Draiocht Film Club
8 Week Course
Tutors: Cormac McDonagh & Joseph Orr
Below is a link to the 2 finished films.
Myself and Joseph from Createschool have started running a Draiocht film club in the Draiocht theatre in Blanchardstown. This consists of 8 two-and a-half hour classes, one every Tuesday evening for the 8 weeks. During this time the group of approximately 16 youths will write, produce, shoot and edit two short films of approximately 3-5 minutes in length. Participants will make up the entire cast me crew of each film, thereby getting to grips with whatever areas of filmmaking they have an interest in such as mainly acting, writing, camera, sound, editing, art direction with also an awareness of script supervision and continuity, “crossing the line” and story structure. We tend to not appoint a director given the experience level of all participants is the same and prefer to keep the filming group open to input from everyone as well as help from myself and Joseph, as to what direction the filming goes.
In the opening class we started with a meet and greet whereby each participant introduced themselves and also highlighted what their favourite films are and what area of filmmaking they would most like to gain experience in through the course. We then did covered the basics of screenwriting and dramatic structure, starting from Aristotle’s “Poetics” and using modern-day examples to illustrate how his classical structure still influences modern screenwriting, even after over two thousand years! We used examples from ‘Star Wars Episode IV’ and ‘Batman Begins’ to illustrate the use of the ‘Inciting Incident’ that propels the hero of a storyboard into action and the ‘Lock In’ that gives them no choice but to pursue their objective and thus set up the film’s action. Interested in knowing more? Check out this very useful site for examples and info http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns After this I ran an impromptu acting improvisation exercise to help demonstrate character objective within scenes which also got the participants that were keen on acting to get started.
This week we started by asking participants to use what they had learned in Week 1 to start developing story ideas. Participants were also divided into two groups and filmed and edited a very short scene within the class to get used to the Camera and Sound equipment and also get introduced to using the iMovie App for editing. Each scene was shot and edited within the given timeframe and we asked for Week 3 that each participant come in with an idea for a short film anywhere between 3-5 minutes in length and restricted to three locations for shooting within the Draiocht Centre. We requested that the idea be presented in a synopsis ie. a summary of the story in one or two sentences and then if possible do a treatment of the film which is a written description of the events / scenes but not in scripted format.
At the start of the class, any participant with an idea was asked to pitch it to the group using their prepared synopsis or treatment. We had a very positive response in terms of ideas and clarity of vision. As participants pitched we also asked them what their preferences were with regard to crew positions or acting, in order to get a good idea of how to cater for everyone as well as have enough cast and crew to fill two productions. Two films were what we felt would be feasible in the remaining weeks in terms of prepping, shooting and finishing in post-production by week 7 or 8. There was a refreshingly diverse choice of ideas, spanning several genres. As myself and Joseph decided on which stories would be chosen for production, the participants partook in another small camera exercise, again getting to grips with angles, avoiding crossing the line and the different styles of shooting ie. Using the tripod, handheld and moving with the actors. In the end due to the rich choice of ideas and different styles myself and Joseph decided to amalgamate 2/3 different ideas per production to accommodate as many written ideas as possible into each production. Decisions were strongly influenced by practicality, given we had to shoot entirely on the Draiocht premises. The chosen productions were ‘Zombie Switch’, about a lab accident which triggers a Zombie breakout and ‘Fleur’ which is about an obsessive theatre actress going to extreme lengths to get into the limelight. All of the writers involved were asked to come in with at least one scene each for Week 4 in order to bridge the writing together and have a shooting script and start filming. Participants were also given either acting parts in each film or crew positions, or both if possible.
Both ‘Zombie Switch’ and ‘Fleur’ started shooting this week within the Draiocht centre with at least one scene from each being completed. All participants were busy either acting in front of camera, working the camera, recording sound, contributing to art direction by supplying props and costumes with also an eye on continuity ie. what should be in the correct place from shot-to-shot. This can be anything from props in the frame, to an actor’s position and even making sure they say the same lines from shot to shot in order to help the edit. Actors and camera crew also learned about hitting marks ie. what spot an actor has to reach in order to be in the correct position for the frame.
This week shooting continued on both films ‘Fleur’ and ‘Zombie Switch’ with some more scenes filmed in different locations around the Draiocht. As ‘Fleur’ is set in a theatre we have utilised already the dressing rooms, seating area in the theatre and the stage itself. ‘Zombie Switch’ has used a kitchen as a science lab. And utilised the Green Room also. It had been planned to complete shooting on both films this week but time was as ever a factor so filming will have to be completed in Week 6 whilst also starting on post-production. Also both groups have, due to time constraints not yet picked up atmos tracks for each scene due to being pushed for time but fortunately as we are filming at the same locations each week we can record the tracks next week. Sound is a key department yet sometimes is overlooked and if so can affect the overall film in the edit so important to always ensure sound is of the same quality as your picture when you get that take you know is the right one. If you do, maybe do another one as well for safety if time allows.
Shooting began more or less straight away on both films this week. Different approaches to both films are now evident. ‘Fleur’ completed filming by the end of the class so now has all the required footage “in the can” so to speak and two of the crew got busy at the start of the class with the assembly which is the beginning of the edit when the editors/assistant editors review the rough footage or “rushes” as they are also known and select the good takes. The takes are then lined up on the “timeline” on the iMovie app scene-by-scene in a linear form and then a more refined edit can begin. More information on the editing process will be available in Week 7 as both films wrap. The crew on ‘Zombie Switch’ worked equally as hard all class to shoot more scenes and although they will need more time in Week 7 to complete shooting, they opted to begin editing in Week 4 ie. edit each scene as they go so they will probably find it easier when shooting ends as the assembly will have be almost completed. This method of editing can be a good indicator of pace within your film or perhaps if you have covered your scenes with enough footage or not and if not maybe go back and shoot more of the scene or “pick-ups” as they are known. Both methods are justified but being able to edit quickly after shooting and getting a rough cut straight after shooting is one of the clear benefits of shooting your film and editing it on the same device.
This week the cast and crew of ‘Zombie Switch’ filmed their final scenes and managed to almost reach the end of their edit too. Meanwhile the ‘Fleur’ team finished their edit and started work on their credits. A lot of the edit at this point was trimming scenes and giving the films a flow as well as adding the atmos tracks to give scenes a more realistic feel and improve audio quality. Also ADR can be used. This stands for ‘Automatiac Dialogue Replacement’ which involves an actor re-recording his/her line(s) in a scene (preferably in a studio space while viewing the footage) due to the original recording not being usable or maybe some other noise interfence. It can also be down to the common mishap on just forgetting to turn the microphone on! So it is always good to check your mic is on by looking for the green light. Similarly if you are in doubt as to the audio quality of a take don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to play it back to make sure your sound is good. ADR is always a handy option when you need it but personally I prefer to use as must high quality audio recorded on set as possible. It’s also good practice for anyone in the Sound Department to try and get the best takes possible. It was an important week as it set up both films to be completed on the final week with time to spare for a screening. Any additional audio tracks such as wild tracks of dialogue or atmos tracks were also picked up as this would be the final time the crews would have access to their shooting locations. It was planned to set up in a screening room for the final week to put the finishing touches to the films and then screen them back for everyone.
The final week. We set up in the screening room and spent the first half of the class putting the finishing touches to both films and have our “Final Cuts”. ‘Zombie Switch’ worked on their credits and also neatly shot a small scene using a nearby coffee shop location for their end credits. ‘Fleur’ whilst also reaching their final cut, managed to compose some original music in the allotted time using the ‘Garage Band’ app on the iPad which added hugely to their finished piece and gave it a really suspenseful mood. At the end of the class, friends and family of the participants were invited in, as well as the Draiocht organisers, to view a screening of both films alongside the hardworking casts and crews. It was great to see the films completed and we agreed that one of the best results of the hard work was that – although both teams were given the same resources in terms of equipment and locations – the end products were two completely different films in terms of genre, style and content. It was easy to forget at times that they were even filmed in the same locations! ‘Zombie Switch’ was a funny, sci-fi set in a laboratory where a virus outbreak causes chaos with some very original humour and good use of many post-production tools. ‘Fleur’ was a macabre tale set around a doomed theatre production with elements of Hitchcock at times, especially with the haunting score. Both films ran at about five minutes in length, but from, viewing it was not hard to see how much work it took to get them there. Overall the Draiocht Film Club was a great example of how filmmaking, although heavily reliant on time management and improvising with limited resources, can be a fun social activity that helps team building and harness creativity. It can produce wonderfully original creations that participants can keep as fun memories for years after and may also form a basis for a portfolio of future work and who knows….start you on the path to Hollywood?
Well done to all our Film Club Participants
Roll On…. Cormac