Director : Keri Collins
Producer : Ray Panthaki
Production Co : Urbanway Productions
It was great to see and hear the motorised curtains slowly slide open from both sides to reveal the full 2.40 aspect ratio cinema screen at Raindance film festival 2013 for the world première of Convenience. It was a full house and it had been amazingly well received. Being surrounded by such a big audience, who have no connection with the film laughing and enjoying the film is just one of the many reasons why I enjoy shooting movies. Such a great satisfaction.
Reviews have been great to boot!
Derek Malcolm recommends: Raindance
Two of the most attractive films coming up over the weekend are the world premiere of Keri Collins’ British comedy Convenience and Poland’s Love, a lively record of the ups and downs of the country’s best-known jazz band.
Well shot, often looking absolutely gorgeous, and with a cracking cast all game and happy to jump on a joke grenade for the sake of a punch-line, Convenience is more than a satisfying watch, it’s a truly rewarding one that offers hope in a fledgling film industry that sacrifices actual laughs for safe chuckles, coming off more like an American film than something from the Isles. Honestly one of the funniest films in a long time, you deserve to see this film, and should demand to if only to remind yourself how funny a comedy can and should be from time to time. Brilliant stuff.
Inner Workings – Convenience Feature Film
There was a Q & A after the screening and the inevitable question of budget came up, Ray Panthanki didn’t quite answer and asked the audience how much they thought they spent and everyone thought it was 6 figures. I am not in a position to discuss figures as I am neither an accountant nor producer but I can say it was far, very far from 6 figures. I mean it was like the distance between London and Scotland, if miles equated to money…
Which is interesting and dangerous at the same time…
The dangerous bit, many will expect much much, more for much, much less and this can / will affect the quality of films in one way or another. Also there is the “Joe Bloggs shot his film for a £10er so why are you saying £30 quid to make your movie?” approach. Well simply because you specified everything that costs £30quid as opposed £10…
There are many factors that make up the production of a “good” film and no element can exist on it’s own.
As a Director of Photography I am always challenged with “low budget” vs high production value whilst staying loyal to the script and maintaining the director’s vision.
Convenience I personally believe should be used as a case study of what is achievable with the right elements for very little, but in the end content is always King.
One of the many challenges I faced on Convenience was the police raid scene that comes towards the end of the film. Keri Collins and myself were told 4 hours before shooting that we only have one police car and two “police officers”- absolute silence around the table with the entire production team starting to go pale very quickly.
One suggestion was to reschedule that night, but that had a negative impact on the rest of the schedule and pickups were not an option, so the scene was about to be dropped.
So I made the suggestion of doing a compositing shot. We lock the camera off on a tripod, film an empty plate of the gas station, then have the police car drive in from three different angles without creating overlap and you can achieve your raid.
Straight forward comp without roto, Despite the idea being called “silly” by one member of the crew it seemed to work quite well and we could keep the scene in the movie, it is the clip at the beginning of my reel. As we were on digital the D.I.T did a quick test as everyone huddled around the monitor to see if it was convincing and sure enough it was, a big round of applause and cheers as the scene was saved, but seeing it on the big screen and it being convincing was my ultimate satisfaction, no amount of thanks or no thanks could fulfil the achievement, OK taken it was something small, but under the circumstances it was big.
Unfortunately I was not at the grade for Convenience, but overall Gorilla post did a good job.
It was an absolute pleasure working with Keri on Convenience. We had spoken quite a bit running up to pre production about the style and feel of the movie, because of our turtle’s anus schedule it meant we had to make decisions with conviction, adapting to unfolding situations at hand. Convenience feature film was my second feature and was shot on RED MX with MKII Superspeeds for a final aspect ratio extraction of 2.40.
Convenience is 90% based in one location, a petrol station with 1 driving scene, a bedsit scene and an office scene, all being very short in comparison to the afore mentioned. Convenience was undoubtedly a labour of love for everyone. The entire cast & crew were extremely supportive & patient, personally I believe this attitude of positive energy was what gave us rocket boosters. Most of us had shared rooms, I know it was me and 8 others in one hotel room, yup that’s right 9 of us in one room, to say the least it was one heck of an experience, would I do it again? Well, errrr…
Some of us were light sleepers, some of us snored like jack hammers and others slept walk and slept talk. If one has never appreciated personal space then surely this would have been the time. To show our consideration to our fellow room mates, we all made a pact to not do any No 2′s in the bathroom, a sign of true dedication. In such an environment one of two things could happen, either some one or many would end up dead from the effects of cabin fever or we will grow to like each other in a big family sort of way and this is what truly happened and I have to say I will miss it, well not the snoring but the togetherness.
For this project production wanted to be editing as we shot. One option was to record proxies for an offline, but this became a bit troublesome in the sense of TC particularly with RED in 2012 ( am sure this has been overcome now )
Thanks to Jon Rennie of Gorilla Post, he brought his personal machine down, wait for it… installed with a Red Rocket Card, yup, one of the most sincere human beings I have ever met, clearly a dying species. Jon specialises in VFX, when you get a chance check him out at http://www.jonrennie.co.uk/
In our hotel room of 9, in the corner was the transcode machine with RedcineX pro installed, we would transfer and transcode what was backed up on set for Richard Blackburn our editor,. This gave us the opportunity to catch any pickups we needed to grab, it was fantastic watching the timeline grow as we shot. Of course without the RED Rocket Card, well this would not even be possible, we may still even be transcoding even a few weeks later. All handheld, with the occasional dolly on tracks, easyrig and steadicam for the opening chase scenes through Soho.
Shooting night films in the midst of summer meant for obvious reasons a tight schedule, also our location was a live working gas station which was available to us from 22.00hrs until 06.00hrs and with a break for lunch, left us with 7hrs-ish shooting time, couple that with sunrise and depending on the shots or scenes would render 6hrs on camera. 7 pages a day consistently in 7hrs sometime 6, not for the faint hearted, but we got it done. I have never shot so fast as far as I can remember. It was one of those schedules if the 1st AD dropped a pencil we would fall behind schedule. With the short prep time I never had a chance to fully employ “grade as go” on this shoot. However I managed to create a look inside camera as always, a slight curve was applied during the transcode, so the Directors, producers, investors and different agents could have a very good idea of what the final film would look like instead of viewing raw or flat images. I think this is psychologically important, technical crew understand the whole raw deal (pun intended) and sometimes ‘ordeal’ so can imagine the final image when it is graded. For those of us who do not always visualise in this way it is important to be able to display as close as possible what the end result will be, I think personally this can be somewhat related to S.A.D, because of overcast grey weather some of us have to have colour temp 6500 kelvin bulbs installed at home. So looking at flat grey images can also make you feel down, even from a shooting point of view, he says… okay I may have just gone off track a tad just now. With a 3 day turn around in the grade, it was essential we knew what we were going for from the get go and try to get it on set as much as possible. No matter what, there was always a form of problem solving everyday which made my role even more challenging and I loved it.
No matter the budget big or small, films all bring their own level of obstacles and challenges. For me there is no differentiation between the two where my approach is concerned, I treat all films as if they are a hundred million except of course if it were two hundred million. Just because a film may have a smaller budget and restricts what can be done technically i.e. no jibs or cranes for example this shouldn’t deter you from making a good movie and being creative, however of course it does help… Please do not get this confused with trying to create a shot that is impossible if the tools and manpower do not exist, as it is a waste of time, trying to hang your hat where you can’t reach it…
Will update post as film develops.