This was our first feature film. It was for James and I, for David (the editor) for Richy (DoP) for a few of the cast and most of the rest of the crew. As it's a self-funded micro-budget we are missing lots of positions who would be on a bigger film - and so certain things haven't been prepared correctly. Including the reels - when one department's assistant hands over to another departments assistant then things generally run smoothly. When the producer (muggins here) is both departments' assistant - and everyone else's assistant too - things go wrong. Again and again and sometimes again!
I spent 3 days re-locking the reels last week - THREE days to do an assistant's job - and I STILL got it wrong! Jeez what an embarrassment - in the end Aris had to get a mate of his to do the job… Ha, I really think this film is cursed sometimes - and the fact it hasn't driven anyone to drink or drugs yet is nothing short of a miracle!
Anyway it's not all bad - Therase, lovely Therase, who plays Charlotte has emigrated to Australia and we needed to get a few of her lines re-recorded… Clearly a trip to Rich's studio in Newcastle was out of the question! Finally after nearly a month of near misses, unreturned phone calls and scheduling SNAFUs we managed to get her into a great little studio Down Under - The Sydney Sound Brewery - check it out if you need to record an album or even just a few lines of dialogue. Tell John I sent you - hopefully that won't make him run for the hills!
Our poster is just about done and I'm currently looking at DVD and CD packaging options as well as merchandise design.
What else??? We're going into the sound mix in April - woo! AND we have our first screening booked. It won't be the first screening we have, but it's the first one booked in!!! Details here soon.
Finally we're looking at dates and venues in Newcastle for our WORLD PREMIERE… Again details here soon.
Yesterday we shot the last major sequence from the film. From the start, this sequence was *always* going to be shot outside principle photography because, well mainly because principle photography was really short (8 days) and also because it's a flashback to Pob and Staggy as kids and I knew it would take ages to find the right boys.
DoP Richy Reay (playing the shopkeeper) gives chase
As recently as late January, I was beginning to panic that I'd never find them; I had tried a few casting companies, drama schools and what-not and I was drawing a blank at every turn - and then a coincidence...
A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was thrilled her son had got the lead role in a local theatre production, I didn't even know her son was into acting. We auditioned Dylan and his mate Torin and as well as a physical resemblance they had just the right amount of mischief for the roles. So we booked the day, rang the ever helpful Ashley at Pinball Films to borrow his jib arm and then went location scouting. James and I spent an afternoon traipsing around the alleys of Walker but we couldn't find what we were looking for - the crappier parts of Walker have all been knocked down or regenerated lately so we gave up on reality and came closer to home. A few more hours driving around our beloved Bensham and we came across a fabulous alley just of Saltwell Road. Red brick oppression on 3 sides.
Anyway recreating the 1980s in an anonymous alley isn't too hard, so we managed without a big crew. In fact this was the smallest crew yet: just me, James, Richy (who was acting in this scene too), Dougie and Dryden. Needless to say, without the extra bodies, we cracked through the sequence of 3 scenes really quickly and we wrapped two hours early! This little shoot brought our number of shooting days to fourteen (including the two reshoot days) - which in some ways is silly considering principle photography was only 8 days, but 3 of the extra days related to new scenes that weren't even written when we shot in the summer and another was yesterday - which as I said was always an extra day. Then as you'll know if you've been following this production from the start we had some major problems in production - so really it's not too shabby at all.
David is up from Leeds at the weekend and then we'll sit and put the new footage into the timeline; and at that point we will pretty much have the entire film in front of us for the first time and then we'll know if we have anymore shots to pick up. From there it's on to final cut, the grade and the mix... the finish line is well and truly in sight.
Thanks Tina for the wonga
Right before we get into it, let me start upfront by saying I appreciate that everyone needs to make a living. I'm not some silver spooned rich kid living in Kensington dahling - I have a mortgage and kids that need feeding just like everyone else. Sometimes though people take the piss - this happens on both sides of the relationship.
Unscrupulous filmmakers lining their pockets while expecting everyone to work for nothing (and yes I know people worked for nothing on this - but we didn't take any money either, paid where we could and have designed an equity share for all cast and crew); then there's the other side - which in this case involves - you've guessed it, music.
While editing David, James and I have suggested various bits of music as temp score - this is temporary music that we use to pace the edit and to convey mood while we wait for picture lock and then do the music for real. Now as people who've made dozens of films between us, we are not so naive to think that we are actually going to be able to afford the Bob Dylan song we are using at the minute or the Stone Roses - but there was one song that I really hoped we'd manage to swing. It's by a fairly obscure contemporary artist on a small independent label and though I knew we'd be asked to pay for it - I really hoped it would be within our means. So yesterday, I contacted the label - explained the film, mentioned the budget figure and basically tried to appeal to their better nature - which clearly didn't work... they came back with a price THREE TIMES TOTAL BUDGET OF THE FILM! Now whatever budget you are on from £500 to £500,000,000 - at what point does paying three times the entire cost of the film for one song make financial sense???
I may be stupid but really??? 3 times the budget, on one song? Errr no thanks. Either they really don't want us to use the song (maybe they HATE this film) or they are just a bunch of charlatans... it's mad, it really is. But as ever there's a silver lining - the no last night sparked a great idea in my head and James agreed that it's a much better direction to take the soundtrack- and so we live to fight another day.
To cut or not to cut
Written by James DeMarco writer/ director of The Stagg Do.
Mainly due to personal budgetary constraints i.e. I shot a feature film this summer and I’m fucking broke, I was unable to attend this year’s London Screen Writing Festival (LSWF).
I was at the first LSWF last year, and I also attended the Comedy Writer’s edition that they hosted earlier this year. For the record, overall I really had a good time, met some decent folk and learned shit loads about screenwriting and the UK film industry.
But today I’d like to talk to you about a different kind of learning. The kind of education you can’t get from books, lectures, speed pitches or even in one-to-one meetings. It’s called ‘just doing it’ - going out and making your own film.
In some ways, I’d have to say that I’ve gained more from my recent experiences of shooting and editing the film from my own screenplay than I could have ever from any screenwriting or filmmaking seminar (Robert McKee eat your fucking heart out!).
The turnaround of the screenplay for my first feature ‘The Stagg Do’ was ridiculously quick. One of the actors and I came up with the idea in late April, and after meeting a few times to work out a basic outline, I wrote a first-draft (75 pages) in about three weeks. From that time, right up to the start of principle photography in late July, I continued to rewrite, e.g. making the dialogue more authentic, restructuring, scene-by-scene analysis - all the things that screenwriters would normally do. Let’s call this phase one of the screenwriting process.
I’ll be the first to admit that the script could’ve done with more development, more rewrites, etc., but once we had set a production date, there was no turning back, everything was full steam ahead. For better or worse, the script had to be shot in its latest incarnation.
The Screenwriting Process Phase Two
Then a strange thing happened during the shoot. For a variety of reasons, but mainly due to time constraints, I was forced to rewrite on the fly. I found myself cutting extraneous lines of dialogue here and there, truncating and even dropping scenes out of the script all together. There were a few situations where the actors, some of whom were non-actors, couldn’t remember their lines, which forced me to completely redesign the scene to make it work.
As the shoot progressed (and we fell further behind) I found myself hemorrhaging gags -eliminating some of what I thought to be the funniest material, but dialogue and description which wasn’t really necessary to move the story forward (hopefully this will turn out to be a good thing, fingers crossed).
The Screenwriting Process Phase Three
Welcome to the edit. For the past few weeks, the editor and I have been spending hours trying to put the film together in a coherent, and, because it is a comedy, humorous way.
Continuity issues have sprung up (those pesky non-actors again) which have forced us to piece together scenes using different takes, resulting in marked differences between the original screenplay and what has ultimately wound up on the time line.
I have been forced to cut more “precious’ lines of dialogue, replace scenes, rewrite others, shoot pickups (e.g. I’ve added two different shots of full moons which work perfectly as transitions).
EXT. FIELD - NIGHT - A full moon shines overhead (never in the script).
And there’s more. Working in collaboration, the producer, editor and myself concocted an entirely new sequence which was never even in the original script; in fact it was never even written, just shot by myself and one of the actors. Ironically, this may be one of the best/ funniest scenes in the entire film!
Experiencing the three phases of screenwriting has been a real eye opener for me. A whole new way of screenwriting: writing from your feet, instead of from your arse. Come to think of it, I don’t I can recall ever hearing anything about it from McKee or any other Guru.
Garbuttelli is up here at the moment, so instead of emailing project files back and forth we are actually all able to spend time in the edit together.
It's very gratifying to see the film take shape and once again James and I are grateful to everyone who has helped us get this far.
Believe it or not - we got our first assemble edit through from the editor today! Not bad seeing as he didn't get the footage until Wednesday August 10, and he didn't get back to that there riot besieged Londington until the Thursday!
Overall James and I were pretty happy with what we've got. For the most part it seems to work and it definitely has a decent number of laughs. The performances are great and some of the footage is really good. As is to be expected - some of it isn't great but for the most part it is much better than we anticiapted and although we still have a lot of pick ups to get the number of reshoots isn't too daunting at all.
Davide has been sooper awesome so far and I have to say - it's great to work with him again - not least because it means I'm not doing the editing! No seriously, David is great - and he is a proper FNA4Lifer none of this bogus lost in his own anus bollocks that so many in the fillum business suffer from. As I've said elsewhere on this blog, we're not saving lives here - we're making mooovies - and in the case of The Stagg Do a very silly little movie! There really is no need to go for a wander up yer own back passage - if you get my drift. All James and i wanted from the shoot was for everyone to enjoy themselves and to learn a little more about filmmaking than they knew at the outset; that's why the problems of Day 5 were such a kick in the knackers to us. We've made something like 30 films and in many ways this productions has been beset by more problems than the rest put together! Don't let that put you off the film though - I have a feeling this is going to wind up exactly how we wanted it to!
Onwards and upwards!
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.