One of the most important dates in the OVFM calendar is our annual Spring Show where we share the fruits of our labours from a year of busy filmmaking, along with some gems from our archive. What better way to celebrate the days getting lighter and warmer than with evening of films from the very best local amateur filmmaking talent.
In addition to the usual array of top quality films we will have our famous Showreel looking back at local events of 2016 and the pubic premier of our ambitious club film project MEET DEXTER!
For those of you who need a reminder or missed it at the Autumn Show, here is the teaser trailer for MEET DEXTER to whet your appetite:
This year’s event will take place on FRIDAY 24th MARCH at 7:00 for 7.30 pm
Club members get in free but for guests and non-members the tickets are £5 – which includes refreshments – and are available by making a request via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01689 813616. Don’t leave it too late as they tend to get snapped up very quickly!
And of course there is our famous raffle where a selection of wonderful prizes are up for grabs provided you have that all important winning ticket!
If any OVFM club members or our external friends wish to help publicise this event please download a printable version of the poster HERE (open the file, right click and save).
For an entertaining and sociable evening do join us on Friday March 24th and bring along your friends and family!
Typically films aren’t shot in chronological order and this was no different although we did start close to the running order for the early scenes, seeing as Dexter wasn’t due to arrive until a little later. In hindsight one shot we should have done much earlier was where Dexter’s shadow looms over the parents – the reason being that by the time we came to film it, the sun had selfishly moved thus we couldn’t get the shadow to appear in the same spot the actors where previously situated in the surrounding in scenes.
When it came to the edit the sun’s movement as the day progressed also caused a problems with the colour grading in the later scenes, and the use of reflectors on set to counter this problem didn’t help either. Bearing in mind though the shoot ran for over six hours and was still very light by the time wrapped we did well to get the amount of natural sunlight we did and in the final analysis, it is only a few shots that are affected by this.
For a couple of shots I was ambitious and used the club dolly, as I wanted the opening scene to be a single take, all movement parade of people to lead into the first scene with dialogue. We actually did this in only a few takes and John did a good in keeping the camera moving; the only minor niggle, which I didn’t spot until the edit, was that at the end of the shot we could see Andy’s gazebo, the rest of the crew all standing around in the background and the back of Olive’s house when this was meant to be a public park!
Similarly, while another dolly shot was being filmed by John and Andy, David (Laker’s) camera was filming Sue’s reaction shot at the same time – in the edit we could clearly see John and Andy in the background behind Sue with the dolly filming David and Hannah! But, as Professor Mike Shaw likes to say, this was “fixed in post”.
Editing is that strange beast in that it is rewarding and often fun but tiresome and just as likely to cause stress as the shoot itself. The first few stages are always a joy, seeing two different frames attached to one another for the first time but as the job progresses this tends to lose its lustre (perhaps I should nail it down in future), unless one pulls off a smooth cut where movement is involved maintaining the natural flow and tempo between shots.
I can’t speak for other people as I don’t do impersonations, but when I edit I tend to find the first day sees plenty of work done then the next I’m redoing what I did the day before. Perhaps this is me being a perfectionist or maybe we see things much more clearly after a break, or when I have my glasses on which also helps. This meant the edit was one of the longer ones I have undertaken through forever fixing what I had already done.
Yet I learned so much during this process, not in the least because I was using my upgraded editing software for the first time so I was learning on the job. Despite knowing what keyframes were, I had never used them before but they came in handy for a number of shots, as did many of the built in effects my software boasts, which I was previously too scared to use.
Also during the edit, I was inspired to add new ideas to the presentation and narrative beyond what I already had dancing about in my head and in the script. The arrival of Dexter, for instance, was more abrupt and less visually evident that this huge beast was arriving imminently. I realised I needed some kind of transition between the two shots of the parents but couldn’t figure out what.
Then I noticed when Hannah says “Meet Dexter” the bushes behind David and Sue are ruffled by a gentle breeze, reminding me of old cartoons when the ground would shake when a large monster would appear. So I located footage of the garden and applied an earthquake effect to it, along with a candid outtake of Penny (whom I was pained about cutting from the film), and voila! we have a credible transition scene to denote Dexter’s arrival I would never have thought of before!
But each filming experience is a huge learning curve and I for one can say unequivocally that has been the most educational filming experience of my meagre 6-year filmmaking career thus far, not limited to the instances outline above, and I hope that everyone else involved also took something from working on this shoot.
That said, the most important thing I learned from it was why I rarely make films!
Once again, an almighty humongous and heartfelt thanks to everyone who was involved in making MEET DEXTER and thanks for reading!
Finally August 16th arrived once August 15th had left and the first order of the day was rehearsals which took place at my house. Hannah and her mum Alex arrived first, then David and finally Sue. I have to say that when David started reading from his script, admitting he hadn’t learned his lines, only skimmed through the dialogue my heart sank. At least I think it was my heart but it necessitated a change of underwear all the same.
After feasting on the spread my Mum provided for us, the leftovers from which was our dinner for the next six weeks, we left for Olive’s. I asked David, Sue and Hannah to travel together so they can get to know each other and hopefully create a credible family chemistry before the camera. As the end results attest this was one of my better ideas on the day.
Unfortunately arriving a little later than anticipated, the butterflies in my stomach had reproduced and beget a second set of butterflies and quite mysteriously, a dragonfly too, but I was pleased to see most of the crew had arrived and were already setting up, under the guidance of John Epton, whose contribution to this project and the personal help he gave me was invaluable.
The sun was blazing down on us but despite our best attempts we couldn’t blaze back so we got down to the small matter of filming. We had a three camera set-up which reduced the amount of takes dramatically since we could cover all angles in one go. It meant that when it came to editing I had three lots of separate footage to sort through but this is a small price to pay for the sake of expedience on the day.
For the audio, we did something that was new to me; at John’s insistence we recorded the audio separately on his digital recorder instead of through the camera – still using the boom mic – which made a tremendous difference. Again it meant trawling through many individual files to find the correct one to match the right video file, but the quality is superior with less extraneous interference and background noises to deal with in the edit.
Despite his earlier admission for not learning his lines, David Wrighton seemed to have absorbed them pretty quickly. I don’t know what happened during the car journey with Sue and Hannah and perhaps it’s better I don’t know but whatever it was it worked! By the end of the filming, I felt that David became more intuitive about his character and little direction from me was needed.
Sue was the same, having instinctively found the right nuances for her role that made Sandra the perfect foil for David’s Ron. I felt a genuine rapport between them, as though they were a legit married couple (which, I am legally obliged to point out they are not) and I could feel them bouncing off each other. Finally Hannah was the final element in this unique alchemy, again showing a flair for little touches which I liked, as well as the fire and righteous passion when Tilly finally blows her stack at her father.
By the time Chris and Dexter arrived most of the family scenes had been shot, so it was just a matter of shooting the interacting scenes with Dexter and a few incidental and solo shots. Dexter really is a magnificent beast (although his presence meant I was no longer the tallest creature on set) and we have to credit Kyle McSporran for his efforts both physically, in donning the heavy suit in such heat, and in giving Dexter the requisite personality for this project.
It seemed the cast enjoyed interacting with Dexter too. The only struggle came with the scene featuring Dexter and my pug, Penny. The (rather optimistic) idea was that they’d stare each other down from a distance then face off with Dexter roaring at Penny, who then either run away or just play friendly like she does. Instead Penny did neither, finding more interest playing with an apple on the ground that with the giant roaring beast before her. Still it makes for a fun outtake.
One of Olive’s daughters, Janice, stepped in at the last minute to play the woman who bumps into Dexter and faints. However Janice was wearing a short summer dress and when she lay on the ground it rode up and gave Andy an eye full – although this was nothing compared to when he got home and Marian gave him an earful!
As mentioned earlier, Hannah’s elder sister Beth is also an aspiring actress and agreed to the part of the lady knocked over by Dexter’s tail. Originally I wanted Dexter to knock someone off a bicycle but in a fortuitous turn of events, Alex informed me that Beth had a pair of crutches since she hurt her foot so the idea changed to that instead. But, on the day, not only was Beth still using her crutches but she had an operation on her other foot that morning.
I was a bit hesitant but Beth gamely agreed to the shot anyway and after some trial and error we settled on a relatively safe falling forward prat fall for her. So we went for a take but just as I called “Action” I realised we hadn’t put any mats or cushions down for Beth to fall onto. Before I could yell “Cut!” Beth had already taken her tumble! But it was such a good shot and Beth was unhurt that I didn’t dare ask to do it again, so the final shot of the day was the only single take of the day.
We finally wrapped just before 8:30pm and remarkably it was still light but much cooler. Fatigue was beginning to set in and spirits were on the wane (elsewhere Wayne was on the spirits) but we all felt it was a very productive day. We were well fed courtesy of Freddy and Annabelle and everyone contributed something and fulfilled their roles as promised. We were all glad to be getting home I am sure but I hope everyone felt the effort was worth it.
Sometimes I wish I my mind would switch off when we discuss project ideas or here are calls for a film script to suit a competition theme at our club meetings; it always ends with many sleepless nights and unnecessary stress – for me at least. Yet, rather annoyingly when the end product comes together so well and I realise something pretty good grew from a brief image flashing in my neurologically aberrant brain, perhaps I should cut my fertile imagination some slack.
For the uninitiated or those with short memories, way back in April, our club treasurer David “Offshore Account” Laker was hosting the club meeting and mentioned former OVFM Chairman Chris Coulson has acquired a live(ish) dinosaur which he named Dexter and had kindly offered to allow the club to film his new pet one club evening.
The annual North vs. South competition was also a point of discussion and we needed scripts to fulfil the theme of “Out Of The Blue”. David quipped that if we could combine the two ideas it would save a lot of time. So of course my brain defied all orders to sit quietly and let someone else respond to David’s call to arms, and immediately produced an image of Dexter leaning over two shocked and scared looking people.
My deviant grey matter also decided these people should be parents of a young woman introducing her new boyfriend to them, Dexter being the boyfriend. By the time I got home that night a half-formed scenario occupied my head, and eventually I was forced into submission. A few days later I sat before my PC, opened up Celtx and began to transfer the mini-film playing in my head into script form and within a matter of hours I had the first draft completed.
At the club meeting on June 7th I bravely submitted my script – now entitled MEET DEXTER – to the club for consideration. I’m the world’s worst public orator so heaven knows how my pitch sounded to my fellow club members but I wasn’t confident I had conveyed my idea successfully, yet somehow I was persuaded to keep working on it and begin the storyboarding and blocking.
With MEET DEXTER apparently going ahead after all, we needed to begin securing the vital assets of the production, such as location, crew and cast. Simon “Snapper” Earwicker, our chairman and reigning Hide & Seek champion, suggested we contact Olive Allen, widow of OVFM stalwart Derek, to see if we could use her garden which I was told was “quite big”.
Quite big? Try @!%*$?# HUGE!! It ran on for miles and would divert off into another spacious hideaway which in turn would reveal a verdant labyrinth, shaded by a canopy of towering trees and divided by thick hedges. I actually discovered a tribe of pygmies settled in the undergrowth behind the garden shed, who thought they were in the Amazon, blaming their Sat Nav for not suggesting they turn left at Albuquerque.
But it was the centrepiece of the garden, a stone paved square with surrounding low walls that sold me on this wonderful expanse of land being perfect for the shoot and Olive was gracious enough to confirm her permission for us to use it. So August 16th was marked in the diary, the day OVFM, the actors, Chris and 7 ft dinosaur would descend upon Chez Allen.
At this point it seemed that only I was aware that this was a club film and not a personal project so I was getting a little worried no-one had volunteered to help as per the request on the website. Thankfully David put the word out at the annual garden party and without the use of incriminating photos, managed to secure our crew.
Next was the casting. I had asked a few people that I had worked with on prior films if they would be interested but they were either on holiday on that filming date or were still traumatised from working with me before. I put out casting calls on social media with sadly little response, aside from two women I had to pass on for logistical reasons.
Luckily Anna Littler came to the rescue by referring me to Blitz And Bananas alumna Sue Gray to play Sandra and Hannah Whitehead, a budding actress and model to play Tilly. Rather fortuitously, Hannah has an older sister Beth, also an actress, so that was an extra role fulfilled too. The final piece of the puzzle was our male lead, the call answered by David Wrighton to play Ron after I e-mailed a number of local theatre groups for actors.
How would the shoot go? Find out in part two coming soon!