So I made a short film.
I’d written shorts before, two of which made it into production thanks to the generous lottery funding that used to be drifting around the UK film scene a decade ago. But this was my first as director, my first since spending a scary amount of money (for me at least) on my very own DSLR. And despite filming it in August 2012 it had taken me until now (March 2013) to finish it.
Actually, truth be told, it was mostly finished months earlier, but the sheer panic of releasing it to the world had frozen me into a state of permanent inertia, always inventing reasons not to finish it, imagining the hundreds of missing shots needed for it to work. When actually those ‘missing shots’ were ten minutes’ worth of shooting in a quiet street on a Sunday morning. Sorted.
My aim in making this short was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to make a film. Not think about it, plan it, wonder about it, consider it – I wanted to make it. Second, I wanted to make more films, and the old chestnut about the journey of thousand steps starting with one seemed perfect for filmmaking – until I took that first step, made that first film, I’d struggle to convince people that this was something I could do. I wanted to be able to talk to collaborators from a position of strength, being able to say ‘I did that, now I want you to help me make this.’
The very idea that this is possible is mind-blowing for me. When I first started writing (early 2000s) shorts were still being made on 16mm. My first produced short was shot on a PD170 in standard DV, a format now too rubbish for mobile phones, let alone short film production. Yet now I was able to shoot in 2k, 24fps, on a camera I bought from my local Argos. I edited it using Sony Vegas (the £40 version) with a laptop I bought from Sainsburys for £230. And now people all over the world were watching it and sending me messages to say how much they enjoyed it – crazy.
If you’ve ever considered making a short then stop considering and make it. Now. Go on. Make something with what you have. I had a camera but no sound recorder (at the time) so I wrote a silent film. I worried about finding an actor so I wrote a film that involved minimal ‘acting’ (although I was extremely lucky with Matthew, who was a far better actor than he realised).
But treat the film seriously and plan it like it’s a £1m feature. I did full storyboards and did rough versions of every shot at home to make sure they’d cut together. I focused on stuff that would make the film interesting but was cheap – the idea, the visual comedy. So much of the positive response to the film has been the details – the cards, the flowers. These cost nothing, were filmed in my back yard. Like with the rubber shark in Jaws, you make a virtue of what you don’t have.