sometimes, we fail

Hello, person of the planet Earth.

I’m glad to say I think my time in film school has not been wasted, since I learn something new from every assignment we get. The newest assignment was one of the most anticipated ones, and I’m sad to say I didn’t take as much part of it as I would had liked to. The problem was that the number of people in my class was uneven, which means that when pairing with one another in a producer/director team, someone is left to work alone. To be honest, it was probably not a good idea to give in to my not feeling well and skip that class, as I could probably have found a pair if I went, but these are past things that I would like to take as lessons rather than unfixable mistakes. And so, I didn’t make my own film, but I had to take part in many others in order to “redeem” myself.

I took part in 4 (5?) projects and now I’m going to tell you about each one. (I don’t have pictures for each one, since I always forgot my camera. Sigh.)


A WALK IN LONDON
Lesson learned: Have a clear vision

The first assignment I took part in as a DoP was very comfortable and easy to shoot, mainly because the locations were in Central London and the weather was amazing. We walked around, looked around and shot.

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London helped us out with its nice weather.

What I think lacked in this production was planning and preparation. We didn’t have enough time to finish every shot and the film wasn’t planned enough in order for me to understand what they want me to achieve. We struggled with time and lack of good equipment. This production taught me to always have a clear visual idea in my head in order to be able to communicate it to my crew members and to always do location scouting prior to the shoot in order to know what to expect and to plan my production better. I would say the pair I worked with lacked some of these things. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see how it turned out.


WELCOME TO THE SEASIDE
Lesson learned: Always have a plan B

I was helping out with Sound on another production, which went downhill from the first minute of the shooting days, but after a lot of stress and hard work, we came out the other side with some beautiful footage. It all started in 9:00 in the morning when the driver that was supposed to take us to Margate (2 hours away from London) didn’t show up. He never even messaged or called to say what’s up, even to this day. We were extremely lucky that the actor had a car. We got on the road and then we realised we had forgotten the bag containing the costume for the actor to wear. We were already behind schedule and we had to go back and get it. When we finally reached the beach, we had to rush with filming because of the time we had already lost. I think we managed to get some good shots.

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Margate was very beautiful and inspiring. Sometimes a good location can make the whole production a lot easier and the crew – more dedicated.

Then, day 2 of the shoot began. We were in a room and we had to wrap up pretty quickly, because me and the producer had to go work on another shoot afterwards. So it was all very rushed. I found it exactly the opposite of the previous shoot I’d been on, as it was planned well, attention was paid to every little detail and the DoP took hours taking the perfect shots. It was pleasant to work on that shoot.


MIDNIGHT ADVENTURES
Lesson learned: Be serious when needed to

The third shoot was right after the second one and we filmed until midnight. I thought the director did a fantastic job, not so much the producer though. He had some trouble providing the props we needed and working effectively on a tight schedule. He wasn’t very professional most of the time. I enjoyed the director’s attention to detail and willingness to take ideas from others. I felt like I was heard and like I was actually helping with my presence. Besides Lighting, I also did a bit of set design and I helped out with the coverage of a certain scene. I had a good time seeing how dedicated everyone was and it made me believe that I can also achieve similar things. Overall, I enjoyed myself – excluding the very tiring shoot and the late finish, which even though tough, were very rewarding.

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The crew at work.

…WHAT IS THIS AGAIN?
Lesson learned: Be dedicated 
(this one was very important to me)

So, I was meant to be the DoP for this production, but the pair never gave me an exact date and time and so I took up another job. I did try to show up at their shoot though, and I stayed there for a couple of hours just to observe how a production can go to complete waste. The director didn’t have a very clear vision of what she wanted and she kept being yelled at by the producer – a very unprofessional behaviour from the both sides. I was stood there, not very comfortable, not sure what to say and whom to comfort, trying to help out with lighting, until I had to leave for another shoot. I don’t think this project will even be finished and, to be honest, I’m not surprised. Almost no preparation and planning went into it and I’m truly sorry for whoever had to waste their time on it.


THE WIND CAN’T STOP US!
Lesson learned:
You don’t need to be stressed out in order to create something good

This was my favourite project to work on. We started out in a room, practising some fight scenes. The director did a marvelous job at navigating the actors, whilst also keeping a friendly tone and creating a pleasant atmosphere. The producer did everything he had to do and he didn’t get in the director’s way – except, of course, when needed to. We went to the first location – we had wind and over 15 people – extras, actors and crew – and we had to shoot the fight scene there. We had two cameras and I struggled to try and film from such an angle so that the other camera will not be visible. We also had to think of the 180 degree rule and try not to break it in the haste of things. Overall, it was fun. Then, we moved on to the second location, which was the room we had previously practised in. We had to make a coffin-like box for our actress to get into. We had four planks and we had to hold them together.

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Teamwork!

Everyone worked very fast and efficiently. The director was present and he heard everybody’s ideas. We finished filming the same scene from different angles quickly and we moved on to the final location. There, we spent a lot of time setting up the lights.

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Me and the producer trying to set up lights under the chair.

I’m a bit worried for the style of the lighting, if we did a good job and if it turned out good on camera. On set, I thought we had some pretty nice shots, but everything can go wrong once you see the footage clearly.

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Something similar to what lighting we stuck to at the end.

We also had to do some voiceovers and dub the lines we had messed up in the wind previously. The shooting itself took an amazingly short amount of time – the director had a very clear vision, he worked fast and with the help of the actors we finished (sort of) on time. I went home with a smile on my face, pleasantly tired and happy with myself.

Some cheeky behind the scenes footage you can see here:
1. Making the box and shooting the scenes with it

2. One of the takes with the “coffin”

3. BTS at the end of the shoot day (setting up)

And, the finished project you can see here:
PSI – Short film


So, the busy week is over. Besides the shoots, I also had to attend a review of the course I’m on. It was an interesting experience to represent the course to people from the other side of the world and to feel like your opinion matters. And I can say I’m proud of myself. Even if I did less or more than what my coursemates did for this project, I’m still happy with what I did. I don’t have a project of my own, but each of these feel like children to me (well, that is an awkward metaphor…) as I’ve put my time and effort into them. Sure, I have my doubts about things – but everyone does. Now I hope for the best and I have an open mind.

I learned something from each and every one and I can tell that I’m wiser and I approach projects very differently now. No assignment has failed to teach me something and for that I am very grateful. I’m also proud of myself that I’m able to see the good thing in even the most desperate situation – something, I feel, can be a knife with two blades.

But I’ll try my best to only use one of them.

P.S. If I get the permission, I’ll post the finished films once they’re done, so you can see for yourself what turned out. 

Until next time, 
Gabriella

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