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Thread: The Cloud

  1. #1
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    This was my first attempt at a serious drama. It can only be said that what we ended up with is nothing like the vision we had when developing it. A bit of a disappointment but I think we all came our of it with a far greater understanding of film making. Roll on the next one.

    I'm don't want to influence anyone's comments so I'll avoid stating what I think is weak and/or making excuses for this, that and the other until later.

    Grateful for any criticism, but I appreciate that at 15min it's a big ask (being a drama it doesn't lend itself to dipping into).

    One point I will make is that there is a Postscript after the main closing credits (I should have signposted that better).

    Tim

  2. #2

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    Having watched the first 30 seconds I think it lacks camera movement.

    I thought the over all pace of the piece was about right for the subject, a sort of "Morse" type of a piece but a couple of the edits seemed to lag a bit like the shot of the trees at 5:06 but again I don't think these nip picks are an issue, they are just nit picks just to find something.

    I think you did a good job with this generally. The acting is a bit up and down, I think the Blackmailer gave the best/most natural performance apart from the mail tax inspector at the end who totally stole the whole piece.

    The story line was ok but I think was trying to be too clever with it's misdirection and eventual reveal.

    It's still a very good job but lacked camera movement.

  3. #3
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    I liked it.

    The pace was good, considering that it was about two old (well, middle-aged) grumpy buggers. A few frames could have been shaved off some of the edits though (just my opinion).The acting was pretty good too.

    I liked the scene in the store room with the torches and the pub meeting but, personally, for the "voice-over" scene I would have had a couple of strong shadows of bars across the whole image. Made it a bit darker.

    I thought the smoke effects worked really well (digital?).

    Strangely the "after credits" scene didn't work for me. I would have had the two tax inspectors walk up the path and knock on the door only to find it unlocked and have it swing open to reveal that the man had hanged himself in the the hallway.

    Got to agree with Midnight though, at times it was almost trying to be a bit too clever.

  4. #4

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    I would let the actor stand still while pulling out the tool from the back pocket.
    The audio recording from the empty room sounded a bit too much well like empty room for my taste.
    The transition from filling the poision into the machine to filling the beer glass was really nice in my eyes.
    Did you dub the conversation at the bar?
    I guess the acting could be a bit more expressing but I really found the video entertaining and didn't feel to turn it off at any time.

    You could have added some explosions for more drame
    Last edited by XXLRay; 03-21-2014 at 02:05 PM.

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    Enjoyed watching this Tim. Good shot selection throughout and a few great sequences. The main protagonist did a sterling job and it was a decent story.

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    Some very useful observations, gents. No time to respond now - I just wanted you to know I appreciate you all taking the time to watch and comment.
    Tim

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    Well filmed

    very entertaining

    two small points
    - the reflections off the guy's glasses at the beginning could be avoided
    - your disclaimers were unfounded

  8. #8
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    Thanks very much, guys. Very encouraging.
    I think you're right about one or two of the shots used as transitions between the scenes being a little long.

    One of the reasons (I believe) the film suffers is that became it ended up much more story based than we intended.

    When developing the shooting script we'd introduced dialog which gave an insight into the characters background which in turn gave credibility/reason for why they acted why they did. Eddie - the groundsman - had been a straight up, lower middle class, middle management type, saving for his pension, providing for his wife & kids, until redundancy. Whilst waiting for any more white collar jobs to come along he works under Danny who is the opposite (lives for the moment spends his money on beer and women "when I can get 'em"). This all adds credibility as to why Eddie is so desperate to protect what he's worked hard for (it also makes it much more feasible that he might have £30,000 that could be liquidated). This background was meant to create some sort of empathy with Eddie and although it's taken me a few sentences, Graham (writer and co-director) managed to convey this is very few lines of dialog between Eddie and Danny.

    Similarly, whilst we do get a bit of background on the blackmailer, the screenplay dialog between him and the accountant tells us how he had worked hard to build up a business and was about to reap the rewards when his wife had died. After this he'd rather let the business go to pot. His reaction was the opposite of Eddie's - instead of getting on with things he just becomes bitter. So new, we can understand the blackmailer a bit better although he is not as likable.

    If we'd managed to get this across in the film, I think it would have been a much more rounded movie.

    However - we are amateurs and we were working with amateurs. Good though our actors were, we weren't really anticipating exactlu how good they would need to be in order to carry off the dialog. In drama, so we learnt, the slightest imperfection in the delivery of a line really shows and can kill a scene. As directors we weren't keen - eyed enough to spot this when filming. What's more, it still looked OK in the rough edits - it was only when we came to pulling together the final edits the weaknesses showed. The result was some very severe editing which basically lost all that back story.

    @MB I'm not sure what you and Rob are getting at when you suggest it's trying to be too clever. To me the story is straightforward although, because of the editing, I think far too much information is given too quickly in the exposition.

    A person witnesses an industrial accident and tries to capitalise on it by using blackmail. The backmailed person, scared of losing everything he's worked for, threatens the blackmailer. No-one (Eddie, blackmailer or audience) knows whether the industrial accident was the cause of the deaths until the denouement. The audience don't know whether Eddie has actually killed the blackmailer until denouement.

    The only "clever" bits of misdirection are Eddie's words at the beginning "I never meant to kill him, just scare him" and the (unsuccessful) attempt to imply he was in a police cell / prison cell, when in fact he's in a launderette.
    Of course - if you found it too clever for its own good then it IS too clever for its own good as the audience must be the final judge. Lesson learned.

    @MB Camera movement. I hope the rock steady tripod use throughout most of the film meant that the handheld shots added to the atmosphere when used (slightly creepy/claustrophobic in the shed and more dynamic in the confrontation scene).

    @Rob You're damn right about the cell/launderette. We wanted to give the impression of a bland environment which could be a police cell but which is eventually revealed as somewhere else. A chinese takeaway was another option. You wouldn't believe how many laundrettes we visited before we found this one which was far from ideal. We still didn't have the sort of blank wall we wanted but it would have to make do. Graham experimented with lights and a gobo to create a shadow of what might be cell bars. This worked OK at home but when we came to shoot, we discovered the only lights we had - LEDs - created interference patterns when shone through the gobo and hence we've created something that looks more like soft drapes than a shadow! The guy had opened up his launderette especially for us so we wouldn't really go away, regroup and come back another day. We should have - plenty of the shots were out of focus. Another issue was that the laundrette, instead of being a drab white/grey/blue that we wanted was a nice warm yellow. Not only were the walls yellow, but when I looked at the footage in the cold light of day the colour balance was way off. I spent hours and hours re-colouring the whole scene (which involved rotoscoping various parts ad colouring them separately) and pushed the HDV footage beyond what it was really comfortable with. It really should have been shot again. Lesson learned.

    @Rob. Smoke done in Particle Illusion by yours truly. Thanks for the compliment. We had to agree on those scenes very early after I'd done it as I only had the 30 day trial The splutering sound also done by yours truly, simply by - err - spluttering!

    @Rob. If the blackmailer had hanged himself, my co-director wouldn't have got his whirligig woodchopper shot he was so desperate to include. In truth we wanted to keep it realistic. Nothing any of the characters does is that dramatic - there are a couple of threats, that's all. The film simply examines the lengths people might go to, without them actually going to those lengths. A suicide would therefore be so much more dramatic than the rest of the story that it would be in danger of being the focus. Mind you another observer thought the backmailer was going to kill the VAT inspectors!

    @XXL The actor did stand still in some takes. It was a case of which takes worked best when cut together.

    @XXL The audio in the laundrette did not sound as much like a harsh empty cell as I would have liked! I would have liked it to be very clear that this was a voiceover recorded from a "cell", complete with hard reverb - to place the narration in the cell whenever it re-appears. As it is it does sound a bit like it's just a not very well recorded narration.

    @XXL We did not dub any of the audio, although sometime bits of audio from one take were used to patch other takes (though never for the voice of the person we can actually see speaking)

    @Marc Thanks! Bob who played the blackmailer was great at being a mean bastard. The guy we had lined up for the part (a pro actor who later fell out with the local drama group from whom two of the actors were taken) had played it much more as we'd expected - in an aggressive, bullying manner. When Bob came along he did the reverse. Every time he became threatening, instead of turning up the volume/pace, he became softer and slower. This was far more sinister. He was by far the best actor in terms of what the camera saw. However, whilst he delivered lines well, he never delivered the same line identically twice which made editing a bloody nightmare! We had phrases repeated in different parts of the action and important lines missed in other takes. The guy who played Eddie, who came from the same drama group, took the idea that you don't need to learn lines for a film as you can learn a few lines, shoot then learn the next few lines, a bit too literally. Rather surprising as he has won amateur awards for (stage) scriptwriting, acting and directing!

    The guy who played Danny introduced me to acting in my late teens. Whilst possibly the least believeable character and several "stage" movements still crept in, he learned his lines well and delivered them identically time after time.

    The accountant was our main cameraman and a member of the Staines Movie Makers - not an actor at all. The night before his scene my co-director spent hours coaching him. In the end, apart from one rather rabbit in headlights stare that I should have replaced with another shot, he did a great job.

    Of course, sadly I just look like a miserable officious HMRC inspector.

    @zam. Reflections - yes. We were too distracted by trying to get the shadows to look right.

    Thanks again to all. Useful comments which i have taken on board. You seemed to enjoy it more than the judges at BIAFF where it received 3 stars. It didn't really deserve more, but it fells like it should when Value for Money (club simple comedy) shot and edited in about 5 minutes also receives 3 stars and Tudor Rap! received four.
    Tim

  9. #9

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    @MB I'm not sure what you and Rob are getting at when you suggest it's trying to be too clever. To me the story is straightforward although, because of the editing, I think far too much information is given too quickly in the exposition
    Things like the blank wall in the laundrette seemed an obvious attempt to misdirect where he was and some of the script wasn't realistic enough, for example, what sort of park keeper would have £30,000 spare change and if the chemical was that dangerous the grounds man wouldn't use it without some sort of protective clothing and how was the black mailer to know what the stuff he was using was to know it was at all dangerous.

    Maybe I was just looking for the these sorts of misdirection as it seems to be a requirement in short films so we get a twist at the end. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just become expected by cynical old buggers like me. These points don't make it a bad piece they are just what I see as the weaker elements.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    Things like the blank wall in the laundrette seemed an obvious attempt to misdirect where he was
    It was - is that a bad thing? Would it have been better or worse if our intention of it having a shadow of bars on the wall had worked properly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    what sort of park keeper would have £30,000 spare change
    This was explained in some of the dialogue we had to edit out due to "quality" issues. He was doing the job having been made redundant from a successful career. However, I accept the blackmailer would not have known that (perhaps another scene would have established that fact to both the audience and the blackmaler). 30,000 is not an unreasonable demand although the timescale is totally ridiculous and we can't believe we let this through the numerous script rewrites

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    and if the chemical was that dangerous the grounds man wouldn't use it without some sort of protective clothing
    He doesn't know it's that dangerous (and as it turns out, it isn't). Graham (writer/co-director) is in real life that groundsman - he does that weedkilling - he doesn't use a mask. However, for artistic purposes, and to emphasize that he might believe the stuff is capable of killing old folk, it would have been better if we'd had him wearing a mask.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    and how was the black mailer to know what the stuff he was using was to know it was at all dangerous.
    He wasn't. But he did see the machine fail and he did see the cloud of stuff go over the wall towards the old folks place. It is assumed that he sees the same piece in the paper that Danny reads out to Eddie about the woman running the old folks dying in suspicious circumstances.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    These points don't make it a bad piece they are just what I see as the weaker elements.
    And taken in the spirit in which they're intended. Very helpful. Thanks.
    Last edited by TimStannard; 03-24-2014 at 12:32 AM.
    Tim

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