6 episodes in 6 months
Since June I have been on a mission to write, film and edit 6 half hour TV episodes. These episodes are for a Christian satellite channel which is broadcast in Turkey (and most of Europe) I've worked making productions for this channel since 2008 and since finishing my degree at Teesside, I've been able to start on a solid project for it again.
Currently I have just finished editing Episode 3. So my deadline has had to shift. Luckily that is not such a big deal for me as I just have to make 6 and get them out not work to a particular deadline.
Anyway I thought I would reflect on the process. At university we were taught (or had it drilled into us) that production was TEAM work, that there was a certain procedure to production and to deviate would be detrimental to the content.
I do like the structure of production. The writing, the prep, the storyboarding, the finding of the crew, budgeting, scheduling etc., The order makes producing so much easier.
But sometimes that is just not possible. You have two people, no money and a lot to make.
Since June we have made 3 short films, 12 music videos and 5 1-2 minute fillers as well as approx 10 piece-to-cameras.
Not counting July (because we were away) that is 5 months to create 3 half hour TV episodes. You can ask lots of questions about that.
What's the quality like? Are they interesting? What are your ratings like? I am not answering those questions in this post. I am much more interested in the idea that you can produce a lot of content (often) without all the planning that we are taught to do.
Are we killing the joy?
Do we sometimes hinder what we can do by waiting for the right conditions? I need £40,000 to make this film. I will make this when I have more experience. I haven't got the cameraman I want. I need an experienced producer on board. I haven't made anything that's won an award yet.
These are grown up excuses and creativity is the business of children.
"Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven...therefore humble yourselves..."
Creativity takes humility. As a child, creating, I was so brave. I would try anything. I recreated Riverdance the show when I was 12, using my nieces and myself when none of us knew how to dance. I put on a show and invited the family and CHARGED THEM MONEY to watch us. I dread to think what they all thought and how they must have laughed to themselves. But I didn't mind back then. I was creating and I thought it was wonderful. I didn't mind that there was not the skill or budget behind this production. But it had something special.
I am not saying we should be naive about what we make. Or ignore criticism. Or decide not to learn and develop. However, I do think the structure that is learned and taught inhibits the creative flow we naturally have in us.
Lesson in Impromptu Music Videos
I would like to give you an example from one of the music videos I made this month. The password for the video is 'bazilari' - it is not sensitive content, just not broadcast yet so I don't want it posted everywhere so people can be bored of it before it's on the TV.
I had to film a horse for this song. So I asked around until I found some friends who knew a lady with a horse somewhere up on the moors near Danby. I rang her and talked to her about what I wanted. What I wanted was very loosely "Natural shots of a horse and the relationship between horse and rider." I knew in my head I wanted to start the video showing parts of the horse - a sort of reveal. That was all I knew. So here are a few things I did which do not fit the expected procedure of filming:
I didn't do a recce. STRIKE 1. I know. I should have gone and met the horse first, checked out the environment, seen what equipment was best. I didn't have time. I needed to get these episodes out and I needed the footage as soon as I could get it. So I just turned up, knowing that the owner was going to ride him that day.
I didn't stay very long. STRIKE 2. I spent about an hour altogether filming this horse and I knew I didn't have as much as I would have liked. There got to a point where I knew that this was as much as I could get out of this horse and that the ladies wanted to get on with their ride they were putting off for me. Again, I was not paying the owner anything so I felt I couldn't intrude on her time for too long.
The me-singing-cutaway was totally filmed in my front room. STRIKE 3. I didn't have the time or budget to find a nice beautiful venue to film in. I originally planned to film me separately on the moors for the singing part but I filmed the horse on my own, my cameraman was working and then we were busy at the weekend so it would have had to wait another week and again....I needed this fast. So I thought, well, you can make any room look filmic by having enough depth of field to blur the background. I stuck on a prime 135mm, found the longest diagonal line in our house (which ended up meaning the camera was in the toilet) and used a tripod. I'm happy with it. If the image had been flat with no DoF, it would have looked home video but I feel it gets away with it because of the distance and perspective.
Just Make It
There are many other things I did that were impromptu and unplanned.
I am satisfied with what I made. I'm happy with it.
If I had followed an expected protocol I would have had to write and draw the outline of the video story, storyboard each shot, find a location and a horse, do a recce with the horse and rider as well as checking out the location, find another location for the singing cutaways, storyboard the shots for the cutaways, plan the lighting, plan for the weather if we had been filming it outside.
Altogether it would have taken a lot longer than I had and perhaps even inhibited the creative juices. Sometimes not having the option to plan means you work it out as you go along, which equally sometimes injects a little spark into the content. I'm not saying this one has a spark but there have been others that did.
Hitchcock planned his famous Pyscho shower scene to be a silent scene. What a massive failure that would have been if the little creative spark hadn't got involved then?
Don't always do things just because "that's the way it's done." Go and make something. Go on. Skidaddle.