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Criggion – Production Blog

So, as many people now know, FilmGrade was recently involved in creating a short film for Shropshire’s first ever 48 hour film competition! We teamed up with Aaron Child of Painted Life Productions, Dave Harrison of MR.LEFT, and a team of other talented individuals to make the best film possible in under 48 hours, based in the beautiful town of Ludlow.

The brief for the film was that it had to involve a decided object, and line of dialogue. The combination we were given was a map, and the line: “Could you please confirm the exact time of departure” which, as i’m sure you can imagine, was quite limiting. So, we did the only thing we could do, we ran away from the obvious and made a horror film.

We were given our brief at 6pm on the Friday, which gave us that night to brainstorm/plan/script our idea. We quickly decided we wanted to film at a location called ‘Criggion Radio Station’, which at that point in time was believed to be publicly owned. So we spent that night up until around 1am planning our story, which was to be a simple story of three characters having an argument in a car, one storming off out of the car, and the other two trying to find him in this abandoned radio station. In the radio station we had planned a sub plot of a soldier not returning from the war, and a wife going crazy/possessed over trying to find out what had happened to him, hence we used the line ‘Could you please confirm the exact time of departure’ as the wife calling the camp the soldier was sent home from. It was uncertain at this point how we were going to end the film, but we had a vague idea, so we scripted the film, worked out what props we needed, made a brief schedule for the following day, and went to bed.

The following day, we all got up around 7:30 and divided our selves in to two teams, one to print of news articles to dot around the set to tell the sub plot, and another to go out and find props. I was on the team of collecting props with Charlie Baker and Aaron Child, and we quickly found that Ludlow had some brilliant shops for collecting film props. We also found that charity shops no longer sell wigs due to health and safety, which was disappointing. We then found out that we could hire a generator for £25 to power our lighting, which was extremely cheap in our minds, so me and Aaron went off to pick one up. After all the props were gathered, and all the news articles were printed, we set off for Criggion, which was around a 40 minute drive away from Ludlow.

On the way to Criggion, we decided it would be a good idea to film the car scenes. So for half of the journey we taped my 5D Mk3 to the inside of the windscreen with a super-wide lens to capture the establishing shot and wide-cut aways. For the rest of the journey, i jumped in the back and filmed random lines of the script as close ups to the actor’s faces. Something i also made sure to do was capture some natural shots of the guys simply talking about anything and everything, making sure to cut off their mouths, i knew these shots could be used later if they were to be dubbed.

We then arrived at the Criggion Radio Station at around 3pm, and me being the optimist of the group, thought we could wrap up by 6pm. Boy was i wrong. The filming process went slow, very slow, as we were still not 100% sure on the story and how to present it, so we found going through each of the scenes to be quite a struggle.

There’s not much to talk about with the filming, other than the whole time nobody laughed, nobody smiled for any length of time, and i could tell we all wanted to leave as soon as possible. However, due to shots not turning out too well, we found ourselves there until around 10:30, by which time the sun had gone down, and we were trying to think up an ending to our film, whilst panicking about getting out before we lost all of the light. That place was scary. I mean, REALLY scary. On occasions the generator would turn off, and we’d be left in pitch black. In the end we didn’t really film an ending, as everyone wanted to leave as soon as possible, and we did.

We packed up our stuff, leaving a lot of props in the location (oops!) and left. We all, feeling very exhausted and slightly disappointed with the ending, drove to McDonalds, ordered our food, and sat in silence eating Happy Meals whilst reflecting our day. Aaron eventually broke the silence, claiming to have had the best toy from his Happy Meal, but we won’t go into too much detail with that.

When we all got back to Charlie’s house, we decided that the best way to go about editing was for the majority of the team to get some rest, and for me and Aaron to edit through as much of the film as possible before getting too tired to think. Aaron was set to edit the car scenes, which he managed to go through a lot of brilliantly, before getting too tired, and went to bed around 3am. Me being the absolute brilliant person i am *cough*  managed to last till 5am, before deciding i was just confused by where the story was leading, and just wanted to hand it over to someone else, so i went and woke up Aaron to carry on, which he then woke Dave to carry on with what was left of the Criggion scenes, whilst Aaron continued with the Car scenes. I found i couldn’t sleep, so i ‘back-seat edited’ for a bit with Dave, before being ordered to go to bed by Aaron.

When i awoke, Dave had edited the rest of the Criggion scenes, and Aaron was re-writing the car scenes, thinking he could use the shots i had taken of people naturally talking to use ADR to tell the story a bit better – which he did brilliantly. I then sat down and started to colour grade and do any VFX shots needed, whilst Charlie Battson went to go and start on the Foley for the film. We still hadn’t found a suitable ending for the film, so in the end i pieced together a VFX shot to try and act as a cliffhanger, which i’m still not very happy with.

At around 2pm, we had locked down our final visuals and pacing, and begun sorting out the audio for the film. In the end only 30 seconds of audio recorded from the location were actually used, as the generator we had used and messed up a lot of the recordings. So Charlie Battson went through and sorted out all of the ADR, whilst me and Charlie Baker went to collect as much audio for music as we could. We quickly found that holding our Zoom Audio Recorder in a piano, then playing odd notes and reversing them was a brilliant way to provide high-quality sound tracks for our film, which worked really well. When Charlie Battson had finished his work, Dave and I sat down to add in the sound track audio we had captured, which we mixed together using Premiere as we had no time to do it in another software. We found that combining the low reversed piano with different bassy rumbles, really worked well to provide a brilliant atmosphere to the footage. After some last minute adjustments, we managed to hit the render button at around 4:20pm. We then all sat down, and enjoyed some beautiful coffee, made by none other than the brilliant Simon Glover.

At 5:30pm, we turned up back where we started on the Friday afternoon at the Ludlow Brewery. Looking around we could see that all of the teams looked extremely exhausted, thank goodness we weren’t the only ones. At around 6:10pm, we all sat down and watched each other’s films. Our film was shown second, and the response was great! We had people asking how we did certain things, asking if we’d make another one, telling us to making another one – it really was brilliant. At the end of all of the films being shown, one film was to be picked to receive the ‘Ludlow Gold Award’, chosen by Amy Moss.

And… we won. Our whole team looked at each other in disbelief, and child-ish smiles appeared on everyone’s faces. We’d won. We were already so proud of what we had created, and the achievement of what we were able to pull off was simply brilliant, but this really was the cherry on the top of the cake. We then mingled with the other teams, talked about filmmaker-ey stuff, and left, still buzzing with excitement from the weekend.

Coming home and looking at the film, there is a lot i would of wanted to change in hindsight. Some of the VFX shots are a bit dodgy, im not a fan of the ending, and some of the sound effects are a bit cheesy. However, because the ending was so vague, it’s left a lot of it to interpretation. And i love how many different stories are coming from our film, i love listening to people trying to work out what happens next, it’s fascinating.

One person said that we should have presented it in the format of a trailer, instead of a short film, and to be honest i agree with that person. We tried to do too much in too little time. However, i’m still so proud of what we were able to accomplish, and the thought ‘If we did that in 48 hours, i can’t wait to see what we can make in a month’ keeps circling my mind. The whole team is still wanting to make our short film into something larger, and no doubt it will happen in the near future. We’re currently looking at funding, and (without talking to the others) my hope is to start production some time at the end of this year.

We are still waiting to see if we’ve won the overall award for the competition, and as much as i do hope we win, i’m still very happy with how well we’ve done otherwise. The experience it’s self is a reward, but hey, who doesn’t like 2 days hire of a Red Epic? Bring on the results!

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