Producing In The Future

Personally I feel I hold the key traits of a producer; organisation, leadership, problem solving, etc. I saw this year as an opportunity to visit the role one final time to make a verdict as to whether I wanted to take it as a career path. Despite being complimented for my ability at this role I can’t see myself taking it on in the future. It is something I am good at but not where my passion lies.

Producing is one of those roles where physically taking on a project is the best way to understanding and develop the role. The World Of The Willows is a great project to have in my portfolio as it is so ambitious, in terms of producing something with high production value it can only increase my portfolio. I am enjoying having one last go at producing, but I am definitely viewing this project as my last opportunity to take this role on. There is nothing more to add about this, I flourish in the role, but I’m not passionate for it as a career.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is one of the most widely used personality instruments in the world. The 70 questions help to define your personality type, obviously it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The test is based upon the books of Dr.David Keirsey – Please Understand Me, and Please Understand Me II. By taking this test I can better understand the type of person I am, understanding my strengths and trying to improve upon my weaknesses. This is relevant for any role I undertake in the media sector, and worth identifying as I continue to work towards a variety of UWE projects and start locating professional work following graduation. I have come across a variety of personality tests, and this is one that is constantly recommended and referred to.

My combination score was ESFJ – “Provider”. The full explanation of the score: http://www.keirsey.com/4temps/provider.asp

Providers hold the following traits:

  • Insure welfare of those in their care
  • Sociable
  • Friendly social service is a key to their nature
  • Give time and energy to make sure the needs of others are met
  • Highly cooperative and maintaining teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisers
  • Love to entertain
  • Become restless when isolated from people
  • Friendships matter a great deal
  • Extremely sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Self-conscious
  • Loving and affectionate, needing it in return
  • Crushed by personal criticism

Having noted the traits of Providers I can see how I match this personality type to the majority of its definition. I definitely see myself as an organiser and perfectionist, this is why I feel I am well suited for a Producer role along with my ability to work as part of a team. This carries across to my specialism in lighting and grading as I am forever chasing the ideal aesthetically perfect image.

I am a person who is driven by emotion, no matter how much logic I apply to a situation I will still be considerate of others feelings and expect the same in return. I know to survive in this industry I will need to grow thicker skin, otherwise I’ll find myself obsessing over the most minor details. I think this is the main point to highlight once productions have gotten into full swing, I need to work logically and focus on the job at hand, if something isn’t working I need to be straighter with colleagues and avoid being over cautious.

Health & Safety

Health & Safety is one of the most important things to remember when shooting a film, without this type of organisation and consideration anything could happen and accidents will occur. As soon as you face an accident you may possibly be dealing with the entire production coming to a halt. The idea is to assess risk and implement measures to stop anything incidents occurring, through doing this you can avoid compensation, prevent accidents, protect your reputation, protect your business, and keep to the law.

Hazard – Anything with the potential to cause harm.
Risk – The likelihood of something being harmed by that hazard.
Likelihood – How likely/possible is it that it will happen?
Severity – How bad it will it be if it does?
Risk Level – High, Medium, or Low?

Accidents can happen often due to simple reasons. Last minute changes, not planning enough time to complete the task and miscommunication can lead to the most dramatic accidents happening, it is important that everyone is notified of the working environment so every single risk can be assessed and reduced. It may come across as a tedious task, but at the end of the day if something did happen you need proof that the correct measures were in place.

The control measures are any plans that are put in place to reduce the risk level. These include accident prevention zones, rescue plans, first aid, assessing the competency of contractors (Contractor – something who contracts to perform work. Competence – having requisite or adequate ability).

Risk assessments are dynamic documents. Whenever creative one remember the anagram PETE. People, Environment, Task, and Equipment – these are the things you should consider when going through risks, all of which need to be protected. If an accident does occur or a near miss it is also important to report and document this, in doing so you can assess what went wrong so next time you are faced with a similar situation you know how to improve the health and safety on set. The reporting of incidents is known as RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation).

Unfortunately accidents do happen, as a Producer all you can do is do your best to ensure everyone is aware of the risks and any hazards can be reduced. If something does happen as long as you have followed good practice you should be safer from liability of the accident; if you had no health and safety the blame would fall solely on your shoulders.

Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

Section 2: “It shall be the duty of the employer to ensure so far as reasonably practical, the health and safety of all it’s employees.”

Section 7: “Every employee is to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.”

Afrika Eye: Pitching Q & A

During my involvement with Afrika Eye Film Festival at the Watershed I was able to attend a workshop session where several industry professionals went over the art of pitching and provided feedback to people’s ideas. I chose not to pitch an idea myself as it’s not my script I am producing, however I felt it was a good opportunity to take note of what is going on in Bristol and tips to pick up on prior to pitching on December 4th. The expert panel consisted of producer Simon Bright ands directors Ingrid Sinclair, Kahlo Matabane and Scotnes Smith.

normal

                            [ Image Source: http://www.afrikaeye.org.uk ]

A trailer definitely speaks louder than a standalone pitch, especially if it can clearly and concisely demonstrate your idea. Kahol Matabane spoke about how he pitched his idea for a Nelson Mandela documentary and it was ignored for months, however as soon as he went out and shot a trailer then went to pitch again companies that weren’t interested suddenly wanted to get on board. As it was the day he sent out the trailer the BBC got in contact and picked up the idea later that evening.

When pitching you need to start with an interesting story, instantly grab your audience in the first 20 seconds. Starting with “This is my idea for a documentary…” won’t grab attention, you want to paint a picture and establish the scene in an exciting manner. However at the same time don’t draw away from what you are pitching, the idea of an ‘elevator pitch’ is still very much important. Scotnes Smith said about how he persuaded a commissioner to let him sit in a taxi with him to an airport so he could quickly pitch his film idea, as a result at the end of the journey the commissioner agreed to get involved in the project.

Bring into the equation why the subject is important to you, prove why you are the best at telling the story and express your passion. If you are detached from the subject then they could argue someone better suited for the project should be chosen instead. Finally leave your pitch with a suggestion that others are interested, therefore adding a sense of pressure and urgency for the commissioner to get in contact before others do.

In short here the key points I took away from the session:

  • Be direct/concise
  • Clarity of idea
  • Know what you want (i.e. six 30 minute programs)
  • Outline your audience
  • Why is the subject close to your hear/passion
  • Trailer speaks louder (if possible)
  • Have an elevator pitch
  • Leave suggesting other interest

Scheduling

Over the next few weeks I am attending some ‘Producer Essential’ seminars, discussing the role of a producer and helping each one develop their projects. I like this format as it gives an opportunity to talk to others in the same position that I’m in, already I know there are other projects dealing with child actors and another looking for a hospital as a filming location. In a typical production there are three types of Producer:

The Creative Producer – Develops the project, finds the talent, defines the editorial line.
The Line Producer – Managing the means of production, scheduling, budgeting, logistics, contracts.
The Executive Producer – Overseeing the project, raising the finance.

A producer is essentially the team leader, they are an enabler who can bring a concept to the screen. The variety of types of producer sees a variation in skills but all come down to the core skills of leadership, organisation, time management, amongst other common themes. This weeks session focused on the theme of ‘scheduling’.

The film is typically scheduled by the 1st AD in conjunction with the producer, this will then be agreed by the director and heads of departments. The idea is to construct the schedule to film the story in the most efficient way possible, so using actors for as little days as possible, any dead time in between days would require payment so would rack the budget of the film up. For scheduling a film production we went through a step process to ensure you cover all the basis so you are ready to go out and shoot.

Step 1 – Dividing The Script

Initial stages of separating up the script and scenes.

Step 2 – Measuring The Script

The industry unit of measurement is 8th’s (for each page), you can then calculate how many 8th’s each scene of the script is.

Step 3 – Marking The Script

Also known as the ‘script breakdown’ this analyses the script in order to find the most effective schedule. The industry standard works in several sections:

Highlight Locations
Yellow – Exterior Day
White – Interior Day
Green – Exterior Night
Blue – Interior Night

Underline Elements
Red – Cast Speaking
Orange – Stunts
Yellow – Extras Featured
Green – Extras Atmosphere
Blue – Special Effects
Violet – Props
Pink – Vehicles/Animals
Brown – Sound Effects

Symbolise Departments
Circle – Wardrobe Information
Asterisk – Make-Up & Hair Information
Box – Special Equipment
Black Underline – Any Other Pertinent Information

Step 4 – Filling Out Breakdown Sheets

Transferring all the above information into ‘breakdown sheets’ acts as a blueprint for each department, creating a layer of detail that exists behind the schedule and call sheets. These are more focused at the crew in order to enable pre-production.

Step 5 – Create A Strip Schedule

Transferring the key information into another document so you have a strip of information for each scene. This breaks down every scene chronologically so you know who and what is required, and where they are needed. Below shows an example of this important document.
Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 16.45.52

Step 6 – Manipulate Strip Schedule

Now you have this version of the script you can start grouping scenes together based on key and secondary parameters.

Key Parameters:
Cast Members – Aim for fewest number of work days.
Locations – Limit unit moves by shooting all scenes in each location.
Geography Of Locations – Have locations as close together as possible where able.
Exterior/Interiors – Always good to shoot exteriors first so you aren’t ‘chasing light’.
Day/Night – 10 hour break rule between working days, try to shoot day for night where possible as less tiring on participants.

Secondary Parameters:
Shooting In Sequence – Easier for actor and script understanding.
Child Actors – Strict regulations on how many hours and a chaperone.
Changes In Time – Account for physical appearance (i.e. beard).
Time Of Year – Check and mark times on call sheet.
Weather – Work around particular weather, easier to shoot warm and dry.
Special Effects/Stunts – May need additional preparation time.
Second Unit – Can save time by sending second crew for non-cast reliant material.
Special Equipment – Account for limited time on hired equipment.
Miscellaneous – Always prepare for the unexpected.

Step 7 – Schedule Shooting Days

Time is money, simplify where possible and try to reduce the number of setups each day for quicker turnover time. The industry standard is around 3 pages or 25 setups per day. Always accommodate additional time for setup (i.e. lighting, makeup, etc) and time for the unexpected to occur.

Step 8 – Dynamic Scheduling

Keep adjusting the schedule to respond to changes, continue to fine tune for optimum arrangement. They key is to be organised, detailed and accurate.

Step 9 – The Schedule Plus…

Alongside the schedule developing other important documents should also be; shot list, storyboard, blocking diagrams, shooting plans, production design, etc. The schedule is the key document for informing the call sheet, shooting plans and progress reports.

The whole purpose of the schedule is to ensure the entire story can be shot hopefully as intended. It is there to keep a production on track and adapt to every situation the project is presented with. It is really a dynamic document and drives everyone through production keeping to the agreed budget. Without this document there would simply be no organisation, it would just be a group of people running around with cameras trying to fight for their creative visions.

Further Reading:
Film Scheduling, Ralph S.Singleton, 2nd Ed, 1991, Lone Eagle Press.
Film Budgeting, Ralph S.Singleton, 2nd Ed, 1996, Lone Eagle Press.

Independent Film Release

Rich Warren is the current Program Coordinator at the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol, he took the time to come in and provide his knowledge on short film and how to market your films.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

– Jim Jarmusch – MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, Jan 22, 2004

Short Film

Think about the audience, often short film is viewed by other short filmmakers or people who watch a lot of short films. The audience are typically people who understand the medium, its not like feature filmmaking where the general public are the main consumer, short film is considered more of an art. The main element with short film is the quality of the story, this is much more important than the production value. The simplest filming techniques can be in place and beat a visual effect showcase when it comes down ton the story and narrative.

Festival Circuit

The US and European film circuit are very different, typically art house cinema has a home in Europe whilst ‘Hollywood’ style film finds it way into the US circuit. Either direction you want to take your film you must have a clear distribution strategy, the default is often to start at the biggest festivals and work your way down until you get acceptance. It is worth researching each film festival to understand the type of films it accepts and whether it is worth submitting to, for example Encounters has a lot of professional connections whilst York is more audience driven, each offer unique pros and cons.

There is no right or wrong way to approach distributing your film, just remember there is no limit as to how far you want to take it, if you have the money and confidence you can invest in it far. The main thing to take away is to know your audience.

An additional note, if your film is accepted into an international film festival the British Film Council can offer bursaries to help fund your travel so the UK can be represented on the international circuit – http://film.britishcouncil.org/our-projects/on-going-projects/shorts-support-scheme

Bristol Film Office

bristol-film-office                  [ Image Source: http://www.filmbristol.co.uk ]

Bristol Film Office came down to speak about using locations in Bristol, I feel as a producer for a project I am likely to deal directly with acquiring locations so this was definitely worth while. Bristol Film Office offer dedicated services to the production industry, with Bristol growing as a media hub it is an extremely useful to encourage and endorse filming in the city. Last year there were around 400 enquiries for filming in Bristol, with 200 permits issues, this year there have already been twice as many permits and enquiries. Shows filmed in Bristol include; Deal Or No Deal, Skins, Atlantis, Sherlock, and Doctor Who.

As a student my dealings with the film office are only in the case of using public spaces and council property. If you ever film in these spaces you need to have a permit, thankfully if you are filming in the street or outdoor (without needing supervision) it is free to acquire the permit. In the case of council owned property there may be costs to pay.

When dealing with a private residence you can talk directly with the owner without the need for the Bristol Film Office, however there is a suggested code of conduct to follow. Last year on one of the productions I worked on there was an issue with the location charging more than originally agreed on the day, having raised this issue I am now aware of the support the University will provide in this circumstance and that I am entitled to a free solicitor as a student. The recommendation is to confirm the location through a contract, then document and keep track of everything, therefore if anything goes wrong you have enough evidence to query or take legal action if deemed necessary.

The key things to remember when filming on location is a copy of the risk assessment/health and safety documents, a copy of your public liability insurance (in this case UWE) and a copy of the permit. With all these documents you are pretty much covered for any query or issue faced, along with a contract if it is a private resident most issues can easily be avoided.

The main thing I took away from this lecture other than the appropriate paperwork and procedures when acquiring locations is to be creative with your locations. If you require a forest for a close-up shot could you use some trees in your back garden? You don’t necessarily have to find the exact location, but find something that can signify and represent it, something the audience can identify. As a location scout constantly consider the shot, there is no need to load on unnecessary costs and paperwork if you can achieve the same look without the hassle. This phrase will constantly go through my mind whenever looking for locations: BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR LOCATIONS.

Initial Proposal

Role – Producer

I never intended on producing a project this year, however Daniel Morgan and Nathan White approached me with a strong idea that I really loved, also between us we have assembled a very strong and reliable team that I have complete confidence in. I feel like this year may be my last opportunity to produce a film for a while, it is unlikely that I could walk into a job straight after university, and also I want to focus on lighting and colour grading. Nonetheless I feel producing generally provides a diverse set of skills that can be applied to a range of jobs in the future.

As a producer I will be continuing to build upon my organization, communication and team skills, all of which are generic skills for any type of job. I have produced two projects during University prior to this year: ‘Alcoholic Chocolate’ (UWE Y1 Drama), and ‘The Creative Carnival’ (UWE Y2 Documentary). After the success of ‘The Creative Carnival’ I felt like I was finished with being a producer, however knowing the confidence others have in me I feel like I should give it one last go for a really ambitious project. The potential success of this project would be a great credit to have under my name as a producer, and at the same time it means I can still focus on my craft as a colour grader for the same project.

Dan and Nathan are still developing the film; I have already provided feedback on the first draft of the script and now wait on further versions. We will soon start building our production schedule and I will start meeting with the crew, I feel like this will be shot earlier in the semester allowing room to focus on any other projects whilst it goes through a lengthy post-production process.

In terms of the future I do not anticipate on looking for experience as a producer and don’t have any intention to walk into this style of job. However it will provide a good fully rounded skillset that can accompany my pursuit into lighting design and colour grading. It also allows me to have an alternate focus whilst the rest of my efforts go into the grand idea for 3rd year that I am naming my investigation into light and colour.