciding I couldn't VFX it together myself I took all of our random assets to Melanie Keyzor and was like "MAKE THESE WORK PLEASE" and she got angry at me for not planning things properly and then made everything awesome.

It took a while. As in, the film was finished after I graduated. Between 2009 and 2010 it was shown at the London Independent Film Festival, the Cornwall Film Festival, and the "box[ur]shorts]" international film festival. It got a few giggles, but every time I saw it I got more and more embarrassed by the long pauses and repetitions that didn't really add much to the film.

So recently, I decided to cut out a couple of chunks of it. Not much, just a couple of minutes, but at least it's in a slightly more manageable state now. I also added a couple of tiny VFX to a few bits (turns out it's really easy to add pre-comped smoke to footage, who knew). Also the footage had been graded back when I thought grading was basically just increasing the contrast, so I went back and tried to de-contrast it as much as I could. It's certainly a bit more visible now.

So that's what this is. I guess I learnt a few things from it:

- I have a serious problem with finishing things quickly the moving on to the next thing. Don't do this.

- If you want to do a short film quickly, start by thinking about doing what you can with what's immediately in front of you, what you can get hold of quickly, and what you can do with the minimum of getting people to sacrifice their free time to help you for free. I'm not sure I've learnt this yet. And below, even more applicable if you're planning on spending months or even years working on a short film:

- Make sure you've got a good script. Show it to people, listen to their opinions, and change it. You are not clever just because you've written a story. Some things are only funny to you.

- Don't assume you can just teach yourself complex VFX quickly as you make a project. These things take time.

- If you haven't done something before, assume it'll take you a long time to do it, and try to start simple.

- Long pauses and holds on things are not inherently funny or even especially good, and might not please anyone except you. Everyone else might start looking at their watches. Try cutting them out completely and seeing if the film is any better.

- Get a good microphone or collar mic. I swear the sound for this gets a little worse every time I listen to it, and I know James spent ages trying to fix the damn thing.

- Attaching a green screen to a brick wall by blue tack is a terrible idea. Cold makes blue tack fall off, and then it knocks over your little stop motion model and you have to start all over again.

- Man, I really wish I'd called the main two characters Mick and Nic so very, very much. Like if I could go back and redub them calling each other Mick and Nic I definitely would.

What else. Some pictures maybe. Here's some of my early highly detailed drawings of what the robot would look like:

Can't remember who drew this? Think my girlfriend took pity on me: 

This is what Lauren and Alex look like in front of a green screen and what Alex looks like if I freeze frame his face to make him look high: 

I'd actually forgotten that I started off trying to do this myself in Apple Motion, and actually had a whole cut of the film using Terry Gilliam-esque cut out footage. It's not good, but it's actually much better than I remember. I think the main thing that slowed me down was that Apple Motion was a terrible program that really didn't get on with my laptop, and doing the slightest animation in it would cause the whole program to freeze up for literally hours at a time, before sometimes just crashing or going insane. If I could've got past that though, done some better cutting out, and messed around with the grade a bit more, perhaps I could have finished the film this way. Maybe if I'd skipped over Final Cut Studio altogether and just gone straight into Adobe products generally, things might have been a bit easier. Raah. Anyway:

Actually looking at my experiments with grading in Motion, maybe it wouldn't have been too good:

These are Clare's robot models. They're beautiful combinations of cogs, gears, bits of electronics, and Meccano:

Sadly I don't have any full shots of our stop motion rig, but this is a close up. Haha the more I remember about this film the more I reflexively punch myself in the face. Get this: I didn't have a stills camera for the stop motion. So instead I filmed it with an HDV camera, and then cut out stills from it. Press record, press stop, move, press record, press stop, move...taking an already slow process and adding hours of unnecessary time to it. I actually used to take a lot of "photos" this ways with my video camera, by taking video and then scrubbing through it to extract freeze frames. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME.

I think this actually leads to one final thing I am trying to learn with every project I work on:

- actually stop and think, really properly pause and think, about the simplest possible way to do something. It might not be the best way, but it gives you something to build/fall back on.

This actually reminds me of a different project I worked on last year. We wanted to do a tiny stop motion beach rig that we could blow with a hair dryer without billowing sand everywhere. We all decided the best thing to do was to get some sand from a sandpit, cover a sheet of paper in PVA glue, and glue loads of sand to it. An hour into this, it looked awful and not at all like beach sand.

Our conversation:

"This looks terrible! What else can we do!"

"I don't know! What other possible way can we combine sand and paper?"

And that's when we remembered sandpaper exists.

And that's a good a place as any to stop writing. 

I hope people enjoy this film.


No comments: