Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Making of THE MAP OF FIVE

Looks like a video game, does it not?

The Map of Five is the sequel to my first ever film, Five. Immediately after the positive reception of the original film (which was uploaded to my Facebook account in January 2010), I planned a sequel and literally came up with the title on the spot. There was no idea behind it, I just thought it sounded pretty cool. When it then came to developing the actual story, I decided to involve the characters finding a map that leads them somewhere - to their eventual doom.

Unlike the first film, the sequel went for a different approach with dialogue and a script. The script was written by me and my friend Nathan, who stars in the film as Nathan Foster. Another friend of mine, George Bligdon, stars as George Johnson and I once again play the role of Andrew Samson, though it is not a starring role this time. The script did not take long to type up (hence its tacky outcome) and when it was done filming commenced on February 27, 2010.

What's with the huge gap on the left? Bad composition ahoy!
The film was shot with my Panasonic SDR-S26 Video Camcorder, which I had recently bought at the time to make future movies. Though I also had a tripod, I did not use it for this film or its sequel 'The Reign of Five', something I deeply regret when looking at how just how shaky some of the shots are. The opening scene was filmed in Southampton Common (common land I live near) in a discrete woodland area to avoid public disturbances. The map George removes from the bush was made from tea stained paper, which was scrunched up and cut into the bizarre shape and then painted with random symbols. To create the English version of the map later seen in the film, I simply traced the outline of the finished 'symbol map' and, after tea staining and scrunching it, painted on English text. Though I was initially impressed with the editing in this scene, there are many things I am now displeased with; for example, the tacky and poor quality rustling sound effect from the bush and the pointless sequence of shots of Nathan and George leaving the common. It's as if they're going on some romantic afternoon stroll.

A week later, on March 6, 2010, filming finished up with the final half. Yes, it was all shot in one day, and took friggin ages. The opening shot of the following day shows Nathan on his computer trying to research the map; we simply brought up an English translation of archaic symbols from Google Images to imply this. When George knocks the door and Nathan jumps, the shot of the map hitting the floor is crucial for a later part where he lifts it back up to reveal its sudden change in language - to do this we simply placed the English map in the same position between filming each clip. Though probably unnoticed by many viewers, George's "Yo, Nath! Let me in, the door is locked!" line is ravaged with errors; not only is he knocking on a back gate, not a door, but it is not accessible from the outside without a key; George's line implies he could open it if it wasn't locked, when in fact he would need a key no matter what. A bit pedantic, but it amuses me how horrible that line was.

George was shocked to discover just how much porn Nathan stores on his computer.
When this scene was completed me, Nathan and George walked to my house to finish the film; the scenes of the two characters walking were shot en route to the house. When we arrived we spent a little bit of time outdoors shooting the conversation before Nathan and George enter; a number of errors can be seen with the background here, as cars will sometimes appear or disappear randomly due to the cutting of the clip to the next. The interior scenes were much easier to shoot - my mother was indoors at the time, but in the lounge (the door to George's right when he calls for Andrew) to let us film.

When Nathan enters Andrew's room to find his MacBook turned on and finds the document Andrew wrote about Five, it fades to a flashback of Andrew typing up the report. This scene was shot the same evening and filtered with a black and white effect for obvious reasons. This was an attempt to provide some backstory on Andrew; it is shown that he himself found a dead friend who had been killed by Five, and Five had now turned its claws to him. The document Nathan opens is a retarded rap I wrote about my history teacher back in Year 10. No, I am not joking.

Teletubbies are far more dangerous than you might initially think.
For the following scene where Andrew is found dead in the other closed bedroom, there is an error not many people will have noticed. Andrew's legs appear to be laying toward to the room entrance, within the range of the door; if the door was pushed open by Nathan smoothly, how was Andrew lying there? But anyway, in order to show his corpse I simply laid still near a patch of water we poured onto the carpet (to make it look like it is stained with blood) and the knife by my stomach (dangerous I know, but I didn't die so it's all good). George filmed this scene so that me and Nathan could both be portrayed in it. The following segment where George hears Five down the phone is an obvious reference to the first film, which also used this concept when Andrew attempted to call the police.

The final scene where Nathan and George encounter Five for real was done by combining many reaction shots (including awful quality eye closeups) from Nathan and George along with their dialogue against Five's recorded speech, was done by myself once again. The final clip was simply me thrusting the camera at Nathan and George (it took many tries to get them to scream properly) and we simply took a photo of my house from the outside to add some dramatic effect with the echoing cries.

"I'm telling you now George, that is the last time we go out clubbing."
In this last shot of Nathan and George laying there, the initial intention was that George was dead and Nathan was alive; this was eventually turned into both being alive, but simply injured. The significance of Nathan's fist clenching was to imply he is the living one of the two, but now implies he is possessed by Five which is discovered in The Reign of Five. As to why such a change was made to their outcomes from the attack, I will explain in my Making of The Reign of Five article.

So there you have it; that's how The Map of Five came to be. I admit it was a lot more ambitious than its predecessor and tons of fun to make, but with a tacky script, daft acting and a weak story, it falls short now that time has progressed since its completion. I do like several things about it though; particularly the vibe it gives off, and the way the tension increases as George and Nathan explore Andrew's abandoned house. The claustrophobic nature of my house also made this scene a lot more enjoyable to watch, at least for me. But as a whole, this film could have been so much better.

Saturday 25 February 2012

The Making of FIVE

You'll never look at maths the same way again.

Five holds the honour of being the very first film produced by CarrCom Films; back then the name or channel did not exist, so it was marked a simple independent production made by myself. The decision to make my own film had been lingering in my head for a while but it wasn't until I had watched James Rolfe's Cinnemassacre 200 video for the 350th time that I finally put the idea into practice. And so, with no script, basic structure or any other slight idea as to what I was doing, I immediately set to work making my first film.

The title Five is derived from the Shane Acker film 9, released in 2009. There's no similarities between the two films (they're a completely different genre!) but the title just zoomed into my head when trying to fashion a somewhat creepy title for this film. I figured having one word that made little sense to the audience upon their first viewing of the film would add a creepier effect to the concept. It was not until the film's sequel, The Map of Five, that I delved into the history behind the name.

Five has yet to grasp the concept of internet slang.
The opening scene was filmed the same night I decided to make the film, and was done during a break from school due to heavy snow. I literally had no basic idea of what I was doing, and so scribbled up some generic spooky occurrences to combine together; this includes the mysterious MSN conversation, the flickering lights and the figure walking towards Andrew as he collapses from fear. I had a tripod ready, and began to film the opening scene after sending some poorly written lines to a friend of mine over MSN and requesting him to change his username to '5' for the scene. I informed him of the timing for each line and commenced filming; the film was shot with a very old (and very big) Canon UC8000 8mm Video Camcorder, which placed footage onto a tape. The footage was transferred to my computer via my Dazzle DVC100 video capture card and edited in Final Cut Express.

The opening MSN scene was shot in a series of parts, with the close up of the MSN activity being a "background clip", if you will. Essentially this part was filmed in one long shot, and then the reactions from Andrew as he replies to Five's messages were filmed and intercut to form the entire MSN sequence. I searched a while for suitable music and finally chose 'Midnight' from the fourth series of Doctor Who. At the time I was extremely impressed with the outcome of this scene, and even now I am still happy with how it was edited. 

"Mum! Don't come in! I'm-I'm...doing homework!"
Following this scene I consulted my brother for camerawork and decided to add in a jump scare. This was simply a loud smashing noise, poorly recorded with a microphone from Soundsnap, followed by a spooky scream from The Woman in Black (1989); the scene where the woman flies into the bedroom of Arthur. I was impressed with the effect of the lights flickering on and off, which was simply done by filming two stationary shots of the stairs (one with lights on, one with lights off) and cross fading them together. I then asked my mother to simply walk towards the camera as I did a POV shot of Andrew passing out (to give the idea that a ghost or something was approaching) and filtered the clip with a blur to express Andrew's impaired vision as he faints. It came out okay, but was still a bit tacky.

Following this, a friend of mine came to my house about a week later and helped me out to shoot the rest of the film. It was done throughout the day and just relied on some more "spooky" ideas I scribbled up, such as the open window, the '5' note and the message on the computer. For the scene where Five talks to Andrew down the phone when he attempts to call the police, I simply used the BandPass filter on Final Cut Express to make the audio sound low quality as if coming from a phone speaker, which worked to great effect. The voice of Five was my own voice slowed down with a lowered pitch in Audacity.

Good lord, a post-it note!
As the film reached closer to seven minutes I decided it was time to finish things up. The final scene where the ghost appears one more time as Andrew examines the numerous '5' post it notes scattered across the walls was done in my little brothers room (the Teletubbies wallpaper kills the scariness, I know) and did have, I admit, some creepy-ish ideas. I used my friend's shadow to imply the ghost was approaching when the next 'fail jump scare' occurs on the stairs and thought the concept of knocking the door was pretty freaky. The next series of knocks is actually coming from the window in the room, which is positioned to the left of Andrew from his view. This means he would be seeing the ghost from the very corner of his eye, but this was hard to suggest without showing it; the sound editing was also not very ideal to create this moment.

After literally taking a knife from the kitchen and scribbling '5' on it with a ballpoint pen, I decided to end the film with the main character's death. The next jump scare follows with loud footsteps from the stairs, which was simply my friend stamping violently at the bottom. This obviously implies the ghost is emerging from the ground floor, and added a somewhat spooky effect. The idea when Andrew kills himself was hard to determine from even me; I was constantly changing my decision that it was either him committing suicide to be free of the terrors of Five or Five possessing him and causing him to kill himself against his will. After introducing the idea of Five's possession powers in The Reign of Five, I went with the latter decision permanently. In the final shot, another slight blur is made to the clip to show Andrew is dying; a hand can also be seen clutching the door frame here, which is meant to be the ghost and is simply my friend in a chunky winter glove. 

Knife in hand, Andrew decides to fuck up Five's shit.
So there you have a behind the scenes look at my first film, Five. I will always be glad I made it as it was tons of fun to make it and its sequels and also spearheaded my dream to become a filmmaker. I look back and loathe it as it has not aged well at all (at least from my perspective), but it's still fun to watch all the same.

Saturday 18 February 2012

CarrCom Films

I have returned to Youtube to distribute my short films! After abandoning my hobby of game related video making, I have decided to further pursue my dream of becoming a filmmaker and so have started this channel to let the world see my work!

I have made 3 short films since 2010, which may or may not one day be put onto this channel (I really do hate them). I have been working on a short film titled The Attic since September 2010, which is due to be completed and uploaded in Summer 2012.

Click here to visit the channel!

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Saturday 11 February 2012

Movie Review - The Woman in Black

Susan Hill's The Woman in Black is one of the most renowned ghost stories of all time, gripping readers with its astounding use of tension and atmosphere to create lingering chills. Having been adapted into a stage play in 1987, which continues running to this day, and a television film in 1989, the story has reached a vast audience; now it's time for the next reworking of the ghostly tale, starring famed Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer whose wife (Sophie Stuckey) passed away when giving birth to their now four year old son (Misha Handley). Suffering stress and financial issues from his job, Arthur is assigned a final chance by his boss to travel to the market town of Crythin Gifford and retrieve some legal documents from Eel Marsh House, the residence of their deceased client Alice Drablow. Upon arrival Arthur is made thoroughly unwelcome by the paranoid locals and catches sight of a scorned woman dressed in the deepest black; it's not long before he discovers the truth behind The Woman in Black (Liz White), and must race against time to stop her from carrying out her shocking purpose.

This Hammer flick takes the original source material and makes a tonnage of changes, some good and others bad. An adaptation of a novel is always bound to have changes to freshen things up, but there are several tweaks to the original story that I was just not fond of. The initial pacing is far too quick, giving little time to develop newly introduced characters and instead shunting them aside several minutes after they appear. It gives little time for atmosphere and tension, making you feel as if the film is far too desperate to get into the main series of hauntings. As time goes on the pacing is more reluctant, making for an experience that gets under your skin with chills and frightening jump scares; it's just a shame it takes a while for the film to calm down.

There is depth to this tale, however; it's not entirely an endless barrage of paranormal scares. The explanations are not as intricately handled as they are in other adaptations, making the story harder to fully piece together, but there is a an emotional resonance intertwined with the thrills. During a main series of night time hauntings, things can feel a bit clumsy; as if the film is full of ideas to chill audiences and instead of pacing them carefully to provide the atmosphere, it is just cobbling them all together in a non stop effort to scare. It works, but doesn't feel as intimidating as the astonishing atmosphere achieved in other adaptations, or the novel itself.

Daniel Radcliffe provides a good portrayal of our main character, whose personality differs vastly from the novel. It initially feels like the young actor is trying too hard to score the chemistry between Arthur and his child, but it's easy to take him seriously during the horrific moments and the character itself is nicely developed, if a bit dull. Ciaran Hinds portrays the landlord Samuel Dailey just as nicely; he too differs from his novel counterpart, but is an interesting character all the same. As for our eponymous ghoul, Liz White provides a chilling performance that could even give Pauline Moran a run for her money.

Enormous praise should be given to the mise en scene and cinematography, however. Spooky yet beautiful sets, perfect costumes, frightening special effects and excellent tense camera shots make for a fantastic visual experience. Whether you enjoy the film or not, it's hard to deny it's absolutely wonderful to look at. Marco Beltrami's fantastic and equally chilling musical score, with added emotional depth, also breathes more life into each scene.

It has its problems, but The Woman in Black is a film worth watching for fans of the horror/thriller genre. It's very conventional and sometimes clumsy, but those looking for a frightening experience will not be disappointed. It's the least impressive telling of the tale, but as a standalone film, there is much to enjoy.