Well, last weekend we had the final shoot for the first series of Bonny & Clyde. We haven’t announced it on the site, because there’s still quite a few episodes to come, but yes, there is an end upon the horizon.
What was shaping up to be the most complex and perhaps stressful shoot of the series, turned out instead to be the easiest, partly I think because we all knew it was coming to an end, and also because we changed our directing/shooting process slightly.
Even though both Louise and I are the entire production team, we had for a while kept a clear deliniation between the directing and camera operating roles on the day, even though we both had input to them before the actual shoot. We were thus simply assuming that the other was doing what we were thinking for that role. Unfortunately, both the improvised nature of the shoot, and by us not going through the shoot in extreme detail, we found that in most of the recent shoots, we actually had different ideas and perspectives on the day, which in some cases gave us footage that wasn’t as good as we were expecting.
For the final shoot, we decided to work a lot more closely together in directing and frame composition, and we went through the entire shoot in extreme detail before it happened. We already do a lot of planning for each shoot, but this is the first time we’ve tried to proactively address the recent misunderstandings.
These probably sound like obvious things to do in a co-production, work closely together and plan in detail, and certainly detailed planning would be one of the top rules of film making. But we’ve since discovered that while this conflicts with the “rock up, roll camera, improvise” idea, with improvised works it is even more critical to plan in detail before a shoot. This is because you don’t have a written shooting script or plan, so each member of the crew must understand what is trying to be achieved, so they can adapt as necessary. In a way, every crew member must also be a director, and must be both informed and understanding of the shoot enough to perform a directorial role in their own technical area. So much so that they should be able to take over the actual director role if required, because of the shared vision.
So now, before a shoot, each of us takes turns at walking through the entire shoot, explaining key plot points and their cues, the expected (which may change as it’s improvised) blocking of player movements, the actual camera framing and composition elements for the entire shoot, preferred and possible editing choices, and each of the character’s journeys so far and in this chapter. Aside from technical operation of equipment, all of the crew must be able to switch roles at any time, and be able to keep the same directorial focus as everyone else.
The final shoot turned out much better for it, and yet again fine tunes our now quite detailed process for improvised filmmaking. But will it scale up to our next project? Stay tuned for early 2008 and we’ll see.
Oh, and as you probably figured out, we ended up using quite a bit of the fun park footage after all, after both getting some legal advice, and reconsidering our ultimate goals for the project. It certainly doesn’t paint them in a bad light, and it is obvious that it is a fictional work.