When I was given the task of creating a short film in the style of my favourite director, I instantly thought of Wes Anderson. He has been my favourite director for a while and I’ve always found his style inspiring and always thought that I’d like to try it. I researched Wes Anderson by watching his films and the most famous clips from his films. I also read essays and inspired short films.
When I started researching Wes Anderson, I found his key conventions that make his films stand out so much. An example of one of his conventions I found during research was the choice of colours he uses. In every scene he uses an overall colour palate to make the shot more visually pleasing. He also uses colours to portray a mood or an underlying atmosphere. In the blog post called ‘Colour and the look of a film – Visual Analysis’ (https://filmschoolthrucommentaries.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/color-and-the-look-of-a-film-visual-analysis/) It talks about how a colour pallet is made to fit into a film.
It is not just a simple matter of colour grading an image in post-production. A director works closely with a director of photography, production designer and costume designers to create a color palette that fits the story of the film. The color of the film is controlled on a set. Each story itself can be told in a plethora of ways – meaning, depending on what that story is about, and what is the thematic underpinning of it – the look of the film will often be based on those factors. For instance it may depend on the setting and the world within which the story takes place; time period, location of it. Therefore the color palette of the film will largely be dictated by these elements.
With Wes Anderson’s films he works with his cinematographer Robert Yeoman to decide on a colour palate that will best fit into the film. They will look at each scene individually and decide. The colours may change depending on the mood of the scene. For example, in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ he uses an autumn colour palate for most scene. However, when it get to Richie’s suicide, he changes to cold colours. This shows an obvious contrast between the 2 moods. I wanted to try create a colour palate like Wes Anderson.
(above shows two contrasting colour palates from the same film)
Another convention I found was symmetry. Wes Anderson creates a lot of symmetrical shots. This, again, creates a more overall visually pleasing finish to his film. The use of symmetry makes Wes Anderon’s shots stand out more because it is barley used by filmmakers. Normally the rule of thirds is used. I wanted to try this because I think its a very unique way of laying out shots. I knew it would be hard because the grid on the cannon DSLR disappears when filming. I knew I had to plan carefully when doing the symmetrical shots.
For my short film to be a success, it was very important that I planned in detail. This is especially because of the conventions I wanted to try from Wes Anderson films.
The first step researching Wes Anderson films. It is important to research because it help you understand the person you are researching and how to make your film successful like yours.
To start actually planning for my film, I first had to come up with a concept that I could work on. From this I could find locations/colours/camera shots and so on. My original idea was creating a film about a girl running away, but with a happy atmosphere. To try work on this idea, I created a mind map which had all my ideas down.
Once I did this, I could create a more in depth idea of my story. I decided that I was going to do a short film about a girl running away and leaving a letter. A family member reads the letter and the main character reads it. After I did this, I created a flow chart of the rough storyline.
Once I had the storyline I thought about location and actors. This is my blog post on location: (https://wordpress.com/post/izzyfilm.wordpress.com/2137) Location was very important for my film because I was concentrating on colour palates as one of my conventions I wanted to try from Wes Anderson. In the article by Jocelyn Towne it talks about the importance of finding a location. (http://aidyreviews.net/choosing-the-right-film-location/)
Location is one of the many important aspects of filming, just as finding the right actors to portray a role, and just as important as the choice of music used in the film.
My main locations where somewhere to film a sunset and a place to make into a bedroom. I knew it would be hard to find a real bedroom because I would have to find one with lots of space and the right colours. One of my first thoughts was The Gregson Centre in Lancaster. (http://www.gregson.co.uk/facilities/) I went at the weekend to ask if I could have a look at the room to see if it would suit the ideas I had. I decided it was the right place to do it. For the sunset, I had several options where I could film it. I took some test shots to have a look at what I could do.
Once I had the locations, I started to make a story board. By doing this, I could think more about the characters and what I wanted in the scenes. I found creating a storyboard was one of the hardest parts of the project. This is because I had to try incorporate Wes Anderson style shots that I think he would do. I looked at his storyboards to help inspire me.
This was his story board for ‘Fantastic Mr Fox.’:
With this, I started mine.
Draft story board 1:
Draft Story board 2:
I then started to think about what my location was going to look like. It was important that I really thought about it because it needed to fit the colour scheme and the bedroom needed to portray the character well. I chose the colours red, brown, white, yellow and orange to concentrate on. I decided to create a rough sketch of what I imagined the scene to look like. Wes Anderson also uses this technique to visually see what he wants to do.
I wanted it to be a simplistic design that looked retro. I wanted to use the use of windows and natural light to my advantage, therefor I put the bed in the corner. I started to find things that I would put in the bedroom. I researched how to develop a character and one of the ways was showing there room or location. I made a pintrest to collect ideas what would be in the characters room. I wanted to give the impression she was creative and adventurous so I chose posters from different places to show where she wants to go.
I also gathered props together from my own house which I could use.
I then began creating a costume for my main character. I wanted the character to not match the colour of the room, but to compliment it. I decided that she should wear pink, blue and white. I made this decision because it doesn’t contrast with the reds and the browns of the room, but it stood out without being too in your face. I also came to this decision because I researched how to develop a character as seen in my blog post (https://wordpress.com/post/izzyfilm.wordpress.com/2195) One of the ways I researched was costume. I drew what I had in my head for the character to wear. After this I raided my sisters brightly coloured wardrobe and found the clothes that matched the most.
The next thing I did when it came to planning was write a proper script. It was important that I wrote a script because non of the actors really knew what they were doing before the day. With a script it meant they could read it through before the filming started when I was busy. Also, it meant all the people helping could see what it would be like once I was filmed. I left this till last because I felt like it was the least important. I could’ve just wrote the letter that Izzy had to read and that would’ve been fine. But I think it was a better way to visualise everything I wanted from the film. I wrote a draft script on Celtex. Once I finished it, I let my friend read through it and correct it. He had no idea what the film was about before reading the script. This was useful because it meant there was pre visualisation of what he thought it would be like, it was all in the script. I made the changes then printed it off ready for the production. The finished copy:
The very last thing I did was the night before the production. I made a checklist of all the things I need to take and made sure I had printed everything I needed.
Heres a picture of me being stressed while doing the check list:
I think the production went well. I think this because I kept to the time schedule that I made and there wasn’t any massive problems. All the problems I quickly solved.
I took all my props, equipment and pre production pack to the location. Luckily I didn’t forget anything because I made sure I had a check list of all things I needed. When I got a corner and put all the stuff there. The first thing I made sure I did was stick the schedule up so everyone could see it.
I then cleared the space I planned to film in. Setting up the location took longer then I expected. However, we got it done efficiently and after it was done it looked really good.
Once I had set up the set, I set up my equipment. This is when the first problem occurred. The sound equipment didn’t work. I tried changing the batteries three times before I gave up. I made the decision that I would have to get rid of the sound during editing and then replace it with foley and atmosphere. Also, I would start doing a rough edit and then on the Wednesday get the sound recording of Izzy Coward (Beatrice actor) reading the letter.
At around 12:10, ten minuets behind schedule, I started filming Millie’s scenes. I decided to do all of Millie’s scenes first so we could get them all done instead of filming in order. The most challenging part was getting the 180 degrees shot. This is because it needed to start and stop in the centre of the frame. It took a few tries but I eventually did it. The end shot was shaky but I think it worked well. As you can see (below) the fist shot was just off centre but the second shot is near enough perfectly centre as its nearly on the line with the corner.
The next shot of Millie was the one reading the letter and putting down the letter. When I first attempted this shot the natural lighting meant only one side of her face was lit up so I had to use LEDs. Annoyingly, I didn’t take a picture of the camera set up but I drew I diagram below. I didn’t have a white sheet to reflect the light, so instead I got one of my friends to use a newspaper. This was held above the camera and down so it was directly on Millie’s face. This created a more soft light rather then putting the LED’s light directly towards her face. This also meant all her features were highlighted.
Once I finished all of Millie’s scenes, I then moved on to filming the shots with Izzy. The most challenging part of the shoot was getting the shots centred. I found this was challenging because the grid on the camera screen disappeared when filming. This meant I had to use my eye if the shot moved and do lots of trail runs without recording. I planned to have a tracking shot and I think that the shot stands out the most. I had planned to do it on an office chair, but it disappeared from when we visited the room post production. This meant I had to get creative. I found a food cart in one of the function rooms, I think it worked very well. I got this idea of the article on No film School. (http://nofilmschool.com/2015/06/shitty-rigs-shares-hilarious-terrifying-photos-sketchy-diy-film-rigs)
I somehow managed to get the first shot off centre with a grid, but get the last part of the shot dead on centre without a grid. I don’t know how I managed that.
On the schedule the next thing on the list was sound recording. The recording equipment still wasn’t working no matter how much I yelled at it and all the times I replaced the batteries, so I had to skip that stage. I let everyone have a quick break and I brought sweets and other things for everyone to snack on as payment.
The next thing I did was the birds eye view record player shot. I took the blanket off the bed and put it on the floor. I did this because my tripod wasn’t big enough. I wish I didn’t have to say this but quite a lot of health a safety went out of the window in the shot. Normally for a birds eye shot there is a special camera holder that is safely screwed into the ceiling. I couldn’t do this obviously so I had to think of something. During test shooting I found out that you shouldn’t hold the camera as it would be wobbling. But I also found a good way of doing it was making the front tripod legs shots and the back long. My friend had to hold it for me so it didn’t fall over, breaking an expensive camera and an expensive record player. However, I that shot looks really good.
I finished all the shots at the Gregson so I packed away all the stuff. I kept aside all the things I would need to film outside or other places. My parents took the stuff I didn’t need and me Izzy and Olly went to Izzy’s house to film the suitcase scene. We went to Izzy’s house as a location because Izzy owned the cat I need for the film, and the Gregson had a no cat policy. I filmed this shot the same way I did with the record player. Once I had finished that part of the filming, we went outside to film the outside shots.
I didn’t have a specific location in mind for the outside walking shot. Originally I wanted to do it on a field but it had rained the night before so we wouldn’t be able to get all the equipment up. I looked round the near by streets for somewhere with sun. I chose a house where the sun was hitting. This gave it an orange look which went with the colour palate. It also gave it a more vintage and retro look, which was what I was aiming for.
After this, I had to wait till sunset to get the last shots. I was really pleased how they looked but I knew I would have to colour correct them during editing. I filmed this shot for about 2 minuets, and I did another 4 lots of 2 minuets. This is because the sky was constantly changing colour. I wanted to make sure I could get the best possible colour so I waited till the sun went down to pack up the equipment.
Overall. I think the filming went really well. I stayed on schedule and managed to get all the shots I wanted. Although I couldn’t get the sound record, I thought of ways round it and didn’t waste time. I think I handled the pressure of directing well by staying focused and on task. I didn’t let myself get distracted meaning the whole process went smoothly. I think being organized played a big part in how well it went because I planned for every outcome and made each detail was thought about.
On the Monday morning, I went into college and uploaded all my rushes. I made sure they where all organized and put in places I could find them.
Once I did this I began my rough edit. It was a rough edit because I didn’t have the sound recordings. This meant I could only find the clips I wanted to use and make a rough judgment where the cuts would be. I also began to colour correct some shots. I did this to make them look more vibrant and colorful. Wes Anderson also colour corrects to give a more polished look. (Pictures of before and after colour correction on the final shot.)
I also had to stabilize the tracking shot. The food cart I used was really shaky on the wooden floor boards so it wasn’t smooth at all. I tried the shot with a 40mm and a 35mm. When I stabilized the 35mm it didn’t work. This is because it was so far in that Izzy was cut out when stabilized. However, with the wider lens it worked well.
On Wednesday I began to look at what music I could use. This was important because I think music can add to the scene. This is shown in the YouTube video ‘How film scores play with our brains’ made by Now You See It, a film analysing channel.
I wanted to use music which didn’t have a copyright which I had picked. I could’ve easily just used Wes Anderson’s music, but I wanted to make my film more my own. The first bit of music I needed was the diegetic music coming from the record player. I decided I wanted it to be loud opera music which was dramatic and over the top. I decided to have this type of music because I thought it add some comedy and it also isn’t specific to a time period. The next piece of music I chose was going to be the music that was going on as Beatrice read the letter. I wanted it to be a medium tempo with a light hearted feel to it. My first thought was banjo music. I went on soundcloud and looked for music which is free to use. The last song I wanted was for the credits and the sunset shots. I already had a piece of music in mind which I saved a while ago in case of an emergency film score need. It is called ‘Welcome Home, Son,’ by Radical Face. I chose this music because again I thought it was light hearted.
On Wednesday night I got the sound recordings off Izzy. This meant on Thursday Morning I could start doing my final edit. I added in the sound and edited it. I cut up the recording so the gaps between the sentences were longer and went with the shot length. I made the final cuts to the footage so it was in time with the music and the voiceover.
The last thing I did when it came to the edit was creating the credits. I think the credits are an important part of film making. I think this because its the last thing the audience will see and the freshest part in their minds. I chose the colours white and orange with a black background. I did this because orange and white were 2 of the colours I had in my film. Also, the sunset I had in my film was bright orange. With the black background it makes the writing stand out.
A key lesson I learnt in this project was to trust my own judgment and ideas. In other projects I think I held back from sharing ideas or what I thought about other people’s ideas in case I was wrong. However, in this project because I was working alone I had to rely on myself. I also told people them and took advice on how to make them better. I think this made my film successful because I actually liked what I planned and I could think about it in detail. Another key lesson I learnt was it pays off being really organized. I don’t think any of the project would’ve been successful if I hadn’t organized as well as I did.
If I was going to do the film again, I think I would change the opening shot. I don’t think its very interesting which means it doesn’t grip the audience. I think I should’ve started in a stronger shot. For instance, a shot with more colour or more meaning. I think it’s a poor start to the film and doesn’t give the rest of the film justice. I would also change the sound recording throughout the whole film. The sound equipment stopped working so I couldn’t get a clear recording for the first shot and the third shot. To make sure this didn’t happen again I would check the equipment before I filmed. However, I think this film has been my best one yet and has inspired me to find my own stye.