Tag Archives: national film and television school

Cuddlefish

It’s almost time to film my scene. Production begins and ends on Thursday. I’ve finally cast actors, gotten props, and I have a shot list.

As I mentioned before, the scene comes from a longer feature film idea that we were asked to come up with a few weeks ago. Mine is called “Cuddlefish,” about a professional cuddler who falls in love with one of her clients, but she’s asexual, so she doesn’t want the relationship to go beyond cuddling (and kissing) (and romance.) The scene I chose from this idea is when her client confesses that he likes her and wants to be in a relationship with her, and she’s conflicted because she likes him too, but she isn’t sure she can give him what he wants.

Explaining the scene, because it’s out of context, is one of the most important parts of producing it. I need to get the romantic comedy tone across, but I also need there to be an understanding of exactly why the scene plays out as it does, why my professional cuddler is so hesitant when she’s told by the guy she likes that he likes her back. I think that’s been the hardest part of the whole process, making sure that the context and tone are clear and transferring that to film. Hopefully it works.

The second hardest part is actual set design. Over the past two weeks, I’ve struggled with how I’m going to build a bedroom set that looks like it could be the room of a professional cuddler within the confines of the film school. The room I’m booked to shoot in looks a bit like a cross between a basement and an industrial kind of place, and has art supplies in it including one huge blue canvas. The door is also in a really odd place.

To add to the problem, the double bed from the props department I planned to use is already being used on my shooting day, so I’m using a hospital bed (single) and making it look like a bed that a professional cuddler might have in their bedroom. It’s going to involve a lot of pillows and blankets and honestly it won’t look like what I thought about in my head, or anything remotely close to it. But for the purposes of this scene, hopefully it isn’t too distracting. I think a lot of it hinges on performances, so if the bed looks a bit suspicious, well, hopefully clever camera angles can take attention away from that.

The last problem is directing. I’m not a director, and I’ve never really directed in any sort of official capacity before. It’s a lot of decision making and controlling and knowing what you’re talking about, and having written the thing, it’s also an exercise in learning what works on the page and what doesn’t need to be in the film (things like small stage directions, for example.) You’d be surprised at how many things in a script, even a good one, don’t need to be in the film. The past week has involved learning that directors look at scripts differently than writers, so playing the part of a writer-director is weird because, at least for me, I’ve never fully been in one mode or the other. They bleed through to each other.

Other things I’ve had to learn include camera coverage, health & safety (there was a risk assessment), working with actors, film set protocol, and producing practices. Yesterday, when filming someone else’s shoot, I got a crash course in being an assistant director and on using clapper boards. It’s a lot to take in, and there’s definitely a lot of learning while doing. And the set should be relaxed, which is hard when you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re secretly panicking and there’s so many choices.

Somehow, so far, the sets have been pretty relaxed.

I just hope the shoot on Thursday goes smoothly. I hope that the set looks like a bedroom tomorrow when I’m done with it. I hope nothing sudden happens that’ll throw a wrench in the works.

The good thing about being on the screenwriting course is that, if I want, this is the first and last time I’ll have to do any of this film production stuff.

We’ll see how it goes.

 

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Screenwriting In the UK

So I said I’d be keeping up with this blog, and I’ve done a really bad job. But it’s been a month since I’ve started my course in England, so I thought it was about time for a post to talk about what I’ve been doing aside from the answer I usually tell everyone, which is writing.

I am writing. For those who missed the last blog post, I’m doing a two year Masters course in Screenwriting at the National Film and Television School in England. After which, I hope to get a job, preferably in the UK because I like it over here more than, say, LA. Not that there’s anything wrong with LA but it’s not particularly my style.

The screenwriting course does involve a lot of writing. There are ten of us, and we spent the first few weeks each generating ideas for a film or TV series. We had four ideas to develop with the following prompts (or guidelines, they weren’t very hard about them): idea based on visuals, idea needing research, fantasy idea, and an idea in a particular genre other than drama. We wrote treatments (proposals, pretty much) for each of these ideas. I ended up with four film ideas whose working titles are: Fishermen (this will change), Underground, Fallen, and Cuddlefish. Take those as you will. The last one is a romantic comedy. The first one I’m thinking about as maybe a play, though the visual part would be great to see on camera. But it’s such a smallish drama that I wonder if it wouldn’t be better on stage. The middle two I haven’t thought much about, but would love to write them.

On the side I’ve gotten involved with games design, collaborating on story for a game. The second year games designers have to develop a full-fledged game (for any platform) as their final project. Some of them want to bring in writers for story/character reasons. This is where I’ve come in. The game I’m working on is very story based, which is great. I like story based games. It’s much different to writing a script, but it’s a lot of fun, and the interactive aspect is fun to think about and play around with.

We’re also working on a project called Metamorphosis, which is to give us writers a perspective on what it takes to bring our scripts to the big screen. We’ve each picked a scene from one of our film ideas and written it, and we’re going to film it two weeks from now. Between then and now we have to finalize the script, cast actors, get location and props, and learn how to use the equipment. This means that we’re making 10 films (since there’s ten of us.) Each writer directs their own scene, and the crew is made up entirely of other writers who aren’t filming that day. So we have two weeks of prep (this week and next) and one week to film, and then a few days to edit. I’m not a huge fan of the production process (I did come here to write, after all) but it should be a lot of fun. Especially since it’s the most developed script I’ve ever filmed.

Adjusting to life outside of school is interesting. I’ve had to get used to not having the usual people to fall back on for support and/or weekend hanging out, to not having things work the same way they do at home, and to not having a good selection of pre-made cookie dough. The Ben & Jerry’s here is also terribly expensive. I haven’t been able to justify getting any yet, but I will. Maybe as a birthday present. Going into London a lot gets expensive so I haven’t done it too much.

Overall, I’m enjoying this, and I’m really happy that I’ve got this opportunity. I feel more creative than I have in a long time, more creatively supported than I ever have, and like I’ve learned more about the film/TV/theatre industry and writing in the past month than I did in my three years at my university. And that is just fantastic. I’m really excited about all the writing we’re going to do, all the different areas we’ll get to explore, and how much we’ll learn about everything.

And, fingers crossed, when I’m done they won’t kick me out of the country.

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