A dog in a car. A big fluffy dog in a Toyota Celica, to be precise. Captured by Jacob Topen, DoP on our latest Formative Group Observational Film Project, Haunted. Readers will be devastated to hear that neither the dog, nor the car appear in the film. Though, it should serve as click-bait for this article.
Haunted crew, Above, L-R: Jacob (DoP), Miles (Camera Operator), Kelvin (Director), Me (1st AD) and Chris (Location Scout). Below, Chris (Hiding), Miles, Ross (Producer), Kelvin (Gesticulating, Wildly) and Gerard (Actor, Niall). Not pictured, Jack (Sound).
Things were going pretty well during the one day shoot. I’d more or less absconded all 1st AD responsibilities to Chris and was sitting down eating a sandwich; Kelvin was kind of holding it together and Miles at least knows one end of the camera from the other. More importantly, we were sticking to the script. Then the worst thing in the world happened: Somebody had a big idea. As we all know, there is nothing more dangerous than new ideas. They mean change and change is dangerous. Unfortunately, this idea was really good, so we couldn’t sweep it under the carpet. Even if it meant a different ending and urgent change of location. So, from a cosy studio flat, we ended up in a National Park, looking at puddles, with Jacob running around in an ‘I love London’ cap, wearing safety glasses, and shouting ‘Traitor!’ in Gerard’s face. At one point Ross was talking about Matte Paintings. I should say at this point that the big idea was Jacobs.
Haunted is not a comedy, is is an observational study of a young soldier with PTSD. This is the second time I have worked on a group film project at SAE Glasgow and the second time I have had the privilege of working with an extremely talented group of people. Kelvin was fantastic as Director, keeping the show on the road and fostering a collaborative environment. Ross was steady and calm, offering excellent suggestions when needed, which is what you need from a Producer. Technically, Chris was Location Scout, but did more prep work than anyone on the team, and his experience and knowledge on all aspects of the shoot was invaluable. Miles really knows his stuff and is a wizard with The Camera and Lighting. Jacob was a phenomenal DoP, always coming up with interesting and exciting ideas, including the big idea that meant changing the shoot. Jacobs acting background was also really helpful during the more powerful scenes. Gerard was a star as Niall, the films protagonist. His patience was unending, and his screen presence is excellent. We’ve also got Jack from Audio (or, Audio Jack) on board for sound and music. Jack is an extremely talented musician and the early work he’s done on the score is something to behold.
A team that works well together will meet the challenges it faces and overcome them. To change the ending of Haunted was a challenge and a risk, but we all knew that while we could have settled for the end we had on paper, we would have been doing ourselves a disservice. We had a great mood in the camp all day, and we were ahead of schedule, so we went for it. And it was worth it.
Now, a word about me. I’d like to run my own Production Studio, Direct and Write. Not much to ask, is it? To do this I’m going to have to learn how the Film Industry works, the different roles within it, and how the different roles interconnect. I’m also going to have to learn the language of the industry. Each business has its own language, and if you don’t speak it, then you’ll always be an outsider. I also need to learn the basic technical elements of the industry roles. I am learning these things by working on projects like Haunted. The crew of Haunted have a tremendous amount of wisdom and experience between them, from prior studies and from working in the industry. By working alongside them, listening, observing and asking questions, I am learning.