BFI Film Academy: Lucy E’s Story

Lucy E is one of the participants on our BFI Film Academy. Here she shares her experience of shooting their final film on location:

I have been a part of Cornerhouse’s BFI Film Academy and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve been able to work as team with a group of amazing people who all share my passion for film. As part of this course we’ve studied a wide range of filming techniques building up to the crucial week of filming. From the 18th to the 22nd of February we shot our short film. We had spent weeks preparing for this by storyboarding and creating the narrative, we did this collaboratively so the end result felt like all our creation. So what did we do in this week?

Day 1 – We started off with a prep day, this was great as it allowed us to view the final script and storyboard. We also looked at the skills we would need on the shoot. In three groups we circled the room working with Marisa, Mark and John. First I was with Mark, he showed us how to use the Panasonic camera that we would be using to film and made us focus on W.I.L.F.F.S. This is White balance, Iris, Levels, Framing, Focus and Sound. This is the check list you must use before you film, this is something I learnt as a result of this day and it became necessary when I had to act as camera operator a few days later. Next Marisa talked to us about the production side of the course. I learnt about applying for permission to film at various locations and risk assessments which have to take every detail into consideration, no fire for us. Marisa also talked about the budget with us which gave me a clearer view of producing. Finally I worked with John using the Canon 7D, here we looked at aperture, exposure and shutter speed. We each set up the camera in turn leaving us ready for the following day. We all got to talk together as well at the end of the day, we were split into the two groups we would shoot in and given our timetables. No more practice, we were ready to go and I was extremely excited.

Day 2 – Now it was time for our first shoot. When we arrived our actor was already present. We were then assigned roles. Megan, Jorge and I dressed the set. We recreated a boys bedroom in the space, we added posters to the walls, toy robots and bits and pieces to help create our scene. Some people went with John and they focused on lighting. It was a matter of setting up the equipment and we all worked simultaneously to get the right look. I helped by acting as the gaffer, taping down all the wires and making sure the environment was safe. From here on there were many checks, we needed the camera to be ready, the lighting to be right and the sound to be in check. We hooked the camera up to a monitor which allowed all of us not operating the camera to watch what was happening. I then did the shot log where I had to document the scene, the slate number, the take number and make note of issues such as sound interference. I enjoyed this job as it was organised, it had a necessary purpose and it’s vital when it comes to the edit. We finally started shooting and this meant using the proper protocol – AD check, camera rolling, takeover, set, action, clapper. We managed to get some footage and that was my group done for the day. I felt more comfortable now having met one of the actors and I couldn’t wait for the next day.

Day 3 – The next day I found myself huddled in a working factory shooting car interior shots. The set was already ready when we arrived thanks to group one. The car we were using was filthy and positioned in the centre surrounded by green screens. It was a quick set up and we were off! We were filming from the inside of the car (camera A) and from an outside perspective (camera B). Rotating jobs we found ourselves working with all the actors for the first time, there was less of us and more of them.. scary. We tried to remain as professional as possible as we had a lot to get through. The day went by relatively smoothly, despite what seemed like never ending interruptions from vans and customers. I got the chance to direct which at first terrified me; I had to conduct the actors, decide on the quality of the previous shot and make sure everyone was alright with their role. I shouted ‘turnover’ and waited for both operators of the cameras to say speed which basically signalled they were recording and ready to go. After this the person doing the clapperboard would mark the scene. I would then say set and when everything was ready I called action. I also had a go at sound which meant that I had to check the quality of sound coming from the radio mics within the car. I also had to record when turnover was announced. Doing this job was helpful as I got to see how the sound aspect of film worked but it also opened my eyes to the fact sound probably isn’t a route I’d like to take in the future, I wasn’t very good at it! I also marked the scenes using the clapperboard, this involved pushing myself through the car window in order to get inside the frame and unfortunately nearly knocking out the actors on the way! Luckily I didn’t injure the actors too much and they were fit to film. We managed to get a lot done, I think that was down to the group dynamics as everyone was respectful of each other, swapping round and giving everyone the opportunity to do the roles they wanted.

Day 4 – Bright and early we traveled to Rusholme to film on a street which happened to have some of the nosiest neighbours ever. The car was already there, as were the actors. We cracked on quite early into the day and I operated the camera which was a role I was yet to do. Using camera B I followed the action and I panned across which I was quite proud of (I usually can’t pan very well). I liked doing this as I had to remember how to work the camera and take into account how everything looked in frame. I also had headphones on as I had to check the sound quality from the boom. The actors were wonderful and we managed to get all that we needed. Afterwards we moved locations to shoot in a deserted gravel section of the nearby park. The car was moved and we used a crane in order to get some interesting shots. On the second half of this shoot I did the shot log again and we kept the taxi waiting trying to squeeze in more takes. I think everyone did really well here, it was very cold but we got some wonderful shots and everyone seemed to have a good day too which helped add to the great working atmosphere of the group.

Day 5 – Unfortunately this was the last day of the shoot and off to the hills we ventured. Thermals at the ready we piled into the mini van and off we went. We got there and we were filming the exterior shots of the car and the Men In Black characters which was our final scene. The actors got dressed into their thin costumes resentfully as they were made to stand rather still for a number of takes. This day included lots of mini breaks in the van and huddling like penguins, it was freezing. The weather hadn’t been kind as we worked in the snow. I marked the scenes and did the clapperboard for the beginning of the morning. We all rotated roles regularly as we tried to keep warm. We filmed the scene from a wide angle and then repeated and followed this up with close ups of each character. This depended on lots of takes in order to get the framing to match the wide. I stood as a stand in once or twice as the actors went to warm up and we framed the scenes ready to shoot. We tried filming the car driving away and one or two stalls made everyone laugh. We had a broken costume and the Men In Black close ups were done in the snow (continuity fail)! Hopefully this doesn’t show up too badly in the edit. Overall it was a day that was a lot of fun. We were all moaning about the cold but we managed to get it done and I have to say there were some wonderful shots.

This week was amazing, I felt so lucky to be able to be a part of this experience. I loved our group and I have loved this course. Thank you Cornerhouse and BFI!