Ian Singleton

Advice to an old friend

Posted in Jump To Lightspeed, Production by iansingleton on June 23, 2010

The important bit is the last paragraph…

Don’t waste your time trying to shoot it on film. If the boys have never shot anything before, the pressure of doing it on a limited ratio is an unfair disadvantage from the outset. The last 35mm commercial I shot was on 8 mins of stock. That was because I’d not only storyboarded it but shot it on tape and cut it so I knew exactly how long each shot needed to be. Get hold of a Red or equivalent HD camera and a DP who is just making the move up from operating. You know the type.

et hold of a copy of Final Cut Pro and someone with a Mac. Make dubs of the camera masters. Cut the picture at home. Go back to the camera master only for the final conform and the grade. Treat the Postproduction house like the neg cut. Same with the audio. Do all of the audio work to a workprint and then spend twice the duration of the movie in an old-fashioned dubbing house.

What are the local production forum/listing sites? Here in the UK there’s a thing called Shooting People. Get comfortable with those. Don’t use them to crew up because everyone turns up thinking that they are part of some experimental collaborative process and that, in turn,  they will be the director. Or they’ll come along to “get some experience” and then reveal that they think the script sucks and have you thought about writing a shootout into the finale? But if you’re looking for locations/cheap deals on transport/ideas about where to launch and show, then these sites are really useful. They’re useful, too, for getting people to talk about what you’re making before you’ve even made it. See the comments on casting below.

Who are the busy casting agents in town right now? Go and see them and ask a simple question: which actors are on your radar right now? A guy I knew a long time ago made what was a student film. But in it he cast Hugh Grant, James Wilby and a couple of other people who have gone on to be household names. And the simple reason for that? Because a short will get washed away in the tidal wave of short films that pour out of every film school grad, Goth living at home in the spare room and a whole cast of crackpots and fuckwits. But a short that’s made in the three months time and which is doing the rounds six months later which you can describe as “It’s a contemporary retelling of a Greek myth featuring next year’s BIG NAME” will get it into festivals, onto TV and into the catalogue of a distributor.

The boys have got to have a feature script ready to go. When someone says “I really like your film. What are you doing next?” Out comes the line “It’s about a xxx who xxxx”.

Of course, the reality here right now is that even that doesn’t count for much. There are any number of movies being made on no budget which clog up the distribution channels. This might sound like the railing of an embittered middle aged cynic. Perhaps it is. But it’s also a reflection of the way that the liberating impact of technology means that an awful lot of dross gets in the way. You’ve seen Private Ryan? The first twenty minutes always makes me feel endebted to a generation of men who gave their lives so that I don’t have to speak German today and thankful that I was born twenty five years later. It’s also a masterclass in Spielberg’s technical mastery and a demonstration of Hollywood production values at their peak. Now go and have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRS9cpOMYv0

The key thing now, I think, is not a technical knowledge of the film-making process. It’s the ability to take a product from the kitchen table to watercooler conversation and debate over a beer in a bar. The Saturn V rocket weighed nearly 3 million tonnes when it left the launchpad. Luke Skywalker achieved it with the flick of a switch. It’s The Jump To Lightspeed. And I want to find the brands and the individuals who’ve achieved that in order to study what they did. Any candidates down your way?