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BFI Film Academy 8: Aidan Rhode

Aidan Rhode is one of the participants on our seventh BFI Film Academy (2019). Having almost completed the academy, we asked him about his experience on the film shoot… 

I started making films at the age of about nine or ten, doing short animated films using claymation techniques I learned in a book I was given about Wallace and Gromit. I later moved onto making more live-action short films and sketches and have subsequently spent pretty much all of my free time since creating short films on my YouTube channel and gradually building up an arsenal of filmmaking equipment. Everything I did was self-taught (through trial and error or YouTube tutorials), although I had done the odd day’s work experience with professional film crews and had made the odd short film commission for local businesses and organisations.
Then I heard about the BFI Film Academy at HOME  and despite not living in Greater Manchester, I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss out on; meeting a group of similarly aged, like-minded creative individuals and working together alongside industry professionals to create a short film sounded right up my alley. We spent the first few weeks of October brainstorming, scripting and planning our short film (which wasn’t exactly a walk in the park! We had 18 different, amazing ideas to narrow down to just one). Eventually we decided on mine and fellow participant Darla’s idea, a killer granny and a rather oblivious detective on the case. Over October half term, we spent a week on location in Altrincham shooting it and making the idea come to life…

Shoot Diary

Tue 29 October: First shoot day today! Call time at HOME was 9am (meaning I had to wake up at 6am) and once we had arrived, we all got the tram from Castlefield to Altrincham, where our location was. Once we arrived, we were designated roles (I was on sound mixing). I met our actors, Betty and Adam, who played Mrs Rellik and Detective Geff (they unfortunately have me to thank for their names), who were amazing and couldn’t be closer to what I had in mind for what the characters would look, act and sound like. After plenty of faffing, we finally got to shooting. Our plan today was to get as much living room dialogue done as we could, so quite a bulky part of the film! We started with a wide head-on shot, before moving to over the shoulder shots and close ups.

The shoot, once we had gotten started, went pretty smoothly and efficiently. Everyone became accustomed to their roles and what jobs they had to do before starting filming. As mixer, I had to monitor the audio feeds from the primary boom microphone, as well as the two backup lav mics on each actor. I had to call ‘rolling sound’ before each shot and make sure there was no extraneous noise being picked up by any of the mics. I was sitting in the kitchen, away from the scene, so I couldn’t even see what was happening in the shots! My focus was on sound monitoring completely and had to continually alter levels and make sure nothing was clipping. Post-lunch, I was allocated the role of director for the next two scenes, which I was hoping to do at some point today or tomorrow! An intimidating role at first, but I got into it pretty swiftly. Over lunch, I did a preliminary line run with both actors to make sure they knew what they were doing, and then once we were set up back on location, I directed everyone to my heart’s content. It took me a while to remember that I didn’t have to check with anyone to say things or ask if people were ready, but I realised pretty soon that I could confidently get on with it and people would speak up about anything important.

We rocked through my scenes at a blistering pace and before I knew it, we were switching roles again. Throughout the afternoon, I was boom operator, camera operator, director again, camera operator again, lighting and pretty much got a chance to do every role I could during the day, which was great! I now feel comfortable doing pretty much anything which in turn is very helpful to directing because I know specifically what to ask people to do. The shoot ended at 5pm. Overall, a very good first day. Everyone got a chance to do the roles they wanted to do. I got to direct (three times!) which was a big accomplishment and learning opportunity. I feel much more sure of my actions as a result, as well as more aware technically of what others are doing around me. Adam and Betty were true legends, we all had a great laugh at some of their little improv moments and they took all our notes above and beyond. I can’t wait to shoot the flashback murder scenes tomorrow (in the freezing cold…).

Wed 30 October: Our final day of shooting! We only had two scenes today, but they were the two most complicated. We had two out of the three murder scenes (both ones in the garden). We were pretty well-versed in what to do from yesterday so getting going was fairly efficient. Dylan was directing and I was on camera all morning for the scene where Josh and Matt projectile vomit blood at granny’s tea party. We had a smaller crew today as Caitlin, Darla and Poppy weren’t here, so it meant more work for the rest of us, but less people to direct. Camera-wise, I did the first scene on the tripod and the rest handheld which was a little taxing on the old arms with the enormous camera rig but I managed (just). We had a professional SFX Makeup artist with us today and she supplied the blood smoothies for Matt and Josh to spew up, while Betty watched sadistically.

After that (and lunch), we moved on to the other more complicated garden murder scene, with none other than myself as the victim. After being behind the camera for two days, it felt odd being back in front of it again. We shot Betty approaching me wielding garden shears while I was tied to a chair with a garden hose. Quite an interesting shoot! It was absolutely freezing outside in the garden. After we shot all the pre-murder scenes I went inside again for half an hour to get my neck wound and blood pump done by our resident SFX makeup artist. It looked very gory but wasn’t too uncomfortable to wear for an extended period of time. Betty snipped her shears at me and I pretended my life was in certain peril, which wasn’t very hard to act, due to Betty scaring the living daylights out of me with those shears and because my shivers of cold looked like convincing shudders of fear (hopefully). Afterwards, I was completely caked head to toe in fake blood.  And that was that! Another great shoot day. I think it should turn out great and I can’t wait to start editing it!

Overall, the Film Academy at HOME has been a blast so far! I’ve met some ridiculously talented and creative people and I couldn’t be happier that I applied (and got accepted!) I’ve learned invaluable skills, which I will apply to my own films in future, and having this experience will also broaden horizons and help me have an advantage if I apply for film-related careers in the future.

Find out more about our BFI Film Academy, head here.