Cinematography Showreel – Sam Wain from MDX Film on Vimeo.
The final version of my showreel. Editing really isn’t a primary skill of mine but I think I did a reasonable job. As I’ve got so much footage I’m going to cut some more showreels together in the future including a corporate reel with some of the corporate work I’ve done.
I cut around a minute off the reel and made all the letter boxing uniform throughout as all the films were using different sizes.
This is the rough cut of my showreel. The feedback was very useful. It was clear that everyone thought it was too long so cutting it down was a priority. The structure of the edit got mostly good feedback. Deciding what to cut was going to be a difficult choice but I sat down with some of my colleagues and we discussed what to cut.
So after deciding to reshoot it took a while to put together as one of the actors lives in Austria. Another factor is that the room we shot in had been redecorated while we were away so it meant reshooting the whole film where as we were expecting to only reshoot a portion of it. This didn’t help as we had the location for even less time than we had before so it was clear it wasn’t going to work.
I sat down with the director and producer and made a suggestion, an unpopular suggestion but one that would allow us the time needed. Originally we could get into the location at 8am and be out at 6pm. A busy high street outside and construction across the road made the sound recordists job super hard. My suggestion was to start shooting around midnight (when the place closed) and go all the through till the morning. This meant we had a little extra time and the sound would be a lot better. The producer did a great job of organising this, renting a flat nearby so we had somewhere to stay and keep the kit for the time we were there.
As we’d already shot the film once the shots came thick and fast and we managed to stay on schedule. The director held it together which was important. On the first shoot he hadn’t eaten or slept for days and this just made him a wreck that couldn’t form constructive thoughts. On the re-shoot I made sure he ate and rested as if it happened again then the same problems would arise.
In the end the reshoots were a lot better. Extremely tiring working through the night but its what needed to be done. One big thing is that from day one, the director wanted the film to be in black & white and then decided to go into colour in the edit. We’d lit and exposed the scene for monochrome so I was very worried how it would look when the colour was put back in put thankfully it looked good. The initial shoots were a disaster but the reshoots went a lot better. I’m pleased with how the final film looks and would be happy to work with both the director and producer again in the future.
When it came round to the actual shoot we gathered all the kit and props and made our way to the location. The producer had organised a van to transport it all which was great as there was far to much to carry. The director was under the impression that we could build the set and leave it built for the 3 days of shooting but when we got there we found out that we had to construct and de-construct the set everyday which reduced our shoot time by about 3 hours each day. This was some sort of miscommunication between the director and producer. It meant that time was tight.
We’d already agreed that the silhouette would not be possible as we couldn’t light from outside so we dressed the set and got straight into it. While the last few touches were being added to the set I got the god angle set up with the help of my 1st AC and we got the shot. We then moved into the rest of the shots and the day went pretty smoothly though because of the reduced amount of time we were a little behind schedule.
On the second day we had to build the set again and started shooting. It was clear that we weren’t going to get all the shots we needed so I asked the director to start to drop some shots for the sake of getting enough to have a film. We spoke about it and dropped some non essential shots. As the day went on the director was getting more and more stressed and in the end just completely lost the plot, asking for shots that made no sense and wouldn’t cut together well. But our time was up so we had to wrap.
In my opinion we had enough to cut the film together but pretty much the director wanted to reshoot.
Leading up to the shoot the director was adamant that he wanted a scene where the main character was lit through a ventitian blind. We tested this out and figured that we would need a fairly large room to get the effect. When the producer and location scout were looking for locations they setteled on a small flat in London. I wasn’t able to give my opinion on it as we wern’t allowed in to the property until the shoot period which was over a couple of days. As soon as we entered I knew it wasn’t going to work. Plain white walls, fire alarms on the walls and long thin corridors that were impossible to light. On the first day myself and the rest of the technical crew did what we could but as they say, ‘you can’t polish a turd’. After the first day myself, the technical crew and the director discussed how we were going to shoot the rest of the scenes in the flat. The director was adamant that he wanted to shoot the rest of it in the kitchen (as it was in the script) but we all suggested using either the front room or one of the bedrooms. We didn’t want to film in the kitchen due to a huge window which flooded the room, the fact it was a small box room and that there was an uncovered boiler in the corner that produced a lot of sound. Sadly when I came back the next morning the director had gone with the kitchen. As predicted the footage and audio was awful. Pretty much as soon as we’d wrapped the director had decided to reshoot. We recce’d another location some time later and I was kind of annoyed as the issues that effected the first shoot were going to plague this one as well. So I had to put my foot down and just say no, not happening. I insisted that we take the time to find the right location and not rush it. Thankfully they found somewhere much better, larger rooms that were easier to light and film and it made the scene 100% better.
The second flat was a much better shooting location.
The next big shoot day as I’d previously said was the fight scene outside the pub. The sequence leading up to the fight was going to be a tracking shot using a gimbal and we’d decided to shoot most of the fight on a gimbal as well. This meant that we needed a wireless follow focus that we had to hire. I sent the producer a link for a suitable one and she made sure we had it for the shoot. Shooting this scene was a strange one, I’d been prepping kit for most of the afternoon and the shoot wasn’t supposed to start until late evening and finish around 11pm. We were shooting at a pub so on our break myself and my 1st AC (both 30 year old men) wanted a pint. The producer gave us a strict NO! Thats fine, but then an hour later when were freezing our asses off outside making the film I look through the window to see her sat in the warmth doing paperwork, enjoying a nice pint. Not cool. Sadly this was just the first of many times when the producer annoyed me to unbelievable levels. Some other examples were not having proper fake blood or props which she had put someone in charge of but I’m afraid the buck stops with the producer. The worst it got was after the very last shoot day, we’d wrapped and we’re returning the equipment and because she couldn’t see a particular kit bag (it was on the gaffers back) started going absolutely mental, screaming and shouting and calling the technical crew the sort of things I’d expect to hear from a drunk football hooligan. At that point I just left as I wouldn’t let anyone speak to me like that, especially after the amount of time and sweat I’d put into making the film. Personally we get on but professionally I shan’t be working with her again.
There was a few more shoot days here and there but they were also a bit disastrous in places. One of them we were filming at a room in uni, but the producer hadn’t booked the room so it had a class in it meaning we end up sitting around wasting our time. There shoot days she’d forgot to bring the media for the sound recordist, no media, no film. Its things like this among others that turned what should have been an enjoyable experience into an experience where I was counting down the days and hours until it was over. I know the rest of the technical crew felt the same and it showed in the general feeling on set. Just to clarify, this is about professional conduct and not personal.
This was an extremely stressful time as the shoot was dragging on for weeks and I lost count of the amount of shoot days. Somewhere between 12 and 15 when if organised properly this could have been shot in 4-5 days.
I think the main problem was the working relationship between the director and the producer. I don’t know what it was but the constant arguing between them had them both making mistakes which just kept meaning we had to reshoot stuff over and over. The director wasn’t listening to my suggestions, the producer was professionally mute and it just made the experience one that I’m glad is behind me.
The final few shoot days had Kay coming to London so we could film him in the recording studio, dancing in front of a projector and some other cutaways. Unfortunitly these 2 shoot days clashed with another film I was working on. The only agreement the producers could come to was to allow a day on this film and a day on the other which meant I couldn’t film Kay shaving, the turntable plus some other inserts. I did get to shoot the dancing scene which the director had come up with. We projected a looped video of archive footage of Kay as a child and then had Kay perform a dance infront of it so he would appear as a silhouette.
We also shot Kay performing a rap that he had written with some cutaways. It was a shame that I couldn’t do the other day of shooting as we’d planned some really good stuff, such as Kay washing his face but filming it from beneath. My colleague Alex Semanda took over for me on this day which was fine as I totally trusted him to get the shot which he did.
The final shoot period in Devon was the big one. First we shot the one that we had reccee’d under the overpass by the river. Our plan of using wooden sleepers on the floor didn’t quite work. It wasn’t as steady as the director and myself wanted. The original idea was to have the camera tilted down, as we went forward on the track to tilt up and rest on the shot of the bridge and graffiti. We tried this shot over and over again but couldn’t get it as good as we wanted. The director didn’t really want to but we compromised and lost the tilt and instead had a slow push in.
That was all we had planned for that day, with the next two days being the difficult ones. The plan we had was to go into the dance hall on the second day, watch the dance that Kay had choreographed and work out how to best film it without being in the way of the dancers. The only problem is when we arrived the dance hadn’t been finished and the dancers hadn’t all learned it. It meant that I couldn’t do what I needed to as I didn’t know where they would be. After a day of rehersals they had the dance down. I’d used this time to assess a few other things, such as the lights. We had access to a full set of stage lights and the producer was going to be controlling them from the gantry so I spent some time deciding which ones we would be using (as there was so many). Being that this day didn’t go as planned we all agreed that the next day, when we actually shot it, had to go without a hitch.
In terms of equipment, we had a lot to manage. We had 3 cameras in total (2x Blackmagic Cinema Cameras and a Panasonic GH4) and 5 main camera positions. I decided to cover the 3 static positions with the two BM cameras on the left and right and use the GH4 (with it being full frame) at the back to cover the wide angle. After that we moved onto the moving shots and used a combination of the DJI Ronin, slider and a spider dolly.
The floorpan shows the location of where we used the BM cameras for the side angles and the GH4 at the back. The centre point represents where we had the spider dolly with a BM on it. We also had a BM on the Ronin as a roaming camera which we used on the stage. We decided that the best way to shoot it would be to use the three statics first and get the dance in its entirity multiple times. We then broke off the BM’s and did the Gimbal shots from on the stage, and then finishing with the spider dolly. During preproduction we had spoke about having multiple camera operators but due to a restricted budget we couldn’t so I was operating the side cameras, gimbal and dolly while the director was operating the GH4 at the back.
As the shoot went on and we had a better idea of how the dance was playing out, we realised we had some extra time so I started to think of some other interesting shots we could get, such as following Kay out from backstage and having the curtains open. Overall, though stressful at times this shoot was one of my favourites. The reasons behind this are due to the extensive planning that went into it, the combination of the director and producer giving me what I needed to do my job properly and the fact that, from the start we knew it was going to be difficult to pull off but in the end I think we did an excellent job.
This scene is by far the one I’m most proud of. It goes to show the importance of planning and working with people that you can trust to do there jobs and genuinely care about what they are doing.