Darwin released a video for the SVEN GUNNAR premiere yesterday. Hopefully for those who were unable to make it, it’s a nice glimpse of what it was like to attend the event.
We shot another short film, last Monday. Sadly I’ve been a bit run down and suffering from some lurgy since then, so I’ve been a bit slow to write about the shoot. It wasn’t all plain sailing and it didn’t go exactly to plan. But it was fun and it was brief.
N.B. For those new to this type of diary – some observations may seem harsh or overly critical in places. But this is intended to be constructive, to help me learn from my mistakes and improve on every shoot.
Firstly, what’s COMFORT HIM? you might be wondering. COMFORT HIM is a ‘micro short’ film project. At least I think that’s the correct term – for a film that has a run time designed to be less than 5 minutes. But more specifically for a film that is designed to ideally come out around the 1 minute mark.
COMFORT HIM is a micro short horror film project, designed to be shown / seen on mobile devices; especially when films like DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, SVEN GUNNAR or MR CLEAN have typically lengthy periods before people can actually see them (due to lengthier production times and lengthy festival runs etc). Designed to be seen and shared, if people enjoy it as much as we did making it, we’re hoping that people will want to share the films and spread the word. It will have a target run time of 1 minute ideally, because that is much easier to share on most social media platforms, for high visibility. And we want to test the idea that less is quicker to produce and release, to shorten the production timeline and get more content out there… at least that’s the theory.
COMFORT HIM is about what happens when a sleep-deprived father is woken from a nap, and goes to comfort his crying baby. It stars Hasse Brontén (SVEN GUNNAR) and Sofie Klaesson (MR CLEAN) and Hasse’s daughter Alba.
Originally we had planned to do the film much earlier. Hasse is an avid horror fan, and was on board with the project even before his child was born – right after finishing SVEN GUNNAR. But I needed to do some research first and plan the shoot a bit more… then Darwin and I did a test shoot back on January 13th (which I first mention here: https://eibonfilms.co.uk/2nd-award-for-dont-forget-to-breathe/), before Darwin and I went to shoot MAI PIU in Rome. The idea for the long delay between the test shoot and the film, was to perform a VFX test on the filmed footage… but that last bit never happened due to scheduling and illness…. In the end, as Alba was growing day by day, we just had to go ahead and do the shoot already – before she grew up and started walking etc. But were we crazy to even attempt this? Because everyone knows, “you should never work with animals and children…” right?
The original test shoot took two hours and was a hoot to do. But this was carried out by using a doll and filming in a controlled environment – my home and with my gear and just me and Darwin on the day. However, even then, as it was just me as a one-man-band filmmaker, I cocked-up and messed up recording sound and shot some of it in slow motion. Doh! But I did manage to get from 21 minutes of recorded footage down to a smooth 57 seconds of finished rough edited footage, enough that, sans sound, it still creeped people out in the right way. Nice. So the proof-of-concept worked.
So the big question I had, was could we shoot the actual film in the same way, in someone else’s property, with a full cast and a real child, but in half the time that I’d planned to do the film shoot? – we’d allotted two days for shooting, but intending to shoot the film in 1 day if we could. But then, at the last minute, when dates kept slipping and Hasse was being booked up and had less and less free time slots, we were suddenly down to a restrictive 4hrs of shoot time. Yikes! So, could we pull it off or should we cancel?… we decided to go ahead, seeing as once we changed the date, all of a sudden the crew started suddenly not being available at all. So sooner was better… and then we heard more tales of this virus that was going around…
Sunday 8th March – of shoot setup and housework:
I packed the last gear for COMFORT HIM. I’d been prepping it over the last few days and charing all the things. By prepping it, I mean:
- working out what I needed. (camera, lenses, adapters, filters, batteries, tripods, extension cables, duct tape, fake blood and plastic sheets etc etc – you name it I pack it)
- making sure it’s clean, working and has relevant accessories.
- I have reusable lists in the IOS Notes app, as checklists, that I can copy and tick off and adapt to my needs.
- popping gear into relevant carry cases and ensuring that it packs into the smallest available form factor.
- charging all batteries, in case we can’t use domestic power.
- creating preset in camera – including setting the date, aspect ratio, codec, frame rate etc.
- prepping all relevant paper work – including also pre-populating shot tracking apps etc.
I do all of the above for every project I embark on.
I was nicely prepped before Hasse called and I was already putting the gear outside ready for him when he arrived. Soon we had loaded the car and were on our way, talking about the premiere, how SVEN GUNNAR was received, and some other films that Hasse hadn’t seen yet – because we talked about the experience of viewing UNCUT GEMS.
We unloaded the car at his apartment building and then took everything inside as his visitors were leaving. Then I got down to the business of unpacking the key stuff, tripods etc and assembling the camera rig and ensuring the mic boom was ready, and setting up the lights for shooting. Hasse and Gina had to go out for a meal I think, so they left me a key and then I finished setting up a half hour later and then locked up and left.
On the way back, I made notes on my phone of other things to do before the shoot. Then as I had dinner, and as I was cleaning up, inevitable messages from the cast and crew needed attending to. The good thing was people were raring to go. 🙂
Meanwhile, I was also putting together detailed storyboards, using screen grabs from the test footage for COMFORT HIM and sharing them with Darwin so he could study them and see how he could help me out with 2nd camera – this was our strategy for trying to cut down the shoot time, trying to double-up on camera angles for options in the edit, so we might save time in the shoot. It was worth a try. Although he’d had the test film for months to review, I figured this made it easier to reference on the day.
As I was getting ready for bed, I wasn’t liking the sudden wind that was kicking off outside and my brain seemed to dwell on the shoot, despite any attempt at meditating such thoughts away – would I sleep? I doubted it….
Monday 9th March – Shoot day
I had a rough night trying to sleep. It was really windy outside and hot in my room despite using a fan. Also, I meditated multiple times, and I was not consciously stressed, but it wasn’t until I said ‘fuck it’ to the wind rattling the windows and opened them around 3am to cool the room down again, that I finally passed out for around 2 hrs of random patches of sleep. When the alarm went off at 6:15 I felt out of it and exhausted. Perfect energy for filming… not.
I got up and hurriedly got ready – more to get my head in the game, then being late and stressed about it.
I got the train I’d aimed for. Yes, these are super low budget productions – few of the team have driving licenses and cars free – especially if their partners use such transport. So most of us used the train and bus to get to location. But at least we had sunny weather today!
As I was on my way there was the usual random messages that any crew generates. Like ‘how do I get to the location?’ ‘where is it?’ – I am constantly surprised by how few people check such details in advance and leave it to the last minute, despite all information being provided days before… I offered to wait at the bus stop for people once I got to the nearest stop to guide them there, as I got there early. And once we were a small group, it seemed Darwin and I both had little sleep.
Once inside the location, we were raring to set up. A quick safety explanation and introductions were made and then Darwin and I got set up ready for the sofa shot, with Hasse waking up; he then went into makeup and baby Alba met Viking, Isabella’s dog – yes we had both a child and an animal on set :).
The shoot was stressful at times. Seemingly simple takes were proving challenging, despite a video example of exactly what we wanted being freely available for study for months by all involved – both the timing, performance we wanted and shot composition was all there. I produced the test video because often words are not enough to communicate an idea. But yet everyone seemingly forgot that we’d ever done that test shoot – so we were kind of facing a blank slate.
It was helpful that the natural light was great today and we didn’t need all of the lights that I’d brought. That reduced setup times.
Sofie offering to help and to do sound for us too – when she was not in character. This was amazing and much appreciated. Darwin was helpful for the most part as a second camera and alternating with the clapper and I really appreciated getting to work with him again. But I did have to focus on my own shots as well as communicate when I saw him going for angles that I couldn’t use / hadn’t planned on – where I noticed that they would not be helpful / couldn’t be used in the edit, or when I noticed some shaky handheld. “I can’t and won’t use this.” I think I said after viewing one shot. – I often don’t enjoy hand held shots when they are done well. But I hate it more when it is badly done / overly jittery, as it says to me that we don’t know how to hold a camera and I knew no such shots would survive the edit. All would be unused – if we had planned on doing it, we would at least use cameras and lenses with stabilisation.- We were mainly using vintage lenses and the BMPCC 4K which doesn’t have stabilisation.
So why was I stressed? Well we were up against the clock – having much less time than we needed for the level of polish I aspired to. We were up against the impending next appointment that Hasse had, to rush off and record a podcast – as well as the good temper of our smallest cast member Alba. As the day wore on, our very real baby actively did baby stuff and wriggled a lot and got more restive. This and some natural difficulties doing simple lines / issues replicating exact performances and camera movement, and then having to fit in time to do makeup when some shots took longer than planned, proved challenging. But despite these challenges, I think that the overall mood / humour was pretty good throughout. And Gina, Hasse’s wife, was amazing at keeping Alba entertained.
Sofie was funny, fussing and constantly smiling over Alba. And Alba and Viking were happy amid the chaos. And despite the stress Hasse was also under, fitting a shoot in before other appointments, his good humour and patience was also much appreciated.
After Hasse raced off, Darwin and I did a bit more foley / sound with Sofie, then I backed up the footage onto my hard drive and we left to go and get lunch. After a good chat, mini wrap party, we parted ways – all happy but tired.
I got home, feeling brain dead around 4pm. I showered once the files from the premiere and the audio SD card were also being backed up. Then I had the depressing task of reviewing every single take to see if I could use any of it – it’s hard when your aspirations and desire for perfection are hard to overcome, after the fact. It’s also annoying when you see that not every camera was set up with the correct date and time info… oh well. But I pushed and reviewed every shot.
I also bought PLURAL EYES, to try and make the task of syncing up audio much easier… although the process seemed to work great, I would need some help to interpret the clips and get them organised in the best way in FCP X once that was done, as currently it looked unusable for this shoot – in fact it looked like an overly confusing nightmare of grouped clips, which were in a nonsense order. Was it because of the shonky date stamps on the video files?
Eventually I confirmed that the only shots that were not really to my liking was the crib scene – although a do over for it all would also help me, but no one would agree to that 🙂 . I communicated with Hasse to arrange when to redo that bit, to also grab some more foley / dialogue from him and then pack up the gear. Sadly it would be another early morning, to race over there, film the crib bit and then pack up all of the gear to get out before his next appointment the following day. I was hoping for a more chilled day / finish to the shoot, and a lie in tomorrow, but it was what it was.
I couldn’t really concentrate due to a weird sudden stomach pain, beyond thanking the cast and crew for their help and time etc and planning what I would do the following morning. But also knowing that there was a chance I might not be well enough at all or that any plans made would be ruined anyway.
As I hit the sack, my stomach was not good at all… it wasn’t stress. I knew that at least. I was mostly happy, apart from having to get stuff finished tomorrow… at least there wasn’t a foul wind outside…
Tuesday 10th march – pick-ups and pack-up
I managed to sleep last night. Strangely, mainly because of the cold (having the window open) and exhaustion. But the five hours of [interrupted] sleep I got was enough to help me function.
I was at Hasse’s place as planned. Only then they wouldn’t let me in… lol. I think I was my typical too early again…
Once Hasse let me in, I instantly went to set up lights and set up the camera for the crib shot. The light wasn’t there today, as per yesterday. It was rainy and overcast and far from ideal, so I had to use all of my lights to get any kind of workable light. I tried with a lighter lens and with and without the monitor to lighten the rig and it was still awkward trying to shoot through a crib. And this time Alba wanted to wriggle through every shot, to turn and grab the camera etc which was charming, but challenging… So despite getting a better angle today, it was also different – not worse, just different. But we pushed through.
And then of course, Hasse ran out of time for recording sound after the pickups and so I packed-up the gear – super quick. Faster than I’ve ever done before. Soon Hasse and I loaded the car up and Gina drove me back to my house. I really appreciate the lift. And soon I had everything inside and started to slowly, confusedly – as the tiredness kicked in after food – to unpack it bit-by-bit and eventually square most things away.
I tried and failed to get the COMFORT HIM audio synced and useful for editing. Mainly I couldn’t get automatic import into FCP X to work. But then once I did it manually the file still looked like confusing garbage. It made no sense to man nor beast, no matter what I tried. The audio may have been synced for the most part. However, it made no sense why the first shots were at the end of an 5 hr timeline and not at the start etc and having too many lines of edit to work with. WTF!
From two cameras, I now had over an hour of footage. Taking out the pre and post roll parts of each clip and any ‘making of’ type shots filming BTS, I was left with 34 minutes of footage.
But there was plenty of time for that. The shoot was done.
Update: I’ve now gone through it all and I have whittled it down to 21 minutes of usable footage. Now the editing can begin. But I am resigned to manually syncing each clip to the audio…. but all of the shots look great. It’s only how the performances play and how I put it together / make them work in the edit that will take time.
I’am also full of some virus. No I don’t know if is THAT virus. But I will carry on regardless. I’m self-isolating, based on government medical advice and have nothing but time, if little energy, on my hands.
- They are right to advise you not to work with children or animals. Things will not go easy on such shoots. However, Alba was a joy to work with. And she really awakened the Maternal instinct in Sofie and had the crew laughing at her antics. And she put up with a lot, considering all of the new experiences and sensations / distractions. Viking was also good, considering everything that might make a dog bark at.
- If you think you need more time, try and replan the shoot until you can get the time you need. Working under such pressure is never ideal. Less time means compromise. It’s not always a creative fire / inspiration.
- We knew that, going into this shoot without enough people was folly. I really wanted to follow the mark each shot and follow the shot list and get each composition just right as well as get sound sync. Sofie was amazing helping out by holding the boom for us when not in shot, but it was a lot of running around / stress and corners got cut. As a result, I almost tripped and had an accident during one shot. Fast isn’t careful. Two more people, the people that suddenly couldn’t make it at the last minute would really have helped. But that was my fault for having to change filming dates.
- Because you have a camera that shoots professional footage, it does not make you a professional. It is very easy to turn up on set and shoot, but you should take time to prep the camera and create shot presets and ensure all data is correct before taking your first shot. The time stamps on our footage claimed it was being shot in January and March respectively! So that’s fun when trying to use shot metadata to sync up shots later on. I need to check this rigorously before any future shoots.
- You should use identical lens systems if trying to match multiple cameras, to ease the colour grading / speed up matching shots on post. It still won’t match, but it will make it easier to do so. I don’t think things will be too tricky. But we’ll see.
- You should cut makeup shots if trying to keep to schedule. Isabella was amazing and did her best in impossible conditions, but we should have given her more time and had more time available to shoot – the makeup wasn’t important for the film per se. It was a nice-to-have, but it was an added stress. Do it right, or not at all. Right?
- You and your camera team should discuss stylistic considerations before the shoot or before a take – not after. One angle was unusable on a perfectly good take, due to deliberate shaky hand held being applied. A perfectly good moment of time / take that we’ll never get back, when that angle was better than the one I’d had. Luckily there wasn’t much of this. But communication is key.
- You need to be in a location you can control. And you need to be able to control the schedule. But you will always find challenges, even when the shoot is smaller and less ambitious than other larger shoots. Less isn’t always less.
Overall it was a real pleasure to get parts of two teams together – those of MR CLEAN and SVEN GUNNAR – for a new project. And despite my reservations about certain takes – comparing those in a very controlled shoot with a doll, to that of a live shoot with more live challenges – we did pretty well with what we had. And thanks to everyone who has helped us get here so far, and the post production team that is now waiting in the wings for me to pull my finger out and finish the edit!
I can’t wait to get the film finished and to show you all and share and share away.
- Hasse and Gina for believing in the project, entrusting their daughter to us, and helping shift the gear and providing us with a great location and half the cast.
- Sofie for not only giving a great performance, as always, but also trying to help us get sound too.
- Alba for putting up with us and being a star.
- Darwin for working that second camera and helping me get through it.
- Isabella for doing great makeup under tough time constraints. 🙂
I’ll keep you posted as I progress this project. Thanks for reading!
We finally had our Swedish cast and crew screening premiere for MR CLEAN and SVEN GUNNAR! After a very long wait indeed to find such a venue, we finally got to have our premiere at the Zita Folkets Bio, here in Stockholm.
I had already managed to go to the venue and test the DCP for MR CLEAN a few days earlier, So that was done. And I’d taken an order of posters, so my one main mission of the day was just to get those posters signed by the cast and crew that were in attendance. Weirdly I just wanted the screening to be over before it began. I don’t know why. I’m guessing that It has been so long since we made these films and been hunting for a venue to hold this screening, that It was just a thing that I was helping put on for others. I’d even considered not attending myself, which is crazy. Selfish I guess. But gatherings are stressful to me generally. Was it pre-show nerves?
However, I am so glad that I did attend. And it was so nice to see all that came and to spend a night celebrating what we achieved with the cast and crew of both films that could be there. But it was hard work, trying to say hit to everyone (apologies if I was all over the place) and conduct interviews and make sure I collared everyone to sign a poster and also arrange the screenings themselves. Never mind, then trying to introduce the films in the best way – especially to those who were not involved in the making of them and also those who don’t know what to expect. Thanks to Johnny and Hasse for also doing their bit to explain the films.
It was amazing to spend time with all of these amazing individuals together, to reminisce and discuss the future; as well as to share that with our friends, outside of the filmmaking world. I genuinely wished the entire teams for both films could have been together, but sadly that wasn’t the case. But there was a great showing nonetheless. However, it was a hot, tiring event and I was really exhausted the next day. But everyone seemed to enjoy the event too. 🙂
The thing that I would have really liked to have gone better, was coordinating getting people into the screening. There were only a small number of seats. Luckily I think only 4 people didn’t get seats / to see the films. All they had to do was ask and we would have put the films on for a third time, but we did only screen both films twice, to full screenings, including a few standing throughout. It was just a bit messy when I got distracted and let a few too many try and get into the first screening, so they all had to wait for the next one.
It was nice that I think around 76 people were there – which is amazing for short film previews. But if there wasn’t any coronavirus concerns, it would have been interesting to see how many might have shown up otherwise.
And for those who were not in attendance, here’s what I tried to say about the films, before they were screened:
Thank you all for coming here tonight to see two short horror films made in Sweden. Both self-funded – with talented teams, working for free! MR CLEAN is first. SVEN GUNNAR is next – showing back-to-back.
MR CLEAN is my fun, weird, short, based on real news articles about people breaking into houses and cleaning them. A tribute to HP Lovecraft, designed to be shot, with no budget, a tiny team and limited resources.
SVEN GUNNAR is the real Midsommar Murders, shot in Hälsingland, a serial killer film with a twist. Just who is kidnapping girls and murdering them… and why?
Firstly, it’s ok to laugh! They’re meant to be fun.
- For MR CLEAN – Thanks to:
- Darwin – for making me do it – and not letting me quit.
- to Rinat – who did any crazy thing we asked!
- to Terese – for doing the things I asked Darwin to do,
- Also to Sofie – the entire cast and crew – for trusting us.
- And to Suss, for letting me cover our house in fake blood. 🙂
- The whole cast and crew and special friends helped me get theough it
- For SVEN GUNNAR:
- Thanks to Johnny – my snuskit murdering cocktail drinking friend – and Darwin / maestro for seeing the film through, no matter what!
- Thanks to Hasse for being the real life and soul of the shoot and a true horror fan
- Thanks to Emma and Alicia for trusting that we weren’t really killing people… for real
- Thanks to Sven and Mirja for welcoming us and looking after us – and showing us the real Hälsingland hospitality
- And the entire cast and crew – you were so generous
Everyone made huge contributions! They were great teams and they’re now great friends.
These films will always be special. A lot of blood sweat and tears to finish them. Thanks to all that helped make them, to those who couldn’t make it and for those that came to see them tonight – thank you all! Enjoy!
Oh and thanks for my Rose 🌹!
Big love ❤️
Please note: I don’t specifically mention other key people in the team, only because they weren’t present at the time. They were very much in my heart, and time was limited. But without them, we would not have pulled this off.
I really want to thank the staff at Zita for a great event. Thank you so much for allowing us to hold this event and allowing us to display our posters and fill the place with people. it was a great event and the films looked amazing on your screen. 🙂
Thanks to Rinat Iljin for filming the event. Thanks to Sami Arous and Moa Liverstam for all photos. Thanks to Darwin and Johnny and Dana for collectively helping to pull this off. And thanks again to all who came and to all who praised the films. 🙂
And we have review number 2 from Keri @ Warped Perspective: https://warped-perspective.com/index.php/2020/02/17/mr-clean-2020/?
The short version is “it’s a successful and fun project which blends moments of gore with hints of ‘old god’ weirdness.” but do read the full review. 🙂
Thanks again for the review! and Hopefully we’ll have a few more soon!
Here’s more awesome work by Karen Keslen – our second poster for MR CLEAN – movie #mrcleanmovie – Check out her social media profiles:
- ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/karenkeslen
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kkartts/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KKartts
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karenkeslen
- Stage32: https://www.stage32.com/karenkeslen
Check out Poster #1 – https://eibonfilms.co.uk/great-new-poster-for-mr-clean/
We have finally finished the colour grading! Thanks to our colourist Eric Lau, we actually have a colour grade that works!
Obviously the trailer above has not as yet been colour graded by him. That is being redone now by him. But as a result of finishing colour grading, and the fact that I created an Electronic Press Kit (an EPK) we are now submitting MR CLEAN to festivals! Woohoo!
– and if the first [random] request to cut two minutes from the film is anything to go by, it will be quite a ride, as I navigate the world of film festivals….
Awesome work by Karen Keslen – for our first poster for MR CLEAN – movie #mrcleanmovie – Check out her social media profiles:
- ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/karenkeslen
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kkartts/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KKartts
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karenkeslen
- Stage32: https://www.stage32.com/karenkeslen
We love it! It’s great – but there’s more to come! So watch this space….
But this is so helpful! Because now we can finish the Electronic Press Kit and start submitting MR CLEAN to festivals, as soon as the colour grading is done….
Info on the film:
Title: MR CLEAN
Someone is breaking into empty homes and cleaning them. But is this seemingly harmless crime hiding something much worse?
Sometimes cleanliness isn’t next to Godliness, it can kill you – and hide the evidence. A Radio DJ must realise the unspoken danger behind these seemingly random acts of breaking-in and cleaning before she too becomes a victim of MR CLEAN…
This is the 1st part in a planned web series.
Coming soon in 2020, from Eibon Films and 3R Films / DRTV (www.darwinreina.com).
Producers Lee Bailes, Darwin Reina and Terese Winkler.
Starring: Darwin Reina and Sofie Klaesson;
Written, Directed and Edited by Lee Bailes
Music score by Flora Cheng
Sound Design by Luca De Sensi
Supporting cast / extras: Jaba Urotadze, Terese Winkler and Susanne Lager, Gabriel Palenque Cisternas and Rinat Iljin,
Special FX by Mike Strick and Lee Bailess
VFX by Albin Larssonon
Additional music by Peter Josefssonson
Special thanks to: Alon Young, Garry Charles, Carlos Marambio Abarca, Gabriel Palenque Cisternas and Susanne Lager