04 April 2007

Crew Exercise


As an end-of-term project we spent the last week writing a script and filming it with the help of a professional director and cinematographer. It was to be the first time we practice working as a crew, covering all the technical roles as well as providing all other roles needed on the set from 1st AD to catering, grips, gaffers, art department, production management and so on. At least that was the theory. It turned out to be the first (and hopefully the last) major disappointment at film school. Due to the difficult relationship the group had with the director the process became one of struggling against bad teaching and un-constructive attitude rather than a combined effort of making the best film possible. The result was general lack of interest in the project - and on the positive side a pulling together of the crew (even though that probably wasn’t the objective of the exercise).

 What began with a really exciting pitching session where we came up with 30 story ideas and only stopped when we ran out of whiteboard space soon deteriorated when the director ripped down ideas with unhelpful (to say the least) comments on the boringness of our ideas. It became quite demoralising as we tried to defend our story concepts. As time went on more and more people dropped out and became frustrated. In the end even the original author of the story that was chosen withdrew and the director ended up writing the final draft. During the re-writes it became apparent that the script as written by the director would not allow any involvement for most of the assigned crew roles.

There was to be little art department requirement, no lighting and the camera work was to be hand-held by the cinematographer, negating a need for grips or a camera operator. In the end the script was changed to allow at least the art department to work, but most of the shoot was still handheld and only the last few hours of the shoot did the lighting and grip department have any work to do. It was unfortunate that what for many of us was the first opportunity to work on a film set ended up with half the crew sitting round with nothing to do all day and learning little to no hands-on skills.

Luckily our cinematographer, the esteemed Richard Bluck of Black Sheep
(a very funny must-see comedy horror, a true New Zealand movie in the best possible sense), was very communicative about the techniques he was using and spent some time answering questions.

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