Category Archives: Past Experiences

Previous film making and writing experiences and what happened/Lessons learnt

Making Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter: Part Two (Inc Series)

(First part here)

As I’ve touched upon before in a previous blog (That’s been deleted) pre-production and production didn’t really go to plan.

I advertised for the lead role on Shooting People and got a pretty positive response. Auditioned several actors via Skype and met a few local ones for meetings as well. Narrowed the list down to three people and went with the more experienced who I have to say was fantastic.

Unfortunately things didn’t work out there. After several long delays because of other project he was working on things just kind of fell apart. I won’t go into much detail but it was clear at this point that he wasn’t what I wanted and I’m sure he felt the same about me.

So that wasn’t great.

While all this was happening several different locations fell through and my co producer had to pull out due to personal reasons. Which just left me with a completed script and not much more.

I contacted another choice on my short list and he was very keen for the role. I’d known him through him working with someone else I knew a few years back and was glad I was able to give him a chance. He was the most enthusiastic and I was really looking forward to working with him. (and will work with him plenty more in the future).

So actor sorted.

Knew I was going to shoot on the iPod so that was sorted as well, but then I probably made a bad choice. I decided to shoot it at my house.

Initially we planned to shoot it in a cellar or a shed or something that we could turn into a den and the location would evolve over time along with his outfit and his outlook. Was all going to be a line of development that worked alongside each other… I really should have stuck with that. It just made sense and was something I could build on. Could start out pretty sparse and end up looking like Dr Horrible.

But I shot in my house instead.

For me personally, the house just doesn’t work.  I like some of the shots and love the framing through the stairs but I could have got better elsewhere. Just felt very amateurish which is the vibe I was going for, but I think I shouldn’t have gone full amateur. It was sloppy.

By this point I just pointed the camera really. I gave some thought to the setting but not much. Spent some time with the lead to get what I want but the shoot was rushed and I knew it. Was shoot over a few hours across two days I believe but more could have been done.

The production had gone so wrong so many times that I had moved on by that point to another idea, honestly I should have shelved it and came back to it but with all the delays I just wanted it done.

I shouldn’t have treated it like that and never would again, but I can tell watching it back that my heart wasn’t 100% into it. Forget how much less I knew back then I can go back several years before that and watch shorts and 48 hour competition films I made that had a lot more going for them. I fucked up and I know it.

For me, it was a big learning experience though. The short film I shoot before that had technical problems with the sound being awful, but I learnt a lot working with a crew, this one I learnt a lot from the pre-production standpoint. Things go wrong, that’s just always going to happen and this experience made me realise that a lot more and toughened me up.

I love a chance one day to set things right and maybe make a much improved second season but have a lot on. If I ever do find myself pining to go back to it though I will, and like I said, this time my heart would definitely be in it.

Below is the complete season. All 11 episodes. It’s probably my worse work but I still like a lot of the script and plenty of the performance. Will always regret not using a better location but I did have zero money and was shooting on an iPod so maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. But still…..

 

Stephen

 

Making Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter: Part One (Inc Scripts)

So back in 2013 I made a web show called “The Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter” on my ipod. Was shot, edited, colour corrected and everything else all on the device. Which by the way is amazing to be able to do.

Getting the show shot wasn’t easy, I had zero budget and limited time, a couple of different locations fell through meaning I ended up shooting it in my house and had to change actors late on in the process (although that worked out well). All in all it really didn’t go to plan, but I learnt a lot.

But before I talk about that I’ll skip back to the beginning.

I can’t remember exactly how the idea came about for the show but know it was intially just a short (all my idea’s start as shorts it seems). I wanted something simple and easy to make that I could shoot for nothing and have some fun with.

The more I chatted about the show the more it became apparent that the idea could run longer than just a short (had several seasons in mind but that never really came to be… but still could).

So I got together with a fellow writer who I admired and we set about just writing as many idea’s as possible that we could come up with. The idea was to keep them all around 1-2 minutes long and they didn’t really have to follow suit. Could be seperate stories and then I’d see what fits at the end.

Must have written about 7-10 each and selected around 12 in total for season one. I edited the scripts a little to make them read the same(ish) as we have differing styles but kept the story and character within the script. Was very pleased with what we ended up with.

Eventually I had to drop one of the scripts because it was a little more expensive to shoot which still bothers me to this day as Gareth had written a great idea and I really wanted to use it. Just couldn’t figure out how. The irony now is I could probably get it done with no budget but at the time just didn’t have the skills.

So after some redrafts and tightening the season was ready. Probably took around 6 months on and off in total as we were both working on other things as well. But like I said, was pleased with what we had and had turned it more into a complete narrative at that point.

The lead character had changed a little as we found him a lot more in the writing process and had incoperated things from both our scripts to make him more complete. All of his history and backstory came from chatting about the scripts we’d written rather than our inital ideas for him.

So I felt ready to begin and began the short process of pre-production. Will talk more about that in the second part of this blog that will follow shortly but for the moment here are the scripts to the show if anyone is interested in taking a read.

(Sorry about it not being embeded, couldn’t work out how. But one day I will).

Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter Scripts

 

Stephen

(I did have a previous post explaining a little about the making off the show but have taken it off in order to write this slightly more detailed one and to include the scripts in this part and the complete finished product in another)

 

 

 

 

Writing and Directing Short Films

Been working on a few short film scripts of late and has felt nice. When learning to write I’d write short films all the time and used to enjoy it, even directed a couple and had some play at festivals around the country. Was a great experience going to showings and seeing people enjoying my work up on the screen. Then after a failed short my attention turn to writing feature scripts, after all, that’s where I wanted to be.

I’ve been writing feature scripts and TV pilots for a while now. Have 4 feature scripts completed, another one close and have written countless drafts of others which I’m sure at some stage I’ll go back too (Two are very advanced and probably only one good draft away). Along with this I have 2 pilots ready and have written another ill-fated one a while back which I still love the concept but cringe anytime I read it and stop after the first act.

So shorts have kind of taken a back seat, but are always on my mind. Which is why of late it’s been really good to get back writing them. Writing The Moment a few years back and seeing it take off as part of London Screenwriters Festivals 50 Kisses Project really got me back in love with shorts especially after having some success with one I’d written just before that as well. Since then they’ve been part of my life again never more so than now.

I have a handful of shorts fully written and ready and another couple well on their way and am deciding really what to push forward with and direct. With my aim being to direct a no budget feature in the next few years shorts seem like a great way to get the necessary directing experience especially when I’m enjoying them so much at the moment.

The trouble I had back when I started features was that I’d done so much work on my shorts that they ended up becoming feature scripts or TV shows. Two of the four feature scripts I’ve completed  started life as shorts and the one i’ve almost finished started as a similar concept to the first short I directed. (Unseen short as was a practice shoot with City Eye). Alongside this one of the two pilots was also a short, one that I was very close to directing until I decided that the idea could be a lot bigger. So shorts where constantly being overshadowed by longer formats.

This seems to have changed recently. Now the shorts I’ve been writing have really been ideas more designed to be shorts than anything else. I’m sure I could work and expand the shorts a lot but there’s no real appeal in that when I already have such a long list of feature ideas anyway. Plus they work as shorts so why change that.. I think it’s something missing from my work in recent time and could help me a lot.

I like the idea of having a few shorts I’ve directed once again playing at festivals especially now that I have the feature script work to back it up. It seems like the short and longer format have both been part of my life for the last 10 years or more but have never really co-existed. Now seems to be the right time for that.

So whats the plan…

… The plan is to direct some of the short films I’ve written. To work with some of the people I used to work with and enjoy meeting and working with others. I have a few similar ideas where I might need to choose one or the other, and have a few idea’s that don’t really match the genre I’m working with in the longer format so will need to make some decisions there, but the idea of getting behind the camera and writing, directing and producing shorts gets me really excited.

Simply put, It’s something I feel I need to do for both my future, and something I greatly overlook at times, my present.

 

Stephen

 

(Have several older shorts on a separate page to my blog at the top of the page so feel free to check them out. Or here’s the link if the scroll up seems to far which I totally get after the last two weeks I’ve had)   Old Shorts

New Page for Old Short Films

Just a quick blog. Been meaning to do this for a little while and now finally have. Have got together a lot of my old DV Mission shorts along with a few other bits including a link to my award-winning 50 kisses film and have created a page for them.

Is located at the top of the blog next to the about page or linked here:

Old Shorts and New MV

Will try in the future to do a blog on each project but that will be over a fair bit of time I imagine and will also see if I can find any other work to add.

Stephen.

(Is hard to believe that my short film Accidental Death is 8 years old.)

Past Filming Weekends

It feels like a lifetime ago, and in some ways maybe it is since these two weekends, but they have both always stuck in my head and will never leave. They are a reminder of one thing, I love making movies.

The two weekends are very different. The first a not so great movie that I was the camera man for, the second a lovely little film that I AD on called Alice and the Bear directed by Nick Maltby. Both must have been around 2008/9.

Neither was my film but both had a profound effect on me. The reason for this was simple. I loved being on set, being part of the movie making process. The first film that I shoot in truth wasn’t  a very good film but for a lot of us working on it it was our first real shoot. We had shot a short of mine a few weekends before, which I’ll talk happily about in another blog one day, but this was a bigger shot, more actors, bigger location, my complicated scenes etc.

I was just in awe of the whole process. Wanted to do everything, would have done everything. Felt incredibly alive being on set. Capturing the action unfold behind the camera I had a great sense of self satisfaction. I could have stayed behind that camera and continued shooting forever, or until I was thrown out the building. I’m not sure in my professional life how often I’ve felt that way, and I think the reason for that is simply not making enough stuff. Something that has to, and will, change over the next year.

The second shoot was completely different. Everything was a lot more professional. The short had a budget and a fantastic crew and excellent actors and the whole thing felt a lot closer to what I imagined a feature film set would be, especially the food table.

I was by far the least experienced on set and wanted to learn everything. While also trying to do the best job I could possibly do as an AD. Luckily for me everyone there wanted the film to be great and offered a ton of great advice and support. It felt like a community. Everyones goal was the same and everyone’s work ethic was the same. I’m not sure if this is the norm or not but its certainly how I want all my future sets to be.

Once again I found myself wanting to stay in the moment forever. I could have gone back to that studio and woods everyday for the next few years and just continued working. Would have been the best film school ever. The amount I learnt in two days was insane. If the shoot lasted a few months I’m pretty sure I would have walked away an expert.

I look back on both these experiences with such fond memories. I know I could have stayed on either set for much longer. If the shoot required me to stay awake for a week I would have done it and my smile would never have dropped.

Now I need that attitude back.

I’ve reached a point where I have to make more. Its as simple as that. And I will. So hopefully over the next weeks, months and years this blog will be filled with wonderful filming experiences and insights. I’ll be as transparent as possible about all of it and gain a lot more memories like these and be happy about every single one of them

Stephen

Web Show Release

So I’ve decided to release the web show I shot 2 years ago. I don’t think it represents my best work but I learnt a lot from it and enjoyed making it. 

Will do a full blog about the whole experience once a few episodes are out but for the moment I hope people enjoy it and can see the intent even if the execution was somewhat lacking.  

Link below for episode one. 

Stephen

WGZH Episode One

Confessions of a Webshow

So I’ve began writing my latest webshow with the full intent of filming it sometime in the not to distant future. It’s a similar concept to my last show but with all the added knowledge of how to improve from the last attempt and make it a lot better.

I never released season 1 of my last show because I was unhappy with the quality. There was so much frustration in pre production that when it did come to making it I think I rushed it. There are so so many things I’d change and I made far to many comprimises. It was a true learning curve and one that I fully intend to learn from.

So my thinking now is should I release the last show. I think the performance from the actor was good and the dialogue pretty strong so there are things I’m proud of but it by no means represents my best work. But then the flip side to that is best work comes through falling on your ass a few times and picking yourself up and doing better.

Going to have a look at the edit over the next few days and make a decision from there. I have a strong desire to be transparent with this production company and my writing and talk about and show my experiences and believe this could be a good place to start for that.

Starting to talk myself into it as I write this blog. 😉

We’ll see.

Stephen.