Shooting fashion in Melbourne

Recently, I was extremely lucky to head down to Melbourne for the continuation of a project I’d worked about a month earlier; the NTeen Fashion Show. The NTeen kids, mothered by the lovely Jo-anna Egart and her team of equally welcoming chaperones, had clearly worked hard to bring what they had to the table. Although it was pretty hectic from day one, the chaos was always controlled and never got out of hand. That came through on camera, and to see this collective of Darwin folk busy doing what they do best through a lens was the definition of filming a workhouse. In saying that, I don’t even think fashion was what they did best, (although they were very good at it), I think it was the ability to pull together and help each other out to produce something even more brilliant.

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Photo: Mai Rose

The friendly faces I met along the way were all up for a chat. Even though I’m sure everyone was as tired and sleep deprived as me, a mixture of excitement and nerves managed to keep us awake and talkative well into the evening. I made way more friends than I thought I would, too – which was fantastic. In those, I met a couple of budding musicians and sound designers, as well as a few young photographers who I really hope to be able to work with in the future.

Filming something like this required me to be super flexible, and essentially have a camera on me all the time (even during transit and at dinner times) in case something where I’d think ‘oh that’d go so well in the video!’ comes up. I almost regret not having my camera on me for the day after the event finished, because it would’ve been a good opportunity to snatch cut aways of the kids shopping and hanging out. Luckily though, for the actual event days itself, I made sure I had a stable supply of charged batteries- oftentimes having two batteries on charge at any given time. Even the external microphone I used ran on AA batteries, meaning I had to keep a few of them in my pockets, too! This is why jeans are the ultimate filmmaking wear for me. Ones that are not too bootlegged, or skinny at the ankles, but with pockets big enough to store anything you might need when running and gunning. For me, that’s mainly batteries and a spare filter.

Another thing to consider when filming these events is how you plan to put it all together in the edit. Having some idea of how you want shots to flow or cut together really makes the difference between uncertainty – which leads to overshooting – and  being positive you have what you need. Even if you’re sure you have everything you’ll need to make the final cut, don’t be afraid to shoot extra material as I said before. Especially with digital formats and large SD cards, there’s no big harm in shooting with the possibility that it might not be needed later. It’s always better to have something extra than to be missing something crucial.

Finally, push the boundaries of what you know. The best material comes from when you try new and sometimes crazy things. Of course, it’s always good to have your staple of standard cut-aways and interviews, and it’s best to make sure you get what you need in case your experiments don’t work out, but never be afraid to think of new ways to tell the same story. For example, when I conducted interviews with the participants at the NTeens Darwin event, I would pop into frame and try to be a part of the action. Later on I found that method to be hard to roll continuity-wise, and eventually resorted to using their responses as standalone segments, meaning I had to manipulate an answer out of them that would in some way also explain the basis of the question. Because I didn’t stick to just one interviewing technique, there are times when including my question is necessary, but other times their answers are sufficient in explaining their answers. I think it looks really interesting having a combination of different setups. Luckily for me, Jo-anna’s brief for the video allowed me to be very creative, and she wanted me to put as much of my own flare into it as possible. She pretty much told me to run free. I’m partway through editing at this stage, and I can see that it is shaping up to be something equally as ‘free’. It’s really exciting to edit something that doesn’t stick to a certain formula of filmmaking, but the flexibility to tell a story in various ways is exciting to me right now as a developing artist.

I can’t wait to see what the final product looks like. I should get back to work!

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Photo: Joanna Egart

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One take blunder

One take wonders almost never happen in my world.

I mean, even if someone gets a line right and everything seems to be all well and dandy, I’ll always try and do it multiple times, changing things every take.

I don’t always ask my actors to change what they’re doing because I don’t like it; but rather because I want to see what else they can do. Even if an actor pulls off a line perfectly, I’ll work with them to try delivering it a few different ways, and see whether the original still holds up as my favourite take. It’s always important to reassure your actors that they’re doing a great job, because without those compliments, some may begin to feel like they aren’t hitting the mark.

With my latest film, InconceivableI was able to work very one-on-one with Joseph to get the best possible performance out of him. Joseph had already worked with me a few times, first for I Believe You Can Fly (which actually served almost solely as a screen test for both boys), then later in After Tracy, and most recently in It Takes Two to TangoHe knew the drill, and was a good sport when it came to my pursuit for perfection. Due to the minimal crew, and relatively docile plot, it was easy for me to shoot multiple takes of each line and still be on schedule. (Yes, I had actually accounted for running overtime this time).

I always make sure my actors know in advance that I like to try things many different ways, and even if they manage a one take wonder – where possible – I’ll always roll for at least another take. 

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Insanely close

These puns must drive you insane.

Although there’s still quite a bit of work for me to do on IT2TT (perhaps even a reshoot if I’m really unlucky), I’m nearing the end of editing and that makes me really excited. We’re at different stages of editing, but both Thomas and I have released trailers for our films, which are viewable on our YouTube channels.

Editing is perceived to be this long, arduous task that is usually completed in isolation, the only voices you hear for hours are the repetitive sounds of your actor’s dialogue and the only human interaction you have is through a prerecorded human’s actions within a 1920×1080 pixel monitor. Well, that’s true. But I suppose it’s all worth it in the end. That’s just what we have to keep telling ourselves. If audiences enjoy it, then we know we’ve done a good job. All those lonely hours of piecing together nonsense to make sense have all been worth it.

I really quite like what Thomas and I have done this time around. We’ve kept essentially the same crew, mostly the same resources, and used a bunch of mixed actors, some we know all too well and others we’ve worked with the for the first time. But we’ve both put a lot of effort into crafting an individual film each, and (despite the fact they both go for a half hour each, which is a pretty insane – yes, insane –  undertaking for us at the moment), we’ve made two very different films, in styles we haven’t really ventured into before, and continued working at broadening our knowledge of, well, everything film.

I was lucky enough to get my hands back on a few stills from the footage of The Insanity Project which, while I was the cinematographer, have not seen the footage in any cut so far beyond the trailer. I sure hope it looks just as good as I thought it did on set, and I can’t wait to see what Thomas comes out with in the end!

Lexi salutes in the middle of a forest.

Andrew is greeted by a mysterious silhouette.

Coffee table filmmakers

Filmmakers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life and produce all sorts of interesting videos. Coffee table filmmakers, however, produce great ideas – and that’s about it.stain

Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee. Drinking coffee is one of those weird things that makes you feel grown up and, well, wide awake. But when I use the term ‘coffee table filmmaker’, I’m referring to the rather small demographic of filmmakers who plot out really cool film ideas, but never follow through with them. Come on, fellas, there’s nothing more painful than see a bright spark go to waste because you’re either too worried/lazy/nervous/uninspired to do something with it.

I suppose this goes for artists of all mediums. When I see a budding painter constantly throwing out drafts because it’s not turning out exactly the way they want it, or an animator who is too scared to release a showreel because they don’t think it is an accurate representation of their current skill level, or even a musician who never records their music because they’re not sure whether it’s worth putting the time into it, I can’t help but feel sympathetic towards them. I understand how hard it is going to release something, but knowing it may not live up to certain expectations, and choosing to hold back. We’re essentially putting our heart and soul on a plate for people to tear apart. We put a lot of effort into the work we do, and sometimes it’s hard to share that with other people, knowing they may not like it. But that’s the whole point of us, as artists! Sometimes we have to release a not-so-great, unpolished, semi-finished work, because there are times when it’s either that or nothing. We learn from the mistakes we make along the way, but if we’re too scared to make those mistakes to begin with, we’ll never know how to improve next time.

Thomas defending himself against the critics.

Even if you think your work isn’t perfect, let someone else tell you first. It’s scary, yes. But they can tell you why. They are fresh eyes on a work you have laboured over for days, weeks, months. They’ll notice things you may not have noticed initially, and sometimes the small issues you felt were so obvious won’t be picked up at all. Keep in mind everyone has their own tastes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.

A good example of this happening to me is with The Noodle Man. I had showed final drafts of the film to a few different people, and all gave me mixed responses. The older people I showed liked the pacing, the steadiness of the shots and the moral of the story. On the other hand, a large portion of younger people in my audience thought it dragged on for too long in certain scenes, and that the cinematography was for the most part, fairly bland. People who have seen multiple films of mine noticed that while it had a slightly different flavour compared to my previous films, the characters still all spoke like me. Screenshot 2015-08-23 19.39.05It took me a while to understand this – at first I didn’t think much of this statement, but upon viewing my film again I noticed what they were talking about. Everyone was talking exactly like me. As you can guess, for my next film I made a large effort to diversify not only my character’s dialogue, but develop small quirks and nuances that made them individual. Screenshot 2015-08-23 19.40.55That’s a small example of how people’s feedback has helped me improve one aspect of my script writing.

And sure, there may be some nasty ol’ critics who seem to just want to point out the flaws in your work, but most are there to help you, and show you how to improve. It’s about humility, about putting yourself out there and realising that most people aren’t there to tear you down, but to help you build yourself up.