Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Write turns

Cue the sweeping fields of tumble-weed rolling through Charmed Central.

With Resurrection still out with the grown-ups to play with, it has been an especially quiet week. Jake has now retired from office life completely to take on paid interweb-thingy employment for a few weeks (and to stoically battle through a dose of the man-flu), leaving me to rattle around the flat on my own.

And what does a man do when he has nothing other than the internet to entertain him? He contemplates. Contemplates like a caged chimp.

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of any existential angst, except to say that it centres on the problem of what to do once the movie’s done. While Jake is keen to move into throwing a camera about professionally, my ideal scenario is slightly more nebulous – how can I parlay the Resurrection credit into a proper screenwriting gig?

And so, the Phelpenmusings this week have been mostly about the next movie.

In any case, it can’t hurt to have other projects in the stable when we come to sell the movie next year. We can’t have us coming across as a couple of chancers that have taken a year out from what we should be doing just to waste everybody’s time. *Sigh*.

Anyway, the one thing that we did manage to do last week is pick up some more photos from the shoot from the obscenely talented Rob Luckins. If you haven’t already taken a trip to the dark slide to check out his fabulous portraiture, go now; however, he also managed to capture another couple of thousand photos from the set.

So, with kind permission, here are a bunch of our grateful dead. Hell, it’s all we’ve got till the real mess arrives. Snappy.

 Ross and Alex practice their scary.

Wayne’s wound. Party on, indeed.

Zombie school - Milling 101; remedial class.

Stu. Don’t worry, ladies, that’s not his real hair. It’s Ant MacFarlane’s, apparently.

And there’s why. Stu II gets hoiked into frame for a thorough skewering, while Rup and Matt squat in a pool of prematurely-spilled stage blood and Director’s tears.

Loz. We weren’t even allowed to touch his hair.

A triptych of the splattered dead – Lauren, Peter and Susi. They all left set smelling vaguely of mint and curdling milk; apologies to their respective better halves.
Our beautiful horde, completely ruined by a couple of under-dressed wankers at the front.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Suffering from a handover

All in all, this was a big week in Charmed Central.

Getting the first assembly out of the way has opened the Resurrection pie up to a handful of other fingers, and this week Jake and I set about coaxing some of these more expert digits in to come and sample the fruits of our cooking.

It was a week that started with that conversation with Dale-the-tunes, and it finished with us handing over the whole shooting match. On Friday all that was left for Jake and me to do was to sit in stunned silence and wonder at what just happened.

Wednesday was the main culprit. We wandered up to London with a plate full of meetings scheduled. We came back with hangovers-in-waiting.

Once you have a DVD to give to people (no matter how rough the content), the project becomes considerably more tangible. There are a whole load of people out there planning to make a film; significantly fewer get past the constriction point of actually getting it shot. The shit, so to speak, suddenly gets real.

And, rest assured, the DVD content was rough; no foley, no digital FX, no music, no grading. And very much in need of a cultured eye to re-work the inexpert Andy’n’Jake edit.

So, with those caveats firmly on the table, on Wednesday we handed a copy over to Jim-the-potential-cultured-eye. And another to Ads-the-DFX-and-grading-guy. And then one to Rup-the-title-sequence.

And in doing so we basically handed responsibility for the movie over to other people.

Up to the point where Ads suggested that he should also be given the chance to re-cut our trailer. I mean – the trailer was all we had left. Although, with his partner a professional trailer-cutter, it wasn’t one of those decisions that needed a lengthy debate.

So, overnight, Jake and I have moved from being two people that were throwing every working hour towards pushing the movie forward, to where we are now effectively programme managers; the grown-ups with the training and talent take over. We are no longer the critical path. And I am fine with this.

It’s just that it all feels a bit weird. It’s like we’ve dropped our movie off for its first day at school, leaving Jake and me to concentrate on bullying the rich kids out of their lunch money.

And like every self-respecting parent, we marked the occasion with a session. Time to hook up with a few of the London-based cast and crew in a Battersea boozer and to mull over what just happened. So, to Danny, Rachel, Lois and Simon – thanks for a very entertaining night. To the Southern Water Board – I am genuinely sorry.

Now we just need to see whether Resurrection can go and make friends on its own; they grow up so fast these days. Fretful.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Trailer trash

Damn – cutting a trailer together is tricky.

I mean really, really tricky. Jake and I have been walking in circles for the last week, and have finally reached the lofty heights of “well, it doesn’t suck”. Other opinions are, of course, available.

It seems that we may have lured ourselves into a false sense of security by some casual advice that we received at the beginning of the project. Look at the 28 Days Later trailer, and replace all their shots with the corresponding moments from your film. What could be easier?

This, it later transpired, was shit advice.

Any good horror trailer (and, believe me, we’ve watched a few recently) seems to consist of two sections. The opening half has three essential elements: frequent dips to black, a bunch of cleverly-phrased cue-cards to break up the blackness (and if you can make the words get slowly bigger, all the better), and a dissonant drone under-pinning the whole shebang. The second half is slightly easier – all the best action moments bolted together in no particular order on a bed of fast metal. And then you finish it off with a kooky line from your protagonist, followed by a fast cut to a close-up of a zombie leering at the camera.

Terrible. And it’s exactly the formula that we’ve followed. Right down to the getting-closer writing.

Part of the problem with getting the pace right is that everything depends intimately on the music. So, this afternoon Jake and I went and spoke to a local composer.

One of the more bizarre things that we have witnessed over the course of the production is the amount of freelance soundtrack composers there are out there. Every cast and crew posting on Talent Circle or Shooting People, regardless of what position it was for, attracted unsolicited and speculative “ah – but have you thought about who’s doing your music” emails. We must by now have a pretty comprehensive directory of all the jobbing movie tune-smiths in the country.

Where to start? Well, helpfully, I also met one at Mary-the-zombie-bride’s wedding. Her actual wedding, that is, not the rain-soaked practice we laid on for her the week prior.

And rather a good one, it turns out.

Up until this afternoon, we had no idea about the relative musical chops that Dale-the-tunes had to offer. But it turns out that the man has chops. In spades (and please don’t feel shy about checking them out for yourselves – www.dalesumnercomposer.com). And he gets horror. We left his Southampton studio with big smiles on our faces.

So today has been a good day. We’re off to see Ads-the-DFX on Wednesday with a view to getting a quick grade done on the trailer, and so hopefully should have something up on-line in the next ten days or so. Only then do we have something tangible that we can use to kick-start the process of looking for more cash.

Watch this space – before too long expect to see a lovingly-coloured doesn’t-suck compendium of all the nastiest bits of the film wrapped in a duvet of gorgeous audio, featuring strangely growing frames of pithy trailer-speak.

I am selling this to you, aren’t I? Forthright.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

91 minutes and counting

I am happy to report that on Friday evening, Jake and I finished fiddling with the last scene of the movie.

It all happened roughly twenty minutes before we were in the pub. This may not have been a coincidence.

Yup – the first round of the edit is now officially complete, and the skeleton of a zombie movie stands before us in all its ragged undead glory. Actually, we went round twice in the end; coarse sanding and then a finer polish. And not before time – I have woken up on these last two nights in the middle of extraordinarily dull dreams about splicing footage together.

Sure, the on-screen lighting levels are all un-graded, there’s no sensible audio track beyond us digging out the best speech samples we have and then adding some very temporary foley when it’s needed to tell the story, there’s no music or digital gore, and one of our cast members is mostly seen wearing a large green sock which we will need to lose before too long. But otherwise, it’s our film. All in one place.

And I don’t hate it.

There were times when I was genuinely concerned about what kind of reaction I would have to the assembled footage in this state. When you have to film an average of four minutes of the movie every day, you know that you are making decisions on the shoot that will come back and bite you on the arse when you come to bolt it all together. Not getting enough coverage; not rehearsing each scene for as long as you’d like; not getting multiple takes of some shots if the first one worked; not throwing enough gore around. If you don’t make your pages, you don’t have a film at the end. Everything else is second priority.

So to get to the other side of the edit and find that we have actually gathered enough of the good stuff on set to be able to tell our story; well, it’s a good feeling. The collective Charmed sphincters de-pucker.

And so the next question looms at us – where do we go from here?

My earlier concerns about people that write, direct and edit their own material are still valid. We have so little objectivity about the film at this stage that our opinions are almost worthless. Is it still funny when it tries to be (or worse, is it funny where it shouldn’t be)? Are there sections where the viewer is confused at what’s happening? Do we explain some things too little? Or others too much?

Basically, is it any good?

Don’t ask us – we haven’t a clue. So step one is to send it out to a couple of Charmed pals to watch. Movie-making mentors that we’ve met over the course of the project, and know all about low-budget movie making. They understand what state a film should be in at this point and can see past the dodgy sound and green legs. Step forward Gentleman Jim and Master Bruce; thanks guys for agreeing to be our guinea pigs.

And while that’s happening, we start to chase down the post-production cash. Which means pulling a trailer together. Let’s see if we can’t get some Resurrection action up on-line for you all before too long. Teasing.