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!
10th October 2015
This week we were back at Age UK filming another scene from our ‘meant to take a couple of months but have ended up taking half a year to make’ film ‘Wonderful’. This time we were in the reception and we promised Pam from Age UK that it wouldn’t be a twelve hour shoot like last time. Thankfully we held up to our promise!
This is the opening scene to our film so it had to be right. David Aston was back as Donald, and we had Hannah Davies on board as our receptionist/nurse. With Len, Pam and our own Ben Wade as extras, everyone involved did a great job! Even our actress Jo helped out on sound! (shocker! Only joking… or am I?)
For the opening we had an epic shot planned following David across the reception. To deliver this we borrowed a wheelchair from Age UK. With Callum in the chair filming and Joe pushing the chair, we were able to capture a smooth run through the scene! One day we might be able to afford an amazing dolly, but for now we’ll stick to the wheels!
Keeping our promise we had finished in time for dinner. A nice feeling finishing early after most of our previous shoots had been full days or longer. We even managed some Bacon and sausage sandwiches provided by Pam! I think we’ll come again!
Another great shoot and a brilliant opening to our film! Now everyone… pull a silly face..
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!
31st May and 7th June 2015
With only one day to rest from the epic fight scene we filmed at The Deep in Hull, we were back on set for a second day of shooting. A very different feel to today’s filming. We were filming in a nice, comfy house, with hot drinks on tap!
As we were looking for the house of an elderly man, the parents of our actress, Jo Gallagher, offered up their humble abode and it was perfect for what we were looking for.
Our lead actor, David Aston, who plays Donald, was made to look older and run down, and even came with his own granddad slippers! Looking the part, he now had to play the part, and play it he did perfectly. A great balance between a sad man, suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and a grumpy old bugger who just wants to be left alone!
Jo Gallagher played the part of his long suffering daughter, Elizabeth, brilliantly. Showing a warming, caring affection for her father, but also the struggle of looking after an old man and feeling under appreciated. Obviously not when she’s sticking two fingers up at the camera. There’s always one. And it’s always Jo!
We also had Chance Monahan, our amazing little seven year old actor, in the scene, playing Donald’s grandson Charlie. As always with children, things take a little longer and you have to have a little more patience on set. Luckily Chance is my (Joe Monahan, the writer and co-director) son so it did make things easier! Plus he loves superheroes so is thrilled to be appearing in a film all about his new favourite superhero, Mr Wonderful!
This was the opening scene to the film so we had to make sure we had everything right. People judge a film from it’s first scene, a short film is judged even sooner – the first shot, possibly even the first frame! Luckily for us, filming went smoothly (except for one particular shot that took about seventeen takes!) and everything looked amazing, but time seemed to fly away from us. Before we knew it, it was time to finish up after an eight hour shoot. We’d only got the living room scene filmed and therefore would have to return for the other scenes set in the house.
It was another great scene ticked off our list and we were all really impressed with the outcome of the day! And that we got to drink tea and coffee and eat lots of biscuits! Perfection!
29th June 2015
The day had arrived for our second trip to one of the highlights of Hull – The Deep – one of the UK’s best aquariums, home to over 3500 fish! Of course we weren’t going there for fun and to go ‘Ooooh’ and ‘Ahhhhh’ at all the spectacular marine life. We were there to complete our scenes for ‘Wonderful’.
Luckily we only had one room to shoot in. It was the area we were unable to complete last time. The Cool Seas area, where our epic battle at the end of the film takes place! The great thing about this room were the lights. Little neon strips of light that change colour, scatter the walls of the room, making it feel like you’re on some kind of spaceship. Perfect for a villains lair!
Our two actors, David Aston and Richie Donaldson, pulled out all of the stops. You can tell that they both relished their roles and loved every second of it – as did we just watching them!
The tricky thing when making a film, is keeping track of everything going on. You have to concentrate on the shot you’re trying to get, make sure all of the lighting is in the correct place and consistent between shots, make sure the actors are aware of their markers and know exactly which part they are filming, and much, much more! The great thing is that we have an amazing crew working with us and we all work really well together in order to make the best film possible!
Even though we only had the one scene to complete, and had everyone working at the top of their game, we were still there until 10pm! Once again, all shattered and hungry, we pushed on to get the shots completed! And bless the staff at The Deep who opened it especially for us that night, and happily waited around for us to finish, helping out as much as they could! Many thanks to all of them, you guys rock!
Another great shoot, another great scene completed. Next!
29th May 2015
After months of planning; script writing, casting, shot listing, storyboarding, location scouting and costume design and creation to name but a few, we were on set of our first scene for our new short film ‘Wonderful’. And what a scene it was.
We were filming what was possibly the hardest scene in the film to shoot! Typical!
Our scene takes place in our villains evil lair. For this location, we approached The Deep in Hull, which is one of the UK’s largest aquariums, home to sharks, penguins, jellyfish and more!
They were absolutely brilliant and more than happy to help us out. We had access to three different areas in The Deep after closing hours, and the staff were so helpful, we cannot thank them enough!
With our brilliant costume maker, Elli, on set, along with our great make-up artist, Andy, and our amazing crew (including Carl, Ben and Neil), we were all set to go.
Our first scene took place in front of the giant shark tanks. So not only did our actors (David Aston and Richie Donaldson) have to perform for us, we needed the sharks to do well too!
As they seemed to swim in constant circles around the tank we had to time the action to start just as our finned friends passed the front of the tank. With a three camera set up, we made sure we captured the action piece from every angle. Everything went smoothly… success!
We then filmed in the Cool Seas area, which is a dark room that has some great neon lighting and an amazing jelly fish tank! A true villains lair!
Time was against us as we only had a limited time in the room so we didn’t manage to get it all completed. Stress levels rising! It was getting late in the evening too…
Onwards to the final area to film – a really impressive tunnel of colour changing lights! A great moment for our hero, David, to stride through the tunnel, as we slid backwards on our dolly.
We were able to finish everything in this area, much to our relief. By now it was about 9pm and everyone was starting to droop! It was time to call it a night.
We got some brilliant footage and was a great start to our film. Yes, we would have to return (if The Deep would have us!) but it was better to get it all right, rather than rush.
Time for us, and the sharks, to get some rest!
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.