Our first film, ‘Impasse’, was a crash course in movie-making. To say we learned a lot would be a gross understatement. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing left to learn at the end of it.
Shooting ‘Albert’ provided some more useful lessons. Here are a few that come most immediately to mind:
When you have a significant prop that’s going to be in lots of shots, choose something that looks the same from every angle. We had a square tea caddy where the four sides were all different (three subtly so, one completely different). Remembering how it was angled relative to the table it was on turned into a continuity nightmare, especially as the damn thing got picked up several times during the action. Cue lots of referring to copious photos. God bless the iPad.
If you have a storyboard/shotlist, you might want to actually look at the damn thing from time to time. On one long and slightly tricky shot, involving some improv, both writer/director Clare and me (as DP and the person who planned the shot and created the storyboard) failed to notice that the shot should have started with a character moving out of shot. I mean, I remembered eventually, but not until we’d done five takes, released the key actor and moved on to other things.
Similarly, the shotlist might have the shots in that order for a reason, and if you change the order, you might want to think about the consequences. That same shot mentioned above has a teapot on a table in the foreground. We ended up shooting it before the shot where the actor places the teapot on the table. Alas, the second shot is from an identical angle (actually, the same set-up) as the first. This meant the actor, Minnie, would have to put the teapot down in exactly the same position as it was in the takes we’d already done – and do so while walking past the table. Which she did. First take.
Record live sound for everything. We actually planned to do that, but there was still one shot where I airily told Mandy, our sound recordist, not to bother because it was just a cutaway. So I shot it MOS. But when time came to edit I realised it would have been much better with sound.
If you want to start work at 8:30 sharp, don’t order the biggest breakfast in history for two of your crew at 8:00. Given the amount they’d eaten I was astounded how hard they worked all day. I wouldn’t have been able to move.