TOP TIPS ON WRITING, PREPPING AND SHOOTING A SHORT FILM! Guest post by filmmakers Lexy Anderson and Ben Murray


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Lexy Andersonand Ben Murrayare a filmmaking duo based in London, who regularly collaborate on short films. They’re here today on Writesofluid to share with us some insight into the process and some excellent tips for both writers and filmmakers…

Filmmaker Team, Lexy Anderson and Ben Murray

We wanted to share the story about our most recent film, “Reality Bites” which had a pre-production turnover of…. 24 hours. YES! 24 Hours. So how did we prep a shoot in one day? We’ve shared our secrets below!



CREATING A SCRIPT ARCHIVE

On a dark, cold night before graduation from UCA Farnham (a small arts-campus in the depth of Surrey) we found ourselves panicking about Post-Uni life. As you do.

To distract from our impending future, we decided to plan some scripts to create an archive of work. Writing with another person can be difficult, but at this stage we were just riffing ideas, and after a night of basically talking nonsense, we conjured up a collection of concepts, one of which was “Reality Bites”.

We’re not sure what specifically inspired it. At one point one during the writing session, someone asked “What if you married a zombie?” and the next morning, there was a script! (It was also written in a day too!)

Writing with another person can be difficult, but we didn’t judge to early in the process and bounced ideas off one another until we had enough of a concept to start creating and solidifying the world and the characters.

TIP: The story for “Reality Bites” came from us asking “What if” about various scenarios – for example, what would life be like if you married to a zombie? The fly-on-the-wall documentary style seemed like the right way to explore it comedically, and we drafted a script overnight.



SO, WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?

Summer, 2017. Both of us keen to book a day off work and shoot a short film. We’d a script, auditioned cast, gathered equipment, scouted locations,and…. it all fell through!

Due to an actor cancellation last minute, our original script became impossible to move forward with. Thankfully, we turned to our script archived and pitched “Reality Bites” as an alternative to our actors. Thankfully, both were game for a last-minute-switch-a-roo.

Gathering props and scouring filmmaker groups across the early hours of shoot-day morning, eventually led us to lock down a makeup artist, costume and all props needed to be ready for shoot.

TIP: We can’t recommend Facebook groups enough – if you can manage to advertise a position as “Paid”, no matter how low that is, you’ll usually attract a higher level of candidates to your radar.

Actress, Bridgette Wellbelove as “Jane”, slating a scene

THE SHOOT

Considering the above madness, the shoot itself was very relaxed. We had a shot-list, but that was used as more of a guide, as we encouraged everyone on set to share ideas. The actor’s improvisation actually became driving forces that saved several scenes and we ended up with approx. 50% scripted and 50% improv.

TIP: From a writing point of view, It’s important to know how to use elements of your genre to your advantage, as well as what wouldn’t work. The only reason we could encourage so much improv, was because it worked in our favour with the ‘Documentary’ style.

Having a co-director on this shoot sent productivity through the roof, as the burden of decision making was halved. It meant both of us always had a go-to-person just to bounce ideas off of.

Lexy applies some light touch-ups to Jorge Andrade’s “Michael” makeup

TO CONCLUDE

Shoots are stressful…if you let them be. But if you’re focused on enjoying the process of problem solving, you can actually have fun.We also recommend keeping an archive of scripts in your back pocket. That way, if actors/locations pull out, you have alternative material to potentially use and not waste a day booked off work.

Always be adaptable; whether you’re the director, camera-operator, or the editor, be open and allow people to respectfully stray away from the written page.

And finally, embrace your limitations – we had so many ideas we wanted to do, but restrictions meant they’d take too much time, or cost too much. We embraced our limitations and concentrated on exploring performances.

Ben and Sound Recordist, Luise Guertler, with their portable kit setup

OUR ADVICE

Just go out there, write a script and let everything you fall through, because guess what, sometimes life sucks (or, “Reality Bites”) but if you want to be a filmmaker, you’ll find a way to make it work.



Decide if you think 24-hours preparation was enough? Check out the film,Reality Bites here:

GET IN TOUCH

To find out more, get involved or get in touch, feel free to contact either of us on our respective social media accounts:@lexy__anderson & @benthemurray

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