Monday, 14 March 2011

In Post Production

The solemn winter months rolled along as the next phase of the Shadows of a Stranger project started: post production. Gone was the daily fun and excitement of cast and crew getting together each day to shoot scenes – now us producers isolated ourselves in the edit suite as the long task began of putting this film together.

A couple of months into the new year and we're now three quarters of the way through the initial edit of the blue screen material, and a much smaller way through the special effects work. There's still a long way to go, but the point is it's moving along.

The conscientious stitching together of each frame of video, and the solitude of the edit suite seems to have inspired a bit more reflection, an introspective look into what this film is really about, what we intended when we set out at the beginning.

One thing we'd wondered about as we were filming was whether there was anyone else out there who was making a film in this way. Were there any other micro-budget filmmakers who'd taken inspiration from the Sin City method of filmmaking, shooting it all in the controlled and comfortable environment of a digital backlot, then creating the environments in post production?

We thought we were the only ones, but we were wrong. Last year a film was released that strongly echoes our approach. Called Snowblind, the film was made in Germany, a futuristic spaghetti western shot through self-finance. It was all done on a green screen, made by passionate filmmakers who evidently didn't want their ambition and vision to be hampered by a poverty of means. The film is really worth checking out and can be seen in its entirety on Youtube.

It was fascinating to watch Snowblind and I was full of admiration for what these filmmakers had set out to achieve. I wasn't convinced that their audience truly got what it was all about – some people seem to take things a little too literally. It's something that worries me a bit with our film; it's not supposed to be real! We're not following the same rules of reality. Yet, I suppose it is the skill of a filmmaker that will encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief in order to be drawn into the film.

It's probably a very fine line. One, for example, that I think was crossed between the original Star Wars films and the newer prequels. The originals made everyone want to be Luke Skywalker, the prequels had us asking… midi-what?

The George Lucas of the original Star Wars is quoted as saying that a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing. In an interview with Irvin Kershner (director of The Empire Strikes Back), he talked about how he was going to follow up one of the most successful films of all time, and said: "I was just supposed to make a terrific film, one that was better than the first one. But how do you make a terrific film? Do you put in more action than the first one? No, action is not what it's about. It's about characters, and caring about them. And that's where I wanted to put the emphasis - on the people."

When we followed the blue screen route with Shadows, we did so because we wanted to make the story that I'd already written. It wasn't an attempt to 'make another Sin City'. In fact, my script really wasn't an action film, not supposed to be a visual spectacle. It was about the characters, about the story. It was about trying to communicate relevant emotions, another exploration of the dimensions of the human soul.

This is something we've had to remind ourselves of as we're in post production. What excites me most about the film is that we're using these production techniques that wouldn't normally be used on a film of this nature, but we're not using them as an end to themselves.

It's exciting, but also daunting, when I wonder how the world will receive our film. It feels a bit of a gamble in some respects – our originality, if we have any, is not that we're trying to be groundbreaking with either our visual effects, or the humble way we attempted the sort of project that the Hollywood guys take on. It's more that we're taking things back a bit, putting emphasis on what we're communicating, not just on how we're communicating it.

Rich – March 2011

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