Shooting a Feature Film on a Shoestring – Part II

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Gerard Walsh continues his production blog as he sets out to shoot a feature film with €400, 6 days, a few friends and a cast of loyal actors.

Ok!

So I had the first taste of how a budget can start to slip out of your hands really fast, I’m out €17.50 now after getting tea, coffee and biscuits! This €400 euro better last!

Honestly, this is why even a €400 euro budget is kind of daunting, I love it when everyone on a project is working for the love and fun of the it and after getting most of the cast in for a table-read yesterday I can really tell that they are passionate about this little film.

We also had rehearsals to get everyone prepared for their roles on the day. I really want the shoot to be fast and on the ball, so rehearsals are very important to me. This way the actors can play out the scene in a room until it’s exactly how I want it and on the day it won’t take all day to shoot.

From what I have seen I am really confident that we can get a lot done in one day with little hassle. Exciting Stuff!

At the end of today’s entry I will have two pieces written by my writer, Shane Coules, and one of the cast, Darragh O’Toole. What I want to achieve with having these guys write about their experiences is to show a different perspective from mine.

The cast of A Day Like Today includes Paul Butler Lennox, Andie Mc Caffrey, Brian Fortune, Darragh O’Toole, Richard Mason, Tristan Heanue, Tiny James and two characters that are “To Be Confirmed” – this is just a scheduling issue with one of the characters so we mutually agreed to change the casting.

The other TBC was a really exciting but too-good-to-be-true kind of situation. I had been talking to a well-known actor about maybe coming on board as this role and they seemed to be interested.

I never felt 100% certain about the possibility, but it was a really cool gesture that the person even responded to my mail and showed interest.

I am really excited about the two new actors though, they look and sound amazing and I think they are going to be absolutely perfect in these roles. I will update who they are next week.

I will be directing, DoPing, producing and editing this film and hopefully I will be finished next month, I don’t like to let a project sit.

Some people prefer leaving the film after it’s been shot and coming back with a fresh head, I just can’t do that, so after each shoot day I will be assembling that day’s scene and hopefully on the last day I will have a rough assemble ready for my composer (Pat O’Connor).

That’s just my process, it might sound very rushed but it seems to work for me.

Shane Coules on writing the script:

Writing A Day Like Today

Written by Shane Coules:

Punch Up With a Script

“Think you’re funny, huh? Mocking me. Existing in your world of endless white, teasing me with a flicker of black every second – ‘Look, this is how easy it is to put letters on the screen. Look, it’s so simple! You really are quite pathetic…’ – Shut up!”

Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration (I say ‘exaggeration’ just so I can maintain some semblance of sanity). It wasn’t really like that, but most writers, or people who write (me belonging to the latter category) invariably experience the taunt of the flickering cursor on the computer screen at some stage when they sit down to write whatever masterpiece (sure) they’re working on. Of course, sometimes the material just flows; characters come to life with caustic, emotive, witty dialogue and your action is as poetic as a – well, as a poem. But you can bet your proverbial arse that the moment will arrive when Mr. Cursor just looks back at you stoically, unwilling to cooperate. And what do you do? Well, you take it out on the taciturn Mr. Cursor.

This experience occurred more often whilst working on the script for A Day Like Today throughout the summer. The script and I have had a – well, let’s say a strained relationship. We haven’t got on very well, in fact at times we have despised each other. But after much council (and a fair few drinks) we reached an amicable agreement to get along. Yes, after more arguments than Withnail and his pal labelled ‘I’ endured, we agreed to put our differences aside and to get productive.

During numerous meetings Gerard and I had fleshed out pretty much all the major points of the script (minus dialogue – I just had to connect the dots really, but make those adjoining lines interesting – sounds easy, doesn’t it?), so I knew it wasn’t going to be a year-long process in writing the piece. I first met Ger at a mutual friend’s house, Paul Dodd (Bound), who was shooting his college film (if memory serves me correctly it involved a sawn-off shotgun) at home. We discussed how, sometimes, a cigarette can prompt a bowel movement. Since then we’ve worked together on a number of projects and it has been great to have such a talented up-and-coming filmmaker to collaborate with, who, like me, is still at the early learning phase of his journey to attain his desired vocation. In reality, though, we never stop learning. If we did the world would become quite insipid and unbearable. Considering Ger’s short film Annex was shot less than two years ago, I think it’s fair to say he has come a long way in a short space of time.

When he came to me with the idea for the script I was both enthusiastic and apprehensive. Enthusiastic about the practicality and romance of the shoot and story, apprehensive about taking this idea and turning it into a film that would warrant the viewer giving up their time to watch it (although I suppose that apprehension almost always accompanies a work-in-progress). After many unproductive and frustrating hours (for some reason the story wasn’t flowing for me, which doesn’t happen very often when I sit down to work on a script) the piece eventually got moving, and my frustration slowly faded. The characters began to develop and the dialogue began to flow. The characters took over, and that is what I find is imperative to producing an honest, believable and relatable screenplay.

The script began to take shape.

The story itself (without giving too much away) centres around the chance meeting of a man who is currently homeless and a woman in the midst of a destabilized and unhappy marriage. When you read that, it all sounds very depressing and harrowing, and while these issues are not to be taken lightly, they aren’t the main focus of the film. It is, in essence, a character study. And while these issues are touched on, there are moments where you have to find humour. Finding a balance between hopelessness and comedic optimism was a real driving force for me when writing the script, although this isn’t necessarily in relation to our protagonists. Regardless of your situation, (in most cases) being a born-and-bred Dubliner brings with it a sense of the macabre/comic. In the most dire (and sometimes inappropriate) circumstances we tend to find humour. I could give plenty of examples, but that would be unnecessary. Anyone reading this will know what I mean. And that’s part of our make-up in this country, and a total necessity in my opinion. Without finding humour in the most hopeless situations we’d all be turning to the drink (oh wait…).

As I type, I’m making amendments to the script ahead of principle photography, and only time will tell if it’s up to scratch. I’m sure the cast and crew will do a stellar job; let’s hope I’ve done mine well and we’re left with a film we can all be proud of.

Darragh O’Toole on preparing for his role:

My character Liam is an underprivileged inner city teenager. He comes from one of the most troubled areas of Dublin where under-age drinking, drugs and crime are rife. As the saying goes, “You’re a product of your own environment” and Liam is no different.

The dysfunctional family home Liam comes from offers little respite to the constant on-edge
feeling of the streets. An alcoholic father down through the years, who recently abandoned the family home can be seen as the root of Liam’s behavioral issues. The relationship with his mother is strong but is often strained as all she wants is the best for her son. His bravado and quick tongue often land him in trouble.

Preparation: I think one of the most important things an actor can do is observe.

I observe all the time , but when there’s a specific character I’m preparing for if possible, I’ll observe them specifically and hone in on their characteristics,  body language, if it differs when in groups, etc, etc..

As I’m from the Midlands (Tullamore, Offaly) I have to get the accent down. Again, observing the accent in the street, getting the pronunciation and twang, etc. You can get documentaries, interviews and films which you can replay and replay over and over, which is really helpful.

Really looking forward to getting started on A Day Like Today. I worked with Ger before and it was a great experience. As it’s still early days in my acting career, just over 2 years, I feel very grateful to be getting to work with filmmakers like Ger. Looking forward to rehearsals , meeting the cast and crew and Shane Coules, who I think has written a really great script.

Gerard Walsh – Final Thoughts:

I really hope this blog is something that interests people who are into filmmaking. I’m not trying to be a teacher or someone who claims to know what there doing, I’m just doing what I think I can achieve with no help from funding agents or the film board.

It’s not my way of saying “Fuck the system” either, I’d just rather not wait around, talking about what I’m going to do and fill out request forms that might take years to even get looked at so I can make what I want.

 

Gerard’s Production blog

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