I’m glad that I was able to put a lot of thought into the cinematography of this project and use what I’ve learned from tutors and experience from the past two years to experiment with camera movement and equipment. It did take me a few weeks to develop a solid concept which didn’t help to get the pre-production stage started. I feel like I still could have gone further with the storyline, to make it more personal to the character for a stronger connection with the viewer. It was disappointing to learn that we would have less time for our FMPs than anticipated, especially in the current circumstances of the pandemic and a lot of restrictions still at the time that would be needed for filming. It was a challenge to plan something that would be ambitious while keeping it doable and to government guidelines, but in the end, the pre-production was definitely the key to get the filming done quickly.
I feel that if I would have included a lot more extreme close ups of the main character’s face, especially when panicking, it would have had a more impactful effect, showing the character’s emotions in full-view. Although, I am happy with what I’ve been able to achieve in relation to my initial ideas. The camera techniques and shot design I think had gone quite well to create a sense of eerie mystery and I’ve been able to put in what I’ve learned from college for a bit of a different genre than I have produced before, specifically a variety of shot types and composition. Looking at my finished video, there are some areas I would definitely like to improve upon, like lighting, but for the most part I’m happy with the pacing of the film and a lot of the camera work with the slider.
When it came to filming, I think it went quite smoothly as I utilised my pre-production paperwork, like scripts and screenplay. Coming prepared with a plan written out and structured helped a huge amount in the set up of shots. If the camera was set up on the slider, I tried to film everything in the current scene that needed to be on the slider, for example, the b-roll footage of the kitchen was filmed just after the medium long shot of Noi entering the kitchen for the first time.
There are a few pieces of criticism I have for myself during filming. I did miss one or two shots I had planned to film, including a transition shot closeup of Kara’s photograph, which is held by Noi sitting on the bench in the last scene, panning up to Noi’s face, just before the medium shot of the bench. The photo would appear upside down, moving to a right-side-up shot of Noi. This could have made the audience feel a bit uneasy as it has a similar feel of a dutch tilt, making a scene that would usually look normal, unfamiliar and twisted. This shot would have been used to suggest how the situation Noi was in was upside-down, but are maybe just beginning to really turn, the next event being them unintentionally being the cause of their co worker’s death. For this project, I decided to focus on a screenplay rather than a full storyboard. Without the storyboard, I feel it was slightly harder to follow my ideas properly as I didn’t have a full visual representation of each planned shot. Even with a simple shot list on hand, a storyboard would have been a great help as I have found that I am much more of a visual learner and it would have been quicker to get a round-about idea of the elements of each scene during the production day.
Being the director in full control is not something I am completely used to, so there are aspects of the role that I need to work on. I found it difficult sometimes to get the scenes started by getting everybody quiet or ready, but throughout the course of the day, I learned to be a bit more direct to get them done. After this project I feel ready to try the role of director again and improve on these skills.
On set, I had five other crew members, which was the maximum I could have legally had at the time. It was very useful to have someone for each crew role that I needed; sound recordist, runner or assistant, two actors. As it was quite a small, isolated location, I believe I might not have needed the amount of crew that I had, especially since I took on the role of camera operator for most of the shots. For future projects I direct, I will focus a lot more on having defined roles so everyone knows exactly what they will be doing or be responsible for.
I asked those that were helping on set to write a little bit about what they thought I did well or any criticism they have regarding the production. Charile Gentle, an assistant on set has said “[I] thought that your shoot went very well because you knew what you were doing.” It was very nice to hear and I think the aspect I was most confident about was the script as I had spent quite a while on the lines to make it seem fitting for the characters and their personalities. I think I was able to put across how upbeat (and somewhat intrusive) the character ‘Barry’ is with his actions of just entering the house and taking something that was on the countertop as well as his dialogue and actions being quite laid back, which was acted out very well by Gareth Edwards. I also got a piece of feedback from Gareth, who has said: “Ellie had a clear goal in mind for the shots she wanted and how exactly to get them, she had also prepared all the props and location (her house) beforehand which made filming go smoothly and went well. The food was very nice, especially the cupcake that killed me. For the outside shots could have been a good idea to try and think of contingencies for rain, wind, sound ETC but all still went smoothly and the finished product looks nice. Was fun to work on set with Ellie as director and she did a good job 10/10”.
Some feedback from the leading actor, Jack (Quest) Harper includes: “Working on Ellie’s set was great, she managed to get her filming done fast without skipping on detail, she was also great at providing lunch for everyone.”
And from the sound recordist, Adam Vincent: “Ellie’s shoot was very well throughout and prepared so that when we arrived the shoot flowed efficiently. She is always a great person to work with on this shoot and others alike, she took into consideration any suggestions I made when it came to shots or setup. Food was provided which is always a good thing and the final film looked great.”
I appreciate all the positive feedback I’ve received from the people that have helped me greatly on this project. On the production, I had really tried to make sure I get the best out of the day for the film, but also keep the crew happy and ready to work. I’m glad it’s been a successful shoot and working in a great, hardworking team is something that I’ve found very important not only to create a good film, but also for motivation.
Helping each other throughout the year, and specifically for these final projects, has been great to experience a range of production types, like documentary, fictional comedy, drama mystery and psychological thriller. They all seem to have different techniques and allowed me to take on various roles, such as audio recordist, camera operator, assistant director and actress. It’s all added up to a good amount of experience in different sectors of film and, when directing the crew for my own FMP, I will be able to keep up with how the crew are finding or performing their roles.
On the topic of working in a team, from the start of the first year, I have worked in a close group and we have developed a comfortable, reliable dynamic when filming. We have all helped one another on our FMP productions and this can also be seen through the amazing opportunity Gareth and I had to film with Adam for a music engineering student’s live music lounge FMP, with the band ‘Undersky’. I’ve gained a few connections this term as well as some different experiences which has helped me to learn about the variety of camera techniques linked to the huge array of film and video genres. It has helped to work with other departments and be a part of a non-fictional, musical production rather than fictional, with unfamiliar people.
At the beginning of the FMP, I had the intention of producing an Indie pop music video, and this experience gave me a look into what it could be like, working with musicians and focusing on moving the camera throughout the filming rather than setting up each individual shot.
I started off the post-production stage having some trouble with running the 4k videos I had shot with the Panasonic. It was a new experience to film in a high resolution like this so there was a learning curve at this point. With the help of my classmates that had experienced trouble running 4k files in their projects on Premiere Pro, I learned about proxy files and how to utilise them for a smoother editing process. Not only did this help me for this project, 4k is now a universally encouraged resolution and I will have to work with it, and even higher resolutions, in the future so it has helped me in the long-run.
It took a long time to download proxy files (around 65 clips), go through and pick out usable parts and label them all. Matching sound files that I had also labelled also ate up quite a bit of time but it all was worth it when it came to arranging the clips in a sequence as it prevented me having to look through them each time. Labelling clips and audio is something that sometimes I wonder at the time if it will be worth it, but from having so many pieces of footage from this production, it is something I will be implementing in projects I take on later as it really helped a lot to organise the media that I didn’t particularly need. In this process, occasionally audio just cut out on the camera-audio which made it a little difficult sometimes to review them so it was crucial that I had the matching audio from the external Zoom recorder.
Reviewing the clips, some of the shots have an issue where the Panasonic warps the original image, which sometimes makes it look like it has been ‘warp stabilised’ a lot and there is nothing really I am able to do about it. As it’s only really noticeable slightly at the close up of Noi reading Barry’s letter in the background, where the footage has not had this effect added, it doesn’t take away from the film. Similarly, the ‘warp stabiliser’ added to the close up track in of the Mercedes car keys has the same kind of warping but it is due to the effect. I prefer the look of the warping over the shakiness of the original clip however as it’s not so jarring and my family members that I showed the film to seem to agree that it’s much better than the original shakiness.
Colour-grading was a very long process and I wanted to put a lot of effort into producing a mysterious, cold atmosphere at this time. I used separate adjustment layers over the exterior and interior footage to make the setting look like the evening. I did this mainly by tinting the temperature to be cooler, decreased exposure, blacks and saturation slightly and made shadows more of a deeper blue, all to reflect more of an evening, moody appearance. This technique worked quite well and was quick to do. It was definitely more efficient than filming in the evening itself or in the dark. On the other hand, it probably would not have worked if shot in the sunshine as lit-up areas would seem a lot more golden and cheerful, while the even wash of light from the cloudy sky works to emit a sense of gloom and feeling of early evening.
The next available day after completing the colour-corrected draft of my film, I showed my tutor, Nick Evans, to get some feedback on the video as a whole, but I mainly wanted to see how I did with the pacing and colouring of the film. I think this was important for me to do because I had been spending hours editing at a time which would have probably skewed my view on these elements into being not very reliable. Nick was a great help with the finishing touches and suggested boosting the blue tint of the interior shots, as well as turning down the red levels. To create a bit more contrast between inside and out, he also mentioned increasing the saturation slightly within the exterior shots, which worked to establish more of a difference between the two locations. The colour of the final edit, I think, came out very well and looks just how I imagined for the intended atmosphere. Although there is not really any gore in my film, unlike a lot of thriller or suspense films, I believe I have been able to imply danger and dark themes of murder, sorrow and revenge through the cold blue colouring and imagery of blood.
When showing my first colour-graded draft to Nick, the audio was very out of sync and some audio that was ‘disabled’ in Premiere Pro could be heard. After figuring this issue out by looking at similar problems people have had on the internet, I think I did well with correcting it – it was all because of the hardware encoder when I had been exporting it!
Along with colour-grading, I have really widened my experience with visual and audio effects in Premiere Pro. When sharpening up the footage for my final edit, I tested the ‘warp stabiliser’ effect on the close up of Noi reading Barry’s letter It turned out to not work so well as it focused on stabilising the foreground, making it look very unnatural, keeping Noi’s head very still while the background moved about. I decided to take off the effect and leave it how it is since it’s not extremely obvious, and feeds into the subconscious unnerving feeling without being too upfront.
Mise-en-scène plays a crucial role in setting up the audience’s feelings about a character or location and I believe I could have done better with this. The props that were around the scenes, such as the stack of letters, cupcakes, photo of the main character’s partner, car keys and cleaning supplies I think all did well to suggest that Noi has been a bit disconnected from the outside world due to the murder of their loved partner, how the cupcake may have a big role in the story, and that something needs to be cleaned up. To improve on the possible backstory or information about the character, I should have put other, less obvious props around the locations, like books or hobby items they might have, pointing to what kind of person they are. These seemed like very minute details, but especially in a psychological film, our subconscious creates links to the things around the screen, so this will be a major focus of mine in other films I make as I would really like to improve on making a strong connection with the audience and characters.
The film turned out to be almost edging on a bit of comedy, and I think what could have improved the story and entertainment value of it is some emphasised action around the end, just before Barry passes away and Noi realises what Barry has done to himself. I would really like to improve on my storytelling and even build upon the plot of this project in the future. From dabbling more with screenplays in this production, I have further appreciation for the people who work hard on great screenplays and scripts as I’ve learnt that it takes a lot of time to perfect a screenplay, with a particular and clear layout. Although I usually prefer to create the visual planning documents for my films, experimenting with these types of written documents, putting into words the exact visual and audible cues has encouraged me to work more with screenplays as they often offer a very reliable and comprehensive representation of a film’s story.
There are of course a few parts of my film that I would have liked to improve upon before submission, but with the deadline quickly approaching, I had to make some choices that meant I would have time to complete everything. I am really happy with the outcome of a lot of the shots, specifically the tracking shot of when Barry arrives, and basic audio but with more time, I would have loved to collaborate with students from other courses like sound engineering and music, to create a fully immersive and fitting sound design. After watching my film another time, I think I could have gone with an ending song with more instrumentals as it seems to be quite quiet, however I do like the atmosphere it gives off, being a bit creepy. The Foley I captured during and after the filming was sufficient for realistic actions of the characters, like Noi opening the door in the opening scene, and later, the letter being posted through the front door, but this could be made better by spending more time on blending it all into a cohesive line of audio, playing around with effects and just the volume of each clip.
All in all, I feel proud of the short film that I’ve been able to create. There was a lot to think about in the production of it, but I really enjoyed directing a film myself and I think it has turned out to be something different from the things I have done before. Colour-grading is now something I can say I’m quite confident with so I’m curious as to what I’ll be doing next.