We’re back at it again!
My Rode Reel 2017 is in full swing and, naturally, we’ve thrown our hats in the ring for another chance at some of the great prizes they offer every year. This time, I’m writing this after having already completed the pre-production and production processes. I wanted to get this out before we actually started, but it’s been a little bit crazy the past few weeks–even busier than last year somehow. Regardless of that, though, I’m still going to focus each of these posts on each of the major steps that encompassed the production as a whole, starting with pre-production.
A while back, Chris (the same Chris from last year) and I decided we should start getting together to brainstorm story ideas. We had a few monthly meetings where we tossed a couple ideas back and forth and eventually started hammering out the details on some of them. Our initial idea for this years Rode Reel entry was very different than what we ended up shooting; in fact we actually had part of a first draft of a script done before we realised it was a little too ambitious for our current resources. The next meeting we had, Chris told me about this image that had popped into his head at some point: a seemingly abandoned car parked on the side of a dark country road, seeing another vehicle pull up behind it and the driver get out to search for something–first in the truck, then in the woods beyond. That was enough to kick my imagination into high gear. We went back and forth for a while, trying to figure out what made the most sense for this guy to be searching for. Eventually we decided it had to be his daughter. The next question, of course, was “why is he searching for her?” I won’t spoil anything for the short here but suffice to say, we hashed out the whole plot essentially in one sitting. It was a very natural process (for the most part) so we knew we were on to a good idea from the start.
Once we had something we were happy with, Chris put out the call the same way as last year: our trusty Facebook network of local talent and agents.
You might remember from last time that we held auditions for the role of our troubled protagonist in our last Rode Reel entry, Intruder. We were surprised by the amount of applicants we received and were very happy with the selection those applicants afforded us and we were confident that we were able to get the right guy for the job because of it. This year, we knew we wanted to hire pros again. The biggest change was that instead of just one role, we had to fill two–one of which was a young girl. We thought that might be challenging, and it was, but for the complete opposite reason than we anticipated. Instead of having to scrape the bottom of the barrel for talent to fill these rolls we’d concocted, we found ourselves having real trouble choosing between all the great auditions we’d held (we held the auditions at the same fantastic location we used last year, the Spark Space in Sherwood Park). All things said and done, we had more than double the number of applicants we had last year and the choice was more than twice as difficult. There was a blessing that came out of the agony that we realised eventually though, and that was: this choice is so difficult, not because we don’t know who fits our criteria best, but because multiple people fit our criteria so well. From that point, we figured out that no matter who we chose, they would do a good job. Now that we’ve chosen them and finished filming I can confidently say that we did not make any bad choices in casting (but more on that in the next post).
The last thing I’ll touch on for this pre-production themed entry is the approach we took to flushing out the characters. We knew we wanted these characters, these people, to be motivated and that motivation had to translate to the screen. The question was: how do we show that in a maximum three minute film? We settled on a strategy that I think worked well enough for us this time that I’d always consider using it again. That strategy was to write the concept for a feature length film, then shoot the last three minutes of it. This approach told us exactly where the characters had been and where they wanted to go–it helped us place the moments that the film takes place over in each characters’ personal timeline and narrative. There was never any question about what each of the characters wanted, even our tertiary character played by our friend Ryley (with no lines and about six seconds of screen time) had a distinct purpose and motivation because we knew exactly how he got to be where he was by the time we see him in the short film. In the next post, I’ll talk about how that helped the actors as well.
That’s it for this time! Next time I’ll talk about the shooting night (yes, one night) and some of the challenges we faced, as well as some of the improvements and growth we had since last year.
Thanks for reading,