Casting process

For the last few weeks I have been going through the process of casting my actors. This has been done mostly on casting call pro (and its sister site voice pro). Firstly, I had put out a casting call, which received 250 views but only one single response. This had me slightly demoralised for a while, but soon I moved on to contacting actors directly. This ultimately taught me that if you don’t ask, you won’t get. Every actor I directly contacted responded quickly and positively. Through this system I was also able to recruit to actors with roles in big budget hollywood films. Grahame Edwards will play Bryn and Jurgen Schwarz is due to play Karl Gruber. This is feels like something of a coup for me and gives me some more faith in my script writing abilities, as both of them said they enjoyed the script when they replied with their interest. I have also managed to recruit Maddie Baylis to play the role of Gwen.

Now I am in the position of looking for two more actors to play the role of Sara and Owen. As my recording will begin on monday the 28th of April, I will be spending the easter break sourcing people for both these roles, as well as working on collecting the sound effects required. 

One of the main things I have learnt from my casting process is that I really do not enjoy producing. This part of the project has somewhat killed my enthusiasm for the whole thing. I enjoy script writing and now that part is completed, it feels much more like a chore than a working on a project I love and want to complete. This is reinforcing my thoughts that I want to pursue a professional  career as a scriptwriter, or at least not as a producer where I am involved in the rather dull tasks of casting actors, organising audition dates, sorting out a recording schedule etc etc. However, in a way I do feel positive about this, learning what you don’t want to do can be as useful and knowing what you do want to do. 

My FMP in comparison to other films

As I am in the process of producing my FMP, it is important to think about where it sits contextually alongside other pre-existing media texts and how those texts have influenced my project. 

 

Image

I believe that all the films on the above graph have influenced and are relatable to Sheep in one way or another. Some, like Taken and Hot Fuzz have had quite profound influences on the script.

The plot of Sheep is quite similar to Taken, an alpha male lead character has the person or object he loves most in the world stolen from him, and has to race against time to deduce what has happened and save it/him/her. Hot Fuzz was influential because, along with Wright/Pegg’s earlier film Shaun of The Dead, it was one of the first films I had personally watched that was able to parody a genre in a loving, playful and self-aware manner. Comedy and action have always been two of my personal favourite genres and so the idea of combining them in a way that can poke fun at the genres and the reasons I love of them without malice or sneering aggression is incredibly appealing to me. 

Sightseers also influenced me in a similar way to Hot Fuzz, the idea of the sleepy, quiet British countryside being used as the backdrop to heavy action or uncharacteristic drama and the entertainment that can be drawn from such a juxtaposition. Wallace and Gromit does this very successfully and also left a strong imprint on me as a child. When I wrote the chase scene for the original screenplay (before the project became radio based) I had a scene from A Close Shave in mind. 

Hang ‘em High and Die hard both contributed to my ideas. Hang ‘em High perhaps didn’t inspire me specifically, but is none the less an excellent example of what I had in mind. I wanted to use the atmosphere and the tension that is often depicted in Western films (such as Hang ‘Em High) and place it in the quiet sleepy Welsh pub that the main characters frequent. This was partly for comic effect (the juxtaposition mentioned above) but also to help establish Bryn as the dominant, strong alpha male, similar in type to the characters in classic Western movies. Die Hard is again, a personal favourite film which I personally adore and wanted to page tribute to in a small way. The also demonstrates tropes that I wanted to use and include in my script. 

Alpha Papa also has the “fish out of water” scenario (or perhaps “fish sailing a boat on the water”…?) but I think I mainly included it for the kind of pace of dialogue as well the main character struggling to cope when his ego is challenged or damaged, something which happens in part to my main character Bryn, as well as being a long running them of the Alan Partridge character. 

Sound effects required for Sheep.

The following sound effects will be needed for Sheep.

Footsteps and panting (running, grass, Owen and Bryn)

Footsteps and breathing (walking, grass, Owen and Bryn)

Footsteps (tile floor)

Footsteps (running, gravel)

Dog barking (faint, distant)

Bird song (generic)

Sheep bleating (group, distant)

Sheep bleating (urgent)

Sheep bleating (distressed)

Door knocking (wooden, urgent) 

Door opening/closing (wooden, heavy)

Keys (general jingle and movement, being thrown)

Car engine (idle)

Car engine (driving away)

Car engine (pulling over)

Car (pulling up on gravel) 

General crowd murmur and chatter

General crowd murmur and cheering (triumphant) 

General crowd murmur (disgusted)

General auction crowd

Glass clinking

Auctioneer voice (distant, background) 

Tractor engine (running)

Tractor engine (slowing down/speeding up) 

Judder and bang of tractor

Bryn jumping grunt/thud

Rusty bolt opening/closing

Leaf rustle

Hooves

Pub doors opening/closing 

Pints being pulled from pump

Pistol shot

Sheep hitting the floor

Shotgun blast

Body hitting the floor

Glass full of beer exploding

Hand clapping on shoulder

 

Shift from film to radio format

When I first chose to change my project from a short film to a radio play, I rather naively assumed it would be little more than simply changing the format to meet the standard lay out radio scripts follow. Whilst the formatting was a large issue, it proved that the difference in writing for the screen and writing for radio was much greater than I had previously appreciated.

The re-formatting was some what simply, mainly due to the large amount of advice and assistance that can be found from a simple google search. The main guide I followed was found on the BBC writersroom website, which gives free access to downloadable pdf files which clearly lay out and demonstrate how to write a script depending on your chosen medium or format. As I had not written for radio before, this proved to be an excellent starting point.

I had consulted with several of my lecturers on the script to check how well it was adapting to radio and the same feedback was being given, that it still read too visually. However, it wasn’t until I sent my script to actor Brian Southwood, who was kind enough to give me feedback as well as a full set of notes on my draft on how to improve it, that I really understood what “too visual” actually meant. He agreed that it still read very much as a film script and gave me examples what would be needed to improve it and make it more suitable for radio. With Brian’s advice, I feel I have taken big steps towards finalising the script and correcting what was wrong with it.

The whole process of adapting the script for a radio play has been a learning process. As my education has been entirely film based, it is no surprise that I do write in a very visual style, as I naturally have a mental picture of the final product on screen when I write the script. However, going through and trying to remove and alter all the visual components and visual jokes that I personally felt worked extremely well in the film script has given me a better understanding and appreciation for audio. I also feel this process has opened my eyes to the possibility of writing for radio as a career, rather than just for film or television. Even though, as I said before, I have only previously thought about writing for for the screen, I am not in anyway against radio and feel this has given me much needed experience that should benefit me in the future.

Script review, next development

Having decided to shift my project from film to radio play , I have spent much of the last week shifting the script across formats. This has partly proved tricky because of the amount of visual jokes and direction that was in the original form. Also it was somewhat difficult to do as I have never written in the radio style before, however was assisted by the Celtx script writing software and this BBC guide. Having spoken to Clifton after reformatting, he seems satisfied that it was all correct. 

We also discussed the idea that, as it is now on radio, it could possibly be set in the mid 20th century, post war Wales in order to play on the idea of the “evil Germans”. This also led to the suggestion that it would be beneficial to look to the Ealing Comedies of the 1940/50s. From my initial research, it does certainly seem that my script is in something of a similar vein to films such as The Ladykillers (Mackendrick, 1955) A Run For Your Money (Frend, 1949) or Passport to Pimlico (Cornelius, 1949) in the sense that they follow the path of a “careful logical development from a slightly absurd premise to a farcical conclusion” (perhaps made most famous by the works of T.E.B Clarke) as well having a very local, regionalised feel to them. Indeed, the main characters of A Run For Your Money quite similar to my main characters, in that they are very much born and bred from rural Wales. 

I currently feel like the script is quite close to completion, perhaps only needing more ironing out to perfectly fit the radio play format and some slight rejigging for the possible new time period. 

Requirements of new format

As I have changed the format of my project, that is also meant that the things I need to consider while planning have also changed. Some aspects of the script that were proving to be large stumbling blocks are now much easier to get around and to go ahead with with.

For example, two such problems were the amount of extras involved in many scenes and also the large stunts in the action scenes. The number of extras was problematic because I didn’t know how I was going to find entire crowds of middle aged farmers as well as herds of sheep. These are characters that weren’t crucial to the story, but would still be vital to be in the film for visual reasons. However, in an entirely audio based format this is easy to negotiate as I don’t need to physically have all the actors together at the same time in the same place. Similarly, I don’t even need to have a real sheep, let alone entire flocks or herds of sheep. I just need the sound of a few sheep. 

Secondly, the script includes a chase between a tractor and a flat bed truck. While this is, in my personal opinion, a very strong scene on paper and should be kept in the script, it is a scene that would be extremely difficult and expensive for me to film and so by moving to an audioplay, the scene becomes attainable without (hopefully) weakening it or losing any of the comedy value. 

While some of the tasks such as casting actors still exist, I only need to find and cast a fraction of the number of actors now compared to when the project was a short film and I no longer have the added pressure of making sure they are all available to film in the same place on the same time or date. As a radio-play, I am granted more flexibility because if it is not possible to get all the actors in together, I can simply have them record their lines separately and edit them together. 

Changing the format of my FMP

Before last week’s meeting with Karen, I had been feeling very stressed and confused as to how I would proceed with my project as a short film. This mainly came from my complete inexperience in producing and feeling as if I didn’t know where to even start in finding things such as sourcing location, actors etc. 

As I discussed with Karen, my interest lies more in the writing than in directing or producing and so felt it was not the most productive path to follow, trying to undertake the task of producing and directing the entire film. However, I still need to produce something, and can’t just submit a script and have decided to turn my project into a radio play. This decision was made because it will allow me to drop some of the major concerns and give me more time to focus on the writing and some of the producing aspects are reduced and more manageable.

One of the major benefits is that it means I don’t have to source extras who would need to be in shot if it was a film, and the stunts become almost infinitely easier to produce for radio than for screen.   

Creative Artefact – Sizzle Reel

My creative artfact for my FMP proposal is a sizzle reel. The purpose of the sizzle reel is to demonstrate and try to explain the types of action film cliches so as to try and explain the ideas that I will be trying to play off of and recreate in my film. 

The scenes I have chosen are from Hot Fuzz (Wright, 2007), Point Break (Bigelow, 1991), A Close Shave (Park, 1995), Sightseerers (Wheatley, 2013), Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988) and Open Range (Costner, 2003). 

The scenes from Hot Fuzz/Point Break and A Close Shave were selected to show the way in which I intend to make play with classic, archetypal features of action film. There is no spite or sense of mockery when the humour behind Sheep, but rather is attempting to celebrate the absurd and bombastic action. Because I love the genre I am trying to parody so much, I feel I will definitely be able to execute the jokes with a warmth that will invite the audience to admit the silliness of the Action genre whilst still be able to say how much they love and enjoy it. One of the main things I’m hoping for, is that there won’t be any air of aggression or looking down upon the genre. 

Die Hard and Open Range are in the sizzle reel to present at least two cliches I will be using for comic effect in my FMP. Namely these are “Eurotrash” and the “Wretched Hive” (this mean where the bad guy is always from some fairly generic part of continental Europe and that there is a slightly rough pub/bar/saloon where a lot of the action or key moments take place particularly in Western cowboy action films, respectively). The nationality of the characters on both “good” and “bad” sides presented something of a challenge to me as the writer because I had to tread a line of playing with and using stereotypes without being outright crass or offensive. The use of the “wretched hive” is a nod towards the Western genre but being used on it’s own probably won’t be enough of a signal for the audience to understand the reference to the trope or to the sub-genre. To help enforce the “gag”, I may well use further conventions of Western films such as use of a very tight cinematic style to build tension. This is famously used in films such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Leone, 1966) and hopefully will be funny when put the wider context of two farmers arguing over a sheep. 

I am aware that I will however need to have a degree of subtlety if I decide to go this way, as if I am too heavy handed it will pull the audience out, cease to be funny and weaken the film. 

I included Sightseers because, as I said in my presentation, it is a solid recent example of juxtaposing action (in Wheatley’s case, serial murderers, in my case two ancient powerful rivals battling against each other) against a quiet, humble rural British setting. 

Post production research – Distribution

When approaching a big project such as an FMP, it is easy to focus on certain areas that you feel more comfortable/experienced in than the areas that are more unknown territories and, in all honesty, much scarier to think about. I have found this has been the case in some ways with my project as I had not given as much consideration to stages such as distribution as I had to say, writing. It is much easier to dismiss post-production with a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” attitude, but the simple fact is that if I don’t start to plan and prepare for distribution this early on, then I’ll have a far, far harder task when it actually does come to distributing the film. 

My plan of action for distribution is to enter into film festivals, both locally, nationally and even internationally. Using the British Council’s directory of film festivals, I was able to identify up to eight film festivals that cater for an accept comedy films. Disappointingly, there only seems to be two based in the United Kingdom. While I would be still interested in trying to enter festivals based abroad, it would at very least be much harder to attend the festival if my film was accepted. 

Apart from attempting to submit to film festivals, I will also be hosting the film on my personal vimeo channel. Another target for distributing is to try and get a vimeo staff pick. While this is much more unlikely than to be accepted into film festivals, it is worth “having on the radar” as an aim because, if it was to happen, it would give my film a much greater exposure to a truly global audience.