The morning after the 2½ weeks before.

It’s two days after the initial shoot for The Fitzroy and I’ve still not recovered. My head is awash with costumes, submarines, lenses, problems, guns, solutions, squeezing into small spaces, smelling of diesel, no sleep, wonderful people and chickens!

The shoot has flown by in a blur and now I’m back home it all feels like it was just a dream.

I line up the next shot with Cerith Jones (aka Bernard)

I line up the next shot with Cerith Jones (aka Bernard)

It was such a fun shoot but ultimately, very challenging for me… and still will be. Because the truth is we overran our schedule and will have to pick up at least a few days on both the submarine and studio.

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Final make-up checks before a take.

Why did we overrun?

Two reasons: firstly, our schedule was too tight and secondly, working in such a confined space proved much more difficult than we ever expected… never shoot on a submarine! On the flip side though, the footage and performances we have captured are stupendous.

This conflict between shooting great stuff and running out of time caused me untold internal conflict (and I’m sure occasionally external). Ciro Candia (the Director of Photography) and I had created an exhaustive shot list prior to filming but it became clear very quickly that we had to throw that out the window.

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Checking out a take – hopefully of something funny!

Ciro Candia lining up a shot in the studio

Ciro Candia lining up a shot in the studio

Scenes that were listed with extensive coverage became ‘one shot scenes’, close up’s became a ‘two shot’ and tracking shots became handheld. Now this all sounds very negative but (hopefully) we didn’t simplify anything to the extent that it has become detrimental to the film. In fact it’s probably the opposite. I can think of at least a couple of places where the simpler option has improved a scene. It certainly pushed me to make some braver decisions.

But it did mean I had to think on the fly a lot more than I would have liked, which I’m sure caused the cast and crew a few problems. But they coped admirably and if it did cause issues, they didn’t mention them to me. I really couldn’t have asked for a more hardworking and friendly cast ‘n crew.

So what’s next?

Well we have to go back and pick up the pushed scenes and shots. So it’s not over yet – not by a long way. Before we do that we are going to do a rough cut of the film and see where we’re at.

In the meantime, if you would like to see more, as always, follow us on twitter, facebook or sign up to our newsletter.

The cast and crew of The Fitzroy

The cast and crew of The Fitzroy

* Photos by the wonderful Angus Young

Week One of the Shoot

Wow, we are one week into the shoot of the film and what a week it has been!
 
I can’t quite believe we have already shot six days. It has gone by in a blur of ‘actions’ and ‘cuts’.
Discussing the next shot

Discussing the next shot with Ken Collard and Ciro Candia

The first week has all been on location on the Black Widow Russian submarine in Rochester.
 
Shooting on a submarine has thrown up quite a few logistics problems. Some we were able to plan for and others have come as complete surprises. Having to schedule around tide times has been an interesting experience for our brilliant 1st AD Robyn.
 

Cramped is an understatement

Cramped is an understatement

The biggest problem by far is simply working in such a tight location. Once you squeeze in a crew and cast, there is literally no place to move. I know how a sardine feels now. Just moving positions between shots is an epic undertaking of elbows and head bashing. We have all got to know each other very well!
 
The limited space has caused real problems with the daily shooting list and unfortunately we have had to overrun a couple of days and shuffle scenes around. We have also had to drop a couple of scenes from our schedule. Hopefully we can figure out a way to pick these up down the line.
 

Stuart McGugan and Cerith Jones rehearse one of the opening scenes

Stuart McGugan and Cerith Jones rehearse one of the opening scenes

This all sounds like doom and gloom but it isn’t! The footage we are capturing is looking amazing and far beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I can’t wait to share some of it with you.
 
We have a wonderful cast and crew who are all working their socks off and achieving the impossible under incredibly hard conditions. Everyone has been incredibly patient with us as we find our feet on our first feature film and I can’t thank them enough. From day one this has been an ambitious project for a first feature film and I am constantly amazed by the talent of the people who are involved. I feel very blessed.
Ken Collard and David Schall enjoy a joke between takes.

Ken Collard and David Schall enjoy a joke between takes.

Tomorrow is the last day on the sub. We then have a week of studio. I think I speak for everyone one I say we can’t wait to get to the studio! In some ways it should be a lot easier – we will have space for one! In other ways it will throw up a load of new challenges, including meatier scenes and a tighter schedule! Best of all, we wont finish the day smelling of diesel.
Ciro Candia - the only one aloud to wear a backpack on the sub! (It holds the batteries for the camera)

Ciro Candia – the only one aloud to wear a backpack on the sub! (It holds the batteries for the camera)

If you would like to know more on how the shoot is going, do check out this brilliant blog by Alex Scott who is doing a brilliant job helping out with the behind the scenes filming. And of course as always you can get even more updates on our facebook and twitter feeds.
It's cold on the sub and each morning the lenses need to 'breathe'!

It’s cold on the sub and each morning the lenses need to ‘breathe’!

Indie Films Working Together?

In the previous blog ‘Sharing the Love’ we shared a few crowd-funding projects that had caught our attention and at one point I wrote this:

‘These filmmakers are using Kickstarter to help get their film onto cinema screen. If indie films can’t help each other do that, then what hope do we have trying to compete with the Hollywood marketing machine?’

I wrote it quite glibly but then it got me to thinking…. why can’t independent films work together and promote each others’ films? Why can’t we share audiences?

There is an ongoing debate at Fitzroy HQ about how indie films can stand out and compete with big budget Hollywood fare and multimillion dollar marketing budgets.

Outlets for independent film are becoming smaller and smaller. Just in the last month here in the UK, two of the largest high-street outlets, Blockbuster and HMV, have gone into administration. The Picturehouse cinema chain has also been bought out by Cineworld – they say they won’t be changing the programming to more mainstream but I find that hard to believe.

Meanwhile, the rise of online distribution means small independent films are going to find it harder to stand out. Online distribution is a huge opportunity for small films but lets be honest, i-tunes, Netflix, blinkbox, etc are not a ‘browsing experience’. You are presented with maybe 20 to 40 featured films.

The sad fact is that nowadays, unless you have already heard of an indie film, you’re probably not going to stumble across one and take a punt.

So how do indie films fight back? How do they reach a bigger audience?

One possible answer is to share audiences and cross-promote indie films.

Crowd funding and social networking really is changing how indie films are financed and for me the next natural progression is that it will change how films are promoted and distributed.

Each crowd funded film achieves two things; a budget and, possibly more importantly, an audience. These films are being made and backed by film fans, so the chances are that those backers are also going to be interested in other projects. I know I am always on the hunt for new exciting, moving, interesting films to watch and share. It’s part of being a film fan.

Heck, this isn’t a revelation; Hollywood and the studios have been doing this for decades. They promote themselves as an industry and cross-promote other films. Trailers before the start of the film are the obvious example of this. ‘If you like this film then get ready for this film’. Imagine a world where indie films and indie filmmakers do this for themselves and others.

I’m not saying this is what we should do or that it’s a magic bullet to reaching an audience. There’s definitely a lot of problems in it as an idea. But it’s an interesting idea. If low budget films are to grow and thrive then we should embrace marketing and supporting each others’ work.

One thing we have learnt from our Kickstarter campaign is the power of the internet and working together is immense. Truly anything is possible. Even taking on the ‘big boys’.

Like I said at the beginning, these are just my initial thoughts and I offer no practical advice on how indie films do this or if it’s even practical. I’m just using this blog as a sounding board. If you have any thoughts, comments ideas please share in the comments.

If you’ve made it this far why not check out the previous blog of projects we love. NB we are not formally linked with any of these projects apart from loving what they are doing.

MONEY MONEY MONEY

Hello and welcome…

Today’s blog, as the title rather suggests, is all about money.

Films are expensive. Very expensive. Heck, they cost so much, Hollywood often uses the budget as a marketing tool: ‘Come see the latest, biggest, MOST EXPENSIVE movie ever!’

But we’re not talking about that end of the scale. We’re at the other end.

The first ‘micro budget’ feature

It seems that nowadays there are as many ways to raise financing as there are types of film.

There are lottery grants, development funding, competitions, private funding and production companies. But these are limited in number, often have to fulfill a criteria and competition is fierce.

First-time directors have always had to think differently when it comes to finding the bucks to get the cameras rolling. Whether it’s Robert Rodriguez subjecting himself to medical experiments, Sam Raimi drilling local dentists for funds, or the guy who mortgaged his house and maxed out his credit cards.

It’s a myriad of possibilities, each with its unique benefits and pitfalls. But over the past two years, a new financing model has swept across the internet.

Crowd funding

The internet and sites like kickstarter.com and indigogo.com have allowed filmmakers to connect directly to huge audiences. They can set up their stalls and pitch to the end consumer before they even go into production.

If people like the sound of the project, they can throw £10, £25, £100 into the hat in exchange for a dvd, poster, premier tickets, etc. If enough people do the same then the project goes ahead and the film is made.

I mean, how great is that? For the filmmaker, you know if your film is wanted before it’s made and for the audience, they get to directly influence what types of films are made (this is by far my favourite thing about crowd financing) and have a direct involvement in making them.

It’s win-win and cuts out the middle man!

And that is the main route we are looking to take to finance The Fitzroy. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of hard work and a roller coaster of a ride. But for me, the chance to connect with an audience before the film has even shot one frame is a wonderful thing.

p.s. for some more rather extreme methods of financing a film, check out this cracked.com list. Amazed at how the film version of Animal Farm was financed.

Tune in next time… for what is often voted the 3rd most stressful activity in life.