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.
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.
No picture on this blog - sorry to offend the purists! It's always difficult to write a ton about editing because it's a long and technical process and probably not even vaguely interesting to the hardened fan let alone the casual enthusiast. This week and a half has been really interesting to me (as a first time producer) though - you see our editor, David, is based in London these days. This means our edit has consisted of him working on the film there and then sending us the Final Cut Pro project file and us watching it here then chatting and exchanging notes over Skype - YAY modern technology. This is great and we have made some outstanding progress using this method - but nothing beats time spent in an edit suite sitting with your editor.
It's this time together that can produce the really spot on moments in a film. This "magic" (yes I vomited a little in my mouth there too) happens when a group of creative individuals have time and freedom to experiment. At the end of the day so much of filmmaking is about experimentation - it's art daaahling after all. That statement may sound odd coming from somebody like me who lambastes the artistes and their arty-farty award-winning shite which so often goes on to win major prizes but is seldom seen by the public at large, but really it isn't. I may not like arthouse cinema generally and often the films aren't my cup of tea, but I can and do admire the singular vision, courage and experimentation that goes to create it. What disappoints me most is why more mainstream cinema can't be more edgy and experimental (and I don't mean that in a Hollywood marketing - quirky way) what I mean is why the fuck has mainstream cinema become so derivative? It wasn't always this way - Godfather, Goodfellas, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot - all felt fresh at the time they came out and were al made by a Studio... what happened?
This obsession with comic books, remakes and sequels has to stop - it's driving me mad. And it drives me even more mad that this obsession with "playing it safe" is bleeding into the independent world too! You know what I'm saying: shoot in one location, use only a few actors don't take risks with framing or shooting style, don't shoot outdoors... Fuck that - on this we took a ton of risks some backfired spectacularly - but most of them didn't; but if we hadn't taken the risks, if we'd played it safe we wouldn't have those little "bits of magic" (VOMIT) that I'm so proud of. Tell your story, your way - fuck them - life's too short to do it any other way.
This is something BIG JIMMY DEMARCO and I have been thinking and talking a lot about lately and he wrote a little blog about the same subject from a writer's perspective last week - maybe it all goes back to the gurus?
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.