Post Production: The Edit
Your script was the best thing ever written. There’s an absolutely amazing cast and crew involved. The locations are incredible and everything went brilliantly whilst shooting. Some of the shots your cinematographer and camera operators filmed are outstanding. This is it! You’ve just wrapped on the film of the decade!
But wait… it’s not over yet. In fact you’re not even half way through. The next stage in the production of this incredible film is one of the most important. Post-production. The edit!
Editing a film is a bit like decorating a cake. You’ve made the mixture, baked the cake, but now you’ve got the mammoth task of making it look really, really good! Fail and you could end up with… well… a complete mess! All that hard work by everyone could be destroyed in an instant. And a bad edit, or an editor who does not get the directors feel of the film, could change the entire tone of the production.
We edit on Adobe Premiere Pro and, to try and speed up our post-production, we began the edit as soon as we’d finished our first days shoot. The first task is like sorting your sock drawer. Going through everything you’ve filmed and finding all that works, all that you want in the final film, and everything that you don’t. We also have to do tedious tasks like syncing audio to the visuals etc.
Finally beginning the actual edit is a very creative process. You have to be able to visualise the final film, from a large number of clips that were shot by the filmmakers on set. As independent filmmakers working on a zero budget, inevitably we end up doing everything ourselves. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
The blessing: Myself (Joe) and my co-director Callum plan every shot meticulously. We shoot for the edit, meaning that when we film a scene, we already have in mind exactly what we want the edit to be and therefore know exactly what shots we need to capture. It makes our job as editors that much easier, rather than trawling through hours of footage.
The curse: Because we shoot for the edit, we sometimes find that things don’t always work exactly the way we envisioned them to. If this happens, we have to try and ‘fix’ the scene in the edit suite. Not a great idea as more than often you’re just trying to cover up mistakes. Editing your own footage is also very hard because, inevitably, there will be some shots that are absolutely amazing and you have great memories connected to it, that you have to throw away and not use. Giving up one of your favourite things can be very hard.
Luckily, whilst editing Wonderful, we haven’t stumbled upon too many problems. Because we planned so well in the initial stages, our shoot for the edit technique really worked. Our major setback (that always seems to happen) is that we have overrun on the length of the film. What was intended to be a 20 minutes short, is now just under 30. We’re hoping that our film won’t suffer because of this when it comes to entering it into festivals.
Overall, editing Wonderful has been fun as it’s great seeing the film slowly coming together. We’re really proud of everything that everyone has put into it. As perfectionists of our own work, there will always be little bits to tidy up and tweak. But that could go on forever. At some point you’ve got to step back and say, “Right, that’s the edit locked down. Time to move on to the next step of post-production.
Sound effects, music, colour correcting… colour grading… visual effects… What? You thought that once the edit was done the film was completed?
Promotional posters and artwork for Wonderful.
Mr Wonderful, Donald Wilfull, and Dr Deranged feature in these three official posters!
These Mr Wonderful comic book covers are actually used within the film itself, but also make brilliant posters for the film!
Stills from the film made for great teaser posters…
The original poster we used to sell the idea for the film and get the cast and crew on board!
24th November 2015
Wow… a month has gone by since our last shoot! Where does the time go? Before we know it we’ll all be playing with hoverboards and driving flying cars. Oh… wait…
Today we had a few different small scenes to film, in a couple of different locations. We started off at Wyke College in Hull. Our man, Ben Wade, works at the college and got us access to one of the theatres there. David was back in his Mr Wonderful costume, and Richie Donaldson, who plays our villain, came back to Hull from London for the day to get the scene done.
Using the black curtains as a backdrop and the stage lighting to illuminate the scene, gave the confrontation between our hero and his nemesis a moody, other-worldly feel that worked really well!
Then it was back to mine for some greenscreen scenes. Jase Mayo joined us for a small scene, brilliantly playing a newsreader. Then we had Connor Purdue in our superhero costume playing a young Mr Wonderful. He’d never done anything like this before but did a great job as our young hero, battling against the villainous Dr Deranged!
We finished the night off with Richie recording his ADR for some of his scenes. This was about 11 o’clock at night. Richie screaming at the top of his voice. My neighbours probably thought we were killing someone. Oops!
There’s that old saying: ‘Never work with children’. In some ways it’s completely true. Working with children and animals adds an extra set of rules, pressures and restraints. It adds extra stress, extra responsibility and extra worry but can also be rewarding in many ways.
I used to work in a school and made lots of films with the children so understand the problems working with kids. We’ve also had child actors in a number of our films such as ‘Yesterday‘, ‘The Field‘ and more recently ‘Wonderful’. We also run filmmaking workshops with primary school children around Hull so I’ve worked with lots of kids and hopefully my experience may help others working on a film project with them!
Of course, all children are different, but more often than not all kids will respond to the following:
FILL ‘EM WITH TREATS
Kids love sweets and chocolate and junk food. Mum and dad may not approve but, if you want to keep a kid happy, fill them full of sugar and junk! It makes them like you, knowing that you want to give them stuff to eat, and is also great as a bribing tool. “Let’s do one more take then you can have some sweets!” Just beware of the sugar rush and the inevitable comedown!
When we filmed ‘The Field’, we shot a scene in an actual sweet shop. This was the best location possible as I basically bribed the kids – I told them I’d buy them all a bunch of sweets at the end of the shoot, if they knuckled down and got the job done!
GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO
Working on a film set can be long and somewhat boring if you’re an actor. Lots of waiting around with nothing to do until it’s time for a take. Kids get bored easily and will soon get distracted, wander off or start messing around. The easiest thing to do to relieve them of boredom is take some books/comics for them to read and games for them to play. Ipads and kindles, even games on phones, will keep kids distracted for hours. Again can be used as bribing tools as well! We also take along an extra camera so they can film stuff for themselves. Sometimes the footage they shoot is great for the extra features!
When making ‘The Field’ we had a still photographer with us who took the kids away whilst we were setting up and did some great, fun photoshoots with them!
LONG HOURS = TEARS
Keeping a shoot as short as possible is a must. We all get tired after a long days shoot, but adults (at least most adults) have the ability to plough through their tiredness and move on. Kids can find it hard and, especially with younger children, long hours can get to them. We’ve experienced tears and tantrums towards the end of the day so do try and keep your shoots as short as possible.
KIDS LIKE TO TALK
Lots. When we were making ‘The Field’ it was virtually impossibly to get a moments silence. It makes it extremely stressful for the crew to get on with their job and keep focussed on their task in hand when someone is jibber-jabbering constantly in your ear. The trick is not to lose patience with them. It might be a good idea to have someone on set that’s sole role is to keep the kids entertained. Someone they can talk to and not disturb.
KEEP IT FUN
Kids like to have fun. They like to enjoy themselves. Don’t we all? Making a film is essentially work – and hard work at that. Keeping it fun is vitally important, especially when children are involved. If the kids think of it as working, with bossy adults telling them what to do, they’ll stop wanting to get involved making it harder for everyone. If its fun, everyone’s enjoying themselves and having a good time, then the children will give you a good performance and keep being excited to come back and film the rest of the scenes.
There are many brilliant child actors out there and, if you’re willing to put in the extra effort it takes to work with them, can be a great asset to your film. Children are the main stars of our film ‘The Field’ and it is their innocence, unique take on the world and sense of adventure that make the film work really well!
If you’re working with kids then good luck, keep calm and work with them to make something great! I look forward to seeing what you make!
24th October 2015
Our last major scene to shoot involved comic books, shop fronts, and a couple of thugs! And it proved a tricky one to prepare for. Originally it was set down a supermarket aisle, but finding a supermarket to let us film in was proving tricky. So we changed the scene to be set down an alleyway next to a comic book shop.
After much searching we discovered a great shop front in Oresome Jewellery next to Martin’s Alley, down Humber Street in Hull and we were set to go! The ladies at Oresome were brilliant, allowing us to use their workshop as our base whilst we filmed out in the cold! We put comic books in the glass windows and named our shop ‘Old Joe’s Comics’ in homage to Old Joe from our last film ‘The Field‘.
Katy D’Arcy played our shop worker, whilst Lee Williams and Callum Smith played two thugs that confront our lead star, David Aston, down the alley.
It was cold and raining off and on throughout the day, so we had to try to keep warm – a challenge for David who was freezing in his thin, lycra Mr Wonderful costume! We did fit in a great lunch at Thieving Harry’s across the street, which warmed us up for a while!
We battled on through the cold and managed to shoot a great scene! With only a few short sections left to film, the main bulk of filming for Wonderful is now complete!
21st August 2015
One of the main problems with making a fully self-funded, independent film, is that it can take a long time to get a film made. With all of our crew and actors generously giving up their time for free, we have to work around when they are all available. And we have our own day jobs to do as well. It had been nearly a month since our last shoot for ‘Wonderful’, and it felt like forever.
It was time for the car scene, which was a challenge for many different reasons. As we’ve been editing the film as we go along, we have discovered that we are running very close to our 25 minute time limit. This meant that we would have to reduce the running time for the last few scenes, without taking too much away from the story. The car scene is one of the most important scenes in the film as it builds the characters of Donald (David Aston) and Elizabeth (Joanne Gallagher) and ultimately leads Donald towards the final showdown.
After several re-writes for the scene, I finally got it down to something I was happy with. We were good to go. Now all we had to do was make the scene visually interesting – something that is hard to do in the confines of a car, so hopefully we managed to do a good job, armed with our new camera – the Panasonic Lumix GH4!
David and Joanne (her last day on set) did a brilliant job in this scene. It is a highly emotional scene and they both had to well up and bring out the tears. At least they got to sit down in the car all day, along with Ben Wade on sound, whilst me (Joe Monahan) and Callum Smith were running around the car like lunatics. Filmmaking lunatics!
We ended the day with a little poster photoshoot with David, recreating the classic Superman pose and looking extremely heroic whilst doing it! Now it’s time to perpare for the next shoot…
31st July 2015
The sun was shining outside for the first time that week, and we were struck inside shooting another scene for our new short film ‘Wonderful’. Typical.
We were back at the parents house of our actress, Joanne Gallagher, completing a few scenes we had already filmed previously.
Seven year old, Chance Monahan, joined us for the beginning of the shoot, for a quick scene in the kitchen. He had to don his school uniform, which, being the summer holidays, he found highly amusing. Then after he’d been picked up by his grandma, it was on for the main bulk of the scene with our main star, David Aston, and playing his long suffering daughter, Joanne Gallagher.
For what was relatively an easy scene to shoot, we still took all day doing it. Maybe it was that hour long break for bacon and sausage sandwiches? We had to think of our priorities!
It was also the fact that we were down on crew members. It was a Friday, so people were at work, and Ben our sound guy was somewhere in Germany, so we had extra jobs to do each. Luckily we had Katy D’Arcy with us for some much needed reflector holding!
One little shot that took up much of our time was a scene in the kitchen. We have a brilliant shot from the inside of a cupboard, as David is searching for his much loved biscuits. In true indie film style, we erected a highly unsafe rig of table, chairs and newspapers, for our make-shift cupboard to stand on. Trying to get the correct camera angles proved tricky and time consuming, but ultimately worked a treat! Another scene over… next!
17th July 2015
Two little shoots today for our new film ‘Wonderful’. We filmed it at my (Joe Monahan) parents house – so thank you to them – and is the only scene in the film not to star our main actor, David Aston!
Shooting on a weekday has its plus points and its drawbacks. On the plus side, there’s less interference as most people are at work, so we were able to shoot our scenes with no interruptions. The drawback? Getting together our crew and extras is difficult because of the same reason – they are all at work! So we were unable to get all of the extras we needed, which was a shame, but we found a way to get around it and got the scene we needed anyway!
Richie Donaldson was back for the first part of today’s shoot, just before his big move from Hull to London. With only one little scene left for him to film still, we’re going to have to coax him back for a day with promises of lollipops. We also had one of our favourites, Kev Thompson, back with us. Kev has starred in a number of our films and it is always great to work with him!
A small, simple shoot completed. Small and simple maybe… but the scene is a vital moment in our film!
4th July 2015
A large scene in our short film ‘Wonderful’ takes place in a doctor’s surgery, and it was one of the hardest locations for us to source. Yes, we could have taken any old office and dress it up, but we wanted it to have an authenticity to it. A doctor’s bed, some equipment etc.
We asked at actual doctor’s surgeries but no joy. Eventually I just happened to send an email to Age UK in Hull, asking if they knew of anywhere. Turns out they had a room perfect for us! Hey presto!
It was a tight space so we had to be very careful with our shot list – but other than that is was perfect. It had the bed, the sink, a chair, and there was even a skeleton on a stand we could borrow from another room!
When we arrived on the day of the shoot, we were told by the lovely Pam at Age UK, that we could use a larger room as it was now free! This was both a blessing and a curse. A large room was much better for us, but we hadn’t planned for it! So we had to quickly adjust our shots to fit!
Acting in the scene are our three main stars, David Aston, Joanne Gallagher and Richie Donaldson. It is the only scene where all three of them are together and we were looking forward to the results. We were not disappointed! They brought an energy and passion to the scene that takes it to the next level!
Due to the size of the original room, we made sure we had a small crew, just the three of us, Joe Monahan (me!), my co-director and on camera Callum Smith, and Ben Wade on sound. This proved tricky as we all had a lot more jobs to do, but ultimately we all work really well together so had a great shoot. In fact it was a lot of fun! It was lucky we didn’t have many more people with us, as it was a hot, hot day and we were sweating buckets. Nice.
I can’t express how grateful we were to Age UK and to Pam for everything they did for us. At dinner, Pam made us all hot and cold sandwiches and stayed with us for our full shoot that ran slightly over schedule. I say slightly… what was meant to be an eight hour shoot, turned out to be twelve. Crikey!
At the end of the day we were more than shattered. We were like zombies, or more relevantly, our skeleton friend in the corner. Perhaps we rushed a bit towards the end just to try and get the bloody thing finished, but we still got some really great footage and now have another amazing scene!
For the last eleven years we, at Berry Productions, have been making films of various subjects, lengths and success. Starting out with short, slapstick, silent comedies starring just ourselves, to our most recent film ‘Wonderful’, which has professional actors, lighting, sound, costume, make-up and all the fancy bells and whistles that come it.
Although our films and our skills have progressed, some things always remain the same. I like to think of it as my own Filmmaking Laws. Like the laws of physics, they cannot be changed. Some things are just meant to be.
So here they are. My Filmmaking Laws (as they currently stand – for new laws are added all of the time!)
If it can go wrong, it will go wrong!
Prepare for the worst… but hope for the best! No matter how much planning you do beforehand, no matter how many people with the highest possible skills you have on-board, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. These are things that are usually beyond your control.
Someone is sick so can’t make it. A vital piece of equipment will suddenly stop working. That location that you had until midnight, is suddenly closing at eight. It pisses it down with rain.
You cannot change any of these things. If they happen, they happen. You need to find a way to work around it and do the best you can. Problems occur. It’s how you deal with them that make you a genius!
There’s no I in Team.
It’s a group effort.
Everyone has great ideas to bring to the table. Be it the sound person having ideas for interesting shots, or an actor expressing thoughts about how their character should move or react. You might not agree with them, and it might not work for what you want in the film, but you still have to take their ideas into consideration, be happy that they had the idea, and let them know nicely why it wouldn’t work. On the other hand their idea might blow your mind and you snap it up in an instant.
And remember that no one on set is better than anyone else. This should be the same in all lines of work. Equality and respect. Peace and love guys. Peace and love.
That Damned First Shot!
One thing we’ve noticed on every film set – the first shot of the day takes the longest to set up! Of course it does. Your actors are warming up, you’re trying to get the right camera angles and light the location. Be prepared for this. It eats up time that you may not have, but you can’t rush it. Once you have that perfect first shot, the rest start to come a little easier. But not too easy… that would be far too… well… easy!
Food + Drink = Happiness.
Film shoots are long and can often be quite boring as there can be a lot of waiting around. There’s nothing that can be done to speed up those long days, but there are ways to make them a bit more bearable. Food and drink are perfect distractions!
Tea, coffee, biscuits, crisps, fizzy pop… anything that isn’t really that good for you will be your best friends on a film set. Breaks are needed, people need to refuel, everyone works better on a full stomach. Don’t forget dinner and lunches as well. Even if it’s just a few sandwiches, people will appreciate it and therefore go the extra mile to help you out.
People are very interested in what you’re doing.
I’m not talking friends. Usually friends couldn’t give two blue monkeys that you’re making another film and shouting about it on Facebook. It’s strangers who will be intrigued.
Most people never come across a film being made, so be ready to answer people’s curiosities when they stumble upon you in the middle of the woods with a group of actors wearing robot costumes.
Your edit will always go over your desired film time.
Making a ten minute short? Your first edit will be a twenty minute masterpiece. We always go by the general rule of one page of script = one minute of film. However, when you start adding action into the scenes, this always changes.
The big question is, do you allow your film to be as long as it tells you it is, or do you tell it how long it has to be. It is very tricky to cut things out of your film, sacrificing that brilliant shot, or that section of oscar-worthy dialogue. But sometimes it is necessary. Look back at your scenes. Anything that isn’t 100% vital to the story you are telling? Maybe it’s time to get rid.
We had this problem when we allowed our 25 minute horror film ‘The Field’ run over to 45 mins. As great as it turned out, we had trouble with many film festivals as it was too long for their scheduling.
You’ve made your film. It is the best thing you have ever seen. Your mum loves it. Yet no bugger is accepting it in any festivals. “Why?” you scream at the heavens, “whyyyy?!?”
Unless you have made something so brilliant that people cannot possible turn it away, or you have jedi mind control, your film will get rejected by someone. It might be that the film doesn’t fit into the festivals criteria that year, or that there is a lot of competition. Or it might just be shit.
No matter what the reason, try not to let it get to you. Shrug it off and move on. Try the next festival and the one after that. If no one wants it, go and make another film and make it even better than the last. Just don’t let it put you off altogether. At least your mum loves it.
Someone will make the ‘porno’ joke.
“What is it you do?”
“Oh I make films.”
Cue predictable blue movie joke. Grin, maybe even chuckle, move on.
I have an auntie who makes the joke every single time she sees me. Admittedly, she’s a bit weird, but she isn’t the only person to ever say that to me. These days I just respond with, “Yes… and I’m looking for actors. Fancy it?”
Needless to say, my auntie probably finds me a bit weird too…
So there you are, just some of my filmmaking laws! Of course there are many more. Any you can think of, pop them in the comments and they too could become part of my law!
Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions
Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.