I’ve been asked about doing behind the scenes for my films and with the lack of an extra pair of hands on set I’ve written this little blog post for you who are interested in the making of the film. Let me know on Twitter and Facebook if you’d be interested in this sort of thing for all of my future projects.
‘Decoration’ is a 4 minute Christmas horror short film directed, short and edited by me, Daniel Purse and starring Sam Cliff.
With the Christmas theme decided on, I began developing the storyline by first defining the beginning, middle and ending scenes. The film begins with unboxing the angel, by the middle of the film it is starting to creep him out and by the end it’s killed him. Once I had this in mind I could flesh out each scene and add in a few bits, like the recurring pine needles which appear innocently at the beginning, but leads the character to his death at the end. Having what is a basic storyline planned, to make it easier and quicker to shoot, I put together rough storyboards/lists for each scene for me to glance at whilst filming.
Sam and I planned to have just the one day of shooting, but by the end of the first 4 hour shooting day we still had the first scene left so we carried on to Sunday (22nd).
As always I shot with my Canon 60D and three lenses: Canon 50mm 1.4 (for most of the shots of Sam), Tokina 11-16mm (wide angles) and Canon 18-200mm (angel close-ups). Because the film was going to be in widescreen I used tape to mask off guide markers on the camera’s LCD.
I opted to film the opening scene predominantly on a tripod, saving handheld for the morning scene when Sam’s character is weary after an early start. However I did hand the camera to Sam for the angel’s point of view shot which I thought turned out well. Sam carried the camera over to the tree and I was standing behind the tree ready to take hold of it as the angel was hung up. The use of handheld in the outside scene was due to time restraints; I originally planned to shoot on a tripod. The most difficult shot to capture was the ending shot; I wanted to achieve a jib-like sweep across the floor followed by the crane up to reveal the bloody angel. But I had to shoot handheld because our massive budget unfortunately couldn’t stretch to buying a jib. So I managed it by hiding a cut as the frame is filled with the Christmas tree. I shot the first half (sweeping over Sam on the floor and moving up into the branches) then cut, repositioned and begun the next shot moving up out of the branches to reveal the angel. When cut together it’s not too obvious that there are two separate shots.
Lighting this scene was the hardest in the film due to where Sam was; sitting down. If it was all done in close-ups it would be ok to put a light on a light stand in front of him but because I wanted the wide shot it had to be hidden. Luckily there was already a light fixture above him which we took advantage of by strapping my little LED light to and directing it down to Sam. Throughout most of the filming, the blinds on the main window allowed me to adjust the overall level of light.
To get the film out on YouTube in time for Christmas Eve I had to edit quickly in Premiere Pro CS6. I finished the first rough cut with the runtime at around 5.10, which I cut down to the final 4.30 including credits, which were made within Premiere and backed with music by Luke Neumann who, along with Kevin MacLeod provided the music for the whole film. Both have fantastic collections and are lifesavers for no/low budget filmmakers.
All the colour correction/grading was done in Premiere. Having shot with the Cinestyle picture style on my camera, the original footage was dull and lacked contrast but gave me lots of colouring opportunities.
Foley was also a big part of the process every sound effect in the film (opening Christmas card, footsteps etc.) had to be recorded again for a rich soundscape. I used my Rode Videomic Pro to do this. I applied a general sharpening adjustment to get rid of the muddy look and widescreen bars before exporting the film in H.264 for YouTube and Vimeo. Then it was finished!
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!
Watch the film again here: Decoration (Short Film)