The Big Letdown: Short Film #4

by Alyssa Hunt

When we decided to make a short film about a crossdressing male who meets a peculiar girl while camping, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Screenplay Development
The PSA Script

15

When we sat down to reflect on our previous film Neurotic Desire, we decided we wanted to get away from experimental and try something more straightforward. We wanted to explore a film about a guy in the woods wearing a dress. So, I went to work.

It took me a while to craft my main character, Timothy. I wanted to make his character relatable, despite his unusual choice of clothing. The girl character was easy because she’s the typical outspoken rebel.

Once I had the characters established, I attempted to make a story that would bring these two together. That was the real challenge. Nothing  made sense.

After writing my first draft, I let two of my writer friends read it. When I got their notes back, I was shocked that they both didn’t like or understand the script. My feelings were definitely hurt and immediately I was defensive. I actually had to take a few days to let myself cool down before really studying their notes. And you know what? They were absolutely right. The script made no sense.

I had understood the script so well that I left out important details, action lines, and dialogue that was necessary for the story. I was blinded by my own understanding of the characters and failed in doing my job as a writer. Thus, I started over.

When I let them read it again, they both agreed it made more sense and was a stronger story. Then, I decided to IMDB the title and sure enough it was taken. Since we film with the anticipation to submit to festivals, we knew that we had to change the title. We settled on the title Sway. From now on, I always research a title before choosing.

Pre-Production
The Whole 9 Yards

2

We decided to go all out with Pre-Production. We had goals to be so organized that nothing would go wrong. We even added more crew members than we’d ever had. They consisted of:

  1. Director
  2. Assistant Director
  3. Script Supervisor
  4. Cinematographer
  5. 1st Assistant Camera
  6. 2nd Assistant Camera
  7. Make-Up Artist (x2)
  8. Costume Designer
  9. Boom Op.
  10. Production Assistant
  11. Grip

In order to keep organization, we created a production binder or what we call, The Best Thing EVER. Here is what we put in our Production Binder:

Cast and Crew Contact Sheet

You never know when you’re going to need someone’s number, so this is perfect for emergencies. Also, we had everyone’s crew position listed so there was no confusion.

Shooting Schedule

For multiple day shoots it’s important to have a schedule to keep everyone on track and to have a clear idea of what needs to be completed.

AC/Camera/Script Supervisor Logs

A happy editor is a happy production! We love to keep Kelanie happy while editing so we make sure that we have documentation from each take

Scene Break Down

For each scene in our script, we broke it down by listing the following information:

  1. Cast
  2. Stunts
  3. Featured Extras
  4. Crowd Extras
  5. Special Effects
  6. Props
  7. Vehicle/Animals
  8. Wardrobe
  9. Make-up/Hair
  10. Sound Effect/Music
  11. Special Equipment

This helps put into perspective exactly what is happening in a scene and what is needed to make it happen.

Location Stills

Before production, we took pictures of all the locations for the film and then printed them out so we could recreate the exact location the day of.

Wardrobe/Makeup Samples 

To envision the looks of the characters, we had wardrobe and makeup samples. All pictures we found on our pinterest page and our awesome designer Klarissa Kurtz put together the outfits.

Script

It’s amazing how misplaced everyone’s script gets when on set. It’s nice to always have the production binder to rely on to see a clean copy of the script.

Contracts

In the practice of professionalism, we had our cast and crew sign contracts and kept them handy with us on set just in case.

Shot List

To save time, we plan all our shots in advance. This way, we arrive on set with a purpose.

What Could Go Wrong List

Yep, we made a list of everything that could go wrong and then made solutions for them. This took a little bit of time, but definitely saved us from crisis later.

Having a production binder not only forced us to get organized, but it made things on set run smoothly.

Production
The Big Let Down

4

Day 1

Estimated Schedule 12:00pm – 8:00pm

We decided to start small and film the ‘easy scenes’ on our half-day. Our location was about a five-minute hike up the side of a hill. It was 90-degrees that weekend and we had loads of camping props. It took us awhile to set up but aesthetically we were very pleased.

But, we soon discovered that we had a major problem and it wasn’t location, script, or equipment. It was crew. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the most dedicated crew. For us to feel so passionate about the project and then to have people who just weren’t interested, it definitely took a toll on the vision.

We pushed through it and did get some amazing shots for the day, but we definitely felt the pressure. And, we were having trouble getting a strong performance. By the time we were finished, everyone was exhausted and ready to leave. We were worried we wouldn’t have a crew for the following day.

Day 2

Estimated Schedule 8:00am – 5:00pm

Day two began slowly. Kelanie and I put on our best faces and were determined to get through the day. We got camp set up and began filming. But, we found ourselves doing take after take after take. Finally, we realized we wouldn’t be pleased and just moved on.

From there, everything fell apart. The crew was extremely uninterested, so Kelanie and I just decided to push on knowing the majority of the work would be done by us. We got all the shots, but we didn’t get the coverage or the performance we really wanted.

By the end of the day, everyone left and no one knew how frustrated Kelanie and I were. We felt like we had not only wasted the past two days, but we lost out on an opportunity to make a great story.

This was a lesson for us because we learned that not everyone will love your project or even want to help you out. Some people are just dead weight. And like we said before , no lazies on set!

Next week, we will talk about the editing process and how that turned out to be a heartbreak all over again.

xx

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