Today we shall be looking at the pre-production process and details of the shoot for The Aftermath
The first thing to consider initially was the budget, and what could be done within the obvious limitations. At the time, there was no such thing as crowdfunding. You either were rich, inherited the money, begged, borrowed or had savings. I was lucky. I had some savings. But not enough. Put it this way, a nice trip with a crew to South Africa wasn’t happening.
Given the budget, I knew that we would have an outside scene, one that somehow needed to look like South Africa, and that we had to have an internal/indoor scene. It had to be basic, which informed my writing. It was going to be a documentary style, with a journalist interviewing the principal characters Lord Chelmsford (interior scene) and for the contrast, the captured Zulu chief Cetswayo.
I considered what was required. What I could accomodate, having done my research on the costings, including hiring a studio, the costumes, travel costs to pick them up, hiring props, etc.
This is what I had:
Basic film crew; director of photography with decent camera equipment and sound person/recordist. (You always need decent sound)
(If you can afford it, I thoroughly recommend a lighting person – for this film though, I couldn’t but the sun was my ally)
A few actors drawn from a local theatre in South London, willing to get on board so long as travel expenses were met. The characters they would play would be the journalist, chief Cetswayo, Chelmsford and his bodyguard.
Hiring of the 19th Century red tunic with helmet etc… had to obviously get right measurements from the the actors, as well as a 19th century journalist outfit.
Props – including a stool for the King to be seated for the interview, as well as a musket with bayonet fixed, spears, Zulu shield and a drum. For the internal scene, props included a table, chairs, glasses and a carpet.
The other location – and we got lucky, as it was on a bright summer day, was Epping Forest. And except for the odd tree, it looked like Zulu-land in South Africa.
My expenses also had to take into account editing, and sound/music effects.
This was a two day shoot; one in Epping Forest, and the other in the Studio, and 5 days set aside for editing.
My advice; do the research, find out how much things, and people cost; not forgetting travel expenses, price of editing for a day and of course, the availability of actors. By all means you can write your script prior to that, but be prepared to alter it in light of the realities of not just the expense, but also on the day. A couple of actors in crucial roles did not appear, so a quick script change was required. I ended up not just being the director and producer but also playing one of the leading roles! You must be prepared to be flexible. Haven’t got the right weather on the day? Can the actors come back on another day, as well as the crew? Can you afford to pay for another day’s shoot? No? No problem. Find another way. Shoot in the rain if you have to; incorporate it into the script, or check out the location to shoot under a tree, whatever. And a word about location. Don’t just check out the price; is it suitable for your needs; do the studio owners like the fact that you have X number of people, that you’ll be banging on the drums? Are there strict rules regarding the volume? Or where you can shoot? And always see what you are allowed to do, and – as was the case for our external location – we scouted it well, like an infantry to find the best places to shoot. Remember, time is money. And don’t forget to budget for the provision of that most important of things….food! And make sure it’s enough!
I was lucky to be able to use two rooms for the internal shots; one for narration directly into the camera, the other for the interview. At Epping Forest we captured some great scenes which worked well.
The result? A half hour political documentary featuring interviews, brief scenes of conflict and tranquility, with a great narrator, and framed in beautiful scenes, music and special effects. Above all we accomplished our task. Not too shabby, for a budget of about 2K.
Most of all it looked fairly decent given the obvious limitations, and we had a great time.
The Aftermath gave a unique insight into the political underpinnings of a war made famous by Michael Caine’s Zulu; but equally important, it was the culmination of years of work, writing, research and dedication. A piece of creature work, I am most proud of, with the talents and fantastic assistance of my team, from the crew to the actors to the background personnel and last but not least, by sisters who provided invaluable support, and had their hands featured in film, banging drums, and my other sister who gazed at the camera in her beautiful narration. You can’t beat the support of your family or friends in an endeavour such as this.
I hope you have found this useful; and remember that nothing worthwhile is accomplished without obstacles, determination and belief.
That was lesson 14.
⦁ Keep going, keep writing, keep networking, keep learning and most of all keep doing. Practice makes perfect!