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  • Writer's pictureGerry

Film in a day - ish

Alan writes ...

This year’s themes were “Secret” and “If in Doubt”. We chose the former. A Saturday morning Zoom session was arranged to discuss possibilities and we settled on a rough idea for the story. That afternoon a couple of us worked on props and put together a first draft of the script. It involved a man searching for treasure left by a deceased relative and, being a Nuneaton film, was scripted in a light-hearted style. Sunday morning, and five of us (Geoff, Gerry, Gordon, Jackie and myself) gathered to start filming. It began indoors and then moved to the garden. Three cameras were used, to get a range of angles. Shortly after lunch, we began editing. For safety, we doubled up and used two different computers, each aiming for a complete version of the film. Plenty of time to get it finished, we naïvely thought. Oh yes? Firstly, the SD card on one the cameras refused to talk to the computer. Never mind, we still had two cameras, and were eventually able to access the missing footage. But it then became clear that our problems were far from over. The actors had not had time to learn their lines and, for much of the filming, had to read from their scripts. Not a problem – we would just keep the scripts out of shot. But, camera viewfinders never show as much as their sensors are seeing, so there was much more in view that anticipated. This meant magnifying the pictures in editing but, fortunately, there was enough resolution to do this without losing quality.

This trick was also helpful when an unnoticed headphone cable crept into view. Filming the indoor scenes in a rather cramped room didn’t help, as it was sometimes difficult to get both actors correctly positioned. Use of ‘cut-aways’ partly got around this – sometimes slowed down to make them fit and avoid too many shortcomings with continuity. The end of the film involved large coins falling through a hole in the actor’s pocket. We soon realised that it takes only a fraction of a second for this to occur (just two or three frames of film), so that it was all over before the audience could see what was happening. Slowing the shot during editing – sometimes to only 15% of its original speed – made the coins more visible and, although no longer realistic, the effect was hopefully acceptable.

Despite using three identical cameras, there were still substantial differences in the sound, but this is something easily corrected during editing.. So, with just over an hour before the deadline for the finished films to reach the organisers, we had to upload our still very imperfect work to YouTube. Internet speeds are notoriously slow in my village, but we made it just in time. OK, nearly in time! the organisers were very tolerant. That evening, about 36 people, from the South Coast up to Scotland, joined the Zoom session, to watch the finished products. Six were from Nuneaton Moviemakers. Our film was shown last (probably because of our slight tardiness). We got about three quarters through, and then it just stopped. The film had seemed to be OK, when the first half checked was checked on YouTube, but… I still have no idea what went wrong and, even if we had spotted it before the showing, we would not have had time to correct the problem.

The other films in the show were very mixed in quality, but there was some good stuff to watch. One of Sutton Coldfield’s entries took second place in the audience vote, but the clear winner was a film by our old friend Larry Hall. I’m sure that we will see this again at regional and national events. So, where do we stand with our own film? After about six hours of further work in the following week, it now looks a lot better that it did on Saturday evening. Once more of us have been able to see it, it might be worth making a few more small improvements, but it should really be treated as a bit of filming fun, and not a prize winner. And, what have we learned for next year? A few things, perhaps; keep it simple, keep it short, make sure that actors can either learn their lines or have large-print scripts available (but out of shot!), remember that editing always takes much longer that could be envisaged and leave plenty of time for uploading to YouTube.

The current version of the film is linked above.

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