Thursday, 5 June 2008

(I'm Sorry) Insufficent Funds

"I'm sorry, but you have insufficent funds to make a call at this time." - Phone Operator, "Semblance of Norm" (Roger Manthorpe).

Filming wrapped on the short film "Semblance of Norm" at the beginning of May, and I had roughly three weeks post-production to edit it, master the sound and complete the digital transfer before the film got shown to the class. Gotta admit, I'm not a particular fan of the film. I think we tried too hard to cut it down to three minutes (the specified time) and in the end due to all the cuts we were forced to make, it just didn't make sense. At all.

The script, if you weren't aware, was written by a good friend of mine - Roger Manthorpe - who died last November. I selected his piece to work on (apposed to, say, adapting one of my own scripts) because I thought it'd be a great way of honouring the guy's memory, and giving him some sort of lasting legacy. In the end, though, it became very hard to 'honour' his work, and adapt it for the screen successfully.

Things needed to be cut, but it being Roger's script, things couldn't be cut. It's a little like Russell T Davies' Doctor Who adventure, "Midnight" - one setting, set over a long period of time. Except, unlike Davies' adventure, there's not supposed to be any cuts at all; it's all one continuous action from beginning to end.

So, say, we see the main character ("Norm") lifting a cup. This might well lead to him drinking from the cup, and then once he's finished, putting the cup back down. But, if the shots of him drinking are overlong and boring, they need to be cut. But then you've got a problem - how do you cut around the fact he not longer has the cup?

Logic dictates that you'd simply not show him picking up the cup in the first place. Yeah, sure, that works for the example I've just given. But in "Semblance of Norm" each and every set piece impacts upon the film, so that after an action is taken, things are never quite the same again. The cup might be smashed into a million pieces, etc. In short, there was no way of cutting around the action.

What we eventually did to compensate was to introduce time lapses; which only added to confuse the audience watching! Why were we seeing these elements of Norm's day? What made them, above everything else we could be seeing, so significant? And - most importantly of all - these shots, now quite spontaneous and random, lacked any dramatic understanding.

In short, the film means nothing.

That's not to say it's a bad film. Oh no, I think there's still some merit to be gained from it. Some of the cinematography in it looks beautiful, for example - and editing the film was (to say the least) an experience and a half! But it's fair to say that the journey through production, and the experience gained, was worth a thousands times more than the end product.

Not an ideal way to honour a dead friend, I think you'll agree - but we worked our asses of to make it work, so I don't regret any part of the production process.

Still, I wish I'd gotten on better with other members of my production team. We started out as a five piece band, but within weeks it'd dropped down to just the three of us. One of the two people I was working with, Nikki, wasn't the nicest person you could possibly have assisting you. She was far too concerned of her image, and what others thought of her. She'd walk around the university trying at all time to project a certain, somewhat fake, projection of herself. And that drained energy from both herself, and her participation within the group.

I had no real problem with the other girl, Mary, but she was far too... naive? I spent a lot of time trying (and failing) to explain things to her. In the end, with time restrictions hitting us, I gave up on the explaining, and just told her - and Nikki, who I tried to be ever polite with - what to do. It gave me a reputation between them (and subsequently, other members of the uni class) as quite a bossy, demanding guy that couldn't or wouldn't compromise.

I'd say only the 'demanding' part is true... and the guy thing, too.

During the presentation to the rest of the class, Nikki and Mary turned on me, and made me feel like shit. Nikki had the cheek to say some things that weren't even true - crediting herself with things that I had done, not her. I just smiled, thinking to myself how at least my actions were justified, and not to get wound up by the process because, after all, I'd learnt something along the way. Whereas she, well, she'd just tried (and probably failed) to get people to like her.

The group didn't 'get' the film; and I don't blame them. It's the least accomplished of my shorts so far. Still, it's sitting there, on my shelf right now - so there must be a little pride there.

I'll watch it again eventually, and think: it ain't that bad.

Now... if only that day'll hurry up and arrive.
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