I made a film happen in three weeks.

You might have been wondering where I’ve been for the past few weeks, after I’d been a diligent poster for a few months. Well, about three weeks ago I stumbled on a link that mentioned FACT were taking submissions for Liverpool Film Night and that the deadline was 18th October. I was sat at my laptop like “Damn! I need to enter this!” and thus began a three week quest to make a film happen. If you’re interested in how I did it for your own projects, keep reading…
So, three weeks is not a lot of time to make something happen. You have to know your limits when you start, and really short time limits and media production generally do not mesh well together. It would be really hard to make a scripted short film in this amount of time, unless it’s a really, really short film and you’re friends with a bunch of people who act; we’re talking 3 minutes maximum here. Hence, I ended up making a documentary, or really it was basically a piece of video journalism. I feel like a documentary has more of a passage of time involved with multiple visits and a journey over a period of months; documenting an event as it progresses. I don’t feel like one or two visits can really document a story, even though I suppose you could count the recording of any period of time as a documentary.

I got incredibly lucky with this project. A friend of mine has just started roller derby, and I looked into the team to see what they were about and I thought “Wow! That’s super cool.” I really liked the ethos of the team so I sent them an email right away explaining what I wanted to do in clear terms. I got lucky with this part, it might not necessarily go so smoothly for everyone. They replied the same day and I started to get to work on my treatment for the project. Writing a treatment is really useful for a project like this because it makes your aims and needs super clear to the people you need to work with and you can organise yourself well. My treatment included the aims and themes of the film, a storyboard of the kinds of shots I wanted to take and where I wanted to set up cameras, the kind of questions I wanted to ask potential interviewees so that the entire process was completely transparent.

The next thing I had to do was beg borrow and steal every piece of equipment I could get. I have my own camera and lenses but I’m really, really lucky in that my parents both work in schools so I was able to borrow some lighting and sound equipment. The last time I did something like this I was still studying, so I was able to use things at my university but sadly that’s not the case these days! My dad is also a hobby photographer so I borrowed his camera too. In the end, the microphone I borrowed wasn’t compatible with my camera, so I ended up dangling camera 2 on a tripod over the interviewees like a very crude boom. It worked, for the most part, but some of my audio still messed up. Thankfully, I learned a lot of audio clean up tricks to help with that. By that I mean, I learned to make a volatile cocktail of lasso tool, heal tool and vocal enhancer on adobe soundbooth.

After I took all the footage, I panicked as usual that none of it would turn out well but thankfully I got some really beautiful shots. As a filmmaker I always worry that I’m not close enough, that my shots aren’t intimate enough. I really like close up, very textural film. Videos of close up fashion details are always my favourite, and I feel like Chanel always does this really well for every collection. After watching this, I always want to get closer with my camera and see every tiny bead of sweat.

The editing took me somewhere over 50 hours. I remember cancelling everything over about 2 weeks and just editing constantly. Everyone who knows me knows that my gym routine will rarely suffer for anything. I’m an absolute gym addict and even my precious gym time went out of the window to get this done. Again, short deadlines and media production do not mix well! I really burned myself out doing this and I really would not recommend it for your health but if you do have a tight deadline like mine then sacrifices must be made.

I had people look at the film a few times during the editing process. I had my friends who are involved in film and animation look at it from their perspective and also my mother and father look at it from a viewer perspective. It went through quite a few iterations before I got to the final piece. I had to beg, borrow and steal skills from my friends too! As well as getting people to watch my film, I had one friend help me out with graphics too. The things, I don’t have a great sense for graphic design but he has a great sense for it! He added the final touches that made my film look really polished in the end. When it was done and sent off, I really couldn’t believe it. No budget, borrowing from everyone I could and who knows if the film will make it through to the festival. Well, at least it’s something new for my portfolio and CV.

To summarise, if you want to make a film in three weeks you need to do the following:

  • Get your inspiration and get it QUICK. You can’t afford to lag here!
  • Keep your ideas small and very manageable in terms of resources
  • Make your process transparent and organised, the clearer you are the more efficient you can be
  • Get everything you can ready; be resourceful and creative, especially on set. Try not to panic!
  • Allow plenty of time for post production and even a re-shoot if you need to, get your shooting done asap
  • Keep yourself open to criticism throughout the process and stay open to many different opinions because they are all valuable
  • Don’t forget your vision and what you wanted to achieve in the first place
  • You’ll probably need to learn a lot of new skills on the fly and a lot of better, more efficient ways to do things you already know so be prepared for that
  • Take input from others and allow yourself to ask for help where you need it, and you definitely will need it!
  • Make sacrifices and cry a lot.

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