Where to I start?
Id love to start at the beginning but this isn’t the beginning, this is part way through my journey of becoming a filmmaker, a journey that I never planned on taking but yet somehow ended up becoming one. Or at least in this moment in time, in the cold month of February 2019, I am still on my way to becoming one. I honestly have no idea how to start telling this tale, its not been a linear journey thats for sure.I started off as a film geek (I still am), then started a podcast (which I still produce and host), began helping filmmakers (actual real life filmmakers) publisize their work (which I still do), and have filmed a few documentary style projects, such as interviews with Dani Thompson, Craig Conway, Mhairi Calvey, and of course my feature length glimpse behind a few comic con events ‘Experiencing Comic Con”
Now Im not putting myself down at all when I say this, but pointing a camera at something and filming them doesn’t make me a filmmaker. However looking at the Experiencing Comic Con project, I do actually class that as a film which some might say does class me as a filmmaker, so who knows. However these projects are a long way (I feel) from being an actual filmmaker and are very different from putting together a film from the start to its completion with a narrative story.
I suppose looking at me trying to put together a narrative film is where things get really interesting and will make the basis for this (I think) interesting read. I wont bore you with too much of what the film is about, you will learn that along the way but lets just dive in with the fact that my first narrative film ‘Mimi’ came about during a several hour wait at a hotel in Malta, as Annette and I awaited the taxi to take us back to the airport. We talked about the story of this little girl who would grow up into a very smart serial killer, and whether we knew it or not, the seeds of my first narrative film was born.
Once we arrived back in the UK, the notes that we have built up (only around 4 or 5 A5 hand written notes, were typed up (by me) into a word document and there they sat for a few weeks until the story in my head expanded into something a bit more workable. Mimi: A Short film was born and was IMDB listed (Internet Movie Database) which of course means that once you list it on there, the film has to happen. It just has to. Its the law of the movies. The writing of the story was a fun part, creating characters, as well as the dialogue that would come for their mouth’s. Once you start seeing actual dialogue and the scenes they are set in, then the characters become real and when they become real, they start to tell you what they will say and guide you in helping you write their stories. Sounds crazy perhaps, but im sure the writers who read this will agree with me (at least some will).
People write in different ways. For me I always start with a very messy page, filled with thoughts, ideas and scenarios. Then over time (usually a few weeks) I will fill in the gaps, expand the page into several pages and then slowly and surely, the page become a treatment, and the treatment becomes a script. Especially when the dialogue is inserted. Draft One completed. Then its onto Draft Two, then Three, then Four and so on until you find yourself at the point where you force yourself to put the story down and move on. I can see why filmmakers struggle to move on to a next project. I can definitely see why they struggle. I always planned to make this ‘book’ linear, writing it in diary form, but sometimes I just need to jump forward otherwise this will get very messy and I jump in and out of the script comments.
I forget exactly how much time has gone into the writing of The Mimi Trilogy, but it probably ranges from a month to three months (over a year long period). My method of writing usually involved me coming up with an idea (when I was nowhere near the keyboard) and then typing that idea into the script when I get home from work, or woke from a sleep. The periodically I would sit down and go through a printed out copy of the script and make notes in pen about the changes I felt were needed. Id then add those into the document and then reprint the entire script. Ready for the next reading. I feel like its painting a wall, many coats of paint until you decide that the wall is finished and ready to hang a picture on.
Once a story is written then you have a few more hurdles to get over. Funding (who will pay for the film?), Casting (who will star in it), Locations (where are you going to film it?) and thats just the start of it all, then theres the Editing, Credit Sequence, Music, Costumes, Transportation, Audio Mixing, and so on and so on, but dont let that list scare you, all filmmakers have those problems to sort out and every film that you see out there managed to get over those hurdles and so will I. I spotted the first few things I needed to tick of the list was the Funding (I had a day job that didnt allow me too much spare money, certainly not enough to make a film in a short space of time), the Equipment, and the Casting. Out of that list of course the main thing would be the Funding and for that I did what scares me- crowdfunding.
Raising the Budget
I headed to Kickstarter, one of the two main crowdfunding websites (the other being Indiegogo) and set myself a target of £1500. For those who haven’t made a film before (and most people out there haven’t made a film) then you may ask how I came to this number. Well I came to that number because it looked good, it looked big enough to do what I wanted to do, and not too small that people wouldn’t take me seriously (even though why would people take me seriously when it comes to filmmaking, id never done it before) The money I knew would go to the camera equipment, the audio recording equipment, a new computer to take care of any post production, the cast costs (which even at a minimum would cost £120 a day per cast member), the location (which would end up costing me £100 a day) and any overages that would come in. So whilst £1500 might seem like a lot of money to make a short film, you can see how quickly that money would disappear once production commenced.
The crowdfunding campaign was a success, albeit a horrible thing to do. I genuinely dislike crowdfunding (Im fine with other people doing it, I just find it very uncomfortable asking people to donate their money to me, even though I know they wont give me anything if they dont want to, it still make me uncomfortable to go cap in hand to people) But at the end of the campaign I had raised £2400 which was way over target for what I was asking for and would be enough to get that little bit of extra equipment that would not only help me film Mimi, but by the time the campaign ended, it would also help film and complete Mimi 2 and Mimi 3 and allow me to film other projects that I would dream up.
The fundraising ended around July 2018 (just before Annette and I went on holiday to the Canary Islands (where I caught Sinusitis and spent most of the week long holiday doped up on painkillers) and the money arrived in my account once we got back (so dont go thinking that Kickstarter paid for a failed holiday) Then the casting process began for the role of Mimi, well I say casting process. There wasn’t one, Actor Lamissah Le Shontae twitter account appears on my time line and she was perfect, and local to me (the next town) She was perfect, the right age, the right look, the right hair, and with a body of work that I was able to look over which made me (and of course Annette ) that we may have found our Mimi.
March 7th 2019.
With around a month until the filming of the teaser trailers, and the photo shoots that will eventually be turned into the poster. I opted to go through the script and work out a few tweaks on the script, such as do I really need the opening scene with an adult Mimi being interrogate by someone. Whilst I do like the scene, i feel that knowing that Mimi would survive her story and become an adult, removes some of the ‘what happens to Mimi’ and thats what I love about the ending. That we make our own mind up about what happens to her (until we see the second and third film that is)
I also wanted to make sure that each scene can easily transition into the next. Of course each scene will be shot separately, but the scenes do need to be joined together to make up the whole.
Jumping to the up and coming teaser trailers, these will contain footage that wont be used in the film. Filming will take place on April 13th or 14th and should only take an afternoon. I already have a few ideas of what to film and they should be a lot of fun to put together.
Last week, Annette and I went to the location where filming will take place and it all looks great. easy access and lots of scenery to use. I will be writing the scripts’ for the teaser trailers in the next week or so and then pass them to Lamissah to learn and improvise where she and I feel its fine to do so.
Im also running a small Indiegogo campaign to raise a few more £’s which currently has £160 in it but with still 12 days to go, it will all work out.
24th March 2019
With some money in the bank and the filming looming. I wanted to book up the family home that would be Mimis. I had already found the perfect one at a place called Abbeystead about an hour north of here,I had spoken to the owner who was fine with it being used for filming. So it was all a go! I confirmed today that Lamissah was still free on June 1st and 2nd for filming so It was time to put the money down on the house. Bang! The location isnt available now. Someone else has booked it for that weekend and so I decided that finding another location was the better option rather than once again delaying the filming (that had already been delayed a few times) I located not one but 3 homes that fit the bill and emailed each of them,letting them know I wanted to use their house for filming, and were they okay with it. Within the hour, all 3 owners came with a thumbs up and so I printed out several photos from each of the locations, and presented them to Annette to do the final choice. The winner came out easily and we will be filming in the nearby town of Ramsbottom on June 1st and 2nd. The benefits for this location is that its very close by (15 minutes away from here), it is also remote, the owners have had film crews there before- and it looks scenic enough that the shots should be interesting. its now booked!
Onto the next stage, which is designing the shots to fit around the specific location.
6th April 2019
With less than a week to go until the first official photo shoot featuring Lamissah in the character role of Mimi, my brain is super busy planning what shots I want to capture. I have done a lot of photography over the years, but it has been a while. With a new camera setup, I will be spending the next few days learning how to use it, test shots, and getting used to carrying the camera around. Its always important that the camera feel comfortable when using it. On the same day as I complete the photo shoot, I will also be using the same camera to film scenes to be used for the teaser trailers and the trailers themselves. Its all very exciting, but also quite nerve wracking.
12th April, the day before the shoot
I ventured out this morning to test drive the camera (whom I have named Neil). I opted to head to the location I will be using at, which made far more sense than using a camera as a test, in a place I wont be filming at. Neil The Camera is a far more complicated piece of kit than I am used to. There doesnt seem to be a simple point n click setting, however I have found the best settings for what I wish to use it for and the photo results as well as the short video clips I filmed do seem to have come out well. There is only so much testing that I can do before the big day and Im sure that when I look back on it in a year or two I will far more then, than I do now. But the basics are there and my focus will be on capturing what I see and hear. The bag of ‘props’ are ready, and include a teddy bear, a knife, a prop handgun, a set of dice and of course the camera setup, a smallish tripod and my script notes. This time in 24 hours the filming part for the teaser trailer will be finished, but at the moment I dont know what time we are all meeting up.