So, a big shout out to my short film, On the Death of His Wife, which I’ve finally put up on You Tube because, basically, I’ve only just figured out how to do it. When did I get so behind with computers, and t’internet, and links, and what not, when I thought I was pretty much on top of it? I still don’t understand exactly what I did but it works; you can check it out at the site or at the bottom of the post.
A brief recap on the short film and its production: last summer, I felt the time had come to ‘make something’ so I borrowed a camcorder from my friend and Leeds colleague Jayne Kirkham in the hope of making a no-budget short film. She had made the extremely successful no-budget short 6.6.04 with the same camera so that inspired me to do something similar. It had to be a story that could be made for nothing so I tried to come up with an idea to accommodate such a scenario.
My line of thinking was: what can I film that would cost absolutely nothing to shoot? That wouldn’t require any fancy set-ups or lighting or actors or whatever? The answers that came to me were: a guy in bed, cleaning up, washing up, ironing. Fairly drab and dull. But what if I could put this in an emotional context? Then I’d have a story. So I came up with the idea that the guy’s a widower and he’s thinking of his wife while he’s doing the domestic chores that they normally did together.
I wrote a four page script with no-dialogue but felt that the action alone wouldn’t carry the story so I went on-line and found a poem called ‘On the Death of His Wife’ which gave me the perfect emotional content to counterbalance what I planned to shoot. And gave me a good title too.
So I went to my cousin’s house in Bristol - he’s the star of the show in the film, isn’t he good? - and we got drunk. Then, the next day, Saturday, we shot the film. He was sleeping on the couch because his flatmate’s friend was staying over so I used him on the couch as a way to suggest that he’s not ready to sleep in his usual marital bed. From this, the story took on a shape of its own while I was shooting. The flatmate’s friend got on particularly well with my cousin, who let’s face it, fancied the pants off her (see video) so I asked her if she’d be in the film as that would give me something to use instead of the photographs I had planned to cut to as the ‘wife presence’.
It was an extremely fortunate development because their ad-libbing and natural rapport really lifts the piece. I shot an half an hour of footage and we were done by Saturday lunchtime. The next bit was the crucial editing stage but luckily I had my mate and top editor Liana del Giudice to help me (she’s done loads of great stuff, including Dr Who Christmas Special!). I went along to Ealing Studios where she was working and she squeezed me in over two nights to get the half hour footage down to ten minutes of shots worth using. We then pared it down to the current running time of 3mins 25 secs to simply tell the story.
Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t up to scratch and I couldn’t use my cousin’s voice-over of the poem so I re-dubbed it with my own voice. That didn’t work, too Irish, so I blagged a sound edit through a friend of a friend. He beefed up the sound while I got another friend, Mark Humble, an amateur actor, to do a proper rendition of the poem. I couldn’t give Mark an on-screen credit because the images were “locked off” but he, along with sound editor Anthony McIlhenney, saved the day when it came to the film’s completion.
So there you have it. The behind the scenes scoop of my first short film. You may have seen it already on this site or on FilmFour’s website (where it was chosen as Short of the Week) but if you’re new to the blog, then feel free to take a look.
YouTube rocks. Very nicely done, by the way, and good advice for filmmakers - use what is available to you, and write the story around it. Top notch.
Nice one, Danny.
Makes my first effort of filming one of my scripts seem..... well, crap! Probably why I never attempted another one.
Great short and thanks for all the info. Can you tell me how long the shoot took (you mentioned 30 mins of film). How much do you think the edit time would have cost if you'd paid?
I'm about to embark on my own project (about 3 mins too) so would appreciate any other tips.
Hi Hope - thanks.
It only took a few hours as I kept things simple & straightforward. I have no idea how much the editing would have cost but it must be at least a couple hundred quid, at a bargain/discount/negotiation! Although, people have editing facilities in their bedrooms nowadays so keep that in mind too!
Will keep you posted
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