We’re all flawed… Very much me. Very much whatever I produce. But isn’t that what makes us unique?
I think if anyone ever consciously creates anything it usually doesn’t match what the original idea was, once executed. Even a child. I doubt anyone truly conceived the thing that has become me. It’s all one happy accident – a combination of numerous random factors and lots of added road miles and chemicals.
It’s very rare that the film you set out to make is the one you release. It’s no surprise that the editing process is often described as the third stage of the writing process – you write the film, you rewrite it in pre production and during the actual shoot (problem solving and adapting to reality) and then you rework and refine it in the edit, based on what you actually shot. Often compromise is heaped upon compromise and small changes reset the whole, as a result of the effect of collaboration with others.
This film is definitely not what I set out to make at the start. In fact it is bigger and more ambitious. Plotwise, it was a fun way to make a simple short, which could give Darwin and I something to do. Technologically, it would be a useful test of the Gh5 camera I purchased. Scopewise, it was simple – shoot it at home, mostly in a controlled environment and with a limited crew. We didn’t know anyone. We wanted to establish ourselves in Sweden as filmmakers and build a small network of likeminded collaborators. As with many endeavours, our desires overtake our ability in some ways and soon the plot became more ambitious, making the radio DJ and Studio a much more significant part of the film. Then I thought “why not throw in some FX in to the mix?”. This all impacted the Scope, the duration and the budget and the time to get it all done.
The shoot was chaotic at times, but mostly went well for our first shoot working together, despite cinematographers not showing up and not having enough people. With enthusiasm we shot stuff we hadn’t planned on getting. Brief moments became much longer scenes. And we also didn’t get stuff we planned to shoot – partly due to losing control at a few brief but significant moments. All of this added to the complexity of the edit task and once it grew beyond the script it became much tougher to reshape. But it’s all in the past now…
For my part, I inherited the edit, 4 months after having shot the film and having to start it from scratch, due to cross-compatibility issues with files across Premiere and FCP X. Mainly because I refuse to keep paying monthly fees for a buggy sluggish editing programme. Darwin had realised that our estimated 3 week edit timeline was unrealistic and then he’d begun to doubt and move on to other things and it was clear he was not moving forward with it. But I then had to pay the price of a blank slate and try and make up for lost time, when I took it all over. And in that time, the 6.5 months that followed, I had to first identify every shot I liked, then get that timeline down from 33 minutes of footage that told the story I wanted to tell, to the 6.45 mins of finished film that I have now. Constantly trimming and rearranging clip orders and trimming some more. – While also having a day job, writing a new script and shooting that film this summer…
Throughout, I’ve doubted myself constantly. Am I making the right choices? why didn’t I shoot X? How can I weave a narrative from this? Have I weaved a worthy narrative from this? Am I going insane? I must be insane to try and do this for an October 31st premiere? etc. And will anyone even care?
I’d like to think that there are less flaws with each successive project that I work on. That’s definitely what I aspire to – to improve upon everything I do. I think in many respects, this is my best film yet. But despite this, I am well aware of every flaw. How could I not be, after seeing the same shot hundreds of times and each one in a gamut of variations? And all while knowing what my original vision was for each tiny moment.
Essentially, I guess you could say that I am now in the Fine Cut stage. Which means that we have locked picture. We are now working on sound mixing and scoring and colour grading the film for its premiere screening. Is this merely like rolling a turd in sparkle and trying to make it something better than it is? I hope not. I hope the film is well received when the cast and crew see it. I hope that it doesn’t get a drudging by the critics and viewers and I hope that festivals treat it kindly. I hope for all of these things. But even if it gets a kicking from all quarters, I know that I am proud that I have seen it through this far and also will hopefully soon do so to the very end. And that is what I set out to do. I needed to finish this film. I have much more to make. And getting this film done is key to boosting my confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. It’s not perfect, but what films are? I will love it, despite its flaws. I will love it because of its flaws…
So far only a select few have seen the film in its current state. Darwin has suggested edits that have helped (especially one that revealed a continuity error) and others that sought to make the film more linear, until it then highlighted other shots we never got, that would have made that plan work. But it did highlight the fact that two shots I’d considered getting since the original shoot, were still needed to provide a more pleasing ending. As soon as Darwin came back from the US, we got the crew together again to do a fun pickup shoot and snag those shots in true guerrilla style (pics below).
The Composer (Flora) and Sound Mixer (Luca) obviously need that locked cut / edit in order to help them achieve their roles. The VFX Designer (Albin) needs them to work his magic etc. The only question for me is will I have to colour grade again or can I get some much needed professional eyes on this? Oh and the bonus question is always – will we get it done in time? The timeline is ridiculously tight. I am well aware of that. And it’s all my fault. If I had been quicker, the pressure would definitely be on me and not on others. I apologise profusely. But sh*t happens. But let’s hope that something marvellous happens under that pressure and things come together. And let’s hope that no one is broken because of the pressure of this deadline.
And regarding speed. How can you rush your way through an edit, where you essentially don’t know what the final point needs to look like – because the story you shot is more complex than the one you wrote? You can’t. Not really. And not when you have a job that has overly ambitious deadlines you also need to hit. Because. Wages… and then factor in a laptop needing a completely new keyboard and having to go away for two weeks, and software updates breaking the software – which took time to fix – and crashes, not just for me but also while Albin is rendering VFX. oh and having to edit a trailer you never knew you were expected to produce – because who puts trailers together for short films? – apparently it is a thing now. Lesson learned. All of this slows things down.
But there is always value in this process. You learn. All through the doing and failing, you learn and you improve. The lessons learned on this film helped make SVEN GUNNAR a much smoother shoot and edit I am sure. And, the way I feel about this short, is that the effort I have put in is akin to that of what working on a feature must be like. So why not tackle something bigger and more ambitious in the future? it certainly hasn’t put me off – although in the darker periods I’m sure I felt very differently about the struggle I was going through. …
In fact yes, there have been some very dark times. There has been sickness and stress, tears and self-recrimination and illness. There has also been laughter too, sometimes giddy and hysterical or drunken. And the metre has swung from abject loneliness to feeling like I belong to a tight-knit group of co-located professionals and also wondering why no one gives a shit about this epic one-man struggle of creation? Who will see anything other than a flawed, odd, film just shy of the 7-minute mark?
In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? No. Do I matter? No. You are always the only one that cares about your own movie. No one else will ever love it as much as you. And in this time of short attention spans and scrolling timelines, who can get anyone to really care anymore? So why do it? God knows. I only know that despite all the pain, it is a damn sight more interesting than the rest of my life and at the end of it I’ll have something to show to mark the time. And thanks for all the fish…
If you want to learn more about the film editing process, to understand why I’ve taken so damn long, READ MORE.
And as always, if you read all of this, thank you. But why? What makes you tick? What flaws do you obsess about?
And let me know if you want to watch this film when it’s finally done? And tune in after the 31st to find out if we made our premiere and if so, in what form?
Sometimes what we must do for love, can kill us. That’s the realization that Tim must come to if he is to stop Sven-Gunnar. Tim, a father and husband, is forced to commit the unspeakable in order to save his family; he must realise that the man holding his family hostage has done this before, if he is to stop them all becoming victims of SVEN- GUNNAR and prevent others falling victim to the same fate.
Hasse Brontén … Tim Darwin Reina … Beachgoer Johnny Vikeväkorva Johansson … Sven Gunnar Alicia Mörtsell … Julia Emma Karadottir … Anja Isabella Ahlberg … Beachgoer
Produced by Lee Bailes … producer Johnny Vikeväkorva Johansson … producer Darwin Reina … producer Rubi Rios … executive producer Julio Moran Suarez … executive producer
The keen eyed will notice that the next festival we’ve been selected for is next year, in May. So it will be awhile before we find out how we placed in that festival.
But DFTB has also been selected for potential screening, subject to contracts / agreements, on TV in Latin America. This is also great. Every bit of exposure and every new viewer is most welcome.
So that’s it for the film festival / screening news…. so what else has been going on?
… Well I’ve been editing. At a snail’s pace, it feels. But I’ve been editing. Namely I’ve been working on polishing the teaser trailer for MR CLEAN, working our excellent composer Flora Cheng, our talented sound mixer / designer Luca De Sensi, on getting the sound mix just right, struggling to get Darwin’s After Effects animations working in FCP X and then rebuilding them all the way I wanted them in Motion instead and trying my hand at colour grading – and no I am not a colour grader! But hopefully, soon, I can release the MR CLEAN teaser trailer and resume editing on the film.
I have been editing the short film of MR CLEAN as well, of course, but I’ve been facing some technical challenges, including a failing keyboard on my Macbook Pro, which resulted in the machine being taken into the shop for a replacement – which if you don’t know, is a major piece of work! And it left me with no option for editing for 2 weeks. That and a stress-related illness has meant for a fun summer I can tell you. lol. The self-imposed countdown to a premiere is approaching. We’re hoping to screen MR CLEAN on Halloween. So every minute counts. There are some VFX in progress, thanks to Albin Larsson – so I can’t wait to see them and share them with you.
But the main battle I’ve been facing is pushing on, despite doubting whether the film will even be any good? Will it be worth it? The fact that a film takes longer than you expect to produce seems to add more and more weight and expectation to the fact that it was shot as a bit of fun, to give me something to do – and has instead become a veritable burden. It is a challenge. I must complete it. But in no way is this fun. This is war.
If you’ve a little time to spare, and the inclination – feel free to read the [exhaustive] shoot diary, as best as I can recall it. This is more for my own records, but I hope you can get a taste of what it is like to shoot in a run-and-gun fashion on a no-budget horror film, and maybe learn some lessons along the way… oh and if reads a bit “Me. Me and me.” Apologies, but it is straight from my brain and details only my perspective on events:
Thursday – day #1 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Keep my temper.
Get some good shots – in focus and correct exposure.
Thanks to: Darwin for all the driving and Johnny’s family (Sven-Gunnar and Mirja) for all the excellent hospitality.
I had managed to get maybe an hour’s sleep. No way near enough. I felt out of it by the time it was time to get up.
I finished packing my bags and left everything quietly by the front door. Darwin and Johnny were running late, so I dealt with some admin as I waited. Ironically, sods law, they arrived as I suddenly needed the loo. Despite communicating to Darwin that I was in fact on the loo, he demanded that I come out to them. lol yeah right.
Once I was outside, we unlocked the garage and moved the car, and as Johnny put his stuff in the car Darwin commented on the fact that we had more stuff than the day before. There was no way any of us would have got our stuff in the car if I had not whittled down my gear – the previous day when packing – Darwin was just realising this now. It definitely makes sense to try and pack for a trip like this the day before, if you have a safe place to store it, rather than stress when you just want to get out on the road at the last minute.
Then with a smattering of light traffic we were soon driving into the archipelago / heading towards Hälsingland as Darwin fired question after question at us, often from different subject directions, preventing any of us napping :). And had one brief stop off at a petrol station outside Gävle, to eat and stretch, before the final push to our location / temporary home for the next 4 days.
We were the first ones to arrive. We got to the location at Skog, around 9.30 am, and started to unpack. I think that Johnny’s parents were next; then the rest of the cast and crew who were due that day. This gave us much needed time to unload the car, to set everything up in the barn, re starting to unpack gear, assembling the camera and lights etc and start moving things we needed into the barn for the interior shots – before questions and demands on your attention.
Johnny and Darwin went to pick up the car for the shoot. But the breaks didn’t work. Plan B was to muddy up Darwin’s car ‘a bit’…. but Darwin doesn’t do things by half.
By the time everyone arrived, at 12:30, we were in some semblance of order so had a group meeting to introduce ourselves and explain the shoot. This wasn’t really the kind of shoot pep talk I was hoping for. By the end of it no one knew the rules, had an idea about set safety (re cables and lights) how we would take shots etc. This meant that the rest of the shoot was a little chaotic – and I feel in some ways that there was still a little confusion as to what was done and when – and also allowed us in hindsight to be a little lazy when following our own rules. This is also traditionally the time for signing contracts before the shoot begins. Next time – we’ll be better next time!
Before they arrived, we went to check out the side of the barn and there was no graveyard yet. In fact, no grave, no crosses etc. There was also no set built for the fruit cellar. This would have been ideal to have been sorted prior to shooting. But with a late recce, what can you do? The original intended location for the graveyard was unsatisfactory, due to water, so we moved location and started work preparing that new site. Yes, glamour – digging holes etc. Not exactly the best way to start a shoot. But if you need a hole on a low budget shoot you best get digging… yes even the director.
As this film had makeup (prepared by the talented Isabella and Salwa) we were waiting for this to be complete before we could begin. So we had lunch, which was lovely and prepared by Johnny and his Mother Mirja. There we also met Johnny’s cousin, Jenny’s daughter Elina who would play Tim’s daughter.
We started shooting around 2.30 that afternoon, the scenes with ANJA (Emma) and TIM (Hasse Brontén) – down the road from the barn – and we were now 1.5hrs behind schedule on the first shot. There wasn’t much traffic luckily until around 5pm when we saw 4 vehicles, including a truck all at once. So we had a pretty easy shoot in what was an uncontrolled location / public highway. However, the fact that it was sunny and I couldn’t see the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s screen in the sun without holding a reflector over my head like a sun hat! meant that it was stressful to take any shot or try and keep focus. If I’d had a cage I would have mounted the Small HD monitor and used that… but this was essentially a running theme through the entire shoot; that and scrabbling around for different lenses, and trying to change them on the fly without dropping them or getting dirt in the camera or lens. And having to keep feeding batteries into the speed freak of a junkie camera, that chewed through batteries like nothing I’ve seen before was terrifying. You could not keep the camera on between takes if you wanted to get any shots. And I was so nervous about damaging the SSD / cable, and losing our shots, with the hastily jerry-rigged mobile phone holder mount and rubber band solution – that I had to use, because my rig only arrived after we’d started shooting :(. This was also the start of failing to mark each shot or to take focus and colour references or record sound for very take. Not a good way to carry on. But then think of the actors, they also were working without the benefit of rehearsals and advanced blocking, so everyone was under pressure. This was also not cool, as I had urged everyone to do rehearsals at a production meeting weeks before the shoot to avoid any on-location fuckery.
Darwin recognised that we needed more crew members. We needed at least 3 more people. We needed someone to do sound, someone to run the clapper board and mark shots / give colour / focus references, someone to mark the shots taken and note down key shot info e.g. what lens / time, whether they were good or bad takes etc – as well as lighting or continuity or a focus puller etc. Yes it is more people to feed and more hands to keep occupied etc. But they would be worth it to aid a more efficient process and ease post production later on. Darwin tried to take care of sound, in between directing and giving everyone the information they needed – but hard to do so when you need to direct and keep every informed, and Johnny tried to run the clapper board when not in a scene / shot, and give me what I needed, but basically as we were already 2 hours behind before we’d even got underway in the shoot, everything soon became sporadic, chaotic and not as professional as I prefer.
By 5.30, we were ready to shoot JULIA’s (Alicia) scenes with TIM, on another stretch of road. This presented minor problems, but mainly cost us valuable time, when things like crash pads for the stunt and necessary equipment was not with us and needed to be brought to location. And this stretch of road was a little narrower and slightly busier, with human and vehicular traffic. One dog was very keen to get in on the shot, despite its owners’ efforts to drag it away.
I’m not proud of being snippy at times. But asking questions and being ignored or talked over, triggers me every time. Tempers did get frayed as the pressure of slipping behind mounted, especially when hunger began to kick in and questions are whizzing around. Nevermind the flying vampires (aka Mosquitos) that preyed upon us, even through two layers of clothing. I looked hella stupid in my bug bucket (mosquito hat with fitted net), but it helped. The Mosquito repellent that I bathed in, did not help at all – as the next 10 bites I would get, would testify. So yes, I got snippy and I’m not proud of it. But I’m impressed that others did not, especially when the cold night air bit and when Alicia voluntarily lay face down in the dirt for one shot.
We moved on to dinner around 7.30 isn I think. And then afterwards at 9.45, it was time to resume shooting. This time it was JULIA’s escape from TIM where shots were taken from inside a bush, holding leaves in front of the camera to add visual interest / depth of frame.
We wrapped at 10.40. Way too late, nearly 2 hours behind schedule. And at the time I had not realised (and did not realise until the 3rd shoot day) that Darwin had elected to cut a scene that I was keen to keep in the film, one that crucially and efficiently tied many plot elements together. I know that he didn’t see the benefit in it, but to me it was crucial for Tim’s character arc in the eyes of the viewer. Too late now.
When questioned by Sven and Tim about how the shoot was going I was not the most positive. I was just tired and grumpy. But I was sure we would get better. First days can be tough when you take on too much and don’t allow more padding or plan for it well in advance of the shoot. And I hate starting off on the back foot, when there was no good excuse for it. We would catch up. But it was a 5 day shoot, crammed into 3.5.
Unfortunately, despite being exhausted and having no sleep that morning, I was unable to shut my brain down. The bedroom was full of mozzies, it was too hot and and I’m bad at sharing rooms. I was too conscious of disturbing Darwin, and tried not to, but the squeaky bed and stairs / door was impossible not to. And then buzz…buzzz…buzzz… smack!
I tried to meditate…
Friday – day #2 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Get through day 2 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
Get some good shots.
Enjoy the shoot.
Thanks to: Darwin for allowing us to finish earlier today.
I did not sleep – as far as I know. If I did it was no more than an hour. I felt like ass, and was utterly exhausted when I got up. So when Darwin got up early, I then followed and showered and dressed and treated my bites and got ready for the day, starting with a lovely breakfast, thanks to Mirja and Johnny.
Day#2 of SVEN-GUNNAR started with preparing the grave site. Johnny came out to show us the site, where he’d proudly cut some more of the grave. But it was only deep enough to bury a tiny baby lying on its back. So Darwin and I dug and dug, taking turns until eventually he could lie in it on his side. the real Sven was instrumental in this success, as he had a great spade that made better work than the older one we’d found. We all – Johnny, Darwin and I – then also built crosses and arranged the site, while the first makeups were being applied. It was hot and sweaty work and the bites from last night were itching.
Then at 10:30, it was off to the vampire forest, to (fight mosquitos) and film JULIA (Alicia) and SVEN (Johnny) in the woods. This was to film some running shots. It was a bit tricky to dress the scene. But we gave it a shot, dragging various fallen trees in to the scene to add some interesting visual features. Then we ran through spacious and then very tightly grouped, branch-filled woods. At one point Alicia almost did her ankle in, and I got caught across the head when I stumbled into a branch and saw stars. And we were constantly covered in insects. Darwin and I traded cameras at this point, briefly as I was filming the scenes running with the DJI Osmo on a hand held rig, and Darwin kept filming with the Pocket 4K so between us we moved swiftly and enabled him to Direct the scene as well as to get more hands-on when it was quicker to try some experimental hand-held stuff.
By 11.30 we were back at the barn and gravesite, to continue digging and rigging crucifixes, and to film ANJA (Emma) as she met her final resting place. Here we had to work out how to drop her into the grave without injuring her as the ground had hardened in the sun, since we’d left the site. She was up for trying this minor stunt herself. But Darwin bravely stood in for her and we got creative with the shots / edits and Johnny got to put the boot in for the first time :).
We broke for lunch, but then Darwin went off and filmed JULIA’s final scenes in the barn. I was gutted to miss out on it, but needed food. I was flagging in the heat but tried to keep hydrated.
Then we resumed trying to get shots around the grave site, reusing my old fake arm from MR CLEAN and the intestines. And we did the vomiting scene with TIM (Hasse) and SVEN (Johnny). And there was a lot of me lying in the dirt to get the extreme low angle shots of vomiting – beware the downdraft fragrance of fake vomited soup on a hot day! – as well as the high shots, filming with the Jib Crane setup I’d created for the DJI Osmo (fixed to the end of a 3m boom pole to simulate a sort of spacey / out of body experience). I was impressed how this turned out, but still think that a walking shot would be easier with a drone in tripod mode, or another operator to work the phone and lots and lots of takes… but we make do with what we have.
At least we try to but sometimes we have to bow out. As we headed back to the barn to film ANJA’s scenes in the barn, I suddenly had a crushing headache or potentially the start of a killer migraine and my vision was going. I stumbled groggily out of the barn, leaving the camera to a confused Darwin, and ran to the summer house to climb up into the attic and rifle through my bags looking for pills. Luckily I had a few with me. I was able to stumble back and able to continue shooting – after downing a lot of water and the pills started to kick in.
We did get the stabbing scene and this was a tricky thing to do. A nice stunt pillow, rigged up with an improvised blood bag inside a copy of the dress, and some careful framing would hopefully give us what we needed. All in all the scenes worked well, but it was stressful with the need for lots of coverage and swapping lenses and moving light setups. But Emma was a trouper, putting up with more and more blood as it dried, and everyone mucked in to make it work.
By 8pm those scenes were done. And we could all head to dinner and socialise with Sven and Mirja and the cast and crew. A little wine came out and everyone properly got to know each other. This would have been ideal on the first day, but sadly we had to wait until the 2nd day. But it was great when the ice was broken and we could all enjoy a more productive day.
Then afterwards it was Sauna time. I like to think that time to think and decompress, in 60 degrees, and with a glass of wine, helped me sleep later on.
Darwin and I sat in the kitchen and went through the dailies, not logging and capturing, but just checking if we got the shots we needed from the first day and today’s shoot. We definitely had a few great compositions, but I wasn’t sure how it would later grade, as we were in uncharted territory with the Pocket 4K and extreme ISOs.
Then it was time to get ready for bed. I opted for another bed downstairs, to leave the vind to Darwin. That way we’d both be relatively less disturbed. Then, I tried to meditate myself to sleep, and ignore the constant relay of dive bombing mosquito attacks. Buzzz… buzzz…
Saturday – day #3 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Get through day #3 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
Avoid a migraine.
Try to enjoy the shoot.
Thanks to: Jenny and Emilia for some easy shots later on, and great makeup and improvised wardrobes from our talented makeup team.
I had been bitten more in the night, despite killing three mosquitos. But even more amazingly I had gotten a few hours sleep. Although no more than 4 hrs, it was enough to help fuel me for the coming day.
I got up at 6.30 to go and shower and breakfast and get ready for the day’s shooting, treating my bites and reapplying mosquito repellent, despite it being ineffectual – in fact it was becoming a constant joke to me. I’d even been bitten between my fingers and it was right on the bone. lol.
The day started with a great, warm and friendly breakfast, aided by the social activity the evening before. Then Darwin and I left everyone to it, so we could check the frame from the night before and recreate the last setup /vscene to do another shoot outside the barn.
Around 9am, it was time to check the shotgun, and the situation re blanks, as firearms are not something to mess around with without supervision – before then shooting SVEN and TIM’s confrontation. As we’d found in the recce, the dragging of a fully grown male human was difficult. Luckily this time it had rained, and the grass was damper, so Johnny had no issue doing so, and I spent most of the morning lying on a damp crash pad, filming dutch / corpse angles.
Then we took a break while make up was being applied, to go and shoot some potential stills for a temporary poster.
At 10.30 it was time for the barbecued flesh eating scene. This was okay, until it involved macro shots. I am always stressed out by such shots especially handheld. But this time it was stressful trying to shoot into a fire, and dealing with the smoke and ash that was blinding. The flip side was that it drove the mosquitos away for a while. And despite my doubts, Darwin was right and the scene seemed to turn out fine in camera, despite not looking like I had originally envisaged when writing it. We had opted to move the location from the woods to near the barn – who cares, it is his vision and that’s what is important!
Lunch was fun, because Hasse was on form as a comedian who loves horror and sharing his love of various horror films between jokes. And explaining how he became involved in the project. What a great stroke of luck to have a true horror fan aboard this crazy project! And the girls all discovered a collective love of the THE ROOM, the classic Tommy Wiseau film “I did not do it!”.
At 13:50 we were able to start shooting TIM’s (Hasse) and SVEN’s (Johnny) scene in the barn. This was tricky as it involved moving everything around and relighting from three setups and having a gun shot / special effect. I was disappointed to find that the special effect / my pressure sprayer didn’t work as planned. But with some improv a creative solution was found – that and gaffer taping a mount and rigging the Pocket 4K from the top of the ladder! A setup that reminded me of previous shoots of old. It was also interesting to have a photographer – Piotr – come on set to shoot stills while we shot, and then disappeared again 2 hours later – God knows how we appeared to him.
There was a moment in this shot where Johnny and I had to fight with Darwin to get a shot of loading the shotgun shells. Darwin was against it, but then eventually was instrumental in helping us get the shot. And although we won’t know how it will be needed until it is needed, then it may or may not be used, it is the shotgun porn of shotgun shots and must be attempted at least – later when we went through the dailies it looked amazing.
Around 18:25 we suddenly found a second wind and ran through three shots. We shot TIM’s family scenes (Hasse, Jenny and Emilia) , then TIM and the daughter playing cards, and then the family running through a field of long grasses in a golden hour shot. This was the time to break out the crazy romantic / radioactive / vintage glass and shoot in 24p and 60p. It all seemed to go well, and even the golden hour sunlight came out when we were shooting the running scene, so a few more extra takes were in order, just to be sure. Thanks to our cast for putting up with it – and risking tick and other insect bites (no one was bitten to our knowledge).
Then at Dinner, Sven first announced that he noticed his neighbours had come to the summer house and they had a daughter that we might be able to use in the beach scene the next day. He then brought out the big guns, more wine and then some Jinn and some vodka. Big mistake. But much appreciated by all. 🙂
Darwin and I then sat and went through the dailies and unfortunately this meant it was another late one. I don’t think we crashed until around 11pm, after sauna showers were had.
I tried another mosquitoless bedroom and tried to meditate myself to sleep. But I knew that I was buzzing too much… my head buzzed…. buzzed and buzzed…
Sunday – day #4 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Finish shooting day #4
Pack up, and get all of my gear back home.
Back up SVEN-GUNNAR.
Thanks to: Johnny’s wonderful parents for their hospitality, and to the entire cast and crew of SVEN-GUNNAR, including the last minute local additions – for without their help the film would not have happened.
I had difficulty sleeping. I know I got a little sleep. Or at least think I must have. But mainly I was trying to meditate, to rest and trying to ignore the midsommar light telling me to get up from 3am onwards.
I got up at 6.45 just as tiredness was kicking in, to go and shower, treat my bites and get ready for the day. I had breakfast and then headed back to the house to change and then repacked my bags – gathering my laptop and assorted gear from the kitchen area, and the rooms I’d slept in, and repacked it all in the Vind / attic.
Then at 8:30 it was time to move the gear for the first internal scene of the day, the fruit cellar and barn / attic parts. I knew that if we wanted to stick to Darwin’s plan to finish everything and leave by 1pm I would need to take charge of packing gear we didn’t need, and arranging gear for this shoot and the next one down by the lake. So while Darwin and Johnny tried their hand at setting up the shots upstairs and constructing a makeshift room under the hatch, I busied about, tracking down every light, extension cable, SFX element and tripod etc – not easy to do – and sorted out what we needed and began disassembling things like the GH5 cage and packing anything that could be packed away before shooting and during breaks in shooting.
The upstairs shoot of the barn was carried out by Darwin and I. it was a tricky shot – it involved many tests and repositioning of lights etc because the ‘fruit cellar’ was not a real fruit cellar and we were shooting handheld, with the GH5, and the DJI Osmo.
I was disappointed that no actual room had been constructed for the set. It looked a bit shit and not what I had envisaged originally. But hopefully we could pull it off with the right angle / shot. The girls (Jenny and Emilia) were really good, but it did bother me that we took the quickest route to something that was a key shot of the film and should have been done correctly. Why rush it? Why not put the effort in? It’s not like we didn’t have the space and materials and know-how to pull it off. It was just like the grave all over again, it was needing others to care as much and see what you see….
The reason for using these cameras was that the Pocket 4K was not stable enough to guarantee that we would see what we wanted to see without getting other elements in the shot / that we would consistently get the right angle. Both Darwin and I shot with the GH5 and at one point, taking turns when trying to frame a shot that ended with me between Johnny’s legs and resulted in me pointing the camera down over the hole and filming the girls, as he stepped over me to get out of the way. At this point he accidentally landed a blow to the side of my head, cricking my neck and making me see stars. Luckily the camera wasn’t dropped and no one got a camera in the face. Phew! – crazy and not at all how such potentially dangerous shots should be done – better safety on future shoots I think. Eventually we got some pretty good shots also with the handheld DJI Osmo rig, rather than the Jib Crane one – the latter was better for walking shots but impossible to control and too unpredictable for pointing it down without another operator and more takes.
Once the makeup was done, we headed off down to the lake / beach, and tried to get two scenes shot out of the one location. I think we pulled it off, despite Darwin being against even attempting the 2nd shot – despite him previously agreeing to attempt it. The only thing I could figure out that was going on in his head, was the weariness of the no-budget indie film director, when you’re making it up as you’re going along and by the last day you just want it to be over already. it is exhausting. Yes we had not scripted this scene, and we might not need it, but again the reasoning was that if on later viewing people needed us to connect Tim to Sven, and explain how Sven targeted Tim – this would be a good replacement for the Restaurant scene that we did script and did not shoot and might save us a future reshoot.
The shoot by the lake was… interesting. The beach was very narrow and we needed to make a large body of water look like a sea, despite it not being wide enough – even though this was not a relevant detail for the film and no one apart from Darwin cared about that detail. With some careful positioning, Darwin got the frame he wanted and I hoped it would look good on camera, to be worth it. This involved standing on a table on grass, with the tripod, as when I tried it on sand the table proved particularly precarious – I was more worried for the camera taking a tumble than me. That and the difficulty of keeping a consistent frame on a constantly moving surface…. Then Darwin got into frame, as the father of the new family to be targeted, and Isabella (makeup) as his wife and a shy young neighbour of the real Sven-Gunner (Emma) got into frame as her daughter, and did the weirdest play in the ‘sea’ I’d ever scene. It was weird because the water was too cold / too early in the day to really swim and dunk someone etc, so there were moments of splashing and fun, but mainly just a lot of strange running around in circles. I couldn’t help but laugh. I wanted an extra take of Johnny with cigar in hand, going to light it to tie up to later scenes, just in case and had to fight to get that also. This time I was suspecting that this was Darwin’s desire to press on, as he had plagued me on the last day of MR CLEAN when there was no need for it. So I resisted and stuck to my guns.
After the reverses of Johnny, and close ups, Darwin wanted to wrap. I felt that we had to get this other scene, so I convinced him to come with me to a cafe area further down and explained how we could pull it off in two shots. He was against it. But the actors were up for it, and we still had an hour, so why not? He relented, but rather than direct, or assist. Just stood there as I quickly arranged them and knocked-off the shots we needed. The actors were all great, and Johnny was spot-on with his marks. And the mosquitos were kinder and the local girls let us hog the swings a little longer, until the shot was done. Bless.
Then it was a wrap! We took a group selfie, thanked the family for lending us their daughter and headed back to the house to pack. Such events are a blur sometimes.
Despite some false starts, where a lens cap had gone missing and was then found and we did last minute checks to ensure nothin else had been left behind. We managed to get ready to leave at 1pm – packing the car full of gear, despite the real Sven-Gunnar doubting our space management skills, and then waited for Darwin to wash the car off. Johnny and I then enjoyed a nice Sven-Gunnar shot in honour of the movie and had our own two-man wrap party; Darwin was driving so couldn’t join in sadly and many others had sadly already gone home earlier. It was a damn fine shot too. To be revisited at the premiere!
Soon we were hugging and waving goodbye to our amazing hosts and cast and crew and then on the road home. Before the post-shoot malaise set-in, Darwin drove us back, firing off his trademark questions / comments that seemed to come out of random directions. And then we dropped off Johnny and made it back through the traffic to mine with no issues – to unpack the car, and start backing up all of the footage.
It is a rule of mine, never leave a shoot without three copies. One to edit with, one for safety and another off-site backup for more safety, in case of fires etc. Always bring three drives to the film shoot party.
Sadly, there were some other personal events that evening, so sleep wasn’t forthcoming.
But thinking back on the shoot, I am glad that the only casualties were one fake severed arm – which is now minus some fingers – unless I can glue them back on – the twenty bites I received and my pride at losing my temper and my dissatisfaction with wanting to achieve a better quality result and not wanting to rush things so much. But again, as I kept telling Darwin, despite writing the film and doing the cinematography, and all of us helping in our own ways, no matter whatever gripe I might have had – this was his film. It is ours if we want it to be, but only he can get it over the finish line now. Only he can see it through the rest of its journey…. and now that it’s done. What could have been is not important, only what will now be…. I will never be satisfied, but that’s because we must keep striving beyond our means to improve and grasp at something greater than us. It’s not important whether we achieve it. It’s important just to try.
I am glad to have met and worked with and spent time with some amazing people; and to have shared a bizarre cinematic adventure in Hälsingland and to have worked with Darwin again. It was crazy, unpredictable and fun at the end of the day and I can’t wait to share the end result with you all in the near future. But now I need to rest…. and get back to MR CLEAN. And plan the next film!…
If you got this far, thanks for reading! I applaud you.
And yesterday we did our location recce for the film and so I got to spend the day in beautiful Hälsingland and hang out with Director Darwin Reina and lead actor Jonny Vikeväkorva Johansson (IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm10780320/?ref_=ttfc_fc_wr2) – and to meet the inspiration for the name of the movie in person. Although I don’t fear that the actual production might kill me, the mosquitos might.
The purpose of the trip, was to check the location – to plan which parts of the area to use for which scene and to do a preliminary run through of the blocking, but also while filming (sans lights) to gauge how doable the shoot will be, and to try and pre-empt any production issues that may arise e.g. such as needing antihistamines and the strongest repellent known to man etc 🙂 . But also for running through what you’ve scripted, to try and make it work in a run-through, to see if it has the desired effect.
The countryside was indeed beautiful in the sunny weather, as we passed a large lake and fields full of wild flowers and crops and many forested areas. And the main location is situated on a substantial and attractive period property (from the 1800s) – thanks very much to Jonny’s father-in-law and Mother for the use of their house. It was impressive and more than what we needed. As was the land all around it. We then found a forest location nearby at another relative’s house (where I was rapidly feasted upon by flying vampires) and later viewed some potential vintage cars for the film, and found a picturesque field behind that other property that could be perfect for the film too. It was great and the fact that his parents fed and watered us, let us have the run of the place and also helped us secure other important items was a huge help. Meanwhile Darwin took us through his ideas for the shots and we rehearsed / blocked out a few scenes.
It wasn’t all good. I think I’ve counted around 11 bites – all within a 20 minute stint in the forest. But may have missed a few. Thanks to the shingles, I am now allergic to such bites, whereas I never really was prior to last year. Dammit. But I will come more prepared next time. Top tip: don’t wear shorts and t-shirts just because it’s hot.
I am sure that there will be snags and challenges – especially with casting. But so far, as production has begun, things are looking good for this horror short. And we can’t wait to share more with you asap.
I’m just not looking forward to my next tussle with those mozzies….
I just wanted to stop by briefly to share some news about DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE (DFTB), the short film I wrote for director Darwin Reina.
We’ve received a special mention from the Med-Limes festival in Salerno, Italy – which as I understand it is like a ‘honourable mention’, meaning that you’re not in the normal selection / winners, but the film is worthy “… of exceptional merit but not deserving of top honours” – enough to celebrate it’s contribution. Hopefully this was because of the message behind the film – because we want to show the horror of domestic abuse, so that we can help to prevent it.
Congrats to Darwin Reina, the producers, entire cast and crew.
The film has already exceeded our expectations. A win would also be very welcome. But this is already better than we hoped for. Nice.
In other news, I’ve been quiet, because I’ve been working away on MR CLEAN in the rare moments when I get any free time. So far I’m playing with / refining the edit of a trailer and already had some very positive feedback on it. As soon as I’m happy with the final version of the trailer, and then completed post production on it (colour grading, score and sound mix), I will indeed share. I’m keen to get to that point, so that I can move back onto editing the actual film.
I’ve never edited a trailer before. It’s been a valuable learning experience. This is my third short film and I’ve never gotten to this point before.
Anyway, enough wittering. Thanks again for stopping by Cherished Reader.