all moments leading to this… (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the madness of low-budget filmmaking)

It seems criminal not to have a copy of my short on this site so I thought it was about time I posted it. Scroll to the bottom of this post to view the film, or read on for the story behind how it got made! All of the photographs on the page were taken by my gorgeous friend Helen Tideswell.

Way back in winter 2008, when I first arrived in London, I started writing a screenplay. I’ve started writing screenplays loads of times, it’s finishing them which I seem to have a problem with! Anyway for this one, it was a long-ish short in four parts; the four parts were all completely separate with different characters and stories, and they were all set in different seasons BUT they overlapped in realtime (eg you’re following one character down the street, then the camera turns around and follows someone else, and then you’re in a new story/season).

Towards the end of 2009, a friend questioned me about whether I would ever finish it. I said I would, but there were bits I wasn’t happy with, I didn’t have any time, etc etc. Anyway he gave me a two-week deadline, so I finished it (apparently it’s that easy!) He liked it. The conversation then went something like this:

 

Him: “Well, what are you going to do with it now?”

Me: “What do you mean? It’s finished!” (subtext: What more do you want from me, man!!)

Him: “I think the generally accepted convention is that screenplays become actual films.”

Me: “Yeah but I don’t have a camera and don’t know what I’m doing and some of the parts would be a logistical nightmare to shoot and and and…”

Him: (raises eyebrow)

(a beat)

Me: “I guess I could try to put a crew together and make Autumn….”

So I faffed about for a bit longer, but finally did put that crew together. I started off by posting on facebook for actors in London. A friend put me in touch with a friend of hers, Cate. I emailed Cate and asked whether she knew any male actors who she was friendly with already and had worked with before. She said yes, and she and Kinloch came round to my Isle of Dogs flat one Sunday morning for coffee and a read-through. They were brilliant and their improv was hilarious, so I didn’t bother looking any further.

The Autumn scene is set in a park, so I set about finding a location. After discarding a few more obvious choices, I settled on Battersea Park, sorted out public liability insurance, and obtained permission from Wandsworth Council to shoot there.

Next thing I needed was a camera. I decided to try to find someone who wanted to shoot it, so I could concentrate on producing and directing. I put an ad on Shooting People for a cameraperson/DOP, and was lucky enough to stumble across Andrew Morgan of Survivor Films, who wanted to take his new camera out for a spin ahead of his feature film shoot, Arkham Sanitarium. Knowing that sound is the downfall of many low-budget films, I also advertised on the site for a sound guy, and found Charlie Weisfeld who turned out to be a fantastic asset as well.

Andrew and I did a recce in the park, and found a lovely location next to the Peace Pagoda. We also found a block of toilets with a little shelter outdoors which was our alternative wet weather location. Luckily we didn’t have to use it!

The shoot day arrived in November, and it was absolutely freezing but lovely and sunny. I brought a few friends along as runners/assistants and enlisted Helen as stills photographer and “Red Shoes” (you’ll see). We got through the afternoon with no problems (apart from the constantly changing light – I think the words “fix it in post” may have been uttered) and finished the day with mulled wine at a nearby pub.

I didn’t feel experienced enough at that stage to edit it myself, so I asked a series of editors to help, but there were a bunch of problems, an earthquake back home and other general life to contend with, so the film was shelved for a few months. In early 2011, I went on a shoot (directed by Jules Brown) as runner/camera assistant… actually I have to stop here and show you the film; it was for the Empire magazine Done in 60 Seconds competition, and it was probably the single most hilarious day of filming I’ve ever been involved in (warning: bad words etc):

Anyway, on that shoot I got chatting with the DOP, Jamie Barty, who told me he was also an editor! He did all of the post for me, and is responsible for the credits sequence which was a stroke of genius. We ended up working together with Charlie and Andrew on Arkham Sanitarium as well.

Autumn was finally, completely, totally finished in June 2011, and I premiered it at Kino London, an “open-mic” short film night. I can highly recommend the wonderful Kino folk to any short filmmakers looking for somewhere to share their work.

That was a much longer story than I thought it was! And before you ask, no, I haven’t made the other parts. Two of them require filming on London public transport (which I can’t afford), and the other… well, the screenplay still needs a little work. Someone give me a deadline!

Here is Autumn…. be warned: strong language and sexual references!

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