Where have I been? Dancing in the Rain!
So yeah - its been a very long time since I posted my blog, but after my last short film I decided to take some time to really challenge my storytelling abilities. The production of 'MC7-1' was a monstrous challenge. I felt it was a good script, but in hindsight, I feel I wasn't able to do it justice due to shooting the film for less money that it needed and a production window that came far quicker than I planned (it felt like 'do it now' or 8 months later). When establishing setting and character in any story its important the audience see and feel the world, its rules and the struggles of the character. The world I created for this short film is from a feature film idea, so I needed to limit what I showed whilst providing a backstory for my characters struggle due to the world they inhabit.
Here, I feel I missed a trick. The introduction to the short is fine, but its almost 2 minutes of heavy backstory and exposition that eases into the plight of the character. Its something you can reason, it can make you think, but it isn't very emotional.
So I began going back into understanding story structure and screenplays - but I wanted something that would challenge me to grow and also help me improve any areas of storytelling where I am weakest.
'MC7-1' was supposed to be the test short for my first feature - a production where I could walk around London with a tiny crew, a few actors, a good camera and make a feature for less that £5,000. By the time I had written the feature treatment, I realised it was going to be more like a £30,000 film.
I like a lot of characters in my films, even though the antagonist is continuously on-screen. The more characters, locations and effects in a film, the more the expensive it can be. Whilst working on this, I came up with another short film idea I could work on simultaneously for a 2017 release whilst producing the feature. Upon completing this new short film synopsis, I realise that I had FINALLY created a film concept that was mostly set in a single location with only two characters - an ideal set-up for a first no-budget feature film - and the story came first - not the need for a single location. I was very excited!!
This could be my first film and it would be cheaper than my 'MC7-1' film. However, as it turns out, there would be an expensive FX budget for this film if I was going to do it justice. I really loved the idea though and after writing a treatment I wrote 6 drafts of the script whilst being completely conscientious that I needed as little VFX as possible, relying mostly on in-camera effects - but this meant a built set in a soundproof studio - and it suddenly became more expensive than 'MC7-1' - and more expensive than I was comfortable with for a first film (£40,000 - £50,000).
Whilst this was happening, the independent film organisation in London 'Raindance' founded by Elliott Grove was offering its Masters Degree Film course in a single year and it would also qualify for a government student loan. Now, I not an academic. Not at all. However, this is a self negotiated course where your own focus and efforts to challenge your weaknesses to an industry standard is at the heart of the Masters. I though this would be an amazing opportunity to obtain a qualification that matched my production experience and also be challenge by the experienced filmmakers leading the course. I genuinely felt I needed this to be a better cinematic storyteller and writer. Even maybe make my film as a part of my course - so I began developed another - cheaper - idea. Something that would cost £10,000 (went up to £15,000).
Soon I was knee-deep with indie film writer directors Kate Shenton of comedy horror 'Egomaniac' (2016) and Stephanie Joalland of the science fiction thriller 'The Quiet Hour' (2014) - both of whom have produced and released their own independent feature films. These two brave and patient women - and course leader/screenwriter Rick Harvey - guided me for an intense 16 month exploration of writing and research. I delved into film structures, genre tropes and writing systems by John Truby, Phillip Parker, Dara Marks, Syd Field and Blake Snyder whilst studying no-budget (£0 - £50,000) film's productions made by Christopher Nolan 'Following', Shane Carruth 'Primer' , Robert Rodriguez 'El Mariachi' (1993), James Caldwell 'Layover' (2014) and many other filmmakers who began their careers with a sub £10,000 movie. (Special shout out to Elliott and Zander Weaver for their upcoming 2019 sci-fi film 'Cosmos'... the trailer looks amazing and the film was made for food, petrol and £0 -https://vimeo.com/288262320 )
I completed this Masters Degree in January 2019. So since 2015, I have written three treatments, two scripts and completed a Masters Degree. And to be honest - I can't really complain about 'MC7-1' - the actors were brilliant, the music amazing and the short won a film award for best sci-fi at the Cinema London Film Festival 2017. However, I'm not content with 'resting on my laurels', there is so much to learn, and if there is one thing I have learned is the art and craft of screenwriting takes a life-time to master.
So that's where I've been! With regards to my study, making a feature film was not feasible - but I have written 4 drafts of this new rough script and broken down all the basic production requirements. News about this script is in the next post.
The experience has been amazing and has evolved my outlook on my career, the business, as well what is genuinely achievable. So in a way I'm beginning again... again! Or at the very least, this new step is a good one. More news on the new script next...