As part of my professional industry module I have been asked to enter three film competitions, Scream Fest being one of them. Scream Fest is open to everyone and has a number of different categories in which a person can enter. I plan to go into the ‘Student Film’ category due in 1st August at the latest.
As part of Professional Industry Project I am expected to show my skills in film making by planning, organising and producing a project that matches a client brief, in this case film competition know as Scream Fest. I will be assessed on my level of production as well as my ability to successfully follow the client brief.
In the script I have prepared for this project we are introduced to five main characters who all take on a different roles of survival and hopefully illustrate and identify these five states of being.
It shows a narrative of arc of the affects and transformation through survival, which is taught through our main characters: Through her we see the humane transformation in survival, something that viewers would wish would be there own reaction. For example there is a scene in a house where she looses her child and this acts as the characters main conflict and reason for transformation and survival. but on it’s own it acts as the ending of the story.
Below is a link to a script that will be split up into two parts. The first half of the story i.e. the words shaded in black will be the script for Scream Fest where as the coloured half of the page will be entered into a separate competition:
This scripts ending should end with a shot of a group of zombies outside of the house followed by ‘Too be Continued’. This should end the narrative nicely:
- Amanda and Charlie being our introduction
- The film set being the conflict (zombies)
- The house party and power cut as the red herin
- The death of Charley and survival of Amanda being our conclusion
Inspiration and Research
In this section I have used a number of sources to gather ideas that will help with the process of the project. This research was my attempts of finding out what makes could horro and survival tales and the methods they used.
I have used a number of sources in researching my characters and have brought together a group of extremely different characters as the script demands they all take a different approach to the conflicts that take place. I began to watch movies / other zombie materials.
The computer game Left 4 Dead acts as a great inspiration for this project as it shows a ‘band of brothers’ stuck in a zombie apocalypse each fighting for survival with no one but each other to rely on. They are a team who wade through level after level in the hopes that the outside world will send help to rescue them out from this tragic event.
I would attempt to replicate the ‘safe house’ theme that is constant through the game as it acts as good place to ground the characters and take in the developments they have made i.e. coming to terms with the reality of a zombie take over and what they need to become to make it through and survive.
Left 4 Dead is a brilliant theme as it takes on materialistic approach towards survival almost stating that it is also about the list of tools one needs to locate in order to survive. In the game a character will often make progressions towards making new weaponry, making medical kits and finding fuel and other assorted materials in order to survive.
This provides an iconic impression towards the story and characters as weapons and objects can be made to tell a story about who the character is i.e. in this case Coach uses a shotgun because he is big, strong and full of fire power.
This method is incredibly cinematic; the use of props telling a story is something that I appreciate and want to use in this project another example are medieval / fantasy stories like 300 and Lord of the Rings;- where a sword tells a great story of the survival of men or how a spartan shield is shown to be a vital weapon that has shaped history.
All these film makers that made a conscious decision to include a story behind certain props which gave an easily translatable message to the audience to better describe the characters and to place a greater importance and atmosphere to a story.
I intend to take the same approach to developing my own characters having key items that explain a characteristic or issue to the audience.
Another source of information that has been important to this project is the research into the film 28 Days Later. This movie has an underline seriousness to survival which is what I’m hoping to achieve. In certain scenes like the house scene expresses the topic of reproduction in the form of necessity;- as a zombie outbreak has near wiped people out. The idea of course doesn’t sit well with the three main characters but expresses the topic of survival and doing certain things to make sure that it is obsolete.
28 Days has a great feeling of separation and survival. It gives an instant feel to the movie when we see the empty streets of London, we know that something big has happened and sets the stage for our monster before we have even been introduced.
I feel those opening minutes are essential to the movie and acts as a good inspiration element as in my opinion it is one of the greatest survival zombie films out there and shares a likeliness with my story.
The ‘safe house’ idea is again used in this piece of material in the opening minutes where our main character has woken up from a coma and attempts to search for survivors. We see that a band of people are hiding out in a shop and aid our character from danger, only when he makes it to safety he finds that the new environment he has been introduced to might not be as secure as he’d hoped for.
This scene has given me inspiration to make a similar safe house scene and also gives an example of harsh survival; where we see a woman hacking a man to death in order to prevent a fatal infection from spreading. ‘Harsh reality’ is what I get from this piece. If I am expecting to make something that shakes my audience up I need to adopt a similar message.
My audience for this project are the viewers of Scream Fest and the film guide part from their official website has given me a long list of videos all of which are varied across the genre expressing; kidnap; apocalypse; murder; demons and supernatural beings.
Through my research I’ve found no distinct genre inside horror that is preferred although ‘gore’ seems to be what a lot of the viewers from Scream Fest are looking for. I know that there is a great appreciation for zombies from the horror audience as films like World War Z, Zombieland and Resident Evil have all made it into the top 50 Grossing Horror Titles. With that said the Call of Duty franchise decided to introduce the theme of zombies in 2010’s Black Ops, which is the second highest grossing game of all time.
Zombies have been on horror film audiences minds since the creation of ‘White Zombie’, an old movie made 86 years ago staring Bela Lugosi. From there ‘Night of the Living Dead’ would help define the zombie genre and give way to a difference between the type of zombies that were been written about, in this case the Romero’s zombie vs Russo’s zombie (two film makers on set for the creation of The Living Dead who couldn’t agree on the direction of a zombie series).
The introduction of the Zombie March that happens annually in Bristol is proof of the popularity of the zombie genre:
My film is aimed at both female and male audiences from the ages of 18 – 30, who enjoy zombie / apocalyptic films inside the horror genre.
This is a document to support any pre production I have done towards my second Professional Industry project. This is a two-part Zombie Thriller; the first Escape and Survive.
Today I sat with three friends to come up with a script idea for my short zombie thriller. We quickly bounced ideas from plots, character and a story line and within two sessions we had our first draft. My main part was the ideas and filmic sequences which I thought should be included. As a whole we came up with characters which could best portray our underline message of the zombie; ‘Survive’. We began to strip the story apart after the first brief to decide how these characters would best fit the emotions and meaning of the story. We decided that the characters should display a range of different emotional reactions when put into a survival situation; Hope, Fear, Selflessness, Caution and Survival. Survival being the more predominant one we decided to award it to our main character who is a single parent who loses her child and is seen as unlikely survivor until her true colours form and gathers the power to take control and lead the group to safety.
Selflessness in the idea of somebody putting their own life aside to treat more important needs i.e. a soldier looking to get home to his family.
Today I have been working on a number of storyboards for the story and have broken into a second part.. I had come up with a scene that I could see working visually and have made a four page story board which tells the story of an escape for part two; Survive.
I now have several storyboards which match up with the script and compliment the story of Escape.
Today I managed to sort out a filming location with a landlord in Melton Mowbray called The Vicarage. It is a huge three story building which matches the specifications of the house in the story. The outside is perfect and has made me begin my story boards for the location.
Today I had a meeting with the make-up department to pitch my idea in the hope to get a team onboard to deal with the design of the zombies that will star in this short. My brief had a short description of the storyline and characters involved. I explained some key ideas one that I wanted the zombies to be green (like in the old movies) and not to be just blood filled gory characters. The tutor would then ask me to come up with a more in-depth brief to specify for make-up i.e an in-depth character portfolio, lighting conditions etc.
Today I produced a detailed document for make-up; it included the things that were asked of me and I included pictures and comparisons to explain what I was after. One thing was to choose characters that have already been seen from films or games to better describe this.
Today I have learnt that my filming location is inaccessible as there have been a number of tenants that have moved into the house. The landlord stopped me and told me that he was still happy for us to use the outside just not inside the house. Changes in filming locations will mean a new read over the script as some scenes are built to suit the aspects of the location. My task now will be to find a new filming location.
Today I had a meeting with the make-up department who have arranged to meet with me next week to show the designs they have come up with. It would be a good idea to include one of the writers in this meeting as their input and knowledge towards the characters will with demands and specifications.
I have been looking over my house to see the possibilities in using it as a filming location. The house has some potential although the limited space will cause issues in stage directions; lighting and camera movement. It also means that the script will have to be changed to help accommodation the new area. One issue that is present is the rooms in the house do not lead anywhere where as there are scenes are written where the actors are chased through the house with actors going through rooms that lead into other areas: Our problem here is that the rooms do not lead any where.
Today I approached actor Jak Beasley with a movie script to fill in the role of ‘Director on fill set’. He had a read and enjoyed the material. My next task is to give him a definite filming date and to fill up other acting roles on ‘The Film Set’ scene.
Today my first day to see what the make-up department had come up with accompanied by one of the actors. They had a series of designs ranging from zombies; zombies on the film sets and HD make-up for cast actors. They had a number of different affects and techniques for the special effect make-up; one being latex which I was keen on. The reason for this is latex does not have bulging effects coming out of it like their gels gave. It also means that you can stretch out pieces to make it look like the skin is drawn back or hanging off. They also had a display of gory images for the ‘film crew zombies’. There use of special affects was good and they had a person dressed up in special effects make-up for us to see. My thought at this point are to stick with the latex design even though the gels can be powdered down to take the glossy look out which I had problems with. I also wanted to see more of a colour chart for the green make-up they will using which will happen in the next meeting two weeks from now (25th Nov).
Today I sent out emails to schools in the hope of finding a young person to fill the role for Charlie, Amanda son. I also emailed Peter from performing arts for supervision and filming location for ‘Survive’ (part 2).
Today was an incredibly progressive day for the filming project. I took part in a short zombie narrative; not as any part of ‘Escape’ or ‘Survive’;- although the experience was incredibly beneficial. I saw two new actors and their acting ability as well as filming a zombie with full makeup. I can say that the colour and design of the zombie were correct and worked well with my lighting plan (650w with florescent lights or 350w and ‘house lights’). I maintained a similar exposure rate from start to finish which showed my experience with cinematography and was able to improvise when a problems occurred showing skills in directing and film making for post production.
I am still having a number of problems with this project. I am still learning what it is like to manage and produce a film project. All things like time management, organisation and leadership. Firstly managing this project has been so much of an eye opener for me, I truely feel that without this module and project I would have never known the workload a producer has to endure. You are literally the tread that holds the sectors together. You will experience pressure from all sides and at times this stree can be overwhelming.
From my experience of the stress of being a producer I have learnt two things; they are to always be confident and head strong as everyone is relying on you for confidence and leadership. If you start to stress and falt then it will set a chain reaction off inside the team. The second is always remain professional at any cost.. Personal disputes and feelings can sometime be overwhelming but you MUST ensure that this does not get the better of you. You are here to achieve the end goal and other aspects should not sway you from this,they can not as there is so much at stake for you to be the head anchor.
One thing I did not intend on is my director not fulfilling the roles he was meant to take care of which left we short of support. I can see why the relationship between director and producer has to be impenetrable. A director is your best friend as he is also keeping the pieces together. He should be keeping communication with the cast and film elements. In short a producer is the out wall he is your main defense and security while your director is more of a general keeping command over the soldiers.
I have made two big decisions today. I have decided to rewrite Escape and Survive as without the role of a young actor is leaves a big hole in the story. It has not been as simple as just pulling his part out of the story as it effects many of the main characters he is around. It also has put a change to the story and has given me a chance at reexamining the meaning of the story. Here are the issues I have faced on this point and how I have overcome them:
The intention was to show a mother going through a period of transformation when she faces the loss of her child. This subject has always been a grey area for me and a re-look over the script would make it clear that a change needed to happen. I do not see the death of a child to be a tasteful subject and it also doesn’t make a lot of sense how a mother can progress through our story. I feel we were asking to much of Amanda’s character. Could she really survive this story; dealing with not just a zombie apocalypse but also the loss of the most special thing in her life.. I could not see her having a positive ending nor could I see this transformation from gentle mother to bad ass zombie warrior;- happening in the short space of time that the script has given her.
At this point I had a ‘ping’. A light bulb burst out of the back of my head when it was clear that loss needed to be less distorting on our character. Who could make a character spiral out in anger but for them not to be engrossed in it I thought. It had to be a sibling. I saw this as the right move. An older sister or brother has a duty to protect the youngest and almost age for them so why cant she age for her in death like she in life I asked myself.
This also gave me room to make not only Charleys character more personal but Amandas and Alfies also. It easier to pull a story line out from a relationship between two sisters as they have have grown up with each other giving room for a lot more to write about!
This was it. I now not only had an easier role to cast but also a platform to help me understand my own characters. I came up with a brief history and story line for the sister and began to write it into a character portfolio. The characters fit and it also aloud be to express more from each of the characters.
The next big decision I needed to make was to let my director go. It was clear to me that he did not have the time or passion to take on this story to the degree I was hoping for. I had already been casting these roles and I feel this kept the story and characters fresh in my mind. I was also already doing most of the roles of a director so the choice to take this role for myself didn’t create too much problem for me. I had recently decided to pass camera onto someone else which also made this decision clear.
I’ve found that to be a writer or a director you have to carry a project with you everywhere. You have to continuous be thinking about your characters and the choices they would make. This was something I was doing and I was trying to think up more inventive ways of how I can emphasis the meaning of ‘survival’ and how this can be shown through a movie.
The continuous paper work I have been doing for this project has also kept me in the zone as it has given me chances to try and explain this meaning to an outside audience i.e. tutors and cast members. All this has been a vital experience and shows that you can not simply write one draft and have your ideas locked up in your head. They need to be pushed, fomented, and tested. It is this process that has given me some form of experience in this role, and has led to confidence with my own project.
Escape was now finished, it established the characters in a new way and also had the foundation to carry it into the second half. I now carried on with cast and in this day I would approach two young actors for two main roles in the story.
I have been in touch with a young actor by the name of Tom Bailey. His still in front of camera and professional qualities made him a good choice to cast into the film. I first had him in mind to play a small character in the film set scene but later realised that he may be better suited for the character of Alfie. This character was still one that I was unsure of but as soon as the rewrite was made and I felt I had a better understanding it aloud me to explore more possibilities and Tom, being first choice would be the answer to this call. He has the script and his character profile. I also included other character profiles so he has some understanding of the characters he is acting alongside.
I have also been talking with an musical theatre student by the name of Casey. I am still unsure whether she can be relied upon as she would let me down in the next couple of days. Though this is a problem she is actually right for this role. This now breeds a new test on my producing skills: Do I settle for whats best in front of me or should I look further a field? This is the question and problem I will now need to tackle.
Today Ive been on Casting Call pro in the hope of filling more roles. Actress Casey is unsure where she can make it so as part as a backup option I have gotten in touch with another. She intends to ring me Monday evening to discuss the role.
Casting call pro is an incredibly vast website; it provides you with an easily accessible website full of people willing to act in projects. Must of these people are not looking for paid work which make it incredibly useful for these types of projects.
The fact that this project in particular is being entered into Scream Fest should act as an incentive and how Casting Call Pro has a detailed search engine has made it an easy way to look for a specific actor / actress.
Today I have been working on storyboards for the project. I have broken down my script and labelled where I feel a camera will cut to a separate shot. I’ve have done this by simply lettering the dialogue i.e. A); A1); A2) A2-). Once this has been done I have provided one paper per shot. I feel this has given me more room to explain a shot in terms of a lighting set up and camera angles. This has so far been a new an effective way of storyboarding; one sheet for each shot has me analyse all things that could cause an issue in shot and has still provided with a cinematic story when the pages are joined
Today I have been conducting a number of lighting tests in the hopes of making my zombie short run with ease. It has been incredibly interesting and enjoyable as before I have a fairly rushed experience with this topic. Cinematography is something that needs a vast amount of planning as it is a time consuming process.
The location isn’t an easy area to light so again this has been a good assessment for me: I found a number of ways to set up a lighting plan for scene and this has given me a lot of important information. I am realising the benefits of lighting an actor away from a background; this can make an image look more pleasing to the eye as the viewer recognises dimensions when it has distinctive differences from one area to another. Todays session has also shown me that lights that shine directly at an actor can look hash and unnatural; this good be a desired look although I feel does not fit with the look I am looking to achieve.
Today I had a number of rehearsals with actors, this is an essential process as I feel the actors need to understand the roles before coming on set. I let the actors read the script first before giving them pointer on how they should act or pronounce their lines.
Today was another day of test shots for cinematography. I used a lighting kit and a light meter to go round the house and check; light intensity; other lighting set ups and to work with areas that I felt may cause issues on the day of filming.
One area especially was the corridor; this is an incredibly hard area to work with
This section supports my pre production for the project. As my process has been listed through a blog this section will give the reader access to pictures and videos toward the effort and encouragement of the project.
Through the sessions of PIP I have been in constant communication with the girls from the make-up department. I gave my own specification, these were to come up with two distinctive zombies known as ‘Set Zombies’ which was a sort of ‘mocumentary’ idea were zombies were being filmed on a film set before they are overrun by ‘actual’ zombies. The others were the main zombies who’s design should not be too in depth with blood and gore but to have a stylistic approach to the skin tones. My idea was to incorporate the old green zombies but this was open to interpretation and the girls would be aloud to take the design to where ever they felt was right.
One 2 One Sessions::
Hope’s Character and influential styles:
James Dunstley character and character influence:
Hunter’s character influence: