Friday, 9 March 2012

Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell - Production Day 2...

Here, finally, is my production diary for Day 2 on Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell.

Yes, it may take me until this time next year to finish blogging about the production of the film at this rate, but there has been important stuff to do like watching through all the footage and working on the script for Jenny Ringo 3...


Day 2 should have been easy. We were filming in our flat so we didn't have to go anywhere and all the equipment was already there. The scenes were all pretty straightforward dialogue scenes and most of them took place in the lounge so once we'd set up the lights that should have been it for most of the day. I hadn't covered these scenes in the rehearsals because this was Jenny and Gavin in their natural habitat and I knew Rosie and Lukas would get the performances spot on first time (which they did).

It should have been simple.

It didn't quite work out that way for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1) Long dialogue scenes.

By long I mean one page, a page and a half at most. In film terms this is long. Actually that's not true in all cases, but in the films I want to make one page is a long scene. Whether people liked Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw or not most people have commented on the fact that it moves along at a good pace and doesn't feel 25 minutes long. In fact the only scenes that seem to drag are those without dialogue, which are on the whole shorter than the dialogue scenes.

I am making a point of this because I watch a lot of short films and a lot of them have overlong scenes. Some are mostly just one really overlong scene. And most of the time they really don't need to be that long.

So if a scene does happen to be over a page long and I've cut out everything I can then I'll look for ways to break it up. The same principle applies to filming the scenes.

The longest scene we shot on Day 2 involved Jenny and Gavin sitting on a sofa. It was written in the script that at an appropriate moment Gavin stands up. What isn't written is what Jenny does, but obviously she stands up too as otherwise it looks weird. This is all good as it gives an otherwise static scene a bit of movement. However, it doubles the shot list. In this case there were 3 basic shots we needed to make the scene work - a 2shot with both characters in the frame and a close up of each of them. But because they changed positions halfway through the scene we can't film the whole thing in one go. So we have to do three more shots for the new position. Each new shot involves tweaking the lighting, working out the camera position and sometimes changing the positions of the actors. Then you have to consider all the various things that can go wrong with a take. And then at the end of the scene they change positions again.

This all takes quite a long time, much longer than the hour we had allowed for filming each scene.

I recently watched Troll 2, which is famous for being the worst film ever made...

(I have actually seen worse. A lot worse. And that's probably not a good thing)

In Troll 2 all the major dialogue scenes seem to have been shot on Steadicam, so the camera just moves around to focus on whoever is talking. There are a surprising number of single-shot scenes in Troll 2 and I can understand why. It must have been way quicker. It doesn't look great and doesn't allow you to do much with the lighting other that made sure it's all really well lit so everything stays in focus the whole time, but it definitely must have been quicker.

Yes, I am taking hints from Troll 2 and should probably be banned from filmmaking forever now.

Reason 2) The tidying spell

So in this film Jenny uses magic to tidy up her flat. This is more exciting than it sounds, I promise - there are high stakes and unexpected consequences! The real issue is that 'Jenny casts a tidying spell' looks fine in the script but isn't so easy to pull off in reality. In my head it looked like Mickey Mouse and the dancing brooms (or Jay Baruchel and the dancing brooms). In real life...we hadn't really planned how to do it. For the last film we did effects tests for all this stuff, like this...

This time for some reason I decided we'd just figure out the tidying on the day. So we decided to do it by locking off the camera then taking still frames of a messy table while removing items one at a time. I was standing behind the camera telling the crew what to remove next, calling out things like 'bowl!' or 'ashtray!' in what soon started to feel like some kind of educational naming game. My initial plan was to do the same for different areas of the room, but given we were already behind I decided to just do the table which will hopefully be enough to show what is happening. So it was a bit time consuming but not all that tricky in the end, unlike the scene we were to shoot on Tuesday which was a lot more complicated.

There were two scenes left to shoot in our lounge but we were losing the light from outside the windows and we had another scene to shoot upstairs where Pete and Charlotte had been turning our bedroom into one of the dressing rooms in the Cabaret from Hell.

So I decided to move the two lounge scenes to another day. They weren't long scenes, and it wasn't a massive problem, but it meant that on Day 2 we were officially behind schedule, and that worried me a bit. In fact, from Day 2 onwards I would be constantly checking the time and stressing about being behind schedule. I'd lost some of the confidence I found on the first day and suddenly it started to feel like the whole thing might pose more of a challenge than I first thought. Friday seemed like a long way off...


No idea what all this is about? Here's the trailer for the first film...

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