Entry #1: 12/07/18 – The process begins

And so, the big bad dissertation begins with force, this is the first of 12 (or more) blog entries that I will use to keep myself updated on work and a means of reflection for my own progress. Think of it as if I’m holding myself accountable for my own work. Even though I write this before I’ve even started any work, I already anticipated that I would have had more prepared than I already do. I began the year on the MA course telling myself that I’d spend the months leading up to the dissertation making sure I was completely prepared and ready to go. That hasn’t happened. On the upside I have a basic script that just needs adapted into something more coherent. Although, saying that, I need to source myself a cast AND crew, as well as figure out shooting dates and get to North Wales to shoot it. But I rely on those famous last words – I’ve got plenty of time.

Entry #2: 02/08/18 – To North Wales

So it’s almost been a month, and boy has it been a crazy one. Filming is to begin in little over a week, and that’s after I fly myself up to North Wales from Cardiff in about 12 hours. Reading over my last blog post, it is safe to say that I’m getting close to almost being prepared: the script has been fine-tuned and is definitely taking shape into something that I’m super happy with. This film is going to be something new for me. I think it’s safe to say that when people talk about those artistic student films that no one understands, this dissertation film will probably fall into that category. I think my main aim of this project is to just create a form of self-expression and put some more of myself into the work that I’m making, even if it’s something that’s difficult to understand.

A couple days after my first blog entry, I created a draft budget and then subsequently had my budget release a couple weeks after. It’s interesting writing down what you think you’ll need compared to so many finer details that you didn’t even realise would cost you money… And if someone tells you that you need a certain amount put aside for contingency expenses, believe them and then double that figure. But aside from all this, I’ll probably update this again before shooting begins as I definitely have some more work to do before anyone steps a foot on set.

Entry #3: 05/08/18 – Pre-Production plights

Now in North Wales, staying on Anglesey, the shooting dates are getting closer. Thankfully a lot of stress has been taken of as of recent. Being in North Wales for 10 days meant that I was shooting my own project for three days and then shooting another student’s dissertation for another three (and then a day for travel there and back) but now with the other project being postponed, it’s all my time now. It’s only five days until the very first shoot and I am starting to get concerned in terms of who’s going to crew for me. I have the core lot but with it being the summer season in a university orientated city, it’s proving difficult. Saying that, I still have a few days and have a few spare leads that I can unravel to gain some extra hands on set. Only time will tell.

I think it’s safe to say that the support network that I have had around me during these pre-production days has been invaluable and I’ve definitely learnt a lot from those around me. My supporting actress sat me down and we spent a good while talking about world building and how an actor gets into the mind-set of their character. I think it’s safe to say that even that conversation sparked a new excitement within me for this project. On top of that my DOP, Aled, has been super supportive and I don’t think I would be anywhere near as prepped as I am right now if it wasn’t for him constantly pushing me to strive for the best. Let’s just hope that it all pays off down the line.

Entry #4: 10/08/18 – Shooting begins

AND THAT’S A WRAP (on the very first day of shooting), tonight’s shoot went so much smoother than I could’ve anticipated. We filmed one of the more intricate scenes within the film and I think that despite not yet reviewing the footage, it went quite well. I think something that really struck be after being on set again is how much I enjoy the energy that everyone gives off when you have a crew full of enthusiastic and hardworking individuals. Even though it’s only one of three days of shooting finished, I’m already forever grateful to those who have helped me out in the slightest of ways up to now. Getting back to the shoot itself, I think the most difficult part of tonight was the components we were working with. Due to the use of fake blood and my severe allergies to it, it meant I had to take a hands-off approach to setting up the scene but everyone else stepped in and did a stellar job for me.

I find myself still learning new things about a story that I’ve written myself even after shooting has started. There were a couple moments where I found myself giving off context to my main actor to try and push him towards the right headspace for the scene and revealing the most minor details that aren’t so much necessary to the film itself, but the world that the film takes place in. It’s a weird concept to try and wrap my head around. But that’s it for shoot day 1, same again tomorrow for a larger and more difficult chunk. Here’s hoping for the best.

Entry #5: 11/08/18 – 2/3

Day 2 is finished and wrapped and not too hideously over schedule either (only half an hour). I sit writing this entry fresh off of the set and today was definitely a different day to yesterday. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily harder than last night’s shoot but it certainly wasn’t easier. One thing I’m super happy with is the set design and how the setting looks on camera, it is an aesthetic that is definitely unique and it already looks so much nicer than what I thought it would in my head, which is ironic (watch the film when it’s done, you’ll probably get the joke). Something that I’ve neglected to say previously is that the film is heavily based around art work. This art work wasn’t easy to manufacture and boy has it been stressful. But my art director aka my DoP aka the one who’s helping me hold this whole thing together (Aled) has done a magnificent job in creating some art work that tells a story both individually and as a collection. This has totally boosted the production value of the film and will (hopefully) ensure audiences understand more of what the film is about since half the story is in those paintings!

It’s safe to say that despite having trouble with locations beforehand and a lot of my time being wasted simply on location scouting, the location I went with was definitely the best choice and super flexible to work in. I just hope that it comes across well and I definitely look forward to looking back on what was shot when I get to the editing stage. It’s the final day of shooting tomorrow and there are some intricate scenes to be shot but we managed to do a great job today so I have no doubt that that’ll carry on tomorrow.

Entry #6: 12/08/18 – Production is over

Et Voila! That’s the end of all the shooting for my film (fingers crossed!). I won’t go too much into detail for today’s shoot but it looks good and despite being slightly under crewed, the people who made it today worked so hard and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give them enough credit for it. Today included a lot of destruction of props that a lot of hard work went into but I’m not sure if it was hurtful or satisfying to watch. I’ll give it a few more days and see if it was all worthwhile.

The feeling of being finished with shooting is definitely a curious feeling. It feels like the last couple of months have lead up to this moment right now and now I feel like I should be relieved that the most stressful part is over and so much preparation has all come together to shoot a short film. But I’m not sure how I feel about it though. I think this feeling goes hand-in-hand with the fact that I’m leaving North Wales tomorrow to fly back to Cardiff. I guess it feels like I came back to University for 10 days and now I’m resuming with adult life again. Alas, no matter how I feel about it, it is over. And now the real hard work begins – the editing. I can admit that I’m not the most proficient editor who ever existed and I don’t always enjoy it, but I’m definitely looking forward to editing this piece. I just think I need to psych myself into it, thankfully I have some other work to distract myself with when I get back to Cardiff so I’m already making excuses – a great start.

Entry #7: 20/08/18 – Time for post-production

It’s been about a week since I finished the shoot for my film and I realise now as I have quite a few times throughout this process that I’m still yet to actually come up with a name for the film. I noticed this purely from the fact that when reviewing the footage, the slate read “that film that Lee is making for his dissertation.” So I should probably get onto that at some point but right now I’m stumped. The more I think about the shoot, the happier I am with the results have become. Although, saying that, I haven’t ACTUALLY began editing yet but I’ll get there in time. All footage is officially ingested and saved in a few locations which is always good to know. Although for some reason there’s always that sinking feeling that everything I own is going to just spontaneously break and I’ll lose everything, which makes me want to back the footage up on everything and anything I can get my hands on.

One thing I do need to sort out is where I’ll be editing the whole thing because that’s something I am also yet to decide. Here in Cardiff I don’t have the luxury of sitting in an unbreathable, windowless, and all round cramped editing suite for 8 hours a day anymore. On top of that, sitting at a desk space static with the limited spare time I have isn’t too appealing either. My only other option is to edit on my laptop which gives me some more manoeuvrability. Although the laptop definitely isn’t the most reliable of devices, it gives me an opportunity to edit whilst being sat in a library, or more probably a Starbucks which is more appealing. I would definitely just prefer to not sit at a desk space whilst editing.

Entry #8: 27/08/18 – Actually time for post-production

So it’s been another week since my last blog entry and as expected, very little has been done. Something that past me needs to learn is to have better time management and do more…although that will probably also be true for future me too. An empty Premiere Pro project sits staring at me day-in, day-out, looking to be started but I honestly have no clue where to get the motivation from. I feel almost like I’ve got writer’s block but for editing and I haven’t even started yet, so that is definitely promising in the grand scheme of things. A positive has come out of this though, as a method of procrastination, I’ve been sorting out my paperwork and just trying to get everything under control since tomorrow marks one month until the initial due date. I will start editing eventually… just maybe not today, or tomorrow and probably not until after my next blog post where I’ll probably still be stuck. Let’s all raise a glass to the art of procrastination and lack of motivation.

Something that has taken me by surprise is how dedicated I’ve been with these blog entries. I feel like they’ve been made fairly regularly and they represent nice snapshots of my progress throughout this whole process. I think even if it is just only me (and my dissertation supervisor) that ever reads these, then I’ll be happy with that. They’re interesting to read back on and a very useful way to vent off my feelings about my own work and just be able to get it all written down. Maybe this is a method I should adopt after I’ve completed this process in my everyday life and other pursuits, I probably won’t though…who knows?

Entry #9: 05/09/18 – Editing update

So editing has ACTUALLY begun, all the hard work that so many people have put into this has actually started to amount into something… Not a whole lot though. Yes, editing has begun, but when I say that, all I mean is that some clips have been put into a timeline and that’s it really. But hey, it’s a start! The film has four scenes and basically I have a sequence per scene which I feel like is something that has helped a lot. It turns out that the reason I didn’t do anything for so long was majorly because I felt like there was just SO MUCH to do. But after talking with Aled for a bit I realised that I just needed to break it down into smaller tasks and start tackling them bits at time. So basically I have an assembly (kind of) cut of the first three scenes. The last scene isn’t much so I can probably crack that into an assembly in no time. Also I’m not even 100% that “assembly” is the word I want to use, basically I’ve just synced everything, cut out the slates, the “actions” and the “cuts”. But it’s making me feel like I’m making a lot of progress towards this ever looming deadline and that’s the important thing!

The most important thing this week is to make sure that you’re in the right mind set when sitting down to do something. I’ve learnt that not wanting to do something isn’t necessarily lazy, nor does it mean that you’ve lost interest. It just means you’d prefer to be doing something else. And if you have the time, that’s okay to do. Stay positive!

Entry #10: 12/09/18 – The changed vision: a retrospect

This whole blog thing is almost a ritual now, looking at the dates it’s inadvertently been basically once a week more recently, which is nice. Although, sometimes I feel like I just want to sit and write about the film every time I do some work on it. But, I would never make any progress if I just sat and wrote about my progress all day, right?

Everything is getting a little cleaner, I still feel like there’s a long way to go but wouldn’t you know it – it actually looks like a film! It’s slightly over the 10 minute limit that was set but no one needs to know how much over the limit it is at the moment. I think this week I’ve thought more about this whole process and what it means to me, so buckle up, we’re taking a (very short) trip down memory lane.

I remember having a script written and ready for my dissertation and it revolved around photography instead of art. It was an idea I loved and spent many sleepless nights toiling over to perfect here and there. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up with the idea that I have now. I think if someone read both of the scripts they’d say that the film I ended up making was a lot less optimistic than what I had originally planned to use with the other idea. I do think that that statement is true but I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad thing. I think when working around this dissertation, I spent a lot of time thinking about practicalities and what it was that I wanted to make. I think it’s safe to say that writing isn’t my strongest point and for the most part when I write a script, I go about it in a very shallow fashion and think about the story first and foremost. I believe a huge reason why my script changed so much is because I was realistic in my aims. I also believe that if I stuck with my very first idea then it definitely wouldn’t end up as successful as what this one (hopefully) will be. But yeah, that’s this week’s blog ramblings.

Entry #11: 21/09/18 – The final hurdle

It’s almost submission, it’s been a pleasure.

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